Sunday, September 07, 2008


Heaven knows I’m a big believer in helping those less fortunate than myself. From my be-tuxed appearance at every socially important fundraising event in our desert town-

- to my support of various causes including our local “Fresh Off The Bus Fund”, where young Marines visiting from the nearby military base are offered companionship during their long, lonely nights on leave-

- (I was one of the first in our area to display a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker on the back of my car, along with my telephone number in case the “$100.00” offer next to it needed clarification), I think it is safe to say that I have spilled more than my fair share of the milk of human kindness.

But I swear to you, dear reader, Mother-Bloody-Teresa HERSELF would have been hard pressed to summon up enough compassion to keep from taking a baseball bat to the begging riff raff lining the streets of Vancouver this summer.

And were she attempting, as I currently am, to make TWO thriller movies -

- at the same time as fending off almost continuous inquiries into her financial status – as in “do you have any spare change?” - by the odiferous and shambling psychopaths wandering the sidewalks of this otherwise beautiful coastal city, we quite probably would have heard a little less about her legendary altruism and a little more about her right uppercut.

Ensconced in a downtown hotel – The Century Plaza, famed as the hotel in the movie “Best In Show” -

- as well as home to the Number One Spa in all of Vancouver 22 times in a row, as they are quick to tell you (not that I, with my dewey fresh skin need any special care in particular, but isn’t it nice to know it’s only a short elevator ride away?) – I have taken advantage of the fact that this is a ‘walking’ city, and have made myself quite at home in the various boites and bistros dotting the urban landscape. But it astonishes me that in such a remarkably civilized city, the vast army of bedroll-toting, resolutely unemployed panhandlers who have set up shop on every street corner, harassing passersby for money in between long draws on their marihuana cigarettes barely raises an eyebrow.

There is even a sort of defacto approval given to this lifestyle by the local media, most obviously in the left-leaning weekly tabloid THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT -

- which, with the earnestness of a high school newspaper, and a level of writing roughly the same, regularly decries any attempts to clean up the streets of this vaguely criminal element with shouts of “Fascist State!” and, my favorite, “Free The Homeless!” which seems to me not just redundant but to have already happened. If they were any freer, they’d be sharing my hotel room.

Granted every society throughout history has had its vagabonds; there is something rather romantic about the image of the Unfettered Man, wandering the earth in search of answers to a question only he can hear.

But the modern breed of hobo seems less interested in philosophical inquiry and more concerned with staying stoned while laying flat out on the same sewer grate day after day.

This behavior hardly seems conducive to any form of intellectual pursuit, let alone being a potential breeding ground for the next Jack Kerouac.

Certainly I am aware that many of our homeless brethren have mental health issues; some estimates put it at ninety percent, most of these having stopped taking the appropriate pharmaceutical treatments for their illnesses and simply self-medicating with whatever is at hand. Liquor, for some; Grade D heroin smuggled into this port city within children’s toys or the orifices of drug-addicted fashion models for others. The local government health organization here has even gone so far as to create a “safe” site for these unfortunates to inject this toxic waste into their bloodstreams, providing a clean facility and fresh hypodermic needles and then defending the practice as being the lesser of two evils. The mind boggles. I’m all for encouraging young people to take up a hobby, but I think the idea of a clubhouse for junkies is stretching the point.

Perhaps an even LESSER evil would be to substitute, Folger’s-coffee-like, the user’s heroin for whatever ACTUAL medication he was SUPPOSED to have been taking in the first place.
A trifle deceptive perhaps, but I’ll bet if the local homeless schizophrenic population suddenly stopped seeing giant earthworms crawling up their legs there’d be considerably less trouble for everyone.

Now this may all sound rather cavalier, but I assure you, dear reader, I am not a heartless man.

The loyal amongst you will recall that when that dreadful Tsunami hit Thailand a few years back-

- I was one of the first people on a plane to Beeg Kok, the region hardest hit by the massive wave, to help out in whatever way I could. In my case, this meant adopting eighteen-year-old twin Thai boys and bringing them back to 801 where they could grow and flourish under my protective care.

