I Am a Rock (for Luis Buñuel, John Zorn, and Alejandro Jodorowsky)

Chastity “Titty” Garfield and Freddy Burtis at a Halloween party. Illustration by Enio Acosta.

When my muse and her boyfriend saw the maroon walls and lively Caribbean theme which my brother had applied to his first bachelor pad, they skedaddled out of the South American setting I had placed them in, years earlier, and emulated it as part of their permanent residence back in the states.

The final drafts of Exit the Sand—the story in which they first appeared—carry the title, but hardly bear any resemblance to the original narrative. Chastity “Titty” Garfield and Freddy Burtis (then named Leyaní Garcia and Alfredo Muni) began avoiding phone calls from the once-leading character and became interested on venturing out only for costume parties and fine dining. For the most part, they stayed home. Freddy would cook, together they’d clean, then both would cuddle in bed and snicker over some pretty bizarre movies—some of my own invention.

The only other character I brought about occasionally was a cousin of Titty’s named Ardie, who was slightly younger than her and whom she treated affectionately, like a kid brother. Not long afterwards, I noticed that the manner in which Ardie felt towards Titty was similar to how I had looked up to my older, first cousin, who had passed away years earlier (Alex had been the Peter Pan of my childhood, and was admired by many for his courage, his sense of humor, and his adventurous spirit).

In 2005, when the opportunity arose to devise a scenario for a possible indie feature, I grabbed scenes and ideas I wanted to see most on screen, and polished them up before even considering what the story was going to be about. But the targeted budget and location restrictions became enormously resourceful towards reacting efficiently, as well as creatively. Greatly inspired by Luis Buñuel at the time, I tried to pace my images as he had done with his French films of the 1960s and 70s. (More on those events can be read about here.)

Nearly six years later, my homage to Buñuel stood to benefit from a new draft. This time, my imagination had a blank check and 100% freedom to explore many ideas I’ve longed to see and feel inspired by in a story.

I Am A Rock is a surreal coming of age comedy dedicated to filmmaker Luis Buñuel, musician and composer John Zorn, and filmmaker and author Alejandro Jodorowsky. What began as a 4,200 word count film treatment grew into a 27,000-plus worded scenario / screenplay hybrid for both film and graphic novel—the latter of which I intend to pursue in the near future. It was, without a shadow of doubt, the most enjoyable writing experience I have ever had. Besides its mostly taking place in South Florida, where Titty flies in to visit Ardie and her aunt (Naomi), the less specifics provided the better; although, you’ll find a little bit more info below.

Luis Buñuel

There has never been quite another film director which has inspired my hobby of writing more than Luis Buñuel. And I believe I can specify the reasons for my strong feelings for his work, especially of his last ten features (from 1961’s Viridiana to 1977’s That Obscure Object of Desire). His use of contradictions and surrealism—which was for some artists a movement “that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind; for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images”—blended with his unmistakable rhythm and sense of humor, continue to push my overactive imagination off the cliff and demands it to fly. (While I revisited many of my favorite Buñuel films over the summer, I would have to say that The Milky Way (1969) was the one which inspired me most.)

Whenever I needed another door to open for me, upon my return visit to the world of I Am a Rock, I turned to the versatile works of John Zorn (Naked City, Masada), who had long ago inspired my transition from poetry to narrative fiction, with Exit the Sand; Elegy had been the primary driving album for that story, along with Vangelis’s El Greco. This time around, Xaphan (Book of Angels: Volume 9), which is performed by Secret Chiefs 3, is largely to thank for guiding me; and Trey Spruance deserves a lot of credit for his arrangements. Four other writing companion Zorn albums worth mentioning were Painkiller: 50th Birthday Celebration (Volume 12), Ipos (Book of Angels: Volume 14), In Search of the Miraculous, and The Satyr’s Play/Cerberus.

As one who agrees that “if art is not a medicine for the society, it’s a poison”, I must say that Alejandro Jodorowsky’s optimism, enthusiasm and creativity has been quite an influence in my life, ever since I heard his DVD commentary tracks for El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973). (Incidentally, it has become nearly impossible for me to revisit either of those two titles without selecting the aforementioned audio, which I find much more rewarding and complimentary to his choice of images.) But it wasn’t his films that inspired my own project; rather, it was his contributions to the comic book medium (with masterpieces such as The IncalThe Metabarons, Madwoman of the Sacred Heart, and Son of the Gun. Watch the restored trailer for the uncompleted animation adaptation of The Incal here.) My own introduction to this body of work began with The Technopriests, which I must confess was swimming around in my mind the entire time while writing.

