Scribbles From A Notebook
by Ares Demertzis (Dec. 2007)
This is one in a series of lightly fictionalized short stories (see “Reflections From A Looking Glass,” and “The Mercenary”) from a book in progress titled “Confessions of a Film Director.” To any interested publisher out there: don’t hesitate to contact me.
START COMPOSITION ________________________________________________
It was late afternoon when I finished the last shot scheduled for that day.
“Es un wrap eet op!” shouted the assistant director in Spanglish.
I have never been known as one of those clichéd directors bellowing “action!” or “cut!” I give the AD that alleged privilege.
We were filming at the Churubusco stages in
noTe: DO NoT usE the ABovE, you ComE OFF lIkE an INANE siLLy WhUs!
I am an unassuming director who believes in following Teddy Roosevelt’s doctrine: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
ThERe. IS tHaT beTteR?
One of my favorite anecdotes that I share with those meeting me for the first time concerns introducing one of my wives to some acquaintances at a housewarming party we were hosting after our honeymoon.
“I’d like to introduce you to my wife. This is er… This is er...er…”
“Hellene, darling. My name is Hellene,” my now ex-wife obligingly interjected, beaming at our guests with the requisite welcoming smile.
I am unsure whether this incident played a significant role in the judge’s award to Hellene of our house, our car and our dog shortly thereafter.
frOm TOnY´s MarKEt BUY BRead, egGs, COLd CUtS, bEeR, koTEX SUPer AbsOrBeNT.
For the drive to my hotel on the elegant Paseo de
Years ago, working on the Presidential campaign of Carlos Andres Perez in
William Jefferson Clinton, the American President who disgraced the office by being impeached and disbarred, sitting at an albeit more elaborate desk, for dissimilar yet equally suspect motives signed 141 pardons during the last hours of the last day of his presidency; prompting the considered rumor that a hidden, lucrative rationale provoked his remarkable last minute endeavor.
note: WRIte story WorKiNG tiTLe: “WISE GUyS in THE ameriCAN poliTIcal COsA nOsTRa” ConSIDer using A pseuDOnYm!
From the window of my office I could see the driver sitting in the relative shade of the limousine being baked by a blistering tropical sun; that evening, like all previous evenings, he would drive me back to the hotel. Considering this analogous to cruel and unusual punishment, as well as an extravagant economic waste of campaign resources, I requested a meeting with the campaign manager.
“I really don’t need a chauffeured car to take me back and forth from the Tamanaco. I speak fluent Spanish, I can take a taxi.”
“You want to cancel your chauffeur?”
“Yes. I think it’s a waste. I don’t need a car and driver.”
Foolishly, it never occurred to me that I was simultaneously eliminating the chauffeur’s employment.
It was later that night when the phone rang in my room. It was
“Well, yeah, Joe. I can take a cab from the hotel back and forth to campaign headquarters.”
CALL MIKE NOW! GEt joeS NEW fONe number!
There is a legendary story about Joe that several other political consultants subsequently enviously appropriated for themselves; never having personally verified the details, I nonetheless credit Napolitan as the original protagonist.
The anecdote concerns a particularly unproductive meeting attended by a candidate, a consultant and a translator. There are always translators, notwithstanding the candidates being perfectly versed in English; it would seem there exists a widespread reluctance in using an unloved Anglo-Saxon idiom that has replaced French, which substituted Latin, which supplanted Greek, to become the lingua
The consultant was managing an unreasonably recalcitrant candidate; frustrated by the lack of agreement during the meeting, he turned to the translator and said: “Please tell the candidate that I am not a citizen of his country, therefore I really don’t care who the next president is going to be.”
Joe is a calm, soft spoken man. Without much verbal embellishment, he told me I made a mistake and hung up. I can without equivocation admit that it was very definitely a blunder of superlative proportion; my position in the campaign thereafter diminishing significantly. Respect in certain endeavors is often a product of pretentious, frequently unnecessary accessories that symbolically represent status.
After eliminating the chauffeured limo, it was evident to those working with me that I was undeserving of the importance they had previously assumed was my due by virtue of the perks I enjoyed, which included smoking cigars in the public areas of campaign headquarters. After that experience, I learned to ride around in limos without protest; albeit in the front seat. Nonetheless, when riding with Carlos Andres Perez in his limousine, I would invariably sit in the back seat next to him, after carefully accommodating the two Uzis that were conveniently accessible on the floor. We were always accompanied by two large, black SUV’s with polarized windows, one in front, the other taking up the rear, each crammed with six heavily armed bodyguards.
