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Added: 5 March 2013

Jarmusch Got My Robot


Jarmusch is following me; I'm sure of it. Yes, that Jarmusch, the filmmaker. Strange? Yes! This is Jarmusch! Listen: there have been four known incidents so far.

The first time was at some little Soho boutique right on Broadway and it's just funny because there he is, Jim Jarmusch, always wearing black, and what is he looking at? The black jeans, obviously. He's in an island of black clothing. Black tee shirts, black pants, black jackets, and that shock of white hedgehog that sits on top of the Jarmusch head, like a puffy cloud hovering right over those eyes that kind of dart around. His meet mine briefly and I think I detect slight defensiveness. Like: "What? So I like black." At this point it's merely a moderately thrilling celebrity sighting of the garden variety type that makes you feel glad you live in the city. The type that makes you realise you're probably seeing other celebrities, you're probably seeing them on a daily basis, only you don't know any of them because you just don't know who the celebrities are these days. These days they don't go around wearing celebrity moustaches like Burt Reynolds and you don't have a TV anyway.

The second time was in McNally Jackson on Prince Street. I'm going in there with my head down thinking cappuccino and literary fiction. Somebody is holding the door open for me; that's nice. I do happen to look up and who is it? Jarmusch. At that point it's still innocuous, a fun thing, like hey, Jarmusch just opened a door for me. Nice guy, that Jarmusch, holding doors open for people. Unassuming. I very much doubt Madonna is holding open any doors for me. Nor would I expect or want her to, I hasten to add. This isn't some backhanded swipe at Madonna, for whom I have nothing but respect. It's just, what can you picture? You see what I'm saying?

Third time it's St. Mark's bookshop up on 9th Street. What's Jarmusch doing way up here? Here's where I first think the word: stalker. I'm looking at the drama section thinking I ought to read a Pinter play one of these days, maybe I'll just grab myself a copy of Betrayal here and ooh look, I should also read some Beckett and there's Endgame, and then I want to check out the radical political section and then maybe pick up a self-published pamphlet by some skinny guy with media glasses from Brooklyn, and I get that feeling, the one where the tiny hairs on parts of your body that look like they don't have any hairs, but they do, your whole body is covered in hair only some parts the hairs are so tiny you don't notice them, those hairs stand on end. Tingling, they call it, I believe. I get that. It makes me look up.

It's him: Jarmusch. I catch him looking at me, only of course he shoots his eyes down right away, half a second too late, showing me that cloud, moving to the next aisle. Still wearing all black. He goes one aisle up, I go one aisle back. Then boom, he's right next to me, and I mean we are literally rubbing elbows. He's reaching up for some fat book about the world's greatest atrocities just as I'm grabbing a new intimate biography of Mick Jagger; I don't know why these two books are in such close proximity to each other but that, you see, is part of the peculiar charm of St. Mark's, and by extension, of all independent booksellers. Again we make eye contact, slightly longer this time, both kind of doing almost a nod of recognition, only it's me who beats it to the next aisle this time.

Now I am nervous. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern. But why? It makes no sense. It's a small world, surely, a small city, and after all, we're talking about an area of a few dozen square blocks and a finite number of hipster destinations. I'll grant you that. But me and Jarmusch running in the same circles? I don't even have circles. My movements are aimless, random. I could maybe have shrugged it off had it not been for the fourth time.

Toy store, Second Avenue. I'm looking at vintage tin robots. They have a very decent Robby replica there, I'd prefer the B9 from Lost In Space personally, but this Robby is nothing to be sneezed at. It's a good fifteen inches tall, it has working lights, moving arms, wind-up key: nice robot. Down the aisle I can see a few smaller, cheaper-looking generic Japanese models that are already becoming Plan B in my mind, also quite cool, but first let's start at the top and ask the obvious question, how much. Five hundred dollars. OK. OK. These are the types of numbers we're talking about are we, OK. I am not in the market for that and I can't help but think it was probably seventy cents when it first came out but there you go, there it is, if they can get five hundred, they can get five hundred. I'm about to start walking away when this soft voice comes from over my left shoulder.

"Five? I'll take that."

Jarmusch. Right behind me. Buys my robot. He has a nice voice, soft, melodious, thoughtful. He winks at me, Jarmusch does. Winks at me! I don't care what you say, this is too much. Jim Jarmusch is on my ass like a pair of knit boxers on a Canal Street afternoon in July.

Four times not enough for you? May I remind you: four known times. There was also the time somebody rang the buzzer to my apartment in the late evening, and when I opened the door all I saw was the very back edge of a tall figure in black with white cloud on top, disappearing into the elevator. Jarmusch? Then there was the cab that nearly knocked me over on Lafayette near Astor Place. White cloud in the back seat, racing away. Jarmusch? I could go on.

Why would Jim Jarmusch stalk me? Am I famous too? No. I mean, I'm well known in certain circles. There are bars I can go into where I guarantee you I get said hello to. If I buy say four or five drinks, the bartender will throw one my way for free some nights. Obviously in my father's house, there are several family members there who know me on sight. I've got friends, they'll easily recognize me just by my voice when I call them on the phone. But true fame? No. No, I wouldn't say so. So why would Jim Jarmusch stalk me?

The thing you have to realize about Jarmusch is that he is an artist. A film-maker. He doesn't look at the world the same way you or I do. He looks at it cinematically. It's an aesthetic viewpoint. So he's not necessarily going to use fame as a criterion when picking somebody to stalk. For him, it would be because he has sensed a certain something about someone. He has that kind of vision. And it may not be because the person has a traditional kind of beauty or sexiness, it could be that they have an offbeat type of charm that only a Jarmusch would appreciate and be able to exploit fully in one of his slow-paced virtually plotless independent films. A Jim Jarmusch looks at a guy like me and he sees somebody who might look fantastic on an ice lake in black and white staring into the meaningless void next to an enigmatic Hungarian woman in a threadbare coat. Once Jarmusch has an image like that seared into his consciousness, he can't let it go. He's obsessive. Driven. That's what makes him tick. That's why Jarmusch is Jarmusch. If he wasn't like that, if he was like you and me, he'd never have made Down By Law. He'd just have gone to work in an office and added grays and blues to his repertoire and touches of red and yellow. But that's not his way. That's not Jarmusch.

The point is it's not my business to say OK, I'm a kind of visual ideal for him, an objet d'art, because I've got ideas of my own to pursue. It's not my business to say oh, that's fine, Jarmusch again, just let him have his fun. No, because it gets on my tits. I ain't nobody's objet de nothing, you get me? Back off. That's my message to Jim Jarmusch. And if he's reading this, which he probably is, here's what I'm telling him: Hey Jarmusch. I'm asking you nicely. You've got to move on now. Don't let your genius drag you down this rabbit hole. I tell you this as a friend. A fan. A man.