The Most Dangerous Man (Is the One with Nothing to Lose)Essays, Featured — By Michael Green on July 4, 2012 at 5:46 am
I got called to audition for a low-budget Western movie; they were looking for “cowboy-type guys.” The location to which I’d be going was a rented mansion deep within the Hollywood Hills. That day, I left work mid-morning; it took an hour to drive there, snaking through the narrow, private roads just north of Sunset. When I arrived at the mansion, I signed in and looked around. There were seventy actors in the room, mostly city types: men wearing cheap cowboy hats and Express jeans, women wearing corsets. The casting director, who was pairing everyone into quartets, two guys and two gals, explained the scene to us. The men would be playing cards at a table, while the woman served us drinks. In my group, she put a young brunette, an older woman wearing a super-tight corset with the biggest (and perhaps fakest) breasts I’d even seen, and a creepy-looking man with long, greasy hair and intense eyes that screamed, “Lunatic.”
When it came our turn, the casting director led us into the audition room and lined us up in front of the camera to slate our names. The woman with the boobs was first. The casting director looked at her and did a double take. “Wow,” she said. “You go with those, girl.”
The brunette slated her name, then I did mine. That left one of us: the creepy guy.
“Alright, slate your name,” the casting director said.
“Tommy Three Nuts.”
This time, we all did a double take. What did he just say?
“Excuse me,” the casting director said. “What was your name again?”
“Tommy Three Nuts.”
I stole a peek at his head shot. Sure enough, “Tommy Three Nuts.”
The casting director smiled. “Alright, I’ll bite. How’d you get a name like that?”
Without a trace of a smile, Tommy began telling his well-rehearsed story. “My best friend got hit by a train. It was a bad accident and we knew he wasn’t going to make it. I went to see him in the hospital before he died. All my friend had wanted in this life was to have a child, and now he wouldn’t be able to. On his deathbed, he asked if I would take one of his testicles and bear a child with it. I agreed to do it, and I mean to keep my promise.”
Not much anyone can say after that. The film’s director instructed Tommy and me to sit at the card table and the women to serve drinks. I noticed Tommy looking over the top of his cards and glaring at me. As soon as the director called, “Action,” Tommy stood up. He threw his cards in my face, shook the table with both hands and started screaming—some two-minute, profanity-laced diatribe he’d obviously been rehearsing in his mind. The rest of us didn’t have a chance to say anything. We looked at each other, stunned. Then, in a fit of anger, Tommy swept his arm along the tabletop, knocking every glass to the floor, shattering one of them. The director screamed, “Stop!”
Visibly upset, he curtly thanked us and the casting director showed us out the side door. And that was it, the end of the audition. I returned to my car and drove back to the office, all the while thinking about my sabotaged audition by a man with three testicles.
Tommy Three Nuts. Wonder whatever happened to him?
Recently, I decided to purge my apartment. I felt my life was moving into a period of transition and I wanted to become as streamlined as possible. I began tearing through my closet—pictures, folders, books, clothes I hadn’t seen in two years still sitting in drawers and storage units. Doing so, I found myself fighting this thought, “But I might wear that someday.”
Thankfully, the voice of reason fought back: “You haven’t worn these things in two years. What makes you think you’ll wear a pair of LL Bean duck boots or cargo pants with paint stains on them? Throw them away.”
Once I began, I couldn’t stop. The broken record player I said I’d get fixed but never did? Gone. The shoebox filled with cassette tapes? Into the trash. I don’t even own a cassette player anymore; I couldn’t play the tapes if I wanted to.
I must have taken two hundred books to the library’s donation bin. Garbage bag after garbage bag stuffed with clothes—outdated Skechers and shirts I thought were cool at the time (the Ed Hardy-type prints on the back; thank God some fads have a short shelf life)—I dropped into the Planet Aid bin a few blocks away. Not only could I once again see the floor of my closet, I found a sense of freedom.
I realized: The more stuff I have, the safer I feel. But the more anxious I become, for fear of losing it.
We all want things for our lives. The things that make us feel important. Some receive validation from beauty and their youth, some from their cars, some from their wardrobes. It’s why plastic surgery has become an epidemic. Young girls in Seoul desperately trying to get beauty; aging women in Los Angeles feverishly trying to keep it. Looks, possessions, income, status…all the traits that define success in our culture. The more we can accrue, the tighter we cling to it, until our fingers turn so stiff and white-knuckled from the strain that we lose the ability to feel them anymore.
It’s like we’re trapped in roiling waters, fighting upstream. To swim with the current would be succumbing: to failure, getting old, becoming poor. Sure, it might be freeing, but who wants to accept those things?
Tommy Three Nuts, as bizarre and creepy as he was, had stumbled upon an important conclusion. What did he have to lose? Nothing, and it gave him a sense of freedom. It allowed him to take a chance (a misguided chance, one could argue, but a chance, nonetheless). Freedom comes with a sense of surrender.
There’s a line from “Rocky V” I remember (Yes, I’m aware it wasn’t a good movie). Rocky has lost his fortune and moved his family to the rough streets of Philadelphia. During the film’s climactic ending, Rocky punches out the villainous boxing promoter, who threatens to sue him.
“Sue me for what?” Rocky says.
How freeing would it be if we lived with the attitude, “What do I have to lose?” We would take more risks. We would exercise more faith, more trust. We would be bold. We wouldn’t care as much what others thought; we’d simplify our lives to only what’s important.
One of the reasons I respect my friend Jason is that he doesn’t lock his garage. The door doesn’t even shut all the way. He has a music studio inside with valuable equipment; I keep my most expensive guitar there in case we want to record with it. I find his boldness (or lack of concern) thrilling, though part of me cringes whenever I see the door cracked open. When I asked him about it—why he doesn’t secure the garage—he said, “Do not store up treasures on earth, where moths and rust and destroy. Store up treasures in heaven.”
How could I argue with that? He’s right. Everything burns in the end.