Behold Brad Pitt. Everyone else seems to be. On the way to this particular London pub, no less than three young ladies have come skulking out of the shadows to solicit a favor from said heartthrob. Each case is the same: A woman approaches demurely, flashes a smile in desperate need of quality dentistry and utters the question "Excuse me, are you Brad Pitt?" The answer quite obviously being yes, the script continues: "Do you think I could get a kiss?" Then, being a polite Springfield, Mo., boy at heart, our hero complies.
The significance of these events is not the actual fusion of lips and cheek. It is that Pitt has been unearthed at all. You see, Brad Pitt is a cagey bastard — a good ol' boy with brains. He is slippery, smart and extremely likable. These are qualities he uses to great effect. Just finding him is the hard part.
Our exhaustive investigation first brought us to New Orleans, home to the beginning stages of filming Interview With the Vampire, the film that — along with the upcoming Legends of the Fall — is supposed to cement Pitt's star status. Problem is, from the beginning production of Interview was, how shall we say, a world of shit. Anne Rice, the author whose novel was being adapted, was busy shouting from the rooftops that anyone was a better selection than Tom Cruise to play Lestat, the vampire who recruits Pitt's character, Louis, into the undead. Cruise, meanwhile, was demanding complete control, a closed set and a veil of silence from anyone who dared get within spitting distance. And River Phoenix, who was slated to play the small but pivotal role of interviewer, had just died of a drug overdose. When our trail led to New Orleans, Pitt, as he often does, disappeared.
"You gotta understand," Pitt explains later in his soft-spoken Ozarks drawl, "my character wants to kill himself for the whole movie. I've never thought about killing myself. It was a sick thing. I don't like when a movie messes with your day." He smiles slyly and cocks his head. "Right now, I'd like to play a guy who just wants to fuck everybody so I can have a damn good time."
The fact that Pitt has just run the street-long gauntlet of British lust and finally been cornered — here in a quiet North London pub, pint of beer and cigarette in hand — is quite the coup. Interview is in the homestretch of filming in Paris, and Pitt, in turn, is at his breaking point. With five days off, it's time for a vacation. Except for all these annoying questions. When asked to describe the experience of doing Interview, Pitt says simply, "You know, Legends of the Fall was great." Queried about working with Cruise, Pitt gives an earnest look and talks of another Vampire actor, "I'm tellin' ya, Antonio Banderas is the greatest guy."
OK, next topic. Better yet, more beer. A round is ordered. And another. The pressure of an interrogation temporarily lifted, Pitt loosens, his characteristic grin surfaces, conversation flows rapidly, and his natural ease and charm are in full bloom. Then, somewhere between the first and 50th beer, an epiphany. "The truth is, "I don't want people to know me," Pitt says flatly. "I don't know a thing about my favorite actors. I don't think you should. Then they become personalities."
Which is a better way of saying that actor boy doesn't feel like spilling the beans just yet. Or ever, really. Pitt grabs his pint and leans back with the contented, chaw-in-the-mouth smile of a man who has just sold five cases of snake oil.
"I love to be able to do this — to run around and have adventures," Pitt says. "Why do an interview? Why can't you just write about our adventures?" So begins our saga. Our adventure, if you will.
One certainly can't be expected to start an adequate adventure without clean underwear. Which explains why our cab is currently hurtling toward a department store instead of the station where our train is due to leave at any moment. Mr. Pitt needs some underpants. Mr. Pitt needs some socks. We procure the necessities, sprint ahead to the station and settle into the first-class compartment with seconds to spare. Next stop: Scotland.
The British countryside flashes by — a slide show of browns and off-browns — and Pitt settles in for the three-hour tour. His long hair is pulled into a loose ponytail, a small knapsack rests at his side, and he continually sketches in a journal that he carries with him at all times to help indulge his architecture addiction. From a distance he looks like just another student traveling through Europe: a wiry frame covered by baggy Indian-style pants, a loose-fitting shirt and a weathered leather jacket. Up close, however, he appears less boyish and more like the 30-year-old man that he is. This is due in large part to the smattering of scars that are mapped across his face. A tour is requested.
