Friday, March 16, 2007

The Shoot-Out and Matthew Modine

“Matthew! Good to see ya’, buddy. Could I get one of you running from the police tape, holding your head, doing a Munch ‘Scream?’” Steve asked, hiccupping with excitement, clutching his camera.
“Nah, man, indigestion. The wife and I just ate. And what the fuck is going on here?”
Matthew Modine, his wife Cari, “New York Post” Steve and I look down the length of MacDougal Street to the madness on Houston. The bartender at my local pizza joint, “De Marco’s,” has just been killed, execution-style, fifteen bullets pumped into his back. Two plain clothes, auxiliary cops—in pursuit of the bearded gunman fleeing down Sullivan St—are shot and killed. The gunman is eventually killed as well. An otherwise sweet spring evening concludes as four men are taken to the morgue.
The air was light with the promise of warm weather so the city and I decided to linger at sidewalk tables, take the long way home. After dinner at “Morandi” with a girlfriend (delicious, over-priced, overpopulated by British bankers), I walked down 6th Avenue ticking off the reasons why I love the city. The energy! The culture! The dreams seemingly just a block away…  
Do I take the scenic route home, walk down quiet Minetta Lane and then turn onto Bleeker? Minetta Lane is narrow, personal—I’ve always felt that it was mine. A century ago, the lane was a small, quiet stream running through the heart of the Village. Now it is home to one of my favorite wine bars, “Bella Vitae” and a space where I dream about Old New York. I like to take the twisting lane carefully, slowly. Tonight I decide against it and stay on 6th Avenue.
Seconds later, at the corner of 6th Avenue and Bleeker, I hear gunshots. Five of them. A beat. Five more. No, maybe it was a celebration—fireworks! My optimism is swiftly defeated by screeching brakes, undercover cops pouring out of Yellow Cabs, the SWAT team and ATP materializing out of blackness, the Manhattan night. I’m a block—one split-second decision—away from the shoot-out and four deaths. 
I’m cordoned off with yellow police tape. Nothing to do but wait, scan the scene, call my parents back home in bed, talk to  my friend Steve from the “New York Post” that I spot in the crowd.
“Look at this shit! Houston’s blocked off, the streets are full of crazy, anxious people—I swear it’s the New York City blackout meets the Village gay pride parade.” I can’t tell if Steve is incredulous or excited. Casualty of the job, I suppose. We’re finally allowed to leave Bleeker Street, cross Houston and enter SoHo. Steve spots Matthew Modine and tells me this is my chance to slip the A-list actor my screenplay.
“I don’t write screenplays, Steve. I’m finishing a novel.”
“Right, whatever. But, now’s your chance! It’s Matthew Modine! He can take you places, baby!”
New York City night, another opportunity, another chance—dark hours full of split-second decisions that will change your life.

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