On the Road with Maggie Scratch in Mexico

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Guadalajara International Book Fair

It seems fitting that Maggie Scratch would arrive on one of these shelves. After all, she did live in Mexico. That was the year she went to see Claudia. A lot of things happened in Mexico. Nanny Scratch would say, “Mexico was meant to be.”

“Claud and Dennis left Yelapa before I did. Word got around the village that they were packing so when the little motorboat came from Puerto Vallarta I went down to the beach to say goodbye, but I didn’t say it. Claud was standing next to the boat at the edge of the water in Dennis’s black leather jacket and she had the collar turned up. She looked like a movie star. The black leather boots Dennis had ripped off for her in Rome were getting wet at the toes. She loaded her bags into the boat. The one thing I felt good about was that I was the only person in the world who knew Claud’s Peter Fonda sunglasses were prescription. When she lifted her head I saw my face in the mirrors. I was biting my bottom lip and keeping my mouth shut. I didn’t want to say anything stupid. Dennis clutched her elbow, they stepped into the boat and puttered off. I didn’t even wave.

Chano, my landlord had built the palapa for his favorite girlfriend, a schoolteacher in Guadalajara. Six rainbow-filled abalone shells glowed in the wall in the moonlight. I slept next to that wall. The night Claud left the moon was full. The shells were so bright I didn’t need a flashlight to write down the P.P. style poem that stole into my mind and summed up Claud and me.

Friendship

reached

an icy peak

Claud hates Haiku. Also, she would be critical of using a word like icy on a tropical night in a Mexican jungle. Claud would never have used a word like that. But it worked for me. She wanted ice, she got icy. I froze her out.”

Maggie Scratch

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On the Road with Maggie Scratch In Barcelona Today, the Torre Agbar, Pineda de Mar and the Prairie Wind

We were heading out of Barcelona Today to visit a friend on the coast. We passed the Torre Agbar.
agbar

The Torre Agbar reminds me of the time I was the translator for the CEO of the Agbar Water Management Co in Barcelona. His name was Joan and he had slicked back hair, a straight stance and a big paunch. I loved working in his handsome office. He wore fine silk shirts and Christian Dior cologne. He was soft spoken and highly intelligent and being with him I felt important and rich and respected. I liked his secretary too. Montse. She taught me how to respect secretaries. How to talk to a secretary. How to treat a secretary. Secretaries are far more important than anyone realizes. The Torre Agbar is my favorite piece of jewelry. It’s not just a building or an architectural design, it’s a jewel. I heard recently that the new mayor of Barcelona, a woman, has been instrumental in the signing of an agreement to turn this jewel into a hotel. I wonder where Montse is. I don’t think Joan could possibly be CEO without her.

Pineda

November on the Maresme, Pineda de Mar. We were alone. It was sunny. The air smelled like firewood. A sea air, a fresh sea air. Clean and Clear and Sweet and Mild, Salty and Seductive. I could have swallowed the day!

brasIt was flea market day! The bras were like balloons! Beautiful! Colorful! We went for a walk! We ate lobster paella and chocolate birthday cake! We drank wine and coffee and laughed till it got dark.

agbar at nite

Then we drove home with Prairie Wind and Neil Young and the prairie wind blowin through my head, the prairie wind blowin through my head, you see what I mean about the tower being a jewel?

On the Road with Maggie Scratch, Hot Off the Press from Hollywood

holly
Caspar sent me more pics from the film festival. I told him, “Dish out a few more words of hollyweirdo wisdom and I have tonight’s post.” And this is what he sent.

“Harry Potter getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”

harry

Since I know Caspar’s style of dressing, I know these are his feet.Star

As far as words of wisdom or any other kind, Charlie Chaplin didn’t use them.

On the Road with Maggie Scratch Wishing Caspar Luck in Hollywood

hollywood 1

My friend the actor/screenwriter Caspar is in Santa Monica at the American Film Market Festival. Beware. He’s hanging by a thread. Pitching his script to ex-boxer producers. Having the laugh of his life. It sounds to me like he’s Leaving Las Vegas. In Caspar’s words, “Mixing with the movers and shakers, the sharks, the desperados and the downright mentally ill. Hooray for Hollywood!”

Real palms

hollywood 2

hollywood 3

 Plastic palms?

