Is Everything a Movie?
I was still a little groggy & my stomach still gurgled
But I figured today I’d really find a job —
Just a job to tide me over
Just a gig to hide under
Just work to slide me through another week or two
They needed bus drivers on 125th and Malcolm X Blvd,
But I was instructed to say “Lenox” so I wouldn’t scare the tourists away
I told the Hiring Hounds who were little more than unemployed novices themselves
That those people climbing up 125th and Malcolm X blvd were very well aware who he was and he did not pose as a threat to them. Mainly cause he’s dead.
“That’s true,” the woman w/cornrows said, “you right, baby — screw it. Besides they seen the movie, everyone’s seen the movie, right?”
I was getting a head-ache again.
“You got a license?” the Manager sneered. He wore an orange plastic vest and had wide dry hands. They looked like cracked leather.
I gave him my license.
“That’s you?” he asked.
“Yep,” I shrugged.
“Hm. You remind me of that guy in that movie,” he said. “Don’t he, Margie?”
“Don’t he look like that guy in that movie we saw?”
“Which — ”
“With the guy — ”
“Oh, the cop, and the prisoners hiding in the warehouse.”
“The Lopez guy…and um…Not Morgan Freeman, but the other one — ”
“Morgan Freeman was the Police Chief.”
“Yeah, but who was the only one. The Indian. The Puerto Rican — ”
“Yeah, no. Wait. I forgot. But, boy, you remind me just of that actor in that movie. You don’t act huh?”
“Oh. You Puerto Rican, right? They hiring swimmers right here — ”
And he pointed to Staples.
I smirked, “In Staples? They have an underwater department?”
“No, no — they got the Law and Order people and they’re making a movie about prisoners who escape from prison and they swim all around Manhattan.”
“Does it pay better than the Bus Driver job?”
He grinned…”Naaahhh…. But you funny. Driving these buses is a good job.”
“Well, what do I need? Do I need to apply for a special license?”
“Well, we don’t really need people to drive, man. We got retired MTA drivers taking these jobs you know — cause they need to work…”
“I don’t need to work?”
“Well, you a young guy — I’m sure you could — ”
“What? I could what? ”
“All right there young blood, don’t get feisty in the face– you throwing more meat on the grill than I can take, all right? Let me see here…”
He pretended to look down at some official papers.
“You know movies?”
“Nah, where does he live?”
“I mean do you know how to talk about movies?”
“Whether I like them or not. Or –?”
“Yeah…and what was filmed where. And when. We have a new program driving visitors around to show them all the sites where movies were shot here, maybe you could give your...expertise. You seem like a educated man.”
My stomach gurgled and the smell from the kabob Margie held in her mouth wafted under my nose, and my eyes watered and my tongue wagged back and forth. I was going to call Nina and tell her to quit her job and lets just run off and bury ourselves somewhere and try to get a few laughs in before everything became movies and voting and wretched little people being hired to give you false hope and dumb kids who didn’t know how to run a cash register and morbid cops who were looking younger and younger and eternal nostalgia ringing out from magazines or beautifully hand-made paintings on the sidewalk. Is that all we’re left with? A dazzling portrait of Michael Jackson in beefy colors and glitter?
I walked further west and inquired if the Apollo needed help. The security guard indoors asked me “For what?”
I walked back and did a few figure eights trying to dodge the tourists and their cameras. I noticed Ray Charles’ plot under the Apollo facade was a bit worn and someone had spit right on the corner of his upper edge.
Disgusted, I went back home. The cats awoke and eyed me sleepily. Their tails snapped like baby bullwhips. They reminded me of rabbits.
“Got a job yet?” the black one asked.
I shook my head.
“Where?” the white one asked.
“I don’t know–I don’t have one.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“We hungry. And this ain’t working,” the black one said.
“Get it together,” the white one said.
And they curled up on the couch — together — (and they never slept together) making it impossible for me to sit my jelly-belly down and get depressed while I watched ads for movies I didn’t want to see flash on television.
“Fine!” I said. ” I’ll find a job. You’ll see.”
“Hm,” the white one said and she began to purr as I scrambled for my keys.
“What time does mommy get home?” the black one asked.
