Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Talking Snakes, Dream Machines, Miss Massey & Yo' Black Mammy

Slim Buttes, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD - Back home. Where is home, anyway? You know what it is, but how do you define it? Most would say it’s where your roots or people, or family are. This place ain’t never been home for me. ‘Refuge’ is more accurate and appropriate. ‘Home’ ain’t nothin’ but a key on my keyboard.

Returned on the same flight from Bangkok into L.A. with son, Digger, which was nice, three years after we’d flown over together for what turned out to be extended post-tsunami work, and prolonged rice diet.

After twenty-two hours in the air, and several plastic meals, I dreaded dealing with DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, and wasn’t in the mood for FSA, equally nasty, thinking, ‘Those fuckers’ll probably make me miss my connecting flight again. The Chinese treat me better.’

In the past, before boarding for departure and after arrival back in the U.S., the power-tripping morons since infancy thinking they’re performing some kind of heroic American mission, rifled through all my bags, hit me with the chemical mist, and looked up my ass with their ‘Snake-o-scope’ since I popped up on their terrorist watch list, don’t ask me why. Accordingly, I didn’t bring anything that could be the least bit suspect, packing everything into one half-full carry-on backpack.

We’d learned to travel light. “Is that all you’ve got coming off an international flight?” asked the surprised Latino customs agent at LAX on a wave-through, ‘Have a nice day’, to both of us.

We laughed, saying we could’ve been smuggling a backpack full of Thai stick that some folks we knew could surely appreciate. Heading for different domestic carriers, we parted, saying we’d meet in Denver.

Unlike last year, during which time thieves sacked my home and stole EVERYTHING of value, this year everything was cool. Nothing had been disturbed, and it was only a matter of catching and cleaning up after the 16 (there was three weeks between #15 and #16, and I kept thinking, ‘It’s gotta be an even number’) mice who had taken up residence during my prolonged absence.

I opened a bag in long-term storage, and there was a momma mouse, jumping up in surprise and running with her babies hanging off her teats, something I’d never seen before.

‘Hang on everybody. We’re outta here!’ she must’ve said. One let go. Must’ve been the runt of the litter. Didn’t stand a chance. Wasn’t in the cards.

Apart from the disposal of the mice, I saw a snake, a bull snake, quite large…this long……making his way underneath the outhouse, which I was unable to prevent, trying to block his transit with a shovel, and now must warn everyone before use; ‘There’s a snake living out there,’ I tell them.

‘Don’t kill me, I’m ok,’ the thought-form in his black eyes said, serious, looking right at me, sixth sense, hesitating, rising, identifying himself, checking out the shovel in my hands with a flick of his tongue. ‘I’m a bull snake. I kill rattlers,’ he said.

It was the last comment that prevented me from chopping off his head, but I still tried to prevent him going under the shithouse, which he seemed intent to do, and which he accomplished despite my ineffective blocking maneuvers.

People usually don’t stay out there too long. It’s NOT the place you’d want to hang out with a magazine. Strange, though, that nobody has asked, ‘Is it a rattler?’ like, no need to, right? like, any snake under the outhouse isn’t a good thing, right?

I picture him curled up in a dry corner. And there’s a rabbit, who lives under the house.

“I’ve got a bunny rabbit,” I told Tom, sitting here at the table, gripping a coffee cup. “Came right up to me the other day.”

“Hungrier than hell,” Tom laughed, speaking as the rabbit, “Got anything to eat?”

Besides the telepathic snake and the rabbit, a blackish cat appeared just before sunrise the other morning, much to my surprise, and as soon as I made the least jiggling of the storm door handle, he shot like a rocket underneath the trailer like a set of eyes or the light of day should never fall upon him. That explains the missing mice bodies. And there’s mocking birds around who at night mimic the sounds of all the other birds, in addition to cell phones and a dump truck, backing up.

We were sitting around the timber frame down at the base farm, swatting flies with a couple of the Red Cloud nephews, Marcus and Ted, awaiting the arrival of a photographic team from Nat. Geographic doing something on kids and nutrition.

A photo op in the garden, where Marcus and Ted had been working. Bo and Misty’s kids were coming over for the shoot.

“It doesn’t count as a confirmed kill unless you can produce the remains of the deceased,” I told the two teenagers, showing them the body of a fly on the swatter. “Same same Snoopy and the Red Baron.”

“DFS”, commented Tom, lying prone on the couch in the middle of a dog nap.

“DFS?” I asked. “What’s that?”

“Dead For Sure,” he replied. “Same same Elvis.”


We went down to ‘Fur Trade Days’, the Nebraska panhandle’s big July celebration with the parade, carnival rides, corn on the cob, Kiwanis Club grilled burgers, music, buffalo chip throwing contest and all, but had to leave precipitously after I yelled out, in the practiced manner of an experienced ‘Carny’ or ballpark peanuts and popcorn vendor, “GET YOUR GIRL A SNOOPY DOG! GET YOUR MONKEY HERE!” behind the greasy Toss-A-Ball game of chance guy who had a pack of Marlboros rolled up onto his shoulder under a dirty T-shirt sleeve, and was leaning over his counter on his forearms, trying to mesmerize a couple of gum-chewing teenie boppers.

Knock three puppets off the rack with the softballs and you get a top shelf prize – the Snoopy dog or a monkey. He turned his head very slowly, and when he saw the big grin splashed across my face and Tom laughing, he produced the nastiest drop dead look I’d ever seen. It gave me the chills.


In a Nebraska summer parade, you’re going to see some tractors. By God, there’s a ’32 Ferguson!

“Look! A Ferguson!” I shouted.

“That’s one of the old Fergusons. 1932. That was before Massa Ferguson met Miss Massey. Massa Ferguson brought Miss Massey up to Loo Avul (Louisville, KY) from Mo’ Beel, Alabama. Befo’ that, it was the Ferguson Tracta Company. After that, the company come to be known as, ‘Massey Ferguson’. And that’s because Miss Massey had her OWN damn money!

“And Massa Ferguson said to Miss Massey all whiney an’ down in his drops, ‘Miss Massey, “F’ come befo’ ‘M’ in the dictionaire.’ And Miss Massey come back wit, ‘It sho' 'nuf do, but that’s the ONLIEST place where it do.’ Annat wuzzat. And we used to get chicken behine the Big House on Sunday nights, and now alls we gets slops. Mizzmazzie wuz mean.

