A Drive by Shooting
This week’s “Special” episode is a compendium of footage, shot over time around the world, celebrating the joys, delights (and occasional perils) of street food.
Basically? It’s a clip show.
The thing I’m proudest of on this show is not what’s seen on the screen. It’s what you hear on the soundtrack: Now, ordinarily, we can’t afford to use music from my favorite albums. Or ANY albums, for that matter. It’s a ridiculous amount of money to get the rights to even the most innocuous of songs. For a long time, even the singing of “Happy Birthday” during a scene–or played on a jukebox in the background, could cost you BIG money. We’re a tiny, five person crew, shooting entirely on small DV cameras with homemade jibs, using bags of rice and skateboards as dollies. We can’t afford even “Happy Birthday!”
There have been, over the years, many times when I have fantasized wistfully about how great it would be if only we could use this song or that.
So imagine my absolute surprise and joy when I found out that after a hail-Mary, stab-in-the-dark, personal appeal to Iggy Pop, that he’d allowed us to use the dark, amazing song “Down On The Street” from my favorite album ever: The Stooges’ awesome pre-punk classic, “Fun House”. Though I do not know you, sir, Thanks, Jim.
” Thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes…black eyes…like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at you, doesn’t seem to be livin’ ..until he bites you–and those black eyes roll over white, and then you hear that terrible high pitched screamin’…the ocean turns red…”
Robert Shaw (as Quint) in Jaws
So, I get invited to a movie premier. This doesn’t happen a lot and it’s for Julie/Julia, and I happen to be very sentimental on the subject of Julia Child . The book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” has a sort of totemic place in my personal history–as it does, I’m sure, for millions of others. I am also a big Stanley Tucci fan. He directed and co-starred in the single best live action film on the restaurant business (Big Night) and there was certainly no reason to believe that Meryl Streep couldn’t “do” Julia. ( Of course she can.) But that’s not the point of this tale.The next morning, I’m still trying to reconstruct the exact progression, the details, like trying to remember the license plate of the truck that hit me. Only this wasn’t any normal truck. This was far more terrifying and traumatic an event than being smashed by the grill of a Peterbilt, pulled up into the wheel well, dragged for a while, only to have my shredded remnants left by the side of the road, wondering, in my last moments of consciousness, “What the hell happened?” I’m pretty sure, judging by the vestigial ectoplasm on my jacket that I was sideswiped by pure evil.
I’m standing there by the boeuf bourgignonne station, sucking down martinis with my wife (they drink a LOT of martinis in the movie), minding my own business, having an innocent chat with some friends, when I notice someone has their hand on me. An icy, tendril of fear runs down my spine. I turn and find myself looking straight into the deceptively attractive and reasonable looking face of Sandra Lee.
To make matters worse–and more…..uncomfortable, she’s standing next to her boyfriend, Andrew Cuomo, the Attorney General of the State of New York.
Now, I’ve said some unkind things over the years about Sandra. Far too many and far too terrible things to ever apologize for. Plus, I pretty much meant every word. Once you’ve seen Sandra making Kwanzaa Cake on YouTube, there’s no backing down . My head is reeling with the thought that one phone call from Cuomo and my last twenty years of tax returns are getting audited . I’m paralyzed, wondering what the statute of limitations is on various things I may or may not have done twenty years ago. Sandra is talking. I know this cause her lips are moving and she’s saying–overtly anyway, nice things. Like “You’re a very naughty man,” and she’s chatting amiably with my wife. But one hand is picking over me like the meat buyer at Peter Luger selecting a rib section–like some demonic bird of prey is poking and prodding, deciding where the weakest, most tender point of entry is, giving, as I recall, a point by point review of her investigations to my wife–who ordinarily, I have to say, would have been across the table with a tomahawk chop elbow to the top of the skull by now, but who, like me, sits mesmerized and grinning insanely, frozen by the ..bizarrenessof the moment which seems to go on forever as Sandra’s hand wanders upward, tugs an ear lobe and asks if my ears are red yet. (They were.) Having had her way with me, she leaves the emptied husk of my carcass teetering at the table and moves on.
I felt like the victim of a drive-by shooting. “What just..happened?” I said with a weak, trembly voice. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed the quiet but very thorough disembowelment that had just occurred. Nothing. It had looked, to anyone who’d care to notice, like any other cocktail party conversation–but I knew better. I had looked into those eyes. I’d seen. Oh, she was smiling all right, but I’m pretty damn sure you could have dragged a rusty butterknife across my carotid artery right there at the table and her expression would not have changed, maybe only the eyes, they’d roll over white as I geysered onto the chafing dishes.
As we say on the show all the time, “What have we learned today?”
I learned that were a nuclear weapon to fall on New York, I’m pretty sure that if no one else, Sandra Lee would survive to clamber out of the rubble. That if it came down to a fight over the last can of food, she would surely emerge the victor.
I learned that I am truly and deeply afraid of her. And I’m pretty sure she’s a Democrat.