Pre-fixed.


Prefix (def): a type of affix that proceedes the morphemes.

‘Raspberry please mate, yeah, two scoops, thanks’
It was a predictably hot afternoon on somewhere like Santa Monica beach front. I say ?somewhere like? because there are no distinguishing features to this stretch of sea-front, there’s a boardwalk and a pier but that?s pretty generic really to quite a lot of coastline. The guy ordering an ice-cream is with a film crew, who we can see on the beach. He is in fact the Director. So this is the most defining feature of the landscape, that puts us somewhere specific. A film crew is a pretty specifically organised thing, it has a regular shape to it, a consistent hierachy, in fact it occupies a definative cultural, economic space within the wider framework of late capitalist production. Looking closer this guy, in his early forties, but dressed six or seven years younger, a look which itself is a good ten years younger again, is typical of the type of person you would see on a film crew. He has paint on his trainers, Jackson Pollock splashes that don’t come from this guy painting in his spare time or DIY but are intentionally sold as such. He has lots of bangles and tied bits of string on his wrists, a yellow plastic ?Livestrong? bracelet, the badge d?honneur of this specific class of person. He has messy hair, a little greasy, expensive glasses and a funny slouch that says I don’t give a fuck about anything I am a creative person. Looking at him my nan would probably say he should get over himself. But if somebody pointed him out to you as the director you wouldn’t be surprised or raise an eyebrow and exclaim ‘What him?’ in disbelief. He fullfilscertain expectations of who he is, performs the function of himself. Suffice it to say the guy isn’t black or a woman.
Serving him on the other hand is somebody you would also not disbelieve if the same person who pointed out the director said, look that guy over there manning the ice cream float, yeah the young mexican guy, he’s the ice cream guy.
This story happens in what is called a break in filming. It’s mid-afternoon, so its not lunch, and there is activity down on the beach where a ‘Shot is being set up’ which involves the laying of boards and track and the building of a dolley with a crane arm, the positioning of monitors and a tented shaded area for the agency; meaning advertising agency. So this is a TV commercial shoot and not a movie shoot, although they look the same. As always happens after lunch the crew is a little sluggish from eating too much Rib eye, T bone, New York strip steak and everything takes longer than it did in the morning to get going. It’s boring for the director who has to stand around and wait, not a good thing as you will see. This director has in fact said, is on record as saying, that when he shoots a movie the catering will be vegetarian.
Meanwhile on the beach and the pier a few sight-seers gather, I want to say congeal like pooling blood in the extremities of a cadaver, but that would be a little much. These tourists stop, stare and point looking for the inevitable celebrity, whilst others, probably locals, casually rollerblade by and elsewhere the homeless sun themselves under the palm trees, their veteran prosthetic limbs expanding in the heat beside them.
The Director has decided to go and get himself an ice- cream. To kill time. Now that is unusual in itself because Directors on shoots don’t have to get themselves anything. They have runners and PA’s to get them stuff. So this guy, obviously a Brit with a chip on his shoulder about being served and waited on, I.E. he hates it, such sycophantic treatment goes against the grain of his socialist ideas and democractic sensibilities, wanders over to the ice-cream stall and orders his favourite flavour, two scoops of rich dark red raspberry in one of those old fashioned thick wafer spirals that look like edible layers of flaky slate. He turns away from the guy to talk to what probably is his producer. I imagine he has asked her if she wants one too, because she came over from the beach after he ordered his ice-cream. She declines, nervously looking down at her watch. He turns back to the vendor who hands him a cone with two big scoops of pale green Pistachio.
‘Sorry I asked for raspberry’
He doesn’t take the offending Pistachio cone, which hangs there over the counter in the Mexican guys hand. Instead he gestures by way of explanation the raspberry tray.
‘You said Pistachio’
‘I didn’t, I said raspberry, I pointed to it. I want a raspberry ice cream, I fucking hate Pistachio.’
Mistakes like this must happen in all forms of exchange; on the phone, in shops, even online, there are misunderstandings, one person says something the other hears something else. Orders get confused, it’s built in, hardwired into the very nature of exchange, in fact these miscommunications, interpersonal cock-ups, are an everyday heart beat of human activity whether social, sexual, commercial or whatever.
Perhaps it was the Directors Brit accent that threw the guy, made him hear Pistachio instead of Raspberry, yet if you try it, say the two words out loud it’s hard to get a transposition out of those two very dissimiar words, they don’t even have the same syllables, Pistacchio, Rasberry. Now the only question we could add on a linguistic level is does the fact that the other guys first language is Mexican Spanish have any impact on how he hears Brit inflected English. I have no idea. I wouldn’t think so.
Because this is a story, you have read in black and white that the guy asked for raspberry because I wrote it down on the first line. In this narrow sense it’s a fact, there’s no apparent mystery. But outside of the words on the page it is entirely possible that the Brit director asked for Pistachio flavour by mistake. I mean he opened his mouth and said Pistachio even though he wanted to say Raspberry, for whatever reason, whether just a slip of the tongue (I say ?just?, slips of the tongue are the subject of whole schools of psychoanalytic study, of literary theory even), or something more clinically profound like say Apraxia. More importantly and above all, he thinks he said Raspberry. Why wouldn?t he?
