Tuesday, May 26, 2009


When I asked Alex Dawson, owner of the Main Street bookshop The Raconteur, about the superficial incongruity of Saturday’s unusual event, he was no longer wearing the sleeveless cowboy shirt of the night before. Instead, he wore a black crewneck emblazoned with blocky, blood-red letters that read “The Raconteur Motorcycle Club.” A fiery skull replaced the “o” in “Raconteur” and tongues of flame flanked the words “Metuchen, NJ.” He massaged his rotary cuff through the cotton of his club T and offered a circuitous explanation. “I like the idea of a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner grappling shirtless in the dirt with Rip Torn,” said Dawson, referring to a particular YouTube clip featuring Norman Mailer, “it’s unexpected.” In the same sort of macho, paradoxical spirit, Dawson not only sells half priced books and hosts more sophisticated cultural fare (2008 National Book Award winning poet Mark Doty will be there later this week), he also holds a George Bernard Shaw beard growing contest called The Un-Shavian (get it?), leads a series of rides for bibliophilic bikers, and sponsors an arm-wrestling competition named for the titular fisherman in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Inspired by the grueling twenty-four hour match in Casablanca between the marlin trolling Santiago and “the great Negro from Cienfuegos, who was the strongest man on the docks," The 1st Annual Santiago Armsport Tourney kicked off Saturday night with a theatrical reading from OMS by stage heavy/arm-wrestling adjudicator Jeff Maschi (who recently played Hemingway in an in-store production of Papa, and is set to play Wolverine, yes Wolverine, in an upcoming one man show at The Rac).

“They had gone one day and one night with their elbows on a chalk line and their forearms straight up and their hands gripped tight.” Sitting at the square bark brown “hand game” table, lit overhead by a single pale light, Jeff read about how the shadows jumped on the blue walls, and the fingernails bled on the black fists, and how the men changed referees every four hours so that the officials could sleep.

Then, against a backdrop of Beny Moré and a handful of over blown pop hits by eighties icons Kenny Loggins (Meet Me Half Way) and Eddie Money (I Will Be Strong), Hemingway fans and Stallone stalwarts settled themselves into thirty folding chairs for a succession of blustery bouts between contenders like Roland (named for Charlemagne’s towering knight), a mountainous mash-up of George “the Animal” Steele and Over the Top’s burly “Bull” Hurley; James “Feel the Bern” Dudley, a husky dark horse; and long haul trucker, er, local bookseller, Alex Dawson. Yes, just an ordinary night at The Raconteur.

Bern baby Bern!

There were others. Leon, a cock diesel classicist who chops his own wood and reads Latin shirtless, showed excellent form against the sinewy, tentacled Tom, a recent Princeton grad/senior class prez with arms twice as long as everyone else's. (It was a match that forced Eva, sister of one, flame of the other, to make a difficult cheering choice: Beau or Bro?)

Fifty something jazz composer John joined the fray mid-way, wearing a sleeveless shirt that revealed two biceps, thin as butter blades, white as bar naps, ball-pointed with makeshift tatts that respectively read “Born to Torque,” and “Bud Don’t Budge,” the latter a nod to a knotty modal composition (of the same name) now available on his newly minted five CD album. John swiveled his hips, touched his toes, cracked his knuckles, and went up against the wiry lever of a college kid named Jess. The match was over in seconds, with John, who’d spent the day googling techniques, bemoaning “My research has failed me!”

Some people fight for money, some fight for glory, some fight for the love of their alienated son, but Dawson, who took on all comers, fought to avoid handing out the twenty-five dollar gift certs he’d promised the victors (“should they emerge”). Turns out, he’d been a dive bar champ during his days as a gutbucket bartender/bouncer and, though he hadn’t “torqued” in six years, his wrenches served him well. He wrestled eight without a break (including a Roland rematch), and won every one.

The tournament was followed by a free screening of the 1952 Oscar nominated Spencer Tracy film.

Note: The Raconteur posts all its events on Youtube. Look for a video tape of the tournament online in the next week or so.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


They say that smell is the strongest sensory trigger. While walking down to the shop this morning I caught a whiff of something smokey and iron. It immediately made me think of Sarge, a blacksmith/former navy man who had once worked the field trial circuit, which my stepfather ruled for decades with muscled dogs like Five Card Stud and Bootstrap.

