I’m sitting with Reinaldo García on a restaurant terrace overlooking the Big Sur Coast. He’s talking about his new CD, THE ENCHANTED BLUFF.
When in the mid-1980s Reinaldo served as Playwright-in-Residence for the state of New Mexico, he read an interview with the late Truman Capote, who declared that one day he found himself sharing an elevator with his favorite American novelist, Willa Cather (1873-1947). This intrigued Reinaldo. He’d never heard of Cather. “Shortly after that,” says Reinaldo, “a friend handed me Cather’s Five Stories, which opened with ‘The Enchanted Bluff.’ This fine short story describes the fascination a New Mexican geological formation holds for a group of Nebraska boys.”
The Enchanted Bluff, on top of which a now-extinct Native American tribe once lived, represents the wonder of childhood, the mythical place Reinaldo claims we all once inhabited. He soon devoured the rest of Cather’s writings, as well as two biographies. “Willa Cather,” says Reinaldo, poking at his raspberry sorbet, “was a very special woman and artist, blending high-minded morality with unmatched descriptions of the natural world.” In August 2007, Reinaldo wrote the title song of this collection, which he also used in his musical Me with Them. Dublin-born John Michael ably handles the lead vocals.
Always alive to possible word play, Reinaldo remembered a quote about the human condition he perhaps mistakenly attributes to Raymond Chandler: “The odds are 5-2, against.” “‘Bluff’ is also a gambling term,” says Reinaldo. “Though our cards are weak, we still must play the hand we’re dealt. Sometimes we bluff, against the house. Sometimes magic follows, and enchantment reigns.”
“Happy as a Midget on Stilts” arrived one morning in April 2005 when Reinaldo’s daughter Victoria (then eight) asked him how he was doing. “I’m happy as a midget on stilts,” he replied, writing down the witticism.
“’Millennium Beast’ and ‘Twilight of the Gods’ are conjoined thematically, and explore two forms of totalitarianism: National Socialism and Islamofascism,” he continues. Then 13-year-old Andrew Parker composed the music for “Twilight of the Gods,” the lyrics of which Reinaldo wrote after seeing Downfall, a superb German film about Hitler’s last days.
“Let Me Look at You” describes Reinaldo’s visual obsession with beautiful women. Curious to see if a male point-of-view could translate to the female eye, he enlisted Susana McGuire Jewell to sing the ballad. Pleased with the results, he then wrote a one man theater piece of the same name, using Susana’s version at its end.
Several songs from Me with Them follow. “I Love You, Lorelei” is a burst of teen-aged adoration by the musical’s hero, Tony Celaya; love object Lorelei Channing, a budding astronomer, replies with “Good Enough (Ain’t Good Enough for Me)”; “Cage” answers back. “Handshake Deal” recounts our downcast hero’s betrayal by two Hollywood sharks, which leads to his joining a Doomsday cult; and “Meet Me Past the End of Days” dramatizes the cult leader’s message to his disciples.
“After the Apocalypse,” says Reinaldo, sipping his double espresso, “we still push on with our lives. ‘One Day’ documents the ennui of a long term marriage. ‘I’m So Glad,’ sung by Nashville’s Butch Baker, ends the CD with a jazzy ode to marriage.” With a satisfied sigh, Reinaldo gently places his espresso cup in its saucer. Then he reaches for the check.
-Erin d’Quincy MacLeod, Entertainment Editor, SCENE Magazine