You know there’s nothing like the sound of a wood chipper in the morning. Never thought I’d grow so accustomed to it. Of course, never thought I’d be sitting outside, next to a runway, working as a “Bird Suppression Expert” either. Yup, I didn’t expect my life to end up like this. I was a normal man with a good career, great friends, a modest apartment, and a fast, yet practical car, but then one day everything changed.
Who could have cursed me? Was it the gypsy I cut off while driving on the 405? Was my mixologist miffed about an insufficient tip? Or did my last OkCupid date really go that bad? I still don’t know.
It started simply and innocently, as things often do. One day after returning home from work, I noticed a procession of ants marching across my kitchen floor. This in itself was not unusual. A bachelor with an aversion to washing dishes was likely to see ant hordes on a fairly regular basis. But this procession of insects was different. Instead of going for the remnants of Thai food in the sink, or the last bits of cream & sugar in a mug, these creatures were climbing my fridge.
My first thought, in horror, was that they’d found my carefully collected collection of condiments… but the trail lead further up, to my freezer, where the weather stripping had parted just enough to allow the army of ants access inside.
Had my freezer malfunctioned? Where there once existed organic, free-trade, single source vanilla ice cream would I now find a creamy lake upon which the ants would be feasting? Had they burrowed into my free range bison? Pillaged my truffle pilaf?
These fears vanished in an instant as I opened the door and discovered a fully functioning freezer. But, if there was no melted food, what were the ants doing in the freezer?
Were they on some sort quest, searching for gold in their Yukon? Perhaps a charismatic leader was taking them to the promised land? Or maybe, like the Rebels on Hoth, this was the only place that their enemies wouldn’t be able to find them?
Whatever the case, they had died in droves. So I took out my vacuum and removed the pile of black carcasses. What a crazy fluke I thought. But, when I returned home from work the next day, I was surprised to find a new collection of the faithful.
This continued for a week. Every day, more dead ants.
Then as abruptly as it started, the onslaught ended. Had the ants realized only doom awaited them inside? Had a coup de tat disposed their leader? Or had they simply all killed themselves? I laughed at these stupid creatives with their insatiable death wish. How foolish they were!
In hindsight, I should have seen this a sign of things to come, but I was too wrapped up in myself to head what must have been a gypsy’s warning!
For several months I had a reprieve, but this break from death wasn’t to last. The next unlucky victims headed not into the frozen wasteland of my freezer but into the barren desert of my automobile.
It was a warm October day when I first noticed the smell of death in my car.
You know, they say you can tell a lot about a person by the state of their automobile, and mine was always pristine. Not only did I keep it clean, but I wouldn’t even let certain things inside it, like McDonald’s food, or gypsies. Not to brag or anything, just to say that if the car smelled like anything, it would’ve been manliness.
So, right away I knew something was wrong. Had a passenger left food inside? Had I forgotten one of my triple shot soy mochas? My nose wrinkled as I searched for the offending odor, but nothing. My car was clean, as always. Perhaps the smell was coming from outsider? My neighbor had probably left something rotting in the carport.
The next day, after a coffee meeting with a potential client, I entered my sun-baked car and was distressed that not only was the smell still there, but it was considerably worse. The hope of a “carport solution” evaporated. As I drove home, with the windows down, I considered the situation. The most logical explanation was that a poor varmint had crawled into the engine bay, been crunched to death, then slowly baked by the heat of the motor. That would explain why the smell got worse after driving, right?
Arriving home, I popped the hood, then used my nose like an olfactorial dowsing rod. I carefully sniffed around the engine, but the smell neither grew stronger or weaker. Perplexed I stood back, had I imagined it? I opened the driver’s door and the waft of death assured me that there was most certainly something dead nearby.
I grimaced and prepared to undertake a similar dowsing on the interior. Unpleasant odors are an interesting thing. First off, as the name suggests, they are unpleasant, but something about them has a kind of “traffic accident” quality. Just like we can’t help and look at collisions, we can’t help but enjoy the experience of a horrible odor. We might not like the smell, but the experience is interesting.
Or is it just me? It’s just me? Ok, well forget it then. Anyhooooo.
As best I could tell the odor was coming from behind the driver’s seat. I remembered hearing something on “Car Talk” about mice crawling into heater vents. So, fashioning a hanger into a crude hook, I went mouse fishing. In the heat vent below the seat, I cast back and forth hoping to land a mouse corpse. But no luck.
Having exhausted my technical abilities I realized it was time to seek professional help.
A short time later my car was at the repair shop. The next day, after they’d taken the entire interior out of the car, they’d discovered the source of the smell… and it wasn’t a lone mouse. No, it was an entire mouse colony! Droves of the small, fury, and formerly cute creatures had found their way into my car, burrowed under the carpet, and died.
