ERIN D’QUINCY MACLEOD INTERVIEWS REINALDO GARCIA FOR SCENE MAGAZINE
Ah, well. Another year, another CD from el Senor Garcia. What steps, if any, will our prolific hero take to separate The Enchanted Bluff from his seven other releases?
We spoke during a gauzy late summer day on the open veranda of the Rocky Point Restaurant, about 15 miles south of Carmel, California. Though Reinaldo noted that the grey whales pass by during the winter, not the summer, we did see some otters floating on their backs, cracking crabs open on their chests, while we pecked at our raspberry sorbets garnished with fresh sprigs of mint. Reinaldo ordered two double espressos, and I turned on my tape recorder.
Scene: We haven’t spoken for nearly a year and a half. Whatcha been up to?
Reinaldo Garcia: The usual hijinx. I embarked on a risky scheme. My creative process being part of my arsenal of survival skills, I decided to invent an alternative fantasy life for myself and write about it. I asked a local actress for permission to use her in my work, which she granted.
Scene: Explain this in more detail.
RG: Well, I take it as a matter of faith that consciousness is good, in-and-of-itself. Rather than seek some kind of solace in, say, an affair, I reasoned that if I consciously fantasized having another woman, and stayed conscious—
Scene: “Stayed conscious?”
RG: So long as I kept aware that I was indulging and exploring a fantasy, and never allowed myself to confuse the two, I would avoid any destructive recklessness. So I made this actress my secret wife, and I featured her in many, many songs. I even dedicated my last CD, EMPYRICON, to her. I promised her, then a married woman, that I would never reveal her identity, and I haven’t. While I was engaged in this experiment, I regularly asked her to promise me that if she ever felt abused or violated, she’d tell me.
I wrote a song explicitly about her called “Let Me Look At You,” and when in the spring of this year she revealed she’d divorced her husband, and in so revealing ventilated many lurid details, I decided this was the impetus I needed to complete a narrative about her which I’d been noodling around with in fits and starts. I wrote a monologue of the same name, and anyone curious to read it can access the pdf file from my Web site. The monologue ends with the song as recorded by Susana McGuire Jewell who is, interestingly, my wife’s yoga teacher.
Scene: Why’d you have a woman sing a song about your obsession with a woman?
RG: I was curious to see if a so-called “male perspective” could translate to a female voice. We are told that men are more “visual” than women, who are, we are told, more “tactile.” We are told that the male gaze “objectifies” women. Et cetera. So I wondered if a song which explicitly glorifies a woman’s visual obsession with a young lover’s body would sound legitimate.
Scene: You could’ve fooled me. It really works well. I thought it was originally composed for a female voice.
RG: When I studied screenwriting under the wonderful John Truby in 1987, he was asked about how to write a female character. Was it possible, for example, for a male writer “to see and experience the world as a woman sees and experiences it?” Truby demolished the notion of having to cater to a “female psychology”: “Write the character as a man,” he advised. “Then put the character in women’s clothing.” I generally agree with Truby, and Susana’s version of “Let Me Look At You” proves his case to my satisfaction.
Scene: The second bridge, in which you “worship” the love object’s feet, is a doozy.
RG: I’m always trying to take a risk, and to expand the vocabulary of the popular song. The orthodox approach to the heterodoxy would be to exaggerate the fetishistic aspect; to kinkify it. I opted simply to worship the actress’s awesomely beautiful feet. The line was uncomfortable for my vocalist. After I assured her that I wasn’t trying to humiliate her for my own sinister purposes, she got on with the business of singing the lyric.
Scene: An entire, lucrative segment of the world’s footware industry is predicated on showcasing the female foot.
RG: Indeed it is. I study advertising from an anthropological angle, as a window into our culture, and anytime a woman’s foot is displayed, the feet are clean, freshly pedicured, and well-formed. I just put that reality into a song, and I might have been the first.
Scene: What happened to the actress?
RG: I attempted to provide a service to her as a token of my gratitude. Since I’ve vaguely known her, she’s seemed a bit passive, or even passive/aggressive, but that’s only a provisional judgment made on not much information.
Scene: What did you do?
RG: She presents herself as a feminist. Which makes sense, since she has a B.A. from a northwestern university in a very liberal state.
Scene: Is she one of the ruined-by-a-college-education women who irritate you so much?
