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The first thing we see as we zoom in on the Warehouse are twenty or so half-full, half-empty, half-sipped, half-spilled, half-chugged and half-crushed beer cans. Then we see the ceiling-high stacks of empty pizza boxes, the 50-pound bags of bread flour, the buckets of tomato purée. Holding our breath we tippy-toe over the concrete floor, over the olive oil puddles, and follow the tracking camera all the way across the massive factory to the back wall, where we see that the shared squalor has been partitioned off into two or three cages by a fencelike superstructure. We scratch our heads and try our very best to wave away the cigarette smoke, the flurries of dead skin, the mouse droppings. But we’re definitely not sure what to make of it all . . .
Mounds and mounds of flea-riddled jackets and jeans. Broken bottles, sawdust plates. Hammers, screwdrivers, unused condoms, dictionaries, wet socks, chainsaws, gas masks, toenail clippings, spoons, ultrathin laptops, hills of ash, hills of dusty semen . . .
Still scratching our heads, still waving away the cigarette smoke, we try our very best to block out the semi trucks huffing and puffing on the slippery bridge upstairs. Because we definitely don’t want any distractions now that we can see, in complementing shades of chiaroscuro relaxation, intoxication, nudity, the two or three Warehouse squatters, the two or three Pizza Boyz slowly, slowly materializing onto the filthy stage. We see them sitting and/or reclining on their respective mattresses, in their respective cages, ugly florescent lights bouncing off their vampire-pale and totally hairless chests. The camera pulls back, like ever so slightly, and now we see our favorite superhero sitting on a wobbly wooden chair directly in front of the line of cages. Just off work, a pot of mac and cheese balanced on his knees, Giacomo Jones is still in preyuppie uniform—go-getter’s green sweater over denim dress shirt, London-gray slacks, Chuck Taylor All-Stars. He’s eating his dinner. He’s eating his dinner as, roughly five feet in front of him, two or three Pizza Boyz yell and yell at each other through the wooden bars. We follow Giacomo’s hawk eyes. We edit our first impression. Because only one Pizza Boy is like actually yelling and yelling, the other Pizza Boyz are sprawled out on their urine-stiff mattresses, staring and staring up at the fractal patterns of rust spreading out from around the florescent floodlights overhead. (The only natural source of light trickling down into the Warehouse, one rainy ray at a time, through the extra-small glory hole drilled into the really high ceiling by some peeping tomboy.) We swivel the camera and take five to watch Giacomo use his superhairy fingers to scoop up orange globs of instant pasta. Then we lick our lips and turn back to listen in on the totally over the top, totally pretentious, totally fascinating Pizza Boy dialectic. The ridiculous conversation chiming off the steel walls, ricocheting off the concrete floor. Our really sensitive microphone vibrating back and forth, back and forth . . .
“How could you do something like that!” Syd screaming with glee. “She was so boring! She was unbelievably boring. How could you do that? How could you physically get an erection after talking with someone who actually thought Heidegger was a sports car manufacturer! A sports car manufacturer! Don’t you have any kind of standards! Like human standards!”
A few cages down the row, a can of really warm beer balanced on his skinny stomach, a hand-rolled cigarette hanging from his laughing lips, Dylan yawns back at Syd. “In response to your first question—no, I don’t. As to whether or not I’m human—I don’t know. How could I? I am what I am. Besides, it’s an undisputable fact that this girl was cuter than any girl you’ve hooked up with in the last two or three years. By a lot. So I personally suggest you go read your Nazi Heidegger in the bathroom. That way you can spend the whole night jerking over how the question of Being relates to the current state of the high-performance auto industry.”
Giacomo half chuckles, half dribbles cheese all over his superhairy fist and green sweater.
Chugging the rest of his beer Syd heaves himself up off his mattress and wiggles through the wooden beams. He wrings his hands at the really high ceiling. “I can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. It’s disgusting. You’re disgusting. You’re an ape. An ape with a hard-on for anything that moves. Can someone here please tell me why I have to live with this Neanderthal!”
No one answers. Drips of natural light trickle down through the extra-small glory hole overhead. They mix with the florescent sawdust, with the graywhite cigarette ash.
Totally unfazed by this really loud silence, more than likely belligerently drunk, Syd hobbit-hops over to the wobbly wooden chair. Hands on hips he giggles down at Giacomo.
“Well did you see her? Did you get a look at this cute girl? Was she cute enough to ignore her cognitive disabilities? Was she cute enough to throw away all of civilization just to hook up!”
Our superhero growls and shrugs without looking up from his pasta dinner. “I don’t fucking know. Who the fuck cares.”
