Living In Flames

ANCIENT HISTORY DEPT: Before I became a screenwriter, I was known in downtown New York circles as a monologuist.  This was my signature piece.



    I’m, I’m living in flames, I’m living in flames, that’s the only phrase that applies, that’s only phrase that fits, I’m burning up, I’m burning up, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not like a fever, a fever, a fever comes from the inside, and this comes from the outside.  It’s it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s – I don’t know what it is, but I’m on fire all the time and I can’t stop it.

    It’s this city, it’s this city, it’s too much for me, it all comes at me, I can’t take it, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t DO ONE THING AT A TIME.  I have to do TWO things at one time.  At least!

    I wake up.  I get dressed AND listen to music, I eat breakfast AND read the paper, I ride the subway AND read a book, I go to work AND work on a screenplay, I meet with friends AND try a new restaurant, I talk on the phone AND do a crossword puzzle.

    I didn’t use to be like this!  I used to live in a trailer!  I come here, now there’s this constant catching up to do!

    I buy clothes, they’re out of style.  I want to get tickets to a show, they’re sold out.  I want to get into a club, I can’t get in, it’s either too crowded or I’m dressed wrong.  It’s like I have to be, like, two and a half TIMES ME, just to keep up!

    And then I think things like “If I like this band, they must not be very good.”  It’s this whole self hate thing, an inferiority complex.

    But you see, here’s the other thing.  I can’t stand to wait.  If I make a date, and she’s five minutes late, she better not show up at all, because I’m just going to be pissed off for the rest of the night anyway.  Keep me waiting?  When I’m trying to catch up?  I’ll go crazy, I’ll start breaking things.

    Here’s how bad it gets.  I need cash, I need to get to a cash machine.  I get to a cash machine.  If there’s a line, forget it.  I won’t wait ten minutes on a line.  I’ll walk ten minutes to get to another machine, but I won’t wait on that line.

    My friends, they say I’m I’m I’m I’m I’m I’m I’m, I don’t know, I’m hyper or something, I’m obsessed, I don’t know, maybe I am, maybe I am obsessed, maybe I am obsessed, I can’t stop it so maybe I am obsessed.  I guess I guess I guess I guess I guess –


    But there’s this urge, there’s this drive, to be doing, to be doing something else, to be doing something as well, to be doing something in addition to.

    Call waiting?  Of course I have call waiting!  The phone, that’s the biggest magnet, I should have a phone welded to the side of my head, I should have, I should have a tiny phone implanted in my skull, I should have a tiny phone implanted in my skull so that I don’t have to pick it up, I can just answer, keeps my hands free.  The phone, I miss one phone call, that’s it, I’m a basket case, because I know that THAT WAS THE ONE.  You know.  It’s always THE ONE, there’s no use rationalizing it.

    And if I get on the subway?  I get on the express train?  The express train stops between stations?  I sit there and watch local trains go whipping past?  You gotta see me.  I hit myself in the head, I punch myself in the head, I tear my hair out, I want to break all the windows, I want to kill the brakeman, I want to go up to his little room and kick the door in and scream “MOVE THIS FUCKING TRAIN NOW!” and put his HEAD through the window!

    It’s burning me up, I can’t take it, to back off, to relax, it would be admitting defeat, so I have to be in motion, I have to keep moving forward, if not I go crazy, so it’s either burning up or going crazy, I don’t really see that I have a choice!

    I wonder sometimes.

    I wonder what exactly it is that I am heading to.  Why am I in such a hurry to get there?  How will I know when I finally arrive?  What will it look like?  Is it all worth it?  Typical questions, but I’M IN NO CONDITION TO ANSWER THEM!  I’m burning up, I’m living in flames, that’s the only phrase that fits, I’m burning up, I’m living in flames!

Copyright © 1989 Todd Alcott
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10 Responses to “Living In Flames”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    This is probably no surprise, but it’s not the city that’s doing it.

    Look, I was so rushed I skimmed to the end!

  2. deathboy says:

    Dear zombie-jesus, that very much sums up my existence. wonderful 🙂

  3. gazblow says:

    I should have a tiny phone implanted in my skull so that I don’t have to pick it up, I can just answer, keeps my hands free.

    Todd Alcott: The Nostradamus of Our Time

  4. urbaniak says:

    Keep in mind that Todd used to perform this with the energy of a Category Five hurricane up until “I wonder sometimes,” where the monologue took an abrupt turn toward the reflective until the hurricane hit again with “I’M IN NO CONDITION TO ANSWER THEM!” I saw him perform this countless times and it never failed to blow people away.

  5. aeryk says:

    as a new yorker, I can definitly say this one still feels current.

  6. yetra says:

    Bravo! Would have been great to see/hear rather than just read, but a very good read all the same.

    Reminds me of my own current struggles against cultural consumption. Every day, there’s constant struggle to stay up to date on LJ and various RSS feeds. And then there are the two weekly alternative papers that come out on wednesday that I try to read, which I am currently about 5 weeks behind on. And the 3-6 new movies that come out in theaters each week that look of interest. Added to the 10-12 films still on my list from previous weeks that haven’t left the theaters yet. Plus the 400 movies on my netflix. And the 300 tv show discs on the second netflix profile I created just for tv. And the one tv show that I actually watch live. And the podcasts, blogs and bonus videos that get posted about that show after it airs each week that I feel a need to check. And the shelves of books that I can’t stop buying, just waiting to be read. And 18 new music cds I just bought that god knows when I will find the time to listen to. And I won’t even go into the live music concerts, theater, lectures, art shows, and travel that are trying to find their way into my life constantly. All this amazing stuff to consume and enjoy. And I’m also supposed to sleep, work, have an extensive social life? I think I’m drowning. And yet, it is all so.damn.good.

    Sorry, had to rant. You can ignore this.

    • Todd says:

      I’ve been there. I lived there. You have my sympathy.

      There’s a simple procedure for this problem.

      1. Have two kids.

      Choices get a lot clearer after that.

      • yetra says:

        Perfect! I’ll get right on that.

        In the meantime, perhaps you could spread the word to various creative types that they can stop making things of quality for a few years, so I have a chance to catch up a bit. There’s plenty already, we don’t need much more. I think 10 years should do the trick.