“Yazzuh, when Miss Massey come on board, wudden just the name of the company changed. Everthang changed. And I mean, EVERTHANG.”

Takes about a minute, fifteen, maybe twenty seconds, including the anticipated pauses behind the laugh lines. It worked well on the reservation, where a lot of Indians are racist toward blacks and whites and Mexicans, but I’m not sure about an off-the-rez audience or a combat zone.

Like poor but effective advertising, it doesn’t necessarily have to be good to be remembered. People remember some of the stupidest shit. You know what I’m talking about, like the shit Manny used to say that I can’t get out of my head decades later, although some of it was philosophical. But the point is, for the audience to never again look at a Massey Ferguson tractor without recalling Miss Massey.

The dumb, ignorant, pre-liberation, pre-Malcolm 1950s yazza massa fieldnigga jokes don’t work so well among politically correct and socially sophisticated people anymore, except among select audiences, like maybe, senate chambers.

Uncle Tom jokes work well with a contemporary black audience nearly everywhere but the Supreme Court, and the ‘uppity nigga’ jokes work pretty well with most whites, especially in the south, on talk radio, among evangelical Christians, right-wing republicans, New York, W. Virginia, Idaho, the Washington Beltway, and a large swath of the Billy Bob Bible Belt. Approval ratings in the upper 90 percentile.

I used to like the way Manny could work a crowd. Christ, he’d have ‘em in his pocket even before he spoke a word, using silence like a master orator. “Is simple,” he used to say. “Is either in the gards, or is not in the gards. Is a lot like fate…how you say it?...Garma.”

“What’s my karma say, Manny?” I asked. “What’s in the cards for me?”

“You see a crystal fucking ball?” he asked, like a drill sergeant to a basic training recruit, giving me that serious, hard-ass, sideways glance he had. “How should I know?” he continued. “What I DO know,” he continued, “is, you depend too much on luck. But you haff to, since you got little to no actual inborn, God-given talent. You gonna haff to work, Bic.”

“Shit, Manny,” I said. “Can’t you tell me something good? Did you shuffle the cards?”

“What you want me to do?” he fired back. “Lie to you? Feed you some line a BULLshit? You haven’t got what it takes to be the top. Your dad did, but you don’t. You gonna have to work!”

Well. You can imagine how that felt. I tried. I stayed on for a while longer at the monastery, with the rigors and discipline of the diet and everything…rice and chicken broth every fucking day…prisoners eat better…but in the end, I couldn’t stay away from dice with the senior abbot, slushies at Seven Eleven, and the Bad Crowd, found myself up in front of a judge, and…well…the rest is history. This was back in the ‘60s.

Manny had prophesized it. “You can hear the man say, ‘Ladies and gentlemens, introducing the next gonna be champion’….or…you can hear the man say, ‘All Rise’.

“Don’t say that shit, Manny,” I told him. “You’re gonna make it come true. Haven’t you heard of ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’?”

“Come true, no come true. Is UP to you,” he said.

Huh? Oh. Well…five to fifteen. Judge gave me five to fifteen. Said, “Considering the nature of your crimes, you can do your time in the state penitentiary, or you can take your chances in the ‘Nam.”

And I said, “That’s easy, Your Honor. I’ll take my chances in the fucking ‘Nam.”

Aiiiiiieeeeeee. She jumped up and hollered, pointing at me, “DON’T…YOU…USE… language like that inmyfuckingcourtroom! Two tours!” she bellowed, shaking two fingers at me, the veins standing out on her neck and face a volcanic crimson. “TWO TOURS!”

Bailiff turned me over to the marshall, marshall turned me over to the Military Police, M.P.s took me to the ‘Nam. The rest is history.

A lot a guys went that route. Criminals and juvenile delinquents. Instead of coming back from the ‘Nam in a zip-lock body bag, all gruesome and shit in a closed-casket funeral, they could’ve done their stretch in the pen, been somebody’s bitch, got fucked up the ass, and been back on the streets a free man.


Did my time in the ‘Nam, came home eleven times decorated war vet, wounded, scarred, betrayed, despised, looked that bitch up, and burned her house down.

They ended up pinning it on a guy from North Platte by the name of Gengerbradmon who’d previously served six years hard time for 1st degree arson and two felony counts of conspiracy to commit an act against the property of a municipality, but had committed the foolish act of openly threatening the judge in court, yelling out, when asked if he had anything to say before sentencing, “I’m gonna get you some day, you bitch,” which the prosecution said was ‘the smoking gun’ in this case, along with his pyromaniacal ‘M.O.’ They’d been watching him since his release.

Plus the motive and prior conviction, he couldn’t definitively recall where he’d been on the night of the alleged incident, and…they had gas cans, and despite his hysterically swearing to God he didn’t do it, she gave him the max, my fifteen, plus another five for contemptuously offending the decorum and sanctity of the bench, staring at him over the rims of her glasses with that grim, tight-lipped, Cheney-esque, judicial, lock-down stare.

To his credit, his parole officer and the boss of the yard maintenance crew he was working with, said he was a quiet, tidy, and reliable worker, but the missing gas cans proved to be insurmountable damaging evidence that his defense counsel failed to have dismissed as circumstantial, because he routinely skipped lunch and played lunch-hour basketball with other members of the firm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the case fell on a Wednesday afternoon, so he was experiencing a metabolic swale and fleeting imagery of getting fouled while shooting a layup while falling asleep during that particular relatively important facet of the State’s case.

The accused blurted out, “Hey! Aren’t you going to fucking challenge that?” shocking his defense back to semi waking-state consciousness. “Donnie took those cans to fill up his pickup, I told you already. I’m getting railroaded here,” he said, spinning around and looking for help in the courtroom. “This is a fucking frame job.”

He was right. Everybody in that courtroom was certain he was the perp. Even without the orange jumpsuit, he looked like the perp. In church, in a suit, he would’ve looked like a perp. Guilty, 150 percent, hands down. Everyone there was sure, except for the defendant, and me, sitting near the back.

Strangely reminiscent of my own case a few years earlier, after sentencing, the judge looked down at the file, then said, “Mr. Ginger Bread Man, I’m going to let you decide. You can serve your time in the State penitentiary, or you can serve your time in Vietnam.”

“That’s ‘Gengerbradmon’, said the defendant, correcting the judge. Then he said, "I’m gonna get you, you bi…” but stopped himself just in time from getting two tours, bringing his fist to his mouth and stifling his emotive response.

