At Night My Eyes Turn Into Videos

By the way that last one-line post wasn't meant to sound clever, paradoxical, Steven Wright-ish or anything like that. (And it didn't.) But just so I know that you know that I know that you know that I wasn't trying to sound clever or paradoxical (and I succeeded). 

(This is one of the many reasons I get so little done.)

Another is that I worry when pulling into the empty driveway of a business to turn around that the person who runs the business might get his/her hopes up that I am coming in (a natural assumption to make) when I'm really just using the driveway to turn around. This happened last week in Hudson, Massachusetts across from Hannaford's Grocery. The thought flashed across my mind--oh no, should I stop the car and go in so they don't feel bad? But then I'd have to buy something, it being an empty store and all. Until I realized it was a Psychic/Astrology place (didn't know they had those in Hudson, Mass) which meant that whoever was inside peering desperately out knew what I was planning to do and would be as non-nonplussed by my pulling out of the driveway without stopping as by the fact that the laws of gravity remained intact.

Where I realized this worrying about others' feelings had gone too far was when I was watching The Social Network later that night and felt distracted by the sandwich that the twins had given the Mark Zuckerberg character because he wasn't eating it and I was afraid they (the twins) would feel bad. The other distraction during the whole movie was this sense of familiarity about the actor who played Mark Zuckerberg (as well as the bizarre inability to separate him from the real Mark Zuckerberg, as if I had not previously watched a movie and lacked even a basic understanding of what a movie is). Finding an actor familiar is obviously not unusual, but it was a familiarity I couldn't place that somehow nagged at me. 

He was so incredibly good, he made the movie, and towards the end I finally thought I had it -- Juno! He was the nerdy boyfriend in Juno. Google: Jesse Eisenberg. Nope--not him. The Squid and the Whale? I thought maybe that was it. I loved that movie, and it's one of the few I've seen in its entirety since Wally's been born. Now whenever I peruse movies at the library or hear about them, instead of the usual categories--seen it/haven't seen it but want to/don't want to--I catalog the ones I've seen by what portion I remained in an upright position. Did I get halfway through? (Rare). 20 minutes? Opening credits? When we watch a movie Alex watches and I sleep. In most cases the part I see doesn't warrant watching the remainder. This past Thanksgiving I even took a deliberate nap (as in, removed myself from the premises) during some God-awful Gerard Depardieu number and then got up at midnight and played The New Yorker game with my cousin Charlie. I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do and proved that I hadn't entirely jumped the shark as a mid-30s SAHM. Although perhaps bragging about taking a nap during a Gerard Depardieu movie and waking up to play a board game at midnight is irrefutable proof that I have, in fact, jumped the shark many times over. My 12-year-old cousin Charlie, on the other hand, like his brother and sister, is irrefutably cool and no matter how brilliant will likely never find himself in the Mark Zuckerberg position of feeling so left out and uncool and having so much to prove. 

Back to the puzzle of why Jesse Eisenberg was irritatingly familiar. I remembered him from The Squid and the Whale, but that didn't solve it, didn't put the nagging--Where do I know him from?--feeling to rest. For nearly a week it slightly gnawed at me every now and then, I mean a really small percentage of my waking hours, but it was there.  Until yesterday when I was crossing 8th Ave at 24th street and had that breakthrough moment of clarity like George Costanza when he remembers having lost his keys in the broad jump on 86th Street. Alex, Wally and I been crossing 8th Ave at 24th street a year or so ago when that same J.E. had crossed in the other direction. Now the weird part is he kind of stopped and looked at us and seemed to be about to say hello, as if he recognized us. 


Up-and-coming actors do not stop you on the street to say hello because *they* vaguely recognize *you*. But just after it happened Alex said, "Why was that guy looking at us like that?" And I said, "Do we know him?" 
"Isn't he an actor?" 
"Is he?" 
"I think so."
"Or is he someone we know that looks like an actor?"
"Or an actor that looks like someone we know?" 
"Why is he acting like knows us?"
"Is he acting or does he know us?"
"Were we acting like we knew him?"
 "Do we know him?" 
"I don't know."

Ping-ponging back and forth like that; the mystery man, meanwhile, long gone. And it was that visual tip-of-the-tongue sensation for the rest of the walk that day until we came upon a poster of Adventureland on the side of one of New York's few remaining phone booths. That solved the puzzle of who the mystery man was, but it didn't explain his behavior. Though we'd only run into him once, not three times like the tall African man the character Jason Schwartzman plays in I Heart Huckabees (a movie I made it nearly halfway through) runs into three times. Perhaps we had both misunderstood his expression. Maybe Jesse Eisenberg had simply at that moment patted his pocket and realized he had dropped his keys, that they were in fact lying in a pothole 62 blocks uptown. That way you stop dead in your tracks when you realize you lost something. Not slow down, or turn around, or move out of the way of other people, just stop. Waiting for a psychic who knows you will move to tell you to keep moving, for fear the laws of gravity collapse.

Yesterday the minute Alex got home I pounced on him and said. "You know the guy who plays Mark Zuckerberg?" But before I even got it out he said, "That's the guy we saw that time--" and before he could get that out I said, "That's him! That's the guy!"

