I’ll happily take the credit for a dog day afternoon
A few weekends ago, I took my dog to the dog beach. The public beaches in Southern California are beautiful, but they’re also highly-regulated. On most of them, dogs are strictly forbidden, which doesn’t make much sense since dogs are pretty much the only land-based mammal that doesn’t think the Pacific Ocean water is way too cold for swimming.
In Southern California, most local people go to the beach to sit near, but not in, the water. You can always tell tourists by the way their eyes widen in shock the moment their feet get wet. “This is a lot colder than it looks in the movies,” they say to each other. “Why does no one ever lapse into hypothermia on Baywatch?”
But there are a few specifically-designated places to take your dog to the beach, and one of them is about 20 minutes away from my house. It’s down in Orange County, the cradle of the California surf lifestyle.
It’s a place my dog loves – her crazy, excited noises and back-seat pacing begin pretty much the second we turn off onto the beach road and she smells the salt air – and true to her nature – she’s a Labrador, after all – all she really wants to do for the rest of her life is have me flip a tennis ball into the ocean and watch as she dives in, paddling furiously, to retrieve it.
Which I’m happy to do, because let’s face it, it really isn’t all that gruelling. I’ve got a plastic contraption – sort of like a jai alai stick – that allows me to fling the ball far out into the surf without having to get my hands sandy and wet. It’s the perfect gadget for any dog, like mine, with a lazy owner.
She’ll dive into water, bodysurf back to shore, take the occasional wave head on and do a flip, whatever it takes to get the tennis ball securely into her mouth for the paddle back. It’s quite a thing to see.
Many times, other folks on the beach will stop what they’re doing to watch in awe. Often, they compliment me.
“Amazing dog,” they’ll say.
“Thank you,” I’ll say.
As if I had anything to do with it. As if I’m the one in the cold water putting his all into the fun and getting a full-body workout.
And when the day is finally over – when, in other words, I’m a little bored or my arm is getting tired – the dog and I will trudge back up the hill to the car. She’s always ready for more. I’m the one that calls it a day. And I’ll dry her off and climb into the driver’s seat and think, “Wow, I’m exhausted.” Even though she did all the work, she’s the one who got wet and cold and winded, she took the waves, she did the dives, she did everything. All I did was watch.
In other words, I was the executive producer of a dog at the beach. I provided the car and a minimal amount of physical energy, but took all of the praise.
I thought of this the other day when a producer friend of mine told me about a conflict he’s having with another producer.
“This guy says to me,” my friend said, “that he’s ready and enthusiastic about pitching in on a feature film project I’m doing, when I get it set up. He actually said that. He said, ‘When it gets set up, I’ll hop on.’”
“But he doesn’t want to help you get it set up?” I asked.
“No,” my friend said. “He wants me to do all the work and then call him and he’ll show up.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I mean, you’re in there rolling around in the surf with a tennis ball in your mouth and he’s on the beach getting compliments.” My friend looked at me blankly.
It was too difficult to explain. But I have noticed that in this business when you’re cold and wet and swimming against the current, there’s always someone dry and relaxed on the shore, taking credit.
And at the end of the day, when you’re sleeping in the back seat, there’s always someone richer and higher-status in the front seat – usually a producer or an executive – talking about how exhausting it all was for both of you.
On the other hand, here’s where the metaphor breaks down.
My dog really likes her days at the beach. She is, after all, just a dog. Her brain is much smaller than mine. She’s not really much like a Hollywood writer. She doesn’t know, when she’s sleeping happily in the car, that I’m inside the Mexican taco stand having a burrito that’s rightfully hers. She’s happy just to be out.
Actually, maybe that’s not where the metaphor breaks down.
Rob Long is a writer and producer based in Hollywood
On Twitter: @rcbl
Updated: May 16, 2014 04:00 AM