On the Road with Maggie Scratch in Love and Hate in Mexico with Bob Dylan, Dennis Hopper and The Night of the Iguana

Friendship, friends, can come and go, but I remember the faces, the words, the good times and the bad. Memories. So that’s where the word memoirs comes from! The characters in my novel, Maggie Scratch, come from all the people I’ve known, and even though they’re free and separate from me, they’re written in my heart for all time. Claudia Rhinehart. Did I invent her? Did I know her? Did she know me once? In this excerpt, Maggie talks about her friend, her friendship, about love…and…hate.Bay and beach with wooden tables and chairs beneath thatched umbrellas, Bahia de Banderas, Playa Yelapa near Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

It doesn’t surprise me that Mexico was the last place I saw Claud. She was waiting for me on the beach in Yelapa when I arrived from Puerto Vallarta. Yelapa. Where Ava Gardner and Richard Burton filmed The Night of the Iguana and I learned how to tap tap tap and pat pat pat corn flour and water into tortillas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I stepped out of the little motorboat into the turquoise water and carried my suitcase over my head and trudged towards Claud. The sandy white cove was deserted. It was early morning, palms swished, I was sleepy, but Coca Cola was bubbling in my veins. Here she was! Claud! She had been waving and now she came down to the water’s edge, barefoot in the sand, a chopstick in her hair holding long, loose wisps in a bun. My white Levis were dragging in the water. I stopped and rolled them up. I hadn’t seen Claud in over a year. She was wearing a fuchsia bikini and a man’s light blue shirt falling off her shoulders, tied loosely around her flat-as-a-pancake waist. Her eyelids were puffy in a kittenish way. In Mexico she was all angles and bones, a light tan face framed by dark eyebrows. I was fascinated by her triangular shape. Wide shoulders, tapered waist, the geometrics of her body reminded me of Picasso or Braque. Her feet and hands, I noticed, were also tan. Her mouth was partly open and her breath smelled faintly of lime and toothpaste. No make up. I followed her to the bar and we sat at a small table with our feet in the sand. Claud ordered tequila. I was on the verge of protesting, it was morning, but I told myself to relax, to let Claud lead, this was her territory, she invited me here. She leaned forward and looked over my shoulder, tapping the filter end of her cigarette on the table. Blasé, puffy lidded eyes, her voice low, she told me, “Bob Dylan is galloping towards our table.” Of course, I did exactly what she hoped I wouldn’t do, I turned around. I saw a cowboy’s brown leather vest, white arms flapping like a pair of wings, a white horse. A blue vein trickled down the bareback rider’s cheek. The horse rode past us, slowed down, swished its tail, and sashayed off towards a white villa. I was hypnotized by the horse’s tail.

“He’s here with Dennis Hopper.” Claud licked the salt off the rim of her glass.

I stared at the little sliding board between Claud’s nose and her upper lip. I wondered what she was leading up to. Her mouth was pursing into the cute little pre-snarl. I like the pre-snarl. It’s the point in our conversation when Claud thinks she’s outsmarting me. I hadn’t touched my drink.

“He’s got some ugly Australian girl with him.”

I think she’s talking about Bob Dylan who has entered through a black iron gate and is now riding his horse over a patch of fake-looking Bermuda grass.

“No,” Claud corrected me. “Dylan’s here with his wife. I’m talking about Hopper.”

She bit down on the cigarette and slumped back in her chair, struck a match with her thumb and looked at the flame.

“Dennis and I were wondering…” She lit the cigarette, blew. I still didn’t look at her.

I hate Dennis.

“Why don’t you try to fuck him?”

Fuck Dennis? Then I caught on. Sort of. “What for?”

“What for–? Maggie! Don’t you know who he is–?”

Of course I did. Everybody knew Dennis Hopper from Easy Rider. I dabbed at my drink with my pinkie. I said, “I’ve heard the name.” This got her going. She was breathing hard.

“He’s a filmmaker Maggie!… he makes films, he acts… he writes – he’s an artist! You could learn something from somebody like him… you could challenge yourself, you could–”

“By fucking Dennis Hooper?”

The snarl snuck out. “Hopper!”

A few days later, she said: “You’re weak.”

“Weak,” her Dennis repeated.

“And you choose weak men.” Claudia was referring to the shy lean man with the ponytail I had met the day before. Isadore Lawless, Jr.

God I hated her then.

