Editor’s Note: This was written long before any of us ever considered that Donald Trump would be the actual, for real, president of this country. Surreal.
I figured everybody on that street had at least a million dollars more than I did. So I set about doing what any disheveled 22 year old on Melrose with shaggy clothes and no credit would do. I lit a cigarette and hoped it made me look bohemian. A habit I’ve since given up in favor of embracing honesty – honesty in this instance being guilt-free heart palpitations and sweating.
Then a black car pulled up, and a big expensive mass of people got out and formed a circle around the most expensive looking person, incidentally the shortest. I sized him up from a few feet away, with my glorified prop cigarette. It was Elijah Wood. It was Elijah Wood, right there, on my patch of sidewalk. I had to poke him with a stick somehow.
I don’t remember exactly what I said next, but it was something to the effect of “holy shit, you’re Elijah Wood.” This was a mistake. Elijah Wood instantly turned around and looked at me with eyes that said “we have special jails for people like you.” And before he could say where the jail was, a paparazzo jumped out of the peripheral fog where all paparazzi live, and Elijah Wood put his head down as his roving circle of hangers-on ushered him away.
I felt bad about it for years. Disproportionately bad about it. You know expressive his eyes are. He really made me believe that I deserved to die in an underground jail in West Hollywood, and have all my meals thrown at me by Deputy Warden Robert Evans. I felt so bad I wanted to apologize to Elijah Wood in some sort of formal mechanism – through a charitable organization or a lawyer who does a lot of work for the Red Cross. “Mr. Horton would like to formally issue an apology for his embarrassing misconduct on the night of April the 27th. Mr. Horton had miscalculated his medication levels or something and deeply regrets the error. The following schools in Sudan will have your name on them.”
But over time I’ve grown to accept the mistake. I know why I made it. My reason was sound. Elijah Wood starred in Lord of the Rings and I spent most of my childhood playing in an enormous dirt pile. I would pretend the dirt clods were money, ride my bike around it, guard it, protect my dirt money. Me and Elijah Wood, we’re from different universes. Cognitive dissonance did me in.
Part of being a respectable member of society, I’ve come to realize, is pretending you’ve outgrown the “holy shit, you’re Elijah Wood” impulse. You’re so mature and disillusioned that Keith Richards could literally walk up to you and throw cocaine into your nose and you would nod your head, inaudibly sigh, and flip to the most boring available part of your newspaper.
I no longer live in a place where anybody could have a million dollars more than me. I removed myself from that danger. I mostly walk around, watch the train go by, write, sit at my computer sometimes. And every time I sit at the computer, despite the depth to which I’ve internalized my Elijah Wood lesson, I am always immediately tempted to go on Twitter and poke celebrities with a stick until they block me. Everybody is. And it’s nothing less than a badge of honor for the “alternative” members of the Twitter Aspiring Media Class (most of them).
Why is it a badge of honor though? We’re all respectable members of society. We wouldn’t even flinch at the Keith Richards Cocaine Scenario. So why do the rules invert when you remove eye contact?
First example. A couple years ago, I got blocked by Ricky Gervais, back when it was still newsworthy that he sacrificed his talent at the altar of the world’s loudest superiority complex. I sent Mr. Gervais a drawing I made of him with huge stupid vampire teeth, presented it as a child’s drawing, and captioned it “BLARGH ATHEISM.” Shortly thereafter, I was blocked. I took a screenshot of the page as soon as it happened.
I was overjoyed. Thrilled. Illuminated. Giddy. If I was capable of skipping, I probably skipped a few times. I couldn’t shut up about it. I still can’t shut up about it. I’m captivated by the whole situation. I consider it my most interesting anecdote and lead all of my semi-annual conversations with it.
But it’s shameful to be captivated by this, isn’t it? I’m a poor man being psychically dominated by the forgotten whims of a rich man. It took Mr. Gervais two seconds to block me and I’ve spent years reliving the experience, figuring out how best to frame the story. It’s a disproportionate reaction. I marginally inconvenienced the man for one thirtieth of a minute a long time ago. I claim to be above celebrity culture and this is what I do with my spare time. This is how I throw away my leisure.
