This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I have a writer friend who has a Blackberry -- you know, one of those hand-held phone and email things -- and every day at 2pm or so, he gets an email from his Yahoo Finance account that totals up the value of his various stock portfolios at that day's market close.
He keeps it in his pocket, on vibrate, but you always know when the email comes in because his face suddenly goes slack and expressionless, and no matter what he's doing -- pitching a joke, working out a story, eating an apple, whatever -- he stops, removes the Blackberry from his pocket, scrolls through the email, works the calculator function on the Blackberry for a few moments, then looks up.
"Well;," he'll say, "I; guess I gotta keep working. Where was I?"
And he'll resume whatever it was he was in the middle of.
Once, during a rewrite, he was pitching a perfect fix for the second act:
"And; then she can come in from the garage with an entirely new hairstyle. Then when he comes in from the front door and sees her, he can take a moment, and then say..."
And suddenly his expression went slack. Eyes glazed over. Robotically, he took out his Blackberry, checked his figures, the briefest flicker of misery crossed his face... and then, "Well;, I guess I gotta keep working."
And he finished his pitch.
I once asked him what the calculations were all about. I mean, the email gives him his total portfolio's worth, so, why bother with the calculator?
"I; need to factor in the house," he said quietly. "And; certain interest bearing accounts. That sort of thing."
What number was he looking for? I asked.
"What; you're looking for," he said, "is; the number that allows you to say" -- and here he lapsed into a common Anglo-Saxon phrase that begins with an "F;" and ends with a loud "You;!" -- to everyone. It's called -- and here he used the phrase again -- money. Blank You Money. And you need to know precisely when you've hit that number because you need to get out of this business and away from these people as soon -- and I really can't emphasize this enough -- as soon as you can."
"And; what will happen when you get the email that tells you that you have...that certain kind of money?"
"Aloha;, my friend. Liquidate everything. House, car, portfolio. And just...take off. No more run-throughs, no more network notes, no more casting sessions, no more nothing. Aloha. Aloha on a steel guitar."
"What; about your wife and kids?"
"They; can come if they want."
A couple of months ago, I heard that my friend was working on a show with a notoriously difficult female star. She's apparently a real tantrum thrower. A shouter, a screamer, and, worse, a hysterical crying jagger.
At some point during one of her on-set tirades, the gossip had it, he was trying to reason with her, when his face suddenly went slack. No expression.
The story goes that he removed his Blackberry, checked the email, worked the calculator, quietly excused himself, and they could hear, just outside the sound stage, a car door opening, closing, a car starting, and then-a car, driving away.
When I heard the story, I called him immediately on his cell phone.
"Congratulations;!" I said. "You;'ve got a certain kind of money."
"Well;, not quite. I'm about three years short, actually."
"So;, you don't have enough? Then why did you drive off?"
"Because; I suddenly realized that I'll never really get that certain kind of money. You never really reach it. You think you need X and then you say, well, maybe X plus 2, and then it's X plus 10, and then you're standing on Stage 25 with a crazy lady screaming nonsense in your face and you think to yourself, if I drive a Ford Festiva and the kids go to public school and the wife learns to like Wal-Mart and we move to Albany, Missouri...and then, suddenly, everything is okay."
"Albany;'s a nice town, actually. Kind of humid in the summer. Good house prices."
"Send; me a link," I say. And then I headed off to a run-through of my own.
Well, that's it for this week. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.