"This one is from baseball," says Pitt, pointing to his cheekbone, "a pop fly that I lost in the sun. I still threw the guy out on second after it dropped on my face." He smiles and turns the other cheek. "This one was just one of those nights, one of those drunken nights." He stops suddenly. "I don't know if I want to say, 'drunken night.' I mean, my parents are going to read this."
After it is pointed out that even Pitt's parents are going to be bored to tears if he doesn't start putting out, he once again lightens up. Talk turns to Cormac McCarthy, author of his favorite novel, All the Pretty Horses, which Pitt recently read for an audio book. Pitt also speaks about the 600 acres of land he purchased in the Ozarks and his hopes to personally design a home that he can use for family reunions. And with this, as is often the case, he returns to speaking about his family. Born in Oklahoma but raised in Springfield, Pitt is the oldest of three children. Both his brother, Doug, 28, and sister, Julie, 25, live in Springfield with new babies of their own, and he talks to them often.
"I always looked up to both of my brothers," says Julie. "I just thought they were the greatest things that ever happened. Doug and Brad really play off each other. We just had such a close family, and that gave us confidence. I think that's what allowed Brad to try to be an actor. Sometimes I can't believe that this guy from Springfield made it, but Brad has always succeeded in what he's done, and he's always had a way with people."
As for his parents, Pitt refers to them as "the biggest guides in my life." His mother, he says, was the first person to ever think he was talented. "She just thought it from Day 1," he says.
"Brad looks like his father, and he has the personality of his mother," says Chris Schudy, one of Pitt's best friends from college. "His mother is so down-to-earth, just a super woman. His dad is a great guy but more reserved. A River Runs Through It is almost a mirror image of Brad's family. When I saw the movie, I called him and said, 'You're not even acting. It's just your home unit minus Julie.'"
Pitt's father, a manager for a trucking company, was frequently on the road but regularly took the kids on his trips. He also offered his son advice that still resonates. Once when Brad was playing in a tennis tournament and screaming and throwing his racket, his father walked on the court between games. "He just said, 'Are you having fun?'" says Pitt. "I got all huffy and said no. He looked at me and said, "Then don't do it,' and then walked away. Boy, that put me in my place. I should have gotten my ass kicked, but he was so above that."
Little could Papa Pitt have known how seriously his son was to heed this lesson. Fast forward a decade or so to the University of Missouri, in Columbia, where Pitt is happily biding his time as a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. It's two weeks before graduation, and our star is just two credits shy of getting his degree in journalism with a focus on advertising. Rather than completing the necessary assignments, however, Pitt — in a manner not dissimilar to the Baltimore Colts sneaking out of town in the middle of the night to move to Indianapolis — loaded up his car, a Nissan named Runaround Sue, and drove to Los Angeles.
"It was such a relief," says Pitt. "I was coming to the end of college and the end of my degree and the beginning of my chosen occupation. I knew I didn't want to do it. I remember being so excited as I passed each state line. I drove in through Burbank [Calif.], and the smog was so thick that it seemed like fog. I pulled in and went to McDonald's, and that was it. I just thought, 'Shouldn't there be a little more?'"
At the time, Pitt had $325 in his pocket and no acting experience whatsoever. To alleviate his parents' fears, he told them he was attending the Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena. He wasn't. In reality he was shuttling strippers to and from appointments, delivering refrigerators to college students and dressing up as a chicken outside a fast-food joint called El Pollo Loco. Anything to pay the rent. When he finally landed an acting job nine months later, Pitt came clean to his parents. His dad just said, "Yeah, I thought so."
"People at Missouri were really surprised when they found out what Brad was doing," says Pitt's pal Schudy. "But he's always been so charming that it made some sense. The first time my mom met him, she called him a little Roman god."
Pitt's ascension, in fact, has sent a ripple effect through the usually tranquil talent pool of Columbia. One college friend reports that no fewer than four of his pledge brothers have struck out for Hollywood. And an inquiry into Pitt at the fraternity house these days is met by a voice saying. "The composite picture with him on it gets stolen all the time. Last week we found it in some chick's dorm room."
For his part, Pitt speaks of college with his usual smirk, letting you know that you're not even hearing the half of it. "It was incredible just to get away from home," says Pitt, "living with a bunch of guys. That school kind of revolves around a keg. We had this idea of Animal House, and there was definitely that aspect. It was a highlight, without a doubt. Then — like everything — you grow out of it."
