The bearded man’s name is Drago. He says he used to be a conflagrationist but hasn’t really kept up with it lately. A conflagrationist, it turns out, is distinct from an arsonist in that the former needs to build something before setting it on fire whereas the latter only burns things that previously existed. The best example I can think of is the Burning Man festival. Someone needs to build the effigy before anyone can burn it down.
Lately, though, Drago has been moving on to other media. Every day it’s something different, he says. Every day is something new. Every day is an adventure, but when anybody asks, he always gives them his stock answer: “Oh, you know. Same old thing.”
“I know what you mean,” I say. “It’s impossible explain everything that’s going on and how it’s all connected, so you end up saying you’re not doing anything.”
“Yeah,” Drago says. “Exactly.”
“Happens to me all the time,” I say, and Miranda tells us to pick up the pace because we’re losing light.
The five of us are crossing Henry Avenue on our way to a park on the far side of the street. Worth noting is the fact that it’s freezing out and none of us are wearing anything heavier than a blazer. Cars are barreling down on us from both directions as we reach the far end of the intersection, and the drivers are barely slowing down not so much to avoid running us over as to figure out exactly what we’re up to.
Mike is dressed as a tiger in a metallic blue cape. Natalie is wearing a sheer silver blouse, furry kitten ears, and a tail. Drago’s face is obscured by the combination of his beard and a feathery mask. I’m still wearing Mike’s blazer and tie and lugging a guitar and bass toward the park, and Miranda, perhaps in a spirit of solidarity, is wearing Spandex pants and a glittery shirt despite the fact that she has every intention of staying behind the camera.
“Come on, guys,” Miranda says as we lay our gear down under the roof of a stone gazebo. “We need some establishing shots.”
From what I can gather, establishing shots are very important because we spend the next ten minutes getting them, and when I think we’re done, Mike asks Miranda if we got enough establishing shots. When it turns out that we haven’t, Miranda calls for more establishing shots, and Natalie pounces atop a trashcan and balances herself on top of it. Not to be outdone, Drago leaps on a picnic table, then lunges for a wooden support beam beneath the roof of the gazebo.
“Is this a good idea?” I ask Mike in a whisper as Drago wraps his legs around the beam and hangs upside down, belly exposed in the cold, winter air.
“It’s fine,” Mike says. “They do this kind of thing all the time.”
“They do?” I ask, images of Drago and Natalie splattered on the concrete floor of the gazebo dancing in my head.
How will I explain it to the paramedics, I wonder? Or worse, to the police?
When Natalie and Drago finish their establishing shots unscathed, Miranda spots a hill and tells us to start descending it.
“Okay, stop!” she shouts, and we all freeze as she moves to another angle and tells us to resume our march. After repeating this process about a dozen times, we reach the bottom of the hill, much to everyone’s amazement.
By now, the cold is starting to sink into our bones, and even the most adventurous among us are starting to feel it. Drago notes that it’s getting late. Natalie mentions that her lips are turning blue. Mike reminds us that he has papers to grade.
But Miranda has other plans.
“What we really need is a story,” she announces. “Any ideas?”