It had happened, again. Death was following me.
But this was just a coincidence. What else could it be? I couldn’t be making these creatures commit suicide, right? That would be preposterous…
As the smell of death left my car, so did this persecution mania. In time, I forgot about the death march of ants and the mass starvation of mice. Once again, the animal deaths in my life were relegated to local, sustainably grown, organic meats. And of course, sushi. Which although I never inquired, was certainly the product of hardworking, sixth generation, small business owner fishermen and their lifetime fishmonger friends.
Life was good.
But then, just like before, everything would change, again.
The end began one pleasant spring evening. I was returning home from a hard day of video editing where we hoped to convince viewers that they needed, deserved, and in fact, could not live without a better toaster oven. Important, work that would no doubt directly improve the lives of people the world over. Who doesn’t like tuna melts, right?
As I unlocked the door, thoughts of dinner were over taken by a deep rooted sense of dread. You know how you feel when your best friend asks you to appear on Ricki Lake and you’re pretty certain it’s really going to end up involving an ex-lover and someone’s new “Baby Momma?” Well, that’s pretty much exactly how I felt.
The door swung open and there in front of me… hanging from my chin-up bar… was a monkey. And when I say hanging, I mean “hanging”… like from the gallows.
I dropped my vintage leather attaché and ran over to it. The poor creature had a belt wrapped tightly around its neck and it didn’t appear to be breathing. I loosened the noose and lifted the limp little monkey out. Quickly I placed it on the ground and listened for a heart beat. There was none.
My first aid training kicked in. One-two-three-four, I gently compressed its small chest. Then, with a large breath I filled its lungs. More compressions. Another breath.
Defeated, I leaned back against the wall and lit a cigarette. As I pulled the sweet smoke into my lungs I contemplated my own mortality. If this monkey could die in my apartment, what did that mean for me? I took another drag. Was life so short? Was every moment of our time here on Earth a gift? I raised the cigarette to my lips and pulled deeply. Or did anything mean anything at all? Wasn’t this a symbol of the futility of existence? As the nicotine filled my blood, I pondered these greater questions of life.
Or at least I would have if I smoked. Since I don’t, I just stared into space.
I had practical concerns; namely disposing of a dead monkey and deciding on dinner. Since the monkey wasn’t going anywhere, I covered it with a pillow case. Since I was hungry, I ordered Thai food. Overall, the situation called for whiskey, so I got some.
The next morning, after a night of fitful dreams, a sudden sound awoke me with a start. As my eyes came into focus I saw something swinging from the chin-up bar. It was another monkey!!! I leapt out of bed. Fell. Got up. And rushed over to it – but alas, I was too late!
Why had another monkey committed suicide in my apartment?
The question gave me a splitting headache. Or maybe it was the previous night’s whiskey. Either way, I needed two Tylenols and some strong coffee. Shortly after, coffee in hand, I considered the situation. I had two dead monkeys and no alibi.
Would I need an alibi? I took another sip of coffee. Dark Roast. So smooth. Single Origin. So supportive of small indigenous farmers. I took another sip. I couldn’t have a gypsy curse, I was a good person! Surely the coffee I drank earned me some good anti-gypsy karma!
There’s a saying I had learned in ‘Nam. Or rather, that I learned reading about ‘Nam. “Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is enemy action.” I still might be able to plead that I was a victim of coincidence if I could end this now. And if there was anything my liberal arts education had taught me to do, it was how to “end things now.” Or even “before they started” if you asked my last OkCupid date.
First thing was first, I needed to build a “Scare-Monkey.” But what would frighten them? Naturally, I turned to Google. It didn’t take long to find that the dearly departed were in fact Capuchins and their main predator was the Harpy Eagle. I printed out a rather fierce looking Harpy face and taped it to the chin-up bar.
By this time I was late for work. Further measures would have to wait.
Taking a trash bag, I gently placed the two creatures inside. As I began to leave, inspiration struck. My remaining belts! Just in case the Scare-Monkey didn’t work, it was probably safer to have them.
At the dumpster, I said a quick word and tossed the bag in. Those cute little monkeys deserved better, but my main concern had already shifted to my client lunch. Thai food was out of the question. Perhaps I could talk the client into ribs? No, probably not. Salads would be the best bet. I could get the organic, pork belly frizze salad. Yes, that would be a good compromise.
With the Capuchin corpses out of my mind, I joined my fellow Angelenos as we slowly made our way across the city, alone in our metal boxes.
That evening, after a long day making movie magic, and a happy hour, that may have been too happy had the LAPD inquired how happy it was, I returned home. As I walked up from the carport, my scotch filled mind decided the best course of action at this juncture was to text message a “friend” to see if she wanted to come over and “watch some Netflix.” Luckily, before I hit send, I opened the door… and once again was greeted by a pair of monkey eyes. Dead monkey eyes.
