A Village Inn is set entirely in an East Village apartment and is - with the exception of Buddhist imagery - realistic in form. The apartment is typically decorated - except for a Buddha statue which the main character salvaged from a temple fire in Vietnam. What occurred in the "village inn" in Vietnam haunts the main character many years later, even while he again attempts to connect with people in his present "village inn."
There is in the play an abundance of humor and, above all, great conflict and tension - especially in sexual relationships. These relationships are drawn through dialogue which shows how these people feel about and relate to one another. The tension mounts as the play tracks the deterioration of the main character - Paul Wilson - as he struggles with his conscience and his sanity.
He is aided in his struggle by an unlikely source - a Korean War vet and a devout Christian. Paul's relationship with his roommates and others builds to a climax in a struggle over a gun and in his own personal struggle to again genuinely connect with other people; as only then can his wounds heal.
A Village Inn is a one-set, two-act play, realistic in style with the exception of a vivid emerald green glow from a Buddha statue on a living room shelf at the opening and closing of each act. The glow adds heightened realism to the play and suggests many things - the power of belief, the inevitability of one's karma, even compassion. The play combines sensuality with spirituality which is in keeping with many aspects of Southeast Asian Buddhism itself.
Unemployed playwright; embittered and guilt-ridden because of his Vietnam experience; unable to relate to American society; served in Vietnam with Jerry Bennett with whom he now shares an apartment.
Fifth Grade teacher, Vietnam vet; about to be engaged to Tracy Miller; Has about used up all his patience with Paul Wilson but still cares for him.
First Grade teacher; girlfriend of Jerry Bennett; good-natured, patient with Paul, and more fond of him then she realizes.
Part-time security guard; also a Vietnam vet; although he has adjusted much better than Paul, he has also not gotten far in life. His marriage with Nancy is heading for a breakup. Where Paul's frustration leads him to self-hate and sarcasm, Bill's frustration will lead to violence.
Hotel assistant P.R. Officer and wife of Bill Holmes. She is unhappy in her marriage and is attracted to Paul Wilson. She tries to find her independence in her work as her marriage fails.
Father of Jerry Bennett; Korean War vet; a devout Christian but not a fanatic; had his own problems adjusting after a war and makes up his mind to aid Paul, whatever it takes.
Evening. July 3rd, 1986. The play is set in a Greenwich Village apartment. Four people are living in three bedrooms: a married couple in one, and a Vietnam vet in each of the others.
At stage left is an open kitchen with all the usual appliances. A large wall clock faces the audience.
In the center of the stage is the living-dining room. There is a bathroom door and, beside it, a hallway leading to bedrooms. Outside the lone living room window all is dark. In front of the window is a withered-looking house plant. The front door is at extreme stage right and opens onto a hallway which, when lit, is visible to the audience.
The apartment has been fairly typically and tastefully decorated on a low budget. The only unusual object is a large wooden Buddha on an upstage shelf. The Buddha is in a sitting position, one hand in its lap and one hand in front facing down, the fingers touching the shelf. Incense is burning in a censer before the Buddha. On the Buddha's face is a serene, enigmatic smile. The scenery does not change during the play.
The stage is dark and we can distinguish only the Buddha facing the audience. It is glowing a vivid emerald green. As the lights come up, the statue's glow slowly fades.
PAUL WILSON is sleeping on a couch. HE is having a nightmare. He tosses, grunts, finally screams and abruptly sits up. He looks around, then, still shaken, slowly gets up. He walks to the kitchen table and sits down. He stares at a typewriter with a piece of paper in it, then begins typing on a noisy manual typewriter. HE is wearing a Vietnam Army jacket over a T-shirt, jeans, shoes but no socks. On the back of the jacket is a map of Southeast Asia and the words: "Southeast Asian War Games - 1961 - 1973 Second Place."
His typewriter is surrounded by typing paper, pens and pencils, an ashtray, a bottle of whiskey, a glass, packs of cigarettes, and cups of coffee.
On the shelf near the Buddha is a tape deck. He presses a button. A tape begins playing a late 1950's ballad, "My True Love" sung by Jack Scott. Another man, JERRY BENNETT, walks out from the bedroom. For nearly thirty seconds he rapidly opens kitchen shelves and drawers, peers into them, and slams them shut. HE then walks to the living room shelf, leans against it, and stares at PAUL. Another twenty seconds pass in this manner. The only sounds are those of the typewriter and of the tape deck.
DUM DEE DEE DEE, DUM DEE DEE DEE
I PRAYED, TO THE LORD, TO SEND ME, A LOVE
HE SENT ME, AN ANGEL, FROM HEAVEN, ABOVE
THE STARS, IN THE SKY, HE PLACED, IN HER EYES SHE IS MY TRUE LOVE
THE TOUCH, OF HER HAND, CAPTURED, MY SOUL-
I could understand if you had made the mistake of buying creamy smooth instead of crunch style.
Creamy smooth peanut butter would have been bad enough, understand, but I could have understood it. But to run out of peanut butter in India is...is...
Round the bend, for sure. When's my court martial?
Nobody goes to India without taking enough peanut butter with them. Nobody! Four days in some God-forsaken hotel in Benares - four days - and no peanut butter!
You might have tried to eat Indian food.
I did eat Indian food, remember? But not for breakfast. Breakfast is sacred, for Christ's sake. Toast with no peanut butter is like a religious service with no candles.
So next time I'll bring candles.
There won't be any next time, Paul. That's the last time I'm traveling anywhere with you. Tracy and I...
Tracy and I talked it over and I'm moving into her apartment. The end of next month. You'll have to find someone else to...
To what, Jer'? To what? To lean on? To cling to? To burden?
On one September I'm out of here.
So! I'd say he means it this time, wouldn't you? I guess...it's down to the two of us...
Hi, Paul. Would you like to hear something fantastic?
You've decided to go to bed with me?
That fortune-teller on St. Mark's Place says I've got one fire triplicity, one water triplicity, eight air triplicities and no earth triplicities!
Which is as clear as mud triplicity.
Eight air and no earth; that means I don't have my feet on the ground. I'm other-worldly and impractical.
Spaced out, you might say. Why do you think I call you 'Spacy Tracy'?
