Episode 21: Brain’s Diary
July 26, 1966…
Actually, it was the late nineties, if you want to get technical about it, but since discovering the ——–, things – or time, rather, kind of folds in on itself and allows me to accomplish more in a day than most people are physically able to do in a week. I can go backwards and forwards, but the obsessive personality quirk in me usually dictated a backwards funnel. So, here I am… or rather, there I was, I had landed at LAX and truthfully I couldn’t quite remember when I was, even, until looking at the plane ticket in my hand as I deplaned. Why I was still holding that sweaty ticket was beyond me, all I know is that I couldn’t quite get a clear memory of boarding the plane. And if I did board the plane, whether I did so in the late nineties or mid-sixties.
And therein lies the problem. I’m not ready to say that the actual problem is the deterioration of my brain, not yet, anyway, but the problem for is is simply that I haven’t affirmed what the problem really is. Is my brain just too full of information now that it is starting to fail to hold onto things that it deems as unnecessary information? I think this might be likely, as I’m convinced that the eyes and the brain are not separate organs at all, but the same organ. The way the eyes work is this:
When you are looking around, left to right, up to down, your brain only processes the starting, ending, and/or specifically pointed information, “editing out”, if you will, all the in-between visuals. It must do this, or we would be walking around imbalanced and completely disoriented. Visual information overload.
People in the movie industry who know this have become film editors. They understand that the mind not only does not need to see everything, but it can’t see everything. And that might be my problem. Maybe, through all this, I’m starting to see everything.
The flipside problem is one I find I don’t really want to think about much: that this funneling, as I’ve started to call it, is really starting to kill my brain, in a physical sense. Brain burnout. That idea scares the shit out of me, and I can only hope that as time goes on my brain decides that this worry of mine is needless information and edits these thoughts out of my daily stream of consciousness.
At any rate, I exited LAX without a problem, while discovering that I was also without luggage – either that, or someone had gotten the better of me and swiped it from the luggage carousel, but truthfully I think it was likely the former over the latter.
I hailed a cab, though I didn’t really need to hail it as there was a long line of the yellow things striping the curb at the exit doors of the terminal, and rode it down to a restaurant on Sunset where I met up with my banter-partner and casual nemesis, Charles Beaumont.
Beaumont was already sitting at a table when I arrived, and when I quickly checked my watch, I saw that I was eleven minutes early.
“Charlie,” I beamed, approaching him, hopefully sounding cheerful in spite of the worst jet lag I’d ever had. The room was spinning in front of me and we’d barely disengaged our handshake before I plopped onto the wooden chair across from him. He’d taken the cushioned booth-side seat on the other end of the table. Bastard. No wonder he’d arrived so early. “You look like shit,” I told him. He grinned at that, but it was partially maniacal. I went on, unnerved, “So, what are you working on these days? Still on the Twilight Zone?”
Charlie was a writer, and one of the more popular ones, for these crazy Hollywood science-fiction television series. You know, for kids.
“Man,” Charlie drawled, “That show got the axe two years ago.”
“Yeah, man, where you been?”
“Well, maybe they’ll start it up again sometime,” I say to him, not really believing it or caring about it one way or the other.
“No, man, that’s not how television works,” he tells me.
“Too bad,” I say back, but again, not particularly caring. Although I do remember catching an episode once as a midnight re-run on cable, and-
“What have you been up to?” Charlie interrupts my train of thought, though I’m at a loss to explain why, as he’s now got his face buried in the menu. At least I don’t have to look him in the eyes, fuck, those eyes are older than Charlie and they’re starting to creep me out. “You’re not looking at your menu. You know what you’re having?” he asks me.
“No, I’ve never been here before.”
Now Charlie looks up over the top of his menu and we’re making eye contact again. This time, I get the chills.
“Larry,” he says, like I’m a fucking idiot, “we were here last week.”
Stupid brain-editing. “We were?”
“What’d I have?”
“You had the egg salad sandwich.”
“Did I like it?”
He shrugs, “You said you did.”
“Alright, I’ll have that again,” I say, thankful that I don’t have to negotiate the menu due to my disorienting jet lag. I grab the glass of water on the table closest to me and take a sip, or I mean to take a sip, and wind up downing the whole thing in one gulp. Charlie raises an eyebrow.
