Category Archives: Non-Fiction

(Uh-Oh) Notes on the Friend Zone

I keep seeing posts on Facebook and tumblr from intelligent women that I respect rebuking the term “friendzone.” That is, the abstract social place where a person (usually male) ends up when trying to date someone. Most notably the animosity is directed at men who supposedly pretend to be “Nice Guys ™” as a means of obtaining sex from the woman, and that they don’t actually care about them. Then when the friendzoning happens, they abandon the friendship, because they supposedly never actually cared to begin with. But it seems like every person who is mildly upset at being rejected is all getting lumped into one category by these blog posts.

This whole thing has brought some mild horror in my life. It has forced me to face the fact that the behavior of these so-called “nice guys” is some horrible bullshit and to also face the fact that I have definitely definitely definitely been there, more than once. Facing this fact has made me go over events in my life, retrace my steps, as it were, to see if I have wronged any friends by doing this. But it’s also made me think a lot about the backlash against the term itself, and helped me identify a few points I disagree with, or want to bring attention to. (more on that later)

First, let me do what most Nice Guys of my generation love to do, which is to talk about themselves. I am from a small town in the Midwest, one of those where everyone knows each other, where being friendly and generous and selfless is a virtue, and where everyone cares about being liked. I was raised to be nice to my family, be nice to my friends, be nice to strangers. Everyone I know from back home is the same way. However, I was also in that town’s underground punk scene. Me and my friends did not feel like we fit in, that a lot of the jocks and farm kids were stupid, and we all wanted to get out. I consumed progressive writers and thinkers, I listened to Ani Difranco, Liz Phair, and radical punk band, Propagandhi. These were my heros in early adulthood and why I identified as feminist at 16. After high school I went to college at a liberal arts school in a hippie college town and found a group of friends who taught me that gender is a construct, sex can be casual, and that we should try to do whatever we can to subvert patriarchy and oppression of women and people of color.

That being said, I was never the alpha male of any group I was in. And I would get crushes on everyone. If you had a butch haircut and armpit hair, I wanted to make you mixtapes with Alkaline Trio on them to show you how much I cared. I thought aggressive men were the worst and I never wanted to be that. I did not date much in high school or college; I was just in love with everyone from afar, would ask people out sometimes, and get turned down most times. The sexual experiences I had included brief makeouts that I was afraid and resistant to advance into a more sexual territory, even when the girl said explicitly she wanted to. This happened multiple times. I was afraid of regretting losing my virginity with someone I was not in a relationship with, but would eventually come to regret not losing it the first time someone asked me. I think my life would have been better and my development would have been different. Let’s blame a sexually repressed society on that one (I also blame myself).

Fast forward to after college. I was working at Target in a new town, and talking to strangers was hard again. I was not meeting new people that understood where I was coming from and confidence and assertiveness continued to be an issue. Just like when I had started college, I spent a lot of time being alone and it made me appreciate solitude and independence. I missed my friends like crazy, but it was all an important lesson in learning to love myself and being happy being alone. I gathered enough confidence to learn that it was not me, it was them, and moved to Chicago where I knew people would get my pop culture references and weird sense of humor.

Fast forward a few months; making friends was hard again, and romantic partners even harder. I started dating on Craigslist, (some of whom are still friends to this day) but I did not find any substantial relationships. This was the point where I went the longest I had ever gone without even kissing someone, and was starting to get depressed about it. This new girl (whose name I am withholding for her protection) started working in my office. She had yellow hair, a sunny disposition, and was really nice to me. She laughed at my jokes and would have these lilting cadences to her sighs that drew me in and made me feel like I was the only person in the room. For her birthday I left a six pack of her favorite diet soda on her desk as well as a mix CD with The Bird & The Bee on it.  Basically I was doing all of the things described in every characterization of the nice-guy handbook; doing favors, trying to win affection through generosity, and just giving random attention.

I was convinced something was going to happen; I was interpreting her polite attention as green lights. She invited me to this art show in her neighborhood, where different galleries and businesses showcase local artists. It was a really great event and at the time I really enjoyed seeing a new part of Chicago. But nothing happened after that. I can’t remember if I would invite her to things and she would just say no, or what. I just know that I never explicitly asked her out, because I did not want work to be awkward. But it was already bad enough, because despite not being in a relationship with this person, and despite the fact that she clearly wasn’t interested that way, I continued to grow more and more infatuated until I was in an unhealthy way, thinking about her all the time, and depressed. A song that became my mantra was “I Don’t Want To Get Over You” by The Magnetic Fields, which still reminds me of her to this day.

