Being Normal by Bruce Bridges

I am not a fan of Diablo Cody.  Friends will confirm this fact based on my reaction (some would say excessive) to the movie Juno.  I attended an early screening of this “quirky comedy drama” with a small group on the Fox lot back in the months prior to its release and remember that I hated the movie as soon as the first shot appeared.

This shot told me everything about what I was about to see.  Overstuffed living room furniture sits on a lawn and a teenaged girl nonchalantly lays back in a chair taking swigs from a jug of juice…nonchalantly.  In fact everything in this movie would be nonchalant.  It was all so ironic.  Any description I give will be from that single screening so details will surely be wrong but I don’t think those are so important.  Juno nonchalantly loses her virginity.  Juno nonchalantly tells her parents she’s pregnant.  Juno’s parents nonchalantly accept their teenaged daughter’s pregnancy as if she told them she got a “C” in biology.  Actually I think they would have been more concerned about that “C”.

But what bothered me most about the movie was not its characters’ actions that struck me as completely counterintuitive (we all know from experience that teens are a bundle of emotions and outbursts and anxieties and responsible parents typically are concerned about their children’s futures and express it in ways that make you think they care) but in the completely artificial manner in which they spoke.

It’s been years since I actually saw the movie and even then I was far enough away from my teen years to have no authority on the lingo of the day for teens but you don’t have to be a proctologist to know when something smells like shit.  The dialogue here sounded like shit.  Shit from planet 30-something-hipster. That was the part that drove me crazy.  I can’t quote any lines now but I think everybody remembers the cringe inducing use of “stirfry” by Rainn Wilson as a nonchalant but cranky store clerk.  Jeez, I wanted to bolt the theater.  But that opportunity wouldn’t come until 90 or so minutes later when the movie finished with a song by the Moldy Peaches (of course!!!!!!!!!!) and I learned that out of my group, I was the only one that didn’t recognize the genius that had just been witnessed.  We debated several points about the movie but it really all came back to the dialogue.  While everybody else was impressed by the authentic dialogue, I found it completely artificial.  This was not how normal people act.  This was not how normal teens talk.  This was as far from normal as you could get.  Diablo Cody went on to win an oscar for original screenplay so I know nothing.

Fast forward about 5 years and I am temporarily living in Thailand.  My favorite activity is riding my bicycle and on a cool Feb morning I put on my helmet, pulled on my headscarf facemask and headed out on the local roads.  But not before plugging in my earbuds and the newest episode of Marc Marone’s “What the Fuck” podcast.  I’m always listening to podcasts when I ride and sometimes I time my rides by how many hours of podcasts I listen to during the ride.

This morning Marone had as his guest who else but Diablo Cody.  Whaaaaaaat?!?!?!?!? I hate Diablo Cody!  Aaaaaaaaagh.  Well, there was nothing else of interest and maybe it would be interesting to hear her explain the brilliance that was “Juno” (hahahahahahaha!).  But then I started listening.

After a lot of typical BS cozying up you expect in an interview like this, Cody actually came across as a pretty decent sort who’s worked her ass off and actually suffered from the haters of her first movie.  Her first produced script that happened to win an Academy Award.  Now I don’t really like haters either so I softened my attitude a little.  What I always felt like was a minority view was instead shared but a bunch of other people but they sounded like whiny jerks and frankly I would never want to be associated with any coalition, especially a coalition of whiny jerks so damn I needed to rethink things.  As I pedaled along, Cody gradually earned a little respect from me as she continued describing her career.

Soon after Juno, maybe before it even came out, I can’t remember, she was contacted by Steven Spielberg’s company about what would become (that horrible Diablo Cody TV series about the woman with multiple personalities.  I remember hating that just as much as Juno because in the series everybody was so fucking nonchalant about their mom’s mental disease.  Jesus Christ, does nobody in the world of Diablo Cody ever give a damn about anything?  But I digress…) United States of Tara.  Cody actually expressed excitement and awe when she spoke of Spielberg.  She was anything but nonchalant.  Diablo Cody was normal!  In fact she was enchanted by their meeting and went on to describe how he single handedly…

And then I heard the screech of locked up tires as they dragged along the pavement behind me.  I glanced over my right shoulder to see a car hood beneath me.  Annoyed at the fact that this car that was sitting under me without any kind of “excuse me” or anything, I mumbled out loud “What the fuck?”.   It was a moment frozen in time, this car hood sitting beneath me.  When they tell you that things slow down in an accident, they are correct.  But you slow down too.  That’s the only problem.

