Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Truth about Scorsese’s "Vandals"

A young Martin Scorsese visiting the set of Vandals

Though not exactly nightmares, my dreams often subject me to oblique exclusions, subtle usurpations. I usually don’t remember them (beyond a feeling of befuddled let-down) but today .... I think it's the longest chunk of narrative I’ve ever dragged up from the dreamwork. And it seems more or less a novel-length version of what my dreams usually are.

It was a cool early morning, around 7:00 a.m. I was riding a bus through some California suburb. I wasn’t sure where the bus was headed, but when I saw we were passing through an Asian neighborhood, I decided to get off.

I stood on the sidewalk in the clear morning air, surrounded by suburban houses, grass yards. Two boys in a yard noticed me, began talking about me in Chinese, not knowing I could understand. A face glanced out at me from a window. Typical quiet morning reactions to a newcomer.

On the corner was a little café, and I went in. There were no customers. An olive-skinned woman of about 25, Central Asian rather than Chinese, brought my coffee to the table, then sat down across from me. She wore a skin-fitting powder blue silk top. She was beautiful, educated, oddly animated for so early in the morning. She began telling me about her life. She gestured, joked, and just as I was beginning to get seriously charmed, I realized that her younger brother was inside her left sleeve—that he was, somehow, also wearing the blue silk top. His head finally emerged from near her shoulder.

Then I was at another table talking to the patron, her father, a melancholy Sikh man in his 70s.

“I used to be a director, you know,” he said. “I mean, before this café. I directed two films you might have seen. One was [title I don’t remember], the other was Scorsese’s Vandals.”

I thought about this, told him I was sorry I hadn’t seen either film, but that I considered film “important”. He sensed my confusion.

“Look, here’s how it happened. I was going to direct Vandals, then when shooting began, Scorsese showed up on set one day. Then he showed up again, and then again, making little suggestions, getting more and more involved. Finally the producer just decided to use Scorsese.”

He looked at the table, the defeat still weighing on him. Finally, he burst into tears. I began crying with him. We sat there crying.

“I’m the man who directed Scorsese’s Vandals,” he sobbed, index finger thumping his chest. “It was me.”

Then I was outside again. I glimpsed the Pacific peeking between a line of houses, hardly a block away. I walked to the beach, stripped down to my shorts, and began to swim along the rocky shore. The water was cool and clear. But I realized I was still lost, and needing to figure out where I was, I should finish the swim.

When I tried to get out of the water, however, the sandy shore had become a kind of stone embankment. Algae coated the surface, and I couldn’t get a grip on it. I began to tread water, scanning the shore for breaks in the wall. It extended in both directions.

This, I’m confident, is the tenor of nearly all my dreams.

QED: Idiocy, Ltd.

Chinese edition / 中文版 : Idiocy, Ltd.

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