Composing himself and clearing his throat, he began again, “Your Honor,” he said, “the ‘Nam is winding down. Nixon’s bringing the troops home. You want to send me over there for the bloodbath? No thanks. I’ll do my time in the fucking pen.”

“Fine,” she said, slamming down her gavel. “Do the time. Case closed.”

They wrapped it up. Case solved, justice administered, bye bye Mr. Ginger Bread Man.

Nah. Nobody recognized me. I’d changed a lot from two tours in the ‘Nam. And two tours in the ‘Nam left me emotionally numb and indifferent to the misfortune of a Ginger Bread Man in a courtroom with a shitty and incompetent defense. Should’ve gone into the military in the first place.

Everyone but the defense counsel was focused on the proceedings. I had a briefcase and went disguised as a slightly unprepared lawyer, with the right jacket, shoes and haircut. They thought I was there to represent another case. Waved me right through security.


“What are all the airplanes for?” asked the girl from the two-person L.A. mobile news crew visiting the rez, about the two-squadron aircraft hanging from the ceiling of my trailer home.

They’d been traveling around, down to New Orleans covering post-Katrina, they said, and had particular interest in our water fight with the uranium mining in the region that people claim is polluting the aquifers and depositing radioactive heavy metals up and down the Platte River, perhaps contributing to the rising incidence of cancer among the Nebraska populace and Indians of South Dakota.

“I’m gonna give them to my sun dance brothers,” I told her. “We’ve expanded to two squadrons now, but most of the new pilots are a bunch of young punks.”

Making a big hit at the sun dance among the eager recipients, John from Wyoming, nailed it when somebody in camp, I won’t say who, Dennis, stupidly asked, ‘What are they for?’

“It’s a dream machine,” said John, like a game show host announcing what was behind door three. “It’s for little boys...grandkids…to hang from your ceiling…for your imagination.” I soon ran out of inventory, regretting not producing more for some of my bros who didn’t get one, and some of those kids running around camp.

Two-year old Ravi Frankel, who last year had received a first-edition plane, sat on his mother’s lap here at the table after the dance, and because the adults were talking, said sort of to himself, but out loud in his tiny angelic voice as he looked up at the pairs of balanced, two-plane mobiles floating above the table, “Airplanes flying…airplanes flying…airplanes flying…that’s pretty cool.”

His father got his at the dance, and of course the boy wanted to play with it. “This one’s mine, Ravi,” David kept saying.

I’ve had only two refusals in two years. Manas, my Chinese friend in Thailand, said he couldn’t have one in his showroom – company policy; and Alonzo, about ten years old, a perfect recipient. He came over here one day with Bo and sat gawking at all the planes. “Take your pick, Alonzo,” I told him. “Want one?”

“Nah,” he said, shrugging off the offer and shaking his head, looking away. His response shocked me bolt upright in my seat in wonder, casting momentary doubt on the entire project. Overall, the response has been genuinely enthusiastic. I don’t know what was wrong with him.

The project (‘The Slim Buttes Auxiliary to the Smithsonian Institution Museum History of Aviation, Sub-Orbital Flight’) began on Pine Ridge last year, continued in Thailand with out-sourced Myanmar tag team labor, and continued here again this year, right up to the sun dance, incorporating third edition structural design changes in the fuselage and landing gear, suggested by one of the Myanmar, but for which I take the credit. You’d think a man could do more with his time, but you know something?

Johnny, Virgil’s son, who is now nine, was always kind of stand-offish to me around ceremony, like he didn’t like me so much. Then, last year, I took him one of those aircraft for his birthday when I went to see his dad in Pine Ridge for help in the track-down of my stolen computer. Johnny got one of the early models, one of the first edition.

He saw me with those planes at sun dance and came running up. “I’ve still got mine, Unca Vic,” he said. “But the wings are sort of coming off.”

“You could fix it with some glue,” I suggested. “Some Elmers.”

Last week before sweat lodge, Johnny came over and sat down. “I fixed my plane,” he said. “Me and my dad got some glue and put it back together. It’s hanging in our kitchen.”


Went into the Chadron ‘Mr. Movie’ rental and made them an offer in exchange for each week’s new releases, I would return ‘Vic’s Picks’ Monday or maybe Tuesday, ‘cause I live on the rez, on a five-point scale of ‘Excellent,’ ‘Good’, ‘Okay’, ‘Sucks’, and ‘Sucks, Big Time’, plus a short sentence or two, summing up the evaluation. Or I could call it in. I’d have to get a phone.

Ami, I think it was, said they already put their picks up there over on the wall by the new releases, and I told her, yeah, but those were just the employees – those aren’t professional critical evaluations, and she asked me what qualified me to be a movie critic, and I told her that I was a screenwriter, and she asked me if she’d know any of the movies I’d worked on, and I asked her if she’d ever seen ‘Scarface,’ and she said, ‘SURE,’ and I asked her if she remembered the line, ‘Say hello to my little friend,’ and she said she had, and I told her, yeah, when the Columbians are at the door, and in the original script, it read, ‘Come and get it, you Columbian Mother (and then I whispered so none of the other customers could hear) fuckers,’ and I came up with, ‘Say hello to my little friend,’ and we shot it both ways, and……….mine made the final cut!

“Turned out to be the most memorable line in the whole movie,” I added, “like, ‘I think we need a bigger boat,’ and ‘Frankly, my Dear, I don’t give a damn.’”

She extended her hand and gushed, ‘Geeez, let me shake your hand. I’ve never met someone who’s worked on a movie.”

She said she’d have to talk to her boss, and…yeah….“you’ll, you know, still have to pay for the rentals.”


Black Mammy

Ever work with tar? Roof adhesive, officially, on the label. That’s ‘Black Mammy’ to you folks in Kentucky. I climbed up on my roof today at midday to affix my solar panel permanently to the roof, thereby making theft of the panel virtually impossible.

‘They’ll need a ‘saws-all’ (which, actually, isn’t beyond the capability of a Pine Ridge thief,) I thought, applying the tar with a putty knife and getting it all over my hands, which I had originally intended not to do, being careful at the beginning, but up there in the sun not even halfway through the chore, I became more and more careless until at the end I was just gooping it out and trying to spread it as evenly as possible.* If you’ve ever worked with the shit, you know what I mean. Gas’ll take it off.