Hanging from my chin-up bar, a vintage tie around its neck, was another Capuchin!!!
Those damn dirty apes had gone too far! It was one thing to Harry Houdini their way into my apartment. It was another thing to Mrs. Harry Houdini their way through my carefully collected tie collection! This meant war. Or at least, it meant taking down the chin-up bar. My biceps, lats, and abs would have to make the temporary sacrifice.
Because this was only a temporary situation, right? I mean, how many free-range suicidal monkeys could there be in Los Angeles? The fact that there were at least three was enough to drive a man to drink.
Several whiskeys later, with the chin-up bar on the floor, belts around my waist, and ties tied to my arms, I crawled into bed with hopes of a better tomorrow.
But the next day things would get worse, again.
I awoke to find a monkey with its head in the oven. I rushed over and grabbed it roughly. “Bad Monkey!” I scolded as I tossed it out the door. Turning back, I saw another monkey about to drop my toaster over into a sink full of water! Shockingly, the irony was not lost to me.
Charging over I unplugged the cord before the monkey could flip its switch. But, before I could catch my breath, there was a noise in the bathroom. I ran to it and found a Capuchin slicing itself with a razor! I slapped it across the face and grabbed the blade.
Oh no, the other monkey! I ran back just in time to see the monkey in front of my vintage, American made, electric fan. It gave me a big, toothy grin and snickered. Then it jammed both arms into the spinning metal blades!
As the monkey’s blood sprayed over me, my Apple products, and the walls covered in the artwork of my many talented and passionate artist friends I sank to the floor. What had I done to deserve this curse??
Helplessly I watched as the door opened and more monkeys entered to do their dirty deeds. I didn’t care. The fight had gone out of me. It was at that moment the “Game of Thrones” theme began to play from my iPhone. I answered and was greeted by a breathy female voice. It was Kristi from the Phi Tappa Sigma Sorority. Apparently I’d won a Facebook contest and they were here to clean my apartment.
“Good god no!” I screamed into the phone. Hanging up, I hurriedly packed a bag. Ants, mice, monkeys, now co-eds? I had to find that gypsy and make amends!
The phone rang again and if by reflex, I answered. Pouting, Kristi upped the ante to include a car wash. In the background her sorority sisters giggled. Tempted by the offer, I paused to consider, then noticed my reflection in the mirror.
Is it just me, or is there something sobering about seeing yourself covered in blood and monkey fur?
The image of sudsy nubiles vanished. Grabbing my bag, I made a beeline for my car. It was actually a little dirty… Maybe just a quick wash. No! I must not give in, I must make my escape. The key turned and my car roared to life. Jamming it into gear I fishtailed into the street.
Kristi and her sisters desperately gave chase. But the Priuses that their daddies’ had bought them weren’t going to cut this mustard. Those battery assisted go-carts definitely weren’t going to catch 2.5L of turbo powered combustion!
I was free. Or at least, I was on the road. I thought If I could just keep moving, I’d be safe. Speeding onto the 101 freeway I left Los Angeles.
Four years, thousands of voles, mice, possum, armadillos, squirrels, and the occasional hobo later, I finally found the gypsy woman I’d cut off on the 405. But no amount of begging or bribes would make her lift the curse. Turns out it wasn’t her’s to begin with. Maybe it was that OkCupid date after all? At any rate, she gave me some words of advice, simply “A blessin’ an’ a curse be two sides o’ tha same coin. So flip it, yo.”
Hang on, need to clean out the wood chipper.
Okay, I’m back. Every once in a while it gets gunked up from all the birds flying into it. A good cleaning keeps it running smooth and “cruelty free.” You know, when I started, I didn’t have to clean it myself. I used to call the facilities people, but after Raul ran in front of that 747, they’ve all steered clear of me. So now I handle all my own maintenance. It’s not the most glamorous gig, but the skies around the airport have never been more bird free, and hey, it’s a dying.
Get it, cause it’s my “living,” but things keep–
My journey to become a filmmaker had a unique beginning – I grew up in a home without a TV. My father, an English major, and my Mother, a working musician, believed there were better ways for a child to be entertained. So I read, explored the woods, and played with LEGOs. Exercising my imagination, I learned to tell my own stories.
In school, I excelled in math and science, entering college 2 years early. But it was a TV production class that inspired me the most and led me to pursue a career in filmmaking.
With this goal in mind, I moved to San Francisco where I studied Cinema and Digital Art. In 3 years I made over 20 short films and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Then it was on to my current home, Los Angeles. Since arriving I’ve worked a variety of film industry jobs, primarily as an editor. Editing has made me a stronger filmmaker while allowing me the freedom and funds to pursue my own creative projects. Currently I’m transitioning to working full time as a writer and director.