Let me be clear; I am really grossed out by who I was during that time. I am sure I was not fun to be around, and probably confused her immensely with my behavior. In an effort to get her out of my system, I would try to avoid speaking to her altogether. All the nice guy things I had been doing like bringing her soda and talking about her day, that was all gone. She had never done anything actually wrong; she just didn’t want to date me, and probably could tell that I liked her and didn’t want to give me the wrong idea by hanging out with me. I was too afraid to friend her on facebook or ask for her number. Serious confidence issues here. Probably still have them.

But, so, anyway. At the time I also did feel like she had done something wrong. I felt like she had lead me on, just by being nice to me and paying attention to me. I don’t think that now, mind you. But at the time, I was like UGH WHY IS SHE DOING THIS TO ME?? I can also recall a specific gchat conversation I had about her with my friend Lillian who is a brilliant make-up and costume designer in New York. I can remember saying something to the effect of “I was really proud of myself for liking someone who seems unconventionally attractive, like she should appreciate that I did that” and Lillian totally and completely called me out for believing I was entitled to this woman just because I noticed her. That is fucked up and I still hate myself for being on my side of that conversation. But yeah, I totally perceived actions she took as making me like her so that she could use me to do things for her. I could not name what those things are at this point, because I think she probably didn’t actually do that. Gradually I got her out of my system and, as things go, she moved to a different office and it stopped even being a thing. She is married now. And I started to more aggressively pursue online-dating. Met people after that. Moved on.

Getting back to friendzoning for a moment. After that time, when I had a healthy-enough distance from it, I wrote a short story about the experience. The narrator was a pathetic, non-self-aware spineless person, who at the end of the story confesses his love for the girl based on the aforementioned co-worker, which I never did. She explains that she likes men who aren’t quite such milquetoast wetblankets, and he settles for the next woman that will have him, much like the fate of Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a Nice Guy™ if ever there were one. The story was supposed to characterize him as weak, and was supposed to exorcise the demon of that time in my life.

But, so, in that story I used the term “friendzone” and described it as a non-geographical location my protagonist would often end up. (I thought I had made it up, in much the same way that my dad thought he invented stick people and the way my sister at age six recorded a version of the Everly Brothers song “Dream” into a tape recorder, and all the words were “Dreeeeam, dream dream dream dream dreeeeeeam, dream dream dream dream dreeeeeeam” at which point she declared “Here’s a song I wrote!”) And I started to use it in my own life as well, as a shorthand for being rejected or dumped. When my friend Emily said she no longer wanted to make out / stop seeing each other, I texted my friend Sean a one word message that just said: “friendzoned.” to let him know. When my friend Katie seemed like she wanted to date me and invited me to hang out, I brought Sean along to “friendzone” her / let her know it was not a date.

Yes, all of this is stupid. Yes, all of this is deeply insecure / passive-aggressive / indirect way of doing emotional work. But I guess my point is, the way that men are using friendzone now, and the way that the women I like and respect are describing it, is not really the way I was using it. Yes, I was using it to describe the basic act of rejecting someone you don’t want to date, but I never did it with all of the fucking vitriol that the Nice Guys of OKCupid use it, and their paramours. I would use it lightheartedly to my friends as a means of coping with the rejection. It was a way to not take it so fucking hard. “Oh, it’s OK, I’m in the friendzone, so I will move on.”

And I am hard-pressed to think of a friendship of mine that did not recover from it. Let me repeat that: Basically every person who rejected me, I ended up staying friends with. Because it’s just what you do. You get fucking over it. I think these men that are described on all of these blog posts, you are finding them at a deeply insecure moment of their lives, a very pained snapshot of what they are going through presently. What will probably happen, if they are not a shitty person, is they will get over the so-called “friendzoning” and you’ll probably get to a place where you can be civil and eventually friends.

So let’s redefine the rubric that we’re working with, can we? Here are some points I want to convey so that we are on a plane more based in reality than hyperbole.

-You are totally right. All of this is bullshit and you are correct in lamenting it. Because it is insecure bullshit and every aspect of it is still feeding into the patriarchy and keeping people apart and in big ways keeping sex this taboo thing that is up on a pedestal and keeping everyone down. The fact that the moderator of the Nice Guys of OKCupid blog gets fucking death threats and violent messages with references to rape tells us that there is still something severely wrong here.