So now he’s being hassled by his producer to get back to work, to ?line up the next shot? or talk to the agency about a ?wardrobe issue?. Or something to do with his job. She runs the clock and wants to move things on. Her big bugbear, the shibboleth of her life is overtime, the incurring of which will kill any production company markup it is her job to amass. What he wants to do is get his raspberry ice-cream.
‘Look, it doesn’t matter, my mistake, I’ll pay for both, just give me a raspebrry one ok?’
He hands the guy a five dollar bill. Ice-creams cost $2.50 each so five is the right money for two. The ice cream vendor is still holding the Pistacchio cone in one hand, and takes the money with the other. It has started to melt and he has a thin trail of pale green Pistachio running over his hand. Kind of goes with the territory. Getting sticky fingers from ice-cream is what happens if you sell ice-creams all day in the boiling heat, also getting ice-cream all over your money is going to happen too, so it must get in your trousers, everywhere actually, so when you go home you are a sticky guy and have to take a bath first thing before sitting down and getting your furniture and stuff sticky too. Driving home could be a bit tricky but hey, it’s the job.
So ‘Fuck you man’ is not what you expect the guy to say next.
‘What?’
‘Fuck you, you never asked for raspberry.’
‘You stupid cunt, just give me a fucking Raspeberry ice cream.’
Now most Americans, by which I mean white middle class people in general and white middle class film types in particular, have an inate animal sense of how priveliged their lives are and some part of them is always reminding them, warning them that ‘There but for the grace of God go I? so don’t ever provoke a ‘Have Not’ or else they might notice you and pick you out from the sublime anonymity of ‘The Haves’ for revenge.
Most Americans wouldn’t call a young Mexican guy a stupid cunt. That ain’t playing the game. The rules of which are dictated in silence. Politeness, an ‘Aw shucks what a lottery life is’ self-depreciating demeanor, domestic deference to waiters and all menial staff and general looking the other way, enables you to take all the spoils whilst everybody else cleans up, waits, parks your car and waters your beautiful flowers. This silence is full of words that crucially include the first name of the waiter/cleaner/gardener and maybe even their wives and kids names. This ownership of names guarantees the silence, these words of familiarity securely anchor this Universe. Giving up your name on the other hand is in fact an act of the most obscene collusion. The moment you do it, the moment you exchange first names, heralds a celebration of enslavement more subtle and terrifying than any iron shackle, any whipping, castration, or any limb dismemberment you care to remember from history classes.
You don’t call the help stupid cunts unless you hold a Bull whip and are prepared to use it. The whip that has been replaced in the main by what I’ve just talked about, so this Brit, this stupid cunt who does he think he is coming here and lecturing us about our problems, this fucker has gone and upset the apple-cart. The rules went clear over his head.
The Mexican’s eyes harden, no longer those of an ice-cream vendor but of an angry young man. Pay me shit wages to park a car I couldn’t afford in a hundred years, but don’t call me a cunt, which is even ruder in American than in English, surprisingly able to communicate a granular almost Medieval sense of sexual obscenity. The Mexican guy drops the ice-cream and chucks the money back at the Director.
‘Fuck you bitch’
The ice cream trolley between them has now for all intents and purposes dissapeared, along with the disguise of ice-cream vendor. It is irrelevant, which in light of what the director does next is nothing if not ironic.
The producer meanwhile, up to this point, has seen the potential for trouble and has called up security on her walkie- talkie. This is her job, usually it involves driving the drunk Director home, or even getting him hookers, or coke, she’s his bitch basically, even if it just means taking him out to lunch dinner every night of the shoot and picking up the tab without a thank you from him it’s just what’s done, part of the deal, the tab is not really on her personally but on the job, so everything is taken care of in an unsaid manner, of course because this is how social relations are carried out successfully these days under these conditions. Which is basically silence. Don’t speak about it, don’t mention it, don’t for fuck sake joke about it because any attention drawn to the rules ruin the smooth working of the unseen machine. So this director guy who when he’s on a job doesn’t pay for jack shit, wanted to buy himself an ice cream with his own money, well with his ‘per diems’ to be precise, which is another hand out from ‘the job’ that he’s on and not his own money, that is kept for keeping the cunt alive for the other 300 and fifty days he isn’t on a job, this freak really we can call him that, a freak who is paid a years money in a few days work, so is actually more lost that the guy selling the ice-cream but who no doubt would swap places with him in the bat of an eye, this Brit who is mightily pissed off with being waited on hand and foot finds it all so terribly claustrophobic and plain annoying is now really fucked off that he’s having a row with a guy who refused him the right ice cream even after paying for it twice, what does he actually do next?
