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Fellow immigrants, let's do lunch

May 02, 2006|John Kenney | JOHN KENNEY has just finished his first novel.

I HAVE JUST RETURNED from marching with my fellow immigrants. Well, not so much marching as walking. In the sense that I was going to the store for milk and got caught in the parade. I chanted the slogans. But not out loud.

My point is that I understand the immigrant experience because I am an immigrant.

Where do I come from, you might ask? My name is, perhaps, foreign-sounding to you: "John Kenney." The strange vowels and consonants. And yet in my country it is a common name. Where is that? No, not Sweden. Nor Croatia, your second guess. Your third guess of Kazakhstan is just plain wrong. And your fourth guess, Burkina Faso, makes me laugh and feel sorry for you at the same time.

No, friend. I am from an island off the coast of the U.S. called Manhattan.

I came, like so many before me, for opportunity. The opportunity to be represented by either the United Talent Agency or CAA in my quest to negotiate a deal with NBC for a pilot I have written called, tentatively, "My Nana Was a Stripper."

Will I succeed? Who is to say? I know only that I will work hard and live simply, in the Four Seasons on Doheny, for as long as it takes to get a meeting or until I get in at Shutters.

Call it hope. Call it a dream. Call it that feeling we immigrants get as we look down from our business-class seats on American Airlines coming into LAX and see a palm tree for the first time. We do not have these in my country. These to me are a symbol, a kind of great green light at the end of the dock, as your writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said in his book, "The Great Gatsby," which in my country is called "The Great Gatsby."

Slowly, painfully, I have taught myself your language, your customs, your culture and casual manner of dress -- so different from where I am from. Simple things, such as: "Let us meet for dinner at 6:30." In my country we would laugh at you, as this is a very early time to eat. We would laugh and then we would make fun of you. My people can be cruel. Kind, but cruel.

We do not say "excuse me." We say "excuse me, [expletive deleted]." To me, this is much better, much more effective.

"Welcome to In-N-Out Burger!" I hear the voice with no man attached say through the box. Where is the man? We do not have the place you drive through to eat your food. One does not eat in an automobile in my country. One does not own an automobile in my country. For many years now we have traveled underneath the ground. It sounds strange to some, but we are used to it, moving fast in the dark, often standing within inches of someone who smells like a goat.

I miss it very much. But I call. I speak with my father, a vice chairman at Goldman Sachs, and my mother, a successful hedge-fund manager. They struggle to get by but are helped by servants. This is the way in my country.

I hope your politicians do not kick me out. That would be sad for a simple person like myself. My skin may be white and my eyes blue, but we are not so different, you fortunate native.

All I ask for is a chance. A call. A meeting.

My cellphone is ringing. I must answer it. Hope is calling. It's UTA.

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