Saturday, December 4, 2010
Truman Capote: "That's not writing! It's just typing!"
You know how they say you shouldn't go to the market when you're hungry? They should also say, "You shouldn't blog when you're in a bad mood." Having said that: Here I go!
Some people tell me that if I want people to “know me as a writer,” I’m supposed to “blog every day.”
Blog every day? Uh-oh! If that’s the case, I have to blog a whole bunch more, because my last blog on this site, prior to this one, was eight months ago – my last blog is dated May 29th!
First of all – what on earth would I blog about? I like movies, but there are already ten million people who write about movies on line, and probably, they write better than I can write. I could write something political, but there are definitely people who do that better than me, as well -- not to mention that the fact that I hate liberals and conservatives (people who only see 'their own sides') alike. I guess I could write “curmudgeonly” pieces about my “pet peeves,” but I’ve already written a few of those – scroll down, and you can see ‘em – and when I read them back, they strike me as being more than a little creepy.
When I started this blogsite about a year ago, I thought it was a good idea – and in a way, it is a pretty good idea once in a great while, because I can use it as a catch-all for some previously unpublished articles I wrote, which I have already posted – my interviews with Milton Berle and with a porn king, the weird screenplay I posted, and an article about what it was like to be a student in the legendary author Terry Southern’s writing class.
But mostly, blogging, to call a spade a spade, is bullshit, an extreme form of impotently narcissistic navel gazing – which is the reason I won’t allow myself to do it that much. I have some friends who publish wonderful blogs which are truly moving and amazing, but this piece isn't meant for them -- this is for everybody else in the world.
Blogging’s not new – there’s always been blogging, but it used to be called “my private thoughts that are not interesting enough to share with other people and which I should just keep to myself.” Thanks to the internet, everybody’s half-assed private thoughts, including my own, are now considered to be “writing.” But as Truman Capote once opined, correctly, when he was describing Jack Kerouac's excruciatingly rambling prose, “That’s not writing… it’s just typing.”
The other problem with blogging, is that it has ruined journalism and strangled magazines and newspapers out of existence. Every sentient, mouth-breathing creature in the world has a blogsite, and all of these blog ‘articles’ are mixed in with the real journalism, and it has cheapened journalism – literally so, because, ten years ago, during the internet boom, before blogging, I would get paid $250 or $350 a piece to write articles for these early e-zines, and now that there’s a deluge of writing on the internet, those same artlcles that used to pay $350 are now paying $5 or $10.
What everybody has to learn – and I’ve already absorbed this lesson – is that we should all keep our thoughts in our own heads. Unless you're John Steinbeck or Upton Sinclair, you have to realize that nobody can change the world by pecking at a keyboard. Just like you don't want to hear my problems, sometimes I don't want to hear yours. When you blog, you're telling the world, "Here I am! Look at me!" Well, guess what: The world is busy accumulating money and buying stupid computerized gadgets and taking its cracker-munchers to soccer practice. The world doesn't want to hear it. And I don't want to hear how your little genius did on his spelling test today, or how your azaleas or jacarandas are doing. Honest-injun, I don't! Your blog posting might feel therapeutic for you while you're writing it, but for me, it's like nails on a chalkboard.
Plus, on a very basic level: Why on earth would anybody write anything for free? Does your doctor work for free? Your kid's teacher? The guy who fixes your car? Of course not. And writing is work, too. And here in America, writing equals money. I am continually amazed by anybody who would give anything away for free... unless, of course, you're doing a charitable act, which is of course great and ennobling and something that all of us could stand to do a little more of, most of the time. If you want recognition, go to Darfur and feed some kids, don't write a blog about some plastic surgery-case you saw on "Dancing with the Stars" last night.
And: The same people who tell me I'm supposed to blog every day also tell me that I'm supposed to do it so I can "brand myself, on line," but I'm not a brand! I'm a person, a regular fortysomething man with a lousy attitude! If I were a brand I would probably be "Colgate with MFP," but I'm just me. Some people infuriate me to no end...
Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up in a better mood and I'll decide that I like blogging, and I'll erase this and write fifteen new entries. But today I think blogging is dumb. In fact, it's so dumb, I had to write a blog about it because I am the world's biggest hypocrite!
In director Terence Malick's Badlands (1973), young mass murderers Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, who know they are fated for a tragic end, make their way into a recording booth, in which they lay down an acetate of their voices as a way of demonstrating to the world that they were "here" and that they "mattered." That's what blogging is: Blogging is when disenfranchised or unimportant people want the world to know that they were here, so they make recordings of their voices. (I do it, too.)
-- 30 --
Sunday, March 28, 2010
NEVER GIVE A RACIST A RIDE
by Chuck Zigman, 3/28/10
Life has, yet again, given me something to blog about.
Last week, one of my friends was visiting Los Angeles from England. He’s an American, but he’s got a Ph.D, and he’s teaching Cinema Studies at a university in England.