And one fixed quadruplicity, seven cardinal quadruplicities, and two mutables.
My God! Anything but two mutables.
Wow! What do you think?
I think you'd gain at least one earth triplicity if you went to bed with me.
Oh, come on, Paul. You know I'm practically engaged to Jerry, so please stop it. You and I are good friends, nothing more.
That was before I found out you have one fixed quadruplicity, seven cardinal quadruplicities, and two mutables. Now my mind is fixed on the cardinal sin of nibbling your two mutables.
Aren't you ever serious?
Only in my play.
How's it coming?
Better. I can finally read the first act without falling asleep.
When are you going to tell me what it's about?
When I know.
Tell me a little, OK?
If you'll make me...
Well, it's based on a guy I knew in Saigon: Whore House Charlie. He was the first man to combine a brothel with a solarium to create the world's first brothelarium; so customers could have both sunlight and a woman. Now, in Act One-
Um, it sounds really...singular, but I'd better get started on the dinner.
I think I'd better check this chart with a fortune-teller in the West Village.
That's the spirit; don't agree to an operation until you've checked with another expert in the field. In any case, as you'll find out some day, it's mainly duplicity in life that can hurt you; no amount of quadruplicity ever hurt a fly.
Tracy, how long have you been coming to this apartment?
How long? It's been...about six months.
And how often do you come?
You know how often. Practically every day. Why?
Well, I don't know what the house regulations were like in Colorado but in New York's Greenwich Village East there are strictly enforced city regulations regarding sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment? I haven't done a thing!
Exactly! You see, in the East Village, women are required to sexually harass the men they associate with at least once a week or else they can be deported. Back to Colorado Creek or Springs or Gulch or Junction or Canyon or Crevice or whatever.
Paul, please! Besides, as you well know, I'm from the Bronx!
Just don't let Jerry hear you talking like that, OK?
Don't worry. I've been warned. Repeatedly.
Jerry has spoken to you about...
What? Oh! You mean his moving out. Into your apartment. To be with you, I mean.
Paul, I know you guys have been together for years and I know how much, well, I mean how close you two have been...
Close? Don't kid yourself. In 'nam we were close. After that, he got married; I got married; we went our separate ways. Then when the divorces came, we started living together again. And all these years Jerry's been my crutch and I've been a thorn in his side. But Paul is a big boy now and it's time for him to stop wallowing in self-pity and nasty war memories and to go it on his own. No problem at my end, kid. Besides, Saigon...is known as Ho Chi Minh City now, right? End of story.
For...say, aren't you supposed to be working today?
I took the day off. I'm getting so I can't stand the place.
Really? I would have thought a bookstore is a nice place to work.
Yeah, sure. People coming in asking me for books and they can't remember the title, author, publisher, nothing!
You know, that yellow book about the latest diet. Or maybe it was a blue and yellow book. It was advertised on TV right after the news. Channel 11 at seven, I think it was. No, no, let me think, it was channel 7 at eleven. Anyway, you know the one I mean!
Do they really?
They do. And the help we're getting. Nobody under 30 reads literature anymore. Our newest bubble-gum chewing, orange-haired, brightly-tattooed but dimly witted clerk shelved Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground next to - wait for it - a book of New York City subway maps.
Did Jerry come in?
He did indeed. He's in his room sulking because I didn't bring enough peanut butter on our trip to India and he had to eat Indian food and now he's worried that he's getting hepatitis. Anyway, yellow skin becomes him. Let him find out what it's like to be a wily Oriental for a change.
Greenwich Village Camel Company. The sale is still on but stock is limited. Arabian one hump or Bactrian two hump...Jerry? Ah, Gerald-Three-Hump! Just a second, I'll see if he's in.
Iz one phone callah for onorable gentleman by name of Jerry Bennett. Will mastah be so pleasedah to accept unknown callah at this ouwah?
(As JERRY strides by him toward the phone PAUL holds the door and bows ceremoniously)
Jerry here...Yeah, hi, dad. Sure, dinner's still at eight. How's the hotel?...Great...And the reunion?..OK...No, don't bring anything! Just yourself and a large appetite. Tracy's cooking up a storm. I'll be leaving to get you soon. You sure you don't mind waiting outside the hotel? I'm really sorry but parking in that area is impossi-...Great.
Of course. It'll be just the three of us...Right. Goodbye, dad.
Hi, Casanova. How's your dad?
Fine. He says he's meeting with Christian leaders from all over the country. He wanted to know if he could bring anything. (hugs her) I told him I've got everything I need.
I'm really nervous about meeting your dad, Jerry. Maybe-
(kissing her again)
He'll love you.
I hope so. Now let me get this place straightened up.
How was school?
Fine. None of the little buggers knifed me yet. Some of them even did their homework. But I gave my last class to Mary Ann and came back a bit early. I felt a bit sick.
Feeling better now?
I'm getting over it. No problem. Though I'd feel a lot better if I could find my peanut butter. Four jars just disappeared.
Four jars of peanut butter can't just disappear.
I know. Anyway, I'll wash up and change.
Onorable gentleman iz get-ting ovah it. Nooo ploblem. But also nooo pea-nut-tah but-tah. Ah so! Iz a puzzlement!
I take it you and Jerry have had quite a falling out.
So that's why you came on to me so strong - just to irritate him.
Tracy, you know you alone are all I'm living for.
Paul, why can't you ever be serious?
Why can't you admit to yourself when I am serious?
Uh, oh. Looks like our married couple is fighting again.
Wow. I hope I never have a marriage like that. How long have they been married, anyway?
Nearly ten years. I'll lay odds they won't make eleven. That should give one pause, don't you think?
Uh, anybody seen today's paper?
Yeah, Bill, it's somewhere on the table.
No, it isn't. I threw it out.
Threw it out? Why?
Because the news is depressing, that's why.
I think I can handle it. How about not throwing out the paper until everyone's finished with it from now on? Living together means consideration; or else it doesn't work.
It doesn't usually work anyway, Bill. Or are you in the two per cent that didn't get the word about the perils of living together?
Hey, look, I try not to let your...antics upset me. I've been briefed, you know what I mean?
