Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

After Hours, F/X, Goodfellas

All I’ve done this weekend is consumed movies and consumed food. Well, I’ve done a bit more than that; I actually broke down and did the whole stereo rewiring project I have had on the back burner for years. It involved a lot of dusting and me crawling around to figure out where wires should go. I retired my Kenwood 6+1 CD player that I bought in 1994, since I usually only listen to CDs on my digitally-linked DVD player. And I got my computer hooked up to the stereo now, so I can run xmms on continuous shuffle. The line level is a little weird, and I keep readjusting it at the mixer level, xmms level, receiver level, etc. to try to get it right. Sometimes it’s perfect, and then an MP3 sounds louder and muddy and I have to dick with the volume. I’m not really into that, but it’s cool to have 5000-some songs on shuffle.

Movies… I’m getting a lot of stuff in for xmas, so I’ve been trying to watch stuff and get ideas for writing. The other night was After Hours, which I have only seen once, and that was five or six years ago. It’s funny because it all takes place a few blocks south of where I work, but even though they did film there, the place looks like a closed-off movie set more than it does look like New York. I mean, there are some 80s stereotype things in there, like the bohemian artist’s loft (which honestly looks like my office building before a good cleaning, a corporate paintjob, and a cube farm installation) and the guy working as a word processor. No, he’s not working WITH a word processor, he IS a word processor, typing archaic commands on an old greenscreen mainframe terminal. After Hours is one of those films that formed my only opinions about living and working in Manhattan before I actually came here, and it’s almost nostalgic and strange to revisit that old opinion and see how different it is from the reality of being here.

There are two other things that are captured in After Hours that I took away from this recent viewing. One was the way it captured the chase that crumbles in your hands to but still keeps you on your feet. I used to feel this back in college, the blind date that falls apart but leaves you at a bar where you run into someone else and then follow them to a party, where you end up talking to someone else and going to a different bar and then running into other friends and so on and so forth. It’s the kind of thing that only happens when you’re around other people who look around the usual social convention and chase the same thing just like you. I mean, now, dating and socializing is such an alien thing to me, and it’s such a formal constraint. When I was in college, I’d hit on someone in the student union, I’d ask a couple people working in a store a totally random question and then end up in a long conversation that would turn into a years-long friendship. Paul (in the movie) ends up in the apartment of a waitress after knowing her for ten seconds, and they’re listening to Monkees records and she’s drawing a sketch of him. It seems like in college, weird shit like that was happening all the time, ending up in a dorm room at three in the morning talking to someone about the Civil War or going to Germany to paint or whatever. And I miss that now. Maybe I should write about it – there are bits of it in Summer Rain, but I wish I could write more like that.

And speaking of wishing and writing, I love the way that After Hours flows. It’s the granddaddy of Clerks and the “I wasn’t even supposed to be here today!”, with this guy looking at his watch and knowing that in the morning, he’s gotta be at the desk doing his word processing, and he just wants to put head to pillow, but with someone as beautiful as Rosanna Arquette kissing you, you want to keep going after it. Screw sleep, you can catch up when you die! And of course, she’s insane and giving more mixed signals than a bad traffic light, but… man, she is beautiful! The whole film unwinds like that, mostly in real-time but with the tension of getting the fuck home and the drama of the million related coincidences, that it works so well. I would love to write a book like that.

Last night I saw F/X, a very underrated suspense movie that I used to love back in high school. I rented the hell out of that thing back in the day, but I haven’t seen it in years. I never thought about it, but it’s another New York Eighties movie, with lots of cops in the old cop cars and huge loft apartments and “dirty” streets that are far cleaner than when they actually clean the streets here. What was funny is how new the movie felt to me, although I remembered so many of the little nuances, especially Jerry Orbach’s acting.

Today, as I waited for my shipment from FreshDirect, I watched Goodfellas for the New York trifecta. I saw most of it recently on TV, but of course, Joe Pesci was talking about “Mother melons” or whatever else they dubbed over his cursing. I liked the movie, although I’m somewhat reluctant over it, because every jerkoff in my neighborhood worships it like it’s the new fucking testament, and they all think they are fucking gangsters and can double-park everywhere and act like they own the damn neighborhood. Even though the moral of the story is that if you’re in the mafia, you’re basically fucked, the people here don’t really see that. But it’s entertaining to see Pesci go off, and Ray Liotta’s a great actor in this kind of role.

The thing I got out of Goodfellas was the “last day of the wiseguy,” the last sequence where Liotta is driving all over, getting coke, trying to sell guns, making the meat sauce, looking for helicopters, and so on. I love how that sequence is cut together, how it makes you feel like you are him, paranoid on coke and rushing through a futile set of obstacles. I would love to try that in a book somehow, although I really need to think about it.

And then I saw Real Genius tonight, which was good, but it made me absolutely wish I could date that girl Jordan in the movie. I went out on a date once with a girl who looked almost exactly like her, but she was really shy and the whole thing didn’t work out. I don’t know, I had this strange idea that maybe she did like me from how she acted, and I cooked her dinner once, but she was a vegetarian and I had to scramble to do everything right, and I don’t know what happened. This was all the semester before Summer Rain starts and I guess I forgot about her in the wake of everything else going on, but then years later she suddenly popped in my head again, but by then I was 2500 miles away and couldn’t even remember her name let alone how to get in touch with her.

Speaking of which, I was reading old paper journals last night. Man, that’s always fucked up. That’s like starting a story with “Okay, I smoked a bunch of PCP first” – there’s really no way it can get better. I don’t know, I guess I at least feel better about money, reading myself bitch about cash back in 1996. Sometimes now I’m a little tight in the wallet, but I guess I’m more above water than under.

Okay, I’m debating Mean Streets or trying to get some writing done, so I should go flip a coin or something.