-That being said: Most of the dudes who are extremely embittered about you just wanting to be their friend, are likely to feel that way only because it has already happened a whole bunch of times before. They probably already have a lot of platonic friendships and an active social support network and are specifically looking for a partner, not a friend. They are doing it wrong and they hate themselves for it or are oblivious and are lashing out. Is it their fault? Yes. Is it because they are probably unappealing as a partner? Sure. Is it OK that they are a giant whiney asshole about it? Of course not. Will they get over it? Probably. And you might even be friends afterward. Should you forgive them (from a safe distance, once they grow out of it and demonstrate a pattern of stability)? Yes, if you are trying to be a good person. If you are not trying to be a good person, then you should not expect anyone else to be a good person on your behalf.

-If a dude is especially crazy afterwards, you probably shouldn’t want his friendship anyway, and should not mourn the loss of that friendship.

-If a dude claims to be a nice guy but espouses patriarchal or misogynistic viewpoints, he is not a nice person, and is not worthy of your friendship or partnership. But not everyone who has confidence issues or is bad at finding a partner is sexist, and I want you to know that. Is the act of putting a potential girlfriend on a super high pedestal that no non-fictional human can reach part of a sexist and patriarchal culture? Definitely. But I would like for actual good people to not be lumped in with the so-called nice guys just because they are better at friending than girlfriending.

-If a dude wants to date you, but doesn’t know how to ask, and so is instead building a friendship with you as you get to know each other, it is probably not the case that he is only after sex. If he is actually hurt by it, it probably is the case that he put some amount of emotional investment into the hope that it will work out between the two of you, and is upset and disappointed that he failed and has to find someone else. I don’t think it’s as simple as him “trying to put kindness coins into you trying to get sex to fall out.” This is an analogy that seems to be repeated verbatim in every blog post on this topic, and it was really funny the first time I read it, but now it just sounds unfair and not accurately characterizing the situation, or is lumping in a bunch of different problems into one problem. But it’s just reductive and unoriginal, made worse by the fact that everyone who blogs about this topic just seems to be cutting and pasting that single line from each other, that one metaphor, so that they all have snarky snappy writing. And they also add fedoras to them. Like that is somehow an automatic indicator of a spineless friendzoney vaguely rapey guy, that all of the nice guys are also kind of rapey (but they are not, you guys!). Do pathetic white males who are still benefiting from a system where they will continue to succeed in every other way deserve much defending? No. But at least identify what the actual problem is and call out the correct people on that problem. Or if you’re going to write a blog post about this topic, don’t use someone else’s zinger. Just write a different zinger. Another common thing in these posts is the blogger informing the reader that the friend zone “isn’t real” / “isn’t a real thing/place.” I submit that no one actually believes that it is a real thing or place, and that we all stop talking to each other like we are stupid and not all equals.

OK but so, this is not supposed to be me telling feminist bloggers how to feminist blog. Blog how you’re gonna blog. This is supposed to be addressing the issue of the sad friend-male. If this piece describes you, listen to me:

-Get over it. Get the fuck over it. Fucking get over it. She doesn’t like you. The last five didn’t. You’re doing something wrong. Accept it, be 100% OK with it, and find someone else. In the words of Dan Savage, every relationship you will ever have will fail. Every single relationship fails. Every one of them fails. They will all fail. Until one doesn’t. So fucking get ready for it, and fucking get over it.

-Are you seriously not going to be friends with someone just because they didn’t want to reciprocate your weird, shy, nervous, insecure and vaguely passive-aggressive advances? Did you think it was going to work out? See above. It wasn’t going to work out. It is not the most significant thing that you both like the same cancelled sit-com. Do you understand that the flipside of this is that now that person can’t trust you? And that it’s possible she already had a bunch of other guys do this same shit to her? And now she feels like dudes don’t actually want to be her friend, they just want to fuck her? And you helped perpetuate that? Do you really want to be that dude? Are you really not going to be emotionally supportive to her NOW after you did all that work of becoming her friend? Be her fucking friend, don’t be a fucking asshole. If you want to be a nice guy, be a fucking nice guy. Or better yet, don’t be a nice guy, be a good. person.

