FEAR & LOATHING AT CANNES PART 4: MOMMA NEVER SAID THERE'D BE DAYS QUITE LIKE THIS

CHAPTER 9:  I'VE DATED THROUGH CRAIGSLIST BEFORE, TRUST ME, EVEN THOUGH I'M GETTING ATTACKED BY A GROUP OF DRUG INDUCED RAGE ZOMBIES, I'VE STILL HAD WORSE DATES THAN THIS.

If you're a critic and a supposed film journalist and your editor suggests that you play Scooby Doo and go on the hunt for a possible killer at a major film festival, then it might be time for a little introspection. It might be time to realize that you've officially become a joke amongst your peers.

I've become a parody of a parody, and in this post post post modern cultural arena, I'm not even sure where this rabbit hole will lead. I suspect that it may be an infinite free fall into a Meta abyss.

So I've sobered up for the past few days and made a legitimate effort in covering the festival and film market in a more traditional fashion.  

But that effort has proven futile and fruitless. I've spent the majority of my time here in the French Riviera standing in long lines for hours at a time surrounded by fellow bloggers and aspiring filmmakers in cheap suits only to be denied access to nearly film screening I've attempted to enter.

For nearly every premiere I've tried to get into, there's a crowd no less than two hundred deep all vying for an uncertain entrance only to have the first dozen or so allowed in.

After four attempts that cost me three days' time, I've given up and returned to my typical status quo, getting drunk and writing cynical observations.

I'm sitting outside of a French Bistro off of the Promenade La Croisette. I have no idea how to pronounce the restaurant's name so I won't bother trying.  The service is terrible is and I have a suspicion that my waiter has been over charging me for my drinks. Many of the menus at the cafes and restaurants around here do not list prices for their items which is always a dangerous thing. It's a rude shock to find that your tab for a simple sandwich and two beers ends up being the U.S. equivalent of fifty bucks, or what I refer to as half a day's pay. And it's pretty difficult to argue over price when you don't speak your server's language.

Across the street is another bistro called Café Douche, every time I glance at the prominent neon red sign adorned at the top of the building, the 13 year old in me takes over.

My dinner partner keeps asking me what's so funny and I'm too embarrassed to admit that I've been snickering at the restaurant bearing the name of a vaginal hygiene product.  I know she wouldn't find the humor in it. And I know whatever level of respect she may still hold of me will only drop more if I tell her.

Her name is Alexia and she is a Greek Goddess.

We've been reminiscing on old times over drinks and tapas.

The chemistry between us is electric although I can't ignore the fact that I was naked and under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug when we first ran into each other a few nights ago. And she won't let me forget it either. It's become a running joke through most of our conversation.

But there's still an air of affection in her jests and I'm always the first to crack the first shot at myself.

And then she mentions that she may have picked up a stalker already at the festival. She tells me about a man whom she had met on the beach a few minutes before she spotted me sprinting along the sand in my birthday suit.  She tells me that this man had shown up at her screening just a few hours ago. She tells me that this man gave off some supremely creepy vibes that made her uncomfortable. She tells me this man is named Mike Dugal.

It's a small world after all. I can already hear that awful song from the Disney ride playing in my head. I know it'll now be playing on loop there for the rest of night and now I'm wondering when that will be made into a shitty tentpole summer movie.

I tell her that I know Mike Dugal. I tell her he's from Philadelphia. I tell her that he makes pornographic faux snuff films. I tell her that he's somehow miraculously become one of the biggest success stories in the history of Cannes.

Her response is curt.

"It figures you would know a guy like that?"

Slightly offended I ask, "And what does that mean?"

"Birds of feather, Greg. No reason for you to get defensive, if I thought you were like him, I wouldn't be here right now. But you can't pretend that the two of you don't have more in common than you're willing to admit."

"I have nothing in common that man."

"I remember you being quite the fan of exploitation horror films when you were sixteen. I remember you praising the merits of Giallo films to the high heavens when you were younger. Aesthetically, they may be better crafted and visually more innovative, but they're still essentially violent rape fantasies that offer little more than women being sexually objectified before suffering elaborate death scenes no matter how vibrant the color schemes are."