“Who cares!” Syd furiously running a hand through his thinning hair. “You should care! Everyone should care! We’re talking about sex here! We’re talking about sex and the power of reason! We’re talking about sex and society! We’re talking about sex! Sex! SEX!”
“Please shut up,” Wylie mumbling, Wylie on his malnourished hands and knees, Wylie searching for a pair of shoes to wear out tonight. “No one cares who Dylan hooked up with,” Wylie lifting up his mattress. “I’ve heard enough of this. Move on. Or better yet, just keep quiet if you don’t have anything interesting to say.”
Wylie tugs on a pair of purple rain boots buried deep within one of the countless communal mounds of dirtier than dirty clothes. Wylie flops down on his saliva-sheeted mattress and clears his throat—“In other news,” right foot halfway into left boot. “I just heard that Cormac McCarthy has a new novel coming out. It’s supposed to be one of his best,” right foot halfway into right boot.
Giacomo takes his horse eyes off his pot of mac and cheese. He takes an extra-large gulp of warm beer and smiles at those purple rain boots. Because those right fucking there are the same purple rain boots which Wylie had been wearing the day Giacomo first met the Pizza Boyz—down at Occupy Wall Street. A little hungover after two or three days of celebrating his “Fuck you!” to Google, a little coked out of his mind, Giacomo had been out for a city-glide in his Superman pajamas—sipping on an iced coffee, people watching, brainstorming his truelove algorithm—when his camel eyes had spotted a minivan parked behind the police barricades, behind the chanting protestors, a cardboard sign duct-taped across the totally cracked windshield. A little curious, a little hungry, Giacomo had swooped in to read that the Pizza Boyz were supporting their generation by offering a TWO FOR ONE deal on all single-topping slices! Oh boy oh boy! Giacomo had rubbed his superhairy tummy. Oh boy oh boy! Giacomo had bought himself a pineapple slice and started shooting the shit with the two or three shirtless amigos. Talking and eating. Eating and talking and then tossing the half-chewed crust into the muddy mob of skittish hippies and 1% hippos clashing over the Wall Street waterhole. Oh my oh my. Giacomo smiling a sinister smile. Oh my oh my. Giacomo eating his free slice and listening to the very short story of how the Pizza Boyz had met at Oberlin College, that small liberal arts Shangri-La in North Eastern Ohio, where they had just wrapped up four years of self-invention, higher learning, collective drug use. Four years exponentially enhanced by taking part in a campuswide sexual renaissance with other boys and girls (and boygirls) who shared the same postbourgeois pedigree, the same taste in dance-pop, the same neo-Marxist militancy and multicultural sensitivity, and the same case of high-functioning alcoholism. Four bucolic years spent forgetting the rest of the world existed, or had ever existed, or would ever exist, or need ever exist, or—Giacomo takes another extra-large gulp of warm beer. He smiles at those purple rain boots . . .
Flopping down on his mattress, Syd giggles and giggles and pulls out a plastic kazoo from underneath his mucus-sponging pillow. Like a blowfish, like Dizzy Gillespie, he puffs out his cheeks and blows an obnoxiously loud kazoo-buzz which echoes and echoes off the Warehouse walls . . .
“Order!” Syd screaming with glee. “Order in the Warehouse! Listen to me. All of you. Listen to me!” giggling and giggling. “I hate Cormac McCarthy. I hate everything Cormac McCarthy writes. Cormac McCarthy is easily the worst writer I’ve ever read. And I hereby ban all of his books from the Warehouse. Forever!”
Wylie’s face flashes red, danger-red. Wylie’s purple rain boots kick at the wooden posts. “What did you just say!” Wylie kicking, Wylie kicking, “How can you not like Cormac McCarthy! Don’t you get anything! And put that stupid thing away right now before I—”
Syd puffs out his cheeks and blows another obnoxiously loud kazoo-buzz. He giggles, “What do you mean why? I just don’t. I don’t remember who said it, but someone, some genius said that the problem with reading Cormac McCarthy is that Cormac McCarthy is always in the way. It’s like he’s always standing with his back turned between you and the story. And he just stands there quietly mumbling the story back to you, even though you can’t really hear him and you can’t really hear the story and all you want is for Cormac McCarthy to just shut up and move out of the way so that you can get on with the stupid story . . . So yea, Cormac McCarthy is easily the worst writer ever and I’m not a fan.”