‘Stipid Cunt!’
He reaches over the small glass partition and tips the ice cream tray all over the boardwalk, all over the Mexican guy. The whole thing is upended and crashes to the floor if ice cream can actually crash, but you get the picture. The Mexican has been reminded of his enslavement, his inscription in the story of America as an ice cream seller, by having some brit throw the fucking contents of the cart all over him. He stands there, in plain view, covered in ice cream.
Both men of few words, they now proceed along the boardwalk the one chased by the other. The film crew is at this point itself rendered irrelevant. They stare at each other thinking all the unsaid things that cause the machine to tremor. The director has run off chased by a Mexican and the grips, sparks, craft services, agency sit and contemplate how much the other guy is getting paid. The producer has taken off after them followed in third place by security who lag behind quickly due to problems of excess weight.
Before this situation resolves itself which it does inevitably, within a few minutes, there is one question I would like to ask. The fact that I have come to it last is itself part of the answer. Following the rules of the ‘Hierarchy of Silence’ the main character of this story is the white guy, the guy on top, the guy with the film crew. Have I described what clothes the ice-cream vendor was wearing? No. What clues have I given to his personality other than his ethnicity? None. I don’t know the ironies involved in the life of a ice cream vendor on Santa Monica or wherever beach but I can vividly imagine them. So why didn?t I six pages or so ago? Why did this guy get so hung up on not giving the Brit the ice-cream that he ordered. Even when he said he’d pay for the one he didn’t want? Come on, this must happen all the time. This guy must have bills to pay, he must want to sell ice-creams. He knows it ain’t the best job in the world, but he decided to turn up so why oh why make a scene, why not take the five bucks and scoop out the raspebrry ice cream. A liberal story would have this as the moment of resistence, the moment when the underdog finally bites back but in such a pathetic fashion that the story ends bathed in pathos and terrible regret for life’s terrible thumbscrew inevitability. In fact in the last scene of this story the ice-cream guy would be shot down by a jittery or blithely racist cop who sees a white guy being cahsed by a Mexican who may or may not be holding a knife. In short a tragedy. In another more contemporary pop story, the one which would get optioned to be a movie, we would discover that the Brit has been banging the guys teenage sister and he recognises him when he comes up to buy an ice-cream, in fact his sister met the director because she visited her brother by the pier after college and was cast in the commercial by a passing.
But my story isn’t a story at all, in fact it was a dream.
In my dream what happens next is rather confused and doesn’t abide by the rules and regulations of time and space. The director and the close members of his crew, i.e. his assistant, cameraman and producer are all hiding out in a hotel room, giggling, still full of the adrenalin rush of having pushed over the ice cream cart. Now in the dream an illogical shift occurs in which all of them were involved in pushing the guys cart over. They planned it together, kind of. Now film crews pride themselves on the ability to solve problems, whether it’s to do with the weather, a tricky location, a script that doesn’t work, bad dialogue, bad acting, all these things are overcome by a good crew and the final film is always great, ok, whatever, but they are very good at avoiding disasters. The reason for this is the obscene amounts of money they get paid and that if they allowed a fuck up to happen then the game would be up and they’d have to get a regular job. This is an example of extreme privelidge that is unusual in that it focuses ability and creativity, and doesn?t promote idle mediocrity. There is a meritocracy of sorts working in this industry. What this says about the melliflous seduction of late capitalism is another story, but in the dream, in the next scene, and if you will indulge me, we cut to the Brit director which you by now have guessed is loosely based on the writer, me, shaking hands with the Mexican guy who’s been paid off and we fade on this resolution where everything bad has been smoothed over. In my mind the word pre-fixed pops up at the end of the dream, starting with a thought of the sentance ‘I’m going to fix myself a sandwich’ a hokey old fashioned American English phrase I imagine that a fantasy George Bush says to his wife and kids..’I’m a fix myself a sandwich, any yous whant one?’..Now as we have learnt already directors and producers have runners and PA’s who fix everything for them, from food to drink to drugs to chicks, everything is already sorted out, the hotel mini-bar bill is covered. The ubiquitous platinum American Express card has already sorted it. Every conceivable outcome, expediture, within reason, within the parameters of the silence, is covered by corporate credit. A scary thing in itself but nonetheless the fix is in, the handshake, the glossed over incident, the calming restorative affect of money, the balance that it restores, even if under extreme pressure, so much so that the card iteself is virtually molten from it?s kinetic exertions, like so much oil pumped into the damnded San Andreas fault to keep the tectonic plates happy, all this condensed itself in my now waking mind into the word image pre-fixed. I want to make a sandwich but a runner has already pre-fixed it for me. The anxiety of this sentence is what promoted my dream into a story. Got it an upgrade into the wide awake.
There is a play here on the term prefix I’m sure but as with all dreams they don’t yet deal in irony. Irony is still the preserve of the waking world. Thank God. If it ain’t broke don’t prefix it. There I couldn’t resist and this story is already twenty words too long.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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