I’d never heard the term, until Craig Lee came up here from Kentucky and nonchalantly mentioned applying ‘Black Mammy’ to a skateboard surface during a conversation about design and materials. ‘Does he know who he’s talking to?’ I thought, and then, like a fool, I had to ask him what it was, although I had a sixth sense.

From what I’d always known, a black mammy was a big, fat, Aunt Jemima plantation house negro who raised the white folk’s kids, so chosen for such a role by her girth and repugnance, and thus posing no sexual threat to the lady of the house, nor the natural and proper order of things.

Any boy from Kentucky would know they was talking about tar.

Back when Craig was running the mice out of the greenhouses, he took us (Tom Cook, Henry Red Cloud, Ernest Afraid Of Bear & me. What a crew, huh?) over to a party one time down there (in Kentucky), one of his good ole boy buddies, and about the only thing I can remember of the event was; they had a black jockey out in front, and everybody there but us was seriously overweight and wearing bibs.

Ernest, who had wanted all his life to pray with his pipe at Niagara Falls, sat all night in a chair in the kitchen, while Henry Red Cloud and Tom Cook seemed to chat amiably with the local boys. It was hard for me to relax…kept waiting for them to break out the nigger jokes, which surprisingly didn’t happen, even as the night wore on and they became increasingly intoxicated. I think Ernest was uncomfortable, too. You know, sixth sense.

That was back in the late ‘90s, I think. Maybe 2001 or 2. The Old Man wanted to see Niagara Falls.


Now, you might be thinking, ‘What the hell was them boys doing way down in Kentucky? Niagara Falls is in New York.’

Well, it’s true. Niagara Falls is in New York. And we seen ‘em. And then we went down to Kentucky, because it was part of the loop.

Then we came back home, and that’s when Ernest began joking around about his imaginary girlfriend who kicked him out of the house. He was ‘in the doghouse’, he said, tossed his clothes out in the side yard, he said, for being gone for two weeks when he told her he was going after milk.



*right about then, talk about coincidence, I heard this long shrill whistle. Looked up and saw a mother eagle sailing along high overhead with her baby flapping and flapping behind her. She was telling him to relax and glide on the current. He caught up and made a move at her, which she repulsed with a wing flick in his face, threatening talons. As they sailed out of sight, I was sure she just wanted my attention.

How did I know it was a mama eagle and not a dad? I could tell, y'know. Sixth sense.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ants Now Die


Khuk Khak, Thailand – That trip to northern Lao pushed us far beyond the trip wire perimeter of our comfort zones. It’s there (outside the comfort zone, not up north), I think, that new learning takes place, like today’s new price for a barrel of oil and the mother of invention. Seemed like everything was fine before the war.

Except for the Cole, those embassies, Beruit, 911, and that kid down the street who went into the Guard. The KIA, MIA and DFS (dead for sure), and then there’s Darfur, the cyclone in Myanmar, an earthquake in China, and the tsunami just down the beach. Somebody’s UXO. Somebody’s IED. In ‘real time’, maybe everything wasn’t so fine before the war.

What war?

What comfort zone? For Stan, my first new neighbor, it’s a good exchange rate on the dollar. But where can you go to escape the tyrants? Where IN the real, 3-D world can you escape the omniscient predators where hellfire spews from the heavens?

Here, people and animals find refuge in the temple. Can they or the Aztec and Desert Camel God’s myths and tales withstand rational scrutiny in the 21st Century? See for yourself. UP2U*. With enough faith we can, yes, pick UP the reptile. Handle the serpent. Sit in a cave. Hang from the tree. Rip out a heart, cut off a head, strap on a dynamite vest, or maybe just say, ‘I believe.’

Never mind the upgrade. When the entire universe lies within the comfort zone of a hard-wired, pre-programmed, off-the-shelf pre-packaged double helix, all a person IN the world has to do is pick it up and make the requisite sacrifice or offerings to the appertaining presiding gods. And what if you don’t? What if you pass by all those doors and windows, fly straight, feed the animals and raise no karmic dust?

Even Mother Theresa couldn’t get a hello, and if anyone ever had an inside track, she sure did, so they say, if love, devotion and service are parameters. As communicators, we’re blessed to possess both sophisticated transmitting and receiving capabilities, as opposed to, say, pond scum. Verbally.

Father Paul, a sun dance brother priest, said, ‘God speaks to us in the silence.’ Maybe the channel was off. Maybe we was praying to us. Maybe we was praying too much.

Across the lake at the local wat, the monks have settled in for the night. Even in absolute stillness, in the absolute early morning quiet, I can still hear them crickets in my head. And that hum. Know what I mean?

Now, my grammar check nailed ‘them’ crickets, and I know better, but we’re gonna leave it stand.


Carpenter ants. Or termites. Swarms of them, by the thousands the other night, making their move before the rainy season. In the morning, they lay dead in a thick carpet of discarded wings below the fluorescent lights. My other new neighbor, Clay, was sweeping them up.

“What do you do?” asked Clay, the thin, serious, slightly patronizing, accomplished jazz lounge musician with a computerized, synthesized keyboard that could almost mimic an entire band or orchestra. Clay has a good voice and likes to wear a Sinatra hat while performing.

Maybe you’ve seen him, or someone like him, in a hotel lobby somewhere, innocuous, low key at the piano, almost invisible, playing quiet renditions of familiar ballads and love songs we know most all the words to.

My good friend, Manas, only wanted to rent to ‘farang’ (foreigner), because the ‘contractors will rent an apartment, and the next thing you know, there’s twelve Myanmar in the place.’ So, all three of the other people in the ten-apartment complex speak English; one Brit down on the end, and two Californians in the back. There’s about five farang in this small fishing village, and three of us are all in one spot.

Clay had come south after a year in the hippie backpacker haven of Pai (‘Pie’), north of Chiang Mai, up by the northern Myanmar border, because of some kind of sticky business, and moved into one of the rear apartments, where he had a recording studio, and a little breakfast setup, hot water, and Birdie instant coffee outside on the veranda with plastic table and chairs. He’d been doing a few gigs at the local resorts, and had his notes strewn out on the table.

“I leave the florescent lights off at night.”

“No,” he said. “I mean, what do you do, here in Thailand?”

I got the sense, a sixth sense, that he was the type of guy who liked to impress people, the onstage guy, the backbone of the band, the keyboardist, the lyricist, the singer, the guy who collects the royalties, and by the hat, the guy who gets the girls, an Alpha Dog. He’d been around. So, I was going to try to out-impress him.

