Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Legend of Blueprint Blue

This is a story that no one but me knows about. Okay, maybe one person but he probably doesn't remember.

The year is 1987. There is no internet, much less internets. Reagan is president, Bruce Hornsby is a rock god, call waiting is the coolest technological advancement known to man, and I am young. It's a Friday night in April. I go to see a 9:30 showing of the movie Angel Heart at the Edina 2 (now the Edina 4) cinema in downtown Edina, Minnesota (for those of you who've never been there, think South Pasadena without the levity; for those of you who've never been to Edina or South Pasadena, use some imagination). My friend John is with me. He probably doesn't remember. My then-girlfriend Keesha is not with me, likely slumming it at some dorm party on the banks of the Mississippi.

Angel Heart changes my life. It is the scariest thing I've ever seen. It is compelling and inspiring. I'm enormously attracted to Lisa Bonet and the chicken blood doesn't scare me off. I admire Mickey Rourke and incorrectly predict permanent stardom and multiple Oscars. I vow never to cross a voodoo woman. I vow never to engage in conversation an eccentric couple walking by an ocean. I vow never to eat gumbo. I take this shit seriously.

But what compels me most is Louis Cypher, the character played by Robert DeNiro (most famous for Bullwinkle). Lou for short. Lou Cypher. Get it? He is the devil embodied. He has long fingernails and an eerie demeanor. He is the greatest and creepiest villain in the history of film (and with very little screen time so you know he's scary).

Lou Cypher haunts my visions and punctures my dreams. I read the book Angel Heart is based on, Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (equally scary and very different). I identify way too much with Johnny Angel (Rourke's character), combing my past for forgotten crimes and unreachable pain. And I close my eyes and see DeNiro - smiling, baiting, and knowing everything.

Then, one day, I grab a notebook (yellow legal pad to be exact). The notebook is full of my confessional poems that will never ever see the light of day (they seemed good at the time). There's not much paper left in the book but there's enough to start something. I write the words "Blueprint Blue" at the top of the first blank page I can find. I don't know where those words come from, though I learn later. And I write my first ever short story, about a college student named "Ali" and his wacky group of friends which includes a friendly but cunning bass player with long fingernails named Bill Zubub. I'll pause for a second while you work that out.

The story continues for the remaning 10 or so blank pages and then I write on the backs of the pages, working from back to front (writing on the back is something I'd never done before and would never do again). I complete my first short story. It has no plot and features random appearances by my favorite British musicians of the time (Robyn Hitchcock, Paddy Macaloon, Roddy Frame, the rotting corpse of Sting). Eventually, Bill's father, Lou Cypher, shows up and then Robert DeNiro (as himself) and Mickey Rourke (as me) make cameos. It circles round and round and steals without shame from Angel Heart. But it's my first and most influential work of fiction. And that's the Legend of Blueprint Blue. The year was 1987.


Jason B. said...

Wow. That was a really stunning post. It's amazing the impact that certain films or books can have on people, especially young people. As we become older and hardened we lose the childmind and are less apt to be moved, but there seems to be a time when we are still in college when we think that we've lost the childmind but it's still there and suddenly it activates and we're taken fully by some very special art.

I'd be very interested to know a few things. What do you think now about Angel Hear? And did you watch it more that once? When was the last time you watched it?

Ali said...

Thanks for your kind words.

I saw it a few years ago on cable. It was still compelling but not quite as scary. And funnier than I remember.

I think I only saw it once when it came out, and then maybe two times since then.

Are you at Sundance yet?

Jason B. said...

Not at Sundance till Wednesday. What are you doing on Sunday for the playoff games?

Ali said...


want to come over and watch them?

or I could come to your place.

theanglerfish said...

I Remember That! :D