RG: At times, I think so. (And by the way, many men are ruined by universities.) Anyway, because for years I’ve heard her complain about “the lack of good modern roles for actresses,” I offered to help her to write a theater piece of her own, showcasing her talents. She never replied, either way. It’s a very interesting test of someone’s psychology, to offer to help remedy their chronically-stated suffering. Gurdjieff always stressed how much people love their own suffering, and I think he was right. Take away someone’s grievances, and what are they left with? This actress can sit around with her feminist friends until doomsday, railing at the patriarchal conspiracy to deprive women of “their voice,” or she can discover her own voice, with all of its terrors and glories and humiliations. Maybe she’s actually writing a play on her own. I don’t know. But I hope never again to have to listen again to a woman complaining about lack of opportunities for “self-expression.” Creative people make their own opportunities.
Scene: You started writing songs in 1971 from the same kind of predicament, yes?
RG: I was a record reviewer who hated everything sent to me. The 60s had just ended, and everyone was retrenching into mellow nostalgia, “getting back to their roots.” I thought that was just a code phrase for fearing the next step into the future, and embracing mediocrity. So one day I looked in the mirror and had a talk with myself. “If you’re so disgusted by what you’re hearing, write your own damn songs,” I lectured myself. “Write what you’d like to hear.” So I did. In December 1971 I wrote the pristine “Morning Dreams of Donovan.” My next ditty was a pornographic rocker called “Goin’ Tijuana.” The pattern was set: I’ve been bouncing in my songwriting between the sacred and the profane, between innocence and experience, ever since.
Scene: This new CD features guest lead vocalists for the first time.
RG: Yes, I used three outside voices all over the album. John Michael, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, handles the lead vocals on the title cut, on “Twilight of the Gods,” and on “Handshake Deal.” He sings the lead on the chorus of “Meet Me Past the End of Days.” The aforementioned Susana McGuire Jewell sings the lead on “Let Me Look At You,” and “Good Enough (Ain’t Good Enough For Me).” Susana duets with me on “One Day,” and she is the first voice on the CD, dramatizing the final words of James Joyce’s Ulysses, as the introduction to “The Enchanted Bluff.” The CD’s closer, “I’m So Glad,” recorded and mixed last January in Nashville, features singer Butch Baker.
Scene: Why was it recorded in Nashville?
RG: A longtime friend gets his songs demo’d at Jay’s Place, in Nashville, and I decided to try it. Jay Vernali received a rough demo from me, and he heeded my instructions to “make the song more uptown than trailer park.” I wanted, absolutely, a bopping jazz track, and Jay and Butch delivered spectacularly. I unhesitatingly recommend that anyone with about $700.00 to spend send their demo to Jay’s Place. You’ll get a mixed and mastered, ready-to-go, recording of your song, performed by some of the best vocalists and instrumentalists in the world.
Scene: I see you’ve also split the songwriting credits more than ever.
RG: Look, I could go on forever, writing and singing all of my material in the time-honored singer/songwriter fashion, but outside artistry, when properly applied, can only expand the range of the material and, hopefully, raise the achievement to a higher level.
“Twilight of the Gods,” “Good Enough (Ain’t Good Enough For Me),” and “Handshake Deal” were composed with Andrew Parker handling the musical end, and the melody for “I’m So Glad” was written by then-14-year-old Steve Groves and Andrew Parker. I paid for the instrumental recording and then one day while I was sunbathing the words came to me in a rush. After all of my tragic romantic songs, I was so glad to have written an unabashed salute to marriage.
Scene: With “Meet Me Past the End of Days,” you’ve become quite the eschatologist, haven’t you? Last year’s EMPYRICON featured the similar “Deliverance Day.” Is your attraction to the end of things Biblically-based?
RG: Not that I’m aware of. The apocalyptic imagery comes from my own nature, leavened by the writing of Cormac McCarthy. Sometimes I just want to blow up the world and start over. I find violence very cathartic and purifying. I like a brilliant lightning storm, after which the world seems cleansed and brighter.
My attraction to softball (I currently play in two city leagues) is based, in part, on its element of sublimated warfare, and the violence of the bat pounding the ball. Plus the basepath collisions.
Scene: You also have a song about Islamofascists called “Millennium Beast.” You must be aware of what can happen to anyone who writes about al Qaeda, et al.
RG: “Twilight of the Gods,” with which “Millennium Beast” is linked, also deals with the subject by equating German National Socialism with Islamofascism. I had a helluva time getting “Millennium Beast” recorded. No one whom I approached in Monterey County, including a musician from Turkey who claims to be a “moderate” Muslim, would work on it with me. Though they used every kind of reason not to do it, I suspected that fear of Muslim retaliation was at the root of it.
Scene: You recorded this and four other songs in Phoenix last March, didn’t you?