-If being yourself isn’t working, then you are not actually being yourself. If you are not being up front about what you actually want and what your actual desires are, you are being dishonest and you are not being yourself. If you have a lot of anger due to being friendzoned, do some therapy, and some jogging. Don’t be crass, just don’t be dishonest. Be tactful. Be tasteful. Be respectful. But don’t be dishonest.

-Stop trying to date people. This goes for both sexes. Stop perpetuating the mistaken perception that your identity and your existence is predicated upon or validated by who you are dating or how successful your dating life is. It doesn’t fucking matter. What your parents think doesn’t matter. What your friends think doesn’t matter. What movies think doesn’t matter. You don’t need a partner. You are fine on your own. And if you’re not fine on your own, why the fuck aren’t you fine on your own? Get fine on your own. Figure out what is missing (don’t say a girlfriend or boyfriend) and fix that part. Work on yourself. Love yourself. Do good. Be a good person. Be a good person unconditionally. Be selfless. Be selfish. Love yourself. Love your friends. Be happy without a partner. If something good comes along, be open to it. If nothing ever comes, be prepared to be happy without. Go without.

The tail-end of the personal aspect of this piece is this: I upped my online-dating game, went on a series of awkward and unsuccsesful internet dates, eventually met a nice girl at a thing I volunteer for. I did all the same friendy things I had been doing my whole life. I put her on a giant pedestal. Eventually it came out that we liked each other. So my normal tactic totally 100% worked. We dated for a year. We would have long conversations about tradition and why neither of us made the first move. We would have fights about social interactions. We would fight in public. We were both different from who we were when we were politely courting each other. We changed into different people. We broke up. Now I don’t idealize that quirky romantic comedy. It is a fantasy. It is John Hughes. It is John Cusack. It is not real life. I idealize independence, solitude, loving myself and being a good person. Right now I am at a point where I would much rather be alone than be in some shitty failing relationship. I am not on the lookout for that. My position is, I am getting what I need from my friendships, and the random occasional one-off hookups that sometimes happen. I crave being alone but am open for the thing that will make me change my mind. Anything less than that, I am not interested. And you shouldn’t be either. Hold out for the really really good one, and love your solitude in the meantime. Hold on to your friendships. You will need them. And when I get a crush on a co-worker or a friend, I brace myself for the possibility that it’s going to fail. Because so does everything. Get the fuck over it.

Adjustment Bureau

Last weekend I participated in a review conversation with Susan Quesal about the new film The Adjustment Bureau. The review was a contribution to her blog, Embrace The Mediocre. I was filling in for Geoff George, her co-blogger.

Read it here.

The King is Dead

On “The King Is Dead” the new Decemberists album due out January, ’11, the band returns to their “roots,” putting out a straightforward acousticky country folk collection. And upon first listen it is good, for the most part. Some of the songs are flat, but some are completely great. Check out both January Hymn and June Hymn for reference.

What I find most notable about it is that the Decemberists record it is most comparable to is not a Decemberists record at all but the posthumously released Colin Meloy pre-Decemberists band Tarkio.  It has acoustic guitar, accordion, twangy lap steel, harmonica(!!!!) and fiddles and endless, endless hooks. It is everything a traditional Decemberists fan would hate.

However, I would argue that returning to these supposed roots is the best thing decision Meloy could have made at this point in their career. They were following a long, annoying trajectory whose novelty ran out a while ago. On “The King is Dead” they are doing what they do best; writing good music and letting the story-lyrics stand on their own. There are elements of story, but it’s more subtle. It’s a story, but still retains some of its universal appeal and relatable-ness. Like, “This is how I feel, and I am probably a character in a story.” This is just good songwriting, and not different from what any other songwriter does, be he John Darnielle or Bruce Springsteen.

Ever since Picaresque The Decemberists have just become bloated, inflatable versions of The Decemberists I truly love, where the songs, instead of telling a story are just winking and nudging you, completely aware that they are telling a story, if that makes sense. They haven’t been subtle and have been beating you over the head with the fact that it’s a narrative. More like, “I am a character, this is my setting, here are the themes of my narrative, these are my motivations, here are the other characters, now some shit is gonna go down.” I guess I just feel like they have been trying to hard to be The Decemberists instead of just writing good music and songs in a more natural way.

