Another snippet from the new opera, The Boats: Something (By the numbers). Vincent Price. The Abominable Dr. Phibes. It’s Mendelssohn. Nothing like the Butthole Surfers. Jealousy. Philip Levine. What Is Work. Spanish Albacore Boats. Waiting in line.
Roger CortonAfter our last chat I didn’t expect to hear from you for quite some time. And so. Here we are.
JC HarrisI did. And so. Here we are.
RCTalking like. We’re in. A very bad. Horror movie.
JCHStarring Vincent Prrrrrrrrice. (evil laugh)
RCI was just thinking the same thing.
JCHI can never get enough of that shit. Not to digress…
JCH…but ya know what really makes me jealous? Is not wealth or fame or some guy with a supermodel or any of that cliché shit. It’s like when I’m on Facebook and I see some guy my age with a selfie of he and his wife outside of a movie house showing like The Theatre Of Blood at midnight. THAT makes me jealous! I mean where are these women? OH SHIT! I’ve gotta do a forward referencing differential calculus tangent!
RCQuit yelling. A what?
JCHThat’s like a tangent derived from a tangent. I promise I’ll get back to whatever the fuck we were going to talk about.
RCEven though we haven’t even talked about it yet.
JCHThat’s what makes it forward referencing. So I almost got fired from my organ gig at church over the holidays.
JCHWell, not permanently. But I was screwing around a lot during services and it finally caught up with me.
RCHow do you mean?
JCHI got in the habit of playing that bit Vincent Price is always playing in The Abominable Doctor Phibes. And a lot of other stuff not exactly out of the book. And someone complained.
RCOops. I guess that means are other Vincent Price fans at your church.
JCHNo man. They ran like a Vincent Price marathon on the freebie cable channel so those tunes were everywhere. That particular tune is actually Mendelssohn. It’s not like I’m throwing in Butthole Surfers or some blasphemous shit.
RCWell, just so long as it’s not any blasphemous shit.
JCHYou know what I mean. The main thing for me is having the facility now to fiddle around like that on the keyboard.
RCOK, so to today’s snippet. What’s the story?
JCHIt’s all the captains waiting their turn to receive their buyout offer on the day of the auction. It’s the classic story of men waiting in line for something handed down by a big agency. It’s like that classic poem by Philip Levine What Work Is we talked about several times with Detroit.
RCWell since you put it that way, it chugs alongs a lot like a factory. My first impression is that it reminds a lot more of Detroit than Boats.
JCHMaybe not literally. But the lyric is that they feel just the same as little cogs on an assembly line. These guys are used to making their own decisions. This is the first time that all of them have been in the same room together, let alone filled out the same forms together or been subject to the same process; the same procedure. And what a procedure! Imagine if the first time you met all your neighbours after living on the same street for forty years it was because you were all being told to move by the government; being given the same exact contract. The only difference would be your identification number at the top and the dollar amount at the bottom.
RCI get you. I think we’ve all seen a movie like that.
JCHOne of my cousin’s friends told me he felt like a can of tuna. Have you ever noticed how each can of tuna has a number embossed on the top?
JCHSo on the big Spanish boats, they are one-stop shops. They literally catch albacore, process it and can it all in one go. Those boats are monsters. They’re what destroyed a lot of the stocks when I was a kid. Anyhoo, after the auction, my friend felt like that; like he’d been processed, with a number embossed on his forehead. So the machine-like quality, hopefully gives listeners the context.
RCAnd isn’t it also how the captains are at least partly willing to go along with that process?
JCHOh totally. That’s the inner conflict they end up deciding to rebel against later on. I think most people who’ve been victimized; Jews, women, etc. will have this anger directed inward at some level. Like, how could I let those bastards do this to me. And the Irish have hundreds of years of sucking that up. For a lot of us, it’s kind of our default setting. So I wanted to show how easy it was to pull off that auction.
RCI hadn’t thought about that.
JCHLook, one indicator of the health of a society is how easy it is for the government to build a road through a town.
RC(laughs) So what you’re saying is that we’re actually a healthy society in America because it takes forever to build an off-ramp?
JCHWell, you can go too far. Maybe we’ve gone too far. But in general you can’t steamroll people here. Not just because of the law, but because Americans are trained to not tolerate unfairness. We don’t just say, “OK. Here, take my boat. Take my life.”
RCAnd Ireland isn’t that way?
JCHWell, it wasn’t that way. It was very ‘schizophrenic’. Just so much anger underneath that you could never let out.
RCAt almost exactly 2:00 it changes direction. What’s that all about?
JCHThat’s one of the Captain’s wives. The whole scene is from these guys’ point of view. They’re just quietly taking it. And here comes one of the wives. Just laying into her husband. I wanted to have this moment not just of “What am I gonna do” but also “What the fuck are we gonna do?”
RCI get it. We had a deal. I put up with all your nonsense and you keep a roof over our heads. My parents had that deal (laughs).
JCHIt was sort of the universal deal. So she vents and they both realize there’s nothing really to do but just go back to waiting in line.
RCSo the thing takes up right where it left off.
JCHIsn’t that how life works? There are a lot of moments where people rise up, get ready to swing boldly into action and THEN!
RCSit right back down and go back to waiting (laughs).