Around the same time, another period of Pitt's life was drawing to a close. It was while at school that he began divorcing himself from his strict religious upbringing. While his family was originally Baptist and is now nondenominational, Pitt is neither.
"I remember one of the most pivotal moments I've had," says Pitt, "was when I finally couldn't buy the religion I grew up with. That was a big deal. It was a relief in a way that I didn't have to believe that anymore, but then I felt alone. It was this thing I was dependent on."
Pitt lights a cigarette and fidgets in his chair like a suspect who fears he may have said too much.
"I always knew I'd leave Missouri," says Pitt. "But it's like that Tom Waits song: 'I never saw the morning until I stayed up all night/I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long.' I love my hometown. I just wanted to see more. You'd come across a book or something on TV, and you'd see all these other worlds. It blew me away."
Of all the Gin Joints in Scotland, she had to end up here. Or something like that. You see, everything is just a bit shaky, a tad blurry. All that is certain is that Pitt is not concentrating. It's midafternoon, and Pitt is seated in a Glasgow pub, trying to sand the edges off a post-Edinburgh hangover and attempting to put Interview with the Vampire into perspective. But there she is — the kind of naturally radiant barmaid who only saunters into film scenes. Or, as it turns out, into stories about film stars.
And lest anyone think that our young conquistador is only frequenting drinking establishments, it must be noted that the morning was spent conducting Pitt's primary objective for this city: a tour of all the buildings designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of Pitt's heroes. It's just that a quick lunch and a beer beckon. After that, the plan is to hop another train, head to the Scottish Highlands and try our hand at tracking the Loch Ness monster. Seriously. Problem is, each beer keeps getting better. And the barmaid... well, she keeps staying the same. We focus on Interview.
"Movies have always been cowboys and Indians for me," says Pitt, trying to explain the ordeal of filming. "But when they had offered the part to Daniel Day-Lewis, I heard his response was that he didn't like what it would do to him. Look, he's one of my favorites, but I thought, 'Jesus Christ, more actor bullshit.' Now I'd say I understand a little bit of what he was talking about. When I read the book, I thought it was great. I'm really proud of it. It's just that for me, making the movie wasn't so great."
To prove this is a universal phenomenon, an expert is consulted. "There's no question that it's a special skill to get into character as a vampire," says "Grandpa" Al Lewis of The Munsters. "The first requirement is to have a passionate desire for blood, then make sure that the money is good and the hours are not too long. As long as the checks cash at the bank, I'm always very happy, and Mr. Pitt will be as well."
Nonetheless, as it has been noted, nothing about Interview was easy. For anyone. When big budgets and Hollywood egos hang in the balance, however, things have a habit of working out in the end. At least on paper. In the days since filming completed, the dark, moody world of Interview With the Vampire has gotten unseasonably sunny. Anne Rice even reversed her position and purchased two entire pages in Daily Variety to accurately capture the awe she felt while watching Cruise inhabit the character of Lestat. Ah. Come on, everyone, group hug.
In truth, Interview With the Vampire remains remarkably true to the novel's narrative and its intensely brooding nature. Directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), Interview doesn't shy away from the ugly or grotesque aspects that make the story so compelling. Maybe the months of night shooting and tabloid rumors about onset turmoil were worth it.
"I didn't realize there were any rumors about Brad and Tom not getting along," says Jordan. "They're two very different actors. And their characters were very different. Tom's character loves control and loves inflicting pain on Brad's character. Brad's character just wants to escape. In many ways they related to each other the way their characters did. Brad really suffered this role. He came into it totally exhausted from doing Legends. He did agonize."
Pitt shrugs off talk about animosity between himself and Cruise by continually pointing out that he was extremely impressed by Cruise's performance. There was no tension, insists Pitt, only slightly different lifestyles. Cruise is in complete control at all times. Pitt is continually berated by friends because, as they tell him, he's "always drifting." Pitt even maintains a practice of buying a bike in every film location so he can slip away quietly. When production is complete, he locks the bike up and moves on to wherever the spirit moves him. If he ever passes that way again, he immediately checks in to see if his mode of transportation is still available.
