Extra Good Special Things

My daughter knows nuthin' from nuthin', yet she writes beautifully!

Testimonial from Wm. P. Creger, MD



Originally posted: January 1, 2001

As my home state of California descends into rolling bedlam, I sympathize with the desperation brought on by a few hours without electricity. It is well to remember, however, that others have gone through this trial and survived. I was living in Bogotá, Colombia in the early 1990s, with my husband, our new baby and about 7 million other people. An acute drought left the hydroelectric power plants literally high and dry. The city was blacked out eight hours a day, six days a week –we were usually spared on Sundays. As time went on, people adapted and learned to get by with less. Life went on.

Six years ago we left the Bay Area and moved east. In that time, California seems to have gained a lot of poundage, the unsightly bulge hanging over its cinched-in borders. It leaves me to wonder if my beloved California can ever regain its sleek proportions of yesteryear. Does it have the willpower to reduce? Could it listen to advice?

Here, transcribed for the screen (an appropriate medium for California), is a scene that took place between Colombia and California on a recent  morning as they discussed the Golden State’s delicate problem. To fully enter into the spirit of the thing, it is helpful to picture Benicio Del Toro as Colombia, with California being played by Kevin Spacey - though it’s probably safe to assume they’re both already under contract elsewhere.

Fade in.

Split screen. Colombia, on the right, is a dark-haired, ruggedly handsome man with a careworn face and a disarming smile. He is dressed in a double-breasted suit and has his elbows resting on the desk of his modest office. His smoky voice is softly accented, skilled in the art of persuasion.  A full ashtray sits next to him and the sounds of traffic rise up from the street below. It is gray and drizzling out the tinted window behind him.

 On the left side of the screen, California, in silk pajamas, is hidden under the disheveled sheets of a king-sized bed. His room is light and modern, but shows signs of the previous night’s boozy festivities. When we finally see him, he is good-looking, though gone a little to seed with his excesses. His suntanned skin glows with age-defying crème, and his teeth are very white. Beyond the bed, there is a spectacular view of the Pacific ocean beneath a cloudless sky. A breeze sifts in through an open window, lazily fingering the diaphanous curtains. 

 The phone is ringing.


(fumbling for the handset from under the sheets)



 Levántate, vago! Qué ha habido? Good morning to you! Hey, I just had to call.  I hear that you’re going through a really tough time right now. 



Who the hell is this? You sound familiar…  Is this Mexico? How’d you get past my service?


No, it’s Colombia. I gave you my card at that fundraising dinner a couple of weeks ago? You said we should have coffee?



Oh, right… God, what time is it? It’s still dark out ..oh …wait…

(gingerly flips up his sleep mask and squints)

… God damn it, asshole, aren’t you three or four hours ahead? What is it, like, six? 


Well, it’s 2 PM here, which makes it 11 AM your time. Sorry. Thought you’d be awake, you know, with the crisis and all. How you doing? 


How the hell do you think I’m doing? My fridge was off for an hour last night, my gelato got slushy, and today I’m faced with resetting my Malibu lights and my alarm system! I’m dead, that’s how I’m doing. Life is over and I’m rotting in my grave. Now can I get back to sleep? 


Listen, it’s none of my business, but I think it’s high time I offered you a little advice. After all, when it comes to this energy rationing stuff, I have a lot more experience than you. Funny how the tables turn, isn’t it! I mean, usually it’s you and the rest of the States offering me advice about my drug problem, my social unrest, my corruption… 


 (face in his pillow)

Oh puh-lease… 


…and now it’s my turn. Don’t be a fool - take it. I’m older than you and even though I don’t pull down your kind of money, I can help. I know a thing or two about sacrifice. 


(sitting up)

Oh, get real! You have no idea what I’m going through. This is California, for chrissake! Not some little back-water piss-ant country nobody can even spell right – no offense. Do you have any idea what it means for me not to have electricity? I swear to God, the world as we know it will end! My life? Over! Your life? Meaningless! Just pull the plug on every slack-jawed parasite that depends on me for his movies, his dot com-estibles and his next flavor of the month! 