“I do a lot of stuff. I’ve been every where, and done every thing,” I told him, using a line of a retired lifer navy man who was working maintenance at a midwestern university in the States, speaking to a young, raw freshman student. I added, “It takes a lot to impress me, but loud explosions usually get my attention.”

He disregarded my wise guy comment, but looked up and asked, “Were you in Vietnam?”

“Yeah,” I replied dryly. “I helped them get that thing turned around. Those were the good ole days, huh?”

Stan, a former Haight Ashbury hippie ex-patriot Vietnam vet biker bar musician from California, and by coincidence**, a bassist, which made for an instant rapport** *with Clay, who could use a real human being over his synthesized electronic bass, overheard us and emerged from his room with a gigantic coffee cup, laughing and saying, “He’s an English teacher. Here, you guys are going to have to pitch in and help me smoke this. Wake and bake.”

Stan and Clay are interruptive and tend to talk loud and at the same time. “Comes with playing in bars,” says Stan. He takes a dim view of Thai women, and makes gross generalizations like, “They’re all a bunch of conniving whores,” but then, the only women he sees are bargirls between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. “Comes with playing in bars,” I told him.

Clay was full of questions. Whowhatwhenwherewhy. How. Howmuch. I was trying to avoid the pigeonhole he was trying to put me in, and when I saw the ‘W’ forming on his lips, I spoke quickly, “I’m not an English teacher. I have an interest in a restaurant and ice cream shop. And I run an emergency roadside out-patient medical service. And stand-up comedy…full time……and I look for isotopes.”

A person doesn’t really need all the questions. All you need is a little silence, and most people will tell you their story (like Stan, who said he didn’t like to talk about Vietnam, then got high and proceeded to give me a full account of his tour). In fact, most people, perfect strangers, Forest Gump at the bus stop, are dying to tell you their story, the ego-shell version, discarding unpleasant memories and associations, painting their tale in broad strokes of omission and self-deluding perfection. We’re all Rembrandts. The most honest are convicted felons.

A puzzled expression formed on Stan’s face. “Isotopes? I thought you said you were an English…”

I laughed in his face and dismissively waved him off. Clay was frowning and working to assimilate another question.

“You have a restaurant?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t actually have it. It’s just…part time, y’know. Low season right now…six months on, six off. Right now, I’m trying to unload a shower caddy recall and turn over an aircraft operation to a Myanmar tag team.**** Or China.”

“I’ve got one of the shower caddies,” beamed Stan. “Got one of the airplanes, too.”

“Yeah. The local market is saturated with the caddies, and I’ve got to find a way to dispose of a shitload of inventory.”

Where is the restaurant?” asked Clay. “What’s on the menu?”

“Out at the TVC. Thai food. French fries. Only place on the strip with lime ice cream.”

“Liiiiiime?” asked Stan in disbelief.

“W…w…waitaminute,” said Clay. The TVC…what’s that?”

“The tsunami volunteer center, out on top of the mountain south of Khao Lak, just up from the temple and the cop shop.”

“You sell aircraft to the Chinese?” he asked.

“No. Won’t need to. We’ll probably have the Myanmar do the assembly,” I said, looking over at Stan. “With cheap, local labor, I should see a HUGE profit margin. I mean, what do you have to sell them for when you’ve got people working for three dollars a day?”

“I could take the caddies down to Phuket,” Stan offered.

“We’ve already been to Phuket,” I said. “But thanks.”

Clay asked, “Shower caddies?”

“You know, for shampoo…soap. Bamboo, coconut, and wire. Copper now. The other stuff…the first edition, rusted. I’ll have to show you one.”

Clay narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips as he took a sip of coffee. I wanted him to ask me if I was a doctor.

Thai showers and toilets are all the same tiled box affair where everything is open with a simple gravity drain. Sometimes there’s a tiled wall between the shower and the toilet, if there’s a European-style toilet. If it’s a Thai squat-over-a-porcelain hole toilet, everything’s open. There’s no soap dish.

They sell soap and shampoo, but I think it’s mostly for tourists. Thai people buy skin-whitening products. The shelves are packed with them, with pretty, white-skinned girls and boys with raven-black hair on the label. They like white skin.

They haven’t got any curse words, so the worst thing you can call someone is a ‘Black Monkey’. Or a ‘buffalo’, like they called my friend, Bill. They think the water buffalo is a slow, dim-witted animal, but a black monkey, ooooooh, that’s like the Myanmar, who are darker than the Thai, and whom they don’t like because of a big fight in1750 that left Ayutthaya in ruins.

It’s not that they don’t use soap; the Thai are very clean, generally, although you often see a dog, cat, or chicken in a restaurant. But when you live in the tropics and shower three, four, five times a day, who needs soap?

Anyway, the caddies went like hotcakes. EVVVerybody needed one. At the expo, Thai people looked at the simple bamboo & coconut caddies like they’d never seen a coconut in their lives, remarking, “GOOD IDEA!” I think I already told you about the public response.

I found it incredible. You open a coconut, and you’ve got an ashtray, right? You split a fat piece of bamboo, and what have you got?

“I thought you told me you were an English teacher out in Thung MaPhrao,” said Stan.

“I am,” I replied. “Four classes. Seventy-five kids.”

Clay chortled. “What else do you do?” he asked.

I was waiting for this. “I do some writing,” I said. “I see things coming and I tell people about them…and I invent euphemisms, metaphors, and figures of speech.”

Stan laughed out loud. “I’m enjoying this,” he said, leaning back on the back legs of his chair.

“…and I came up with the correlative economic factors for the misery index,” I added.
“See things coming?” asked Clay. “Like what?”

“Well, like…sixth sense…like back in the 70s when I said triple-digit gas pumps were on the way, and gas was 65 cents a gallon, people thought I was crazy,” I said. “I predicted wi-fi and laptops back when they first made Brainiac, Univac, remember Univac with all those vacuum tubes? the size of your garage? I anticipated the rise of comedy, robots to Mars, a Texas cowboy oilman taking us into an oil war, omni-present predators, and in a blog post in 1985, I said, “Watch China. It’s like a sleeping giant.”

Clay began, “1985? They didn’t have blogs in…”

Stan laughed and said, “You didn’t come up with that. That was Yamamoto or whatever, that Japanese admiral who launched Pearl Harbor, talking about the United States in World War Two.”

