By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
He also started writing — plays, of all things. So Mrs. Torda launched a program with Wes where every two or three weeks or so that he didn’t get a demerit, she would let him put on another play. There was The Christmas Escape, and also his early mystery classic The Initial Bullet.
"The mystery is solved because it’s a doctor who has shot this guy and they found these X-rays of the guy with a bullet in his head, and if that’s not incriminating enough, the bullet has the doctor’s initials engraved on it that you can see in the X-ray."
The driver is staring out at the road ahead, smiling wryly. He’s a keen observer of youthful folly, especially his own.
"One of them," he continues, "was set all in cars. That was a big one, because that one, I remember, we did it for the class, then they expanded it for the lower school, and then they did it for the whole school. I was in fourth grade. Yeah, that was a big hit, that play."
The passenger looks into the rear-view, stealing a reflected gaze into the driver’s eyes. The past is rolling by in sequence like the broken lines on the highway.
"So, when Max says to his rival, ‘I’ve written a hit play, what have you done?’ you’re speaking from your heart."
"Yeah, speaking from my heart, except I think Owen [Wilson, his best friend and writing partner] might have written that line."
"Owen’s speaking from your heart."
There’s a long pause, as if Anderson is trying to scrutinize something ethereal.
"You had a grandiose sense of yourself at this time," the passenger suggests.
"Yeah, major ego, because I was" — he clears his throat — "I had a lot of insecurity, and I guess that’s the way it manifested itself."
"Do you remember what kind of affirmations you got when you were putting on your plays?"
"Yeah, the affirmation of me signing autographs for people who didn’t want my autograph. You know, I had a pad of paper and I was giving people my autograph. I was kind of standing there finding kids who I thought wanted my autograph and giving it to them. I was sort of feeling like I was a boy wonder."
Anderson chuckles at the thought, unaware of or uninterested in the irony.
"Well," says the passenger, "no one wants anything more in fourth grade than for people to want his autograph."
"Yeah, that’s right. I tried to create a market for that."
What do you get when you pay $5 billion to reroute the Colorado River 336 miles north and over 1,200 feet uphill to a desert cauldron fit only for rattlesnakes and scorpions, then decide the damned (literally) water is unfit for drinking but perfectly fit to be the new home of the London Bridge, which is transported and rebuilt brick by brick at a cost of more than $11 million and is now the centerpiece of a town that hosts the London Arms Pub and the Sherwood Forest Nursery?
The citizens of Arizona got Lake Havasu City.
The sign in front of the Pilot gas station near Lake Havasu City doesn’t say Welcome to the Biggest Mistake in the West, but it does say Welcome. And our gas gauge says empty. So at 2 p.m. and 320 miles into the trip, we stop.
During the last stretch of California, we passed a coyote on one side of the road and an attractive female hitchhiker in red pants on the other. The driver was concerned for both, especially the woman in red pants.
"Those red pants are going to get her picked up at some point," he said plaintively. "I just hope it’s the right person."
Inside the Pilot station, the Chipmunks are singing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth." Coyotes, singing Chipmunks, the desert, it’s all part of Christmas in Southern California. No wonder Bret Easton Ellis left with a bad taste in his mouth. But the driver seems supremely untouched by it all, even the road ahead of him. He’s got the air-conditioned solution. He’s got books by Don DeLillo, Tom Wolfe, Robert Evans and Roald Dahl on tape. He’s got the LBJ tapes. He’s got a towel in the travel bag. He’s got the Pixies, Rolling Stones, Elliott Smith and his best friend’s girlfriend (Sheryl Crow) on CD. He’s got a cooler full of sandwiches and chocolate-chip cookies. For the time being, he’s got the world at bay.
The characters populating Anderson’s movies are the same, existing in a heightened, insular world of their own making. In Bottle Rocket, the three friends at the film’s core barely come in contact with anything or anyone that could be mistaken for life as most of us know it. When they do, the outcome isn’t good.
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