RG: Indeed. Last November, at the TAXI Road Rally in Los Angeles, I made contact with a Phoenix producer, who flew me out this year to do some recordings. Though the relationship later soured when he failed to honor his contract with me, I was immensely grateful that he, a devout Jewish recording artist in his own right, fearlessly recorded a wonderful instrumental version of the song which, musically, is another stylistic departure for me.
Scene: What were the other four songs?
RG: Working from my voice/guitar demos, he recorded the basic instrumental tracks for “The Enchanted Bluff,” “Happy as a Midget on Stilts,” and “One Day” with his house band before I arrived. Though he had promised me he’d record the piano part of “Let Me Look At You” on an acoustic piano, he reneged on that agreement after I arrived, using instead a synthesized piano. Additionally, though he promised a female vocalist who would sound middle-aged, he provided a 19-year-old college student, for whom I paid.
That was a stressful few days in Phoenix. My first morning there, I was awakened at 6:30 a.m. by a call from my wife, who told me that the night before she had called an ambulance to have Victoria taken to the local hospital, where she was diagnosed with salmonella poisoning.
Scene: That potentially fatal, isn’t it?
RG: It’s so dangerous that when I returned to Monterey I was forced by law to endure a 60 minute interview with a county health official.
So there I am in Phoenix, after finally feeling my wife is well enough for me to devote more attention to my career, leaving me free to travel, and the first night I’m gone she hires a $2,000 ambulance to drive Victoria to a hospital to which my wife has driven, on her own, many times. This tension severely impacted my work in Phoenix, and the producer took full advantage of my debilitated state.
Later, when the producer refused to honor various other aspects of our agreement, and I contacted the studio owner, I was then able to get from him an acoustic piano instrumental track. Later, I hired Barry Phillips of Santa Cruz to write and record cello accompaniment while Barry was on hiatus from his tour with Ravi Shankar.
Scene: It’s not a standard string arrangement.
RG: I had recently purchased and loved Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for There Will Be Blood, which is heavily influenced by avant garde composers such as KrzysztofPenderecki. When I contacted Barry, via Richard Bryant, and cited Penderecki and Greenwood and my desire not to have the common syrupy gloppiness, Barry not only understood, he told me how excited he was to be asked to write something a bit left-of-center.
Scene: This is hardly an ordinary Reinaldo Garcia CD.
RG: Well, every word of every song is mine. I don’t know how much of a cognitive blow a listener will suffer, due to the patchwork nature of the collection. I’ve put my faith in the idea that a good song, well-performed and –recorded, will suffice. Moreover, the idea of an album as a continuous, self-contained work of art has really eroded in this age of the i-pod, in which consumers pick and choose which songs go into their earpieces. Still, I pay attention to the songs’ running order, as though someone with 45 minutes to spend will listen to the whole collection in one sitting. Personally, I like the sonic potpourri. It’s like a variety show. Keeps the boredom at bay.
Scene: You mention in your liner notes that some of these songs were written for a musical theater piece called ME WITH THEM. Tell us about that.
RG: The last time I ever received an “official” endorsement was in 1984, when the national Endowment for the Arts funded the state of New Mexico’s awarding me their Playwright-in-Residence position for the years 1985-1987. This was based on my submission of my play Theft, in which a Venice-based painter wants to move to Santa Fe. For a couple of years, I’d been attuned to the idea of political correctness, after reading a 1982 interview with Sting in MUSICIAN magazine. In the interview, after Sting makes an innocuous value judgment, the interviewer says something to the effect that Sting had been brave in “making a politically-incorrect statement.” I thought that was a really weird thing for an interviewer to say, and seemed to auger a leftist-germinated censorship. The very idea of an artist having to toe some kind of undeclared line struck me as dangerously Stalinist.
Scene: And that relates to ME WITH THEM exactly how--?
RG: I inserted a lot of politically incorrect ideas into Theft. Years later, when I heard on NPR that noted liberal Steven Spielberg was planning to expand his work beyond the kiddie arena, and was seeking more “adult-oriented” stage plays to adapt to the screen—
Scene: So he could earn some gravitas?
RG: That seemed to be the idea, yes. So I submitted Theft, which I still think would make a wonderful low budget film. And the Spielberg people responded that my portraiture of the thieving lesbian couple wasn’t, if memory serves, sufficiently “humanistic.” Now, when dealing with leftists, one always has to have one’s secret decoder ring nearby. I deduced that insufficient humanism was a code phrase for “unsympathetic,” which, when depicting lesbians or male homosexuals or Native Americans, blacks or Latinos, or single mothers, et al.—
Scene: Your standard issue victims groups, right?
