Thursday, November 15, 2007

Well...

Sorry gang. Life gets in the way of plans sometimes I guess. So does death.

My wife's friend's father has been very sick, and he passed away this week. Tomorrow evening, we are going to the visitation. What this means for you, my audience, is that I will not be Free-Writing tomorrow. It may be two weeks, then, before I get back to it, as next week internet access may be questionable as I will be in Minnesota for Thanksgiving.

But, fear not, I will leave you with this to read, ruminate upon, and so forth.

My first "year of college" spanned several calender years. It began in the spring of 2002 and lasted until the spring of 2006, really. I mean, it didn't actually take me that long to become a sophomore, in fact I was a sophomore at the end of the fall 2005 semester, a sophomore by about six credit hours. But that's not the point. I didn't full-on start a sophomore year until I transferred to Webster in the fall of 2006.

I have attended three schools in my college career. The first of these, many of you know, was the University of Minnesota. I was not a conscientious student. I was barely a conscious student. It was a place to make friends and eat pizza and get drunk for me. And I did that very well. But what I have left from there is friendship, my wife, and a learning experience I could not have otherwise obtained if I had just buckled down and played the role of the usual college student.

Regardless, each school has provided for me friendship with people who have meant a great deal to me, many of whom still do. And actually, in the interim, when I wasn't in school during that five and a half year period that encompassed my "freshman year," I worked at Target, which in itself was a learning experience. I met a lot of wonderful people there, as well, who helped me grow as a person.

I could list all of these people. I should list all of them. But I hope you know who you are, because otherwise, this post will get ridiculously long. And we all know how much Molly loves my ridiculously long posts. And this one is already promising to be plenty long. But I do want to talk about somebody who had a profound effect on me. A lasting impression that I can't shake. And it's sad, really, to think about him, because I barely knew him. And I'll never get the chance to.

And I'm talking about a guy named Chase Korte. He was one of those guys that was known to pretty much everybody. Not that he wanted to be known, he just wanted to know everybody, and he was good at it. The first time I met him was on the bus from East Bank to St. Paul, and he quoted a line from Fight Club at me. And I recited the follow up perfectly. He invited me up to his room that night and we watched the film. It was a Wednesday. And then, not every Wednesday, but a lot of them, we would watch movies with a group of people. It was nice. It was a pleasant routine. It was, probably, the most consistent meeting I ever attended at the U of M that semester (my grades will reflect this).

He was a writer, an actor, a comedian. He was unique in a unique way. A run-in with Chase Korte always proved to be a memorable one.

He was killed in a car accident in February of 2007. About halfway through my sophomore year. Only I didn't hear about it right away. And I blamed some of my friends who knew him. I thought they had a responsibility to tell me about Chase's death. I felt forgotten and betrayed.

And then it hit me that none of them were even aware that I knew him. Because in the time it took them to finish college, I was still working through my freshman year. It wasn't that they didn't think I wouldn't care...it's that it had been so long since I had seen any of them, and even longer since I had seen Chase, that perhaps our friendships had never crossed paths. I think back, and I can remember a few instances when other friends from Minnesota, those still have contact with, were present on a Wednesday night. But there were no regulars at the Wednesday Night Movie Club, other than me and Chase. And it was the only thing we did together. Of course nobody thought to tell me.

And the more I got to think about it, the more the memory of Chase kind of haunted me. I liked this guy, I considered him a friend, but I never once bothered to maintain contact with him. Nevermind laying any blame on him, because I never got the sense that he wouldn't have kept in touch. More than once my second semester at the U of M, I would be well on my way to passing another face in the crowd when that face would call my name and resolve itself into Chase Korte, asking me if I was free that Wednesday night for a showing of Pi, or The Big Lebowski, or Breaking Away. We just lost touch, as people do.

So the reason I bring this up at all, is because I have been thinking about some way to celebrate his memory. Facebook groups are out, because there are two of them already, created by people who hadn't lost touch. I wrote my first three day novel about the Wednesday Night Movie Club, but I discount that as a work of pure crap. But I felt I needed to do something, something for a friend I lost touch with. This idea began sometime in April, when I found out about his death. But I just couldn't decide what to do.

I had planned, for the second half of the semester project in playwriting, to write a comedy about an elevated terror level forcing Dick Cheney to move to an undisclosed location, and having that location be the basement of a suburban family comprised of a staunchly liberal woman, her politically aloof husband and their angst-ridden teenage son. It was going to open with Dick Cheney singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the basement as the teenage son got home (high, of course, having scored drugs from a friend), and let it go from there. But then I got to thinking about Chase again, which I hadn't done for a while, and then it occured to me what I should do. And so I present to you, in my standard "Tuesday Excerpt" format (on a Thursday evening), the first scene of my play.

