Thursday, December 21, 2006

It is hard out here

My Latest Writing Adventure

Somehow I got hired by “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” creator Larry David to be part of a patchwork contingent of celebrities, comedy writers (clearly I was the designated unknown comedy writer) and scientists to travel to a remote tropical island off South America - which I cannot name due to a State Department issued hush order - to study and document a report on global warming.

Everyone was very excited at first but the trip was hastily put together and nobody had a clear idea what they were supposed to do. As it was funded by HBO, there was a film crew tagging along to document our journey so the entire event took on the look and feel of a beyond-chaotic-Robert –Altman movie shoot.

The problem, as we soon discovered, was that Larry David’s love of improv and spontaneity did wonders on his show, but it did not translate into planning a successful scientific expedition. The scientists were woefully under-equipped and uniformed and the wild and flamboyant behavior of the celebrities just furthered the air of confusion.

At first, however, the exhibition seemed charmed as we started in four old propeller planes from Mexico feeling very “CNN” and “National Geographic”-like in our Ray Ban aviator glasses, Khaki shorts, Tommy Bahama shirts and Timberline hiking boots. And then, once on the plane, we all received celebrity goody bags to reward our participation.

After snooping around, I noticed that not all the goody bags were created equal. The celebrity goody bags were far more expensive and lavish consisting of exotic skin creams, perfumes and rather expensive and diamond encrusted jewelry.

My gift bag consisted of a cheesy, frail “I’m with stupid” (arrow) t-shirt you’d find at a Tijuana tourist trap along with the kind of gifts you might get in a fast food kids meal. OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't good.

Of course the celebrities were highly upset as they all believed everyone else’s gift bag was better than theirs. (Tara Reid specifically threw a huge hissy-fit over the what-she-considered inferior aroma therapy candles)

When we landed, we were shown to our quarters which were nothing more than a ramshackle collection of third world shacks, huts and hovels. Suddenly we were not feeling as brave and adventurous when faced with the dire prospect of surviving with no Hi Def TVs, no air conditioning and, gulp, no mini bars. But the discovery that the main hotel had a well-stocked bar lifted everyone’s spirits considerably, so-to-speak.

In short, we proceded to get hammered.

After a wild party, in which a very nice, but inebriated, Lindsay Lohen sent me in search of a cup of ice to sooth her unexplainably chafed nipples, we were suddenly rounded up for a scientific excursion. Emboldened by the belief we were going to make a real difference in the environment - not to mention emboldened by the vast consumption of rum and tequila - we staggered over to and piled into the rusty jeeps and trucks and tore off in a cloud of dust to research a lava field.

When we got to this big black rocky field filled with giant ant-hill-like mini volcanoes spewing steam, the scientists – armed with nothing more than white coats and clipboards – stuck their hands over the steam, insightfully proclaiming that they were hot; this brilliant discovery of clear evidence of global warming sent us clamoring and cheering back to the jeeps and the hotel bar. So far, mission accomplished.

On the bumpy dirt road back to the village, one of the B-list actresses stopped to adopt a small pretty brown island child, on camera of course, despite the visible objections in angry Spanish of the child’s parents.

What soon becomes clear is that this entire escapade was fueled solely by the arrogance of celebrity. Just because they were well-intentioned and rich and famous, they thought that, merely by being there, they could create a meaningful contribution to, not just informing the world of global warming, but actually finding a solution to fix it.

It was soon clear, however, that this group, left to their own devices, couldn’t solve a puzzle in “Highlights” magazine.

The next day, Larry David himself takes us on what-would-be the final scientific excursion out into a bay to measure a melting glacier. (A small glacier off a tropical island would seem to be more proof of global freezing than global warming but nobody seemed to care)

As L.D. as we called him, takes off in a Klondike raft, it becomes apparent that he didn’t know how to steer the boat and it sank one-hundred-yards off shore. So, at the urging of Ted Danson, we had to swim out in the icy blue water to fish him out.

As the inevitable poor planning and under preparation began to become apparent and unravel this once-noble exhibition, a feel of a paranoid “Heart-of-Darkness” like revolt started to arise. First people commandeered the best accommodations by force - as well as the good goody bags - but then it started to escalate into a rising panic to flee the area entirely.

Other odd events transpired including my ill-conceived and ill-prepared participation in an all-comers track meet. This left me so exhausted, I over-slept by an entire day only to wake to discover that the majority of the exhibition had left in a rush, abandoning a straggling handful of us in the lurch.

