Bad Rain

9 Apr

Devon and I drove into Flushing, Queens this weekend to spend the weekend with Scott.

One of the most apt descriptions I ever heard of my brother was, “Scott likes to run in and out of the raindrops.” He’s managed to sidestep a lot of the expenses and traps most people fall into, but he’d be the first to tell you there’s a price to be paid for living that close to the bone.

Going to Flushing is like traveling to an Asian country, which is the main part of its charm.  Scott shares a basement apartment with Joe, a Chinese guy who works for Scott and who understands very little English. Joe was a published writer in China, a poet and filmmaker.

That evening Joe cooks dinner for us in the basement, loading the table with six entrees and soup, unusual dishes like bitter melon, stir-fried celery and an egg and tomato dish, all cooked “Beijing-style.”

Some of Joe’s Chinese friends show up and it’s a night of conversation refreshingly free of references to consumerism and getting ahead. Joe tells us that the Chinese standard of beauty for both men and women is, “Big eyes and a long, narrow bridge to the nose.” Joe also said that the Chinese like faces that “Go in and out a lot.”

Later Joe brings out a feature-length script he’s written. I take a look at it – it’s been clumsily translated from Chinese into English, there are no slug-lines for scenes, the formatting is wrong, and three other readers have left their corrections and comments scribbled on the manuscript. He wants me to read it on the spot but I tell him I’ll read it first thing in the morning. Scott has already told me that it’s pretty hard going – an allegorical tale flipping the Cultural Revolution so it takes place in the U.S., with Nixon as a Chairman Mao-type ruler.

The next morning I take a cup of coffee and the script out to my car and sit there and read it through. It’s got a pretty good title, Bad Rain. It’s very difficult to get a clear view of the story. There’s a thread of something interesting, especially in the tale being told through the eyes of a tramp who wants recompense for having a pot of boiling soup poured on his head by a member of the Red Guard.

The script is in such bad shape that it’s necessary to first clear the brush and haul out the garbage before you can get a clear view of the property. I write some notes and give him some very basic advice, such as: “Describe your story in three sentences; then summarize it in one page; think visually, etc.” I offer to take another look at the script.

Joe’s level of desperation lays several layers deeper than mine, under a tremendous weight. It will be a miracle if he makes it.

(2004)

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