“What! What did you just say? What!” Wylie can’t believe his ears, there’s something seriously wrong with his ears! Are they bleeding? Is this what PTSD feels like? There’s something stuck in his throat, he can’t breathe! The veins in his neck are bulging, ballooning—
“Are you joking?” Wylie gasping, Wylie crying, “You can’t be serious. There’s no way. There’s seriously no way you actually believe that,” clearing his throat, clearing his throat, “and whatever ‘genius’ said that bullshit can go fist their illiterate parents in their dyslexic assholes.”
Dylan snorts and looks up from his ultrathin laptop, a new hand-rolled cigarette on his laughing lips, a new beer balanced on his skinny stomach.
“Sorry, Wylie,” he yawns, and blows a perfectly perfect smoke ring up toward the really high ceiling. “But I think Syd might be on to something. It really is an undisputable fact that Mr. McCarthy has a very authoritarian, almost dictatorial style of narration. That’s true. That’s beyond questioning. What’s also true is that Mr. McCarthy doesn’t stand for any kind of textual interruptions. He never once lets his readers live, love, or breathe alongside his plot-shackled characters. This is a fact.” Dylan pauses to ash on his skinny stomach. He yawns. “Actually, I wouldn’t even say Mr. McCarthy’s work calls for a real reader. Nope. I’d say it just calls for a fellow prison warden . . . But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“What!” Wylie squeezing one of the wooden masts, Wylie’s chest burning with hives. “How can you say something like that! I won’t even respond to that ludicrous, that preposterous statement. That’s wrong on so many levels. That’s offensively wrong! You’re both insane. Cormac McCarthy is a genius and a poet. He’s the best living American storyteller and you just don’t get him at all! You should just stick to reading your pseudointellectual trash. That is, if you even know how to read!” a scarlet rash spreading across Wylie’s malnourished chest.
“Take it fucking easy,” Giacomo softly growling from his wobbly wooden chair, a blob of unnaturally yellow cheese on his green sweater. “They’re just fucking with you.”
“Whatever,” Wylie mumbles, and humps it off to the front of the Warehouse, slamming the bathroom door behind him and entering one the most repulsive rooms on either side of the Mississippi . . . Hundreds of goldbrown Q-tips scattered across the slimy floor tiles, the remains of two or three twentysomething primates smeared over what must have once upon a prepizza time been a porcelain toilet bowl. No shower curtain, no soap. A nest of pubic hair in each drain. A broken piece of stained glass dangling above the sink. Towels and toilet paper a peacetime luxury. The reading materials in this diseased washroom rotating at random between the complete works of Thoreau, Emerson’s prose and poetry, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, an illustrated guide to the 100 most common chess openings, Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, an illustrated guide to the 100 most delicious pizza sauces, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, an illustrated guide to the 100 most depraved pop stars, Allen Ginsberg’s Fall of America, George Dyson’s Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence, William Nordhaus’s The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World, and a two- or three-year back issue of Car and Driver . . . Wylie locking himself in for some much-needed decompression.
Meanwhile, under the ugly florescent lights, Syd has already finished another beer, has already beat whatever game he’s been playing on his smartphone, has already rolled himself a fat joint, and has already giggled his way over to a corner of the Warehouse where the Pizza Boyz have set up a makeshift gym. We see a jump rope, a barbell, a pair of 25-pound dumbbells.
Syd lights the joint and takes a really deep, pre-workout drag. Then, with the joint clamped tight between his teeth, he starts to curl the dumbbells.
“How’s your truelove company going?”
Giacomo farts on the wobbly wooden chair. Farts twice. “Eh, it’s alright. Working like a motherfucker on this fucking algorithm. Getting ready for the fucking Presentation.”
Syd flexes his non-existent biceps. “Whatever happened to that girl you hired, the one from California? You ask her out yet?”
“Not yet. But soon. Real fucking soon,” smiling a sinister smile. “How’s the fucking pizza industry these days?”
Swirls of evergreen smoke gusting toward the really high ceiling, Syd curls both dumbbells and coughs. “Same old. We just keep rolling in the dough!”
Dylan snorts and hauls himself off his cum-splashed mattress. He stubs out his cigarette on one of the wooden bars. “Please don’t say things like that,” wiggling his skinny stomach through the wooden beams. “Or else people might get the right impression of you.”
Dylan throws his empty beer across the massive banquet hall, aiming for a black plastic trashcan near the vaultlike front door. He totally misses. He shrugs and reaches behind his ear for another hand-rolled cigarette.
Syd giggles and drops the weights on the floor. They land with a loud thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. Syd pinches the joint and takes a really deep, postworkout drag.
“Where,” exhaling and running a hand through his thinning hair, “do you guys wanna set up the van tonight?”