Anyway, my friend was in town, along with hundreds of other Cinema Studies professors from all over the world, to attend an academic conference in downtown L.A., at the historic Bonaventure Hotel.
On the last evening of the conference, two Saturdays ago, I went out for drinks with my friend and a couple of our mutual friends, and my friend brought along five or six of his film professor colleagues from the colloquium, all of whom he, too, had just met for the first time that week. We all had a fun/robust time, drinking at the recently-restored Hotel Figueroa and discussing arcane old movies in the most esoteric/pretentious way imaginable.
At about 2:00 am, it fell to me to drive five of the film professors back to the Bonaventure, since I was the only one with a car. I warned them, in advance, that my car, a convertible (my “midlife crisis convertible”), was very small, and that it might be a tight squeeze, but it didn’t seem to bother anybody, especially because everybody was pretty toasted.
So here’s what happened:
I’m driving these five film professors back to the Bonaventure. There’s three film professors in the back seat, I’m in the driver’s seat, and to my right, in the passenger seat, there’s a very strapping lady film professor from the University of Copenahgen. This lady film professor, a truly Amazonian doppelganger for Brigitte Nielsen, writes books about American action films, in both Danish and English. She seems to be a very agreeable/personable woman, and in fact, she is so agreeable, that my friend, the American guy who teaches in England, is sitting on her lap during the ride back to the hotel.
At any rate, while I’m driving, Danish Film Professor Lady, who is about fifty sheets to the wind, exuberantly proclaims, “Hey, Chuck! Your small sports car is reminding me of my favorite joke about small sports cars!” Before any of us can stop her, she proceeds to tell her joke:
“How do you fit two hundred and fifty Jews into a small sports car?"
Uh-Oh! The other four of us know where this joke is going. We don’t really want to hear the punchline, but of course, she has to say it anyway, right? She can't leave us high and dry! This is the punchline:
“Two in the front seat… two in the back seat… and two hundred and forty-six in the ashtray!”
We all groan, and it has suddenly become very uncomfortable in my 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, because everybody in my car, save for the joke-teller, has already figured out that the driver (me) is Jewish.
After this joke has been told – and it easily one of the most horrible/offensive/obnoxious jokes I’ve ever heard – I offer up to Danish Lady the fact that I’m Jewish. Well, either she doesn’t hear me or she doesn’t care, because she quickly follows suit by telling a second joke, and if you think that one is wrong, wait ‘til you hear the next one she tells. This one really ices the crowd:
Danish Lady’s Joke #2: “What’s the difference between a black person and a bowl of shit?” Long pause for the punchline, which is only two words long: “The bowl.”
This Danish Film Professor Lady is easily one of the most horrible, nasty people I’ve ever met.
And what this terrible person said in my car last week, about Jews and blacks, has been bothering me for a whole week. I have actually been so mad about this lady all week, I haven’t been able to sleep that well. I know there are people I’m supposed to call when I hear something like this, but I don’t know exactly whom I should be notifying! Should I call the Simon Weisenthal Center? The Anti-Defamation League? The NAACP? Is there an organization of professors in Denmark I can fire off a letter to? This vermin should not be teaching college students, and if I have my way she will not be teaching them for much longer.
Now, I love humor – it’s my favorite thing on earth, and sometimes I can even enjoy an ethnic joke if it’s well-crafted. I’m a huge fan of freedom of speech, as well, and I even like Denmark; in fact, I spent the first ten years of my life religiously watching the Danny Kaye movie Hans Christian Andersen ten million times with my paternal grandmother, and I happen to know every single, solitary, wonderful song from that film ("Inchworm," "Wonderful Cophenhagen," the math song that goes, "2 and 2 are 4... 4 and 4 are 8...," etc.).
But I believe that these two jokes that this disgusting, cackling pig/shrew told in my car went far beyond the realm of acceptable behavior.
I just thought I’d use my blog site today to vent about my experience with this horrible, racist Danish Film Professor Lady.
I hope she dies choking on her own blood, and I hope it’s painful.
PS, This wasn't the first racist thing I've ever heard. Once, a smart, ivy league-educated woman actually asked me, very seriously, "Chuck, why is to so hard for you to get into the film industry? You're Jewish! Can't you just get right in?" (My answer was, "Oh, I can get in anytime I want to. I just haven't done the secret handshake yet." With gravitas, she asked me if I could show her the handshake!!!)... On another occasion, when I was in my mid-twenties, I had just starting dating somebody, and she kept saying horrible things about Jews right in front of me ("Let's not go into that restaurant... it looks too Jewish in there"), and after her third ethnic slur, I informed her, "Wait a minute! I'm a Jew!" She started to cry, because, as I expected, she didn't know I was
Semitic. She replied, through her tears, "If you're Jewish, why aren't you wearing one of those little hats?" I sure know how to pick 'em, huh!