Curiously, years ago I predicted the advent of a Hugo Chavez in
Add: “SiX yeArs BuCKs foR yOu ANd YouRs; NeXt sIx yeARs bUckS For Me aNd mINe.”
In contrast to riding around with Carlos Andres Peres, I would walk with Rodrigo Carazo, candidate and later president of
This reminds me of an incident many years later when my wife Graciela and I were unable to obtain adjacent seats on a flight from
“Hello, Mr. President, what a pleasant surprise!”
“Ares, what were you doing in
“You aren’t going to believe this, but I was invited to make a monumental sculpture for the park in
“I’m now a sculptor.”
“You were in
“Well, you aren’t the President anymore.”
When I was living in
“The address is
The limousine I hired for the minimum one hour rental picked us up in front of my apartment around the corner from
A slender hand stretched through the crowd, pleadingly touching my arm as we were being escorted into the disco; her young, forsaken voice beseeching me: “Please, please, mister. Oh, please take me in with you!”
Even before dissolving into the nameless, frenzied mob, I felt nauseated.
I was repeatedly amused by the zealous “gringo go home” graffiti spray painted on walls that frequently included: “¡Gringas (American females) Si! ¡Gringos (American males) No!
On this particular job, I was to be the director/cameraman on a series of commercials for a significant international product. The job was maneuvered to my company by Javier Alvarez, the advertising agency creative director who coincidentally happened to be a close friend; a not unusual circumstance in the business. The final conference of all those barely endurable, insufferable meetings was to take place at the client’s sumptuous offices. I was to be introduced to the dreaded dominant corporate honcho: The Man. Everyone was nervously hopeful that he would approve me and grant the final authorization for this unusually costly project which entailed contracting as acting talent several of the country’s most popular and expensive celebrities.
We stood around the conference room, awaiting The Man’s imminent arrival; he was being predictably tardy to those he knew had no alternative. I despise waiting for anyone, considering it an unacceptable discourtesy; like Captain Ahab, I too would “smite God” were He to insult me. I have always been indulgent of imprudent employees, however, considering an inopportune act the consequence of ignorance; those who should know better have been known to suffer my wrath, including (if not principally), clients. Some consider it miraculous that I haven’t (as Ahab) self-destructed, continuing surprisingly to be employed.
Peter Skolnick, a film producer who for many years was my partner and grew to be a much appreciated, valued friend had, previous to our association, remarked to a mutual acquaintance, Mark Kristal: “I will never work with Ares, he’s just too independent.”
Suddenly there was a flurry of discreet commotion; laughter ceased, conversations swiftly ended. The Man walked through the door and everyone submissively took a seat around both sides of the long, rectangular polished wood table. I was ushered to a seat facing him. Without apology or prologue (I assume due to his stressful schedule) The Man addressed me frankly in that acquired, direct and austere tone reserved to those of Authority. His face was a blank mask; penetrating eyes unblinking in their indiscreet, scrupulous appraisal of my person.
“You haven’t worked for us before, so I think it important that I outline for you what our expectations are on this project, and what we normally expect of our suppliers.”
The Man continued for some time outlining what I considered unnecessary detail: the previous campaigns were all outstandingly successful (of course), and he anticipated that this project would be carried out with the same competence and eagerness. He repeatedly used the word “passion” in describing the project; passion being the currently trendy code word used by the community of trans-national company executives to provoke enthusiasm within their corporate ranks. Passion for the job; passion for the product; passion for the corporation. I never heard senior management mention a passion for life, for laughter, for love.
WArsHaW arrIViNg wiTH joANN FLigHT 469 laX BOUrbOn, FIsh
The political and social independence of the individual is an unprecedented, successful experiment of Western Democracies; it is unsettling to consider that the last half of the twentieth century witnessed its calculated and measured erosion. A currently continuing, stealthily fashioned and encroaching feudalism is being imposed on the citizenry by governing regimes of deceptive, elite neo-monarchists covertly posing as wardens of democracy. Among their achievements, albeit not the most significant, but bearing a direct relationship to an advancing economic serfdom of the individual was the elimination of the conventional “one economic provider per household” model. Over time, this principle evolved into the doctrine of indispensable labor by both parents in order to provide for the economic sustenance of the nuclear family. Frequently today, both parents must each also hold two jobs.
Don´T fORgEt TWo tV diNnErS aND PIzZa FOr thE KIdS!
