We were assigned to write a story in my seventh grade English class. It could be about anything. I was pumped. All writing up to that point had come with strict parameters, restraints—shit that bored me. This assignment destroyed all the rules in my mind. This was fiction—boundless, imaginative. The teacher’s idea was for us to learn not so much how to write fiction but the draft process, revisions, editing. I ignored that.
What I decided to write was a story based upon one of my favorite videos of the time (and all-time), the Spike Jonze-directed 70s cop movie homage, “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. I was obsessed with the video (and the song), just as I was, at the time, with NYPD Blue and Serpico. I had thoughts about becoming a detective then but I think my fascination was more of a general interest in investigation—though, investigating art and life more than murder. Also, it just looked really cool. (Have you seen Al Pacino in Serpico? The hair, the shades, the beard, the beads, the bike? He looks awesome. And that’s how the real Frank Serpico was!) But unlike NYPD Blue, which I could see on network television, and Serpico, which I could rent for free from the public library, my exposure to the thoroughly cool “Sabotage” was far less—I didn’t have MTV. So when I decided to write a story about the video, it wasn’t one of those literary adaptations of a movie, me playing the video over and over again to meticulously capture every moment in prose. I was going by memory. Plus, I was expanding, indulging. The video was really a trailer to the story I had planned.
I was up to twenty-two pages on “Sabotage” when the story was due. Of my first draft. The other kids in my class had written stories of a few pages, revised them on the second and third, and were ready to turn in the final. I was just getting warmed up. The scene I recall being on was the one where Cochese was tied to a chair, a bomb ticking down on a table before him. His partners are about to bust down the door with some karate kicks. They free him and the three rush out of the building, across the street, sliding over the hood of their car, just before the building explodes. Later, they track down the bad guys and put them down. But I had to turn in what I had. I think I got a B—the teacher wrote something about how creative it was but couldn’t go higher because, well, I hadn’t completed my assignment. I wish I could’ve finished it. There was a lot more of the story to tell.