“Right on,” I replied. “He coined the term, but I said it about China, when all their shit was sub-ferior and all manufacturing jobs were still in the U.S., and everybody thought the Chinese were six billion lame coolies.”

Clay began, “Six billion? I thought Ch…”

“They run allll the businesses over here,” said Stan, interrupting. “Here, and throughout Southeast Asia. The Thai have the noodle shops, but the Chinese are running everything else.”

Clay asked, “What euphemisms have you invented?”

Turning to Clay, I said, “Not technically a euphemism, but an expression, I came up with, ‘OWN damn,’ as in, ‘We’re gonna get our OWN damn nukes,’ or, ‘Miss Charlotte had her OWN damn money,’ spoken in the manner of the great, great, six-times-removed housenigga grandmother in the family tree nobody wants to claim, as opposed to the Cherokee Princess, whom all white Americans proudly proclaim as an ancestor. Vernacular at the time, I actually didn’t invent it. I resurrected it and made it popular.”

“What about metaphors?” asked Clay, on the fringe of getting bored with my bullshit, like he had other things to do, and I could see I was losing both my audience and effectiveness. I needed to wrap up the act.

“Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, ‘What goes around, comes around’?”

Stan burst out laughing, slapping his knee. “Man, that’s as old as the hills.”

“That’s another one,” I said.

Clay, realizing it was one half truth, one half bullshit, and half spoof, said, “I saw you in town last week and you looked like a French colonial diplomat, or a plantation owner or something, right down to the white hat and shoes. Where were you going?”

“Ahhh…yeah...that wasn’t me. Man, you’re full of questions. That wasn’t me. That was a guy who looks like me, Your Honor. Sometime he uses my name and I.D. Sometimes he goes around and starts shit I later have to explain and clean up. Sometimes he gets me into a lot of trouble. Blue motorbike, right?”

*copyright 2006 ‘Up To You’

**also rides a loud, big-ass motorcycle, same same Stan. They ask me if the music practice bothers me. I tell them no, it’s their bikes at 3 a.m.

*** In the pauses between their songs during their practice sessions, I yell out my audience request from two apartments away. “PROUD MARY! NO. GUITAR-ZAN! GUITAR-ZAN!

****tag team – that’s Thai-speak for an indefinite number of two or more workers; six, a dozen, twenty, a hundred.

Go For Help, Lassie

Luang Prabang, Laos – Always wanted to file a story for you from Luang Prabang. If there’s a place IN the world where you wanted to get away from it all, this is it, way up the Mekong River in the landlocked mountainous up-country of Laos, ‘The Land of a Million Elephants’, or as the French would put it, during their 100-year occupation of the former French Indochina, ‘The Land of a Million Irrelevants’.

The Franco condescension of these friendly people and land is because little of material value is produced here outside of fine quality silverwork, distinctive brightly colored hill tribe weavings, opium, and jungle hardwoods. No rice. Everything is imported. Also, that’s the way the French are.

The Japanese tourists shuffle in an excited tour-guided cluster, the Israelis travel in groups of no less than six, the Americans are in a demanding hurry, the Scandinavians, above everybody, travel as confident couples, the Germans stomp around ‘like Robocop’, Su says, and the French sort of glide with their nose in the air, with the impression of proprietary rights, like the owner of a hotel, passing through the lobby.

They surely left their mark here, in the colonial culture, architecture, second language, and fine dining. Whereas Saigon was dubbed the ‘Paris’ of the Orient’, and Phnom Penh an ambassador’s leisurely outpost, Vientiane was a sleepy, low-drama backwater capital, and the ancient imperial city of Luang Prabang served as an isolated haven for French fugitives and, apart from the insurgency, a Parisian holiday extraordinaire.

You can see why. Like the Mekong flowing by, everything here moves slowly. Time seems to stop. An artist, or a writer, or anybody for that matter, could do well to recoup or create here.

“See what I mean?” I said to my two traveling friends. “See why I wanted to bring you here?”

“It’s so peaceful,” said Bryan.

A person can take in all the attractions in two days, including the waterfalls downriver, or the Buddha caves upriver, but you may wish to linger longer.

After three days, my two friends and I sat at the Luang Prabang airport watching a mechanic on a ladder, hand-tightening nuts beneath the wing of a twin-engine turbo-prop, the safest way in and out of the city via flights from Vientiane, Savannakhet, or Chiang Mai, Thailand. The other routes are by river when navigable, or a horrendous, grinding mountainous two-day trip overland from the capital.

So, with bandits, the army, and revolutionaries out on the land transport routes, according to Paul in Vientiane, our best bet, given our time schedule anyway, was to fly.

“I hope that isn’t our flight,’ chuckled Bryan, nodding out the window toward the tarmac.

“It is,” said Su, our lovely interpreter and the former ‘Miss Phuket’, who ran from the tsunami, scaled the eight-foot wall at the Tap Lamu naval base, held onto a coconut tree, prayed hard, and lived. Looking with concern at the maintenance man on the ladder, she said, “I would like to see, you know, zzzzzzzzrrrrrrrtt, with a, you know,” she said, holding her hands like she was holding a big DeWalt power tool or a grenade launcher.

Earlier in the blistering sun, we had climbed the 665 steps to the top of That Phousi, the great temple that offers a breathtaking view of the city. That’s all there is to do, but eat, drink, and lazily stroll the bazaars along the streets and river. Maybe take a boat trip. Fine dining with good French wines.

Along with a bevy of rude Japanese tourists, we visited the national museum, where among priceless intricately-crafted gifts of jewels and jade presented to the former royal family, there was a cheesy cardboard crackerjack prize replica of the Apollo lunar lander from the U.S. that Richard Nixon thought was appropriate, but was as out-of-place as a velvet Elvis at Sotheby’s, causing Bryan and I to stop speaking English and slink away from the exhibit in embarrassment.

“It’s like something you’d buy out of the NASA gift shop,” laughed Bryan as we left the museum.

Did Nixon send that as a joke? Was the current Lao PDR People’s Democratic Revolutionary government putting it on display as a joke to us, a cruel indictment of Americans? A slap in the face for our foolish involvement in Southeast Asia? Over here, losing face is everything.

“I think they’re serious,” said Bryan.”