RG: Exactamente. They must always be noble. Noble victims of the white patriarchy. Non-profit arts groups and leftist film companies—which is almost a redundancy—only fund work that promotes a leftist agenda. Now, before you accuse me of a broad brush falsehood, permit me to note that I submitted my work for years to these groups, always with the same result. The same coded reasons for rejection. One year, a representative of a Carmel-based arts festival sent me an email in which she said that the reason they were reneging on their commitment to do a staged reading of Theft was because they were afraid they’d lose their non-profit funding. This betrayal happened two years, consecutively. I’ve been burned enough by leftist non-profit arts groups to know well the way they use language, and how intimidated they are by their funders, who are mostly wealthy leftists.
The problem with conservative arts groups (the few that exist) is that they demand a narrow political agenda of their own. I’ve grown to be adamantly opposed to any taxpayer-funded arts programs.
Last year, temporarily short of funds for my next CD project, I attended an orientation meeting for a San Francisco-based non-profit that wanted to extend its reach into Monterey County by funding some theater projects. As the woman rattled off examples of works the group has already funded—
Scene: Such as? And be specific.
RG: Such as an audiotape to be listened to by drivers down California’s Highway 5, as they pass nearby toxic waste sites.
Scene: Wait. This group funded a guided tour down Highway 5, in which toxic waste sites were described?
RG: And that’s just for starters. It was the usual grim stuff leftists always fund. But still, I jumped through all of their hoops, and was later rejected on a technicality, which resulted from their failure to make a simple phone call to my “sponsoring” non-profit group, the Lyceum of Monterey County. You see, artists are not allowed by this group to be employees of the organizations which sponsor them. In my resume, I’d noted that I taught songwriting classes for the Lyceum. I was a contract worker, not an employee. Though I never stated I was or had ever been a Lyceum employee, the non-profit’s screeners later claimed they couldn’t tell whether or not I was a Lyceum employee, and rather than make a simple phone call to Monterey, they rejected my project out-of-hand, before it could even be considered on its merits.
I later telephoned their representative, and after she explained what had happened, she added that my project “seemed to include the whole world.” In other words, I’d been, in her opinion, too ambitious.
Scene: In what way?
RG: ME WITH THEM investigates a theme that has, in many ways, defined my life. That is, it dramatizes the tension between the group and the individual. I come down on the side of the individual. Despite what leftists may say, they favor the group, the collective. Better I should design a project that depicts the struggles of a lesbian Latino single mother polar bear as she tries to raise her gay cub on a melting iceberg during an economic downturn.
Later, I received a nice royalty check for a 1994 short story I’d written in Spanish called El Pueblo del Abuelo. It was being anthologized, and the check ended up funding the latter half of the recording of The Enchanted Bluff.
Scene: Look! Down there, by that batch of seaweed. An otter!
[Yes, there it was, floating on its back. Still, I regretted not having come during the California grey whale migrations. In my disappointment, I changed the subject radically.]
Scene: What’s studio owner/engineer Richard Bryant like?
RG: A highly honorable man, Richard’s an Irish-American from the Pacific Northwest whose late father’s family hails from Arkansas. For this project, Richard allowed me to be present during the mixing process, during which I’m sure he’d rather be alone. Some of my most blissful moments, ever, were spent reclining on his big black couch, listening to the mixes as they develop, reading my books, and snoozing. I try to be as careful and as tactful about my questions and suggestions as I can be. Richard’s generally very good humored about it. He’ll make the change, I’ll go home and listen to it, and the next day I’m as likely to say his way was better as I am to say I want to incorporate the idea I asked him to insert.
Scene: It’s always a delicate dance with mixing engineers.
RG: For me, yes. So many of them, whom I’m paying to help realize my artistic vision, are hellbent on leaving their fingerprints all over my product. I’ve been the victim of some pretty unethical studio owner/engineers. They’ll swamp me with technobabble while sneaking in their pet ideas. One of them even erased my entire completed album when I forbade him to drink during our sessions. Luckily, I already had my mixes, but I lost all of the data for which I’d paid. I sued him and got a judgment, but he claims pauperhood. I finally got so frustrated that in 2005 I enrolled in Richard’s recording engineering class at the local community college and got from him a shopping list of home studio equipment. Which I purchased.
When I asked Richard if he’d mind if I dedicated the album to him, he answered with a question: Why? I told him it would be acknowledgement for how grateful I am for his continued help. He declined.
[The waiter brought a big plate of French fried potatoes to a nearby table. I was desperately hungry, yet watching every calorie. I resolved not to order more food. I’m afraid my deprivation made me ask the next off-the-wall question.]
Scene: Are you aware you often come off as a petty, angry male?
