Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bringing out the dead

This is an old story, a Brooklyn story.

One St. Patrick's Day my friend Tod came with his friend Van to Brooklyn. St. Patrick's Day in Brooklyn is like an uglier Mardi Gras. Hence, many bars packed with fratty preps and swaying, drunken idiots ensued. Van, who wrote for the Baltimore City Paper, knew New York pretty well, and as we roamed Brooklyn in search of less-crowded bar we were joined by various friends.

By the time we're at an ancient dive on Atlantic Ave, surrounded by kitsch and miserabilia, I'm talking to an apparent speed freak named Joe that I don't know HOW Van knows.

So Joe hears I work for Mosby, the medical publishing company, and he tells me he's an ambulance driver. My division published all the non-doctor and non-nurse textbooks - we worked a lot with EMTs, which is what you call ambulance drivers these days. "Great," I think, most of those guys are egotistical pricks. What's more, he's written a novel. "Terrific," I think, every one of these guys thinks he has a novel in him, and I have to hear about most of them.

I start to say that Mosby never touches fiction, and he says oh no, he has an agent and a book deal and everything.

I relax, let him tell me about the book (tragedy, dissonance, exhaustion). He's a nice guy, funny, cranked a little too tightly but that goes with the job. He insisted on calling himself an "ambulance driver," which I liked. It's less accurate, but conveys more urgency and purpose than "EMT" or even "paramedic." We all get all hammered and have a weird day.
  • Saw a guy running down a side street with a two by four.
  • 50 feet later, saw a guy sitting on the curb holding his bleeding head.
  • Met a crowd of sanitation workers who treated Joe like a king once they heard he was an EMT.
  • A very small Ecuadoran or possibly Peruvian man threatened Tod's life over his sweater.
All things being equal, I sort of forgot about the book.

Months later, I see this paperback on a table at the megabookstore on Union Square. A stray synapse fired and I flipped the book to see if there was an author photo. Sure enough, Joe Connelly, Van's friend.


I read the book. I enjoyed the book. It's a balls-ass book, not as preoccupied with le romance as the movie is.

In the book, the protagonist tells us of his dream job. He would be a consultant for the movies and TV. "E.R." drove the protagonist wild. I know comparatively little about emergency medicine, but it used to drive me wild too. "You don't shock asystole!" I used to growl, outraged.

So on a later edition of the book, I saw that it was "Soon to be a major motion picture! Directed by Martin Scorsese!" and in smaller print, Joe Connelly was to be hired as the movie's technical consultant.

Any story that ends with the protagonist climbing out of the ambulance under his own power is by definition a happy one.