Again, the reasoning is sound. Selfish, but sound. It’s on-message for me to be blocked by Ricky Gervais. It lends a tactile edge to my frustrations with his career. I can use it as the basis for an elaborate fantasy life where little ol’ me and Ricky Gervais are feuding, thereby making us, you know, when you think about it, exact peers on totally equal footing in our industry. But, that is to say, I’m the more ethical one, so I’m more equal.
Second example. My ambition after that was to hang up my spurs. Go out on top. I had disassociated myself from this high school mentality of chasing big names to verifiably annoy. I rose above, into a monastic existence where I know the names of all these three-named dead authors and can paraphrase some of the things they said. I was convinced I had gotten out of the rackets and settled down as a contented drifter, caring nothing for earthly power.
Then I got blocked by Donald Trump. That one hurt. It cut deep.
See, I had this whole plan. I had no ambitions whatsoever of making a crude drawing where he’s tenderly kissing an autographed picture of himself. I got respectable since last time. Very respectable.
I got so respectable, actually, that I was going to ask him for help with a legitimate business venture. I was going to reach out to Mr. Trump on Twitter and write “Hello, Mr. Trump, I love your work. You are a man of great power and integrity. I love casinos and hope to one day open one. Might I have a modest loan in the amount of $75,000? God bless.”
He wouldn’t even say anything. Not right way. He wouldn’t have to say anything. He’d be too impressed by my capitalist fortitude. Here, after all, was a boy trying to make his own way in the world, and on his terms, and all he needed was a push in the right direction. “How best to help this boy?” Mr. Trump would say, fidgeting with some sort of solid gold knick-knack, a children’s toy maybe. A solid gold Slinky.
Then, a few hours later, the reply would come. “I’m flying you out to New York City for a meeting. The plane is already on your street.” I’d hop in. Everything in the plane would be perfect. Fifteen stewardesses. Lobster. I’d offer them some, and they’d be so impressed by this gesture of good will but, no, sorry, they can’t, they have jobs to do. A few hours later I’d be in Donald Trump’s office.
It’d have all the grandeur of King Solomon’s mines if they were reconstructed for a revisionist pornographic film. “Please, take a seat,” he’d say, gesturing to one of his barstools. He’d give me a firm but cool handshake, his hands being mostly metal from all the diamond rings. “I come from nowhere and I aim to make a go of it in this dirty ol’ world of ours,” I’d say meekly, “with some sort of organized gambling type business, or failing that maybe reinstate prohibition and open a speakeasy.”
He’d pause, deep in contemplation.
“CASINOS, GOOD, MONEY,” he’d say affectionately. I’d process the weight of his words and reply “sir, you have the wisdom and ornament of a strong yet benevolent king. Your mine-office has an immaculate appearance befitting one of the more decadent Greek gods.”
He’d take a breath. Lock eyes for a long time. Furrow his brow. Tilt his head a bit to one side. “CASINOS HAVE GAMBLING.” Then Mr. Trump would gesture me toward a painting, a nude of him carrying eight women (also nude) toward a palace. He’d sigh. “Is it too conservative?” he’d ask pointedly. And I’d say “yes, but I believe your subjects will appreciate a common touch,” and he’d nod. “SPECTACULAR.”
That was the plan. That’s how he lives. That’s what he is. That’s how it’d work. That’s how I’d get rich. But it didn’t happen, because he blocked me. The slick-talking con artist blocked me. You don’t block Kaleb Horton. Donald Trump, who went bankrupt four times and cheated his way to the top like so many frauds before him, while wearing a grin and perpetuating his little spin on the Horatio Alger myth, had the nerve to block me? America is supposed to be a meritocracy, damn it.
So I’m not a respectable member of society. Celebrities still have power over me, if only in my idle fantasies grounded in class hostility. But it all comes back to Elijah Wood. It’s the different universes problem. You can certainly hide the part of you that wants to throw bricks at Donald Trump’s stupid house; you can tell yourself you’re better than that. And you live out the rest of your days burying the desire to poke the rich and famous with a stick, but you cannot kill it.
Follow Kaleb Horton on Twitter: @kalebhorton