Merely the tributary obligations imposed by rapacious governments confiscate more than one half of the income generated by the assiduous labor of the general work force. Additionally, it has been alleged that actuarial tables indicate one works from Monday to Thursday afternoon in order to satisfy the compulsory, imposed levies, including the assorted, veiled complementary taxation imposed by state and city governments.
CaN tHis bE veRifIeD? SeARch InTerNet?
The people’s funds are channeled not only into the much criticized “military industrial complex” which, in the final analysis, can be accurately credited for creating the most overwhelming military power in the world, they are habitually squandered through willful government waste in a deceptive political shell game by means of Congressional earmarks authorizing costly and unnecessary pork projects.
A grateful, albeit irresponsible and self-interested citizenry, unconcerned with the common good, re-elects them.
tHe ATF, CIA, FBI, IRS wIlL AlL bE sNoOpInG fOr SurE. tHOsE SeRIUs, uNsMiLinG ChEAp dArk suITS wiTH thE BUlgE At THe waiSTliNE WIlL bE CALliNg. i MUsT HAvE a SuiCIdal DeATh Wish. fiND A shRInK, HeLp! gonNa nEeD DAnnY tO dEFenD Me PRo BOnO!
Everyone around the table appeared captivated by the passion that had, outwardly at least, succeeded in conquering their hearts and minds. Despite my customarily insolent cynicism, I was able to maintain a respectful silence concerning this determined, transparent exploitation of the gullible. Initially I accepted the pep talk as so much gratuitous verbiage; however, this sentiment was swiftly replaced by one of acute irritation. I wasn’t some unremarkable, talentless entity that had been impulsively singled out to direct these commercials; I was carefully selected from a number of exceptionally capable and gifted contenders on the basis of my previous performance. There was no need for what I regarded as an offensive speech that seemed to question my professional accomplishments.
I had stopped listening to The Man, and was contemplating my response to his opening prelude, when he abruptly stopped talking. “Are you finished?” I inquired frostily, my impassive face a precise reflection of his. We looked at each other for what seemed a long while. There was an uncomfortable silence around the table.
“Well, let me inform you that when I was awarded this project, after the advertising agency and your company reviewed and approved my previous work, no one mentioned to me that the images had to be in focus, the colors accurate, the camera movement precise. In other words, that you expected me to do a professional job.”
We looked directly into each others eyes. Again. Neither he nor I were smiling. The silence around the table became excruciatingly palpable. And then he laughed. It was a growl; a deep, sonorous roar. Everyone around the table started snickering, weakly at first, gradually building into extended guffaws of relief. It was a joke! Did you hear that? The director made a joke to The Man and he enjoyed it. Isn’t that hilarious?
Later. Javier: “What the fuck is the matter with you? Hessu Kristo! You were going to blow the whole job!”
“Ay, Javier, I gave him two choices. Cancel the job and throw me out of the building, or pretend my criticism of his stupid remarks was a joke. He’s a very smart individual; he decided to play it as a gag. That’s why he’s The Man.”
“No. Dignity, Javier. Dignity.”
Concerning dignity, I remember an extraordinary moment by my friend Eli Bleich, a Brooklyn Jew, on Capitol Hill. We were scheduled to film the Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, whom Eli was to interview for an endorsement to be used in President Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign. We were permitted to enter O’Neill’s hallowed chambers and stand face to face before the corpulent figure sitting behind a desk; Eli extended his hand. “Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. My name is Eli Bleich, it’s a pleasure meeting you.”
An arrogant Tip O’Neill was unresponsive; he simply glowered at the hand outstretched in greeting. Was he thinking: “Bleich. Isn’t that a Jewish name?” What else could have motivated this remarkable, unwarranted rudeness? Eli, in an extraordinary response, did not lower his arm; he determinedly held his hand outstretched in front of The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Democratic Republic of the
Dignity, Eli. Dignity.
Subsequent to that experience, Tip O’Neill would appear campaigning for re-election on the televised news smiling broadly, shaking hands with the proletariat; kissing babies. Ted Kennedy, in a ceremony dedicating the completion of
DEleTE tHe AboVe GonNa pISs OFf SOmE imPoRTaNt pEoPlE! tHinK ENeMiEs LIsT goNnA GEtcHa.
WIlLiAm ClInTOn´S AtToRnEY GeNEraL jANeT REnO oRDerEd tHe liVE aMmO WAr gAMeS exERcIsE iN wAcO; ThE FBI sNiPEr MuRdeR oF An uNarMeD MoThEr anD inFANt on RUbY riDgE.
dO stOrY ON geNuInE LOsS oF ameRiCAn FReEdOm.
dO YAhoO sEArcH JaNet REnO WacO, RuBy RIdgE.