I Am a Rock’s story has changed a great deal since that 2005 film treatment. The role of Naomi’s boyfriend, whom I had turned to French leading man Alain Delon as a model, has been given a different name and a much more suitable personality. Having been the only actor-model I had used with which to sculpt a character, this time I gathered others from the last decade in which Buñuel worked, in order to invigorate everyone else within my imagination.

The part of Ardie’s mother (Naomi) is dedicated to Romy Schneider. Few actresses have ever moved me so. Delon and Schneider make a handsome pair, and had actually been engaged from 1959 until 1963.

From left to right. Alain Delon (in Un Flic), Romy Schneider (in L’important C’est D’aimer), Michel Piccoli (in La Grande Bouffe).

Reexamining what had to be done with the Delon-inspired character (Caesar), I next turned to Buñuel regulars Michel Piccoli—one of my all-time favorite actors and an enormous inspiration to this story—for Caesar’s business associate (Tony), and Julien Bertheau for the head of Tony’s investment firm (the Cuban Jew, Emmanuel). Also, Macha Méril, who had starred in Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967), became my model for Titty’s mother (Fawn, a.k.a. Bambi).

Last but not least, I came to the conclusion that I had overlooked a curiously unmentioned and absent character. As I wondered what had ever happened to Ardie’s father, the answer came with the face of French New Wave icon Jean Paul Belmondo (as Sylvester).

From left to right. Julien Bertheau (in The Phantom of Liberty), Macha Méril (in Chinese Roulette), and Jean Paul Belmondo (in Le Magnifique).

While the reader is naturally free to imagine whomever they choose to see as the characters in this story, I think there might be some—including the aforementioned actors still with us—who might get an extra kick out of it, the way that I do. Hope you have a good time playing with it in your head. And please excuse the foul language. I can’t always control what you-know-who says.

For the free PDF file of I Am a Rock, you’ll have to enter through Bandit Country by clicking the image below. If Bedoya makes you feel uneasy, you can also read it on my Original Stories page.

I Am a Rock is brought to you by Bandit Country. “Carnes y Disparos Desde 2005.” Home of the world’s best Mexican pizza! Illustration by Enio Acosta.

Several artists directly inspired I Am a Rock, all of whom are listed at the end of the story. I wish to extend my thanks to Kenneth Anger, Ralph Bakshi, the Beastie Boys, the Boredoms, Trevor Brown, Jean-Claude Carrière, Conjunto ImpactoAlex Cox, the Dead MilkmenÁlex de la Iglesia, Divine, Michael Fassbender, Bill FrisellJaime Hernandez, Jonathan Hobin, Ho Chung Tao & Johnny Pate, Masakazu Katsura, Pierre Maguelon, Lyle Mays & Pat Metheny, Jeanne Moreau, MuniArch Oboler, Andrea Spinks, Los Panchos, Mike Patton & Dan the Automator, Silvia Pinal, Dick Rude, Eddie SantiagoMilena Vukotic, and, of course, Paul Simon.

One Year Later (Bonus Material):

  • Unused Art by Enio Acosta – this was the only illustration that didn’t make it into the book, as the scene was removed.
  • My Imaginary Soundtrack – links for every song that appears in the story, accompanied by a brief scene description and the page number.

The Short Fuse Muse

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).

Back in the autumn of ‘04, I was watching All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) when I was suddenly taken by a composition of an entrenched German machine-gunner, firing upon a French infantry charge.

When the movie ended, I took a few screen captures to ponder over. In my mind’s eye, I kept the camera angle, but exchanged the weapon for a wrist-braced slingshot. The new operator pulling back on the bands was a long-absent friend: Chastity “Titty” Garfield, an olive skinned, 20-year old, short-haired tomboy. Distancing away from the image, I saw her crouched on the wooden deck of a tree house overlooking a heavily wooded backyard, aiming at something below. She was wearing a black tank top, cargo shorts and green flip-flops—exactly as how I last saw her.

Titty had been a supporting character (named Leyaní Garcia) in a road fantasy I had been obsessed with from 1996 up until about 2002. Exit the Sand was about two couples that flee a civil war-torn America for a falsely advertised utopia, where they drift apart, grow old, die, and are reunited in a place that isn’t a heaven or a hell, but where something like a deity awakens. I am not a spiritual person, but I’ve always been fascinated by some of the stories one finds in religion and mythology, along with the relationship between the material and its psychological as well as sociological effects.

After many revisions (including a screenplay submitted to the first Project Greenlight contest), Titty and her boyfriend Freddy (who played the part of Alfredo Muni)—both of whom having helped lighten the story up with some humor—had had enough of the scenario. And since the project had ended my four consecutive years of writing nature and fantasy poetry, both she and her beau, along with my hobby, faded away.

