A very big TV/film fan hitchhikes to Hollywood in search of something – or someone. 2,408 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
On behalf of my home planet, I’d like to welcome myself to Hollywood.
I hail from Mars. I know for decades you’ve been searching for signs of life up there on the fourth rock from the sun. We were so flattered in 2012 when you sent up that cute Mars Rover Curiosity that’s still zipping around our Gale Crater like a little golf cart. We love each and every orbiter and all those nifty NASA-type gadgets. When that stuff shows up, well, it’s just like Christmas here!
You’ve explored Mars — but you still haven’t found us. Don’t blame yourselves. We’re smaller than anything you can detect even with your most sophisticated ultra-microscope. You can take home all the digital photos, rocks and space-dirt you want— you won’t see us. No, you’re not stupid. It’s not your fault. We’re just real small, that’s all.
Okay I like you humans. You’re funny. So I’m going to share a little secret: You can see us, in a way. We are the red on the Red Planet. All of us, together: our very existence radiating a beautiful warm glow into space for the whole galaxy to share, shifting from tangerine to blood orange to terra cotta brick depending on our mood. That’s us.
We would have done purple when Prince died if we could.
But I digress. My Earth pop culture reference to The Purple One reminds me of the story I wanted to tell you as my first direct communication with Earth. About how I came to Hollywood, and why I must stay. I must stay for as long as it takes.
I call my story the Speck Script because it’s my script and I’m a speck, size-wise. I also like puns. You know, connecting my size to Hollywood spec scripts — those 120-page documents written at a corner table in the Coffee Bean that will never be read by anyone.
I hope you will read my Speck Script because it’s true. I will start at the beginning even though I’m not yet sure how it will end.
The rover Curiosity may have failed to prove there’s life on Mars but ever since it landed here we’ve had WiFi. Don’t ask me to explain — I’m an alien, not a scientist. Just accept the fact that since 2012 we’ve had access to anything you can find on the worldwide web. The Internet changed everything, so much so that we started calling the time Before Curiosity landed “B.C.” For me, this revolution meant immersing myself in entertainment TV and movies. Especially Netflix — which somehow comes in clearer than HBO. Others among us may prefer gaming, news feeds or food porn, but I like the Hollywood entertainment product because your stories give me insight into life on Earth — a snapshot of the inside of your brains (remarkably ineffective, given their size).
I prefer TV to movies. Our favorite TV shows aren’t set in outer space although we do get a chuckle out of The Big Bang Theory because we remember the actual big bang as being quite the party for all concerned. A lot of us also enjoy Dancing With The Stars. The whole concept of feet — wow!
So many big feature films dabble in the extraterrestrial. I understand this has to do with the economics of Star Wars, your first outer space blockbuster. When we’re watching Total Recall or The Martian or The Arrival, you may observe the entire Red Planet turn the color of Rotten Tomatoes.
I know — everybody’s a critic, no matter how small. But I have a real problem with tone. I’m not sure why you think evolution would run backwards up here, turning outer space into some kind of prehistoric wartime hell. Things are actually pretty sweet. lot of your alien stories are set in the future, yet civilization in them always seems to be regressing. I don’t understand why movie space creatures organize into hostile armies, marching about like Ben Hur extras trying to exterminate each other and then incinerate the galaxy. And those robes. Last summer’s Renaissance Faire called and wants them back.
I’d also like to call a movie moratorium on doing battle with that ultimate phallic symbol, the light saber, whenever you run out of plot twists. It’s just embarrassing. On Mars we don’t have male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual. We don’t have different races either. (Actually neither do you — you are all chemically the same though you haven’t figured that out yet). But, if I had to select a skin color, I’d choose something on the brown side because of global warming and the increasing risk of skin damage due to UV radiation. And I’d opt to be female because of a wider skill-set that includes childbirth.
But back to the movies. Let’s accept for the moment your seeming assumption that English is the first language of the Universe. If so, why would we speak it in such a stilted manner? “I cannot stop this violent meteor shower, my captain.” “We must not seize the Stone Of Knowledge or our eyeballs will fry.” “Do not push the big yellow button of ultimate destruction.” Please. Did some black hole in space suck all the humor (and most common contractions) out of your sentences?
Here’s reality: we’re peaceful due to shared emotion. We speak all languages with specificity and nuance. We’re not trying to take over Earth because we don’t want it. Not just because it’s damaged goods ecologically speaking. It’s because, as I may have mentioned, we’re small. We don’t need all that stuff you’ve got —plentiful water, oxygen, sunlight, açai bowls. We’ve achieved the ultimate evolution: We’re so tiny we will never run out of natural resources. As you say on your planet: size matters. We’re happy. Although now that we’ve connected with your culture via the Internet, some of us wish we were big enough to need décor. After binge-watching Mad Men, we think we might prefer Mid-Century Modern.
And despite my criticism of your space movies, I admit I became obsessed with Hollywood. I wanted to see it all, the real place — not just its marketable product. The ultimate Dream Machine. Hence my idea: I would go there. Next time Curiosity transmitted photos back to Earth, I’d hop on for the ride. Don’t ask me how that works, it just does. Like calling Uber. As I said: alien, not scientist.
I guess the only thing I didn’t think about was how I was going to get back. I decided not to worry about it. Maybe I could figure out a way to return via an episode of Orange Is The New Black.
The best thing about my plan is that I knew Curiosity originated from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. And I had learned from SNL’s “The Californians” skit that all I’d have to do to get from Pasadena to Burbank or Universal City — the real heart of the entertainment industry — was take the 210 West and then the 134 toward Ventura, exit at Lankershim Blvd. and make a sharp left. Traffic would be terrible. I would love every minute!