So I could have saved myself a fair amount of time if I had simply called Alex from the town next to Hudson, Mass that night last week after having watched the second half of The Social Network (having fallen asleep halfway through on the first but in the intervening day having forgotten to google Jesse Eisenberg) and said, "You know the guy who plays Mark Zuckerberg?" 

And what's weird is I had a sort of similar incident once with Eric Gaffney from Sebadoh. A few years ago I was crossing that part of Park Ave that turns into Union Square East when I saw someone sort of weirdly familiar crossing the other way and by the time I got close to him I realized who it was and said, "Sebadoh." He put out his hand with a kind of bewildered look and said, "That's how I know you?" I said, "Well that's how I know you." He told me about his show the next night at Southpaw and I went with my friend Lauren. I'm trying to remember if he said hello after the show or not. I don't think he did. 

Of course you don't even know people you supposedly you know let alone people you think you know because you've seen them play people you don't know in movies you don't remember because you fell asleep partway through. And you certainly don't know people just because they think they know you or because they read your blog and know that you know that they know that you spend an inordinate amount of time letting people know how little you know and prefer you just get back to posting inventive recipes for Bok Choy. And of course most of my celebrity run ins aren't like this. Most are more like Jude Law buying avocados in Belsize Park paying us absolutely no mind at all, even though Jeannine and I were right there and Monica's hand was on an adjacent avocado. Paying us even less mind than that Hudson, Mass psychic peering out from the narrow window of her dark purple room.

Maybe I spent too much time playing pretend as a child. Maybe I spend too much time making up stories as an adult. Maybe I've been woken up from the middle of dreams so many times I no longer have the ability to separate reality from fantasy. Maybe it's that old truth being stranger than fiction magnified by the truth of lives so mediated and media-saturated we can no longer tell the two apart. It's Sean Parker saying we're going to live our lives on the internet now. It's my niece who, at three, described her dreams this way: "At night my eyes turn into videos." It's the fact that in the daytime, our lives turn into them too, ones that get immediately posted on Facebook. It's little kids looking up from brand-new toys to smile for cameras and then shouting, "Let me see it." See what? See themselves one second before. 

The problem is that if you don't get enough sleep, and maybe also as you get older (and start qualifying a nap during a Gerard Depardieu movie a a cool thing to do) and unless you live in a cave without TV or movies or billboards or the internet, it's getting harder and harder to remember what you saw and what you thought you saw and what you dreamed and what you imagined and what flickered across the screen before you fell asleep and what flickered across the videos screens behind your eyes before you woke up and what a psychic told you would happen and what you hoped would happen and who looks famous and who's famous but looks like they're not and who's acting and who's being played and who went to the same college and who transferred out and who has a twin and who looks like someone who would have a twin and who just looks really similar to her sister and what you wanted to say and what you thought you meant and what you were going to tell someone and what story you already bored them with many times and who was in your band and who tried out and who just kind of always hung around the edges of gigs and who oddly showed up at Pianos (Michael Imperioli) but who you mistook for Alex's friend (Dario) and what you read about déjà vu in The Future of Psychic Sciences and what you thought was déjà vu but which you had actually already seen but even at the time it was happening you had asked yourself--is this really happening?

And a note to famous people who aren't all that famous*: you're confusing matters when you go around treating not-famous people who don't (intentionally) play anyone other than themselves for a living as if they are people you might know.

(No longer applies to J.E. who is pretty huge right now.)


  1. i love this post, as usual. And the odd thing is that i read it right after watching avatar.

  2. thank you eli. I so appreciate you saying that.
    that's funny timing! which one of you read the post?

  3. Can't tell anymore. Also odd given our conversation of trying to not associate yourself with criticism our work receives. I need an avatar for that!

  4. I know. Maybe we could invent them.

  5. BTW it's funny you don't have an avatar for Eli.

  6. I didn't read the whole post. I got distracted by the fact that a) you don't keep a computer close enough to you during movies so that you can google anyone that you can't place at the moment of not placing them so as to avoid being distracted during the rest of the movie, and b) you fell asleep during The Social Network.

    I fall asleep during movies all the time, so I get that, but during The Social Network?? The story of a clearly asperger's savant who not only created a multi-BILLION dollar company from his dorm room, but who created a company BASED ON RELATIONSHIPS? I don't understand how you could fall asleep during that!! The first scene alone had me hooked. Plus Jesse Eisenberg (whom I remember mostly from Zombieland) was awesome.

  7. Well at least I did watch the 2nd half; I usually don't. Does that count for anything?
    Never thought of googling during a movie, but I suppose that would have made sense (although wouldn't have resolved anything in this case). I found it immensely intriguing, but not a great movie overall. Some things were outstanding -- the score, certain scenes, and definitely J.E. who made the portrayal so complex, I thought, so relatable even while being so inscrutable and, in most people's view, an "asshole". Who know what actually went on. Have to agree with MZ that having an idea is not the same as being able to execute it. The way you describe it "The story of a clearly asperger's savant..." certainly makes it sound incredible.

  8. I'm not sure anyone has said he's asperger's, but watching that opening scene between him and his not-really-girlfriend, well it seemed pretty clear to me.


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