Tuesday, November 29, 2011

800 Words: Secret Handshake

(Another rerun from the VoW days. Not at all representative of the best things I've written, but it just seems appropos for everything that's happened during the last 24 hours)

(Evan sits down to begin work on the Concert for Washington, the first half of which will be premiered at the Atlas Intersections Festival in March. He stares intently at the screen...wondering to himself how such a magnificent statement of everything in the world should begin, and without warning a moment of inspiration finally descends upon him and he feverishly types upon the screen...)

Christopher Dodd has no neck.

(Evan stares blankly at this sentence for five minutes before inspiration deigns to descend upon him again and he revises the sentence extensively so that it now reads...)

Christopher Dodd has a second forehead where his neck should be.

(Evan stares at this still more. He then realizes that the sentence still misses a certain je ne sais quoi, and as inspiration descends upon him yet again, he humbly goes about revising the sentence into a more definitive form....)

Christopher Dodd seems to be slowly growing a fetus inside his neck. Seriously, what were all those women thinking? This is a man with a series of bad toupees and an upside down Mount Rushmore where his neck should be. If I were Carrie Fischer I'd have been actively wondering what it was in me that made me want to date somebody who looks so much like Jabba the Hut.

(Evan sits on his bed, with a feeling of intense satisfaction at what he just typed. Enter West Wing President Josiah Bartlett and The American President President Andrew Shepperd)

Bartlett: Another would-be-'genius' trying to depict Washington....What did we do to deserve this country?

Shepperd: They all think they can do it. But there's no harm in letting the kid try.

Bartlett: When the kid's twenty-eight and sitting on his ass on a Friday night in his parents house, there's plenty of harm.

Evan: I'd say it's an honor to meet you too Mr. President, but I have a feeling you're here to annoy me.

Bartlett: Maybe he IS a genius!

Shepperd: Aw c'mon, cut the kid some slack. Weirder kids than him ended up on our staffs.

Bartlett: Are you asking me to do that as President Bartlett or as A. J. McInerney?

Evan: Did I take your Vicodin?

Bartlett: Not until Sundays, then the sky's the limit with your back.

Shepperd: Hush up Jed, we gotta talk to him.

Bartlett: Yes sir Mr. President...

Shepperd: How many times do I have....never mind. I read your treatment Evan, it's not bad.

Bartlett: FOR ME TO POOP ON!.....Sorry Mr. President, keep going....

Shepperd: Really, it's not a bad idea you've got here. Voices of Washington, Washington from the perspective of the people who live here.

Bartlett: Why are you encouraging the kid? Somewhere in his life the poor boy has to make a living.

Shepperd: If he's as good as his idea, he just might.

Bartlett: The kid was watching a Star Trek episode he's seen a dozen times earlier tonight.

Evan: Hey, at least I don't have to dial the Butterball hotline on Thanksgiving....

Bartlett: They're good people at Butterball.

Evan: They didn't know that you solved the Middle East peace process with the help of a teleplay.

Bartlett: You take that back!

Evan: Or what? You'll put a hit out on me with your contacts in the Qumari Mujahideen?

(Evan and President Bartlett put each other in headlocks)

Shepperd: (Dives between them) Break it up! Break it up! (pause) Alright everybody, let's not say things we can't take back. Jed, Evan's right that you couldn't make peace in the Middle East without the help of a script, and Evan President Bartlett's right that you're a nerd beyond redemption.

Bartlett: And you didn't even need anybody's script to mediate that solution?

Evan: Y'know I feel like I'm losing control of this dialogue.

Shepperd: Don't worry, you'll get it back in a minute.

Bartlett: Look, all I'm saying is that I think this is a good kid who has to know by now that luck isn't on his side. That's all. Obviously he's bright and obviously the learning difficulties have left some battle scars. But kids like him have to sink or swim like everybody else. So why are we stopping at his house rather than a kid who more resembles an Aaron Sorkin character?

Shepperd: Because you know as well as I do that we're just figures out of liberal pornography and that both The West Wing and The American President are pieces that never dug into the realities of either politics or Washington.

Bartlett: And you never enjoyed living in a fairy-tale?

Shepperd: I enjoyed it plenty. So did he, but we never lived in a Washington college dorm with all those kids who watched The West Wing and decided that the show is what Washington is actually like.

Bartlett: Alright, so the kid has an idea to do things that we didn't do. But what credentials does he have to do something like this?

Evan: Credentials?

Bartlett: A guy with an education is still worth something in this country...ever consider going back to school?

Evan: No.

Bartlett: Why not? You're a smart kid.

Evan: You ever see my high-school transcript?

Bartlett: High school? Jesus kid, get over it already. And even if you'd never get into Dartmouth or Yale. Some people are destined for middle management and what's wrong with that?

Evan: Y'know you seem a lot nicer on television.

Bartlett: That was before I realized that my son is an inveterate wife beater.

Evan: OK, now I'm really losing control of this dialogue.

Shepperd: Just give it a minute...

Bartlett: What's wrong with saying that? Elites have problems too.

Evan: Yeah, but you all have a built-in network to shield yourselves from the worst of it.

Bartlett: And you think you don't?

Evan: I think my ride could have been smoother...

Bartlett: No arguments there. But what have you got against Aaron Sorkin characters? Whatever his shows are about, we're the kinds of people who have the lives you wish you had. We're always smart, good looking, benevolent, and we get everything we want. Don't blame us for being the types of people you want to be.

Evan: ...Why would anybody resent that?....

Shepperd: I don't blame you for resenting us. People don't just watch us to see how they want their lives to be, they also watch us to flatter themselves into thinking that they're somehow like us. We were Sex and the City for politicos.

Bartlett: Alright, so you think you can do better kid? Go ahead. But why should I believe that your piece will be anything but an Aaron Sorkin portrayal of Washington with worse writing?

Evan: Because you're not who I'm interested in. This isn't Washington from Barack Obama's point of view, it's Washington from the point of view of the guy who does Barack Obama's secret servicemen's dry cleaning. I don't want the kind of self-consciously lofty stuff that Aaron Sorkin does. This has to be about the people who aren't glamorous enough to make an appearance on The West Wing.

Bartlett: Like you?

Evan: Damn straight people like me. Most of us will never get a professorship at Dartmouth or win a Nobel Prize, but why are our stories any less worth telling than yours?

Bartlett: I'm not necessarily saying it's any less worth telling, just that yours'll be harder to get people interested.

Evan: They always are. Because most of us have to get through our lives the best we can in spite of the knowledge that very few people are interested in what we think. And while people like you are busy moving in circles that most of us can only watch on television, the rest of us deserve to have our voices heard too.

Bartlett: Am I the only one who thinks this sounds eerily like somebody who'd vote for Nixon?

Shepperd: Don't listen to him Evan. So what's your plan for this?

Evan: Best I can tell the plan is to plug away. Write as much as I can as soon as I can. I know I'm not Dylan or Sondheim but I can write song lyrics, and I can certainly compose music. I know what I want to write about. So now it's just a matter of getting it down, and that has always been the big problem...

Bartlett: Well God's speed to you sir and we wish you the best. Now Mr. President let's get going, I still want to use that coupon at Quizno's.

Shepperd: Don't worry Evan, he'll come around. Keep at it.

Evan: Thanks. Tell him not to get the roast beef dip, the bread gets soggy.

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