I don't like the nasty Danish lady who told racist jokes in my car last week, but I still like Denmark. To prove it, here's a scene from my favorite boyhood movie: Here is Danny Kaye singing "Inchworm," from 1952's Hans Christian Andersen.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The Guy Who Mugged and Beat My Dad On January 2nd, 2010 in Los Angeles.
I expected my new blog entry to be something about old movies or something; but life has just given me a topic, so let's call this posting a "special bulletin."
As some people already know, my dad, Bob Zigman, was mugged and beaten on January 2nd, 2010 during his Saturday morning walk. The police now have photos of the mugger, but still don't have his name. This happened near the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Doheny Avenue, close to Beverly Hills.
After the guy knocked my dad out and threw him in the bushes, he took my dad's wallet, and went on a shopping spree at a Walmart in Panorama City! The guy, all told, spent about $3,000.00 in more than ten stores. Weirdly: My dad's photograph was on the credit card; the people behind the counters must have been pretty dumb not to check the photo on the credit card against the guy buying the stuff. (This shows how dumb muggers are: If I stole somebody's credit card, I wouldn't waste it on Walmart; I'd go to a high-end place like Nieman-Marcus! But that's just me.)
My dad needed thirty-two stitches in his forehead, and his cheekbone was fractured in three places. Two separate surgeries were required.
Here are pictures of the guy, courtesy of Walmart's security camera, as well as a portion of the police report. If anybody's ever seen this guy before, let me know, or call the LAPD Tip Line (see below), because we still don't know his name. Pass this along.
If the police don't find this guy, I'll string his ass up myself.
"I know I don't look like the guy on the credit card. Just give me my purchase, anyway!"
Submit a Web Tip
Wanted As Of: 1/2/10
Robbery Name: UNKNOWNAli
Case: File #10-00027-09 INFORMATION WANTED - 211PC SUSPECT
On Saturday, 1/2/10, at approximately 5:40 a.m., at the 9000 block of Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, a victim was taking his morning walk when a suspect approached him from behind and struck the victim in the head with an unknown object. The victim lost consciousness, and when he woke up, his wallet containing his California driver`s license and a credit card had been stolen.
Later that same day, the suspect was seen at a Walmart in Panorama City using the victim`s stolen credit card. Additionally, the victim`s credit card was used at other locations throughout Panorama City before the victim was able to cancel his card.
If you can identify the above individual or have any additional information to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), text "TIPLA" and the message to 274637 or submit an anonymous webtip by clicking on the Submit a Webtip link located above.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
AUTUMN, 1939: In the town of Lodz, as in other cities in Poland, the residents of the Jewish community were hated. Considering what had been happening in the month since Hitler’s armies had invaded Poland, the Jews really hadn’t had things so terribly bad before: Daily, Jews from all parts of the country were being herded aboard long trains. To Treblinka; to Auschwitz; to Buchenwald; and, unbeknownst to them, to death.
A train consisting of forty-eight cars would today carry one thousand six hundred and sixty-eight of Lodz’s Jewish residents (thirty-six per car) to the Buchenwald concentration camp, which, they were assured, was merely a “work camp,” where they would be sequestered only temporarily, before being returned, in fine form and fettle, to their own town.
A black-uniformed SS Corporal (burgeoning belly; thick, greasy mustache) checked his list as the frightened-looking Jews boarded, each passenger calling out his own name. Mothers called out names of their children, as they lifted their little ones onto that too-high first step.
In contrast to the melancholy stares of those who were boarding, was that of a youngish, yellow-bearded man in a leaf-green tunic, who was humming an antiquated Jewish folksong with a cheeriness which was inappropriate to this unwanted exodus. The ones in front and in back of him in line shot angry glances at him.
“What is your name, Jew?” the Corporal inquired.
“My name is Eli, my brother,” he exclaimed, extending his hand in firm friendship. “What is yours, if I may ask?”
“Don’t you try any of your Jew tricks on me,” the Corporal grunted, stepping back. “What is your family name?”
“My family name? Cohen… I am Eli Cohen.”
The Corporal examined all five pages of his list.
“There is no Eli Cohen on this list. It isn’t your turn. You’re lucky—but it won’t last. Now go home.”
“All of these people are my associates,” Eli said. “I couldn’t feel comfortable in my home today, knowing where you are really taking them.”
“Now, wait a minute,” the Corporal replied, in equally hushed tones, not wanting to create a panic, “What do you mean, ‘Where we are really taking them,’ hmm? We are taking them to work. And that is all we are doing.”
“Okay. Whatever you say, sir,” Eli winked, conspiratorially. “I won’t tell if you won’t!”
“You are holding up business,” the Corporal growled nervously, sweat beading upon his cruel forehead. “Go home. When we want you, Cohen, you can be sure we will come and get you.”