RG: Then so be it. Those who define me that way are leftists, out to discredit me. They never engage in a merit-based discussion of ideas; they can only use the ad hominem attack.
Just this year alone, I’ve dealt three or four times with leftist garbage, the emotionalism that passes for nuanced analysis, that permeates the world of the arts. While I was in Phoenix, I asked the Jewish producer and his radically pro-Israel wife for their analysis of the Middle East situation.
Scene: Why would you do that?
RG: Because I really want some insight, instead of the superficial sound bytes we always get. About five minutes into their lecture, the woman blamed the lack of progress there on “that moron, George Bush.” I had no idea how a sitting U.S. president is supposed to bring peace to a part of the world that’s festered for thousands of years, with parties that feature wacko suicidalists that detest peace. “The Arabs have a genius for failure,” said one analyst, and I think I agree. But to blame all of this on George W. Bush is, to me, insane.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, while the Big Sur fires raged, and we were chatting about them in the recording studio (the fires were within two miles of my cabin at Rancho San Clemente), one of my vocalists blamed the fires on Bush!
Scene: I guess the “moron” is smart enough to control lightning and other natural forces.
RG: That night, I contacted a man who knows a lot about nature and forestry, and he confirmed my belief that fires are good for nature. I call them “nature’s haircut.” He described how forestry policies were set in place well before Bush became president, and he explained how the contracts between logging companies and the federal government work; that the logging companies are obligated to leave behind no more than an allotted amount of cuttings and other flammable garbage, and that this amount is set by the federal government. Forest fires are bad for human dwellings built in forests, and for people who don’t get out of their way. But they’re great for forests.
People don’t respect nature enough. They romanticize it and believe it can be controlled. My daughter and I were caught in a High Sierra lightning storm this past summer, and I totally understood the ancients’ absolute fear of nature, and why they’d sacrifice their children to ward off catastrophes. When we got home, Victoria wrote a short piece about the experience, and your readers can read it, and see some photos, here.
And then there was what happened in Seaside early last Spring, when I was teaching songwriting classes for the Lyceum at various county schools.
Scene: Seaside is an African-American controlled city, isn’t it?
RG: Yes. Nearby Fort Ord brought many southern blacks to the area, and when they retired from the military, they settled in Seaside, which at the time was notorious for whorehouses, gambling dens, and the like. They bought homes, and ran for public office. They built up a political machine that runs on victimization, resentment and brute power.
In the mid-1990s, when I, a Seaside homeowner, was working as an investigative journalist, I locked horns with the Seaside mayor, city manager, and chief of police, all of them black men. One day in 1996, a white Seaside cop showed up at my house and told me the police department had been ordered to treat me as a “5150,” or “insane white racist.” He warned me not to make any more emergency calls to receive protection against our violent, criminal, crack head black neighbor named Dale Earl Williams, later convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and, in another case, terroristic threats. Neither of those cases involved me. In my beef with Williams (in which he’d threatened to murder my Mexican wife and me), the mayor and the city manager intervened by offering me city monies if I dropped charges against Williams in a restraining order violation trial. I have a February 14, 1996 taped phone call with the mayor (which I transferred to CD) that absolutely backs up my account.
Later that year, I was assaulted by the black chief of police, an ex-football player, now deceased, for passing out campaign leaflets for a white mayoral candidate on public property.
Anyway, heeding the cop’s warning, my pregnant wife and I sold our Seaside home and moved to our current abode, a new home overlooking Monterey Bay. Cut to 2008: I’m in my first day at a black-dominated Seaside middle school. Four black male students refused to sit facing me, and they laughed and giggled while I was trying to teach the attentive kids. Finally, I threw one of them out. I later learned that he, the son of a Seaside city councilman, went to the black principal’s office and alleged that I’d called him “a fucking nigger.”
I learned all of this when the principal and the city councilman entered the class and confronted me with the allegation. I was livid. I only use that word when quoting someone else, and usually employ the “n-word” euphemism. They, of course, used my anger against me, as proof of my derangement and my guilt.
The black lady principal said I’d never be welcomed on their campus again. As though I’d ever go back…
As soon as I got home, I contacted the Lyceum, and I was told that the school, according to the contract, was obligated to provide an assistant, always present in the room, to maintain order. There was no “assistant.” The Lyceum contacted the school district, to see if the school wanted to lodge a complaint against me. I was told the principal refused to participate in any investigation. The Lyceum said this was due to the school knowing the whole thing was a lie, and wanting the matter dropped ASAP. The Lyceum apologized to me for not having done more to be sure my safety had been protected.
The upshot? I’ve received no more job offers from the Lyceum.