No, Bill, what do you mean? Briefly.
I mean, Jerry told me all about your Vietnam-related problem.
All about it?
Enough to know we're supposed to go easy on you. We're not supposed to-
Not supposed to trigger me, Bill? You mean like the old Groucho Marx show where the special word for the week - if said by a contestant - would bring down the duck and pay off one hundred bucks? Only with Crazy Paul, the wrong word would probably cause me to rape, kill, plunder, pillage and forget to change my socks?
You AC/DC people are weird.
Maybe you should have me committed. Put away. Isolated from the decent elements of our society.
I fought in 'nam, remember? You're not the only one. And-
And you're not all fucked up like Crazy Paul, are you, Bill? What a man!
That wasn't very nice, Paul.
A married couple should know better than to share an apartment with other people. Hear that? They're fighting again.
Paul, they can't afford anything else. He's practically unemployed, remember?
So am I but you don't see me searching garbage cans for newspapers.
Sometimes...sometimes you're very mean, you know that?
Behavior displacement. I'm frustrated because you reject my advances and I take it out on Bill Holmes. That makes it your fault.
Paul, you're too intelligent to be a sexist, so why don't you stop trying to be less than you are? And please don't let Jerry hear you.
Yes, loveliest of women, fairest of the fair, she whose very aura defies description, apple of my eye, banana of my breath, grape of my groin-
Paul!...Why did he call you 'AC/DC?'
Because once when Bill came back from work early in the morning, JERRY was sitting on my bed half holding and half shaking me trying to wake me from a nightmare. Our door was open, and to a real man like Bill, I guess real men don't indulge in compassion that involves physical contact.
But that's ridiculous. I've never seen a man more obviously in love with female flesh than you. Based on the way you act and talk, you're the most disgusting sexist, chauvinist, lust-filled satyromaniac in New York.
You do say the nicest things about me.
No, I mean, really. You're nowhere near mature enough or sensitive enough to be bi-sexual.
Thanks again. (waving his hand in dismissal) What the hell, let him think so. Bill needs something to focus his anger on.
Isn't that exactly what you need?
Hey, what's the video doing in the bathroom?
The video is in the bathroom?
If you must know, I took it into the bathroom. I forgot to take it out. Sorry.
Because I felt the need for self-gratification and stroke video material is far superior to stroke printed material. "Revenge of the Hairless Hookers" is much sexier on video than in print.
Paul, you're really sick sometimes, you know?
Lenny Bruce might have disputed that.
(JERRY shakes his head in disgust and re-enters the bathroom and closes the door)
OK if I tidy up your bedroom a bit? Just in case Jerry's dad wants to see the apartment?
By all means. But anything less than a scorched earth policy in there is doomed to failure.
Monsieur! Yes, you! Monsieur Le Plant! You think I did not see you smiling upon the woman I love? You wish to offer an apology for your atrocious behavior? Non? Very well, monsieur, if it is a duel you wish, it is a duel you shall have.
I have tolerated a great deal of your insolence, Monsieur Le Plant, but this time you have gone too far. You have, how shall I say, mistaken kindness for weakness. The time has come to put an end to your impudence, monsieur. Prepare!
Let that be a lesson to you, monsieur: Live by Cyrano, die by Cyrano.
Hi. Mind if I sit down?
You pay your share of the rent, so you do as you like, little lady.
Help yourself. Better take a drink too.
Oh, no, thank you. I get very...silly when I have alcohol...I hope you can't hear us through those walls.
Fighting again, is it?
A woman can't please her husband and work in the P.R. department of a hotel at the same time. Marriage isn't the greatest of relationships people can enter into. Love makes...pain inevitable, you know?
You ever read Goethe on the subject?
Goethe? No. What was-
"Love is the ideal; marriage is the real. A confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished."
That's wild. He must have had a hotel P.R. woman for a wife too.
Yeah. Well, some people think if you introduce enough love into the picture all will be well. Probably the same people who believe in trickle-down economics.
Hard to describe, really; in the literary world it's known as "magical realism."
Well, life gets tougher all the time, I can tell you that.
Nonsense! Absolute nonsense! Cars run smoother, faster; computers get better and cheaper and, last but not least, women have become sexually active earlier in life. I mean, it's not all downhill, you know what I mean?
How's your play going?
What's it about?
Well, it's kind of a cross between Shakespeare and Sam Shepard; with just enough touches of Neil Simon to keep the bridge-and-tunnel crowd coming in.
...I don't think I-
Just kidding. It's actually a spoof on Macbeth. It's called Black Beth. I decided to write it after I found out under the Freedom of Information Act who really wrote Shakespeare's plays.
Really? Who was it?
Oh, just a guy who hangs around the East Village. Anyway, Black Beth is an ambitious gay pimp in the Village. The play opens with three cross-dressers stealing the wallet, watch and jewelry off a drunk in an alley: GAY IS STRAIGHT, STRAIGHT IS GAY - HOVER THROUGH THE FOG AND FILTHY DAY.
Sounds...great. But how do you, I mean-
Create characters? Bring them to life?!
Well, it's like this. Have you ever bet on cricket fighting?
Cricket fighting? I don't think so.
Well, in Asia, people collect crickets and put two of them facing each other in a kind of shallow basin. Then they irritate them with straws. And they keep irritating them until finally the crickets are maddened enough that they fling themselves at each other and fight to the death. And that's what you've got to do with characters in a play! Annoy the hell out of them!
I'll bet you're good at it.
He should be; he's had plenty of practice irritating people around here.
And if I thought for one moment that anyone was making any kind of obscene gesture in my direction, that person could lose his arm.
I hate women with eyes in the back of their heads.
Knowing you as I do, I doubt you'd mind if a woman had eyes on her breasts.
...Oh! Is that why some women wear see-through bras?
Well, I'd better get ready. Bill and I are going out tonight. Tonight's my birthday and Bill decided we'd splurge, so we're going all the way to the West Village for dinner.
Oh! Well, happy birthday!
And many happy returns.
Thanks! Bill's taking me to that restaurant where Bob Dylan died.
Um, I think you mean Dylan Thomas.
Oh, right. Dylan Thomas.