“Shut up,” I told him. I slammed the door. I could hear them laughing. In the lobby of the building were posters for a film festival: “The CCNY-MTA-USA Fine Fare Film Festival.” 3 days of films by anyone who had ever attended City College, worked at the MTA, or in a supermarket in the USA. The festival crammed 147 films into 3 days, 24 hours a day. Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey hosted the festival. I threw up when I reached for my mail right next to the poster.
I went downtown to see if I could find a job.
At Union Square, there was a benefit for the Tibetan Twin Film Festival (for twins born in Tibet) and although they were not hiring, they promised free admission to the 9 films they would be showing for a simple, but generous, donation. The Dalai Lama’s face was plastered all over their promotional material. The winner of the festival wins a Dalai award, a small head of the Holiness himself.
I walked East and down…I wandered in and out of a few cafes, book stores, but no one seemed interested in hiring or they simply didn’t have the money — although one cafe, the 2nd Avenue Liberty Cafe pressed material on me regarding Joaquin Phoenix and a movie he was making with the Aflecks about midgets and online pornography. They said it was a new special movie because no one wants to deal with the perversion of midget pornography and the Boston Film Society was hosting a special pre-screening event for only $20.00, but $35 at the door. All you would have to do was take a cheap bus to Boston and catch the screening. “Support the arts, ” the barista said. “Yeah, if I could I would. Gotta support myself first, you know?”
“That’s the problem with Americans! We don’t support our artists!”
I gagged slightly and felt dizzy, I wasn’t sure if he was being serious. I pulled his collar. “Do you know who I am?”
“Get off of me!” he clawed.
“Do you know who Vince Kenji is? Or Lyric Wasserman?”
“Exactly. Cause they’re artists that need support. Ever heard of Van Gogh?”
“Yes. Cause he’s dead.”
He smirked. “So-what’re you-you’re an actor, you’re an artist? A writer who’s angry cause he’s not — ”
“Eating, yes. I’m not eating!”
“You look pretty fit to me. C’mon, man, just a dollar. If we can raise enough — we’re all going to rent a bus and go meet Joaquin in person at the screening!”
“You’re an asshole,” I said and I walked out.
“You got 50 cents?” a pair of pathetic big brown eyes asked me.
“Sorry,” I shook my head,” I’d give you if I had…”
“No worries, man. I know you would. But God’s good. Something will work out. Thank you, though.”
“Want a cigarette?”
“Oh, thank you — that’s like a delicacy out here.”
“Who you telling”
“How much they cost now? Ten, twelve bucks?”
“Fourteen some places.”
“This shit had better kill you then. Cheaper being dead, huh? Shit…”
“Some of us are already dead. You and I are the unlucky ones.”
“I hear that! You know, my brother, I ain’t gonna lie to you — ”
“God isn’t good,” he whispered nervously. This took me by surprise.
“He don’t even exist. I mean I — I say that sometimes, I say I believe in him cause a lot of people want you to. Especially if you on the streets. Man, look at me, man. How could I believe in a God? I say all that Jesus jazz so I can get a meal during the holidays you know what I’m saying?”
The word “meal” caught my attention. “Where?”
“Where? Where do you go?”
“Oh, it makes no difference. St Mary’s, St Barnabus, the Atlah Temple of Worship — they some crazies over there, but they’ll feed you once in a while.”
“Hm,” I nodded and sneered at the same time.
“But you know…there’s no God. I look around and I know that. Ain’t that somethin? Mothafuckas gotta wait for market crashes and bullshit to lose their faith. Ain’t nothing crashed in my life except the watermark on my soul, that tiny piece of brand on my soul that said I was part of my family. You know my father beat the shit outta me until I 16 years old? Any faith I had in God was knocked out by his belt or his fist. And in that regard I’ll take Satan any day over Jesus. Cause he gets shit done! Now see, people stop – some give me some change or some food or some…hope. Look you — “
“Oh no, that’s not me – I’m not in the Hope business — “
“Oh, but you are. Cause all you did was give me some of you. Your time.”
“Well…somethin’ tells me you would have done the same for me. I’m just two cigarettes away from where you’re standing…”
“For real? Humph. Well, don’t stand on this corner – go round the corner.”