Eli mischievously manipulated some dirt with the heel of his shoe.
“I don’t mean to be impertinent, but… do you have a waiting list? I’d really like to get on this train, if you please,” Eli grinned at the German.
“No! Now, will you go home!”
Eli’s smile widened. “In that case,” he said, “Your Fuhrer, Herr Hitler, is a pig. He is a disgusting vermin of the lowest order!” Eli began to canter around, in absurd burlesque of Hitleresque lockstep.
The Jews looked away, embarrassedly – at their feet, at one of the two, nearby water towers; anywhere. They knew they were not in a favorable situation, and that this supposed ‘co-religionist,’ a man whom none of them had ever seen before today, was going to raise the already-boiling water to a more volatile temperature.
“That’s it,” the Corporal screamed, his eyes narrowing into a scowl. “On the train, kike. Or I will shoot you this minute!” He patted the Lugar in his pocket, driving his point home.
“Thank you, sir!” Eli said, as he leaped aboard the train. “By the way, I should like to commend you to your superiors. Won’t you tell me your name?”
But the Corporal, who was busying checking off other names, ignored Eli, who disappeared into the recesses of a boxcar that was about one-third of the way down the line, a car which was only identified by a large, yellow number – “18.”
The boxcar to which Eli had admitted himself was dark and dank and, after two more villagers were admitted – an elderly, rheumatic man and his wife – the Officer shut the door behind them, bringing the number of passengers in the car to thirty-six.
They were all so very tightly packed in the humid chamber, none could sit down, and the four children in the car began to cry. One’s mother wiped her child’s tears away with the red scarf she had worn about her head.
Eli smiled a smile incongruous with the confused looks of the other passengers.
“That’s a smart thing you did, fellah,” a scruffy-faced man mumbled to Eli, his tone conveying that he meant exactly the opposite. “What kind of an idiot gets on voluntarily? For all we know, we might be going to our deaths.”
The other passengers, who had never entertained that thought, and merely had it in mind that they were being transferred to a work camp, hushed up all at once, including their children, one of whom, a tow-headed girl, now frightened, hugged at her misty-eyed mother’s voluminous thigh.
“In fact, you are right,” Eli answered him, an amusing smile radiating outward from his gentle countenance. “That is exactly where we are going.”
That comment, expressed dispassionately enough, begat pandemonium, to which each passenger contributed at least one horrified look or blood-curdling scream. The scruffy man grabbed Eli by the collar of his greasy tunic, and Eli laughed.
“What do you mean, scaring them like that?”
“I didn’t mean to scare anybody,” Eli said, pushing the man’s hand away from his neck. “I’m just not a terribly good liar, that’s all. You’ll all excuse me.”
“We’ve never seen you in Lodz before,” an elderly woman with enormous vocal range, who Eli thought (knew?) must have, at one time, worked on the Yiddish theater circuit as chanteuse, screamed. “You’re a Nazi spy!”
“I am Jewish, as you are,” Eli said. “And, in response to the other part of your charge, you have not, any of you, seen me before in your town, that is true. But each and every Passover, you set a place for me at your Seder table.”
The passengers all looked at each other, and all each could hear, besides his or her own thoughts, was the metallic cacophony of the train, as it scraped over each square of track.
“You mean to tell us that you’re Elijah, the Prophet?” the scruffy-faced man asked, facetiously.
“Very good,” Eli said, patting the man’s back. “You have attended shul – and not just the local tavern, as your whiskey breath would indicate.”
The scruffy-faced man instinctively reached for a bottle in his overcoat pocket, as he would do whenever he heard something odd like that. He wanted to throw it out the window, even though there was neither a bottle in his pocket, nor a window in the car.
“You can’t be Elijah,” the elderly woman shouted.
“What is your name?” Eli asked her.
“You can’t be Shulamit Rosenberg,” Eli returned. “Does anybody have some food? A speck of bread – or perhaps a morsel of cheese? I’m famished.”
Although Eli smelled roasted meat from one of the ladies’ satchels, nobody offered him a solitary bite.
“I thought not,” he answered, and he next proceeded to pull a plate of baked chicken from mid-air. “Will anybody join me? The children all look very hungry.”
People waved him off. “We’re not falling for your magic tricks,” the chanteuse said. (The adults agreed with her.)
None of the adults would take chicken and, though there was scarcely room, Eli knelt and presented the steaming platter to the four small children aboard. Each grabbed a savory piece of chicken, devouring it, rapturously, despite admonishments from the parents that the man before them was the Devil and that, in effect, they were eating The Devil’s Chicken.
“These sweet children know who I am, instinctively,” he said, looking up at the adults as he knelt, with his plate, in front of the children. He lifted the chin of a shy girl, gently, between thumb and forefinger. He looked her eyes, pleadingly:
“Darling, would you tell the grown-ups who I am? You know who I am, don’t you?”
