At the Oscars

Dreams are supposed to mean something, we've been told by people who know everything, but I think dreams are usually just dreams. Your brain isn't sending you a coded telegram. 

Consider this one — a dream weird enough I crawled out of bed and over to the typewriter and clicked it all out, before I could forget it. 

I'm an investigative reporter, and my assignment is to find out how well various companies are complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law that's supposed to ensure equal access and equal opportunities for the handicapped. Being a good reporter in pursuit of the story, I have my legs amputated. Makes perfect sense, right?

Now I'm in a wheelchair, applying for work at a dairy. If they hire me, my job will be buttermaker. Kallie, who's co-authoring the article with me, is applying for the same job, but she still has her legs, and in my dream they're fine legs, and bare. In real life, I only saw her in shorts a few times, and she doesn't shave. Her legs are hairier than mine, if I still had legs.

Well, Berkeley Farms doesn't discriminate, and Kallie and I are both hired. We make butter all day, and then I say goodbye to Kallie and wheel home to write my article, but I'm in a wheelchair so I can't get up the stairs to this apartment. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Now I'm getting dressed for work, and listening to Pike and his girlfriend in the next room. Soon to be ex-girlfriend, I hope — for her sake, because they never stop arguing, and for my sake, because I thought I'd have one roommate in this dump, not two.

Pike is a nice enough kid, and he is a kid — 20, he told me a few days ago. His girlfriend seems like a nice kid too, albeit none too bright and she never shuts up, and every sentence she says I want mark up with a red pen until it somehow makes grammatical sense.

And she's almost always here, in the apartment I thought would be mine and Pike's, and when she's here they're always either all over each other like birds and bees, or all over each other like cats and dogs. 

♦ ♦ ♦

After eight hours of handing out flyers at the shop, I came home and stapled a red ribbon onto my only slightly-dirty t-shirt, and walked a few blocks to the Roxie, for the Oscars simulcast…

♦ ♦ ♦

This is Doug Holland, reporting live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Mind. I had my doubts that watching the Oscars in a theater would be worth the price of a movie, but it was, and a good time was had by all.

Unlike watching the Oscars at home, where you always end up wondering why you wasted the evening staring at so much stupidity, at the Roxie you waste the evening with an overflow audience of people wasting their evenings, and giving the telecast the disrespect it deserves. 

The crowd was enthusiastic, possibly a code word for 'drunk', with the loudest hisses and hoots for Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, and the endless nominations for Forrest Gump.

Jodie Foster got polite applause, and a chant of "Come out, come out, whoever you are."

When Tom Hanks began to go weepy during his Best Actor speech, I wasn't the only one laughing from crying, and as the steamroller for Gump climaxed with Best Director and Best Picture, catcalls were drowning out the theater's sound system. Me, I haven't seen Forrest Gump, but from everything I've heard and read I'd rather watch Newt Gingrich get an enema.

The theater was packed, perhaps illegally so. People were standing and sitting in the aisles, though curiously, there was an empty seat next to me. Ah well, I'm a fat guy, and nobody wants to sit next to a fat guy. It was nice to have the extra belly and elbow room, while clapping for my favorites, and joining in the recurring raspberries for Gump.

The happiest foot-stomping cheers were for Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L Jackson, Dianne Wiest, that Russian filmmaker's adorable little daughter, and the satellite link's intermittent sound problems that mysteriously seemed to cut off only the most insipid speeches.

Roxie management helped the evening along by filling commercial breaks with clips from past Oscar telecasts, which was unexpected and completely cool. Among the hundred or so clips they showed, let's talk for a moment about Marlon Brando's Oscar stunt — he wins, but skips the ceremony, and instead sends a Native American woman who stands up and refuses the award, in protest over Hollywood's stereotyping of Natives. Fair enough, absolutely. But the award was for Brando playing a 100% stereotyped character himself, in The Godfather.

The Roxie let Channel 4's news crew into the building toward the end of the night, to film the audience during the broadcast. Their lights were gauche and distracting, but the crowd screamed and applauded, like Americans have been trained to do whenever TV points a camera. I do not want to be on television, so my middle finger was over my face whenever the lights and camera were running. It was only for a few minutes, though.

Why there are dancers is an annual mystery, but tonight's dances were disappointingly subdued, with nothing as ridiculous as Sheena Easton's rendition of "For Your Eyes Only" from 1982, which we saw on tape during a break.

The starlets' gowns were as tastelessly silly as we've all come to expect, the pre-show schmoozing was delightfully dumb, and as host, David Letterman was funny, mostly. It's reassuring to watch people I'm tempted to admire, like Tarantino and Foster, stumble through idiotic off-the-cuff interviews, so I can remind myself to think less of them.

Also, maybe I blinked at the wrong half-second, but at least two big names were missing from the "In Memoriam" section, where Oscar supposedly remembers the dead. They forgot John Candy and River Phoenix? Was it an odd oversight, or a vicious slam against all us drug-abusers and fat slobs?

My only other complaint was the director's Sharon Stone fetish. Seemed like every five minutes, there'd be another shot of the lovely Ms Stone, laughing at something, smiling at something, as if a worldwide audience of billions wants to see her face all night long. She's a pretty woman, sure, but enough already.

It was like being at a party, but without having to talk to anyone — which made it the best party I've ever been to. There were prize drawings for all sorts of movie promotional stuff the Roxie had accumulated, like movie coffee mugs and movie pen sets, movie posters, even videotapes, etc. I didn't win anything, damn it, but I'll still plug the show for next year, and I'll be there. You'll always find me in the front row, on the left. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Walking the last block home from the theater, without a word I stepped off the sidewalk and into the street, to help a couple of strangers push-start their beater pick-up truck. Not because I'm inherently a nice guy or anything; I'm a schmo, you know that. But maybe a kind deed now and then lowers my number on the "To Be Mugged" list.

From Pathetic Life #10
Monday, March 27, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2022: Factchecking back then wasn't an easy option, with no computer and no internet, but today a few clicks inform me that I was dead wrong.

River Phoenix died in 1993, and John Candy died in 1994, but early enough in the year that both were included in 1994's "In Memoriam," so that's why they were absent from 1995's. 

Pathetic Life regrets the error.

Pathetic Life 

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