The Shoot (Part Seven)

The mood in Mike’s car is somewhat subdued. Maybe it’s because the sudden, scowling apparition of Mike’s dad has reminded us all of the feckless nature of today’s outing — and, by extension, of our collective interest in what some might consider less-than-serious pursuits. Or maybe it’s because that same apparition is a grim reminder of the humorless future that awaits all of us if we decide to go straight, as it were: no more art, no more music, no more movies, no more toys, no more comic books. In a word, no more fun.

Mike asks about my approach to grading. Miranda asks if we can focus on the video shoot. The GPS informs us that there’s traffic ahead and asks if we’d like to try an alternate route. It’s an existential question as much as a practical one.

In the distance, radio towers loom over Roxborough, red lights blinking a slow, steady rhythm high above the hills. Natalie lives in a decommissioned chapel at the foot of one of the towers, and by the time we arrive, the sun has begun to set, and there’s a distinct chill in the air.

My stomach knots slightly at the prospect of meeting new people, but I follow Mike and Miranda through the front door and try to blend into the cluttered background. Natalie and her housemates, it turns out, are not neatnicks. Art supplies abound, left wherever they were last used, and my eye is drawn to the various ukuleles, hand-drums, and unstrung guitars that litter the floor.

“So you’re the guy we’ve heard so much about!” Natalie says.

“I am?” I say.

In the kitchen, a man with a bushy beard is rattling pots and pans. He hasn’t said a word, and my innate paranoia tells me that his silence is a sign that he’d rather not be bothered by whatever shenanigans Miranda has planned. Or, more to the point, that I’ve instigated by writing a song about a dead prostitute.

As a matter of fact, the paranoid voices in my head start whispering, that guy definitely hates you.

I look at my feet. I look at the walls and ceiling. I look everywhere but at the man in the kitchen and see nothing but the clutter that reminds me how far I am from the tidy confines of my comfort zone.

“Hey!” the bearded guy says, suddenly standing in front of me with a chunk of bread dripping in something white and pasty. “Do you want to try my mango dip? I just made it!”

“Wow! Yes!” I say. “But I can’t eat gluten. Is there gluten in that?”

“Oh, sorry,” he says. “Yeah, there’s gluten in the bread.”

Before I can say anything else, he pops into the kitchen and returns with a plastic spoon slathered in the dip.

“What do you think?” he asks.

“Delicious!” I say before I’ve even tasted it, mainly because saying I’m just glad he doesn’t hate me might come off as slightly off-putting.

Then there’s a pause, and I fill it with one of the go-to questions from my script:

“So, what do you guys do for a living?”

And then there’s a longer pause, and suddenly I realize I’ve taken over the role of the oh-so-serious old man in the room — that, in essence, I’ve just become Mike’s dad.

“You know, whatever comes up,” Natalie says. “We were going to plow some snow today, but then Miranda asked if we could help with your video.”

“Oh,” I say. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be!” Natalie says. “This sounds like a lot more fun.”

And there’s that word again: Fun!

Apparently it comes natural to some people.

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We didn’t end up going with these costumes.

The Shoot (Part Six)

In case you’re wondering, Mocha is a Morkie — part Maltese and part Yorkie. The main benefit of mixing the two breeds is that it produces a five-pound dog with the lung capacity of a right whale. That’s my working theory, anyway, as Mocha takes a breath and then commences to bark nonstop at his food bowl for the next twenty minutes. Cute as a button, though.

Since we can’t leave until Mocha finishes his dinner, we spend our time rifling through the costumes and props that are strewn about the hallway. A set of plastic ram’s horns, feathered masks, fake-fur hats, stoles, gloves, and tails, shiny gold pants, a skin-tight silver shirt, and a plastic microphone are just a few of the items we pick through as we try to settle on the right look for everyone.

That it’s hovering just a few degrees above freezing outside doesn’t factor into our decision-making process, a choice we’ll regret in the fairly near future. For the time-being, our larger concern is that Mike’s father just burst through the closed set of double-doors I’ve been trying to ignore at the end of the hallway, and he’s demanding to know why the dog is barking so much. Complicating matters is the fact that I’m the only person in the hallway at the moment, standing in a pile of props and costumes and wearing Mike’s clothes. The look on the man’s face says I’m lucky he doesn’t own a gun.

“I think I make him nervous,” I say by way of explanation.

“Hey, Dad!” Mike yells from his bedroom as he tries to coax Mocha into taking the last few bites of his dinner. “Marc’s here!”

I offer a limp wave as the man scowls at me and ducks back into his room.

“Maybe we should go,” I suggest, nervously stuffing any props within reach into a reusable grocery bag.

“Yeah,” Miranda says. “That’s probably a good idea.”

I’m already halfway down the steps with my guitar and the bag of props, forgetting for the moment that I’m an adult because my friend’s dad is mad at me for waking him from his nap. Awkward, yes. But it did teach me that if you ever want to feel like a teenager again, don’t fall in love or anything ridiculous like that. Just piss off your friend’s dad.

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Me with a sculpture of Mike’s head. It’s one of the props we decided not to take with us to Roxborough, largely because it weighed fifteen pounds and was difficult to carry.

The Shoot (Part Three)

The dog keeps barking — or yipping, or maybe just squeaking at top volume —  as Miranda says she thought I’d just come in the back door like everyone else does. The dog’s name is Mocha, and my guess is that he weighs about five pounds. Mike, it turns out, is in the shower, and there’s an array of costumery laid out in their upstairs hallway.

By now, I’m consciously running all of my “normal human behavior” scripts in an effort to seem like I have my act together and don’t mind for a second that this isn’t the day I had planned. I say things like “Thanks for having me over!” and “Gee, I haven’t been here in a while!” Then I squat to pet the dog and say, “Aren’t you a cute dog!” And then I go out on a limb: “Do you mind if I use your bathroom?”

For a brief moment I wonder if I should have said “restroom” instead of “bathroom,” but the issue is mooted when Miranda yells, “Mike! Marc has to pee!”

And Mike yells “God, Miranda!” as my brain lurches toward imminent meltdown at the prospect of being ushered into the bathroom where Mike is showering.

“There is another bathroom, right?” I ask.

“You don’t want to use that one,” Miranda says. “It’s a mess.”

“Not a problem.”

“It’s okay,” Miranda says, banging on the bathroom door. “Hurry up in there! Marc has to pee!”

By now I’m halfway down the stairs in search of the other bathroom, which turns out to be fine, largely due to the fact that nobody is showering in it.

When I return, Miranda has an outfit of Mike’s clothes laid out for me and is talking about makeup. She wants to glam me up, she says. Silver lipstick, blue eye shadow.

“I, um,” I say. “You know, maybe just the…”

I point to a black blazer with red stripes.

Perhaps sensing my trepidation, Miranda relents on the issue of the makeup but insists that I wear a skinny red-and-black bow-tie.

“But I’m not wearing a collar,” I say. “Won’t that look funny?”

“No,” Miranda says as if to tell me to get over it. “It’ll look punk. Very eighties.”

At this point, Mike is still in the shower, so Miranda suggests that we go out and shoot some footage in a nearby cemetery.

Because, you know, why not?

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Me in Mike’s jacket and tie, posing with a self-portrait of Mike and a cityscape by Miranda.