Detroit, 1991. July 20th.
Hank and Sturgill drive down Woodward Ave in a busted red 1989 Ford Probe. Hank drives. Sturgill rides shotgun. The evening sky is turning pink in the way that grows melancholic memories.v“Left My Wallet In El Segundo,” by A Tribe Called Quest bumps from tape cassette. The windows are open and the weather is warm.
Sturgill says, “We have done some low down dirty jobs. But this is a new level.”
Hank says, “Don't think about it like that. The pay is strangely high. We're lucky to get the gig. By the end of the summer we will have the script done. And saved enough dough for the film, the camera, the editing room, lights. Then we're out of this dead city and onto Hollywood.”
Sturgill takes a bite from a five dollar hot n ready pizza, then throws the box in the back of the car.
At 12 Mile on the other side of the corner is a HUGE poster for Point Break.
For a lot of people The Beatle's first performance on the, “Ed Sullivan Show,” was the event that sent them on a permanent quest from the entertainment industry in one form or another. For a more select view, there was a book about all of the beautiful things done by the special effects departments, to make the classic film trilogies of George Lucas' Star Wars, and Stephen Spielberg's Indiana Jones. Sturgill flipped through that book for the first time when he was eight years old. He knew he would not be satisfied until he was a big-time movie director, where similar books would be made about the behind the scenes genius of his own movies.
And luckily for Sturgill, his brother hank that read Michael Crichton's, “Jurassic Park,” and then saw the movie adaptation a week later, at around the age of nine. He knew he would never be satisfied until he was a big-time writer until there was no choice but turn them into big-time movies. And who better to direct than his brother Sturgill? So the curse was in. At about the age of ten, they began work on their first feature film. Sixteen years later, they still had not filmed frame one. Just because you want to do something in life so bad, you won't be satisfied until you're doing it, does not mean that you're still not going to have to do a bunch of stuff you really don't want to do on the way to getting there. Chances are you will never make it there at all.
But hank and Sturgill didn't let those kinds of thoughts gain much ground. They had the talent, and the work ethic of a savage left alone in some jungle. They were born in Detroit, in a time and place of such of horror, that Colonel Kurtz would have been hesitant to set up shop there. To describe it as, “The Horror,” doesn't do it justice. And anyway, any good creative mind needs a big monster or a hundred to keep it running. Life kept getting in the way. They would save up the money to shoot, then a tragedy would wipe them out. Then they would rebuild, then another tragedy, and so forth. They planned to move to Los Angeles, but that was ten years ago. And without a movie, it would be a waste of time anyway.
At the tail end of their house being wiped out by a tornado, along with about every cent in their bank accounts, they decided they had to get out of Detroit as fast as possible if they were ever going to do what they were put on Earth to do. They needed a new job. The warehouse they worked at went under. The boss spent all the paychecks on blow and hookers. They flipped through the classifieds. An old Ford Dealership needed a crew of mop swingers for the summer. Three months, and a promise of ten grand each for anyone who made it to the end. And you even got a free meal whenever you showed up to work. Sturgill and hank looked at each other, then ran to the car and drove as fast as they could to drop off applications. After a month they have experienced mop swingers and also losing what little remained of their sanity
At 11 Mile dig what is playing at the art house, a double-feature, first Naked Lunch then Delicatessen.
Hank says, “Now that is how you put together a double-feature. Movies that are related in theme. Not the same movie, like how they played Jaws, then The Deep at the drive-in last week.”
Sturgill flips through Entertainment Weekly. There is a three page article on this new director, Harmony Korine, and his weird movie, Kids. And then another about how Themla and Louise was a surprise hit and launched the career of some actor from the Bible Belt named Brat Pitt.
Hank says, “I got a bootleg of Kids from Koushel The Albanian. It was garbagio of the highest order.”
Sturgill says, “If we were in New York we would have already made it somehow. We wouldn't be about to spend the summer cleaning a car dealership every night.”
Hank says, “But we're not from New York. We're from Detroit.”
They cross 8 Mile, where there is a poster for Boys N The Hood on display.
