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06 June 2010

The End of the World, Coming Soon to CBS

Last night, I ran out to Von's to satisfy an uncommon yet acute ice cream craving. The supermarket was busy, but not more than usual for a Sunday evening in LA. After a silent battle with some vest-and-Bumpit-wearing bitch who was talking on her cell while standing in front of an open freezer of Ben & Jerry's ("Oh my God, I am so jealous. Of course the one time I am not there he, like, comes by!"), I grabbed what I needed and made for the register.

BAM! It hits me-what would happen if The Apocalypse struck right now? Trapped in Von's on Los Feliz Blvd., with...who? For me, the cast is always the most important element of any story, so let's take stock of the room:

GERTIE, the elderly German woman in front of me, wearing a crisp beige pantsuit, huge dark glasses, and few accessories, who immediately pointed out (in her thick accent) the wet spot on the floor when I got in line behind her.

COHLY, an African-American teenager with a sour teenager face buying a small bottle of aspirin.

RINALDO, a clean cut assistant manager-type ringing us all up at register number 5.

JUANA, an equally clean cut manager-type whose hair, outfit, and cologne match Rinaldo's pace for pace. Yes, she is a lesbian.

SETH, a poorly dressed homo gripping a quickly melting pint of "Marzipan Madness".

This would be the band of heroes in the cataclysmic drama playing out in my head. But the grouping of these people has to come about due to a particular strand of Armageddon. Something virus and/or zombie-related would be best, though any set of circumstances that completely cut each of us off from our loved ones would act as an appropriate facilitator of sitcom-like camaraderie.

Unfortunately, this premise, while initially entertaining, doesn't have any staying power the more I mull over it. The problem with a genre scenario like this one is that I haven't had the dubious luxury of experiencing anything close to the end of the world, and don't have any kind of cold hard facts to start filling in the holes once the story gets going. Instead, I fall back on types and films and all of the tripe that I'm bombarded with about what human nature really is and becomes when faced with the prospect of extinction. And all of this information handed to me on the authority of some schmucky producer/director/exec.

Why do I want to make Gertie the tough-as-nails grandma who rallies the troops when the zombies break through the Dannon Light and Fit end cap that we've jury rigged in front of the glass doors? How come Juana has to be the one holding the flashlight/gun/fire extinguisher whenever there is a crisis situation? Surely Rinaldo and I could figure it out. I'm pretty sure I heard somewhere that the manly knowledge exchange rate is two gays for every one lesbian. And it's not a sure thing that Cohly will wander off to brood about his broken family life just as another earthquake hits and creates a gaping, magma-spewing chasm in the center of the store.

Maybe Gertie will just be a confused old woman who wishes she were back in Stuttgart. And Rinaldo will run into the men's room and refuse to come out. Maybe Juana will cry. Yes, a lesbian that cries. She is still a human being. Maybe she cries a lot. Maybe she does needlepoint. Maybe Cohly is part of his marching band and will be worried about whether or not his trombone is safe in his locker.

Maybe I would just keep trying to call 911 over and over again. Or my loved ones. Who would I call first? Who would I love the most in that instant? I don't know. I don't want to know. Just like I don't want to know what Gertie or Rinaldo or Juana or Cohly or the rest of them would do. I'd much rather see them predictably plod along, doing and saying what is expected of them-empty, vapid, overly-dramatic declarative sentences that advance the plot.

Because, maybe we'd all just die. Or be rescued. Or just walk home amidst the wreckage. Or loot the store. Or ignore each other until help arrived. Like we are doing now. Like we do everyday.

I don't even feel like ice cream anymore.