Issue #94 Guest Editor Chad Hartigan was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking. He wrote and directed his first feature, LUKE AND BRIE ARE ON A FIRST DATE, in 2008, which had its North American premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival. It was released on digital formats by FilmBuff in summer 2009. A Latin American remake, entitled LUNA EN LEO, was released in 2013. His second feature as writer/director, THIS IS MARTIN BONNER, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best of NEXT and went on to screen at the Karlovy Vary, Stockholm and Torino Film Festivals among many others. In 2014, it won the John Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. For more, visit chadhartigan.com and follow Chad on Twitter.
by Tara Everhart
You are at the beach. It’s a weekday. You are taking a personal day, or cutting class is the way your mom would say it, if she were a mom that you saw on old TV shows. “Have you been cutting class?” she would say. She’s not like that, though; she won’t even notice because of your hippie school’s lax attendance policy. And if she did, she would ask you if you’ve been skipping school, like a normal person.
Issue #94 soundtrack: GHIANT "Elemental Functions"
This beach day is less fun than you thought it would be because you had plans to skip with someone else and they got scared, but you really needed it, so you went alone anyway. To stare at the waves and to get a corn dog. It’s not overcast, at least there’s that, but you wish it was, actually, because being alone on a sunny day at the beach is much less picturesque than being alone on a foggy day. You can’t drag a large stick through the sand and stare at the seagulls because there are too many gum-snapping couples and children running around making everything cluttered and dirty and loud.
You think about playing Skee-ball alone and walk by the arcade, where some kid with greasy hair is mesmerizing a small cluster of people with his skills at Dance, Dance, Revolution. You’re pretty good at that game yourself, but looking at him, you know it’s a freakish thing to be good at and so you keep on walking.
Towards the strip of “artists” taking holographic photos, imprinting messages on grains of rice and dropping them into glass, making albino busts that look like they belong in Disney’s Haunted Mansion. What ever happened to two-dimensional caricatures? Something about them seems serious and dated, and you almost start to panic that none of the caricature artists are around. Where are they? What are they doing with their lives? Have they had to switch to this weird 3-D plaster shit? Do they now, without irony, complain about how they used to be able to make Real Art? Does everything lost seem better?
You consider getting one done, but only for a moment.
You walk down the steps to the beach, which feels like a hub. People are coming and going, shoes are going on and off, sand is being brushed off of bottoms. You laugh (internally) at the futility of brushing off these particles and feel satisfied knowing that the petite, well-dressed Asian woman before you will nonetheless find particles of sand behind her ears, between her toes, and beneath her 600-thread-count pillow tonight. Every experience leaves a residue, you think, and you are aware of the overreaching solemnity of the metaphor.
You step onto the sand in your sneakers and, after a stumble, decide to join the world in taking them off. A ruddy-cheeked man in an orange polo shirt and a fisherman’s hat smiles at you, as he struggles with a strappy Reef Walker sandal. Don’t you wonder why I’m not in school? You scowl. You want to scream at him, but don’t, of course. You decide to smile in the most placating, non-committal way possible. And you realize how teenage of you that is and then try for a bigger, more genuine one, but it’s too late and it makes you feel sad, and late, and alone.
Your feet are in the sand. It’s warm. It’s warm. And it’s hard to walk! You had forgotten about that.
You stumble-walk in the direction of the water, like everyone does. Not sure where to go, let’s just go where we think we ought to. No internal compass for these things, you’re all headed away from trash cans and towards the water. It’s pretty simplifying. You think about stopping short, but walking is all you want, all you want at all.
You pass three heavy-set girls in full dresses. One takes a picture of herself with her phone. You pass two old ladies with umbrellas. You can’t tell they are old ladies until you pass by them because their umbrellas, bright matching pigments of blue and green, are held out in front of them like shields. You have to round the corner and look curiously back over your shoulder to see their crumpled forms, in cream and beige, all hats and glasses. You imagine a beach with just these two on it. Waves crashing, and their conversation looping eternally, “It’s hot out here, isn’t it?”... “Hello? Are you awake?” You think that seems beautiful and strange.
There’s a group of boys up ahead. You cover your panic with a measured step and a firm forward gaze. Your current path will take you right to them. But if you stop at the trashcan, you can pass behind them. You reach in your bag for a piece of gum, you find it, you place it in your mouth, and then you walk to the trash can to discard the remnants – a package that still has some wrapped slices of gum – in the trash. You walk a straight line behind the boys.
They’re from public school, you can tell – their t-shirts look too new and their glasses are cheap plastic - and this makes them a more unmeasured quantity. You know how to deal with rich assholes. The boys become quieter and snicker as you walk behind them. You’re feeling relief as you put them over your left shoulder when you hear: “Hey, Erin! Hey!” and your stomach drops. You turn. It’s Scott Bowman. Yes, it’s him, though his skin is a little cloudier and he is – just bigger, all around.
You used to be best friends when you were five, before your family moved further east. You guys used to “go fishing” together, which means you dragged poles with little buoy-like baubles on the ends of them to a weird little man-made estuary by your stucco houses in Playa del Rey. You swore up and down to your parents that you caught a fish one time, but you know it couldn’t be true. You should ask him about it.
You guys decide to hug, and it’s more unfamiliar than familiar, you decide. His body feels unfamiliar even though you used to take baths together. The other boys are watching you from over their plastic glasses.
“What are you doing here? Don’t you have school?”
“No,” you lie, quite easily. “It’s a faculty in-service day.”
“Huh.” He doesn’t seem to believe you, or maybe he doesn’t know what that is. It doesn’t really matter. “Are you here by yourself?”
“Yeah, I’m meeting some people later on the Promenade but I just wanted to see the water, you know?”