Here Meloy and co return to let the songs speak for themselves and let the stories do the work. The lyrics are more in the tradition of songs like The Bachelor and the Bride or Shiny. And this fan could not be happier. Sure, it doesn’t sound like The Decemberists, but the songs are overall stronger because of this. And it’s pretty, which I like.

edit: it has now reached the point where I appreciate the album more for what it is doing than for what it is not doing. well played, Meloy.

Places

A thing that is true about me is I get particularly annoyed when people have an irrational competitive positive team-spirit attitude about the city or state or country they are from. So part of me wants to identify this Chicago winter we are now knee deep in as specifically worse than in other regions of the country. But that isn’t true. There are other places that have it worse. But it is my tendency to do so.

I’m from Iowa. Growing up there, we talked endless shit about it. We hated the towns, the country, the geography, we hated the weather, the people, the economy.  We had no love.

But when I moved to Minnesota, and people would scoff at me for being from Iowa, (I would get the condolences of Minnesotan strangers when I told them where I was from) as if Minnesota is better… I wasn’t expecting that. My attitude could best be described as, I can say what I want about my brother, but don’t YOU say anything about my brother. Also, their arguments against Iowa weren’t valid. It was stuff like, “Ya’ll fish in the ditches, don’t ya, cuz ya’ll are stupid,” and “Ya’ll don’t drive so fast, huh.” Minnesota is geographically identical to Iowa.

But it made me appreciate Iowa more. We don’t give a fuck where you’re from. We’re gonna be nice to you or silently judge you. We don’t have this forced bullshit love of our hometowns that other places seem to have. We don’t sing our school fight song when we get together. That’s not a thing that happens. What does happen is we will visit our hometowns or our college towns or places we liked once, find the one thing we liked about it, and hold onto and savor that one thing until the juices have been sucked dry. And then we will mourn the loss.

When I moved to Chicago, they didn’t have the same attitude toward Iowa that Minnesota has. And no one is really from Chicago, anyway. If they’re not from the suburbs, they’re from other states and don’t care about Iowa anyway. It’s just another place that fills in the blank of “where are you from?” when making small talk at parties. There’s not a competition.

Though there was this attitude of “Don’t you love it here? Isn’t it totally awesome here?” which wasn’t really how I was feeling then. I didn’t know anyone or know my way around and I was sort of just waiting to start sticking basically. So any enthusiasm I had for it at first was forced. Though, obviously, since being here I have created nodes and different niches and found things I loved and began to surround myself with those things. And it’s gotten to the point where I can’t realistically imagine moving anywhere else. It would be a great sacrifice. It has everything I could ever need.

But where I wanted to go with this is… Chicago winters are goddamn cold. They are not more cold than your winters. But goddamn. It’s cold. And my tiny apartment is doing this thing where the ceiling area will be really hot, and I will be sweating on top and have to remove a layer. But my feet are fucking freezing. Like. They are in pain because they are cold. And if you touch the floor, you will need to get up and wrap yourself in a blanket.

Which is oddly enough also how my microwave is. I will cook something and part of it will be burnt to a crisp, black and splitting, and then another part will still be cold. And there’s nothing I can do.

Anyway. Just an observation.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

I contributed my top ten albums of 2010 over on the chirp blog.

Check it out.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Guilty Confession

As it turns out, Kanye West’s new album has entered my psyche in a way I was not anticipating. As a pop culture icon, Kanye is not someone I find myself identifying with or sympathizing with. Also, I am not a hip-hop fan*. It’s taken a lot for me to both admit this in my adulthood and work through it. And I think I have figured out why; hip-hop is mainstream music.  I think I was afraid that by admitting I wasn’t really a follower of the genre that that said something about me as a white person, but then I remembered why I rejected hip-hop in the first place: it was what the popular assholes were listening to in high school. There was nothing attractive about it for me. For me, it was all about punk (which I mistakenly believed was more politically conscious (which it is in some cases and isn’t in other cases)). And then there is Kanye. He has produced an album that has caught my attention in a huge way that few albums have this year.

Once I found out that there was hype about his new record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy my curiosity was piqued and I had to have it. I had heard his music before but am not closely intimate with his previous work, so I don’t really have that to work with. But the first listen through I was not impressed and was disappointed that something undeserving was getting such hype (10 out of 10 on Pitchfork, #1 Billboard). So I kept listening. And listened again. And made other people listen. And soon (within days, actually) the imagery and the ideas and the hooks were sinking in.