“Aw no, man, I ain’t take your customers, that’s not my style — “
“No, I didn’t mean that, I just meant go round the corner cause it’s less people and so you can build up your confidence.”
“You can build up your confidence. Gotta have it to make it in this racket. Shit, I if I had a nice pair of shoes and coat like you — I’d be half way home.”
I grinned. An idea was forming, something was crawling out of that large looming spider web that had formed across the wall of my imagination.
“What’s your deal?” I said gravely.
His eyes locked in mine. “What’s yours?”
“I’m trying…to find…work.”
“That’s your problem right there. I seen you every day for two months. Two months, walking up and down, going to the train — looking for work. What work? I know you an intelligent man, but there’s no work for you out there. You gotta look in here (he thumped his chest) — there’s nothing out there…except bullshit and lunacy and crim-crack and nuthatches running around. You know I applied for a job at the library and they said they couldn’t hire me cause I had no permanent address. I done read every book – Chester Himes, Henry James, Stephen King, Goethe, James Baldwin, the Bronte Sisters — there’s nothing I don’t know about books. I helped Tyson down the block sell his books for a couple of months…”
“The History books?”
“Yeah. Before the Mayflower and Randall Robinson’s The Debt.
“Yeah — you know he left, you know…
“Took his ass right outta America. And I don’t blame ‘im.”
“So you — “
“Yeah, we did all that. Just sold Paul Mooney’s new book, too. But he didn’t like me cause I talk too much and — “
“How long you been out here?”
“Does it matter?”
“Well, it might. Cause you got something to say and I don’t wanna end up like you.”
“You play straight with me, bends right back to you.”
“Boomerang effect! I hear that.”
“All right, I see how people don’t believe in God. But I look around, and I can’t understand how they don’t believe in Satan. Evil is everywhere.”
“Evil is to live.”
“You believe that shit?”
“What do you need?”
“I need a place to stay, brother.”
“Maybe I can arrange something. A van. That’s the best I can do.”
“And just a pair of shoes…”
“Yeah…and a coat. If we’re going to work together you gotta have a coat.”
And so we walked up Lenox and tore over to 5th avenue when we reached 135th St., on a mission to get our man a coat here and, if they still had them, a shield we could put ourselves behind when cooking a new way to sculpt out a vision for the future, an idea broken little boys with deep dreams and shallow pockets could still pull off at any given moment.
Known as THE NOMAD JUNKIE due to his peripatetic lifestyle and artistic restlessness, DENNIS LEROY KANGALEE is a NYC-based writer from Queens born to West Indian parents. An Outsider Artist from the get go, he has no degree and has won no awards. His stories, plays, essays, and satire reflect his own anger and frustration as he sees the world’s injustice in an everyday observation. An expelled performing artist from Juilliard and maverick of the New York underground, Kangalee has led several lives & is constantly looking for meaning.
Since 1997, he has begged, borrowed, and stolen to support his art. He toured six months doing his own renditions of Beckett monologues & texts by Israel Horovitz and Dick Gregory before finally writing his first screenplay with playwright Ed Bullins. In 1999 he revived James Baldwin’s classic “Blues For Mister Charlie” at the National Black Theater in Harlem. Urged by the Last Poets to continue writing prose during the creation of his 2001 cult-film movie about racism and its consequences, “As an Act of Protest”, (written & directed under his stage name, Dennis Leroy Moore) Kangalee’s writing is both political and personal. Inspired by the Black Arts Movement, punk, and Theater of the Absurd, Kangalee draws inspiration from his own life as opposed to Literary History or knowledge of the classics. Adopting the “Nomad Junkie” as his nom de plume while homeless and later in a self-imposed exile overseas, he writes for the little man caught in the snow and beneath the corporate avalanche, those who draw lines in the sand–the losers, the rebels, the tormented, and the romantic rovers hovering on the margins of the mainstream who dare to try to make sense of ‘Life in Society’ and the doorway of 21st Century-Brave New World-ethos.
Currently, he is developing his first spoken word album, “My Dying City”, an experimental radio drama that presents itself as a cubistic portrait of a spirit crushed under the weight of corporate-friendly gentrification and the Nouveau Capitalism emerging as a result and the YES WE CAN generation’s struggle to fulfill or betray its destiny. Kangalee is married and lives in NYC.