"I tell you, the machine Tom runs is quite impressive," Pitt will say a few months later when Interview has been completed. "I wouldn't want to live like that but still. ... Listen, if you want to stay on top, you've gotta stay on top. A lot of times, Sean Penn's movies don't make money. And in my opinion, Sean Penn is the best we have in that age group. So you can't sit and make Tom out to be the bad guy. Tom Cruise is good in this film."
"I like the guy, I honestly like the guy," Pitt says. "But at a point I started really resenting him. In retrospect I realize that it was completely because of who our characters were. I realize that it was my problem." He laughs. "People take everything so seriously. It's a movie, and it's done."
At this moment, however, as a crowd of Glaswegians begin to swell at this neighborhood watering hole, production of Interview is not yet finished. Someone has sent over a round of shots. And the barmaid? She's extremely smart, personable and funny. She's also currently seated at our table. So before things get out of hand — a point which will soon be marked by the arrival of a complimentary bottle of champagne — talk turns serious. The last stage of filming — in just a few short weeks — will be the interview portion of Interview With the Vampire. It is this segment of the film that was supposed to include River Phoenix. Pitt's voice, which is normally quiet but infused with Southern hospitality, grows even more hushed, and an earnestness replaces his usual folksy inflection.
"I knew River a little, but I wanted to know him more," says Pitt. "His death affected everyone on the movie, but at the same time it was real personal. You gotta realize, River did a role in My Own Private Idaho that took it to a level that none of these other young guys have gotten to yet. I was really looking forward to him being on the set. It just seems like when we lost him, we all lost something special."
And with that, the stillness of the afternoon air is broken by the minor explosion of the champagne cork. Glasses are filled, laughter ensues, and the barmaid is off duty and devoid of any plans for the rest of the evening. The night lies before us like a road twisting and turning into a question mark.
"By the way," says Pitt, leaning in close. "You realize that we're not leaving Glasgow, don't you?"
Brad Pitt has never been a student of film. He has always been a movie fan. Case in point: It seems that Pitt, given any topic in the world, can bring it back to Planet of the Apes ("You gotta get out and see things; that's what bugs me the most about religion, because it tells you not to," says Pitt. "That's why I love Planet of the Apes. At the end, when Charlton Heston sees the Statue of Liberty ... man").
Pitt is also a self-taught bohemian. He is endowed with a Zenlike ability to wander. "I just like going for a little road trip," he says. "I'm not leaving anywhere. I'm going somewhere." But he also possesses the overwhelming self-confidence to know he'll always land on his feet. Taken to a Pavement concert in London, Pitt dove into the mosh pit alone, despite having never heard the band. He believes he will be a great father. Asked whether he would rather be a movie star or rock star, he says: "Are you kidding? A rock star. I want to do a male version of Marianne Faithfull's 'Why'd Ya Do It?' I'd tell her exactly why." He enchants those around him indiscriminately — male, female, young, old — but to such an extent that you question his sincerity. Although he points out that "I don't go around robbing people, and I wouldn't say I'm that great in bed," he realizes that his role in Thelma and Louise (as the lovable ne'er-do-well who literally charms the pants off Geena Davis) is the closest he's gotten to playing himself.
And all those qualities are coming in mighty handy right now. Afternoon has become night, and a few beers have given way to the beginnings of a binge. What we need is some rest. What we are doing instead is eating homemade chicken soup with the mother of the much-mentioned barmaid. If ever there was a time to be well-mannered and affable, this is it. Here goes. Pitt talks about his architectural tour of Glasgow, relating the similarities in the work of Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright. He talks, quite correctly, about how the good people of Glasgow have opened their arms to us. And his voice teetering on the brink of Southern-tinged Eddie Haskellness, he mentions that this is most assuredly the kind of soup a chicken would be proud to die for. He shoots, he scores. The point is scientifically proven: Brad Pitt is the kind of boy you can bring home to mother. And these qualities are about to make him a major movie star.
"Brad has kind of come into acting by being himself, hasn't he?" says Jordan. "He's come into it by being this incredibly charismatic character. But I think he's far better than he pretends he thinks he is. I think he's great, and I think he actually knows he's great. People are either stars, or they're not. They either project it, or they don't. The minute Brad walked into Thelma and Louise he did that. He was a star from then on."