“I guess. I see it all the time. It’s pretty much always the same. Do you want to sit down?”
You hesitate. The boys have started to ignore you and go back to scoping out the beach and looking cool. They still seem like land sharks.
“Nah, I just want to do a quick lap and then I have to head up to the Promenade, you know?”
“Oh, okay. Well, quickly, how is everything?”
He seems like a nice person you think, but you also know that you would never talk to him, if you didn’t know him. It seems like sort of a shame, but you brush the thought away, like the sand. You pick up one foot and then the other. “Okay, I guess. What about you? How’re your parents?”
“Mom’s good. She moved back to Arizona. Dad’s... still here.”
She did. You had forgotten about this, but you remember now. She moved back home with her parents. Drugs? You think so, or your mom thinks so. Miles and years stretch out between you. You could fall into them.
“Oh, well, say hi to them.”
“I will. You, too-- to yours. How’s your Dad? I love your Dad.”
“He loves you. He asked me about you for like five years after we moved. You’ve really ruined it for all my other friends.”
“You peaked on friends at age nine? That’s a shame.”
You exchange a laugh, and then a silence. He graciously breaks it. “Hey, did you hear about Megan Kloosterman?”
“Yes, oh my God, does she really have a baby?”
“A baby? How about two?”
“Get the fuck out! She’s 16. I mean, we’re 16. What a mess! Where were her parents?”
“They don’t care.”
“You’re right. My mom never wanted me to sleep over there. She knew that we would watch the bad movies and eat Pizza rolls. I didn’t mind it though, actually, I always felt sort of uncomfortable there, you know? Like I knew it was sort of sad, even as a little kid.”
“Too dirty for you?”
You know his meaning. Even before the move, you felt the difference between your own life and those of your friends – in your new roller blades, your healthy fruit snacks, your new-smelling furniture, your up-to-date school clothes. “No, I. You know what I mean. I didn’t mean it like that.”
One of the boys pelts a handful of dirt at Scott, and it lands between you.
“I know. Of course you didn’t.”
You take a breath and find there’s nothing to say but I’m sorry. Instead you say, “Are you on Facebook?”
He seems much cooler and wiser to you in this moment, older than you are, and you wonder if he still plays guitar or does those little drawings. He might be very good at them by now, even.
The body of a girl, whose wet curves spilled generously over a too-small bikini, comes running halfway from water to shore. Her hair is black, she has a tattoo. The form shouts, “Scotty!” He cups his hands over his mouth and shouts, “D’nell!” She stands there a minute and then shouts, “Get the fuck in here, you fucking pussy.”
You are all shoulders that don’t know how to angle.
When he turns his face back towards you, he has a smile on it. “I think I’m being paged.”
You snort and do a weird thing with your mouth. “Who has a pager anymore?” He doesn’t seem to get the joke. You could explain, you part your lips to explain, but you let it go.
You remember seeing your tutor in the aisles of a grocery store, examining a can of salsa with a boyfriend. He looked pretty nerdy, in light-colored jeans, white tennis shoes and a button-down, but there was tenderness in their exchange. Your opinion of your tutor was revised, possibly downgraded, but you nonetheless trailed them through another aisle, looking for clues as to the inner mechanics of adult relationships. You concluded nothing, and its mystery remained locked up and concealed from you, like a piece of medieval technology. The heart is a piece of medieval technology, you think, and almost roll your eyes at yourself.
The wet girl is walking towards the blanket of boys and shaking out her hair. She looks like she could beat you up. “It’s colder than a witch’s ballsack in there,” she says to no one and, without grabbing a towel, walks up to you.
“Hi, I’m D’nell.”
“I’m Erin.” Your hand extends forward, and you feel the pretentiousness of your expensive V-neck tee oozing through the fiber of your being.
Scott extends his hand to her with seriousness. “I’m Scott.”
“How about a hug then, Scott?” She cocks her mouth.
“Don’t even think about it, D. ”
“I should go.” You wonder if they’re surprised you’re still there.
“Where you headed?” Her voice changes to glass. Not mean, just devoid of the contours of caring.
She bends forward and grabs a towel, shaking out her hair on the boys on the blanket, who bristle.
“Fucking D’Nell. What the fuck?”
“It was good to see you, Scott.”
“Yeah, you, too, Erin. I’m serious. Say hi to your parents.”
“I will, definitely. You, too, okay?”
“Of course I will.”
When you walk away, you hear D’nell’s voice, too loud. “Who is that girl?”
You see the Dance, Dance, Revolution guy in the distance, at the foot of the pier, taking off his combat boots before stepping onto the sand in faded socks. He looks so young.
Tara Everhart is an educator, facilitator, and writer who resides in Austin. The Brimmer Street Theater Company produced one of her plays as part of their Blueprint Series, and her music reviews have appeared in Filter Magazine and L.A. Record.
Ellen Siebers is a painter currently living and working in New York. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa and her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Siebers has taught as a Lecturer at the University of Iowa (2009-12), Visiting Faculty at UW Madison (2012-13) and as a Lecturer at the College of Mount Saint Vincent (2015). She was featured in the 87th and 107th issues of New American Paintings, and has exhibited in various group and solo exhibitions throughout the United States. For more, visit ellensiebers.com.
GHIANT is the musical moniker of Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist/actor/writer, Donald Ian Black, who plies his trade in experimental folk, harmony, noise and punk. He's toured across the U.S. with pals and also provides the LA soundtrack to the SF Exquisite Corpse Film Project. His odd tunes have been heard on basic cable TV shows, independent films other weirdo outlets. 2014's A Discussion Of Head Noise LP is available on vinyl or download. DIB also recently directed the short film RUINS, which played Raindance in London. GHIANT music features live looping, guitars, horns, vibraphones, and fun. For more, visit ghiant.net.