===

from The Last Thing... October/November, 2007

Characters:
Robert Forsyth, 25, tall and thin
Dexter MacKenzie, 24, very handsome

Setting:
The living room of a one bedroom apartment in the Central West End of St. Louis. Hardwood floors, high ceilings. A kitchen through a large open doorway upstage left. The decorations have a distinctive Artsy-20-something feel; black and white photos, Toulouse Lautrec posters. A metal and black-glass coffee table center. Ikea furnishings. A modestly sized television. Loveseat, armchair. The table is a mess of opened mail.

An all-night coffee shop on the corner of Euclid and Laclede.

Scene 1

A dark stage. A knock on a door. Barely seen, dressed in flannel pants and a white tee, Robert Forsyth enters from stage right and runs into an unseen coffee table, grunting. He grabs at items on the table and comes up with a cell phone, which he opens. It illuminates the stage very little. Another knock.

ROBERT
Just a minute.

He walks over to the door stage left, and flips a light switch. The lights come up. He shuts the cell phone and opens the door. Enter Dexter MacKenzie, dressed like Brad Pitt from Fight Club.

DEXTER
Forsyth! What is up my lanky friend?
(bear hugs Robert)

ROBERT
Dexter?
(pulls away, looks quizzically at Dexter, shuts the door)
Where did you come from?

DEXTER
Ah, you know how it is...you go and you struggle and you struggle...and you struggle...

ROBERT
Acting?

DEXTER
No, I’m for real here. You struggle and finally, you catch that big break...contract...can I sit down?

ROBERT
(rubbing the sleep from his eyes)
Yeah, take a seat. Um...

DEXTER
Sorry, I know, out of the blue.
(sits on the loveseat)
Bet you didn’t expect this!

ROBERT
It’s Wednesday night, Dexter...I work, you know.

DEXTER
Not tomorrow, man. Call in sick, something.

ROBERT
I don’t-

DEXTER
You do.

ROBERT
No, I...
(beat)
Dexter...
(he sits in the armchair)
It’s been, what...

DEXTER
Three years. Three looonnng years. Since Brussell’s party. Oh, hey, how is Brussell? That was the last time I saw him, too.

ROBERT
I don’t know...I haven’t talked to him in-

DEXTER
I’ll hit him up next. I mean, when I’m done here, I should just go to Minnesota. I probably should have gone there first, but, you know, whatever.

ROBERT
I’m...dreaming. I am still sleeping. Dexter MacKenzie is not in my living room.
(Dexter grabs the television remote from the cushion next to him and chucks it right at Robert)
Ow, fucker!
(beat)
Sorry, you come all this way and I cuss you out.
(Robert holds the remote)
Wait, I’m apologizing to you? You threw a remote at me.

DEXTER
Had to be done, Robert. I...
(looking around)
A girl lives here.

ROBERT
What?

DEXTER
I’m here. That’s what’s important.
(beat)
I can tell. There’s a feminine touch about the place.
(gets up, inspects the place)
Hmm...

ROBERT
Aren’t you supposed to be in LA?

DEXTER
Thought you were coming out there, with your pages of scripts and your keen wit.
(continues his examination)

ROBERT
(uncomfortable)
I got sidetracked.

DEXTER
Not me.
(his eyes rest on the table)
Ah, but she’s not here, is she?

ROBERT
What?

DEXTER
The girl who lives here. She’s not here.

ROBERT
She doesn’t live here. I mean, not yet. I mean, she’s still tied up in her lease, but...

DEXTER
Have a fight? She in Chicago?

ROBERT
No, she’s...yeah. How did you know?

DEXTER
(points to a picture on the wall; a street scene)
There’s you and some guy, he’s got his arm around some girl, and that’s Daly Plaza behind you.

ROBERT
That’s...yeah, that’s, it’s...um...her name is Molly and his name is...um...shit, it’s something like Jack or something. I don’t know. But yes, she is in Chicago visiting Molly and Jack. It’s...it’s not important, really. She’ll be home...Friday? Evening.

DEXTER
So she does live here. Or she calls this place home, at least.

ROBERT
What are you doing here.

DEXTER
I’ll tell you what I’m doing here.
(sits back on the couch, stares intently at Robert for a long, silent minute)
Getting thirsty. Please tell me you’ve got one of those pretentious microbrews you used to drag on about.

ROBERT
Yeah, I think I’ve got something. Maybe. I dunno.

DEXTER
Your authoritative stance on the issue is reassuring to say the least.
(leans forward, peers intently at Robert)
You okay?

ROBERT
I’m tired. It’s...what time is it? East Jesus o’clock in the morning. This late, when I’m this tired, time has no meaning. It just passes too quickly. All of a sudden, it’s dawn, the birds are chirping, the traffic picks up, the restaurant downstairs makes coffee, it’s time to go to work and I spend the rest of the day like a zombie.

DEXTER
(very serious)
Living dead, eh? That bad? You’re sure about that?

ROBERT
Dexter, what are you doing here?

DEXTER
I got the big call, man. My career; on the way up. You know? Trust me. I mean, the director and I had some creative differences, it was a real tough film.

ROBERT
So you actually made a film?

DEXTER
Give me back that remote.
(Robert tosses the remote back to Dexter)
Thanks.
(Dexter chucks it back at Robert)

ROBERT
Ow, Christ...Dexter!

