June 15th, 2011 / 2:07 pm

Say something, say something, anything

II. Say Anything

I’ve never seen Say Anything, released in 1989 when I was 13, fell into the gap of people who were too young to see it in real time, and not interested enough to see it as the cultural imperative it kind of became for the coming of age romantic allegory. Sometimes I feel like I should just see the movie and get it over with, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t love it as much as I do now, like the idea of what you think is inside something is better, more inviolate, than the actual thing. You know how actors ruin the characters in a book made into a movie? Or how the movie ruins the book? Or how the book’s execution ruins its conception? Art, really, is a bag of failure.

So I have not seen the scene where John Cusack holds the boom box for the girl, perhaps to play a song? I know it’s about a guy who likes a girl, and he plays a song for her because maybe he can’t play guitar and sing, or maybe the song was playing during an intimate moment. Yah that’s probably it. I know these things because I have lived in this world the same way you have, and together we understand these things — the kissing, the songs, the I love and hate yous, which brings us to dawn, after the 2:00 am text, having been up all night, somewhere in the middle of this world, a broken google map URL, a night gripped by tendrils of want, which felt, this middle, like the edge.

I like zooming into photos. There’s something very honest about the graininess of a .jpeg zoomed in at 600% or something, like it has trouble seeing far the same way our eyes do. I love it when pixels become solid stacked blocks like an abstract painting at 1400%, if Mondrian had arranged the atoms. If I were the girl in bed who did not love the guy outside my window, maybe I’d look past him, at the picnic table, at the fuzzy morning dew softened into dust, as if that morning had been forgotten for years. Maybe the pop song would seem annoying, or I would regret or remember the place on my body his hands had found that day, that week, that month before. This all happened in the summer between high school and college, or college and the “real” world, or the 25-year-old version of the “real” world and 30-year-old version, and so on, on and on, until the ultimate verity of a real tombstone marks, in respectful caps, our tentativeness here.

I worked at Blockbuster the summer before college. I wrote my first short story for “fun” — a guy who steals his mother’s BMW and drives to Los Angeles, where he meets a girl. The drive entailed the sole sustenance of Doritos Cool Ranch chips, so I was juggling two fantasies at once. In the climax, the protagonist, upon successfully setting up said girl’s VCR, consummates a relationship with her. The story was hand-written with a dull pencil, and has fortunately been thrown away. I actually drew a cover using crayola markers, unscented, so as not to get high.

They tell me he gets on a plane with her to England, where she’s going to college. I joked about how they should make a sequel where the current aged John Cusack and the girl are married, fat, and unhappy. (Unhappy people make me happy, as I am of the former; the world is quite simple.) In the promotional stills, and cover art, the iconic scene is shot during the day, the longish shadows suggesting advanced afternoon. Cusack’s pose is more confident, more conscious of the poster. If I were a girl still in bed in the advanced afternoon, I might be depressed. If I were a friend, I would say something.

I. Say Something

In Pulp Fiction (1994), after adrenaline is administered via a thick ass needle through Mia Wallace’s breast plate, Lance (Eric Stoltz) the drug dealer says “If you’re alright, then say something.” Mia Wallace, cupid’s born-again spear still in her tit, says “Something.” That was a joke. Say something, say something, anything are the lyrics from a James’ “Say Something,” (1993) a song I rather liked for its effeminate alt-pop feel. Gay music just might save this world.

It was my freshman year of college when Pulp Fiction came out. People were ecstatic because John Travolta was seen wearing a University of California Santa Cruz (where I went) t-shirt that Jimmie (Quentin Tarantino) gave him to wear. The opening Friday night in the dorms everyone talked about the movie and how great it was. People felt our school had gotten some oblique cred by the t-shirt, though who knows how incidental it was. I don’t know why I didn’t go. Here’s a list of things I didn’t do in college: drink, smoke, take drugs, have sex, kiss anyone, live off campus. In the subsequent thirteen years since my graduation, I’ve managed to check every aforementioned thing off the list, and they all felt really good and really bad, depending on before or after.