"I've grown up since then, stalk and slash pictures don't hold the same reverence for me that they once had."

"So you don't watch horror films anymore, you don't enjoy the carnal pleasures offered by the grind house? I've Googled you since last we talked; I've read your writing. And I've seen your   backlight porno art. You're obsessed with sex and all the trappings of typical genre fare. You mask your writing with irreverence and self loathing but it's definitely typical white male hero fantasy.  You're not above anything; you're just another guy wrestling with his masculinity trying to get everyone to think his dick is bigger than what it really is."

"I write and paint to escape, and I am male, and I'm white, so of course it's white male fantasy."

"I think you're smarter and better than what you do."

"I'm not sure what it is you think I should be doing. "

"Not perpetuating predictable gender biases, the crazy woman with a portal to another dimension in her vagina, the damsels in distress, the need to go after the ones who got away, all of the joking and slut shaming in regards to all of the hopeful wannabe actresses."

I shrug my shoulders. I've been trapped in this debate before and I'm still haven't figured on a good and thoughtful response.  I try to think of a way to articulate an intelligent retort that won't come off as a threatened knee jerk reaction.  At the very least, I wish I could come up with a witty come back.

The best that I can offer is, "But you wouldn't be here if you thought I was just like Mike Dugal?"

I need her validation; I need her approval, so I turn it around.

But Alexia is smarter than that.

"No. You have a self awareness, as much as you shit on everyone, particularly women, you shit on yourself even more. I just think it's time you wipe your ass and just stop shitting so much."

"I'm afraid I have irritable bowel syndrome. The best that I can promise is to eat more potassium so my shit is a bit more solid and doesn't leave as much of a mess."

Alexia signals the server to our table and orders a round of shots.

The conversation lightens up once we toast our newly refreshed glasses of golden brown bourbon nectar.

Alexia goes on to continue to complain about the general state of the film industry and the pervasive hopelessness of making any type of sustainable career with in it.

I interject with my typical remarks, all snide, often crude, and sometimes crass.

Some hit, some miss. There's an equal ratio of jokes earning Alexia's laughter and her scorn.

Alexia is shooting a particularly nasty look after a failed attempt of shock humor when I notice a man in a black trench coat wearing steam punk goggles, a white surgical mask, and latex gloves running across the street from Café Douche towards our direction.

He looks like a villain out of a Resident Evil game and he's charging towards us like a line backer.

I'm not even given a chance to process this surreal site before the man actually reaches our table.

He jams his hands into his pockets and I fear he might be going for a gun.

Primordial instincts take over and without even being conscious of it; I've flipped the table over for cover and pull Alexia behind me.

The only thought that creeps into my mind is the fact that she'll probably later complain how sexist and silly it was for me to throw myself into harm's way to protect her.

The man in the trench coat doesn't pull out a gun though, he's holding up two aerosol cans.

A thick mist erupts from the two cans and I'm completely stumped as to what's happening.
I'm holding Alexia down behind me with one hand not knowing if I should be pouncing on this guy.

Is this is a silly prank? Is someone just having fun at my expense?

As expected, all of the surrounding people at the café are standing in a circle around the trench coat man and myself, holding up their fucking cell phones recording the surreal weirdness unfolding.

This could be just like London; this fucker might pull out a knife and try to turn me into sushi while yelling jihad Allah or whatever. And all of these dozens of bystanders will do nothing, they'll be too busy uploading it online as it's happening.

It only takes a moment before someone starts coughing and a few more before I feel a killer headache coming on. It hits me like the type of headache I get when sniffing poppers too hard for too long.

Whatever it was that this guy sprayed out everywhere, it's nasty.

I don't know if it's toxic or dangerous or what. But the coughing and my headache give me enough of a reason to decide to take offensive action.

Stupid prank or not, I'm going to kick this fucker's ass.

