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My Own Private Idaho, Directed by Gus Van Sant

New Line Cinema, September 29, 1991 (US)

Screenplay: Gus Van Sant, loosely based on the play Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

Starring: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, and James Russo

Mike Waters
(River Phoenix): “I’m a connoisseur of roads. I’ve been tasting roads my whole life. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world.”

Sometimes the way makes you drowsy. The path puts you to sleep. Like warm pavement that blisters and swells, buckles up like soft brownies for you to lie down upon. And ohhhh how you do! The gravel feels good against your back. The tar moist and sticky against your skin. Mmmmm! Fluffy clouds thick and rich above you. The sky is blue like swimming pool bottoms. You could float here forever. Never surface. Never move. Dissolve away into road signs and billboards. Street signs and neon lights. Soft Shoulders and Passing Lanes. Men at Work and No U-Turn. Stop and Yield. Divided Highway. Steep Grade Ahead. Junctions and Detours and Alternative Routes. Take the crooked one.

Why? Because you’re a really twisted fuck that’s why. Bent and dirty (so they say). Hustler. Hollow husk. Halfway house. Train wreck. If they ran you over, no one would notice. Nobody would care. Cuz you’re a tramp that’s all. Road wraith. Mud flap. Know-nothing of the street. Can’t even sleep straight. So close your eyes and stretch out your arms. Nod off. No one will miss you. Like dead animals on the road. There’s a truck coming soon and nobody’s waiving at it to stop.

Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves): “I only have sex with a guy for money.”

Mike: “Yeah. I know, I mean. . . .”

Scott: “And two guys can’t love each other.’’

Even the dirty need to be loved. So where do we go? Out on the highway. Out on the street. Dark rooms and backrooms. Bathhouses and toilets. Bad sex for hard cash. You don’t even need to take your clothes off. 3 minutes in heaven on this long and winding hell. Like scruffy cats with our legs chewed off. We sit at bus stops and alleyways. Sip Coca-Cola at the dark ends of dingy bars. Skinny kids shivering in T-shirts. Baseball caps turned around backwards. Skate punks and East-Euro teens. Junkies and juveniles. Horny suburban boys just looking for kicks. This is the world of those who don’t sleep. Won’t sleep. Sad strangers of the night. Strangers and tar-rats running away from … what? Bad dreams? Bad homes? Bad moms and dads? Deedees and Dannys and Donnys and all the rough angels drifting and dodging the hard edges of the dream. The dirt. The driveway. The divide of growing up good and great with a plush education and surefire job that burns the bacon for spotless wives and see-through children; or the alternative of sinking down. Way down into the black abyss. Dark embers of the dusk. City ashes of night. To rage and wander and to never sleep. Never ever again.

Stay up all night under the buzzing neon signs in front of gas stations, under lamp posts, on top of garbage containers. Stay up until the dawn cracks blue and pink, then golden and red, then finally, here-it-comes-now, the sun shining thousands of rays on the pavement that will one day—when all is said and done—lead to final resting place of sleep. Peace.

Sleep. Sleep, sleep, sleep. . . .

Scott: “When you wake up, wipe the slugs off your face. Be ready for a new day!’’

They’re the kids nobody talks about. In every city. In every town. On Clark Street in Chicago. In the West End of London. Santa Monica Boulevard. Triple-X theaters and dirty bookstores. Casino strips. Gay bars. Straight bars. They roam the train stations in Venice. Frankfurt. Paris. Suburban parks. Supermarket parking lots. They need a fix. A drink. A dollar. Some soiled carpet to curl up and sleep upon. They are all young and blonde and beautiful and golden angels hitching a long ride down a dark desert highway (cool wind in their blow-dried porno hair). Nobody ever picks them up. Nobody ever sleeps. Nobody dreams. Ripped jeans and ripped roads that go on forever. The blue at the bottom of the pool is beautiful. The sky a tumbling sapphire arch. The night never stops and the headlights flash back and forth through the lonely motel windows of the night. The faces are shone upon below the headboards and ice buckets. But only for a moment. The sheets will be washed but nobody sleeps in them.

We all check out and move on.