Same genre; different hair styles.
(NANCY returns to her bedroom. TRACY returns to her cooking)
The West Village. (HE whistles)
"Black Beth," huh? (SHE whistles)
I had to give the kid something.
What ever happened to Whore House Charlie?
Oh, he underwent a sex change; he's now known as Good Pork Betty.
Let me know when the day comes that you're serious, OK? I'd like to mark it down on my calendar.
All right, boys. Since you're both so anxious to help, the garbage needs emptying. Whose week is it to clean?
It is Paul's week to clean. (looks around) My God, look at the dust. We certainly need someone to clean and dust.
Is that why you're thinking of marriage?
Hello?...Mrs. Holmes? Yes, just a minute. I'll get her.
Hello...Yes, this is she...it's all right, Grace. What's happened?...My God, we're about to go out for my birthday. If I tell Bill I've got to work tonight he'll go crazy. Can't Mr. Glenn get anyone else? What about Margaret?...All right. I'll be there as soon as I can.
Big trouble. The P.R. on duty at the hotel is sick. So somebody has got to be there to entertain the press tonight at a dinner in their honor. That's me, I'm afraid. And Bill...well, wish me luck.
Time to pick up dad.
Jerry, isn't it possible that we're...rushing things a bit just because your dad is in town for a reunion?
Sweetheart, how long do we have to know each other before we know we're right for one another?
I know. It's just...
You're just worried about how dad will take you. He'll adore you as much as I do.
I told him.
You told who what?
I told Paul that you'll be moving out.
Jesus. I already let him know. I told you-
Jerry, I feel guilty; as if I'm luring you away from a friend in need. And other times I feel stupid for feeling that way.
Paul has a knack for making people feel guilty without even trying. I've been trying to leave him for years.
So why didn't you? (After no response, SHE continues) Let me guess. Male bonding after a vicious war, an unwelcome homecoming and failed marriages?...Sorry. I didn't mean to sound nasty.
It isn't just that. I was under fire with Paul and I think inside his head he's still "under fire." And I never wanted to leave him that way. You don't leave a buddy on the battlefield and sleep well at night.
This isn't a battlefield. The war's over.
Not for him it isn't. Why do you think he rents cars and drives until three or four in the morning?
He said he can't sleep.
Yeah. Well, take it from me, Paul drives at night because in his mind he's still out on night patrol. He's still looking for Charlie.
Jesus. Then maybe you shouldn't leave!
My leaving may be the best thing for him; once he lives with people who don't take his bullshit he might just have to try harder to adjust.
Yeah. Maybe. Maybe it's for the best.
If he can scrape up his rent.
He still works a few hours a week in the book-
He was fired last week.
Fired? He just told me tonight how wacky the customers are.
Paul's a great story-teller. But I ran into Marie on St. Mark's. She told me Paul was fired for arguing with customers whenever he thought they were buying books which were "beneath" them.
Funny thing. I told dad about Paul just in case he ran into him. I told him not to pay any attention to anything he says. And the more I told him the more dad got interested in him.
Did he say why?
Well, I'm off.
I'm really nervous, Jerry. Couldn't I have-
Absolutely not. No cigarettes! I told him you don't smoke or drink or-
Go to movies?
Paul, why must you always upset Jerry?
I don't like it when he bullies you.
Oh, he doesn't mean it. It's just that he wants his father to like me. It's his moment of truth.
He should like you as you are or not at all. Have you ever asked him what he'd do if his parents didn't approve of you?
Of course not. Jerry's not a child.
Whatever you say...Anyway, poor Nancy. It sounds like her moment of truth has arrived.
I guess. Some people just shouldn't be together.
Exactly...Anyway, you'd better hope they're not still here fighting when Jerry's father arrives.
Paul, I want you to know that you can stay for dinner if you like.
...Thanks. I appreciate that; but Jerry wouldn't. I'll be long gone by the time Papa-san gets here.
I'm...awfully nervous about tonight. You see, Jerry's folks are...very religious people.
I know. Jerry used to talk about them. They're from the Bible belt. I think he's close to his father but not his mother.
His dad's never been to Manhattan before and his mom refused to come to New York. I mean, they watch Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart and send in money to spread the gospel and all that kind of thing, you know?
They're right on both counts. Jimmy and Jerry are two of the finest comedians this country ever produced. And this certainly is the city of the devil. Eve's Big Apple.
Well, the thing is...
The thing is they're so, well, Christian, you know what I mean?
(staring at her)
Oh! You mean as in 'followers of Jesus Christ' Christian!
And you'd like me to...
Would you, Paul? For me?
For you? The honeysuckle of my soul, mangosteen of my mind, coconut of my crotch? Anything! It'll be gone by the time they arrive!
Thank you, Paul.
Forget it! You want me to run out and buy a crucifix or a Bible or some rosary beads or something?
No, thanks. Let's not overdo it.
I think I have a nerve-induced headache coming on. I'm going to take some aspirin and lie down. Call me the second the bell rings on the stove, will you?
Sure. You need somebody to massage your aches and pains?
Just don't forget, OK? I've got to have a perfect dinner tonight of all nights. But I've got to lie down for a few minutes or my head will burst. I wish I had more time.
You can rely on old Paul. Get a good rest.
You want more time? Well, Crazy Paul will just give you more time, how's that?
Yeah, yeah, I know. Stop worrying. I saved you once, I'll save you again. No fucking Fundamentalist moron is driving you out. Not in this house.
How many years has it been? And what did you ever do for me? I saved you, remember?
Remember? I've got the scars to prove it.
All I'm asking is that one day you do something for me, OK?
Next time you set up an ambush on my patrol, you better know what the fuck you're doing...Dickhead.
Nothing is more important to you than that goddamned hotel, is it? Not me, not you, not your birthday, not our marriage, nothing!
Bill, I can't...I can't take this pressure. You've got to stop before-
Oh, yes! Pressure on you. Pressure in the form of a husband who loves you and wants you to spend some time at home before the marriage collapses altogether.
Home? You call this a home?
Baby, I told you - I'll be a full-time guard soon. And then we can - have a family.