I remember this girl I liked my freshman year, who sort of liked me too. That may have been the worst sentence I’ve ever written. She went to Japan to study abroad our sophomore year and I bumped into her on campus the beginning of our junior year. She spiritedly asked me what I was doing on campus and I said “oh, I live here.” Her face sunk, eyes lowered in kindness to mask the pity. I think I went back to my dorm room and either listened to Tori Amos or jerked off (never at the same time, I respected Tori too much.) Years later she’s a waitress taking my order and still not looking me in the eyes. I order my entree, haha, you have to come back.

The pattern on a bra is code for I have let you see this, marking the beginning of intimacy, the beginning of time like Paleolithic cave paintings showing us how to hunt and not be hunted, the cartoon lesson of life. Mia Wallace almost died that night, but the Japanese rising sun had promised another day.

A friend of mine once actually got angry at me because I had never taken drugs. She told me that drugs change your perception of time and space, and how could I be so uncuriously narrow in my neuro-complacency. I told her I just wasn’t that curious about that version of reality, that so much of my early childhood contained substance-mediated uncontrollable actions, that I was sort of over the petri dish of brains. I just wanted some Jamba Juice, maybe a rerun of Who’s the Boss?, and a good night’s sleep.

I miss my boom box. So many songs came out of it, chaperoned a youth which I’ll never have back. I wish I took my boom box and drove to your house to play our song. In your eyes, I think it was. Peter Gabriel and me use the second person as a contract between the thing and its audience. Franzen said you should always speak in the third person, and I’m the second person to say that, but for now, this is all you’ll get from me. You imagine me in front of your house, dressed up like John Cusack, in high-hops holding up a boom box like some groovy Atlas, and you think if there were like 90 more of me dressed just like that, playing In your eyes, how that would make a great flash mob.

Maybe life is one giant disorganized flash mob, a cute point that is still being made. A 6.77 billion people fucked up flash mob without a clear recipient. Some people go to the movies, some girls go to Japan, some OD on heroin, some steal their mom’s BMW, and some guys walk to Walgreen’s for shampoo (I had hair then) at 7:42 pm on a Friday night, the night this apparently really good movie was opening, and decide to walk 3 miles to the Boardwalk, somewhat masochistically in flip flops, entering the ocean, until the coldness bites his shins, and he hears the effortless grasp of waves recoiling back into the ocean, the hiss of its waters seeping into the sand, and the chalky cosmic zit of the moon saying I have let you see this. I think I kept going back because I needed an edge of this world. Night will make the water black, cola. There’s no point in truth because we are only eyes. Now it’s 10:43 pm and time to go home. The movie just got out and one bus is full. Another bus, another route, is almost empty. I get on that one, fan a novel from beginning to end before my nose to gather the shelf it lived on for many years, and see a girl. Say something, say something, anything.

Tags: ,


  1. deckfight

      if there was no jimmy chen, i would not visit HTML Giant as often; ergo I would get more work done. 

  2. DJ Berndt

      if there was no Jimmy Chen, why would there be an internet?

  3. lorian long

      respect the amos

  4. Janey Smith

      Jimmy? Someone will find you–you will find them, too. The two of you will love each other. It will last a long time.

  5. Troyweav

      Holy shit, this is awesome.

  6. Brian McElmurry

      fuck yeah!!! I suspect you have seen the movie. I had the poster on my wall for years. You should do a post where you invite a romantic interest to watch Say Anything? It will be meta-living… writing it while you live it, in your thoughts. Love your stuff!

  8. Loving AC/JC

      JC is making it!!!

  9. completeworks

      Oh so lovely. Nice work as usual, Jimmy.

  10. booksnsuch

      yayyy this is really terrific writing

  11. nick

      i relate to and empathize with the sentiments in this piece!

  12. Ken Baumann

      jesus christ, jimmy; this is  ———————-

  13. deadgod


      There would still remain the never-resting mind,
      So that one would want to escape, come back
      To what had been so long composed.
      The imperfect is our paradise.
      Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
      Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
      Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

  14. huh

      i don’t know if i like it. i feel like i know what blog post you’re reading and then thinking and then writing something about. it makes me feel…huh

  15. guest

      respect the amos

  16. Tyty Lin


  17. merwou

      Chen I don’t ‘what blog post you’re reading’, but I know that yours is better.  The day will come when your therapist says “you’ve healed yourself through the power of your writing”.

      Just kidding, because then they wouldn’t get paid