DEXTER
Don’t say that like you’re surprised. You knew I had it in me. Destined for great things. Right?

ROBERT
Yeah, right, okay. Just stop throwing shit at me. What’s the film?

DEXTER
It’s called Peace Walker. I played a guy who’s got this brother.

ROBERT
Sounds deep.

DEXTER
No, no, listen. This brother goes off to fight in Iraq, right? And...what’s her name, by the way?

ROBERT
Who? The brother?

DEXTER
No...your live-in. The, what do you call her? Roommate? Girlfriend? Future Mrs. Robert Forsyth? What’s her name.

ROBERT
Andrea. She’s my girlfriend.

DEXTER
Gotcha. Did you check on the beer?

ROBERT
What? No, I...

DEXTER
(getting up)
I got it.
(exits to kitchen, from offstage)
So, the brother, he goes to Iraq, and before he goes, he and I have this big argument about why he’s going. It’s all very political. Oktoberfest beer?
(re-enters carrying two bottles of beer)

ROBERT
Yeah, so?

DEXTER
So it’s May.

ROBERT
I fail to see the problem. It’s cold. It’s never been opened. It’s been in the fridge for seven months. I don’t let beer get warm once it’s cold. I had one last week. It tastes better than it did in October.

DEXTER
(wary)
Okay. Bottle opener?

ROBERT
Above the trash can, on the wall in the kitchen.

DEXTER
Thanks.
(exits to kitchen again, from offstage)
So, he tells me why he’s going, and then, well, you can predict this, he dies.

ROBERT
I think I’ve seen this movie. Except it was about Vietnam.

DEXTER
(enters)
Ah, but this is just the first twenty minutes of the film.

ROBERT
Hm.
(Dexter hands Robert a beer and sits back down on the loveseat)

DEXTER
So, it’s the day of the funeral, and I remember that my brother always wanted to go to Ireland, to visit the land where our mother’s father came from, but I hated my mother’s side of the family. And-

ROBERT
Sorry...
(beat)
You get all of that in the first twenty minutes?

DEXTER
Roughly, it’s not really finished. So, I decide to visit Ireland, and walk from one end to the other and talk about peace.
(long pause)

ROBERT
That’s it?

DEXTER
Only I actually walked from like the Northern most part of Ireland to the Southern most part.

ROBERT
In the movie?

DEXTER
In real life!

ROBERT
For the movie?

DEXTER
The camera man quit. Most of the crew quit. Actually, in the end, it was just me and the director. Pretty fucking sweet, huh?

ROBERT
I guess I’ll have to see it.

DEXTER
Right. So, okay, so this...big. I mean...
(beat)
Okay. This somewhat monumental thing happened to me. And before it all comes out, I mean...I wanted to precede the news, you know? And kind of...do a tour. A kind of “Dexter MacKenzie, This is Your Life” sort of thing. Only...well, you know?

ROBERT
No. All I know is that you woke me up in the middle of the night. I mean, hell, I’m glad to see you. You look great for whatever ungodly hour it happens to be. I mean...
(beat)
...I mean, you look like a million bucks is what. Jesus, aren’t you tired?

DEXTER
No. Come on, put some clothes on. I saw a coffee shop that was open a few blocks away. Throw on some shoes and a jacket, and when the time comes, call your boss and say you’ve got a terrible cold. Or, umm...does anybody you work with have small children?

ROBERT
What? Well, my boss does, but...

DEXTER
Great. I’ve noticed that people with small children will force you to stay home if you have a fever. Say you have a fever.

ROBERT
(contemplating)
Okay.

DEXTER
Say it!

ROBERT
Okay!

DEXTER
No, say it! Say it now!

ROBERT
What?
(beat, Dexter looks menacing)
Okay, alright. I have a fever.

DEXTER
Louder!

ROBERT
(louder)
I...I have a fever.

DEXTER
Can’t hear you!

ROBERT
(very loud)
I have a fever!

DEXTER
Thank you! Now...
(dramatically)
Let’s finish our beers and go get coffee.
(lights out)

===

"The last thing I want to be is forgettable."
"...there's no freedom unless you're vulnerable first."
-both attributed to Chase Korte, 1982-2007

5 comments:

Molly said...

Nice........

Lisa said...

You should seriously write a book about just anything...I'll buy it as will probably everyone else in the fam, which gets you up to at least 20 copies. :) I love your writing.

mGk said...

Maybe it is b/c I know how it "ends" but it is really quite good. I want to read the rest...

And yes, this is the first time I have read the entire excerpt. Thank goodness for 2 hour afternoon naps. they don't happen frequently enough.

Becca said...

Nice. Good to read that you're still reminiscing old Bailey hall days...

You're going to MN for Thanksgiving?

Not cool, Elliot.

the wife said...

It's my fault- Thanksgiving was moved to my sister's house in Rochester so hence going to MN. Ipromise we will be back up there for a fun weekend or two very soon- and of course when you get back from New Zeeland:)