A field trial is a competitive event in which hunting dogs track and point flocks (or cubbies) of quail clustered in the brush. The judges, trainers, scouts, and spectators are all on horseback, and Sarge's job was to re-shoe the horses when necessary. Sometimes my brother and I rode along with this herd of horses and handlers (called the gallery), but more often than not we were left to our own designs in the plantation parking lot, a big field bordered by barns, stables, lofts, sheds, and various other outbuildings. Sarge was the one lone adult left in the lot, and drawn to him by the charky stink of the forge fire we were unofficially put in his charge.

Sarge was as compact as the anvil on which he clamorously hammered and he wore an oil tanned apron that skimmed his ankles like a dress. He had egg white hair and the moony face of Mickey Rooney post Skidoo. Every so often Sarge would let us have a couple whacks on a spare shoe with his heavy headed sledge. He'd grab the hot iron with his tongs, hold it at the anvil with one hand, and indicate where it was to be struck by tapping the spot with a small hammer. It was then up to me or my brother to deliver the mighty blow that would shape the shoe.

One morning Sarge dug into his apple box of horse picks and starter rasps and trimming nips and fished out a slingshot. I had some experience with braided rubber bands and yoked sticks (that snapped if I pulled the band too far back), but never had I seen a device such as this. Black like his apron, it was made from metal not wood. Rubber as thick as the tire tube of a ten speed looped down from the yorks and a metal wrist brace unfolded from the the slingshot's contoured grip for increased leverage and power. "If Navy Seals used slingshots instead of sniper rifles," Sarge once barked, "they'd all have one of these babies hanging on their hip."

Good old Sarge. In addition to showing me how to mold hot iron and knock over upright shotgun casings with slung rocks, Sarge taught me how to stand, legs wide like the slingshot yorks, while "shaking off the dew," (and once my gaze slid over to what Sarge called his "lizard," which was short and barreled like his body.)

And so this whisper of smoke and iron on Main Street this morning makes me think of all these things: the extravagantly named pointers, their tails stiff and straight as rulers, the glowing horse shoes with their poker red tips, the slingshot with its molded pistol grip and thick garden hose of rubber, and last but not least, Sarge and his chunky, quarter roll Johnson, darkening the faded barn-siding to the color of blood or gushing like a horse into a bristling clump of broom sedge.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Outside a dog, a book is a man's best friend; inside a dog, it's too dark to read." --Groucho Marx

My girlfriend Kristy and I recently adopted a retired seeing eye dog named Rosie. She's an extremely congenial Deutscher Schäferhund (otherwise known as a German Shepherd) and reminds me very much of my first dog, Beowulf, a companionable female shepherd with an inappropriately bellicose name. (My dad was a big fan of hero epics; we also had a terrier named Sigurd.) Rosie, like Beowulf, is tan with a black mask and saddle.

Ever since opening The Raconteur four years ago, I'd wanted a shop dog. A women in town owned a Scottish Deerhound and once a week I'd see it lurching hugely, the moose of dogs, past the front window. Deerhounds are spindly and look prehistoric (and are believed to have existed before recorded history). This one had a coarse wiry coat and the gangling gait of something dead reanimated. It was so ugly it was beautiful and I was convinced the store needed one.

Then I met Rosie. Rosie belonged to a friend of a friend, a visually impaired carpenter named Tony. He was preparing to retire Rosie, and was keen on the idea of having her in the shop, which would allow him the possibility of visiting her should he find himself exceptionally rattled by her absence.

Rosie is NOT blind. Many customers (including my sharpest friends), upon hearing "retired seeing eye dog," thickly ask, "so...she's, like, totally blind?"

Rosie, unlike those quoted above, is very bright. Shepherds were bred specifically for their intelligence, a trait for which they are now renowned. They are considered the third smartest breed, behind Border Collies and poodles. Poodles are actually the smartest, which I initially found hard to believe, unfairly charging them with the flakiness of their owners.

For the most part, Rosie wanders loose in the shop. Though, in truth, she does little wandering, preferring hibernation to circumlocution. She spends the better part of the day dozing under the old oak table we have set up in the back for writing workshops, book clubs, and dinner (I work about fifty hours a week, so it's nice to have a place other than the cashier counter to eat my Futo Maki). Whenever she stands up she stretches pleasurably, thrusting her front legs forward and lowering her shoulders to the floor in rough approximation of the yoga position Adho Mukha Svanasana. If you start scratching her ears she'll roll onto her back and moan gratefully (which, I'm fairly sure, is not a yoga pose).

