Monday, June 15, 2009


"And if I smile, tell me some bad news before I laugh and act like a fool."

- The Who, Behind Blue Eyes

The other day I was talking on the phone and I caught a glimpse of myself, a reflection in my glossy computer monitor. I was smiling. I wasn't saying smiley things especially (in fact, I was a little pissed off) and seeing how cheerful I appeared, frankly, really freaked me out. I thought "am I one of those people who is always smiling? You know, those people? Because those people freak me out. They're dangerous.

My first job when I moved to Los Angeles was in a six-plex in North Hollywood. The staff was one quarter gang-bangers, one quarter drug addicts, almost 50% nervous white people like myself, and Todd. Todd was a tall, good-looking boy scout kinda guy. Relentlessly cheerful. He was so upbeat all the time that I would try to chip away at him. "Did you know," I'd ask, "that your name is the German word for death?" He had showbiz aspirations and I'd remind him that most screenplays never get financed, let alone made. Todd maintained a cheerful positive attitude. "Sombody's got to make it, why not me?"

One night, a guy on PCP went nuts in the parking lot and had to be subdued by six police officers with nightsticks. "He gave 'em quite a fight" Todd chuckled. Another night the manager, who was slated to testify in an organized crime trial the next day, went next door for a drink and was shot six times in the face. Todd said a little prayer for the manager AND the assailant.

I worked with smiling Todd for about a month, and then one night on his break he went across the street for ice cream. He had a disagreement with the clerk over the change that was due him, and Todd snapped. He threw a chair at the back wall mirror, and had to be dragged off by many of the same police who had gone after PCP guy. Never saw him again.


Which is why I was so relieved to see my reflection an hour ago. It was the expression I think I usually wear, an emotionless blank. Maybe a touch dyspeptic. THAT made me smile.

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