Back on the tree house, Freddy was nowhere to be found. But I knew seeing Titty again meant that he couldn’t have been very far. Because for all the fighting they had done in the aforementioned story, it had simply been just an act they had put on for me. Freddy’s by and large a pacifist, and while Titty is attracted to the excitement and glamorization of violence, she doesn’t really enjoy watching people get hurt, except in make-believe.

I immediately felt compelled to find a story for them as the leading characters, but no satisfying adventure or plot came to mind. Instead I jotted down moments of them simply hanging out together.

Freddy resembles a bear in a cartoon sort of way, though not particularly hairy. Half-Cherokee, he’s a big-boned, handsome faced fellow who likes to feign passiveness, which helps to balance Titty’s impulsive behavior. They met in a Chinese bistro, which was where Titty had landed her first job as a server. Freddy had been there a few times before, but this time he was lunching alone.

She had gone over to his table and introduced herself as his waitress, like it was no big thing. He looked up from the menu, briefly smiled, said hello, and kept on browsing.

Freddy: You know, I’m in the mood for something new. What do you like to recommend?

For some reason or other, Titty’s mind went blank. Her face contorted sort of funny-like, as she tried to squeeze out the information while glancing over his menu. He smiled again, thinking she looked cute.

Freddy: I’ll make it easy on ya. Is there, like, a plate you’ve liked so much that you’ve eaten it to the point where you’re sick of it?

Titty (pointing a finger at him): Yeah! Mongolian beef with garlic noodles.

Freddy: You see? Perfect. That sounds good.

Titty: Aw, nah, man. It’s great. It’s just that I’m sick of that s—t.

Titty’s eyes went huge with embarrassment, as she slapped a hand over her mouth. Freddy started chuckling, which got her to smile.

Freddy: Alright, let me get that s—t and a Coke with a shot of Jack. I’ll start dieting again tomorrow.

Laughing to herself, Titty headed off towards the kitchen and bar area while glancing back at him. Unfortunately, not paying attention to oncoming traffic, she crashed into a busboy carrying a tray full of drinks, and fell on her rear end. Luckily, the busboy also survived.

My favorite night out with these two became the seed for what seemed like a chapter in a story. I believe it came from the idea a friend of mine had about vampires, which I did not want to steal, so I decided to instead give Titty a reason to refer to vampires.

Months later, while I was working as a licensed realtor—which I was not cut out for—I met an accomplished Latin music video director, while showing her property. The leading topic of our conversation was cinema and who we regarded as our favorite directors, with a few questions about utilities and amenities here and there. During that time, I was crazy about Luis Buñuel; the reason partly being was that I was eagerly awaiting The Criterion Collection’s release of The Phantom of Liberty (1974), which was causing me to revisit and discover some of his other work. So when I mentioned him and she responded with similar sentiments, I felt we were on the same page. And this made it feel all the more positive when she brought up the notion of considering doing a low-budget film, provided she could find the right material. Of course I let it be known that I enjoyed writing and so she asked if I could generate a film treatment; or a detailed synopsis used to sell a film idea. I immediately told her I had a story in mind. (At least I thought I had a story, by sewing together what I had.)

Pressed for time, and inspired by the chain of events, I took a Buñuelian stylistic approach so as to quicken my decision-making while working with the material at hand. I imagined writing for him something for modern American independent film audiences, which would would utilize some of Buñuel’s recurring obsessions; or, at least those I enjoyed most. In addition to this helping me visualize what I had in my head, I brought in French actor Alain Delon as a model for one of the story’s new characters, as I thought it a shame that the two never got to work together.

In the end, she and I both liked it. But there was no money. It didn’t bum me out though, because I Am a Rock (named after the Paul Simon tune) was fun to write. The story took place in South Florida, with a few sequences in Tennessee and Sherman Oaks, California. It was a surreal coming of age tale with Titty (once again as Leyaní) flying in to visit her cousin, who’s projecting the desire for a father figure onto his mother’s new boyfriend while fancifully imagining the man’s somewhat unknown and mysterious background.

Having just recently read it again with the intentions of presenting it, I realize that some of my favorite bits (those that existed prior to the Buñuel influence) were readapted into the crime novel I was writing before abandoning it for Pick Up the Gun, My Son. (Incidentally, the character of Tracy Little in Pick Up is none other than Titty, but as a more mature adult.)

Since I’m not going to be returning to work on that novel, and being that neither she nor Freddy will be appearing in either of my latest efforts, The Superkiller is being converted into a screenplay to be posted up very soon. It’s definitely the most fun the three of us ever had together.