Rosie loves people but hates dogs. Especially poodles, her intellectual rivals. And while we typically welcome leashed animals, with the addition of Rosie, we ask that you ascertain her whereabouts (she's not here everyday) before trotting in your own dog. She loves kids, but often thinks black strollers (and rolling suitcases) are, in fact, wheeled dogs, and is initially rankled by their entrance into the shop.

Mutts creator/animal activist Patrick Mcdonnell was here last month to sign copies of his latest children's book SOUTH. His fans are sort of like Trekkies with pets. But instead of latex Spock years and velor V-necks they wear ball caps and hooded sweatshirts that say "Nuts for Mutts" or "Yesh!" (strip star Mooch has a lisp). One component of Patrick's visit is what he calls a chalk talk (though it involves black sharpees and not white chalk). He answers questions while making quick sketches of his most famous characters--Earl, Mooch, Guard Dog, Sourpuss, Shtinky Puddin'--on a huge architect's pad. To our delight, he drew a picture of Rosie (which he later gave us) and in response to the fervent grilling of a audience longing to know something top secret about a new character, Patrick dangled the possibility of a Rosie cameo. (And certainly there's at least a week's worth of daily strips to be milked from a seeing eye dog in a bookstore.)

I tend to view things in a cultural context and cannot consider Rosie without also acknowledging her film forbears. Strongheart, a shepherd, was one of earliest canine stars and the first animal to be billed above the movie title. He starred in films like "Brawn of the North," Jack London's "White Fang," and "The Return of Boston Blackie." Strongheart was followed by Rin Tin Tin, the most famous shepherd to date. Both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Batman's dog, Ace the Bat Hound, was also a shepherd.Naturally, when you adopt a dog, you're stuck with the name they answer to. It usually ends in a Y and is almost always insufferably cute. Lucky, Sparky, Muffin. Scoot. You can, however, building backwards, create an evocative enough name from even the most precious agnomen. Rosie, which called to mind female riveters, maid robots, and beefy comediennes, wasn't bad, but, considering my pet history--Beowulf, Sigurd, and a budgerigar named Von Rictofen (the red baron)--and the dramatic almost baroque ambiance of the shop, I knew it wouldn't do. And so, Rosie has since become Sub Rosa, a Latin phrase that denotes secrecy.

Parting shot: While my mother was content to leave the dog dubbing to my Dad, my stepmother, an energetic woman full of bubbles and beans, was not, and when they bought a Shetland Sheepdog from a puppy farm outside of Lambertville, Dad was forced to depart from his somber catalog in favor of something with a bit more "pep." They agreed on Bonnie, but to this day hotly debate what exactly was put down on paper (the dog has been dead ten years). "Bonnie Prince Billy," insists my Dad downing a tumbler of Loch Lomand, "the exiled Jacobite claimant to the throne of Great Britain." "Ridiculous," my stepmother chides brightly, sipping a wine cooler, "the dog's registered name, as your father well knows, was Beautiful Bon Bon of Frenchtown."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mele Kalikimaka, Emmett Otter, and Pecan Pizzelles

Christmas in Alabama was a two-edged sword. Though we lived in the deep south, it got cold. Very cold. And that meant several things. It meant that along with our usual early morning chores, we'd have to make sure that both stoves had wood. The kitchen one, small and bulbous, took branches, nothing thicker than a rolling pin; the living room one, big and boxy, took trunk wood, most of which had to be split to fit under the stove lids. It meant that we'd have to break, with heavy sticks, the ice in the water buckets of five horse stables and twenty-three discrete dog kennels. It also meant that rattlesnakes would crawl under the house where we kept our kindling and that mice would brazenly scamper towards the warmth: the kitchen, the living room, the cranked-up electric blankets that cocooned our sleeping bodies.

We lived in a converted fishing cabin built by a slipshod handyman named Rooster (I kid you not), and the winter wind whistled icily through the cracks in the unstained pine planks, which were graffitied with penciled saw lines (hopelessly overshot), splashes of basic addition, and scribbled phrases like "this side up." December meant that the gaps in the wall boards had to be covered with packing tape or stuffed with cotton.