And even though that situation ended rather awkwardly, with ridiculous accusations of pornographic filmmaking and so forth (those were ART films, thank you, and both Lei and Mee were paid as professional models!), I have continued to keep my eyes open for ways I can help my fellow human beings.

Until now, that is. From this point on, ALL bets are off. I’ve been ROBBED.

With our current production of “RED TORRENT” in full swing, and with all the usual problems plaguing this production, including the absurdly cold weather here in Vancouver this summer –

- and me packing nothing heavier than a stunning collection of linen sweaters from Brooks Brothers – the last thing I needed was to have my cell phone stolen right out from under my nose.

I suppose I should have been paying more attention to what was going on around me, but frankly after a long day of dealing with soggy actors, rather un-special “special effects” and several on camera “picture vehicles”-

- which, in traditional picture vehicle style, ran perfectly well until they were needed on camera, at which point they immediately broke down -

- I could barely string together the words to order dinner.

Well, that, and the fact that the culprit, some transient drifter, was completely indistinguishable from every other Vancouverite walking the street that rainy night.

The whole city wears fleece and rain gear, practically year round, so it’s all but impossible to tell the homeless from the homeowner, especially given the locals’ complete lack of fashion sense. This is one of the cities, after all, which first championed the wearing of those horrid “Crocs”, the creators of which should burn in Style Hell for all Eternity.

But anyway, there I was, sitting at the bar of a local, open air restaurant -

- enjoying a simple meal of pasta putenesca –

- “streetwalker pasta”, so named because it was (and possibly still is) the favored dish of Italy’s Ladies of the Evening -

- when what appeared to be a friendly local walked in and, sidling up to the counter, began to engage me in pleasant small talk while waiting for his table. I should have sensed something was amiss, of course; in spite of an utterly puzzling reputation for politesse, Canadians are, as a rule, a standoffish bunch who wouldn’t engage with a complete stranger if his hair was on fire.

But this fellow just chatted away amiably, asking about the weather, my choice of wine, what the specials of the night were – all the while leaning against the bar and, in hindsight, perilously close to my Blackberry sitting not one foot from my plate. It was only after he left, and I thought to myself “gee, perhaps I’ve been wrong about the locals, maybe they really ARE friendly after all?” that I reached for my phone to make a call and discovered the dastardly crime.

The restaurant owner was horrified of course – not horrified enough to “comp” my meal mind you, nor even offer a free dessert for my trouble – and promised to keep an eye out for the offender. But quite honestly, with ten days having passed since the crime, and me having been without a cell phone for all that time, I’ve discovered something interesting; I don’t particularly MISS it.

Especially given that I’ve had to do a full rewrite on our next movie, DEATH AMONG FRIENDS, to get it into production shape; the lack of distraction has been quite welcome, really, and I’ve found to my surprise that I can live quite well without a continuous stream of information at my fingertips – a bit better, perhaps.

My larger concern has been the huge database hidden inside the Blackberry’s memory card, including the private numbers of enough B list stars to cast an entire season of “The New Love Boat”.

Immediately after the theft I cancelled the cell phone account, and sent out a mass e-mail to everybody on my calling list warning them of possible annoyances; nobody has had any problems, so perhaps the storm has passed without incident.

Still, one never knows. I don’t anticipate any trouble, given that the criminal mind tends toward cash flow and the phone had probably been sold before the thief made it to the corner, but I don’t particularly relish the idea of Shannen Doherty receiving a late night phone call from some homeless guy asking her for change.

But as I said, I am a big believer in helping those less fortunate than myself, so perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing after all; I imagine just one invective-laced tirade from the currently hot-again TV queen would be enough to make even the most dedicated substance abusing thief rethink his criminal ways.

Hell, maybe he’d even give me back my phone?


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