Certainly Thelma and Louise, which also led to a romance between the then-unknown actor and megastar Davis, was the first domino to topple in Pitt's career. Unless, of course, anyone happened to catch Glory Days, a 90210-style drama for Fox that mercifully expired after a handful of episodes. "It was terrible," says Pitt. "Man, I'd rather do nothin'." So despite having had a number of roles before it, Thelma and Louise will always be the foundation upon which Pitt's career rests.
"I always figured my break would be playing a good of' boy," says Pitt. "But I hear people gripe all the time about coming to L.A. and not being taken seriously. You've gotta show 'em. When I first started, I was being sent out on sitcoms. I like sitcoms, but I would be shitty in 'em. So I have to find something I can do and go out and get it. Then they go, 'Oh, he can do that.' But wait, there's more. I want to do this now."
This came in the form of a diverse slate of films that found Pitt on a killing spree (Kalifornia), patrolling a cartoon universe (Cool World) and becoming a pathetic, pompadour-coifed rockabilly idol (Johnny Suede). None of the three will ever inspire a stampede on a video store. They did, however, broaden Pitt's horizons — ultimately stretching all the way to Montana where he went to work on A River Runs Through It, the first quality film that Pitt was called upon to carry on his back.
"I felt a bit of pressure on A River Runs Through It," says Pitt. "And I thought that it was one of my weakest performances. It's so weird that it ended up being the one that I got the most attention for."
This is Pitt's standard practice — to downplay his craft. Complimented for the innate understanding and dead-on realism hinted at by his perpetually stoned slacker in True Romance, Pitt simply says: "That was fun. But I was only there for a couple days." Asked about his greatest passions, acting fails to get a mention. Instead, Pitt babbles excitedly about music. He owns three guitars but swears his main connection is purely as a listener. His love of architecture and drawing is so consuming that he sketches and studies continually in his spare time. He also hunts down antiques and professes a fervent respect for anyone who creates beautiful handcrafted furniture. And then, of course, he loves to wander aimlessly.
"It's easy to disappear if you want to," says Pitt. "In L.A. the conversations don't vary much. Truth is, I've got other things I want to do, so I go do them. People take this all so seriously. My answer to everything that I don't have an answer for is 'Don't take everything so seriously.' Really. Lighten up, please. That's the way I do these movies. I do a few of these, I can do some other things. Because I have other things that I'd really like to do that have nothing to do with movies."
What He Who Walks the Earth wants most is to blend into the mob, to "get under" with the Glasgow crowd. Having survived parental approval, we are seated in a nightclub, quietly chatting with a small group of friends who swap stories like extended family. The day's second complimentary bottle of champagne is chilling beside the table, and our barmaid/tour guide is delighting the drunken masses around her. It's 3 in the morning, and our road trip has reached its destination. Pitt smiles and chats with our hostess. Glasgow falls silent. Lights out.
"I Break Everything Into Stages," Brad Pitt is saying. "There've been some good healthy stages and some that are really unhealthy. The unhealthy ones are sure more fun. And I'd say, right now, I'm just getting out of the moron stage. It's a shame we can't cover them all. They're very interesting, but I'd like this article to have a PG-13 rating."
OK, Pitt has some control issues to work out, but one thing is certain. This is one great location to start a new life stage. It's late summer, and Pitt has just purchased a stunning new home in the Hollywood Hills. Typically, he immediately asks: "Can you please not write about this place? It's kind of special to me, really sacred." Suffice it to say that it is a home that stands as a monument to Pitt's obsessions. Gorgeous antique tables, chairs and Tiffany lamps litter the inside of a fortress that itself is nestled neatly into a perfectly sculpted compound. Not to cheat his musical fixation, the house was once owned by Jimi Hendrix's manager. And in case you forgot his roots, the first shotgun Pitt's father gave him rests alongside another 12-gauge and Pitt's handgun. Pitt might be Mr. Live and Let Live, but you're not going to get his gun unless you pry it out of his cold, dead fingers.
"It's a big deal in Missouri — the way I grew up — to have a gun," says Pitt. "And damn right. If someone comes into my house in the middle of the night, I'm going to shoot their ass. I tell all my buddies. You know, they'll be drunk and come sneak into the house to crash. I tell 'em, "Don't be pulling that without letting me know you're there."