Meanwhile, I should let someone else host the press dinner and lose whatever chance I've got of becoming Public Relations Manager? The other assistants all have college degrees and more experience than me. I'm doing the best I can to compete with-
So I'm supposed to watch helplessly as you become a slave for the eunuchs that run that damned hotel? So you've got pressure because your husband would like to see you stop ruining your health and marriage. I think a lot of women neglected by their husbands would love to have that kind of pressure!
I have a job to do. Am I supposed to stop entertaining guests at the hotel at exactly five-thirty and tell them my husband wants me home? How long do you think I would keep my job?
Hotel public relations isn't a job; it's a...disease! When you joined that fucking hotel you were in perfect health and you were a very happy person. Satisfied with what you had in life. Now? You've lost weight, you're nervous and irritable and exhausted all the time. And nothing's good enough for you anymore.
What do you expect me to do? We need the money and-
What do you expect me to do? You make no effort to take time off from a job but you take an incredible amount of time off from your marriage.
Mr. Glenn said it would be good if I came into work tonight because-
Good?! Good for who? Good for me? Good for you? Good for our marriage? Or good for the goddamned hotel?
No overtime pay, no real holidays; you entertain the press until two in the morning. Fuck the press!
That's easy for you to say. And could you please stop shouting?
Baby, you have to put distance between yourself and your job, can't you understand that? Otherwise, it will eat you up. You'll give it everything you have and there won't be anything left for us...Baby, call in and say you're sick.
That wouldn't be honest.
Not honest to lie to a hotel about being sick but it's OK to let a hotel destroy our marriage?
You know these hotel people aren't real flesh-and-blood people like us, don't you?
Bill, please. Don't.
Yeah, that's right. These guys aren't human beings like us. They're not born; they're assembled in a secret factory in Switzerland, programmed to read menus in French, to learn about food, wine, dress and petty conversation; to bow and scrape to anybody who's got the price of an overpriced room. Then! They have their sweatglands removed.
Oh, yeah! A lot of people don't know about that but they do! No great hotel-i-er is allowed to stink! Then they dress them up like penguins, put carnations in their buttonholes, program their faces into a smile, and set them loose upon the world. Human- oids. Me? I'm human.
See, I feel something. That's flesh and blood you're looking at, baby. Human feeling and emotion!
(NANCY leans forward, grabs his arm, and blows the match out)
Stop it! Will you stop it!
I have to work, Bill. Can't you understand that?
Baby, I don't live in the Stone Age. You can work if you like but get a nine-to-five job, OK? Not a career without the benefits of a career. But you're letting yourself be sucked into their world. All I-
I have to work. We need the money and I...I want to be independent.
Independent? What does that mean?
Just what I said. I want to be independent. The opposite of dependent.
OK. OK, baby, you win. You can be independent. But just remember one thing: You're sacrificing your husband, your marriage, your health and...and my love for you all for the glory of hotel public relations and for the right to sit at your desk in some four-star, five-faggot hotel and shuffle P.R. papers without interference. All right! You're now gonna get exactly what you want and I sincerely hope you will be very happy.
Nancy, I'm sorry.
Heard all that, did you? Well, that's all right. They probably heard us in New Jersey.
You all right, Nancy?
Sure, I'm all right. It was...it's been building up to this for a long time.
Oh, my God. The dinner!
Sorry, Tracy. It looks like we ruined your dinner and Paul's video show.
Nah, I grabbed the wrong tape, anyway. It's "Casablanca."
Well, if he's packing, I guess I'd better help him. He never knows where anything is.
(from the kitchen)
Oh, my God! It is ruined. We'll have to eat out. What a way to meet Jerry's father. I was going to check but I didn't dare come out when I heard them shouting. Oh, well, I can't really blame poor Nancy. One more woman who's lost her marriage because of male reluctance to let a woman have her own career.
Poor Nancy? Poor Bill! One more of a select group of men who have lost their wives, not to the charms of another man, but to the bogus glitter of a wife's cushy job.
Would you clear the table now, Paul?
You got it!
God, I feel so sorry about Nancy and Bill. It makes me feel so helpless, you know? I like both of them.
You like both of them?
Yes. Don't you?
What does a woman find in a guy like Bill that's to like? He hates so-called faggots the way I hated second lieutenants.
I don't think Bill would know a...a faggot if he saw one. To him, any man who expresses his feelings or shows vulnerability is a 'faggot'. I think he's just one of those men who are always one decade behind social change. Just about the time he's got relationships between men and women figured out, bang! They change again. But at least he's out there trying; unlike you, I might add.
Hey, that's very good. Very...insightful. Where do you come up with stuff like that?
I teach first grade, remember? I interact with little boys before they grow up to become men. And every new class I get, I walk down the aisles and scrutinize all the little boys to see if I can spot any who will grow up to be like you so I can nip them in the bud before they can get a moment older.
...Um, yeah, thanks. Wow! 'Far out!' as they used to say in the sixties. 'Nip in the bud.' I don't like the sound of that. You haven't actually-
Don't ask!..And if you think you're any different than Bill you're only deluding yourself.
Dare I ask what that means?
You think I don't know why you play nothing but ballads from the late fifties? I'm not stupid. Every song you play is Before the War, right?
Oh, no! I've been found out! Paul Wacko Wilson prefers music from a simpler era. Before firefights, before dustoffs, before body counts, before body bags!
Right! And why only ballads? Because you can't express love and tenderness in words, so you express it in your choice of music. Oh, sure, you talk a blue streak but that's not the same as expressing yourself. Every song you play exposes you for what you really believe in: Affection, sincerity, warmth and true love. And your real self is in your selection of music: Late 50's love songs. Beneath your carefully crafted caustic facade, you're nothing but a romantic slob.
Have you been taking mail order courses in psychiatry?
Never mind. Just don't ever make the mistake of thinking that because I'm patient enough to listen to your bullshit I'm dumb enough to believe it...And as I don't have time to read the paper, how about reading me some news.
Anything to change the subject. Anything! Well, speaking of feeling helpless, here's a report about a Black Hole swallowing stars in a nearby galaxy heading in our direction and licking its chops. Any day now that insatiably hungry little mother-fucker is going to have a midnight snack of East Village apartments.
Worry about the here and now for once, could you, Paul?