I leap forward and tackle the man in the trench coat.

He hits the ground hard and I prey to the god I don't believe in that this isn't some publicity stunt, that this isn't  just a harmless joke, because I'm already looking at a lawsuit with the force I've just used.  

The back of the trench coat man's head hits the cement hard enough for me to hear it, hard enough to stun him.

I get the goggles and surgical mask off of him and I instantly recognize the face.
Mike Dugal, the rockabilly asshole!

I wonder if this sick fuck just sprayed Agent Orange or some bio chemical death poison into my mouth.  Is this shit going to erode my windpipe and cause me to vomit up a lung in the next 15 minutes?

I'm terrified of the possibilities but at the moment I'm still breathing.

So I use this time of clarity to do the one thing that I can in this moment. I pummel the asshole's face in.

I feel his septum piercing tearing through cartilage between my knuckles.

I get my hands around his throat and squeeze. I watch his face turn purple. I hear him choking on his own spit

He struggles to get free but I've got him pinned down. He can't throw a punch but he can get his one hand back into his pocket.

I'm shocked. Literally, I'm getting fucking shocked. He's got a taser, and he has it shoved iinto my gut.

Somehow, I've never been tasered before. I actually find this surprising given my life and poor life choices.  I'm not prepared for the sensation, although, I'm not sure if that would have helped.

It's pain beyond pain. It's pain that's unmanageable. I lose control of my motor reflexes; my body goes into violent spasms. I piss my pants. It's fucking awful.

Mike is back to his feet; he's already taken Alexia by the hand and is running back down the street as I hear him yell out, "Tear that blogger apart."

As the pain starts to subside and I'm back on my hands and knees, halfway to a standing position, I feel someone's foot swinging up and crashing into my gut and I come falling straight back down onto the pavement.

I roll over and find an elderly woman with white hair in a black cocktail dress. I think she was sitting at a table a few feet away from mine.

Why the hell did she just kick me?

She winds her leg back as if she's going to do it again.

Once more, primordial instincts take over and I find myself kicking her shin before she's able to stomp my face in with her heel.

It only takes the one kick to send her down, but now there's eight maybe nine more who've already taken her place.  I'm surrounded by a group of blood thirsty strangers all trying to get a clean shot in.

There's no chance of fighting back this many people while on the ground. All I can I do is curl up in a fetal position and shield my face and pray to that nonexistent god once again that someone comes over to help and stop this angry mob.

There's only so much blunt trauma a person can take before they black it.

It's a lot like binge drinking really. I can see how boxers get drunk on it.

I think there's someone who's actually swinging a baguette at my head when I finally lose consciousness.

CHAPTER 10: DOCTORS ARE ALWAYS GREAT FOR PROVIDING REALLY COMPLICATED EXPOSITION REALLY QUICKLY

I wake up with a jolt.  I'm nearly jumping off of my bed but there's a firm grip on my forearm and another on my shoulder pushing me back.

For only an instant, I think that the whole incident with Mike Dugal and Alexia was just a nightmare, some fever dream brought on by sleep deprivation, maybe even a flash back perhaps.  

But then I realize that the hands holding me down belong to a doctor.  And then I see him holding a syringe and feel the sting in my right arm. And then I feel a deep throbbing pain in my jaw, and my ribs, and just about everywhere else.

There's a crowd of people shouting in different languages just outside of my room. I already know that it's a mass of international press trying to get in to talk to me about whatever it was that just went down at the Café.

But I don't even know what happened yet myself.

Luckily, my doctor speaks English and he explains the half of the story that I don't understand.

With that flat voice void of any emotion that all doctors seem to have, he tells me, "You and the other people at the café were all drugged with a substance called Scopolamine. Now, that drug in and of itself isn't that dangerous. But what was used on you was an incredibly potent form of it that we've never seen before. We believe that the form of Scopolamine that was sprayed into the air of the public space that you were at is called Burundanga. It comes from the Borracho tree in Colombia. We're unfamiliar with the full extent of this drug's effects here but we're working on developing a treatment as fast as we can."