Sturgill: The name connotes a certain type. Not a name you hear everyday, especially in Detroit. 33, with half a lion's mane of hair and neatly trimmed face. He resembles some kind of admiral. He walks taller, and straighter than anyone in his company. Even though he is only five foot nine and a hundred sixty pounds soaking wet, from carrying a mop stick over one shoulder and a bag of wet mops over the other. He still commands the respect of anyone who notices him. Not that anyone does notice a mop swinger. Sturgill is also a world class movie director. Although by his dirt and oil stained first impressions janitor outfit, and hole filled shoes, he understands the possible confusion. Sometimes a Cadillac of men is hard to see. Unless you see the walk, the confidence, the straightness of the back, the looking down at all things, eyes framing shots, composing with light, preparing to give orders. And Ted Nugent playing, Homeboound, propelling him from the Probe. There is constantly music propelling the mop swingers. It is what little they can do to hold onto their sanity.
Hank has that unmistakable squirrely demeanor of both the writer and the mop swinger. There is no mistaking who or what he is,. His constant nervous flinching, like a convict on the run, desperate to escape not only his terror of a job, but reality entire. He finishes smoking the doobie to the nub in the Probe. He grabs the vacuum and garbage bag from the trunk. He tries to shut it. But the trunk never shuts the way it is supposed to. This time it takes him seven attempts to get the cursed thing shut. Sturgill laughs, watching his brother get progressively overcome by rage coming from the routinely failing mechanics all around him, and then smoothing his hair out, and mop swinger uniform, in a attempt to mask the fragile nature of his psyche. They walk through the snow drifts of the parking lot, into the ever darkening shadow of the vast complex known as the Maxey Ford Dealership, on the eastern tip, of the cursed city of Detroit. It takes Hank four tries to get the lock to unlock. Even though there is only one key. And it's freezing outside. The weather alone is terrifying. The insanity of the task is another matter. Hank's blood pressure rises again. Pictures of the previous owners of the dealership adorn the walls along with championship years of Detroit's home team's. The previous owners go far back to before the photograph was invented. It goes back to paintings, etchings, wood carvings, even a Roman bust of Julias Maxey.
The bossman Jimmy leans on a clean and pristine blood red Ford Bronco. He smiles, and elbows Art the American Indian Mechanic. They watch the Probe make a right turn into the parking lot.
Jimmy says, “Well well well my friend, just look what the wind done blown in, this time.”
Artis a direct decedent of the last chief of Potawatomi tribe. Legend has it that chief made a deal with the great snake to save his own ass.
He finishes rolling a cigarette and lights it with a blow torch.
Art says, “I saw that Probe in my dream.”
Jimmy laughs. “I did to. I did to.”
Behind him are the large glass windows of the, “Waiting Room.” There is a large wall mounted TV. The evening news plays. Peter Jennings updates the country on the Hubble Telescope Launch, the airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Then it goes to sports. NBA: Chicago Bulls vs. LA Lakers Series: 4-1. And the Tigers were in second place.
At Golden Pond apartment building on Seven Mile and Evergreen, Walter tries to leave for work, for his third job of the day, but his wife and six kids are making it very difficult for him.
One says, “Dad you can't leave yet, you just got here!”
He says, “Don't worry. I'll be around to wake you up for school in the morning.”
One says, “But the game is going to be on.”
Then he is in his Oldsmobile driving down second. On the side of a bus is a poster for, “Terminator 2.”
He is shaking his and head and smoking a blunt, listening to Paula Abdul's, “Rush Rush.”
He makes the precarious transition from I-75 N to I-94 E. The Detroit sky line flashes by his window from about three miles away that makes it look like he is flying in an airplane, and not driving in a car. For a brief moment, he is a pilot, and not a mop swinger. Pardon the literary flourish.
When he pulls into the parking lot of the Ford dealership, the Baker St bus is arriving at the final stop of it's destination.
The doors open to a cacophony of Hellish screams.
Dead Head leaps backward to the sidewalk.
“You can't even name one country of east Asia! Let alone who is power! So shut the fuck up!”
The bus yells back, “Fuck you to dead head!”
Dead Head wears a green army jacket, acid washed jeans, filfthy KEDS. He has a blond buzzcut and mustache. He adjusts his glasses with his left hand that only has four fingers remaining. The story of how he lost it is one for the ages. But I don't have time to do into it right now. He takes a self rolled cigarette from behind his ear. He snaps open a Zippo painted like the American flag. He lights up and waves to the crew.