Wylie pokes his malnourished head out of the bathroom. Wylie shouts—“I heard there’s a rockabilly band playing at the Drunken Clinamen tonight. There’s supposed to be a two for one bourbon special going on all night. I bet it’s going to be packed. We should set up the van outside.” Wylie walking out of the bathroom and into the “kitchen”—an electric hot plate with only one functioning burner, a microwave, and a broken mini fridge which won’t close properly on account of all the cheap beer and string cheese stuffed inside. Wylie reaches into the fridge, grabs a six-pack of beer, and humps it back across the mouse-turd maze.
Wylie hands Giacomo a beer.
Dylan reaches behind his ear, pulls out another hand-rolled cigarette, shakes his laughing head. “I don’t know if you boys realize or not, but live music—and live events in general—are pretty much responsible for most, if not all of the mass killings throughout recorded history. It’s an undisputable fact that every time there’s a crowd there’s a genocide in the making. Especially when drugs and live music are involved.”
Syd squirms into his cage and yells back, “Don’t be such an asshole. Everyone knows that drugs and live music are the only things that stop people from going on a shooting spree after a bad day at the office. And besides, without a little substance abuse, history never would have got that killer record deal in the first place!”
“Please don’t say things like that,” Dylan blowing a perfectly perfect smoke ring up toward the really high ceiling.
Wylie clears his throat. “Okay, well, wherever we decide to go, we need to stop and pick up some gas for the generator first. I think we’re also out of shitake mushrooms.” Wylie strides over to the makeshift gym, steps over the weights, and bends down to browse through the makeshift library of paperbacks lined up against the wall. (We can see that the half-stolen, half-bartered collection has been carefully arranged, from left to right, in descending relevance to twentysomething life.) Wylie cracks open a beer and picks up the lead-off title (the most relevant), a pissed-on copy of My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, which he then holds tighter than tight to his malnourished chest as he squirms into his cage.
Sprawled out on his blood-sticky mattress, Syd reaches for his laptop and starts blasting his favorite female rapper, Lil’ Vajayjay. He sticks a giggling finger in his jeans and slowly pinches out a dime-sized bag of yellowpink powder. He giggles and giggles and uses a greasier than greasy pizza cutter to spread out two or three lines on his smartphone.
A new hand-rolled cigarette on his laughing lips, Dylan throws another empty bottle across the massive hangar. He totally misses. He shrugs and squirms into his cage.
Finished with his pot of pasta, taking an extra-large gulp of warm beer, our Chicago-bred superhero sits on the wobbly wooden chair and scratches his really itchy scalp. Because he’s like definitely wondering where the Pizza Boyz came from. Like where did they grow up? What was their childhood like? What was their parents’ pretax income the year they started high school? But then Giacomo burps, burps twice and thinks what Holden Caulfield would have thought if he hadn’t been such a total phony. That nothing before college really matters. Like at all. Because all that really matters, all that Giacomo definitely knows for sure, is that after the tearful and terrifying bursting of their Oberlin bubble, the two or three muchachos were left with only one viable option and obviously they didn’t think twice or thrice about it. Obviously they just packed up what little they actually owned, bought a used minivan, bought five portable ovens, a gas-powered generator, and made the move. They made the move to the Warehouse and started making a pizza pie . . .
All this florescent smoke finally getting to his walnut nostrils, to his brain, Giacomo sneezes, sneezes twice. The camera now slowly, slowly pulling away from this second-to-last vision—Giacomo Jones sitting in a wobbly wooden chair, sneezing, sneezing twice, an empty pot of pasta at his feet, a warm beer in his superhairy paws, a blob of unnaturally yellow cheese on his go-getter’s green sweater. We lick our lips and turn back to see, roughly five feet in front of our favorite superhero, on their respective mattresses, in their respective cages, ugly florescent lights bouncing off their vampire-pale and totally hairless chests, the two or three musketeers, the two or three Pizza Boyz waiting for the night and its pepperoni adventures to begin. Wylie drinking a beer and flipping through his heavy book, purple rain boots tap-a-tapping to Lil’ Vajayjay’s clap-claps. Syd giggling and giggling and snorting up lines of yellowpink fun. Dylan blowing perfectly perfect smoke rings through his laughing lips, a new beer balanced on his skinny stomach. We hear semi trucks huffing and puffing on the slippery bridge upstairs. And the very last thing we see, before slowly, slowly zooming all the way of the Warehouse, out of Queens, out of here, is a hungry little pet scurrying and scurrying across the concrete floor, its tiny cheeks stuffed with crumbs, with dandruff snacks. We sigh and wish it could all just go on and on, and on and on . . .