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The Meeting

On Thursday, the Filmmaker did not arrive at class until four o’clock (class starts at two, and the break is at 3:30). After class, I asked him where, specifically, we were meeting on Sunday. This was his extremely specific response: “At Michigan and Chicago.” Okay, it was pretty general, but I knew where it was, how to get there, and what he looked like, so I figured eventually I’d find him.

He said, “I work around there, so I figured we’ll meet there at noon, and then we’ll have lunch and I’ll show you the space. I’ll call you with more details and the specific address.” My response: “Okay.”

So Friday passed with no call from him. Saturday nearly drizzled by with nary a word from the Filmmaker, but he called around 8:30 with more details and the specific address. I was bothered because I was watching my new Gone with the Wind DVD, goddammit.

He said, “Do you know the downtown area pretty well?”

“I know it pretty well,” I said. I did.

“Okay, do you know where the Ralph Lauren Polo is at Michigan and Chicago?”

“Sure,” I said. I didn’t. Still, out of four corners of the intersection, the Ralph Lauren store had to be at one of them. Plus, it was right near the old water tower. It wouldn’t be hard to narrow down.

“Let’s say we meet there at noon. There are a bunch of sandwich shops around there, so we can do donuts or something.”

“Sounds good,” I said. I had never before heard the expression “do donuts” in terms of ingesting food. Usually, it was used to describe spinning a car around in a circle over and over again. That did not seem like an easily accomplished feat in a sandwich shop, so I assumed he meant we would find a sandwich shop that sold donuts, and we would buy and eat said donuts.

He said glibly, “You do do donuts, don’t you?” There was far too much consonance in that question, but I responded affirmatively because the only thing I love to eat more than chocolate is donuts.

“That’s good,” he said. “I think the true sign of whether or not somebody is an American is whether or not they do donuts.”

I realized later that this was a joke. At the time, I thought he was either trying to test whether or not I was an actual American (I do have the roguish good looks and athleticism of an international spy). I thought this was odd, because while donuts are pretty traditional in America, I had been given the impression at some point that they were invented by the Dutch. Dutch people are not Americans.

Here is what I said, as those thoughts shoved my love of Vivien Leigh out of my head: “I agree with that.” This was followed by a stilted laugh; I still wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not.

“Okay,” he said, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okey-dokey,” I said, because I’m somewhat of an enormous dork.

We hung up, and I finished watching my movie.

So this morning, I headed downtown, found the Ralph Lauren store, and I was about fifteen minutes early. The Filmmaker was not there yet, so I went into the store and started browsing. I saw a decent-looking striped shirt that would look good with one of my suits. The shirt was $225, which cost more than both of my suits combined. I decided maybe I should stick with Target, and I went back outside and leaned against the building until the Filmmaker showed up.

He came with his girlfriend, an aesthetically pleasing African-American girl whose name I cannot spell or pronounce. She walked with us for a few blocks, then veered off toward a building I didn’t recognize. We continued east down Chicago Avenue and approached a large, hodge-podgey Gothic sort of building that apparently houses Northwestern University Medical School’s labs. This is where the Filmmaker worked.

He took me up to the sixth floor, showed me his office, which looked basically like my physics professor’s office: messy and full of beakers and chemicals and shit. After the tour of the cramped office, we went up to the fourteenth floor, which is where the dreaded room is. It’s basically an ancient boiler room, full of menacing, low-hanging pipes. It’s so old, though, that the boiler has been removed. An ancient fuse box sat in one corner, a dusty chair in another.

It was exactly as he described it: a dank, concrete room. Dirtier than I expected, smaller than I expected, but still dank and constructed of concrete. There were two windows: one gave access to the roof, and one showed a view of Fairbanks Court.

He explained the premise of the film and showed me his storyboards. It’s essentially a metaphor for the way people simply swallow the shit shoveled at them by the government and news media. I won’t go into more details than that, but it’s a fairly odd thing, even if I agree with the basic message.

After he showed me The Space, we wandered over to Jimmy Johns, which makes sandwiches. I had Jimmy Johns once before: they deliver 24 hours a day in Champaign-Urbana, and when I was staying with my sister, she ordered an enormous Italian sub for me at 3 a.m. I thought that was fascinating, and I briefly wished that I lived in a genu-wine college town.

As we ate, the Filmmaker explained to me what his goal was for the day. He wanted to snap photos of the shots he wanted. He had two reasons for this: (1) it’d be easier to set up the shots he knows he can get once we actually begin shooting, and he’ll know the angles and how to light them and so forth before we start shooting; and (2) he wanted to turn the photos in as his storyboards instead of his drawings, which he thought were crappy (compared to the stick figures and vague shapes I pass off as storyboards, his were still-life renderings). This, I guess, explained why it would take so long, although as it turned out, we were done at about a quarter of three. Two to six, my ass…

Anyway, while we ate and he snapped off photographs, we talked about a lot of shit because we don’t really know each other well at all. He’s totally normal, which surprised me. He doesn’t have this tremendous “Ohmigod, I’m an artist!” attitude or anything terrifying like that. I still don’t understand why he wanted me in his film, but at least I know it won’t be a horrible experience, and I may actually—gasp!—make a lasting, legitimate friendship as a result of this. I don’t think such a feat has ever been accomplished at beautiful Columbia College in Chicago’s rustic South Loop, but I’ve always thought of myself as a social trailblazer.

After all, I was the first in my high school to endorse and utilize a strict policy of nudism.

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