The doors slam shut and the speeds off leaving a giant cloud of smoke behind.
Jimmy and Art watch them walk across the lot to the door.
“My name is Jimmy. I'm the boss. But call me Jimmy. I want to be your friend. This art. The mechanic. And my old around right hand man fifty grand.” says Jimmy.
Art blows smoke. “I'm just a mechanic.”
They shake hands.
Jimmy says, “Welcome to your first of what I hope to be your many days on the job.”
Hank says, “If you say--”
Sturgill cuts him off. “Happy to be here. Both us. You've never met workers like the Lomax brothers. Never in your whole life.”
“I can't say we have had a team of brothers that are also aspiring writers and directors of big time Hollywood movies.” Jimmy holds his belly and laughs. “No I cannot say I have seen that on an application before. When management spotted that they said Jimmy hire these two on the spot!”
Hank looks nervous.
Sturgill says, “Sir, I mean Jimmy. We will not disappoint you.
“It would be my pleasure to give you the lay of the land, the details of the job.”
They follow him into the building. The door closes behind them, making a creak that could be mistaken for a muffled scream.
They are in the catacombs of the garage. The place seems trashed beyond repair. Jimmy motions to the floors. “All this has to be spotless. Our upper management takes it's cleaning staff very seriously.”
Next to one of the hydraulics, looking like a piece of obscure car repair machinery is a statue of Moloch, the god of child sacrifice. But there are deep shadows in the garage of a dealership at night when the sun goes down, and so no one noticed. And if they did, they shut it out, because the entire city was designed to overload the mind with horrors, leaving it's unsuspecting citizens in a state of constant psychic paralysis and easily controlled.
Now the tour is in the show room.
“Let Her Cry,” by Hootie and The Blowfish is playing from the overhead speakers.
“They believe a successful company starts and stops from the bottom up, ever heard that before?. And they would know right?. They have been in business a very long time.”
Jimmy looks at Art, “How long have they been in business?”
Art shrugs. “A long time.”
The cubicles of the salesman show in great detail the ongoing nightmares that are their lives. The family pictures on the desks all show terrified small tribes, stunned the some off screen horror.
Now they are in the bathrooms.
You are walking into the highest paying janitor's job on this side of the world. We keep that a secret. You have to lucky. It's a dirty job, but you will be taken care of very well. Like you got to take care of the tampon garbage. That's no picnic.”
Now they are in the kitchen area.
It ain't pretty work, I ain't going to lie to you. And everything has to be done right every night down to the last detail. But if you want to get where you want to go quick, then this is the place to do it. I can make that offering.”
Now they are in the vast accounting offices.
And you have to sign a few documents promising that you're going to show up, especially on certain holidays. But I'm sure gentlemen of such high aspirations as yourself understand that for great rewards, sacrifices are needed to be made.”
In the bosses' office they don't notice a faint mural on the wall of the bossman's office, that depicted the spoiling of children after they are chosen to be sacrificed to the gods at the top of a pyramid.
It is June 20th 12:01 AM and crowds of hippy back backers gather around Stone Henge. They lights joints, laugh, dance, hug, kiss. But there is another more well dressed crowd. The jet set, watching with smirks and drinking fine wine in the white house on the hill.
Detroit, 5:31 PM.
Back in the probe.
Hank is still driving. Sturgill is still eating a slice from a five dollar hot n ready. “Don't Look Back In Anger,” by Oasis plays from the now blown out speakers.
Sturgill, “I hate this song.”
Entertainment Weekly features a Sandra Bullock movie, The Net.
Hank says, “What are you talking about? Oasis is better than The Beatles.”
Strugill says, “Don't make me kick you out of this car. Yoko Ono should karate chop those fucking Gallagher brothers to death just on principle.”
Sturgill changes the station to the news. Chuck Gatagah informs the populace the midwest is going through a record breaking heatwave. The sun is going down but the temperature hovers around 106.
At 12 Mile there is a billboard for The Usual Suspects.
Apollo 13 is still going strong.
Before Sunrise is STILL going strong at the arthouse.
JIMMY and ART watch the probe pull into the lot.
Hank throws a joint out the window then steps out wearing his green Airwalk Jims.
ART says, “The sky is red.”
Jimmy says, “Yes, yes it is.”
TO BE CONTINUED