I attribute this whole incident to leftist politics and policies, which not only tolerate this bullshit, they encourage it as an avenue to public power. And there’s an interesting sidebar here.
RG: This city councilman, Darryl Choates, was used as a model by me, with his permission, for my 1995 commissioned TV series pilot script, CITIZEN COPS. I wanted to depict a young African-American businessman, and that’s what Darryl was. I provided the completed script to him for his approval, and one morning he came to our Seaside home, dropped off the script, and gave his approval.
Thirteen years later, based on his son’s wild allegation, he’s ready to rip my head off at a middle school. I said, “Darryl, don’t you remember me? I’m the guy who based a character on you in a screenplay you really liked.” Choates (who pronounces his last name Show-TAY) looked at me with cold eyes, and said, “No. We’ve never met.”
Scene: They say politics makes strange bedfellows. I’d like to add that politics makes strange psychotics. [Pause] Speaking of which, are you a misogynist?
RG: Erin, you sure know your way around a segue! [Pause] By that I assume you mean a woman-hater. While I adore women in the abstract, I often despise them for their moral cowardice. They hide behind social conventions and male chivalry, and then fire over the parapets. They not only want it both ways, they want it all ways. Always. They say they want to be treated “equally” with men, yet they insist on living as hothouse flowers, privileged by Victorian conventions. Fuck me if I’ve generalized.
The other day, my favorite keyboard player came in to help on a song. When the engineer mentioned he’d seen RECOUNT the night before, the keyboard player asked what it was about. I said, “The 2000 presidential election.” He launched into what I thought was an oft-recited rant, the whole conspiracy litany, about Jeb Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court, and finished it with this: “And the country’s never been the same since.”
I’ve learned in the world of music and film not to reply, not even to question the leftist orthodoxy.
I rented RECOUNT, and found it to be liberal boilerplate, West Wing on a larger palette: The Democrats are all hardworking idealists fighting for truth and the downtrodden, while the Republicans wear expensive suits and use bare knuckle tactics. The caricature of Katherine Harris was especially egregious.
Scene: How so? Laura Dern received high praise for her portrayal.
RG: Yeah, from the liberal press! Okay, for starters: The film used a lot of archival news clips featuring real historical characters on news shows and in press conferences. Yet when Katherine Harris gave a press conference, Laura Dern, in high ditzy mode, mocked Harris with dialogue I doubt was real. By “real,” I mean Harris’s press conferences (many of which I witnessed, live) must also be preserved on tape, somewhere, so verbatim transcripts are available. RECOUNT hinges most of its rhetorical power on the creators’ allegations that Harris was a moronic party pawn who rigged the election for governor Jeb Bush’s brother. Presenting her as an airhead ginned up the creators’ case.
Also, the story was told from the point-of-view of Al Gore’s ex-Chief of Staff, played by notorious leftist Kevin Spacey, who was rehired to help the campaign. As a screenwriter myself, I know that a lot of sympathy obviously accrues to the central character, whose sympathy factor was raised by depicting him as a loving husband to his adoring wife. RECOUNT was as rigged as the election it purports to dramatize.
Here’s another example of the routine, institutionalized leftism I run into all the time: The president of TAXI, a kind of musicians’ collective to which I belong, citing his concern for our global environment, has stopped mailing out the various listings through the mail, on paper. They’ll be sent to us via email. He notified all members that he wants to “save trees.” To me, that’s like saying I won’t eat lettuce because I want to “save lettuce plants.”
Scene: Yeah. Trees are a renewable resource. He probably wanted to save paper, printing and mailing costs, and cloaked his financial self-interest with P.C. altruism. It’s a standard leftist cover story.
RG: And if you question his motives, he’ll want to know what you have against saving the planet. I know all of their rhetorical dodges, and conservatives and libertarians in arts and entertainment have learned it’s best to shut up. The next big TAXI convention is the week of the presidential election. Win or lose, I expect the leftist songwriting contingent—which is to say, 90% of the members—will be making a lot of noise about the results.
Scene: All right, let’s move on to—
RG: Then there’s my father, who proudly voted for Goldwater in 1964. I still remember the bumper stickers on our white Dodge station wagon. Sometime in the last decade, he reversed that famous French aphorism.
Scene: You mean the one that goes, “Any man who isn’t a liberal at 25 has no heart; any man who isn’t a conservative at 50 has no brain”?
RG: Yes. Victoria and I were visiting him in Los Angeles, watching the Olympics from Beijing. I see a shape running at me from a doorway. It’s my father, holding out a small book. As he shoves it in my face, he says, “I wanna send this to our so-called president!”
