Homeless Guy

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

So a few mornings ago, I'm walking my dog along Ocean Front Walk in Venice. It's an early weekday morning, and I'll be honest: I'm not looking my best. You know, it's in the morning. I'm walking the dog. I'm not, you know, pitching. So I have on a pair of shorts that may be tattered, and a t-shirt that may have been used, recently, to mop up some kind of spill. But I repeat – I'm just walking the dog.

There are people, I know, who live in this town, who won't go out to get the paper in anything less than full pancake, but that's not me.

Here's how bad I looked. As I'm walking along, I notice that there's a shoot going on in front of me. Some show has commandeered a part of Venice Beach, and they're setting up a shot. So I slip by them, but as I do, an AD wearing a headset stops me. I think he's telling me to wait a second so they can finish the shot, but what he's doing is talking into a headset and describing my dog.

A second later, another AD bounds up to me.

"Hi," he says. "We're doing a show here, and we just love your dog and we're wondering if maybe we could use her in the shot we're doing."

"Um, no thank you," I say.

"We'd pay you," he says, helpfully, "somewhere around...." And then I notice him registering my outfit -– the shorts, the dirty t-shirt, the cheap flip flops. "...somewhere around two hundred bucks?"

"I'm just too busy," I say.

He looks at me again, trying to figure out how a person dressed like me could be described as "busy."

"Well, you wouldn't have to do anything. And neither would your dog, really. It's a show where a little kid is looking out at the ocean, and the director saw you and your puppy walking by, and he thinks it'll make the shot better if the little boy has a puppy with him. And we'll pay you."

"I just don't have the time today," I say.

Then the AD talks into the headset. "He says he's busy." Pause. "I know, but that's what he's saying." Pause. "I told him." Pause. "Okay."

He turns to me. "The director says to tell you that we'll pay you in cash, and if you like, you can have lunch."

So they think I'm homeless. And proud.

"Who's the director?" I ask, trying to sound like someone who actually isn't off his meds. The AD mentions someone I don't know. Which is not unusual, as I don't know many people anyway. He points over to a small canopy about two hundred yards away, where the director is sitting in front of a couple of playback monitors. The director waves at me.

"Oh, is that your video village?" I ask, trying to use the lingo and convey to the AD that, you know, if I know the lingo I'm probably just a person in the business who just happens to look like a derelict.

"C'mon, man," says the AD with a kind of no-nonsense sympathy. "It's two hundred bucks. I mean, maybe you can buy dog food with it or something?"

"Look," I say, "I'm actually pressed for time here. I have an important meeting at the studio later today. And I have a call scheduled with my attorney. And other important high-level events to attend to."

The AD looks sadly at me as I walk away. I hear him talking into his headset. "I said that." Pause. "I know." Pause. "What do you want me to do? Follow him to the shelter?"

Now, the odd thing about this story is that I didn't really have anything going on that day, anything so pressing that I couldn't have stuck around there for a few hours, had some lunch, collected my scratch, and moved on. But I think what kept me from doing that wasn't pride, really – I mean, good Lord, I'm a writer, in television, pride really isn't really a factor here – but it was more about the fact that I AM a writer, I AM in the business, and I'm probably a few off pitches and a writer's strike away from actually needing that two hundred bucks, especially in cash. So it wasn't really that the AD didn't know who I was, it was that he knew all too well. He saw a derelict, delusional guy dressed in rags, walking along Venice Beach. In fact, I am a television writer and producer. But those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll meet the Larrys. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long