With no camera crew.

The hotel bar bill became an immediate and growing concern of mine.

Those of us who had been abandoned had our belongings heaped into a pile of luggage and tropical clothes on the dirty cheap tile floor of the hotel lobby. We sifted through the pile searching for our clothes, wallets and passports.

“I have simply got to become better organized when I travel,” I scolded myself out loud.

Just then automatic gun fire echoed in the cobblestone streets just outside the hotel scaring the living hell out of us. That was when we learned the reason for our crew’s hasty exit: the island was under a violent military coup.


A tan, confident, chiseled bald Bruce-Willis-look-alike with well-capped teeth saddled over to me and slyly informed me that he knew how to stop this coup and he wanted to enlist me to go with him. Greatly relieved and flattered, I simply knew this guy had to be a former SEAL or CIA agent, I quickly agreed. He covertly snuck a shiny handgun in my pants pocket so, somewhat questionably armed, we boldly skulked off.

Utilizing comical evasive running techniques (Think: “The In-Laws” “Serpentine, Shel”) we made our way, house by house, casa-by-casa, to the dirty-white stucco main government building across the street which, we had just been informed by frightened and hidden locals, had been overrun by the blood-thirsty guerrilla fighters.

“So why do they call them gorilla fighters?” asked my CIA/SEAL partner.


“I mean, is it because they are found in the jungles? I mean, what do big apes have to do with anything?”

Needless to say, this did not increase my confidence in the qualifications of this fighting hero, so,
after we broke and climbed through a back window, I enquired as to my covert friend’s espionage training.

“So, are you secret service? FBI? Special forces? What?”

“Oh, I’m not in the military, I’m an actor.” Sensing my silent disappointment, he added;

“But I tried out for a role as a spy for a TV pilot once.”

“Oh, well that makes me feel so much better about going into combat. Did you get the part?”

“Nahh, that frickin’ Pauly Shore knows too many damn people in the business.”

We peered into the first office we saw, guns poised by our ears, movie-style. There, on his knees, in front of a recently blown and-still-smoldering safe was a sweaty, charcoal-blacked-faced guerilla soldier, menacing machine gun at-the-ready on the floor beside him.

The soldier was greedily stuffing fistfuls of wadded local currency from the safe into his pockets. Pointing our guns at him, signaling non-verbally like we’ve seen in the movies, my wanna-be actor/wanna-be-spy and I jumped in to the room and screamed together in quivering broken Spanish:

“Halt. No bueno quesadilla. Tu hermana is muy feo. Raise your hands, I mean, abras los hands, er, tu manos, I mean. Pronto. Sabes?”

Without bothering to turn back and look at us, the annoyed soldier cleared his throat, loudly scratched his butt and calmly, in perfect English, said:

“Go crap in your hands.”

We decided that this guy wasn’t important after all, so we continued or search for the coup’s leader.

Despite our collective lack of experience at over-turning a military coup, we boldly broke in to the office labeled El Presidente, kicking the door open, granted, on the fifth try, again, guns brandished.

The only thing in the big dingy office was a huge empty metal desk, a broken ceiling fan and a tiny middle-aged janitor sweeping up papers on the floor.

In broken English the janitor explained that, yes, there was a coup, but the guerillas decided that, since our film crew had left, that, without any publicity, this impoverished island country wasn’t really worth the trouble of taking over, so they had simply left and gone home.

“I just can’t catch a goddamn break,” hissed my bitterly disappointed and now dispondent actor/ partner.

Then, as we stood there, to my horror, he then slowly drew the gun barrel to his head, placed the barrel inside his mouth and then, despite my screaming "No!" he did the unimaginable: he took a huge chomp out of the apparently edible weapon, chewing loudly and slowly.


"Uh huh", he said sucking on and picking at his teeth.

He was right. Hard to bite into, but a really chewy and tasty liquorice flavor.

Later I found passage on a steamy, dusty broken-down passenger train headed north eventually back through Mexico to San Diego. How the train managed to negotiate from the island over the ocean is not addressed by the unspoken genius of my dream.

And then I woke up.

That’s it, no more microwave bean and cheese burritos after Eleven O’Clock.

But I like this as a pilot for HBO. Sort of a “Galaxy Quest” meets “Salvador” meets “Get Smart.”
Let’s do lunch. (No, Mark Snake, I have not lost my mind)