All right. Closer to home we find that nearly fifteen thousand New Yorkers were bitten last year by dogs, cats, goats, rats, raccoons, opossums, parrots, turtles, crabs, a sea lion, a goose and a lion fish. Almost the same number were bitten by other New Yorkers! And six were sexual bites! Love bites that went to far...Now that's a frightening piece of news.
Let's get it on before the world ends. What do you say?
Tracy, we've got a black hole about to suck us up! It's in the next galaxy, for Christ's sake. There's not a millennium to lose. (He kneels near her feet) It's in the next galaxy!
(pushing him over)
Sometimes, Paul, I wish you were.
We could cavort in a sensual garden of pleasure. A garden-
Garden?! Oh, God, I forgot to water the plant!
All right, sweet maiden, if you prefer the embrace of the black hole to mine so be it!
Will you look at this! My India rubber plant is a goner. And they're the toughest plant I know of.
Something tells me you should try giving it less water.
I did try less water. And then more water, and less sunlight, and then more sunlight. I turned its leaves to face Mecca, then toward the Vatican. I even tried mouth-to-leaf resuscitation. I practically offered it my body.
Did you talk to it?
Oh, Paul, for God's sake. Don't tell me you're into talking to plants.
Believe me, Tracy, they listen. They know.
The plant is dying. It's given up. I've given up. I'll get a new one, OK?
Oh, my God! Jerry's father will be here in fifteen minutes. I've got to change!
It's alive, Tracy. The plant is alive. Isn't life important too?
Oh, sweet Jesus. It's dying! Do I have to die with it? Is that what you want?
Look. Plants know what's going on. I'm telling you. Me. Paul Wacko Wilson. Nine out of ten sick plants can be saved by a bit of pleasant conversation and soft music. But there's always one out of ten (glances toward the plant) that wants to be a hardass. So you don't use the carrot. You use the stick. You see what I'm saying?
Are you serious? It's a lowly plant.
Shhh. Don't add insult to injury. That only works with the Philodendron. This one...(lowers his voice still more) we've got to threaten! And I mean scare the hell out of it!
Paul, I've got Jerry's father coming to meet me in fifteen minutes. I'm not dressed, the dinner is ruined, and you want-
Tracy, we can save this plant's life in one minute. One!
Trust me, OK? I'll take full responsibility. OK?
...OK. OK. One minute. Not one second more.
Now, here's what we'll do.
(to the plant)
Not one word!
Arrrrgggghhhh! You ungrateful bastard! I've done everything for you and you won't even try!
Tracy, No! Put the knife down! That won't solve anything!
I'll kill the son-of-a-bitch!
For God's sake, give it another chance. Don't kill it!
It's only a baby. You can't kill it! Please! Stop it!
Get out of my way, Paul, or you'll get it, too.
Please don't kill it! Drop the knife! Please!
Let me kill the son-of-a-bitch!
It's only a baby! Nooo!
Oh, my God! You stabbed it!
You weren't really supposed to stab it, you know.
I'm sorry. I got carried away. Bill and Nancy's troubles depressed me; the ruined dinner depressed me; I guess I took it out on the plant.
I thought we agreed we were only going to scare it.
So I'll turn myself in, all right? You're the type who likes getting back to nature. I'm the type who likes getting back at nature.
OK, sweet lady, you can play Lizzie Borden if you like, but I think I'd better get out of here and grab a bite to eat. You try to relax, OK?
Hey, look at this. Somebody left roses on our doorstep.
That's New York for you. People hear that you abused your plant they want you to abuse their plants too. But just because I abuse my own plant doesn't mean anybody can leave his plants here to be abused.
You guys better come with me. It's not safe here right now.
What in God's name is going on here?
Nothing in God's name, that's for sure.
Hi! You must be Jerry's father. I'm Paul. Welcome to our humble home.
These are my flowers.
Really? In that case, you really shouldn't abandon them in doorways. Well, nice meeting you.
Just a minute! Something has been going on here and I'd like you to stay.
I thought you wanted me to go.
Hi, Mr. Bennett. Welcome to New York. I'm Tracy.
What in God's name is that smell? Did something burn?
Our dinner? Burned?
What is that-
Tracy, didn't I...didn't we...what is that doing here? What are you-
What is that knife doing in the plant?
Umm...it's a rare knife plant from Vietnam. They grow that way.
I stabbed it.
What did it do?
It wouldn't stop turning brown.
Right. Better not show up with a deep suntan around this house.
This your knife?
That's my knife, sir. Compliments of a deceased Vietcong.
Mr. Bennett, I think you must have overheard our quarrel with the plant.
Well, I've done a lot of gardening in my life but I never had a quarrel with any of my plants.
Well, I mean, it was dying. So...I...
We only meant to scare it.
Plants aren't stupid. They usually respond to affection.
(aside to himself)
I would too if she tried me.
But this one was dying so we decided to scare it into recovering.
(looking over the plant again)
So you stabbed it...looks to me like the soil needs changing. You people practice euthanasia?
Oh, no sir! With India rubber plants it's called euthanIndia.
But I guess I got excited and went too far.
(aside to himself)
But never with me, damn it!
glances up at PAUL and TRACY suspiciously)
If I didn't know better, I might think you people are into some kind of kinky sex.
(aside to himself)
Don't I wish...
Tracy, the dinner is ruined, you're not even dressed yet, the Buddha is still here, you've been smoking and drinking, you and Paul have been doing something weird with the plant-
Everybody loves a conspiracy theory.
Jerry, I seemed to have lost track of time.
Time? You've got a clock right there.
Well, on that happy note, if I'm not needed, I think I'll just-
Hey! There's something under here.
(grabbing the jar)
My peanut butter! (to PAUL) You bastard!
So that's why the plant was dying. (to PAUL) You took the dirt out to hide Jerry's peanut butter!
(holding out his wrists)
I guess I'd better turn myself into the police.
No need for that. I don't know what's going on here, but whatever it is, it's obviously a civil situation.
Nothing civil about us.
(looking toward the Buddha)
Someone's been burning incense to the Buddha.
Oh, yeah. Jim and Tammy-Faye stopped by.