The girl nodded affirmatively, and looked to the adults, reciting something she had probably, and preternaturally, always known:
“This man is Elijah the Prophet, who is said to come and tell the Children of Israel when the Messiah will deliver us back to the Promised Land.”
She then looked at Eli for an approving glance, which he doled out to her as easily as he had the chicken.
The girl’s obese mother pushed her against her breast and cackled at Eli
“You are the Devil!” She underscored her malediction with a gob of spit, volleyed in the direction of his eye. He erased it with his green sleeve.
The other adults, too, began to shower Eli with curses, but the children suddenly rallied to his side, affirming that, in fact, he was the Prophet.
Eli passed a finger in front of his lips, for as much as to tell the children, “Let them find out for themselves.”
When the children began to shoot disappointed glances at their parents – the Unbelievers – the adults all started to look guilty.
“Assuming you are Elijah, which I doubt very strongly,” the scruffy-faced man lectured, “why wouldn’t you try and get us off this train?”
“I am a Jew like you, with a moral compunction to follow my people unto what awaits them. In this case, I am sorry to say that it is death.”
He found a small nook on the floor and settled into it, apologizing for the legs he was bumping.
“You can’t do anything?” a blonde woman asked him, the red-cheeked daughter of the chanteuse. “You won’t try and help us?”
“You don’t believe who I am, anyway. What difference would it make.”
But there seemed to be a sudden, general consensus that Eli was, in fact, Elijah, based on the fact that people who are tempered by fear are sometimes very likely to believe in anyone who is immediately sympathetic to their cause.
“If you are Elijah…” The scruffy-faced man began to ask his question, but stopped, fumfering for the right words.
“If I am Elijah, yes?”
“If you are Elijah, why is it that, for centuries, Jews have been leaving a place of honor for you and a glass of wine at the Seder, and yet, you have never shown up to honor the invitation?”
“It’s like with anything else: If you accept one invitation, you have to accept them all, right? I know I should go into these people’s homes, but to me, it would be tantamount to my having accepted charity, and I would feel embarrassed.”
“We, your people, who you say you are following to the grave because you feel so much for us – we embarrass you?” an elderly man interjected. “Explain, please!”
“Well, it’s like this: Did you ever sit at a table and watch other people, as they’re watching you eat? It’s embarrassing, isn’t it. It’s something I try to avoid, whenever I can.”
“So you mean to say that you will never honor a single invitation to a Seder?”
Eli felt the fits and starts of the train with his behind.
“Sure, one day I’ll have to do that. But if I did it now, people would ask me when the Messiah is coming, which I would feel obliged to tell them, and I haven’t even found out when it is, myself. The ‘Home Office’ is a little slow these days – as you’ve probably already figured out.”
The seventeen others in his car seemed to be disappointed in Eli, but he proceeded to ameliorate the situation by telling a little story:
“I have actually ‘come down’ during each of the periods in which Jews have been threatened, to comfort them in their times of need. The last time was thirty-five years ago, in the little Jewish area in the South of Russia – the Pale of Settlement. It was during the Pogroms. Those wretched Black Hundreds were flying Jews up flagpoles everywhere I looked, and I thought, since it was such a time of despair, it would be a good idea to take the Seder with some of my people, again. Jews at the time, of course, had to hold their Seders surreptitiously, in their basements, to avoid being seen – just as they do now, of course.”
“Some things never change,” the elderly woman interrupted, with that quintessentially-resigned Hebrew shrug which had been passed up through the ages.
“You’re right. Anyway, I visited every family in the Pale, occupying the place that each had set for me, each family expecting that I wouldn’t show up. In each household, I drank my cup of wine, and reassured each family member that the Pogroms would soon be over.
“Never having done this before – going from house-to-house, I mean – you can imagine that, by the tenth cup of wine, I was so shikker, I didn’t know where I was. The lady of the house, in the last apartment I visited, threw me out into the street, bellowing that if a man as sorry as I were the Prophet, there would never be any hope for the Jewish people.
“So I wandered the streets for hours, sick from drinking far too much wine. And just as I was about to pass out onto the cobblestone street, I heard the hooves of a horse, and was soon in plain sight of a horse-drawn carriage, out of which two huge Cossacks, wielding muskets, stepped.
“’Jew,’ they began, ‘in the name of Czar Alexander the Second, we sentence you to be hanged to death tomorrow morning in the Public Square!’
“I told them about how important I am. But I don’t think it mattered, because they shoved me into the carriage and took me down to the police station as though I had committed a crime – which, apparently, I had, just by being Jewish.
“The next morning, they hanged me, and fifty other Jews, by the neck, in the most massive Pogrom ever. Because of who I am – naturally – I was brought back to life. And I’m here with you now, ready to go through it all again, in this New Pogrom.”
