Late Night with Oliver Stone

We just talked smack to Oliver Stone!"

It was getting late, almost 3:00 a.m. Cody and I were still hard at work editing. Our workspace was an old school bus that had been converted into a mobile studio with room enough for three workstations. We were parked in a dark alley just east of Abbot-Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach, California.

"Hey, Tao's back," Cody said.

"Huh. He doesn't usually drop by this late."

Tao was our boss, sort of, and he was married to an actress with a blossoming career. I heard his car pull into the driveway. He came up and said some things that I ignored, as I was elbow-deep in a concert video. He left. His friend came on-board a few minutes later. He looked like one of my dad's friends: old, weathered, well dressed, and reeking of wine. We said hello and continued to work; he sat down and watched quietly.

"What the hell are you working on?" The question was directed at Cody. Cody explained his film project. Then he asked me what I was doing. I explained the job. He laughed.

"Who the hell is gonna buy that?"

"No one, but I don't care," I responded defensively. "They paid me up front, and it's no skin off my hide one way or the other." Who the hell was this guy, and what right did he have to critique my work? I was seething.

He kept at us, asking us technical questions and prodding us to justify our work. Finally Cody, had had enough: "Look man, I like this shit, and I don't give a damn if anyone else likes it, 'cause I know it's good and I know my shit." The interloper laughed and clapped his hands.

Cody's sudden outburst turned his mind from drunken criticism to friendly banter. He cracked some jokes that he found amusing; neither Cody nor I were paying him too much mind. Cody tapped me on the shoulder: "Yo, man, let's smoke that blunt."

I nodded and turned to our guest: "You mind if we light up a blunt? You wanna hit this?"

"Yeah, now _that's_ more like it!" he exclaimed, his words mixed with laughter.

We smoked and passed the blunt around, all three of us forgetting the earlier antagonism. As we disposed of the roach, our guest stood and stretched. Finally, he asked our names and shook our hands. It had never occurred to me to ask his name; my boss tended to keep flaky company.

A few minutes later, my boss stuck his head in the door. "Hey, you guys know who that was, right?"

"Who? You mean your buddy who was just here?" I asked, more as a reflex than as an actual question.

"Yeah. That was Oliver Stone. He said he really liked you guys. I'll see you in the morning."

It took a moment or two for the words to register. "Holy shit, dude!" Cody said. "We just talked smack to Oliver Stone!"

Cody always had a simple and honest clarity about the world. I nodded over my shoulder. "Yes," I said. "Yes, we did."


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