I look at the little book. It’s the U.S. Constitution. He says, “Do you realize that moron is making us into a police state?”
I girded my loins. “Are you aware,” he said, “that two journalists tried to get ahold of the list of people the government is wiretapping, and the government refused to turn over the names?” I realize that if I say no, he’ll call me “ignorant.” And if I mount a counterargument, I’m “closed minded.”
Scene: This sounds like a reversal of many scenes from the 1960s. That’s the way young radicals addressed their parents.
RG: Indeed. Then he says, “Whatever happened to the First Amendment? That moron has shredded it!” This, after years of ignoring my true stories of how, as an investigative journalist, I got the shit kicked out of me by various Monterey governing bodies, and the Marxist-controlled National Writers Union, for investigating their crimes.
Scene: Your family continues to provide you with endless amounts of writing material.
RG: And then there’s this: A conservative Hollywood director who prefers anonymity has started a blog (http://hollywoodtrenches.vox.com). He opens with this: “I'm a Director in Hollywood. I've also created visual effects for movies and commercials for 23 years. I'm not disclosing my name at this point, because frankly I've already suffered enough job loss because I was outed as a conservative.” Yes, folks, there is a Hollywood blacklist, and neo-Marxists are not its target; they are its perpetrators.
Let me add this, from the “Bush is a Moron Department”: The man earned a degree from Yale. Gore is a college-dropout. According to an article in the Boston Globe, Bush and Kerry were comparable students while at Yale:
“In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.
“Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D's in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.”
Bush ran a major league baseball team. He’s a onetime alcoholic who reformed himself, with the help of his wife. He was duly elected governor of Texas. Except for an ancient DUI, he’s broken no laws that I’m aware of. And don’t go citing “international law.” Before he ordered the invasion of Iraq, Bush jumped through all of the international hoops, and achieved a global consensus. And don’t give me that “denial of habeus corpus rights to terrorists” stuff, either. The U.S. Constitution does not cover non-uniformed combatants seized on foreign battlefields.
[I admit I began to shift in my chair. When Reinaldo gets going, he has a hard time applying the brakes.]
Scene: So, any thoughts on Sarah Palin?
RG: Her voice irritates me. Choosing a national leader is like deciding whether or not to marry them. And the governor’s voice irritates me. While a lot’s been said about her (some of it even fact-based), I believe I have something a bit original.
RG: Well, you know how feminists always claim that men, especially traditional conservative men, don’t like them because we’re “afraid of strong women”?
RG: My Mexican wife asked why, if that’s true, that men still dig Sarah Palin. I said it’s because it’s obvious she likes men. Which irritates the shit out of the grim, doctrinaire feminists! Plus, she’s had five kids with her hunky hubby, which means, unless he’s been raping her all these years, she likes heterosexual sex!
Scene: She’s relentlessly cheerful.
RG: And it’s no act. She’s also low maintenance.
Scene: How d’you know that?
RG: This morning, I was getting new tires for my MINI Cooper S, and People Magazine was in the waiting room, and I read an interview with Todd.
Scene: You, the ivory tower intellectual Reinaldo Garcia, sullied yourself with that rag?
RG: I washed my hands later, in their restroom, with that pink de-greasing cream. Then I went back to my History of the Mexican Conquest.
Scene: You’re pardoned. [Beat] So what’s the good stuff going on?
RG: Well, there’s always softball. The summer co-ed socko season just ended, and I hit .711 for a not-very-good team made up of congenial men and women. For the fall, I’m playing in two leagues, co-ed socko, and all-men’s socko, through Thanksgiving.
Scene: What’s socko?
RG: You pitch to your own team. Men get two pitches, women get three pitches. The game moves ultra-fast. I’ve been leading off, and playing a very efficient first base.
Scene: What else is going on?
RG: For the last two-and-a-half years, I sing my songs once a month at a performance salon at a local college. You can see photos of me on Chunyi McIiver’s website, http://www.chunyimciver.com/ThisIsNowHome.html, performing my material.
Before I started, I gave myself the task of never singing the same song twice, and so each month I debut two new tunes. I treat it as a workshop, using it to explore newly-written or never-performed songs that I plan to record in the studio with a band. Lately, I’ve been singing songs written in Cuernavaca between 1988 and 1990, preparing for my next CD, DOWN & OUT IN MEXICO.
In November, I’ll be in Los Angeles for my 40th high school reunion, and a week later, I’ll be attending the TAXI Road Rally. In between, I hope to record at least one song in an L.A. studio, using L.A. musicians and technology.
And there’s always my screenwriting, from which I derive most of my income. I’ve been working in fits and starts on something called ANYWHERE BUT HERE. It combines Greek tragedy, Mexican shamanism, and rock and roll mythology.