Maggie Scratch

On the Road with Maggie Scratch at Wingaersheek Beach with Claud and Graham

wingaersheek

“It only took about a month for Bill to give in to the gravitational pull. Graham was working late and I was asleep. He walked into Claudia’s room, sat down on her bed and woke her up. He told her he had been in love with her from the minute he saw her. He admitted that the only reason he was living with me was to be close to her. Claudia pushed him onto the floor, grabbed a shoe and swatted him out of the house. She woke me up and told me to come into the kitchen. She lit a cigarette, blew her nose and told me what happened. Claudia had never liked Bill.

‘Maggie, you picked a real schmuck.’

Schmuck is the perfect word to describe Bill. It’s a nasty word, without lyrics, without taste or grace, it has no music, it’s artless and crude.

‘He was naked,’ she said with disgust.

A box of toothpicks was on the table. I took one, chewed it and spat out a sliver of wood. ‘I knew this would happen.’

Claud had no idea how attractive she was. She had no idea she was wired with jumper cables and charged with gravitational pull. She was rubbing sleep out of her eyes. I loved Claud’s eyes in the morning. They reminded me of a cocker spaniel I once had named Ginger Peachy.

‘What are you talking about, Maggie?’

‘Sooner or later.’

‘Maggie – Bill’s an asshole.’

‘It’s not just him, Claud. I’ve always wondered, whoever it was…’

‘You know something, Maggie? I’m glad Bill’s gone. He’s a creep. And he stinks too, God, I mean, what BO.’

I always suspected Bill had slipped acid into Graham’s Seven-Up at the Halloween party. He was on Valium for two months.

I had a French Theater of the Absurd exam that morning but I didn’t take it. I took a kitchen knife, scratched up the bookshelves and Claud and Graham and I piled into Graham’s Austin Mini Cooper and drove to Cape Ann. Graham took a photo of Claud swimming at Wingaersheek Beach. It won first prize in The Boston Globe. He was wearing his aviator anorak with the hood pulled up. The air was cold, I had gloves on. It was a silver day, the sky was like a sheet of aluminum. It wasn’t just the sky, everything was silver, the water, our hair, the dunes, the tall grass, and the seagulls were silver too. When Claud got out of the water her lips were little butter knives.”

Maggie Scratch

On the Road With Maggie Scratch, Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and Etta Place in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Zur ARTE-Sendung am 26. August 2002 um 20.45 Uhr. Zwei Banditen - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid1: Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman, li.), Etta Place (Katharine Ross, Mi.) und Sundance Kid (Robert Redford, re.) haben sich fein gemacht: Sie wollen ein Geschäft einfädeln.© Taurus-Film, München. Foto: ZDF.

“There are two things Bill Sluggs left me: his gray sleeping bag with the purple patch and a question that haunts me like a freshly removed growth or a holocaust.

“Will it happen again? Is it happening again?”

I was suspicious then and I’m suspicious now. I confuse the present with the past. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between what is really happening and what I imagine is really happening.

Seneca says: “There is a fine line between acute paranoia and acute perception.”

I believe my ability to freeze people out at the drop of a hat was already functioning before I met Bill. When I found out he was in love with Claudia I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t feel hurt. I was relieved. Bill was attracted to Claudia, I wasn’t paranoid, it was just as I thought. Claud’s jumper cables. Bill was putty in her gravitational pull. I was cheated and lied to, but I didn’t feel jealous. I understood. I haven’t seen Claudia for over four years, but in 1969, at Stinson Court, when Claud and Graham and Bill and I would sit around drinking beer and laughing, it was like being in a scene with Etta, Butch and the Sundance Kid!”