And then I was pushed forward.  I tried to push back or stay in place but I hadn’t realized that at that moment a car was hitting me and I had as much chance of resisting as Juno had of giving a crap.   Forward, forward, forward and down onto the pavement.  I was pushed off of my bicycle and onto my side and after a moment of confusion, I only felt pain.  Gigantic waves of overwhelming pain that I’d never experienced before.  Massive pain that took over my body from leg to shoulder.  I was still in a helmet, wearing a full faced mask with earphones playing in my ears but I began yelling at the very top of my lungs over and over again, rocking back and forth and trying to hold on to the correct part of my leg so that I could somehow reduce the pain or stop it from increasing.  Neither worked.  A crowd gathered around me as I sat alone on a busy Thai street, only my eyes visible to the world and with a conversation between a stand up comic and a screenwriter still being pumped into my ears, unable to hear anything else.

Cut forward 3 weeks.  My left tibia plateau had been crushed and my clavicle broken.  Basically the socket in my knee was shattered when my leg jammed into the pavement.  My shoulder snapped just inside the left arm socket.  I escaped more serious injury to my head because I was wearing a helmet (always wear a helmet!).  I was still on heavy pain meds but off the morphine that I only recently needed to get through the day.  But friends had visited and now I have my computer and can have some sort of connection to the world.  And I have my ipod.

My ipod.  I haven’t listened to the ipod since the accident.  And Marc Marone and Diablo Cody have still not finished their conversation.

What I’ve learned in my experience with this accident is that after something like this, life is filled with “events” or milestones.  I remember the first time I finally managed to lift my left leg a half inch off of my bed.  I remember taking my first, very hesitant step with a walker.  I remember the first time I peed while standing up.  You remember all of these moments because they all point to you getting back to what was once normal.  And normal is what you begin to desperately want and hope for.

And normally I would finish a podcast, delete it and start on the next.  But after weeks of the ipod sitting untouched, I had all these new podcasts that were stacking up.  So what I needed to do was finish this one.  I had to get back to normal.

Laying alone in the hospital bed, I plugged in my headphones, flipped over to the Diablo Cody interview, rewound back about 15 minutes and pressed play.  And Marc and Diablo’s conversation started about the time I was getting on my bike.  And I began reliving that day.  As they talked, I flashed back in my mind to the exact moment each word was spoken.  Yeah, at this moment I was swinging my leg over the bike.   When Diablo starts talking about being contacted by Spielberg’s company I remembered the exact location I was on Bumrung Rat road.  When she started her praise for Spielberg as they worked together, I was turning left onto Rattana Kosin road.  A little more chat and I was looking back at traffic to see free lanes for at least a hundred yards.  Some more and I was changing lanes to the right.

And then I stopped the podcast.  There was an accident coming in this conversation and I just wasn’t ready for that.

It’s funny how events in our life are kind of seared into our memories with a musical or other accompaniment.  There are certain songs that will instantly take me back to a single moment 20 years ago (the exact moment Smells Like Teen Spirit first played on the radio) or movies that will start a mental recording of a debate with friends afterwards (hmm, what could be an example I wonder?).  And now I have a podcast that will forever be the part of a memory I don’t really want to hold onto.  Or do I?

And imagine that I was starting to rethink my harsh assessment of Diablo.  I guess fate decided otherwise.  I do plan to eventually revisit this conversation.  It’s frankly a little silly to allow it to hold so much power over me but it’s almost as if a moment that has played such a dramatic role in my life deserves preservation in some way.  As long as I don’t finish the podcast then the accident will always be with me and available to access if I choose.  There’s almost a weird affection for it I guess or maybe a fear, I really can’t decide which is the case.  But maybe finally completing the interview will be another milestone that brings me closer to normal.  And that is really what I still am striving for.