Everybody was a little reticent in commenting on this adventure. Eli shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that this is really what transpired, and that it was their prerogative not to believe him, if they didn’t want to.
Night soon fell, and the thirty-six cramped souls slept standing, because they were packed too tightly to fall.
The metal door was then, rather boisterously, thrown open by a blonde-haired, youngish SS Private, a sound which woke them all.
“We have another three hours until we reach our destination,” the Private intoned, the same message being simultaneously transmitted by other guards to the passengers of other boxcars. “You have five minutes to relieve yourselves. Anyone who wishes to abuse the privilege will be shot on sight.”
The forty-eight boxcars suddenly began to disgorge one thousand six hundred and sixty-eight cramped Jews into the night air. They stretched and breathed deeply.
In front of them, lay an endless field of ripe corn, and the passengers were told to use this area for a bathroom, much to the consternation of the bewildered farmer who, at this moment, was being acquiesced by a couple of SS guards, who were telling him that it was for the good of the Reich, and that the Fuhrer would probably give him a medal.
Four other Officers patrolled the circumference of the field, making sure nobody got out of line.
A little tow-headed boy from Boxcar 18 stood, releasing a thin stream of urine onto the green stalks, laughing as he made the stalks ‘wave.’ When he was finished, he watched to see that nobody saw him, and he began to boisterously chew on a clean ear of the tender corn.
A stocky Officer with a limping gait walked up behind the boy, who was so engrossed in his meal, that he didn’t hear the crunch of the Officer’s boots grinding against some arid, fallen husks. He pointed the barrel at the back of the boy’s neck and fired. Both the boy and the corn-ear, which had been gnawed clean, hit the ground simultaneously.
The others looked up from what they were doing to see what had happened. The sight of her lifeless boy, blood oozing from the back of his skull as he lay in the corn, caused his mother to faint.
“If any of you get it into your heads to eat any of the corn, it will be our pleasure to mete out the same punishment which this young man has just received,” croaked an elderly guard over his bullhorn. He laughed, heartily, too.
Eli and the scruffy-faced man, whose name, he had learned, was Moshe Sturman, had befriended each other, both of them having been about the same age. They glanced, coldly, at the sight of the little boy’s body being carried away.
“Those pigs,” Moshe whispered, aiming his own stream in front of him.
“Listen, if it wasn’t the boy, it would have been someone else,” Moshe replied, firing his own stream.
“What are you two conspiring about?” an Officer asked them. Eli recognized him as the ample-bellied Corporal with whom he had to plead to be allowed on the train.
“You can still leave, if you want to,” the Corporal snorted at Eli. “You’re still not on the list, you know.” To Moshe, he continued, “Your friend, here, is a very stupid man. He is with us voluntarily.”
“You’re joking,” Moshe said to Eli, even though he knew it to be true. “You’re here with us voluntarily? You actually chose to be here?”
Moshe buttoned up his pants.
“If it had been me, I’d be out of here so fast,” Moshe continued, “I’d leave a trail of burning corn in my path!”
“Well, don’t you two worry about leaving, because neither of you is going anywhere,” the Corporal railed at Moshe. “Now hurry up. You’ve got two minutes to finish your business.” He walked away to bother someone else.
“I sure would like to get out of here,” Moshe said, a tear welling up in his eye. “Is it true what you said about us going to our deaths?”
“Unfortunately,” Eli answered, not as worried as he probably should have been in such a situation.
“If there were a way to get out of here…”
Moshe couldn’t finish his sentence, because he was now sobbing violently.
“I’m going to get us all out of here,” Eli clicked, dispassionately, in the same monotone in one would speak if inquiring about the weather.
“How are you going to do that? You said, yourself, that you are no different than we are.”
Eli winked. Then, he removed a cloth from his coat and passed it over his own face. His long, blonde beard was suddenly gone, like magic, leaving a thirty-five-year-old with a remarkably Aryan-looking face. He then passed the same cloth over Moshe’s face, and Moshe’s black, three-day-old beardlet was gone, too.
Just as an astounded Moshe was about to ask Eli how he had performed that neat trick, Eli feigned a stomachache and began to moan. Two thuggish-looking SS Officers approached, just as Eli had thought they might, to see what the problem was, and Eli and Moshe promptly knocked them both unconscious.
Eli indicated to Moshe that they should switch clothes with the two Officers, and it was time, presently, to herd the Jews back onto the train again. Eli and Moshe, now thought to be SS Officers, were placed in charge of making sure the passengers in Boxcar 18 were safely aboard once more. (The other passengers did not recognize their former companions, Eli and Moshe, because of their “new looks.”)
As Eli was about to close them in, the girl who had previously recited his virtues spoke, not immediately recognizing him:
“Wait, sir! We had two others in the car with us.”
Eli winked at the little girl, who then smiled, suddenly beginning to recognize him.