Maggie Scratch

Stinson Court

stinson small

On The Road With Maggie Scratch And Old Maria In A Rusty Old Car In Ibiza


Old Maria
“Old Maria is my neighbor. She’s as gnarly as her spreading carob tree that almost reaches my house. She lives in back with her menagerie of cats. When I first saw her, I thought: That’s a witch from a fairytale! I tried to place her. Hansel and Gretel! This wasn’t xenophobia, it was phobia, but it’s gone now. It disappeared the day I drove Old Maria home from Can Pepxica. Her and her layers of petticoat skirts, getting wet through the holes in the floorboard, as our rusty old car bumped over the puddles on the Benimussa road. We had a smooth turn at the hairpin, but when I pulled into the parking spot in front of Izzy’s studio, I remembered: today it was impossible to open the door on the driver’s side! Being stuck like that in the car with Old Maria was probably, in Nanny Scratch’s words, “meant to be.” I turned off the engine and we sat on top of Benimussa and appreciated the view. A bird whistled, “Wheeeet! Wheeeeeeeeeeeet! There’s no time like the present!” We stared at leprechaun hills and the smoky lavender sky with clouds full of coral colored rose petals. Izzy eventually came and let me out, but after that day, Old Maria and I are friends. If we see each other on the dirt path between our houses, we stop and talk about the weather. I’m lucky she’s practically deaf. She doesn’t say much. I answer the best I can. Our conversations would be a perfect example of Unconnected Dialogue, but they’re not unconnected at all. I speak Spanish, which she doesn’t speak, and she speaks Ibicenco, which I don’t speak, but, as if we know exactly what the other is saying, our dialogues connect. Old Maria’s Old Ibicenco sounds like chopped up Spanish, Catalan, French, German and Italian, with a little English and Yiddish thrown in.

Bon dia. That’s her.

Hola! That’s me.

Mirat tempestat?

Si, Si!

Tambe pluja?

Si!

Borrasca ventosa!

Si si!

Mirat las voltes?

Si si!

Molt! Molt! Violent!

Violent! Si!

Ay caray! Caramba! Molt be! Molt be!

Si… Si… caray!

Adeu! Gràcies! Salut!

Salut! Adeu!”

Maggie Scratch

On The Road With Maggie Scratch and the Nude Rocks in Ios, Greece with P.P. Goldfeather and Yasser Arafat

Manganari-Beach-Ios

“In July 1970 I was on the Greek island Ios. I lived on the beach. The Aegean Sea stretched before me like an endless shimmering turquoise carpet. I woke up to this carpet every morning. I had a clean, pre-fab room. I had a toilet, a shower, a bed with sheets and Greek women cooking in the kitchen. Ios was paradise, it was cheap, I could have stayed there forever. Yasser Arafat was the last thing on my mind. When P.P. Goldfeather guessed the leader of the PLO on only his eleventh question in the game of Twenty Questions he was playing with a Peace Corp buddy on the nude rocks, I was impressed. P.P. never lost a game. He narrowed things down. He used logic. He asked the right questions. He got answers. He put the answers together and got to the bottom of things. P.P. is like a skillful fisherman. He chooses the correct bait for a particular time and place and reels in his catch. After the Arafat guess I was interested. This wasn’t a blond surfer, this was a walking encyclopedia. And he was beautiful, tan all over, taut as a bow, and his blond hair wasn’t just blond, it was silver! The problem was, we were always naked and P.P. was very tall. His pubic hair stared me in the face. I didn’t try to speak to him. I read my book and watched.”

Maggie Scratch

On The Road With Maggie Scratch at Tower Mel’s in the Siren Wind


tower mel 2
“Tower Mel is what Izzy would be like if he hadn’t stopped taking drugs. Intelligent, attractive, charming, charismatic, creative, crazy and living too close to Es Vedra. Mel lives in an old watchtower on the edge of the sea above the cliffs of Cala D’Hort. The Ibicencos say the tower has been there for over a thousand years and the mortar holding the stones together is made from a recipe that no longer exists. It’s a round squat tower that was built to protect the island from pirates. Fires were lit on the rooftop to warn the neighboring watchtower of approaching ships. That tower would light a fire and the warning would be relayed around the island until all the watchtowers were lit. Historians think Mel’s roof probably had a cannon at one time. It’s flat and empty now and Mel goes up there to meditate. Mel lives on top of the sea, on top of the world, with the siren winds, a view of Es Vedra and no toilet. He doesn’t have a kitchen. He has a fireplace. Mel can sleep through the siren wind. He’s a veteran at sleeping through the wind. Earplugs. I always find one on the floor. On the way to Tower Mel’s, the wind almost killed me. I hate the siren wind. It’s ominous and full of premonitions. Last night, Izzy was walking right behind me on the cliff. He was calling something to me, I could hear his voice but I couldn’t make out the words. When I turned around, the sirens almost threw me off the cliff. They could have tossed me down onto the rocks and scattered my bones like poker chips. I know better than to turn around in the siren wind and I know better than to turn around on that narrow goat path on the edge of the Cala D’Hort cliff. The path to Tower Mel’s is as narrow as the one that leads down to Pebble Beach. There is only one way to walk these paths. Eyes straight ahead, watch every step, hold your breath, pray.”

Maggie Scratch