What Are You Going to Do?

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

People, I think you'll agree, can be awfully mean.

Once, the day after I got the news that my show was cancelled, I was sitting quietly at the Peet's Coffee, working on my enemies list, when an old friend pulled up a chair beside me.

"What are you going to do?" he asked.

I mumbled something about trying again, about having a few ideas I wanted to pursue, about still having two more years left on my studio deal in any case. He just shrugged.

"Yeah, okay. Hope it works out for you."

This was a friend, of course. Someone I'd worked with many times before –- and someone I've worked with since. I know I said that I was editing and rearranging my enemies list –- I'm a professional writer; I have an enemies list -– but getting on that list requires a lot more active, animated evil than just pulling up a chair and saying undermining things with a mirthless smile on your face.

And the truth is, the enemies list is really a hypothetical thing –- a revenge fantasy of the mind -– and not something I'll ever actually put into action, because the people on it –- and you know who you are -– are people I'm going to have to work with, probably, in the future, if I have one. In fact, I can think of three separate people who have been on that list for years, even though subsequent to their appearance on it, I've worked, laughed, kissed the cheek of, and been photographed smiling with, all of them in one way or another.

So yeah, I guess I'm a hypocrite. Or, maybe, a realist. Although I've never been able to figure out the difference. Or if there is a difference.

But in any case, the list isn't a to-do list really, it's about the making of the list, the therapeutic action of writing down the name, and lately, the email address, of the target -– decorating the entry with skulls-and-crossbones, retracing the name in heavy ballpoint until the paper curls under the pressure. You know. Healthy stuff.

I say this because in about a week or so, if current trends and rumors turn out to be true -– and that's an "if," but it doesn't seem like a big "if" –- we're all going to be going back to work -– whatever that means -– and the Writers Strike of '07-'08 is going to be behind us, to be trotted out by old greys 10 or 15 or 20 years from now, when the WGA needs to go out again –- you know, in long speeches to the young writers, "I remember back on aught seven when CAA passed out churros to the writers on the picket line."

"What's CAA?" the young writers will ask.

"That was a big talent agency," we'll reply. "The one that Google bought."

But that's in the distant future. In the near future, next week or so, we're all going to have to remember that the enemies lists we've all been listing and embroidering and retracing are, to use the CIA term, "inoperative."

If this thing is settled, the only way we're actually going to get back to work, back to making movies and TV shows and back to negotiating, sending, and more importantly, cashing paychecks, is if we fold up the list and put it away. For the past four months, the mode has been: escalate. Now, I think, it's time to de-escalate.

We all said some stuff we probably shouldn't -– we all probably got all up in our anger or resentment or outrage –- all of us, I know I did; I know a lot of studio executives did; I know some writers who did – and maybe the wisest thing to do, when it's over, when the votes are cast, is to declare a general enemies list amnesty and get back to work on the scripts and the paychecks.

Put it this way: everything you hated about the business on October 31, 2007 you're still going to hate about this business on March 1, 2008, so you may as well turn the page, smooth the paper, and start working on a fresh, clean, new enemies list to retrace and embroider and obsess about. I mean, that's the healthy thing.

That's it for this week. Next week, limbo. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long