Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
When I’m asked for copies of plays I’ve written for Too Much Light I’m usually happy to oblige, but I avoid asking for money. Instead, I give out assignments. It’s a game I picked up from Neo-Futurists’ founder Greg Allen, and I find it immensely more satisfying than the $5 bill I might otherwise overcharge for an emailed PDF.
This past summer, I wrote and performed a play titled Dictionary Dardai Maintains His Standards, a response to the death of Encyclopedia Brown creator Donald J. Sobol and a platform document from the Texas Republican Party. A gentleman named Myles, visiting Chicago from Los Angeles, saw the play and asked for a copy, which I sent him along with the following assignment:
What I am asking of you is this, since you are out in Los Angeles, the setting of so much great detective fiction. Please find and take a photo of the office door of a private investigator. Black-and-white preferable, and ideally it’s the most perfect name for a private detective you can find in LA…the sort of name that makes you say, “Well of COURSE they’re a PI, with a name like that.” Then just send me a copy of that photo, either digital or a hard copy, and we’ll call it even.
Months later, I received notice from Myles that he was embarking on his assignment. Over the course of the next two days, I also received the following communications, the first directly from Myles:
Things took a dark turn. I may be in over my head. Stand by for details.
And the second from an email address I didn’t recognize:
Tell your nosy friend not to go snooping around where he’s not wanted, if he knows what’s good for him. Or things could get “explosive.”
– Someone who means business
While I will say that I presumed this was a good-natured prank on Myles’ part, there was a small voice in my head that left room for the possibility that I had unwittingly led him into something sinister out in a world I knew only from the fiction about what it used to be in the mid-twentieth century. And it was another 24 hours before I heard another thing from him, so the small voice only grew louder and louder, evolving from conjecture to fret to concern to adrenaline droplet. The day before Thanksgiving, I finally received this message:
My search for aptronym private eyes was a wild goose chase. The best was Eric Hunt of Hunt Investigations in Orange County. I went there: it’s a Mailboxes Etc. No door. So I went to the best building in downtown LA that I know: the Petroleum Building. It was built in the 20’s and feels like a place where Raymond Chandler would have worn through shoe leather pacing up and down the halls and smoking like a chimney while waiting for his lit agent or just to get lit. See attached photo. That font alone has got to settle my account. In fact, when you read this email, I’d like you to imagine it is all typed in that same classic art deco font…
Thanks for the invitation to adventure. If you’re ever in LA let’s go get a milkshake.
And the series of photos below.
It’s not that I don’t understand the manufactured importance of money. But at some point my life’s going to end, and in the moments before that I’m not going to remember how and when I made money and what I spent it on later.
This, though. This I’m going to remember, and this I’m going to want to remember.
There’s a Rocky Horror fan out there who still owes me a photograph from a late-night showing of as many people as she can find dressed as Riff Raff. But even if I never get that photo, I enjoy knowing that this is what I asked for, more than I’d enjoy the coffee or sandwich I could have bought with cash compensation.
Thanks, Myles. Hope to take you up on that milkshake someday.
Current Music: eels, “Going To Your Funeral [Part 1]”