Amos and I sat at The Bar on Sunset drinking Ice Bombs. The atmosphere was lugubrious, if it’s possible to have an atmosphere with only two souls left alive in Hollywood.
“Explain to me again how a superior galactic government could order the death of almost seven billion humans,” I said.
“It happens,” he said. “It was a political thing. At least I saved you.”
“Being alive isn’t so special when everybody you know is dead,” I said.
I got up and walked over to the window. Stared across Sunset at the old Warner studios. Trash littered the pavement at the deserted Mobil station next door.
“Hey, there are still fifty or a hundred million humans on the planet,” Amos said.
“Sounds like a lot, but try getting a date with one of them.”
Amos had worked as a greensman at Universal. He was a specialized set dresser who dealt with plants, real and artificial. Sometimes he reported to the art director and sometimes directly to the production designer. He had a green thumb. Literally. He lived in Glendale, like I did at the time.
“Where are they, all these millions still alive?” I said.
“Indians in the Amazon, what’s left of it. Wild men in Borneo, what’s left of it. Mountain dwellers. Inuit, those who haven’t drowned since the ice melted. Folks who did the least damage to the planet. And you, of course.”
Amos and I used to meet at The Bar after work. Dark and noisy. In the summer we’d drink those Ice Bombs, which I can still recommend if you don’t mind drinking alone: blue raspberry vodka, orange vodka, plain vodka, and Sprite. And lots of ice, of course.
One night during that period of our friendship, Amos admitted to me that he was an alien. An alien alien.
“If you’re an alien, why don’t you keep it a secret?”
“Why should I? Nobody cares.”
“Are you kidding?,” he said. “Amos Greenberg from Brooklyn? The guy the studio loves for his great sets?”
“What about picking up women?”
“Hasn’t hurt me, that I can notice. To tell you the truth, they get it in their heads that they’ll uncover the equipment and point to it and say, Looks pretty human to me, ha ha. But then when the moment of truth arrives, their mouths drop open and they say, You’re right. That thing ain’t human!”
“So what are you doing here? On Earth, I mean. Besides dressing sets with ferns and palm leaves. Invading the planet?”
Again he laughed.
“Who’d want to invade this dump?” he said.
“Hey, you’re talking about Hollywood here. Maybe Brooklyn’s not so hot, but show a little respect for the industry.”
Amos was shaking his head.
“You’ve turned your planet into a crock pot. What self-respecting alien would come down here and invade Detroit, for Christ’s sake.”
“So then what? Are you studying us? How are we doing?”
“In what respect?” Amos said.
“In the respect of advancing as a race. Of developing, evolving, reaching the point where we can zip around the galaxy or whatever, hanging out like you are.”
“Ninety-nine per cent of sentient races become extinct within, oh, a few thousand years of their initial technological breakthroughs.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Humans are way too smart for their own good,” Amos told me. “They should have got smart slower, much slower, over hundreds of thousands of years. You’re too much animal to survive, being this smart. You’ll come to an end quite soon, in one of the thousands of ways that you’ve developed, on purpose or inadvertently, to kill yourselves off. It’s one of the reasons that Earth is so popular as a vacation spot. A visitor like me can act like an animal here, be quite bestial, quite instinctual, and yet still hang out with smart people. Nobody wants to take a vacation at the zoo…
“It makes me giddy just to think about it. When I come here, I can abuse drink and drugs, I can watch senseless, mindless acts of violence on film and TV and on playing fields and on the street. I can litter! I can drive around in cars spewing carbon, flicking my cigarette butts and beer cans out the window. Anything goes.
“Believe me, when I go home to a sane galactic civilization, I immediately start counting the days before I can come back. It’s like when you run down to TJ on a weekend to behave badly. I’ll be depressed for years after you’ve blown yourselves up, or poisoned yourselves, or screwed the pooch some other way. No pooch screwing on my planet, sad to say.”
This news should have been depressing, but, after all, the human race invented the Ice Bomb, and the two of us drank enough of them to laugh off the whole thing, at least for that evening.
But all that was before some environmental bunch in the galactic congress decided to save Earth from its human vermin. The alien-vacation lobby wasn’t strong enough to save the planet as a playground for the dissolute of space.
At least the virus that killed everybody also caused the dead to decompose quickly into environmentally friendly matter, so that I wasn’t stumbling over a dead body every step I took. But Hollywood? Empty. Ditto all of L.A. Jeez, the freeways were great. Silver lining.
“What are you still doing here, anyway?” I asked Amos. “The Earth party is over.”
“I bought a package,” Amos said. “I pre-paid for the next fifty years. No refunds.”
“Isn’t that a little long for a vacation?”
“You don’t expect beings from a superior galactic race to take a two-week vacation, do you?” he said. “Even the French do better than that.”
“Most of us don’t get born and die on our vacation.”
“One of our vacations seems like a lifetime to you,” he said, “but for us they’re all too short.”
“Ok, but there’s nobody here.”
“There are still a hundred million humans on the planet. Come on. We’re bound to find a party somewhere. I understand that a group was spared up in the north of the state. A commune in Mendocino Country. Let’s drive up and check it out. Drugs, free love, vegetable gardens. Maybe we won’t miss Hollywood once we get there.”
“I’m a screenwriter and a dialog coach. What am I gong to do in a commune?”
“You’ve been in rehab a couple of times, haven’t you? Think of it like that, only without having to give up all the things that you like. On the contrary. There’s enough drugs and liquor left in the world to last your lifetime.”
“So what you’re saying is, road trip.”
“We’ll drive up in a Maserati. I saw one parked down the block.”
“Why not a nice big RV?”
“Are you kidding? It’s only five hours to San Francisco. Less, with a hot car and no CHIPs. We’ll find a good motel in the Bay Area, with a generator. Or, we could fly up. I can handle a plane.”
“Let’s drive,” I said. “You’re too drunk to fly.”
“OK. Let’s go discover America.”