Now I am able to pick apart things I genuinely enjoy about the album. Basically I like it when people are able to take all the ugly things about themselves, the things they don’t like, the character flaws, and work through them as a form of catharsis to make something positive, to make art. The best books, the best music, the best movies, are always from some dark personal place you don’t so much like talking about in public.

In particular, the song “Runaway,” he acknowledges he is terrible with women and cites specific reasons why, up to and including infidelity and an inability to see past his partner’s superficial problems.  He calls himself a douchebag, an asshole, a scumbag, a jerkoff.  Kanye West, the performing artist that our president publicly wrote off as a jackass, is working through some very heavy burdens on this record. And rarely on it is he the hero.

Another song that has been haunting my nightmares the past couple days is “Blame Game,” where he characterizes a romantic disaster / doomed relationship with possibly the same girl featured in the other songs. At the end of the song he is trying to call her and her phone accidentally calls him back and he can hear her with another man. The voice of the other man is Chris Rock in an oddly hilarious but horrifying monologue where he reveals all the things they’ve done together.

I find myself quoting it out of context to my friends and then have to explain what it is.

Below find “Runaway (feat. Pusha T)” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I guess the song is one he performed at the VMA’s or something, but I hope you will be able to listen to the song in its own context.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN8thsv67Sw

*It should also be noted that since getting involved with CHIRP hip-hop has been winning me over more and more, as we have conversations about its history and what role it plays in American culture. Word.

Weapon of Choice

This is the piece I read at the Two With Water Rx Reading Series at Beauty Bar in Chicago. The theme was “orientation.” My apologies to grammar nazis. This is a draft.

In the clamshell shaped air-conditioned Marriott of downtown Los Angeles, the lobby is empty. The lobby is empty except for a chair. Leaning against the chair is a full locked suitcase and suitcoat, ruffled and wrinkled into a kind of ball, reflected perfectly in the recently waxed gold tile floor. Sitting in the chair is Christopher Walken, slouching, defeated. On an adjacent radio the distant beginnings, slowly getting louder, of remixed hiphop music.  Weathered Christopher Walken, spirit threadbare, stares coldly into the abyss of empty urban hospitality. He is alone in this space. He looks as though he has exhausetd his options, perhaps wishing for a room but finding only this emtpy hotel lobby, this empty unemployed registration desk. Strange that in a city as large as Los Angeles there could not be just one employee to check him into a room after what appears to be a lifetime of closed doors. This chair is a rescue chair. He looks to his right to find the guest service cart stocked with clean towels, rags, new soaps, new shampoos, tiny toothbrushes, unopened boxes of Kleenx, and copious mints. And the black radio, with its long extended antennae. Is that where the music is coming from? He looks ahead again as if considering his options. He could step out of the air conditioning into the urban desert, hail a cab, find a different hotel. He could sleep in this chair until someone somewhere gives him some kind of service, for Christ’s sake. Or as it were, he could move his head a little bit from side to side and dance alone in this motherfucking empty LA Hotel lobby.

            He stands and steps forward, his mind made up. The music on the radio kicks in, the true nature of the rambunctious introduction starting, a dramatic rise, a sudden loud bass. The dancing begins. He assumes a hulking, mounstrous position, leaning to the right, “Thriller” style, his limbs pointing to the left, and then suddenly reversing, stepping forward and to the left, he kicks and spins and jumps, moves to the right.

            He suddenly slouches, like an old man, hands dangling in front of him, spine arched. A kind of Nosferatu. Quickly he spins and faces the right, walking in that direction, his shined shoes clacking against the reflective lobby flooring. He does a few kicks, left and right, and lands in front of tall golden doors that through the power of motion detectors, open upon the sensation of his very presence.

            The singer in the song sings, “Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice, check out my new weapon, weapon of choice.”

            Christopher Walken, mid fifties, hair gray, spins around and enters backward through the now open tall golden double doors, snapping his fingers and dancing as he goes. The singer repeats his opening line and almost as if to the music, Christopher Walken rings the bell on the registration desk which has just entered his periphery. He rings it and it dings, to the empty lobby of the Los Angeles Marriot. It rings for no one. Christopher Walken, voice actor, stage actor, Tony Award Winner, dances forward the way he came, back through the tall golden double doors, his face bathed in the reddish light of LA evening.