Oh, God, Mr. Bennett. I'm really sorry about all this. It's not usually like this.
Yeah, sometimes it's weird.
You're a real jerk, you know that?
Shhh! Careful. The plant might think you're talking to it, and I think it's been through enough for one day.
What is it, some kind of horticultural symbolism? Peanut butter buried in an India Rubber plant; our relationship finally buried because we ran out of peanut butter in India?
Don't flatter yourself. It was just an experiment in cross-breeding a rubber plant with peanuts. I wanted to produce the world's first chunk-style rubber pea plant. Anyway, I didn't attack the plant; I defended it.
That's right. You save your malice for people. You have no character at all, have you?
Jerry, why don't we get something to eat?
Jerry, I'm sorry, but I'm not feeling up to this evening.
Mr. Bennett, I have an enormous headache. Please excuse me for tonight. I'm just not myself.
I'll be right back, dad.
It's all right, son. If she doesn't feel-
(waving smoke away)
No. Thank you...You know, son, how you live is up to you but one biblical saying that's proved especially true in my life is the one that tells us that he who doth not answer to the rudder shall answer to the rock. You might-
Ah, yes, sir, but don't forget also: 'He who would rudder get his rocks off shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'
(with quiet finality)
You know, Paul, when God gave the world his only-
No, no, sir, your God didn't give the world his only son; He fragged his only son. And that is something to think about.
...I believe Jerry said he'd been in Vietnam with you, Paul.
I believe he was. Yes! If memory serves, I believe he was! (holds up the bottle) You sure?
Quite sure. Thank you.
Well, as the Bible says, one man's meat is another man's poison.
The Bible doesn't say that. That line is from a play and the actual quote is: 'What's one man's poison, seignior, is another's meat or drink."
A scholar. I'm impressed.
I'm no scholar. I just like to read. Gardening, fishing and reading are my hobbies and I'm retired now so I've got lots of time for them.
And for watching televangelists praise the Lord. When they're not too busy consorting with hookers or building up a private fortune.
Not really. That's more the missus' thing than mine. I never could stand a man who uses religion to try to make someone feel guilty about going to a movie or a dance. I go along to keep the peace. Like most married men, I guess. You know how women are.
No. Tell me. How are women?
Do you have hobbies, Paul?
Not really. When I'm not too busy making life difficult for other people I spend time writing my play.
A playwright. Very nice.
Undiscovered so far, of course.
Takes time...I wonder...I wonder if I could stop by some time while I'm in New York and have a chat with you. When we've got more time, I mean.
Chat? What about?
About fishing. About Jerry. About Vietnam. About war, maybe. I served in Korea and I thought-
Rehash America's wars? Sure, why not? You just drop by anytime and we'll get it all squared away. Defending freedom! From George Washington to John Wayne. From Battle of the Bulge to bulging body bags. Let's rap awhile! One vet to another.
Thank you. How about tomorrow? About this time?
Tomorrow? Well, I'm kind of-
All set, dad. Tracy's feeling better. She'll be coming with us after all. Let's get going.
You didn't tell me you've been living with a playwright.
A playwright! One off-off-Broadway play performed for two weeks three years ago and he's a playwright!
Yes. Time does fly, doesn't it?
Really, Paul? You had a play performed? You never told me. What was it called?
It was called, 'The Enlightened One.' And it did not run for two weeks three years ago; it ran for three weeks two years ago.
Wow! What was it about?
Tracy! Let's go!
I'd like to know also...Really.
It was about a man who believed he was a playwright. He took a job as a desk clerk in a seedy hotel in mid-town Manhattan to gather material for his play. But as the years went by he was still working in the hotel and he had written only a few pages. He finally woke up one day to the truth about what he really was: Not a playwright working in a seedy hotel to gather material. But an aging desk clerk in a seedy hotel who imagined that he was a playwright. So he shot himself. End of play.
What's your play about this time?
Dad, I think we'd-
Well, it's kind of a sociological play, really- it's about honeycide.
Yeah. You know. Like homicide. Only honeycide is about the types of people who commit suicide on their honeymoon.
Who would ever commit suicide on their honeymoon?
...My wife did.
Oh! I'm sorry, I-
For God's sake, dad. Don't believe anything he says. His wife left him for...Anyway, he's crazy. Let's go.
'Crazy Paul,' that's me. But I'll tell you what. Give me one second before you go.
You came just in time to help me grapple with a problem.
(picking up his notations)
There's an article in today's paper that's terrified me. It says that for every percentage point that unemployment rises, the suicide rate rises 4.1 per cent.
Dad, could we please just-
And so I calculated that if for every percentage point unemployment rises, the suicide rate rises 4.1 per cent, then that means when the unemployment rate rises to just a fraction over 24 per cent - there won't be any more Americans! Have you any thoughts on that?
Not a one.
Come on, dad, let's go.
I'll be stopping by for that chat. Don't forget.
(toasting him with his glass)
Anytime, sir! Anytime. From fishing to firepower, I'm your man.
So...Do I keep my promises or what?
You talking to me?..You talking to me?..You talking to me?!
Well, who the hell else are you talking to? You talking me me?..Well, I'm the only one here!..Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?..Oh, yeah?
She's all yours now.
My wife. You've been after her since we moved in. Now you can have her.
Bill, in the three months you and Nancy have been here I've spoken to her no more than-
Spare me your bullshit, all right? You think I don't know about guys like you?
Well, that's that.
Is he gone for good?
It looks like it this time. I feel so...Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you.
That's all right. It's too late for a Tony award this season, anyway.
You really work hard on your play, don't you?
The play's the thing.
God, I wish I could write a play or do something right; or have something go right or...
Get a glass and some ice and I'll give you a shot of something that'll take the edge off your troubles.
I don't really drink very well; I get silly. Anyway, I've got to get ready. But I appreciate-
Get it! One drink won't hurt you.
You lived in Asia for years, huh?
Years and years and years.
Oh, Somerset Maugham places: Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore. You name it.
Bill served in Vietnam. He actually fought. You're lucky you didn't have to go there.
Oh, I went there all right. But I didn't live there; I served there. Fighting and living are two different things.
You fought against the Vietcong?