“Thirsty?” he asks, but it must’ve been rhetorical because he doesn’t wait for an answer, just goes back to reading his menu and I’m thankful once again that I don’t have to look into his eyes.
“You’re still writing?”
“Yeah,” he says, still not looking up from the menu.
“Anything new that I might’ve seen?”
“Not yet. I just finished a book. I call it ‘American Psycho’. I showed it to my agent and he told me that the writing didn’t even seem like mine, it was so far-fucking-out, and then he told me to go see a doctor. Er – a shrink. You know the type.”
“Did you?” I tried to take another sip of my water, forgetting that the glass was empty.
“No,” he tells me, still scanning the menu. The menu, by the way, is only one page, double-sided, and about the size of the cover from a TV guide so I have no idea what’s taking him so long to read through. “I went and saw another writer,” he says.
“Went to meet with him about the idea of passing the book along to him. Let him publish it, take the credit for it, if there is any credit to be had. Nice fella. Name was Brett something.”
“Brett something?” I prod, now starting to get curious.
“Yeah, Brett Eaton, or something. Eaton? Eason? Anyway, he really dug the book. He might publish it… later. But anyone I show it to here, they think I’m fucking nuts.”
When he said “here”, I took that to mean either the restaurant (unlikely), Hollywood (more likely), anyone in Los Angeles (possibly) or anyone in the year 1966 (probably).
“That’s the way most of my work has been going the last couple of years or so.”
“What do you mean?”
Charlie shrugs again. “All my work – they think it’s looney tunes. Or I’m looney tunes. I can’t write for the Hollywood shows anymore. I mean, I do write for them, I’m under contract with people, studios, but every assignment gets the axe. The studios are convinced I’m fucking certifiable now. I’ve resorted to asking my writer friends for favours. They’ve been writing my scripts for me, then putting my name on it so I’m not in breach of contract and can still feed my family. Nice people, these writers, I tell you.”
“So what do you do with the scripts that you have written?”
He shrugs again, and he’s still scanning the one-page double-sided menu, though he hasn’t even managed to flip it to the other side yet, and he tells me, “Just keep ’em. I don’t know, maybe someone in the far future will get where I’m coming from. Maybe I’m just too damned progressive for Hollywood right now,” and he finally sets the menu down and grins at me, and I swear, he looks like he’s a hundred fucking years old when I know for a fact he was born in 1929, which would make him…
“Thirty-seven,” he says to me, and I silently freak out just a little.
“Thirty-seven,” he repeats, pointing at the menu on the table, stabbing it really, with his finger, “Chef salad.”
“Oh,” I clue in, but still not entirely convinced that was a coincidence.
“I know I look like shit,” he finally addresses, “the doctor doesn’t know what it is.”
“So you have seen a doctor,” I say.
“Yeah, a medical one. Not a shrink.”
“I was sent to a bunch of ‘specialists’ too,” he laughs, “but they don’t know what the fuck is going on.”
I think I do, but don’t say anything about it. Because I know now why Charlie Beaumont could write over fifty stories in one year, why he was so prolific on The Twilight Zone, why his episodes were the best ones, and how he could write thirteen feature-film screenplays in half that many years. He even wrote one movie that was supposedly produced posthumously in 1990, eight years ago, or twenty-four years from now, however you want to look at it, or rather, depending on your point of view, I guess.
“They say it’s some cross between Pick’s disease and early-onset of Alzheimer’s.”
“Early onset? You’re not even forty.”
“And yet, I should seemingly already be dead,” he says.
After that, I don’t really know what to say, there’s really nothing I could’ve said to comfort him, and besides, he wasn’t really a friend. I couldn’t even recall when I’d met Beaumont or how many conversations we’d had in our lifetime. I had the egg salad sandwich and he ate his chef’s salad, which looked like my egg salad sandwich torn apart and tossed onto a bowl of lettuce.
And after lunch I got in a cab and rode back to LAX. The whole way, thinking only of one thing, which kept repeating in my brain, rhythmically, as the cab rolled along the freeway…