But it also meant that mom would make homemade doughnuts, thick ropes of batter coiled into hot oil and then dusted with sugar, or apples and onions, both frontier recipes from the Little House Cookbook we'd gotten her last year. It meant that Christmas Eve dinner would consist entirely of the cookies we'd helped her make all week, the madelines and macaroons, the orange cranberry nut biscotti, the pecan praline lace, the pizzelles with toasted anise seed. (Well, that's how it was pitched, "all you can eat cookies," but the witch always managed to force some chowder into us too). It meant that my mother, brother, and I would saddle up three horses and scour the nine hundred acres of our ranch for the perfect tree. Once found, we'd tag it with the same blaze orange tape our stepfather frequently used to legally indicate that the crap hanging off the bed of his pickup, the pipes and planks, was too big and would crash right through your windshield if you got too close. Then Doctor--as we formally called our stepfather, a former army dentist--would head out the next day, chop it down, and haul it back.

It meant we'd make pasta angels from elbows and bow-ties, and Drummer Boy drums from TP tubes. It meant we'd string popcorn with red thread and lather pine cones with glue and dredge them with gold glitter. It meant singing carols around the blonde upright as Mom haltingly banged out "Mele Kalikimaka." It meant my brother and I would be able to pick one (but only one) Christmas special to watch on the usually off-limits TV. It was a tough decision and, fearing a blunder, we typically stuck to the tried and true: The Heat Miser, Emmett Otter, Peanuts. But a few times we took a chance on something new. Once a show was begun Mom forbid us to turn back (a lesson, she declared, in reality), and one year we swallowed a bitter pill indeed: a limp 1982 cartoon starring Pac Man and his family called Christmas Comes to Pac Land. I still feel the weight of that disappointment. Now, as I decorate the store in preparation for the "retail rush," as I garland the counter with a string of multi-colored lights made from the translucent casings of shotgun shells, as I crown the armless gold mannequin (Goldfingerless) that stands guard over our register with the felted chimney pot I once wore as a Central Park carriage driver (a holly spring added for festive flair), and as I listen to Shane MacGowan growl about "Christmas Eve in the drunk tank" on the holiday CD my girlfriend, Kristy, recently burned me, I think about those winters in Alabama. And you know what? I miss 'em. Even the snakes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mutant Mags, Scarecrow Contests, and Split-Toe Ninja Boots

"When the air smells like smoke, and the twilights are orange and ash gray, my mind goes back to Green Town the place where I grew up." This is the nostalgic narration (think Christmas Story without the drollery) that opens Walt Disney's production of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Born and raised in the twenties, Bradbury's recollections of his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois (the real-life counterpart to Green Town) are a boy's eye view of a rural America long gone. It's the kind of place where everyone in town will stop work to attend a carnival.

Today is the second day of fall and, walking the two Main Street blocks from my apartment to the shop, I too am reminded of "the place where I grew up." That place was a five hundred acre horse ranch just outside a small Alabama town of God-fearing bird-doggers called Hurtsboro. The Will Halloway to my Jim Nightshade was a bespectacled wisp of a boy named Aaron, who, twenty-five years later, remains one my best friends (see the Summer of '81 post). Autumn, in particular Halloween, was an important time of year for he and I. In part, because of the Fall Festival, a series of gaming tents and vendor tables that the Methodist Cultural Commission pitched along Church Street every October.

My first year (and first fall) in Alabama (my family had moved there from NJ), Aaron and I created a Marvel Universe ripoff called Mutant Mag to sell at the fair. I was nine, he was eight. Aaron's Mom was an artist. She had converted the hunting cabin adjacent to their house into a studio and this is where we worked, coloring by hand (fussily at first, but then, as dawn drew near, carelessly) the books we had, earlier in the day, copied at the Hurtsboro Savings Bank, which boasted the one Xerox machine in town. Marvel Universe, if you remember, wasn't really a comic book at all, but rather a encyclopedia of the various heroes, villains, and lusus naturae that peopled the Marvel macrocosm. Each page had a robust full body portrait of a character along with an origin profile that ran in a journalistic column of copy down the side. It was here that Aaron and I learned words like "cabalistic," "behemoth," and "reprobate," along with phrases like "latent mutant attributes," all of which we incorporated (mostly incorrectly) into our own publication. We created robotic chimeras with names like Android Wolf and Turtle Cyborg. Thumbtack was a dwarf who could manipulate his ribs so they curved up out his back like porcupine quills; Dutch Dike was a guy who could "fill any hole" (the innuendo was quite beyond us). All the Marvel characters had aliases and, accordingly, so did ours: Sha Corona (I'm not kidding) was the secret identity of a man with a motorized saw blade that half-mooned from his helmet like a rooster crest; Gareth Grimshaw the aka of a dimension jumper known professionally as Limbo. We sold out of the stapled digests within an hour, feeding our fall folie de grandeur and filling a coffee can with dollar bills (which we spent on hot dogs and a festival game called Tic Tac Toss).