“Keep your chins up,” Eli grinned, and he and Moshe shut the door. Inside the closed boxcar, the two could hear applause – applause which, luckily, none of the real SS Officers could hear.
“What are you going to do now?” Moshe asked him.
“That’s what I was about to ask you,” Moshe smiled, placing a gentle arm on his new friend’s shoulder.
“Why ask me? You’re Elijah!”
“Who else should I ask? You see, I am Elijah the Prophet – that is true. But you, David, I have a surprise for you. You actually ‘pull-rank’ on me, so to speak: You happen to be the Messiah!“ (At this point, Moshe’s mouth dropped, just like your mouth would drop if somebody just told you that you were Moshiach.)
Eli continued, “You see, Moshe, one of the reasons I was sent down, at this point in history, was to make this fact known to you. I see you’re amazed, and that you’re having a problem breathing; but you have a few minutes to regain your composure, and to help me decide where we should redirect this train. So just try to relax, okay?”
Moshe was speechless (you would be, too!) and he next rejoined Eli in Eli’s gallop up to the front car, because the train was now, once again, on the move. Upon reaching it, they jumped aboard. The surprised Engineer, not expecting the arrival of what he believed to be two SS Officers, was jolted.
“Is it all right for us to sit up here with you?” Eli asked, now, suddenly speaking fluent German. Indicating Moshe, he continued, “My friend, Officer Klingensmith here, and I, have always wanted to sit up front with the Engineer!”
“You’re the boss,” the multi-chinned Engineer answered. “You can sit wherever you want!”
“Tell me,” Moshe asked the Engineer in German, “My friend Corporal Frauenfelder, here, and I have never seen Buchenwald before. Is it really as efficient in exterminating that Jewish rabble as we have heard?”
“Oh, a thousandfold,” the Engineer grinned, becoming excited by the thought. “Do you know that the Jews are the Fuhrer’s greatest chemical resource? Why just this morning, I cleansed my gouty toes with a bar of soap made out of hoary Jew gristle! Isn’t that absolutely fantastic?”
“Oh, yes,” Eli agreed, becoming violently ill at the thought, as was Moshe. The train was now careening along the tracks at full speed.
Eli motioned to Moshe to look under his seat, which he did, spying a metal pipe, which he handed to the Prophet. While the Engineer continued to mumble, Eli stood behind him, raising the pipe behind his head, bringing it down onto the Engineer’s thick skull with a dull thud, the obese man expiring after a few quick, motor-induced paroxysms.
Moshe hurled the disgusting Engineer from the train, and watched his head effortlessly split on a rock. He then rejoined Eli at the controls.
“Since I’m the Messiah,” Eli said, breathing deeply,” I guess I’m supposed to make the announcement that we are diverting our course, from Buchenwald to the Promised Land. But I’m afraid that such thing as a proper ‘State of Israel’ won’t be existing anytime soon.”
But Moshe had a better idea about where they could all go.
The train switched tracks.
Moshe, who was the Messiah, peeked into the plush, adjoining dining car, where he and Eli suddenly saw ten SS men slumped dead over their plates, and most assuredly, this was not a result of the greasy bratwurst which they had just consumed!
When the doors of Boxcar 18, and of the other forty-seven boxcars, were thrown open, all at the same time, and all, seemingly, by themselves, the light that penetrated was so intense, the passengers were all temporarily blinded. As pupils began to adjust, the Prophet and the Messiah, now both adorned in flowing, white robes, greeted them and helped them off the train, which, once it was emptied, immediately vanished into thin air, right before everybody’s eyes – all forty-eight cars of it. And it goes without saying that the passengers, who were also suddenly adorned in similar white robes, were silent and confused.
“My friends,” Eli exclaimed, “as I told you, I am Elijah, the Prophet, and this man,” he continued, indicating Moshe, “is Moshiach – our Messiah. Now,” he said, gesticulating, “I want to show you all something. All follow me, if you please.”
The one thousand six hundred and sixty-eight representatives of God’s Chosen People, including Moshe and Eli, followed the Messiah and the Prophet to an endless dinner table, upon which an infinite amount of settings had been placed, a full glass of wine before each.
“My friends,” Elijah began, “Welcome to Heaven… which, believe me, is a great deal friendlier than the place where the Germans were going to take you! What you see in front of you, is a table set for the Passover Seder. My brothers and sisters, just as you set a place of honor for me at every Seder, hoping that I will join you at the table, so I have always set a place of honor for each and every one of you. Will you all now join me for the kiddush?”
The 1,668 Lodzians complied, happily. When all, including the Messiah and the Prophet, were seated, everyone noticed that the seat at the far end of the table remained unoccupied. Since the Prophet was seated at the head of the table, nobody could imagine for whom the empty place was reserved.
