Borderland

Letters From a Screenwriter in Trouble

June 23, 2013

View as Single Page
Letters From a Screenwriter in Trouble

Dear Gato,

Forgive my disappearing act. The Dalai Lama flew into town nine days ago. Unofficially. Unexpectedly, at any rate. And in so doing he created such a hot ticket, only Oscar Night and the Vanity Fair after-party can compete in terms of the effect on the community. It’s remarkable how, overnight, we become “a community” when a bodhisattva visits the 310 area. That’s what it takes to unite us—divine intercession. All of a sudden, those qualities usually deemed obstructions to business—“right intention, right speech, right action,” to name three elements of the noble eightfold path—suddenly, these qualities abound. Everyone turns into an angel, and this town goes into spiritual overdrive fast as a BMW M3.

You see, given that he spends eight hours a day meditating and there are only so many hours in a day, the Dalai Lama can ultimately make it to two or three private gatherings at most I imagine. In case you’re reading this and thinking, “How come no one called me? Are my friends really friends? I knew Venice was a bad idea,” let me reinforce the point. All of a sudden America’s boldface names happen to be in town all at once. So many names, in fact, it makes you wonder whether there is indeed true spiritual life in and around the hills of Hollywood and beyond.

I sure hope so, after that fire sale of all those Catholic churches across the USA: over 2,000 churches sold in one transaction in the wake of all the bad press. The spiritual vacuum grows wider when you lock the doors on a church. It grows a wider still when you turn the church into a condo. We need the DL now more than ever, and not just out of scarcity value. Not because he himself said he may be the last Dalai Lama. No. We need him because we need an inner order.

To the point of his succession, I might add that if you believe in reincarnation then you need not worry he will be the last. I’ve given his statement some thought, you see. Maybe Tracey had, too. When she heard the great man was coming to town, she decided to throw a party for him. Much of my time this last fortnight was spent managing her expectations pre- and post-arrival of the spiritual man. It all kicked off when Mickey came out of the clinic after three weeks and promptly paid a call on his ex-wife to straighten out some misunderstandings between them regarding alimony.

“She expended great effort and resources on the vain chance that His Holiness might materialize in her Spanish villa.”

“Do I look like an ATM?!” were the words I heard shouted after I pulled up in Tracey’s drive and got out of the car. The words were loud enough to carry. Mickey’s quadruple-razor-power growl is unmistakable. “Do you poke me in my face?” his tirade continued. “Since when was fifty K a month not ‘relative to inflation’? Since when?”

I stopped walking a few feet shy of her front door. Life is a question of timing, and I was beginning to question my own when the barrage picked up again: “—percentage of what, Tracy? I’m not even working. Hello!?” 

And before I know it, the door opens and Mickey marches out, a large frappuccino in his hands. He’s in such a fury he’s spilled coffee on his custom-made English shirt. He halts, about to yell again, when he sees me and stops himself. Mysteriously, he takes a deep breath and hands me the coffee. He closes his eyes, calling on his higher power. When he opens them again he smiles at me. I suppose I’m his oasis of calm in a mad world. And the next moment he gravely passes me a paper napkin to go with my—I mean his—coffee, I assume. He nods at my car: “Shall we?” I didn’t need persuading.

Yes, it’s good to have Mickey back. By the way, he’s so scared of Tracey, he hasn’t gone back to pick up his car. And Tracey was fired up about His Holiness’ visit. She’d told her housekeeper to imagine the Pope was coming, and they set about preparing a reception for the Tibetan retinue. A tennis partner at her club had given Tracey the impression that once His Holiness had attended some planned meetings, he might just fly by her house on his way toward Santa Barbara. The tennis friend had let it be known that her own great friend was hosting an after-party for His Holiness and so, according to their social circus of illusion, there was a possibility His Holiness, known to his own people as “the Presence,” might be circuited toward them. 

It was a sufficient possibility for Tracey, anyway. The idea soon had her fretting over the codes of contemporary Buddhism. She was counseled, for instance, that the great man wore shoes despite wearing robes, a concept she had trouble with. I asked her if surely it wasn’t Jesus who was barefoot. She glazed over. She was reassured there was no need to get a facelift, nor to go overboard for the sake of appearance, in spite of her protests: “I don’t want to look like just another groupie!” She expended great effort and resources on the vain chance that His Holiness might materialize in her Spanish villa.

Yeah baby, she’s crazy! After all, she was married to Mickey. Nonetheless, compared with Mickey, she’s solidly in touch with reality, and it was all the more painful to Tracey. Therefore, the truth inevitably dawned on her that the Dalai Lama was not in the end coming to bless her despite the fight with Dagen Bleu, who came home to find his woman in a holy exertion, festooning their manse with the flagship color of Hermès. Despite these sacrifices, the DL never came. He is not to blame. In his world, blame is a useless game.

Dagen made the mistake of asking, “Honey, do you think you overdid it on the orange?” It’s not worth going into the explosion caused by Bleu when he followed up that question with the rhetorical, “I wonder if, deep down, he gets tired of seeing all this stuff all over in Tibet?” It’s not worth going into the ensuing conflict—second time around—over the official domicile of the Dalai Lama. It was Tracey’s moment to set her man right on this score. It’s like the penny dropped only because it was an ideal chance to one-up her companion in life, he who had been competitive even inside their relationship. Life is not easy for an actor-model-medical associate, not after a string of rejections, not when your commercial stops airing. There’s no tonic like catching yourself on TV, no matter what the channel. Dagen had got the bug and was suffering withdrawal. 


Comments