My Bobby

I had attempted to write this post on my iPhone right after posting that last blurb, but after getting about halfway through, I noticed that there was no "save" button and lost everything. Stupid glitch. Anyway, here's take 2:

It all starts with Craigslist. A couple weeks ago I was glancing through the postings in the Writing/Editing section of job in Boston and I came across a listing looking for "7 writers to work on screenplays and novels". It sounded interesting, and I've been wanting to get back into writing more, so I sent off my resume.

The following Sunday at 8:15AM, I get a call from a guy named Johnny. He begins the conversation, with no regard for the fact that I'm still mostly asleep, by telling me that he has just gotten out of prison. He had been in prison for 12 years, on charges that were not discussed, though he did admit to having been in the mafia and to being a mercenary. His voice does not lead me to doubt this information at all. He speaks with the oddly mixed accent of an Italian gangster who has grown up in Boston. He goes on to tell me about how he has all of these ideas for stories, but he is cursed with being a terrible writer, so he decided to post on Craigslist. He said, "I only expected to get about a dozen responses, but I've gotten hundreds!" Never underestimate the number of wannabe writers in the world.

At this point, I'm still half asleep and skeptical of the whole situation, but amused and interested in the ridiculousness of the situation. He starts to lay out the framework of about 4 different story ideas, and while a couple weren't very original, the stories had heart. I got the undeniable sense that this guy was really serious about doing this thing. A couple of the stories sounded like things I could do, and he mentioned some children's stories, which also piqued my interest. So, I set up a time to meet him. If for nothing else than to meet the guy and be able to tell that story.

I reserve a Zipcar, and head up to Wakefield on Wednesday two weeks ago. Knowing only that I'm meeting Johnny at a deli, there are a couple other writers scheduled to be there, and that the guy is "very tanned". That last bit turned out to be somewhat of an understatement. Johnny looks like he is made out of the leather from cowboy boots that have been left in the Arizona sun for a few years. He smells like it too. He's got white hair, and gold rings on each pinky, and seems to only wear button up shirts that are only buttoned about half way.

At first, it's just me and a girl named Julie there to meet Johnny. Johnny starts out this meeting by saying, "The literary world is the hardest job I've ever tried to get into. People keep telling me, 'These guys are cut-throat. It's tough.' But, I'm not scared of anything. When you have the blood of over a hundred men on your hands, you lose your fear. You lose your envy. Why envy the guy when you know, 'I can kill him'?"

I'm not sure how he managed it, but Johnny was able to seamlessly segue into the story ideas from there. Again the ideas were good, some were pretty generic, but there were some really solid stories too. And in all there was a hint of old school racism, like "a black guy who stutters, but is hung like a horse," or "a Chinaman that no one can understand what he's saying." It's all harmless until the third writer shows up, a black guy named Will, who has been doing some work in film in the area (check out the site for a movie he worked on "Business is War".)

Suddenly, the story ideas get subtly altered, and Johnny is now talking about "a Chinaman talking like ching chang chung," and "a guy who stutters." It got a little awkward because Johnny has no idea about the writing process and got down on Will for "being negative" simply because Will was asking questions on target audiences and such. A slightly confused and defensive ex-merc is an odd thing to see.

It did lead to another interesting bought as Johnny started to explain his start in the mafia (only tangentially related to one of the story ideas). He started doing favors for his grandfather and grandfather's friends when he was 5 or 6. Just the tips from these favors was making him about 20 dollars a day, while his father, who worked in a factory, made about $22 a week. By the age of 14, he was being asked to beat kids up. By 16, he was asked to stab people, because it was still a juvenile offense and he wouldn't go to jail. By 18, he was a killer. And in his 20s he was making about $4,000 a week.

Everything got pretty squared away, and we all thought things were just about done, when Johnny decides he needs to elaborate on one story about male divorcees. For some reason, Johnny felt the need to talk about the guys' sexual exploits in the story, but somehow got sidetracked into saying, "I used to ask every girl I met, 'Can I fuck you in the ass? Can I fuck you in the ass?' Then, I went to the doctor and I had to get a prostate exam. The nurse takes this stick about this big (miming something a little thicker and longer than a drinking straw) and shoves it in my ass. And, that thing feels like it's this big (miming something about the size of a tube of Pilsbury cookie dough.) I was like, Jesus! I never asked a girl to fuck in the ass ever again."

This was the end of a two hour meeting. I was assigned to work on a story with Julie (though luckily that partnership was basically disbanded in our last meeting.) I can't say why, but I just don't like that girl. She seems like too much of a kiss ass. No good stories from the last meeting with Johnny, but I'm excited to write the story I've been given, and to see what other ridiculousness comes from having met this guy.