After the disturbingly brutal cultural humiliation of the museum, we had a half day to burn before our flight, so we sauntered down to the river, where any of a dozen boatmen will take you upriver to the Buddha caves, or downriver to the waterfalls.

The ‘uniform’ of a boatman is simple; old, over-worn and over-washed long sleeve cotton shirt, old sun-bleached tattered trousers, like blue or maroon, and flip flops. Boatmen dress pretty much the same everywhere, like rickshaw drivers. The motorcycle taxi drivers dress the same. A car taxi or mini-van driver will have black shoes, nice shirt and slacks.

Bus, train, subway drivers all wear simple uniforms, usually blue or grey, as well as personal chauffeurs and captains of your flight and cruise ship, decked out with gold braid. One’s life is no less at peril in an aircraft or a longtail boat, but that surely isn’t the criteria, is it?

No. Anybody can drive a fucking longtail boat; the uniform and gold braid represents a degree of qualification and passenger psychic comfort, if not respect, just short of what might be shown royalty. And if you should get too surly with a stewardess, she just might go tell the captain and have you removed from the flight.

Yeah, you really wouldn’t want to see the captain of your flight come aboard dressed like a raggedy-ass Burmese fisherman, now, would you?

Bongs on The Mekong

We must have been obvious. He must have recognized us right away, that boatman, who approached us. We had a notion of just going out for an hour or so, since the river trips consumed nearly a full day.

“You want boat trip?” he asked.

“We only want to go out for an hour or two,” I told him.

“Can do,” he replied. “I have small boat. This way.”

He led us down the embankment to his boat, took us across to the other side where he picked up his sister-in-law, I think it was, and her friend, who we took ten minutes downriver and deposited off near a tiny river village, the girls getting out gingerly and giggly with their umbrellas and long Lao skirts.

On the way back upriver, the boatman pulled up behind a long, tall sandbar where we were obscured from river traffic and dropped anchor. He then went to the rear of the long narrow boat, excusing himself as he passed between us, and magically produced a beautifully burnished bamboo bong ‘bubbler’ being brought by said boatman from a small aft compartment, along with a square block of wood of prepared, finely minced local Lao bud. He was locked and loaded for interested clientele.

Su declined, but he filled the bowl six times for two each for himself, Bryan and me, then dropped us back off at the dock below the city. Bryan gave the guy a thousand baht, a very, very, good tip that said he could take the rest of the day off, and tomorrow, too, and we more or less meandered up the street, looking for a cool drink and testing out our new world view.

“My mouth feels like the bottom of a litter box,” I told my friends.

“How did he know?” asked Bryan. “Are we that obvious?”

After years and years of not being able to access ANY CASH WHATSOEVER in Luang Prabang, they finally discovered the value of economic enterprise, and have realized tourists will spend money in their country if they have some way get to it. As previously noted, things move slowly there, like the river.

So now, amidst major ‘Visit Lao’ tourist marketing, even Luang Prabang has a bank, an exchange, and an ATM. If you can imagine the nightmarish predicament of being without money in a foreign country, the government of Lao had you set up for it.

You had to go back across the border…through immigration…back through customs, and…yeah, something like a nightmare. No plastic, no Euros, no traveler’s checks. Thai Baht or US dollars. Take twice the amount you expect to spend.

“It’s good,” Bryan repeated to the Lao lady vendor selling fabrics outside the temple. She kept holding his Euro notes up to the sun and looking through them with suspicion. Hadn’t she seen Euros before? The place was crawling with foreigners, mostly French. We were the only Americans for a thousand miles, or at least a couple of blocks.

Reassuring the money was good, Su rattled off something in Thai, which the lady seemed to understand, being first cousins to the Thai in language and ancestry.

“Good everywhere IN the world,” said Bryan. “Better than the dollar.”


The ‘Golden Triangle’ is just upriver a couple hundred kilometers, so light to extremely serious hard drugs are easy to find. They find you. If you’re traveling alone, all the taxi drivers down in Vientiane offer everything in a whisper.


“Mai ow, mee lao. Already hab.” (‘Mai ou. Mi lao’. Don’t want it. Already have it).


Already hab.”


“Already hab.”


“Already hab.”

“Already hab.”


“Yeah. You can take me to the morning market.”


No. I didn’t really already have all those offerings – it’s just the best way to ward of any vendor, especially if you use their lingo.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Vientiane morning market and a few silver shops around town are the only places in Southeast Asia where you can find those hand-crafted silver lighter cases with the dragon on one side, and pheasant of the other. Balance, Su said. The dragon and the pheasant. I’ve had several stolen from me, both here, and back in the States.

I had gone to Vientiane earlier, not to find the lighter cases, but to visit the Thai embassy and contact an old friend for the comedy tour. He had a terrific Hitler imitation; you know the one at the Reichstadt, and in Bavaria with Eva, doing the whole act Chaplinesque, speeded-up, 90 frames per second or whatever it was before talking motion pictures. Even in a bowling shirt, it looked like Hitler.

Paul could do the thing with his shock of hair, the lips, the clenched fists, the rocket-like straight-arm Nazi salute, and the manic rolling eyes in a chilling imitation of that piece of footage that everyone but Rocky Ahmadinejad has seen.

The act is hilarious to the point of rib-cracking at the Vientiane beer garden after six pitchers between four people. I have him do it every time I see him. He could do Hitler, and I could do Farrakhan.

If he could work it in some way with a military crowd, you know, comparing any contemporary tyrant with Hitler. ‘You gotta know your audience. You gotta know your audience,’ Manny, my former mentor and handler, always used to say. He always used to say shit twice*, I don’t know why. Emphasis? Imaginary friend?

Ain’t but two kinds of people normally needs ‘handlers’. Professional politicians and prize fighters, mostly. Maybe ditzy high-profile Hollywood stars and mob bosses. A lot of people have personal trainers, or ‘my people’, as in, ‘I’ll have my people get in touch with your people’, but only a relative few of us have a need for handlers. Manny needed a handler hisself, to get a handle on all that bad press that spilled out of the nasty chapter that ended our professional relationship.

Well, you could know your audience, but still have a stale, inappropriate or irrelevant message. That’s what I told him. Especially if your serve was off.

And he said, “You know something, Bic? I’m gonna tell you something. You think you know everything, don’t you? You think you’re smarter than me, don’t you?”

