The Starlight Archipelago by Dennis James Sweeney


Clive Owen
Clive Owen’s private island is a monkey island.
     A number of monkeys are native there and Clive Owen ships others in on cargo boats, species that do not belong but nonetheless make their way in the fairly dense jungle without too much difficulty. The island therefore swarms with monkeys. You have howler monkeys hooting through the treetops. You have solitary orangutans carrying on in their mopey waddle. You have gibbons sprinting down grass hillsides with their hands held to the sky. You even have a few gorillas, for what might be construed as effect.
     Clive Owen goes to his island about once every two months, a passenger on the cargo ship that carries his monkeys. When they arrive, Clive Owen disembarks from the ship and waves it out of the makeshift harbor. Two days later, he has a private fishing boat pick him up at the very same harbor.
     Only Clive Owen knows what he does on his island, but one can at least account for his appearance and bearing upon return: clothes torn and dirty if not entirely discarded, face unshaven, smelling of body odor and something peculiarly like shit, and glaring at the passing water for the first few hours of the boat ride, the skipper reports, with a hollow, almost animal stare.
     
     
Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga’s private island is a fifteen square kilometer paradise in the south Caribbean. It is ringed by white sand beaches and clothed in jungles that harbor some of the most colorful flowers known to man. It has no rock cliffs; it persists in dropping off gently into the sea.
     Lady Gaga has never been there.
     For her it is an imaginary place. Lady Gaga has a habit of creating a retreat inside her head into which she can go when her thoughts are not otherwise occupied or, better, when they are. At times when the stimuli of the universe sets upon her and she is in the inescapable midst of it all she feels, rightly, that mental retreat is her only option. People don’t know this: Lady Gaga is an introvert.
     So much so that she bought the private island and pays a boatman to check on it regularly in order to maintain an actual place to send her mind when overstimulated by the contingencies of the place where she is. Lady Gaga needs an ideal locale, a place she has neither seen nor touched but which she is altogether certain exists and is hers. The boatman assures her of this weekly by telephone.
     Before the island she had a teddy bear, the pillow with which she learned to masturbate, a ruined hat, the radius of a sprinkler she once saw in a yard in Portugal, and the area beneath the crystal of her father’s watch. Each was defiled by too-frequent contact, or, she began to understand, contact at all. Lady Gaga stumbled upon the notion of an island during a sleepless night in her expansive Los Angeles apartment. Somewhere she had never seen. Somewhere only described to her. Somewhere sure to be untouched. Yes.
     
     
Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett’s private island is nothing more than a rock off the coast of Fiji, invisible from the famous tourist destination. In 1963, he paid US$170 for the island to an anonymous investor who had stockpiled a series of rocks in the area, counting on what it can’t be guessed. The purchase was one of his first attempts to express disapproval for the excesses of the rich, and one of uncharacteristic bravado. Or it was an impulse to own a remote piece of the geographical world, expressed in a characteristically modest way.
     In either case, the rock still protrudes from the ocean, buffeted (as it were) by waves. In a matter of years, the private island will more or less cease to exist. When his lawyers mention this fact to him, once every six or seven months, Warren Buffett likes to put on a smile and leave the room pregnant with silence.
     
     
Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter’s private island is an elongated protrusion of coral near Perth with a landing strip on it. During forays to the area, and sometimes during vacations that ostensibly take place in the United States of America, he flies in his economically furnished private jet to the island, lands, steps out for a breath of fresh air, looks about, and boards the plane once more to be on his way. Jimmy Carter is a man of principle, and among the things he believes firmly is this: it is not about the destination, but about the journey.
     
     
Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts’ private island is a scale replica of her home. Not her childhood home. Her present home in Los Angeles, California.
     Julia Roberts’ personal motto is: appreciate what you have. But she also recognizes the need to get away for a while. Thus the scale replica.
     Creating an exact model of a building six thousand miles away from the original is more difficult than you would think. There are minor imperfections in the structure of the house like how the east wing is one brick short and how the pipe for the third-floor bathroom’s sink curves to the left, not to the right. It also misses the imperfections that the original has gained over the years: hairline cracks in the paint of the north living room window frame, the pleasant sag of the master bedroom mattress, the dust that flutters from the top of the kitchen cabinets when she flicks the light on in the morning.
     Julia Roberts does not get pissy about these departures from the plan. She is a reasonable person. She knows in her heart that difference itself is a sort of sameness, and vice versa. Then she looks out the north living room’s picture window and sees the frond of a palm tree fall with a coconut attached and she smiles, happy to be home.
     
     
Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer’s private island is a colorful array of organically grown tomatoes, eggplant, bokchoy, basil, gypsophilas (to lighten the atmosphere), and hundreds of other vegetables. As one of the foremost practitioners of the amply named Eat Only What You Can Grow Yourself diet popular in the hills above Hollywood, Val Kilmer pays a small horde of gardeners to grow the food that will be flown from off the coast of Chile to his kitchen and meticulously prepared by his chef.
     Inspired by the restrictions of the diet and what they have done for his figure, Val Kilmer has taken a remarkable interest in his island and its future. At present he is working with a lawyer to draft a plan for the island after his death: it will become, he hopes, a purveyor of top-shelf organic vegetables in southern California, with the profits going to his children.
     His advisors don’t have the heart to tell him that the costs of jet fuel, labor on a remote island, and extra maintenance of his non-indigenous crops would never allow a viable business to be made of the secluded farm. As per usual, they figure expenses and quote a number to Val Kilmer, and he nods his head without batting a single eyelash or blinking a single eye.
     
     
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s private island was an incredibly practical and humane enterprise. What happened was drug lords and black market traffickers of high rank would come to the island when it became clear there was a price on their heads that would not remain there for very long. These men would pay an exorbitant sum to stay at Michael Jackson’s island, which was run on a day-to-day basis like a high-class resort, and the respect from the international community of traffickers and hitmen for Michael Jackson was such that no one would dare darken its shores with malicious intent. Michael Jackson himself kept only a pinkie finger in the business, but it was enough that the exiled criminals felt safely installed beneath the umbrella of his monumental groove.
     On the day Michael Jackson died, a fleet of pirate-looking ships descended on the island’s periphery and waited to see what the others would do. After two days, the rumor was called from boat to boat that ownership of the island would be transferred to a private and anonymous investor who had been wanting to capitalize on the sins of the exiled traffickers ever since he learned about the project. Shortly after, the first shot was fired and the island was razed in the hail of bombs and bullets that followed. All criminals staying on the island were killed, although their hunters were not always able to collect their bounties due both to the difficulty of identifying the bodies and arguments between hitmen as to whose bullet killed whom. This led to more bloodshed in the international crime community.
     Meanwhile, it became clear that ownership of the island would remain in the family, under the watchful eye of Tito. He is now attempting to resurrect the island’s reputation, along with its physical buildings, as a memorial to his deceased brother, who he believes would have wished that, even after the tragedy, the project go on.
     
     
Helen Hunt
Helen Hunt’s private island is Bali. The people don’t know it, the tourists don’t know it, even most members of the government don’t know it. But Indonesia was strapped for cash, Helent Hunt heard of the opportunity, and as a departure from her usually modest reputation she bought Bali. She does not think of it often but time to time, on occasions when she is feeling down, she likes to fly there and rent a car, drive the left-handed streets on her own, look at the brown and white people going about their daily business, and say to herself with a sigh, “All of this is mine.”
     
     
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Dennis James Sweeney used to live out of the country but now he lives in Boulder. Find his work in issues of elimae, DIAGRAM, dislocate, Juked, and PANK. Find him at djsweeney.wordpress.com.