Soon the home will be a petting zoo overrun by Pitt's three dogs, dozens of chameleons and the two bobcats owned by his current girlfriend, Jitka, who is, surprise, surprise, personable, soft-spoken and beautiful. At the moment, however, all the animals are at his old abode. Pitt is seated by his swimming pool, and his every gesture seems remarkably relaxed and content. He is at his base camp. At one time in his life, Pitt set up house with ex-girl-friend actress Juliette Lewis — whom he met while filming a TV movie, Too Young to Die?, and whom he dated for three years — but that was a different feeling than the one invoked by this place. "That wasn't the same," says Pitt. "We were trying to be Sid and Nancy or something. We were idiots. We were just having a great time."
When Pitt is home in L.A., he doesn't venture out often. "I save wild nights for the road," says Pitt. "Or I have wild nights at home. All I know is that I'm not doing whatever Charlie Sheen did, because that boy's in the paper every other night."
So as Mr. Wandering Spirit lounges around the homestead these days, thoughts are filled with what comes next. His going rate per movie has leapt into the realm of the ridiculous (more than $3 million per movie), and he confesses that he is fighting to come to terms with just what the obligation of stardom entails. Interview promises to be a blockbuster, and Legends of the Fall, despite lapsing a tad into the domain of a TV miniseries, is not only a quality film but also utterly dominated by Pitt. "There is a responsibility there," says Pitt. "I just haven't figured out what it is yet." In the interim, such complex and heady dilemmas are being bypassed for crappy late-night cable. "Outstanding," says Pitt when asked about his penchant for such cheese. "I spend all my time, until like 4 in the morning, watching bad movies. Richard Grieco did this one that is just the best. It's called Tomcat: Dangerous Desires. That's Tomcat, colon, Dangerous Desires. Wow." He laughs. "I was in one myself, and by all means, please seek it out. It's called Cutting Class. Butt awful."
But for all his nonchalance, it is clear what Brad Pitt wants most is to begin a career of some longevity and significance. He agonizes over roles more than ever. At the same time, almost every penny he has ever made has been sunk into the estate sprawling around him. So what's a young, free and easy neohippie to do? Pitt's plan is to search out the best and brightest of his generation. A moment is at hand in Hollywood, Pitt is sure, and he wants to be part of it. Problem is, young Hollywood is also full of a lot of assholes. That's not exactly a news flash. It is, however, a quandary.
"When I got back from Vampire, I wanted to meet some of the young contemporaries," says Pitt when talk turns to the Stephen Dorffs of the world. "I met a bunch of people, and it was that whole competitive, look-over, high-school-cafeteria thing. It was a shame. What's with that? That's why I was so impressed with Christian Slater. It was a tough spot to walk into, the end of the film, everyone's just looking to get done, River's gone. He came in and was just a real person. He walked in like a pro, no ego or anything."
Pitt grabs his can of cream soda and saunters down the stone steps toward his living room. For a moment he pauses and looks across his back yard. "I mean, some things get harder, but then again, look at this place," he says. "Things get much easier, too. I'd love to have a Wilford Brimley career — Wilford it straight down the pipe. That would be ideal. But who knows, it could all go away. I could pull a Mark Hamill." He pauses weightily. "You come here with this impression that just isn't true. Being in the movies doesn't make you laugh any harder and doesn't make you any less sad."
Pitt walks inside to the stereo, replaces a Gipsy Kings CD with a Stone Temple Pilots one and settles onto one of his antique chairs. He fields questions and fidgets in his chair. For all his elusiveness, Pitt gives the impression that he wants desperately to be understood. Not necessarily known, but most definitely understood. He pulls his knees up toward his chin.
"I have to use a cheesy word, but I'd say I try to guide my life by honest," says Pitt. "And that's a hard thing. I haven't mastered it by any means. I can be a lying shit sometimes."
The question is asked: if it ever worries him that the job of acting is inherently dishonest. Pitt wriggles in his chair and indulges in a long, uncomfortable pause.
"I'm not worried because I'll never be too good an actor," says Pitt, his voice becoming exaggeratedly down-home. "I'm a good actor, I'm consistent, but I'll never be a great actor. Every now and then I'll be great. Every now and then I'll be lousy." He smiles contentedly, confident that he has made his point but still kept his cards close to his chest. As the night winds down, Pitt decides against heading out into the dark for a nightcap. He walks his guest to the driveway and watches the taillights fade down the street, content to stay safe on his side of the compound line.