PElOsI KerRy CLinToN wANt To coNTroL THe INtERneT.
SWiFtBoAtS sUnk KerRy´s PrESidEnTiAL aMbiTIon, a PopuLAr ReJEctIOn FueLed by THe WEB derailed A cLaNDeSTinE bipARTiSan immIGrATioN bill, BlOgGerS oUtEd HilLaRy sEeDiNg AUdiENCes wITh PLAntEd QuESTions
In a NAnO sECoNd REpUBliCAn PoLiTIciANs Will aLSo tRY To dEStRoY THe WEB if THeY tHink IT ConVENienT!
A young, up and coming politician, who is probably by now the governor of a state, once remarked to me: “politics is knowing how to eat shit without making a face.” Some would say it is also knowing how to be cunningly unscrupulous, immoral, unprincipled, deceitful, corrupt, and a pathological liar.
NoTE: ERasE ABoVe oR GeT punCHeD iN tHe NosE!
I don’t understand the fuss about politicians “flip-flopping.” Perhaps I need to repeat “Government
The American political system is after all a representative democracy; representative means elected politicians represent the will of the people. When the will of the people changes, representatives must also change their policy, otherwise we are living in a democratically imposed oligarchy.
Do a STOry On AmeRIcan jusTIce: SanDY bERgeR iNTEntIOnAlLy steALs ANd DEsTroYs irREPlacEAbLe CLassIfiED CLiNtOn NaTIonAL SecURitY docUmENtS frOM THe NAtionAl arCHiVeS aND CLAiMs iT Was An “HOnEsT miSTaKe” hE is SENtenCeD to coMmUNiTy SErViCE pLuS A 50,o00 DolLAr FiNE; LeWIs “SCOotEr” LIbBy gETs a 25o,0oo FInE aNd A 2.5 yeAR JAiL SENtenCE for LyInG to INVesTigatORs.
The sun had set, leaving an orange afterglow on this chill December evening as we left the Churubusco studios. The chauffeur turned into a one way street, driving in the wrong direction. This common practice by Mexican drivers always made me somewhat uneasy only during the first few days after my arrival, as did the personally verified local jokes about unwritten traffic regulations that acknowledge larger vehicles having preference, or that after sunset one always must stop for the green signal, because someone is invariably speeding through the red.
Traffic regulations do indeed exist in
Oh, yEAh? suRe.
“You know this is a one way street. You don’t have the right of way,” I said calmly.
“No problema, patron.”
I didn’t reply. When I used to work for other people, I disliked it when they would constantly verify what I was doing, as though expecting me to blunder. The maxim I always applied to myself, and which I insisted be adopted by my children is: “it’s no good unless it’s perfect.” That’s probably the reason we were never fired from any employment, and the boss would always be unhappy when we moved on to other challenges. I suppose that’s the reason I never interfere with someone doing their job. It’s that person’s responsibility; he or she should have the freedom to do it any way they feel comfortable. If you don’t like the work, don’t hire that person again. There must be hundreds of recipes for chicken soup; a million different available chefs.
The police officer, popularly called, for the color of his brown uniform, tamarindo (tamarind), or zopilote (vulture) for his incessant circling in search of traffic violators, positioned himself next to the driver’s window.
“Good afternoon, señor. Would you please let me see your driver’s license and registration?”
Politeness in face to face encounters is a distinguishing characteristic of Latin American society; a cultural imperative fixed into a tradition bound consciousness from infancy. In anonymity they are capable of the most remorseless hostility.
This purposeful, fragile courtesy is non-existent in traffic; no one will cede their right of way, it must be usurped with resolute aggression. The mauve tinted air of
Mexican police have sometimes been characterized as assassins; perhaps, but I suspect there may be a politeness inherent in the execution of that process also. It is however factual that many American defenders of public safety, those dedicated to “protect and serve,” tend to conduct themselves in a fashion reminiscent of the Nazi Gestapo. It’s remarkable how a uniform and a badge can obliterate civility in those who aspire to power through stupidity and ignorance; power is a corrosive persuader even in the corridors of our most valued political institutions.