Not our scarecrow.

The next year, our objective was to win the newly minted Scarecrow Contest. Our scarecrow was complicated and had a decidedly knotty back story. Martial arts warrior, werewolf, vampire killer. Its face was a nylon ninja hood over top a plastic wolfman mask. Its chest was covered with "chain mail" made from linked, supposedly silver, Stars-of-David, which we meticulously snipped from sheets of roofing tin. Its hands were a pair of long red leather biker gloves that flared at the forearm. We fastened a sharpened chopstick to each of these, gluing metallic pen caps to the base (where stick met glove) to imitate the steel bushing on Wolverine's knuckles (Wolverine is a Marvel character with retractable claws).The chop sticks were ostensibly wooden stakes that extracted any time our scarecrow saw a vampire. It also wore split toe ninja boots which, of course, helped the scarecrow with rope climbing and wall walking.

Anyway. I don't think the judges got it. First prize went to a freckled, rusty headed girl named Elizabeth who had, according to the panel, "ingeniously utilized" a plastic milk jug as a head. We didn't even place.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SET 'EM UP, INDY: Snakebites & Temple of Doom Shooters with the Raiders Boys

Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, and me cloaked in the volcanic vapors that frequently follow a quickly downed round of Dooms.

The weekend began with us doing shot pitchers of a withering Asbury Lane concoction aptly called The Temple of Doom, with Chris and Eric, two thirty-something guys from Mississippi who'd shot a now nationally known adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark when they were ten. I'd been wanting to see the fan film since reading the breathless 10 page article Vanity Fair wrote about them three years back and had joined forces with Juicy Jenn, the programmer for the the Lanes, a bowling alley-cum-rockabilly joint in Asbury Park. Jenn, who was premiering the film the night before our screening, agreed to pay their airfare if we would handle ground transportation and board the boys in Metuchen for the weekend. Shop friend Grace Shackney offered up her beautiful Victorian, which stands adjacent to the former home of the late John Ciardi(an illustrious poet whose fame can be best described by the fact that he appeared twice on Johnny Carson). Grace is the administrative director of Princeton's esteemed McCarter Theater and the boys stayed in the same 2nd story suite (two adjoining bedrooms with a shared bathroom) where Athol Fugard, acclaimed South African playwright/former overnight guest, had slept.

It was my first time at the Lanes, though Raconteur house band The Roadside Graves play there frequently and have always spoken highly of it (and indeed friend Dan, a.k.a. Carrot-Top, is the "chef" at their burger counter).

The retro pine-paneled lounge at the Lanes.

It's unquestionably a cool venue, but, while we filled The Refectory, our 165 seat theater, they struggled to find an audience for the film. Mosh pits and burlesque shows are more their style and I fear the typical Raiders fan may have been intimidated by the Lane's notoriety as a venue full of face ink and nipple barbells. Conversely, The Raconteur battles not its own reputation, but rather the square pedantic standing of bookshops in general. While we've certainly had our share of academic evenings (the poet Rachel Hadas, Al Gore's global-warming road show, theatrical readings from Umberto Eco novels, etc.), we've also hosted hardcore nights, sword swallowers, graffiti exhibitions, and are presently organizing an event that will feature Ian Mckaye, former front man for Fugazi and the seminal punk band Minor Threat. Even still, I have a feeling we'll forever be thought of as a bit button-down by all you kids with bull rings and ten gauge lobes. Oh well. Chris Strompolos and I in the feverish throes of a T.O.D. buzz.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Raiders of the Ark was the first movie I can remember seeing more than once. I was eleven and lived on a horse ranch in southeastern Alabama. The Peachtree movie theater was almost an hour away in Columbus, Georgia. To see a movie multiple times meant multiple two hour round-trips across the state border. Not an easy thing to accomplish when you're in seventh grade. Fortunately, my family loved the film as much as I did, all of us watching wide-eyed and thunderstruck as the Ark heaved its sinister contents into the furious Cairo sky, again and again. After our fifth and final viewing, Mom bought the soundtrack so we could listen to our favorite scenes at home. My brother and I developed a rather complicated relationship to that tape. We loved listening to the scraps of dialog that littered the album, but, cranking the stereo dial to ten, our mother frequently used the now famous John Williams score to wake us up on Saturday mornings.