I’ll try to find a reason to go on. You know, a little bird told me you’ve been passing the hat among your neighbors. Canada’s pissed – says you only call her when you want something. Listen: There are things I can tell you to get you get through this crisis. A few years ago I went through months of rationing, eight and ten hours a day without elec- 


HOLD IT! Don’t even go there. What is this –- my-suffering-is-worse-than-your-suffering day? OK, let’s say you lose power for whatever – eight, ten, twelve hours. So the tortillas get made by hand and the cock fights close down early. Big deal. No one even notices. When I lose power even for an hour or two, it’s the dark ages all over again. Good-bye Mr. MicroChips. I define state-of-the-art, my backward friend. Let me put it this way -- did you get on the front page of every major newspaper in this country? Well I did, buddy. I was headlines, and you know why? Cuz people are scared, that’s why. California without power is like a day without fucking sunshine.


 (a pause)

I don’t make much in the way of tortillas, and cock fighting has been illegal here for years, if I’m not mistaken.

(He lights a cigarette and inhales deeply)

So what is your plan? Eight hours, if it ever comes to that, is a long time for people to be without electricity. You might want to start educating them about things like preparedness and conservation, making the most of the hours they do have power and staying occupied when they don’t.

(grins knowingly)

You’re gonna have a hell of a baby boom starting in about nine months, my horny friend. Also, you’ll need to push oil lamps and candles -- say it’s aromatherapy or something –- you guys go for that, don’t you? Your people will have to get out the sweaters in your northern half-- and they’ll have to drop that thermostat even lower. Knowing your clientele, you’ll also have to remind them to back up their files. While you’re at it, since they’re not gonna have television for long stretches, encourage them to read books in the evenin-


What are you on about? I’m not listening to a word you’re saying, and don’t repeat it. Not to anyone. Look, I know you mean well and all, but you’re a little confused. It’ll never get that bad here. I’m California, remember? Hollywood? LA? Silicon Valley? I don’t get screwed – if there’s any screwing to be done around here, I’ll be doing it, thank you very much.

(there is a moments pause)

 Hey, you smoking? Cigarettes? Christ, I can hear it! I can actually hear your lungs crackling. I’d rip that damn thing out of your mouth and snuff it right into your Berber if I was there. Disgusting habit.


 And another thing; I’m no stranger to suffering, you smug bastard. Ever heard of a little natural phenomenon called earthquakes?


Oh, I’ve heard something about them. Volcanoes, too, if you remember.


There you go again! Trying to out-do me! “Oh boo-hoo! My earthquakes are more devastating than yours! My people get buried under mud and ash and lava from my volcanic eruptions! My hurricanes kick your hurricane’s butts! My police force is more corrupt than your police force!”


I never said that.


(continuing, on a roll)

 …and to top it all off you blame me and all the other states for your little embarrassment!


“Oh, but if demand for drugs in the United States wasn’t so rampant, we could stop production of them!” Boo-friggin’-hoo.  I’m California. I do drugs. Get over it.


 (smiles sadly and stubs out his cigarette)

You know they’re talking about relaxing your pollution standards? That’s what your new popularly elected president wants to do. Looks like he’s got a Texas-sized grudge against you. Watch your back, hermano. It’s gonna be a long summer.


Summer? Are you crazy? Who’s even thinking about summer? Just get me power for the weekend. I got a whole lot of parties up and down and side to side with killer surf and an awesome snow pack. I don’t intend for anything to mess with that.  


(lights another cigarette and stands up)

Just thought you might want advice. Guess I stand corrected. Look, maybe I’d better hang up. Go back to sleep. I can see you’re not  really awake yet. Besides, my time’s up. I have a crisis or two to deal with on this end.


Again with the underhanded digs! You just waggle it in my face, don’t you? What is it this time? Floods? Locusts? Miss Colombia got an itch?


Cuidado, maestro. You know Señorita Colombia’s off limits. No, it’s a little matter of my civil unrest – but I’m sure you’ll learn all about that in good time. Don’t worry your pretty little head for now.


Screw you.


Same to you, friend. And wish me luck.  These people here are nuts.



I know. Here, too.



My people are crazier than your people.


Don’t start.


OK, OK. I’ll check in again soon. Call if you need anything.


 (putting his sleep mask back over his eyes and settling in)

Right. You’ll be the first to know. You and my therapist. And put that goddamn cigarette out. Pollution standards, my ass. Disgusting.


Hey, Cal?


 (already inert, buried under the covers again)



Forgive me for asking, but I think I know you well enough now to say this-- could you at least turn down your heat and close those windows? Maybe switch off the Bang & Olufsson when you leave the house?


 (phone slipping from his hand as the snores begin)


Colombia slowly hangs up as we--

Fade to black

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