And I said, “That’s not telling me something, Manny. Those are questions,” at which time the restraints that usually barely contained his latent sociopathic tendency became unbound, and in a fit he ‘went Pentacostal’ in a state of advanced agitation, and issuing forth a plume of vitriol, followed thereafter by an assault upon my physical person.

Oh, yeahhhhh, of course there was alcohol involved. Tequila, to be exact, leading to the referees being called in to stop the contest, and a decision to my satisfaction in the end, but that’s what tequila can do for you, and trying to represent yourself in court.

Mr. Ferguson, my advisor and ‘the brains’ of our outfit, or so he liked to think, attributed Manny’s outburst as a result of failing to assiduously follow his med schedule and my whole asshole attitude, your honor, he said, which was inadmissible, as was, not being able to ‘see the forest for the fucking trees’, which he was advised was demeaning to the defendant, had nothing to do with the determination of the charges at hand, and was stricken from the record during the preliminary hearing, as I recall. The tequila had nothing to do with it, Marta, a known liar, so testified.

Mr. Ferguson, a very large, beast of a man in both manner and breath, had been an associate of Manny’s for years, so I wasn’t surprised whose side he’d come down on. He didn’t particularly like me (since the day he overheard me say to a promoter in a phone conversation, “Me, Manny, and Moe, the ‘Man-Child’ ”), although he once said I had potential (‘you can be somebody someday,’ he said one day after training. ‘Like, a fascinating public figure?’ I asked.

‘No,’ he said. ‘You need bloodlines fo’ a job like dat. But you could be ranked. With the right agents and the right venues, me an’ Manny can take you almost all the way to the top.’). Manny had said the same. If I stayed away from ‘that bad crowd’.

If it wasn’t for the debt they owed my dad, he or Manny wouldn’t have had anything to do with me at all, least ways in an advisory capacity. They said so.

No class. A trailer trash incident. That whole damned episode crossed my mind while thinking about Paul’s Hitler sketch, and here, all these years later, those words stuck. “A Whitewash Salem Witch Hunt. A…Whitewash…Salem…Witch…Hunt.”

Funny now. Comic. A contentious family squabble that had screenplay potential written all over it. Manny, Marta, or Mr. Ferguson might see it differently. Manny kept saying, ‘I shoulda played the Race Card...I shoulda played the Race Card.’ Sure, but just like on tour, Manuelo, you gotta know your audience.

Damn. I was talking about Paul’s Hitler imitation for the tour, and ended up going OFF on Manny.

Having left Paul’s card in Thailand, I couldn’t remember his number and couldn’t reach him at the bowling league, so I had two full days to wait until they sorted out that lie at the embassy and issue me a new Type ‘B’, non-immigrant, multiple-entry visa, a sure-enough hassle these days since that sicko, John Mark Carr, remember him? confessed to the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey, got extradited from his fugitive rat hole in Pattaya, didn’t do it after all, but was on the run for some other kind of porno rap in California, and ended up getting some major negative reviews in the news, giving English teachers in Thailand a bad name, and giving all foreigners staying over 90 days a major headache from the new tight-ass Thai immigration laws.

Everywhere IN the world, countries are beefing up their border security and tightening their immigration laws, not just Myanmar.

“What’s the gun for, Tony?”

“I don’t know, Frank. Maybe I’m just, how you say? BARAnoi.”**

Yes, clinically speaking, but there’s justifiably paranoid reason, in which case, it’s not technically paranoia. It’s fear. It’s the border, there’s two big-ass German Shepherds, and those guys in uniforms and AK47s. And that’s on the friendly side. That’s not Myanmar. We’re talking Seattle, here.

So it’s best to consume the entirety of any illegal contraband than try to sneak it across an international border. For that, you needed to talk to Manny, who spent a few years as a coyote down on the U.S./Mexican border running drugs, illicit pharmaceuticals, and people, mostly.

I asked him once about where he got all his investment seed money, which, according to my sixth sense, I deeply suspected was illegitimate, and he told me, “I usually tell people, ‘That’s between me and my accountant’, but since it’s you, Bic, I’ll tell you,” he said. “That little man inside the ATM.”


“You know what ATM stands for, don’t you?” Manny asked.


“’All…The…Money’. You heard it from me first, Amigo. Don’t use it in your comedy routine. I’ll take you down, publicly.”

I was supposed to be a thousand kilometers away, being serious and researching UXO on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but sitting with a Beer Lao at a riverside café on stilts, watching the boatmen and the Mekong meander by the dozen or so young men playing soccer on the sand below me, seemed like a better idea.

Like Holly surprised me one day by saying, “Fuck ‘should’.” Evidently, she’d given it prior thought. I tried serious once, for about thirty years or forty years, and un-serious seems to work a whole lot better for me. The game down on the sand wasn’t serious. They weren’t keeping score. Just playing. A novice kick sent the ball sailing into the tall reeds. Another errant kick sent it into the river.

They invited me to join them but two things stopped me; age and common sense. I was still coming off that nagging knee injury suffered after stepping off a curb a month earlier in Ayutthaya, rendering me momentarily incapacitated of movement, and considering replacement knee surgery, right there, on the spot.

Although a real doctor would have probably prescribed rest, a helpful taxi driver in Vientiane said the best thing to do for a knee, and the best way to consume opium if you didn’t have a pipe, was to ‘eat it’.

Much to my surprise, after about a half hour, the knee discomfort and feeling in my lower extremities diminished to the point where the faster I walked, the better it felt, and ended up sprinting in tropical heat for one hundred, maybe a hundred fifty yards along the riv…did I already tell you this?

No need then to explain laying soaked with perspiration and panting for a couple of hours on the floor of that cool concrete pavilion, waiting for my heart rate and the swelling to recede, and oblivious to the hundred or so aerobics students doing their evening workout routine around me to bad disco music.

“Ah you okay dokay, Mistah?” they kept asking.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just trying to catch my breath. Waiting for Travolta and the endorphins to kick in.”

“Travorta and the Dolphins?”

Yeah. They’re a disco band.”

Above me, a large square sign with red letters, and a big red arrow pointing to a big red ‘X’, and no map, declared, “YOU ARE HERE.”

*years later, I asked a psychiatrist what he thought about someone saying everything twice, and he laughed and said, ‘Imaginary friend?’ I asked my editor, and he said, ‘Redundancy.’

**One of my lines from ‘Scarface’, which I co-wrote the screenplay with Oliver Stone. The original script read, "I don't know Frank. It gives me a sense of security." Like the change?