I stare at the doctor still puzzled. This wasn't quite the full explanation that I had hoped for.

Luckily, my doctor recognizes my confusion and attempts to elaborate.

"Scopolamine is a tropane alkaloid drug, in very minute doses it can be used as a painkiller and a sedative. It is often used to cure nausea and motion sickness.  The form of
Scopolamine that was used on you, well, it was as if it had been weaponized. Burundanga has been reported to have rather extreme effects on the human mind, it's rumored to make people submissive and subordinate to suggestion. It's rumored to be used as a date rape drug in foreign cultures. Our other patients, the ones who attacked you only a few hours ago are being treated in other rooms throughout this hospital. I should tell you that we've had to tie them down with restraints because as of right now, they are still trying to find you and harm you. As I'm speaking at this moment, we have doctors trying to learn what the drug's half life is. But you're very lucky, we've found large traces of the drug in your systems but yet it doesn't seem to have the same effect on you as the others."

I have to ask, "Why do you think that is?"

"We haven't a clue. But to be honest, we've found soooo many traces of sooo many other chemical compounds, that my own personal guess is that something that was already in your system counteracted and voided out the effects of the Scopolamine. "

I was hoping I was some type of super immune super hero, but I'm thinking it was Victoria's psychotropic LSD tablets that probably just saved my life.

But then I remember Alexia. That madman has Alexia and he's got her under the influence of some crazy Colombian mind control drug. I have to go find Mike.  I have to stop him.

I tell the doctor, "I know who did this, you have to let me go."

"We were all hoping you might, now that you're conscious, I can bring the police in for questioning."

I haven't forgotten the orchestra of yelling and shouting just outside my hospital room door and ask the doctor, "What the hell is going on out there?"

He gives me a droll look while responding, "About 200 members of the associated press all trying to get in here to ask you the same question."

The doctor pats my shoulder with that fake sincerity that's supposed to provide comfort and let me think that things are going to be OK when we both know they're not.

The moment the doctor is out of the room, I'm hopping out of the bed and getting out of my Johnny gown. I find that my clothes have been conveniently left on a chair nearby.

Even more convenient is that I  find a large window in the room and discover that I'm on the first floor and the window hasn't been locked into place.

God I love Europe. They don't automatically have to suspect the worst in people.

I make my escape.

CHAPTER 11: OF COURSE IT'S A TRAP

A half hour later and I'm back at the Team Twitch base above the Café Govrache.

I'm relieved to find my editor there. He's in a towel and brushing his teeth.

I don't know if he's getting ready for sleep or getting ready to go back out again.

I'm panicking, I'm frantic, I'm manic, and I'm fucking losing it.

I ask my editor about Mike Dugal although I'm worried that I might be yelling at him in a threatening manner.

He tells me to calm down but I can't.

My editor spits a frothy mix of tooth paste and mouth wash into the sink before speaking.

"Are you using psychedelic drugs again, Greg? God, you look like shit"

"Yeah, well, I feel like shit. I probably am shit. And no, I'm on a drug called Scopolamine but it's not a hallucinogenic. It's something else, something I don't really understand yet. But I have to find Mike Dugal. You've been hearing about all of his big deals right? I know how he's getting them."

"Good."

"Good?"

"Yeah, I have a writing assignment for you."

"Now's not the time to write a fucking review."

"Ease up, partner. I just got an email in my inbox from Mike Dugal. He's reaching out to
Twitch for some post festival wrap up press. He's offering an invitation for an interview."

"What?"

"Yeah, and he's asking specifically for you to do it?"

"Where?!!!"

"Calm down, I have the address here."

My editor hands me his IPad with Mike's email brought up on the screen. He's staying at the Hotel Bell Plage Brougham.  .

I'm back out the door before sharing another word with my editor.

He must think I'm really in the shit now.

Then again, I am.

TO BE CONCLUDED TOMORROW!..... OR MAYBE MONDAY DEPENDING ON HOW BUSY I AM AT WORK.

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