Thursday, August 19, 2004

He Just Wouldn't Shut Up

I run sprints around Larchmont Field, circling tennis players and an endless pickup soccer game like a panting shark with tiny man-boobs. My sprints may have gotten me out of manssiere territory, but there is work to do yet. Nevertheless, the sprints burn off the frustration caused by nine solid hours of online job-hunting.

The grass has been too wet to mow for six weeks, a byproduct of the biblical downpours Norfolk gets six days a week this summer. Empty 40s and roaches flicked at midnight by teens fooling nobody are standard flotsam in that green sea of neglect.

The book I found last week was special.

If movies and television have taught me anything, it’s that it should have been a portal to an alternate universe, or at least a cannibal killer’s recipe book/sex manual. The reality was just as weird, but altogether unscripted. It didn’t change my life at all, and apart from giving me another weird story to tell, the whole experience just sort of pissed me off.

Several pages of the day planner had been completely drawn over with full-color Batman comics. The drawing style was angular and harsh, clearly the work of an aggressive and frustrated personality. Instead of words, the dialogue bubbles contained large dollar amounts. The Batmobile was a Humvee, and the Jokers’ henchwomen were unusually buff.

I flipped past the Batman comics and found the calendar portion—it was jam-packed with scrawled notes for meetings and mysterious “sessions” with a guy named Klaus.

I called the number embossed in the inside front cover, and if you’ve read this far, you probably guessed it already: It was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s day planner.

His assistant said “My God, he’s been like, sooooo grumpy since he lost that thing! I’ll send him over to pick it up right away.”

“Isn’t he busy? Shouldn’t I just mail it in?”

“Nah,” his assistant said. I could be wrong, but I swear I heard a nail file in the background. “He needs something to do today. What’s your address? Cool, He’ll be right there,” she said, then hung up on me before I even got to say that I lived in Virginia.

About an hour later, I heard a low rumble outside. I recognized the sleek black Hummer from the comics in Arnie’s planner, sans bat-symbol.

“Hey man, good to see you! Hop in!” Arnie enthused. “Can I take you to lunch? Is there a good Mexican place around here?”

The guy talked nonstop all through lunch. It was kind of amazing the way he hoovered up the nachos and salsa without stopping conversation for a second. All I could do was agree with him, and he was off again, talking about movies, the upcoming election, all kinds of stuff. It was like I wasn’t even there.

He was especially obsessed with getting some new “gear.” He kept saying he needed some “gear,” like a little too much, and winking at me knowingly. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but I suggested we go to the mall. They have all kinds of stuff in there. Maybe he could find his “gear.”

Nobody recognized him at all. It was so bizarre, just walking around the mall with Arnold freaking Schwarzenegger, watching him try on sweatpants and just about every stupid shoe at Foot Locker. He just jabbered the whole time, and I kind of quit listening.

It was like when you’re seeing a band you really like, but they’re just playing forever. You really want to go home and just go to sleep, but you paid good money for that ticket. You’re going to wrest every iota of life experience out of the situation in a grim determination to have fun later through memory, even if it sucks now.

While Arnie was sucking on an Orange Julius (his second of the day!!) I got a chance to ask him who Klaus was. He coughed and feigned a brainfreeze. He’s not that great an actor in the first place, but I think anyone can bullshit a brainfreeze. For real. After he pretended to regain his composure, I asked him again, all innocent, “Who’s Klaus?”

“He, uh, he’s, ahh, my trainer. Yeah.”

Finally, I just snapped. “For fuck's sake, man, aren’t you supposed to be the Governor of California? I’m unemployed, but how the fuck do you have the time to kick it at the mall on a Tuesday?”

His answer: “I outsource.”

That’s all he had to say for himself, and I am not lying.


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