Or should we blame the images on TV?

They’re fifteen, sixteen at best. The pudgy girl wears a pink flippy skirt. The guy wears a tight red T and has smudges of facial hair. Both of them have fancy cigarette cases. The guy stubs out the cigarette in a coffee cup and mumbles to the girl. The girl shrugs and takes a drag.

The jukebox in the corner of the coffee shop randomly starts. Slash lays down the opening riff to “Sweet Child of Mine.”

To my right, the college girls munch sandwiches and sip large cartons of chocolate milk through soda straws. Sisters? Friends? My French is too uncertain to be certain.

Expecting traffic, I left the hotel this morning an hour early. There was no rush hour. Here in Montreal, there are also coffee shops everywhere, but there isn’t the type-B slow caffeine panic that pervades the urine-smelling streets of San Francisco.

The college girls light up, grinning and conspiring. Smoking and speaking French seem to go hand-in-hand here. If I did either, this might be a nice place to live.

I get a whiff of cigarette smoke. Should I rewrite the problematic clause in this contract or rewrite the problematic scene in my play? Another cup of decaf and then I’ll decide.

Good morning campers, I’m your uncle Ernie

I’m attending a party at Tommy Tallarico’s mansion in San Juan Capistrano. I meet Tommy’s father, a round, stocky, grinning Italian named Tom.

“Your son has told me some stories about you,” I said. “He told me that you handle collections on game developers for him.”

“Yah, I do that,” said Tom, nodding. Somebody jumped in the pool with a splash.

“So tell me,” I said, swirling my glass of Chardonnay. “What’s the best way to handle customers who don’t pay?”

“Ah,” he said, touching me on the arm. “That case, you write ’em an invoice. Always gotta do the paperwork, you know. You send ’em the invoice. Fax it to ’em. You know?”

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s say they don’t pay up then. What do you do?”

“Ah. That case, you give ’em a call. Real polite. You say, I’m just calling in to check the status of the payment. And I’m calling you to understand the status of that. You give ’em thirty days. Sometimes they can make a mistake. So I give ’em every chance.”

“All right,” I said. “Let’s say the customer still doesn’t pay. What now?”

“Ah well. That case, you give ’em thirty more days. And you send another copy of the invoice. Fax it to ’em. And you give ’em a call and you ask, what’s the status of this payment? Real patient, real calm, you ask ’em. You know?”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “You have this reputation for being Tommy’s strong-arm.”

“Yeah, he’s a real nice boy, he can get walked all over,” said Tom. “But ya know, a polite way, that’s the best way to take the collections. Most of the people want to pay ya for services rendered. And I just keep asking ’em, real nice, ya see. And eventually, the deadbeat sons-a-bitches get the fuckin’ clue.”

There ain’t no words for the beauty, the splendor, the wonder

San Diego Civic Center, the intermission of Hairspray, over the balcony at the mezzanine level. The audience members idly ogle one another on multiple stories, a sort of mellow confluence of hardcore people watchers. Bruce Vilanch’s topical one-liners and masterful comic timing kept up audience interest. I’m all for fresh and fruity entertainment ?- hell, I write it from time to time — but this particular touring production felt forced and tired.

The sunset of Del Mar, as filtered through a glass of Grgich Hills, is not intended to be viewed by solitary businessmen. Too bad you’re not with me tonight.

It will be about a man who’s torn in half

Hi Robert,

I have completed a first draft of my first full-length play. I have done two quick table readings with other actors reading multiple parts and I think it scans well.

I intend to sit on the script for at least a week and do nothing with it. The week after that, I intend to rewrite the problematic scenes. After that I will give you a couple copies.

The script that I pass to you will not be the script that we produce. The next step for me will be a private, friends-only reading, at my house in San Bruno, most likely some time in August. There will be another rewrite after that.

The script checks in at 83 pages and is currently cut into 3 acts. Once I see how it plays during a full table reading, I may recut it into two acts.

It?s good. I want to make it better.