The Big Schlep
(Essay for Dutch Magazine, August 2000)
By Vincent Gallo
My family didn't travel much. Biggest trips of my childhood were before I started school. My mother worked everyday in her beauty parlor that was in the storefront of our house. My father, who didn't want a job, was stuck with me and dragged me seven days a week to various racetracks within driving distance of Buffalo. Lots of traveling. And boy, was it fun. I got to starve all day long, and finally maybe get a hot dog and a cup of warm water, while watching my father lose my mother's hard-earned pay.
I took a trip alone on my bicycle once - as far as I could go - real real far, five neighborhoods away, to a part of Buffalo called the Fruit Belt. The street names had fruit names, you know? Like Banana Street. Let's just say, in this neighborhood there were more than a handful of blacks. Actually, I think I was the only whitey there that day. Soon I was mugged, beaten down and robbed of the only nickel in my pocket by three seventeen-year-old black kids. I was six. When I got home, my father beat me up and told me I was a pussy-fagot. He said why didn't I bring them home to rob the whole house? That was my first trip. I guess you could say travellin's in my blood.
As a kid, I had only seen airplanes on TV. I was from boat-people. I didn't know anybody who actually went on a plane until I was sixteen and living in New York City. I had to hitchhike there from Buffalo. One fag who gave me a ride tried to blow me so I made him let me out. I didn't get another lift for seven hours. It was cold that day.
My first airplane ride was to Europe. I went through one of those messenger services where you get to go for free if you carry a package on the plane. I was seventeen then. It was real easy. All I had to do was sleep at the airport for four or five days waiting for a package that needed to be carried to somewhere in Europe. When I got there all I had to do was find some free food and a place to stay and figure out a way back. Why the hell would poor people travel by plane? Why would anyone? It's such a schlep. A big nasty, schlep. Why would anybody get on a plane unless they were making millions to travel? I really don't get it. People are stinky and planes are stinky too, they're filled with disease. They're so mean at the airport and it's expensive and dirty, it's a hassle. A pure hassle and a pure schlep. Who the fuck would fly on a plane in coach? It's so creepy. A vacation should be sitting in bed eating chips and dips, watching TV, and being massaged and blown by a robot - that's a vacation. That's travelling. Schlepping overseas makes no sense, it's dumb, especially to France, which was the first place I went. How much cheese, tobacco, caffeine, wine and sugar can one filthy, French person shove into their bodies in one day? Not even the filthy polluted air of Paris could cut down the stench off those fermented French assholes.
I smoked pot twice in my life. Pot is bad. I don't like it. I don't like pot people. It's evil, and so are all the people who smoke it. When I take over the world, the first thing I do is to put pot-smokers in a room and tape them together. Anyway, because I was a little afraid of flying, some asshole suggested I smoke a joint on the plane and he gave me one. He must have been a pusher. Remember when people could smoke cigarettes on a plane? They'd smoke the whole flight like pigs. Filthy pigs. Thank God they stopped that. Anyway, I went into the bathroom of the plane and lit up the joint. Soon a Beetle song got stuck in my head and in minutes I was freaking out. I guess it was a month later that I was almost myself again. That was the worst flight of my miserable life. Imagine - pot and people and airplanes, all going to France - four wrongs don't make a right. Right?
Anyway, from France by train I wound up in Italy to fly back to New York from Rome. Just because my last name is Gallo and my parents are from Sicily, don't think I relate to those monkeys either. Real Italians are from Buffalo. At one point on the train ride from France to Italy Italian soldiers filled it up so there was standing room only. I was pressed up against the wall near a window and something blew into my eye and blinded me. By the time I got to Rome my eye was swelled up shut. I stayed at the airport half blind and very hungry, making sad faces 'till someone offered me food. It was old bread and boy was it good, except for the green parts.
My flight home was on 'Alitalia'. All right. I fucked myself up with pot going to France, so I'm already a little edgy about flying, I'm just edgy, you know? I'm having flashbacks, whatever... I'm scared, OK? I'm not chicken of the plane crashing, kill me please, go ahead, do me a favor - no, I'm just afraid of my own sick mind locked in a plane. Anyway the flight is overbooked by hundreds. Somehow a hundred people had the same ticket as another hundred people, so they start trying to get people off the plane. I wouldn't budge. After about three fuckin' hours of this shit, they bribe enough dumb travelers off the plane to take off.
Sitting on my right is a fat Italian woman dressed in all black, with her face buried in a black handkerchief, bent over, rocking back and forth, crying for somebody who died. Who knows who. If it were me, I'd be left in my house for six months before anybody noticed I was dead. Somebody would come over to borrow money and they'd find me. They be torn. Torn between whether they should just empty my pockets and leave, or report me dead. Anyway, this old fatass, lady greaseball makes me real nervous with her rocking back and forth and crying. I hate it when chicks cry. They always cry. I didn't do nothin'. Seated to my left was another old bastard, an old Italian man greaseball. There's a lot of old people in Italy, I guess 'cause they never work. All they do is eat. God forbid they should work.
Anyway, halfway through this miserable flight, the Old Italian man greaseball to my left starts choking and gasping for air. He's convulsing. Some slut stewardesses come over and eventually one of the monkey pilots comes with a medical bag. They clear about six of us away while they work on him. I see needles go into his chest, the whole thing is clear, I have a bad feeling. Now there's not one extra fucking seat on this plane so they prop the old bastard in his chair facing out the window with some blankets all over him and they force me to sit back down next to him. I know the guy's dead. He's cold and he's stiff. He's dead, OK? Dead. Dead, dead, dead. They tell me he's just sleeping and he's going to be fine. I fly four more hours next to a dead guy and a crying woman. Both stinky. The Italian man greaseball still with some drool hanging from his mouth. Hanging there uninvited like a rubberized, lazy icicle.
You know, when I negotiate a contract for an acting job if I have to fly my whole salary for the job is based on the pain of the flight. If I have to be in Europe, the price is double. If I have to go to South America or other primitive places, it's triple. You couldn't pay me enough to go to a place like Israel, or Morocco, or Korea, or Albania, or Spain. For a million bucks I wouldn't even go to Harlem. However, I would consider parts of Austria and Germany.
My beautiful home is in New York City. I used to love coming home to New York City from some horrible travelling. It's sad though, when I go back to New York now, it's not the same. How could it be exciting to go back home to a city where a born rich kid like that mini-dwarf, faggot, date-raper Harmony Korine lives. What happened to New York? Remember the old days when a girl like Connecticut Chloe Sevigny would be lucky to blow for a living? David LaChapelle was just an average, purse-snatching, faggot busboy, coke-whore, cleaning up Studio 54? I'm so happy I have a mansion in LA. If that sephartic Guy Osery didn't live in LA, it really would be a perfect city.
I like driving. I'm in my car, and I'm all alone, or I'm in my car and I'm being blown, driving alone or being blown. I get some gas, I get some ass, and no one with me is smoking grass, and if I want to I sure can pass. Drivin' drivin' all alone, with no one no one on my back. Just me alone me alone, in my big black Cadillac.