Also, I’ve been put in touch with a film producer who complained to a mutual friend that a writer with whom he’s been working can’t plumb the soul’s dark depths. He’s been trying to develop a film about La Malinche, “the mother of the Mexican race.”
Scene: Don’t tell me. You were recommended.
RG: Indeed I was. Our mutual friend tells me he said, “You want darkness? Have I got the guy for you!” Anyway, I received an e-mail from him, in which he responded to my message of introduction:
“Ah! Meetings With Remarkable People, revisited. Hadn't thought about that for a while. Personally got caught up with Sun Tzu and read constantly, over and over and then over again.
“I'll slowly go through the volumes over the nearest time possible with my enormous schedule hindering my available time.
“It's not that I like things dark, dirty or nasty, I like artistic creativity which mirrors the public appetite for social / cultural reflections that in turn provides $$ to the business model and I am always interested in the business side of entertainment.
“It is dark out there today and it will continue for some time, regardless of the DNC promise of change. Been there tried that, but the drugs were good.
“Interested also in your Carlos Yaqui treatments. [He refers here to my studies of Mexican shamanism, and my screenplay, THE SERPENT GUARDIAN, about a brujo.] Ouch Jimson Weed, now that will hurt. POW! BIFF! BAM! BATMAN, NO WONDER YOU WEAR A FUNNY COSTUME AND REALLY THINK YOU CAN FLY. BATS NOT CROWS EH, HOW NOT INDIAN OF YOU
“Sorry could not talk on the phone, too many folks around at this convention I am attending. Be back at you soon!”
Scene: And your snappy reply?
RG: You know me all too well, Erin. I wrote back:
“Thank you, G-----. Did I ever mention I was a disciple of Gurdjieff, 24/7, through the entire 1970s? Just recently, I've been re-reading the journal of C. S. Nott, one of his students. I raise this because of your reference to MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MEN.
“I like your mission statement. The word ‘entertainment’ comes from two Latin words, ‘enter’ and ‘hold.’ Our culture seems to separate ‘mere entertainment’ from ‘serious art.’ This, to me, is a false distinction. I am entertained watching a competent tow truck operator. Tarantino's PULP FICTION got the balance exactly right: European art house sensibility mixed with American rock 'em, sock 'em storytelling. Recently, our 11 year old daughter was channel surfing in her bedroom, and she came to me and said, ‘You gotta see this weird movie!’ Turns out she'd happened onto the scene where Bruce Willis explains to the boy how he protected the family heirloom, the gold wrist watch. I watched the rest of PULP FICTION with Victoria, then I rented it for her, then I bought her the soundtrack. My point? Great storytelling trumps everything, even squeamishness over subject matter.
“No, I don't think you have a dark 'n' nasty fetish. My comment on that: Great art captures the yin and the yang, the light and the dark, the whole spectrum of life. Great art is neither ‘pessimistic’ nor ‘optimistic.’ Also, light gets brighter when juxtaposed against darkness. Each one augments the other. The Tao Te Ching opens with something to the effect that all wisdom comes from darkness.
“One of the jobs of the artist is to show (not tell) what has been hidden, and barely thought about, in the common culture, and to reveal it, and to have the audience say, ‘Yes! That's how it is! I never thought of it like that, but yes!’ How the artist gets there is immaterial.
“I love the AMC series MAD MEN. There are no car chases, murders, etc., but I watched the first season on DVD and was enthralled. For years, I'd been a voice in the wilderness, decrying the entertainment industry's hypocritical vilification of ‘the businessman.’ The idea, for me, that Hollywood people, who think of little else but the bottom line, can't portray capitalism in a non-demonic way, was ludicrous. MAD MEN celebrates capitalism; moreover, the main character, Don Draper, is a good man who can be cruel, a strong man who can be weak, and he will ultimately emerge as an iconic American character.
“Dave said you make part of your living in the roller coaster biz. Fertile dramatic ground, that. My African-American doctor took his son on a nationwide tour last year, visiting and riding all the most famous American roller coasters. Now, that's a road movie!”
He made me an offer to write the script, and I accepted.
Scene: So, you’re okay?
RG: Everything’s jake. [Pause] By the way, you’re looking pretty good yourself, Ms. MacLeod. Got any fitness tips? I see you watch your diet.
Scene: Not here, not now, Reinaldo. I save all that for my blog, “Erin’s Isle.”
RG: Touché, Ms. MacLeod.
Scene: Touché yourself.
RG: Just as soon as I get home. [Pause] Kidding!
Rocky Point Restaurant Big Sur, California