So that’s what I did. Once I arrived — snugly melded between the pixels in a digital image of a chunk of Martian feldspar — I wiggled out and hopped on a tour bus headed for the new “Wizarding World Of Harry Potter” attraction at Universal Studios. I resisted the temptation to go into the park alone for my first taste of butter beer. Because If I wanted to get close to the heartbeat of Hollywood, then I needed to get myself into those executive suites as soon as I could.
Luckily, I arrived at the Harry Potter entrance just as a group of casually dressed industry VIPs showed up with their fashionable kids for a private tour of the theme park. Wow, I was going to be able to access power and see Hogwarts at the same time! One of the adults was wearing an Armani suit. Attracted to such fine fabric, I quickly hopped into the jacket pocket.
It was Saturday so I knew I wouldn’t be able to hitchhike in this pocket to Universal City’s Black Tower office building or one of Burbank’s studio lots until Monday. But I was willing to enjoy the weekend before achieving my fondest California dream. Hey, maybe I could go to a beach house in Malibu for the weekend.
Panic struck me while we were all riding Harry Potter’s “Flight Of The Hippogriff” family-friendly roller coaster. Which after my quick 40-million mile jaunt to Earth frankly seemed a little slow. Could I have mistakenly joined forces with an agent? Ugh. Sitting in a white marble office in Beverly Hills or Century City talking to people on the phone at great length about how I was too busy to take their insignificant calls. That didn’t sound like any fun at all.
Luckily, the pocket did not belong to an agent. My ride had a leather business card carrier in his suit pocket. Easy enough to peek inside: he was Carter Kellman, vice president of comedy development at an alphabet network. If I couldn’t connect with DWTS, I was thrilled to anticipate getting into the writers room with a lot of super-duper-funny writers as well as many creative executives with less talent but bigger paychecks.
More good luck. At the end of a long day of achingly slow rides and no butter beer, Mr. Carter Kellman, who appeared to be about 36, handed his queasy looking red-headed 4-year-old to the former Mrs. Carter Kellman, a painfully thin blond woman in black yoga pants who was waiting at the end of our day of fun. Apparently, despite today’s special tour with Dad, this was her weekend. And Carter didn’t go off to a beach house. Even though it was Saturday he went directly back to the office, which explained why he was wearing an Armani suit to a theme park (and offered a hint as to why he was divorced at 36).
I have to admit that by now I was beginning to feel less exhilarated than nervous about my long voyage from home. For the next 20 minutes, I tried not to hyperventilate. I would have closed my eyes except we don’t have those. When we arrived at our destination, I climbed out when I heard Carter Kellman greeting his colleagues. We were inside a long glassed-in meeting room in the middle of a low-rise complex. Carter Kellman was the only one wearing a suit. The rest of the people around the table were tired, disheveled, bespectacled, wearing faded jeans and an assortment of T-shirts. In front of them lay messy stacks of white paper, bottles of water and virtual mountains of sushi in plastic trays in various stages of consumption. Writers.
Most of the people were men about the same age as Carter Kellman, though shorter and less clean-shaven. They talked very, very fast — waving their hands with excitement about jokes I had already heard even on Mars. But one was different. A woman —just one woman, with tan skin, an athletic figure and long straight black hair that popped against her bright white T-shirt. Instead of yellowtail and California roll, she had in front of her a big sloppy cheeseburger with steak fries on the side. t made the pale sticky sushi look timid and indecisive despite the heavy wasabi.
But never mind today’s menu in the writer’s room. As I mentioned before, we don’t have male or female on Mars. A good thing after we got Internet and saw how much confusion, pain and angst that sexual relationships have caused on your planet. We aren’t cold and analytical Vulcans like your fictional Dr. Spock, we are filled with shifting emotions, ideas and endless excitement. But whatever we feel is not the complicated passion that exists, builds and so often fades between couples on Earth.
But I just discovered something magical and strange that seems to involve the very core of my submicroscopic self: I must be male, even though I don’t quite know what that means. I know because of the way I suddenly feel about this woman. I must be the opposite of her in some delightful yet disturbing and very human way in which opposites attract.
I think I love her.
It’s both wonderful and awful. Maybe I only feel this way because I’m separated from the others. When I was with them, I knew who I was, an integral though tiny part of Mars’ spectacular red glow, serving the Universe, lighting the Universe. Well, now I’m at Universal. When I’m alone in the San Fernando Valley, do I even exist? Am I any color at all? Maybe I should just go home everything I hang onto and believe in falls apart.
My reality has shattered. And even if I accept this scary new connection, there’s a huge problem: I am small. Too small to reach out and touch her. Too small to tell her that I love her more than I’ve ever loved anything — the absolute truth because I have never loved anything before. Yes, we have the Internet on Mars, but here I faced an insurmountable lack of communication.
Bravely, I made the trip from the pocket to the slippery glass table, through the labyrinth of 8-by-11 sheets and half-eaten fish. I climbed into her soft shiny black hair and slid down one strand all the way to the end. It was better than any ride at Harry Potter’s Wizarding World except that it ended much too soon. I was in her hair. She didn’t know it. Oh, what silky torture scented with aloe vera conditioner! My plight was worse than Cyrano de Bergerac’s sad story told in Steve Martin’s 1987 movie comedy Roxanne. He said, “It’s not the size of the nose that matters, it’s what’s inside that counts!” I am too small to even imagine having a nose but share Steve’s agony because I can’t figure out a way to tell her how I feel.
I thought my trip to Earth was going to be research, and maybe the chance to see Miley Cyrus at the Trader Joe’s in Toluca Lake. Then home to share it all with the others. Now it had become something much bigger. I don’t understand anything anymore. But I am not leaving Hollywood until I find a way to travel from her hair into her heart.