Damned if I know. I spent a year in the jungle shooting at noises and shadows and occasionally getting shot at myself. I could have been fighting the New York Yankees for all I know. But I wasted more mosquitoes and leeches than - well, anyway, then I came back home and adjusted beautifully.
(frequently sipping her whiskey)
How long have you been back? home, I mean.
I remember I landed at L.A. airport and the first thing I saw was a line of people drinking water from a water fountain. They were drinking water without boiling it first, for Christ's sake. Talk about barbarians! It took me six months to stop boiling water. And the blue color up above! At first I didn't know what to make of it! And then I realized I had been under a triple canopy jungle so long I had forgotten about the sky!
Then on my way in from Kennedy airport, the cab driver kept talking about somebody named Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner this and Steinbrenner that. Finally, I asked him who the hell Steinbrenner was. It seems he owned the New York Yankees. I didn't know because I didn't give a damn about sports. But I had forgotten how provincial Americans are. They assume the whole world follows baseball. So after my question the cab driver treated me like a grenade-carrying Communist child molester with my fly open. I thought I was going to be lynched.
You're serious? You didn't know who Steinbrenner was? Even I know. Bill loves sports. He talks about nothing else except baseball and boxing and football.
Well, my granddaddy couldn't stand sports either. He always used to say - 'If you've got a first rate woman who the hell needs to steal second base?'
I like him.
I'm sure he would have liked you too but he's dead at the moment. Died in bed. On top, I might add.
But the thing that almost sent me racing back to Asia was when I found out about American women's legs.
They shave them.
You didn't know that?
I had forgotten. I mean, Asian women never have to. The idea of a woman having to shave hair off her legs to keep them smooth, Jesus! I don't mean to offend you, but it was a shock, you know what I mean? Anyway, now I'm a real American! I drink water from the tap, I watch a baseball game every Sunday, and I chase after women with hairy legs. Maybe if-
I'm...I'm feeling a bit better!
Wheee! Oh, I'm sorry, did I interrupt you?
No, no. Whiskey-interruptus is perfectly acceptable at times like this.
You know what?
You do indeed...smell...incense. I burned another joss-stick.
And made a wish?
Oh, the Buddha already knows all about my desires. He doesn't-
Look at the way he smiles. It's so...so...
That's it! See-rene!
Like he's got his act together.
That's it! He...has...got...his...act...together!
Say, has he been in a fire? He looks...burnt.
Why does he have one hand in his lap and one down there?
That's the position known as 'Calling the Earth Goddess to Witness.' You don't know how Prince Siddartha achieved Enlightenment? That's worse than not knowing who owns the Yankees.
Was he really a prince?
He sure was. He had it all! He lived in a luxurious palace but then! When he became aware of suffering in the world, he moved out and became a wandering monk.
I like that! You mean like somebody who could live in Trump Tower but moves out and hangs around Avenue D.
Well, yes. Kind of like that. Only-
I like that! That shows...
Well, the prince left his wife and child and-
Oh, yes. All worldly attachments were left behind him. So-
But he paid alimony and support, right?
Um, I'll have to check the Buddhist scriptures on that one. So, anyway-
Well, he just better!
Sure, I'll mention it. So, anyway, after spending years meditating in forests and jungles, he realized that he still had to find the true path so one day he sat down under a fig tree and decided to meditate and not rise again until he had attained Enlightenment.
Wow! When was all this?
Before Steinbrenner. Before baseball even. But! But while the prince spent weeks in deep meditation, Mara - the evil Tempter - the King of Demons, did his best to destroy the prince.
Right! Because he knew that if the prince attained Enlightenment and showed man the truth beyond the World of Illusion, then Mara would lose his power over man.
Right on! Power over women too!
(holding up a fist)
Power to the people!
Right! That's exactly what the Buddha wanted! Power to the people!
God, that smell is so...sensual.
So while the prince sat meditating, Mara massed his armies against the prince but their spears and lances turned into beautiful flowers and fell at the prince's feet!
Wow! (pointing to the roses) You think maybe they were spears and lances? Before, I mean?
No question about it. So, anyway, Mara created a great storm to try to stop the prince from meditating, but a king cobra protected him by winding his body in coils under him and spreading out his hood over him to protect him.
God! I wish I had a friend like that.
Ah, but, finally, the Demon King tried his last and best shot.
Mara sent his incredibly beautiful daughters to tempt him. Right in front of the prince they did the most sexy, salacious, lascivious dance ever performed.
It must have been difficult for him to resist. They sound so tempting.
Not only were they tempting but guess what their names were: Tracy and Nancy.
But the prince wasn't having any of that so finally the demon king had to admit defeat! But he asked the prince where his witness was that he had attained Enlightenment. So the Buddha moved his right hand slowly, ever so slowly...
to touch the ground whereupon the Earth Goddess appeared and before you could say 'Alakazam!' she squeezed her hair and all the drops of lustral water formed by the Buddha's good deeds in his past lives drowned the demon king and his army, and the prince had become the Buddha, the Enlightened one! He who has Awakened!
Hooray! Victory for the Buddha!
It's the Awakened One by a TKO in the last round!
The Awakened One! TKO in the last round!
Grand slam, bottom of the ninth!
Grand slam, bottom of the ninth!
A hole in one!
A hole in one!
Slam dunk at the buzzer!
Slam dunk at the buzzer!
It's Nirvana on the outside in a photo finish!
Nirvana on the outside! Photo finish!
Game! Set! Match! to the Enlightened One!
Game! Set! Match! to the Enlightened One!
Now we can see the World of Illusion for what it is!
For what it is!
(very seriously and in great pain)
Oh, what bliss it is to know there is no happiness in this world. Now we can see!
...Ah, we shall see!
Let's try it.
You know. You be the prince and meditate and I'll be one of the daughters. You sit and try to reach Enlightenment and I'll do a dance and try to tempt you.
Are you serious?
(slowly and seductively)
There! Now you sit and close your eyes and you meditate as hard as you can. I'll stay here in the World of Illusion and do a sexy dance and we'll see if you can keep meditating or not.
Do it! Please!
I saw you peeking.
Now he can't see anything.
He still sees, Nancy. He knows.