For my tenth birthday, my grandfather, an amateur filmmaker (he shot his vacations and screened silent reels of black and white Disney cartoons at family functions), bought me a super 8 camera. That summer, me and my best friend Aaron made several shorts which essentially consisted of animating action figures with a tedious technique called stop motion. We had modified the figures by detaching various plastic attributes from one figure (a shiny robot arm, a scaly dinosaur tail), then softening the edge or tip with a lighter and melting it to another figure. 1981, the year Raiders was released, we grew up. We quit animating our muscled toys and went live action, making movies we thought were wholly original, but which were, of course, Raider ripoffs. The films were shot in the legitimately snake-infested swamps (yellow-bellied moccasins and Eastern Diamondback rattlers) behind my house. Several trees had been upended by a recent tornado (a common occurrence in Alabama), and they precariously bridged a storm swollen brook, each trunk ending in a massive bomb crater of dirt and a jungle of splayed roots on the other side. Kudzu, an invasive, fast-climbing weed, covered an abandoned Dodge Dakota and scrambled over a tin roofed trapper's shack. Vines, as thick as garden hoses, lolled from branches. Spanish Moss made everything weep.

At eleven, I somehow considered myself a suitable candidate for the film's flinty, world weary lead. I was a newly minted JV wrestler and, accordingly, fairly fit for a tween, but I obviously imagined myself much burlier than my 98 pounds. Instead of Indy's leather bomber, I wore my stepfather's khaki field vest. It had a ruffled sash along the waist with a series of loops meant for shotgun shells, and this capacity to carry ammunition made it a rugged and reckless garment. I wore no hat. My stepfather had an expensive felt fedora called a Bogart that he kept in a round cardboard box filled with tissue paper. But borrowing his prize hat was risky, it could not end well, and we decided against it. My brother's barrel chested friend Scott, whose father owned one of the two gas stations in town, was our stock heavy. Scott was a varsity nose tackle several years older who got up at 5 AM to hunt deer in the woods outside of town before school. For reasons unclear to us, he agreed to participate in several of our shoots. One time we even got him to clench, between his teeth, the clay cherry of a smoke bomb, so that his character (inexplicably) belched billows of green smoke.

Aaron, at nine, was the cinematographer. When not hand held, the camera was atop a spindly tripod, the legs of which invariably sank to different heights in the boggy ground, canting shots and inadvertently introducing us to the somewhat noirish concept of the Dutch Angle. Firecrackers, which are legal down South, were wedged into crevices and poked into root tangles (a string of detonated Silver Salutes or Wolf Pack Crackers looks remarkably like exploding gunshots). Instead of a bullwhip, I carried an array of dressage and longe whips (used by my stepfather to train new colts), and occasionally a hunting crop. My weapon of choice, however, was a handful of throwing stars we'd bought at a martial arts expo held in a helicopter hangar at Fort Benning. The year before, my mother had taken my brother and I to Mexico, and the ceramic trinkets we'd bought at the Benito Juarez airport served us well, standing in for precious artifacts and archaeological macguffins, pressed into the soft mud of the swamp.

My brother, himself fired by the summer blockbuster, later majored in archeology at Auburn University and moved to South America (where the film's opening takes place). He once explained that Peru is to diggers what Hollywood is to filmmakers. I made a couple of films in my late twenties (most notably BARMAN, a feature inspired by my half decade as the weekend bartender for a central Jersey gutbucket called The Plum Street Pub), but nothing matched the exuberance of those early shoots. Aaron has since gone digital, upgrading to a silver JVC with an LCD monitor. Once a year he heads to New Orleans to shoot randy home videos of chesty college girls giddy with Bourbon Street exhibitionism, their necks thickly draped with Mardi Gras beads. And finally, Scott, perhaps predisposed by his recurring role as a gangster burping rags of green smoke, maintained a pack a day habit throughout his adolescence and ended up, I'm pretty sure, in jail.