Monday, May 3, 2004, 9:45 p.m.

Today, one of the actors, this decrepit septuagenarian, who didn’t let ten minutes pass without somehow reminding everyone that he had “collaborated with Buddy Ebsen,” said I was too “frenetic.” He said I “veritably bounded out of control.” Well, Roland, you should know two things: Your job is to bug your eyes out at my price-crumbling powers while jets of air make your implausible toupee flap about; my job is to ricochet from shingle to shingle, leaving savings in my wake. I am not a tumbleweed and will not act like one. I am sorry if you have the object-tracking ability of a three-day-old kitten. I blame Casting for this. You know, we’ve got plenty of authentic geriatric greeters on hand who (bless their devoted hearts and decaying minds) actually buy in to their jobs. They would love to take Roland’s place. It’s not like I’m talking about recruiting some frightened, dubiously documented janitors whose alternative to Wal-Mart involves returning home to live off tarantula meat in a blasted Third World country that doesn’t keep employment figures because it can’t sustain jobs or numbers. I’m getting so tired of this!

Tuesday, May 4, 2004, 11:19 p.m.
Is it possible to look at a smiley face like he’s got two heads? Apparently, it is. I asked for one day off from the shoot so I could drive out to Cousin Andrew’s beach house (more of an estate, actually; he got in on the emoticon action early), but they tell me they can’t spare me for a minute during the counternegativity campaign we’re running in California. Screw that. I’ve got some clout, don’t I? It didn’t go so well when I got sick that one time and they tried gouging orifices into a tennis ball as a fill-in. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just depressed tonight, I guess. I’m not physically capable of frowning, but lately I’ve been spending as much time upside-down as possible.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004, 1:57 a.m.

Roland problems persist. He’s supposed to appear in only one of several fleeting scenes, which, spliced together, speak to storewide discounts and Marketing’s diversity fetish. The script calls for Roland to “smile adoringly” during my flyby. But he had something “a bit more rapturous” in mind, and contorted that vortex of wrinkles he calls a face into a really upsetting orgasmic grimace. The director is young and easily trampled, so he lets Roland chew up everyone else’s time. And the actors are indeed getting impatient. There’s this little Samoan girl who finished her homework long ago and announced that there was “no freakin’ way” she was going to miss her Nickelodeon audition for “some mummy’s prima-donna trip.” There’s a Korean man in a breath-navigated wheelchair who’s wondering if he’s ever going to get out of his kilt. Then there’s me, and I am so close to quitting.

Thursday, May 6, 2004, 3:30 a.m.

Summer’s coming, which means it’s time for commercials with stale baseball tie-ins. I know I’m in for serious hurt when I have to report to Sporting Goods, and there’s a brawny actor pinwheeling a bat. Some nights, I have to sleep in an ice bucket. That was when I actually slept, of course. I thought my insomnia had something to do with Roland, that once his scene was finished, I could relax a little. Well, he finally started cooperating this morning (died), and we were able to insert a substitute and actually enjoy our lunch at a reasonable hour. Still, something just isn’t right with me.

Friday, May 7, 2004, 4:04 a.m.

I just got back from the twenty-four-hour Wal-Mart Super Center that’s in my neighborhood and I guess in everyone else’s, too. (All I eat nowadays are Ranch-Rageous Pringles.) There were some, but not too many, customers, and I managed to shop unnoticed, even though, of all the smiley faces plastered around the store, I was the only one moving, whistling “Here Comes My Girl,” and using a SkyMiles Amex card. I am everywhere, most recently as part of the display for the Passion of the Christ picture book. I’ve seen this many times before, this saturation, dozens and dozens of me. But I just wanted to tell all of them to go to bed already.

Saturday, May 8, 2004, 5:22 a.m.

Know what my sister does for a living? Spelling tests. When Timmy gets nineteen out of twenty, she goes on top of the paper. She is the mark of accomplishment. And what do I represent? A store that found a John Cougar Mellencamp album cover too provocative. (You’re next, Hornsby.) What else? Lemonade-stand wages. A corporation that prices independent retailers out of existence and rewards complicit communities with a couple of jungle gyms. I know I should try to laugh all this off, but I can’t. All I can do is smile.

Then I come home and write in this stupid journal. Did I mention I have to hold the pen in an eye socket?