A tHoUgHt: ShOuLd LAw eNFoRcEMenT iN An aMErIcAN demOCRaTiC SoCIeTY sENd heAVilLy ARMed OFfiCErs tO a ciTIzENs HOme At FOuR In tHe MOrNIng tO ARrEsT In HANdCufFs sOMEoNe WhO Has OUtsTAnDinG TRaFfiC VIoLaTiONs?
WrITe story: PEter´S faTHer iN L.a. ReNTs a CAr Is SToPpeD bY trAfFiC coP “iF yoU dON´t GIvE Me tWenTy DOlLaRs I´lL gIVe YOu A suMmOnS fOr SOmEThiNg.”
“Have I done something wrong, official?”
“Si, señor. Unfortunately you are proceeding against the right of way.”
“Oh. I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t realize that.”
The police officer’s round, mustachioed, almond complexioned face squinted at the documents, studying them with concentrated diligence; turning the papers over and over again, examining both front and back sides assiduously as he casually smoked a cigarette. Finally, he appeared satisfied.
“You know, señor, I will regrettably have to write a summons. The fine for this infraction is unfortunately very, very expensive.”
“Of course. Driving against the right of way can be hazardous.”
“Precisely. However, we can discuss this matter and arrive at some mutually convenient arrangement.” The officer offered an encouraging smirk.
Commonly it is the offender proposing the bribe; failing this, it is the policeman invariably demanding it.
“No, thank you, oficial. It is very generous of you, however I prefer you give me the summons.”
“You prefer a summons, señor?!”
“You want to give your money to the government where some politician will steal it, and not give it to me to buy Christmas presents for my little children?”
“I am sorry, oficial. I do not mean any disrespect, it is just that my company will pay the fine if I have a summons, but they will not reimburse me if I pay it from my own pocket.”
“Very well, then. You leave me no choice. I will write the summons.” With those words the police officer snatched a stubby pencil precariously cached above his ear and poised it menacingly over the blank summons.
“I am going to write the summons!”
The officer made several practiced, wide, round movements with the pencil above the bare summons. “You leave me no choice, señor. You of course understand we can still come to some arrangement before I begin to write.”
“I am sorry, oficial. Please give me the summons.”
“Alright then. I will write the summons.” And with that, he pressed the pencil hard into the paper and stopped. Unexpectedly, he offered the block and pencil to the chauffer.
“Would you please do me the favor of filling out the summons, señor. I do not know how to write.”
“Of course, it will be my pleasure, oficial.”
The chauffeur diligently filled in the summons, taking a copy for himself and returning the block and pencil to the officer.
“Thank you very much, señor.”
“It was my pleasure, oficial.”
“Have a very good evening, and please be careful, it is getting dark. Merry Christmas to you and your family.”
“Thank you. Merry Christmas to you and your family also, oficial.”
The chauffeur put the car in gear, rolling forward only a few meters before abruptly stopping. With his face out of the window, he called after the policeman.
“Oficial! I can continue driving down this street, correct?”
“Of course, señor. You are paying for that privilege.”
When I entertain people with this anecdote, they invariably shriek with condescending laughter at the officer’s ignorance. Originally I shared that opinion, however with time I have come to interpret that long ago incident differently. There is a fundamentally impeccable logic to the officer’s judgment. To his mind, uncluttered with our contemporary elaborately tortuous logic, our willfully deformed intellect complicating an inherent simplicity of existence, the chauffeur was purchasing a right of way; he was not being penalized for an infraction casually determined by some bureaucrat sitting at a desk in a government office.
Oh SHiT eVEn YOu dOn´T BeLiEVe tHiS! DO yoU? rEaLly? YOu DO?
Perhaps somewhere along the line, it is we who have lost our way. Surely our planet is capable of accommodating the co-existence of all our nonviolent affectations.
Before it is legislated as unlawful by an exaggerated and ridiculous politically correct congressional edict that will further asphyxiate our individuality, allow me, an unbeliever, to respectfully wish all Christians a Merry Christmas, and to the rest, a Happy Holiday Season.
THeY toOk Away Your smOkEs, doN´t lEt ThEm tAke aWAy your SaNTA!
I leave you with one final thought: It is not paranoia, but rather meticulous inquiry that has led me to the conclusion that political correctness is one of the cornerstones in a coordinated and manipulative agenda to promote the goal of creating the illusory universal, collective; a contemporary version of that defunct workers paradise of old. You will be coddled from cradle to grave in exchange for your individuality; your freedom.
Think about that.
We are, thankfully, not all the same; and hopefully never will be.
By the way, if memory serves me correctly, that very same street had previously been designated as one way in the opposite direction.
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