            He is leaping onto the baggage cart, sailing backward, his right leg kicked up behind him. He is, as if, surfing through the empty reflective golden lobby. He spins around and abandons the cart and continues in a healthy trot forward toward the escalator. He stands on it backward, snapping his fingers, next to an expensive looking horse carved out of wood. The horse is as if laughing at the man dancing on the escalator, his mouth in a near whinny. Christopher Walken is in what appears to be a kind of ecstasy, totally lost in his dancing. He is halfway up the escalator now, before stepping against the grain of it, interrupting the stairs’ flow, walking down in a kind of jig. His speed increases until he is back on the ground level of the lobby and getting his bearings. He is now running forward and jumping suddenly, with a kind of Olympic skater’s delight. He does a cart wheel and stands upright, looking left, right, forward, to the beat of the keyboardists sudden chime.

             He frolics left and dances until he reaches a pulled out chair sitting adjacent a thin but sturdy card table. One wonders what a thin but sturdy card table, a table of function over form, is doing in this otherwise lavish downtown Marriott. Who would put such a table here of all places? He kicks off a pile of newspapers, that are sent into free fall like the dying leaves of autumns Los Angeles will never know.

            Christopher Walken, the hulking actor, known for his darkly comic roles, halting speech patterns, and sociopathic disposition,  is now dancing on this table, between two identical chairs and two identical lamps beneath two identical chandelliers. The desk behind him reads “Registration” and is long. It can be assumed that there could be at least twenty hours in a day in which this particular desk is filled with an amount of hustle and bustle, but not at whatever ungodly hour this is (all the more reason for some unfettered dancing). And unfettered truly is the face worn by Christopher Walken, with its characteristic dry, pale skin, like onionskin, as he dances on the table in front of the registration desk at the Los Angeles Downtown Marriott. His smile is in stark contrast with the beaten down withered expression from one minute and fifty six seconds before when he was sitting in the Lobby’s chair, his posture sad and lifeless. This is the unfettered smile of a man with a new lease on life. His tongue sticks out his left sidemouth. It retracts back into the mouth and is hidden by gritted teeth (the tongue). The music kicks up its initial dramatic uplift and Christopher Walken takes this opportunity to uplift himself from the table and continues to dance across the floor.

            His hands are in his pockets now and he is coolly shuffling forward, his crotch prominent, as the singer informs us “Walk without rhythm and you won’t attract the worm.” He tells us this three more times. He pulls his hands out of his pockets again and lets them dangle, like the Nosferatu from before, but still shuffling forward. Suddenly his face narrows, his left arm goes into the air and behind him while his right hand is moving up and down before him, as if to spank the bottom of or slap the top of the head of an imagined other person.

            His dancing carries him into a mirrored room, brighter than the lobby, a kind of reflective hallway, mirrors reflecting mirrors, reflections reflecting reflections with an innumerable amount of his own selves dancing with, an endless amount of partners. What is this room? He spins around and runs and moves forward with grace, his tie flopping in his own motion.

            In front of the elevator, he shambles forward, and as the singer sings “You can go with this or you can go with that” he begins to point in respective opposite directions until pointing at the elevator, letting it light up and ding, the elevator’s doors opening, with him getting on.

The doors open on a new floor, darker now than before, to a kind of balcony overlooking the entire first floor. As expected, he comes out dancing. He hurtles himself toward the edge of the railing separating the second floor with the first floor of the lobby. He is essentially jumping off the side, literally diving forward and down, as if to his death, but suddenly and with great precision, in mid air, Christopher Walken begins to fly. With his right hand he is pointing forward and sailing through the air with great speed. When he reaches the other side of the vast expanse of open lobby, he moves backward a bit, turns around, positions his feet against the wall, flat, and then kicks off, floating toward the adjacent left wall and then pushing himself forward toward an enormous painting of three sailboats in a blue and choppy sea. He floats to the top of it and stops.

             He inhales deeply as if considering his own worth, his own freedom, his relationship with and orientation with the space he is currently occupying, as if the test of a man is what opportunities that man takes, that a man must utilize the resources at hand, that the world is only an extension of himself, and that he has not let another moment waste by taking this opportunity to dance alone in the hotel lobby. He lifts his arms and one leg in a familiar “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” position and descends with great speed and great force the floor of the lobby.

Christopher Walken, Academy Award Winning actor, known for playing quirky fathers and gangsters, stands, catches his breath, and with weakened resolve resumes his slovenly slothlike position in his same chair next to his same suitcase and same coat. He rubs his nose. He blinks. He is exhausted. Christopher Walken waits.