The Octopus got in from the Left Coast last night, but the mask was gone. Normally he keeps the same face on both sides of the continent, not so much for continuity, but just to make sure he doesn't let down his bluff and get taken out of the game by a cheap shot. It's easy to get suckered in the marketplace. Even the squeezes are into cold cocking just for cold cocking's sake these days. It's called preventive economics, and it's all the rage in the city is what they say in the status is what matters derby.

Not that The Octopus is into idle chatter for idle chatter's sake, but if you wanna do business you've got to keep your Third Ear open so you can file all the seemingly non essential information in your computer, for future use. The woods, afterall, are full of Infomaniacs.

Who nailed who or what Vampire sucked the blood out before it could congeal on the dotted line is almost as important as What Element can be had for the price of his jones before his johnson goes south for the duration? Or what superstar's corpse will sell him into next lifetime servitude for an out-front slice of the pre-laundered pie? These are important considerations if you want to make a marriage, because it's become apparent in the infancy of the 00s that the only existing net left in the game is sinking in the swamps of Northern Jersey; And no matter what they say, anyway you slice it, there are no points, not even in heaven.

Me and The Octopus are working on a different kind of Contract. We don't know what the fine print for either of us is yet, which is why we talk everyday, whether he's in El-A, The Apple or Kathmandu. He brought me into the game a few years earlier so he could get a different perspective than the one he was locked into. As for me, I was offered the usual spec colored carrot, but when I turned it down he painted it a paler shade of green, and I had to go for it or go down for the count.
It wasn't a hard decision, not with The Octopus as my benefactor. He's a walking People's Page, a man with a hand in every pie being baked in the biz, though not necessarily a personal interest. That's nose bleed even for him. He tried it once and ended up wobbling down the primrose path to Veggiehood, where he sat at the feet of a white coated Reichian shaman for two years before he decided the only reason not to check out was the vested interest he held in Desolation Row. It was almost as solid as Holiday Inn stock, and a lot less guilt inducing. Not something you crawl away from, if you're smart.

Not that The Octopus claims to be smart. But he has managed to master operating in the 12th House. That is to say, the haze of Neptune covers his back and shrouds his moves. Keeps him from getting it between the blades. Though that doesn't protect him from burnout.

And right now he's burned out. Crashing from everything short of re-runs of Gilligan's Island. The covers are drawn up around his neck. He can't drink, he can't smoke, he can't have sex, he can't eat red meat, white sugar or green vegetables. He can't go downtown to The Odeon or uptown to Elaine's, he's given up his right to party, no more boogie for The Octopus until he's better again. All his deals are on hold.

As soon as he recharges though, he's on his way down to the Yucatan to eat the fabled worm, then off to Rio to doctor a script even sicker than he is, take in some of the famous atmosphere, and get ready to leave his cult stigma in the dust. It's time to write his Under The Volcano, it's time to be taken seriously by the glitteratti.

Though why The Octopus wants to be taken seriously, he's not sure. For his soul it's the worst thing he can think of, yet, yet, when push comes to shove, if that ain't the raison d'etre there ain't one.

"How's your deal?" he asks. "You didn't let it go down, did you?"

I didn't let it go down, but it did anyway. I was offered by Clause C, when I couldn't put Sam Shepard and my first draft together. It saves The Rent 30Gs on the short side, and a hundred and thirty on the long. He can always get another writer, anyone can. The whole package is right in front of him now.

Though I know I've been had, it doesn't tempt me to eat the blue steel sundae just yet.. That's the MO for The Biz. And besides, I've already moved into another deal: writing a script, the second re-make of Hemingway's The Killers, this time, knock wood, with DeNiro and Duvall as the hit men, Cher in the Angie Dickinson role, and get this, Jack picking up where Ronald Reagan left off. Everything's smooth, except I can't get my new Rent on the phone, and the message on his machine is two weeks old and clearly inoperative by now.

The Octopus lets out a deep sigh. Though he turned me on to the angle six months earlier, he has no memory of the geometry, and certainly no idea that I was the trick in the barrel. He's truly embarrassed. He doesn't know how to say this, but there's nothing but soft gray matter left upstairs, and Knock-Knock, nobody is home.

After two features to The Rent's credit, with another in the can, he acquires a Mortgage. That is to say, a backer who not only covers a House (one deal), but a Hotel (multiple projects), which is somewhere along the line where I come into the picture. I'm working on deal three of a five-shot parlay that looks like a lock to change everybody's name from mud to gold.

Then suddenly for no reason at all, The Mortgage forecloses on The Rent, pulls the carpet on the-road-to-hell-paved-with-good-intentions out from under him, and in W.B. Yeats' immortal words, "The Centre cannot hold."

The Rent's squeeze starts running him through a wringer to come up with new scratch. She's screaming, threatening, clipping what's left of the bluff he's been running for years, until the vultures swoop down from his mind into his stomach, and he sees the sharks circling his carcass.

With no warning at all, his body locks! His jaw locks! He literally turns stiff as a board. They come in the white coats and take him away to Bellevue, on a slab. Then shoot him up with Demerol for three days, until his jaw unlocks.

Naturally The Octopus was there. Straight from the airport. He always keeps his bags packed, it's the closest he can come to philosophy.

"Talk to me," he says to The Rent.

The Rent looks up at him blankly, glazed. He doesn't know where he is, why he is, but the very fact that he is is too much to comprehend. "The horror," he gurgles, "the horror. . ."

I can picture The Octopus on the other end of the line, his eyes rolling back in his head. It's not a pretty picture, but it's always in the script.

"The horror," yeah, "the horror. . ."

(c) -2003 Mike Golden


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