Then, suddenly, the little tow-headed boy from the cornfield, now adorned in a white robe of his own, assumed the place of honor at the head of the table – but only after giving Elijah the Prophet, and his mother – who was “worried sick” – big hugs.
It may have been hard to be a Jew on earth, but here – it was no problem at all.
Charles Zigman is the author of WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN (www.jeangabinbook.com, 2009) and the 2013 children's book THE BELLY BUTTON THAT ESCAPED -- http://bit.ly/2nzDzGs
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I don't have a picture of the guy who tried to pick up my little sister on New Year's Eve, but based upon how she has described him to me, he seems to be in this general ballpark. Which isn't exactly true, because Al Pacino and Steven Bauer were cool in Scarface, but the guy I am about to write about is not cool.
Hi, Everybody! (Hello to all five readers of my blog site.) Hope everybody is having a fine New Year, so far. Happy 2010.
It's been about three months since my last blog entry; even though my friends continually tell me that I'm supposed to be blogging every day, "so that people will learn about me, as a writer," I couldn't figure out what to write about for the last twelve weeks, and I didn't want to fall into the trap of writing a lame movie review ("Wow, Avatar was good, but Crazy Heart sucked"), or some stupid, uninformed political rant.
But today, life gave me a blog entry, and to be more accurate, my charming/industrious/beautiful little sister (we're grown-ups, but she'll always be my little sister) told me about a guy she met at a party on New Year's Eve. She immediately pegged this poseur as a dork (he was, apparently, a muscle-bound Hollywood promoter-type) and, in fact, the first thing this guy tried to do, was to curry favor with her by informing her that his father produced Debbie Does Dallas. When my appropriately grossed-out sister asked this strutting cock, quite hesitatingly, what he himself did for a living, he replied "business," and he actually winked and made the fingers of his two hands into 'quote signs' when he uttered the word 'business.'
Reluctantly, my sister gave Guido Greaseball her cell number (which she did mostly to get rid of him) and, of course, he proceeded to text her a bunch of times, yesterday. She read their text 'conversation' to me this afternoon, and even though I thought I would never write about something corny like 'dating experiences' on my blog, I asked her if she could please transcribe their entire text conversation and email it to me, so that I could publish it.
A couple of hours ago, my sister transcribed her text conversation into an email, which she begins as follows: "This is an actual transcription of a text conversation with a guy I met briefly on New Year's Eve. It may explain why I'm still single." Here is the entire text conversation between my sister and this goofy narcicist, in toto. I have made a few very slight corrections for clarity -- the brackets and italics are mine, the happy face-emoticon at the end is my sister's, taken from her transcription. Mostly, though, I have tried to preserve most of the silly text-grammar/syntax/lingo. It's short and sweet and, as you read, you'll notice that this preening, sister-stalking creep actually believes that Santa Barbara is "wine country." He also happens to be the only straight man in the world who utilizes the word "yummy" in a serious way. Anyway, Enjoy:
Guy: So! Museum? Drinks? Dinner?... Car wash?
My Sister: I do need a car wash.
Guy: I am pre-paid at the car wash in Sherman Oaks anytime you'd like. Any other choices?
My Sister: A drink?
Guy: Now you're talking. You, me, and truth serum. Yummy! When?
My Sister: Sunday?
Guy: Hmmm. You are more popular than I imagined! I could be available. How about the Getty Museum, overlooking the ocean, and a glass of wine. 1 hr before sunset? Or, you suggest.
My Sister: My birthday is next week, so I have a busy week.
Guy: To me, "birthday celebration" means I take you to Santa Barbara, and we drink wine in wine country. For that, I need you Saturday and Sunday. Ride bikes on the beach, nice dinner, get toasted. We will ride up the coast in my convertible Jag.
Guy [2 minutes later, when my sister didn't respond to his previous message]: But if it's too soon for that, why don't you give me Saturday night and I take you to fancy dinner and music and drinking. When is your birthday?
My Sister: A week from today.
Guy: Can I assume you don't have a boyfriend? You know, I liked you from the moment I saw you. Why don't you take a little chance with me and let's meet for something right away.
My Sister: Let's stick to drinks on Sunday.
Guy: Yes, I am sexual, but that is not my agenda. I have options. I liked you and we should get to know each other more. I would love to make your birthday special, but we should meet up first. Can we meet sooner than Sunday??? What about drinks tonight? What about Friday or Saturday? I will move things to see you!!!!
[Five minutes later, after my sister does not respond to the guy's previous text:]
My Sister: You seem like a nice guy, but I don't think we're a match. Take care.
Guy: Wow, you are bipolar!
THE END :)
Chuck Zigman, the owner/operator of this blog, fancies himself to be a fancypants screenwriter, and he is also the author of a new book, the entertainment biography WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN (www.jeangabinbook.com). He has written articles for New Times Los Angeles, Hollywood Stock Exchange.com, Tribe.com, and Cult Movies Magazine.