JD’s Samurai Sword

This past Thursday I dropped by JD Taylor’s Cinco de Mayo birthday party, which his girlfriend (Producer Linda Burns) has turned into an Atlanta film community tradition in seven short years. The chilly weather and the threat of rain kept the attendance down to around a hundred people, and I have to say that a lot of the old-timers weren’t there this year. I’d been chatting with hotty/writer/director Lynn Lamousin for a few minutes when the birthday boy himself cruised past us. I stepped away from Lynn long enough to hand JD something he’d left with me on Labor Day weekend of last year: a black-lacquer display stand for a Samurai sword. He stared at it for a beat, grinned and gave me that “pretty funny, wiseass” look that I get so often.

Last year JD, his girlfriend Linda Burns and I teamed up to compete for the Southeastern Media Award with my first screenplay, which makes a few references to science fiction conventions (we made it into the final Top Five, btw). While Linda was familiar with conventions from years past, JD had never been to one and so they came to meet me on the Sunday of Dragon*Con 2004 for a personal tour by yours truly.

Late in the afternoon we headed over the Pacific Rim Bistro for sushi. Joined by local artist Elliott Boswell, we sat outside and had a great conversation about everything we’d seen at the convention and what it might take to incorporate it into the film. JD seemed distracted and he finally confessed to us that he couldn’t stop thinking about this Samurai sword he’d seen in the dealer’s room in the basement of the Marriott Marquis. It was about 6:45 and I was pretty sure that the dealer’s rooms closed at 7pm so, with Linda’s blessing, he hopped up from the table and dashed southward to the hotel.

We were settling up with the waiter when we saw JD striding back toward us with a huge grin on his face and a shiny Samurai sword waggling around in the air. We left the restaurant together, headed over to the penultimate event of the convention, the costume contest. All the way there JD was slicing up the air with his sword in one hand and the scabbard in the other hand…. six years old all over again. I was surprised that they hadn’t peace-tied his sword and tried to explain why it was important that conventioneers not be walking around with live weapons but I think JD was having too much fun and wasn’t listening. Linda slipped into her best mommy voice and told him “If the cops can arrest you for having a knife over 4 inches long what do you think they’re going to do with you when they see you waving that thing??? Put that thing away before you get in trouble!!”.

So JD put the sword away, but the grin didn’t leave his face.

Until we got into the Civic Center.

As soon as the ticket takers saw that his sword wasn’t peace-tied they called him aside and worked to rectify the situation. I went into the restroom for a minute and when I came back outside there was JD, with his sword peace-tied. Peace-tying is when a sword or a dagger is wired to its scabbard so that it cannot be drawn. In these modern times they use plastic wire ties, which is exactly what I saw with JDs sword. They’d used one or two wire-ties to clamp the hilt of the sword tightly to his scabbard.

But they hadn’t stopped there.

It looked like they’d used a half-dozen wire-ties to strap the sword firmly to the beltstrap on JD’s left side. He looked crestfallen and slightly embarrassed, but he soldiered on and followed the crowd into the theater space to find a seat. I distinctly remember about halfway through the performance turning around and seeing JD grimacing and explaining to Linda about how the handle of the sword kept poking him in the ribs.

Up onstage Peter Davison was co-hosting the costume contest with an actress (whose name eludes me) with absolutely no skill at working a crowd of rabid sci-fi geeks. She had no idea how badly she was rankling the audience with her mispronunciations and unspoken-but-obvious attitude of “oh isn’t this such a silly way to waste a Sunday night you strange little people?”. She had nary a clue of how much danger she was facing. I just grinned and enjoyed the debacle.

Suddenly Linda spoke up beside me and said in a loud voice, clearly aimed at the actress onstage, “You’re PRETTTTTY”. JD grunted his appreciation at the jibe, his face turning purple from the Samurai sword hilt jammed into his ribcage.

What a great night. For most of us.

A week or two later I was on the phone with Linda, laughing with her about JD’s sword. She stopped me and said “If you think that was funny, you should’ve heard him tell me about what happened when he went to take a dump with that thing strapped to his waist!”

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