Interview with George Garrigues

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Two years ago I moved from the Southern California mountains to the Central California ocean, where I miraculously found a small apartment with a view of the waterfront, so I might spend more time than I should in staring dreamily out a window. Nevertheless, I find online researching and writing so invigorating that I am in front of my computer so much I believe we are growing to be a part of each other.

Sometimes I look away from the screen and stare dreamily out the window at a marina that lies about two hundred yards away or at a breathtaking sunset over the ocean, or, out the side window at the neighbor's house; he is there with his four kids and a wife only on the weekends because they have another completely furnished home in the Central Valley, where he owns a business. Why am I telling you this?
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
You know, I actually read very few ebooks. Like most overly literate people, I adore the printed page — the feel of it beneath my fingers — and the solidity of a beautifully fashioned hard cover, or even a soft cover if it is artfully done. An ebook is just fine for dipping into, and flipping from page to page (if it's nonfiction), but nothing matches pulp and ink for solidity. As for FINDING an ebook, I am like most people, I believe — I jump from screen to screen until I see a cover or a title that attracts me, and then I click.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
It was science-fiction. Like many boys raised in the 1940s, I was enamored of Buck Rogers, an adventurous spaceman from the 25th century. In the fifth grade, we were assigned a project to make a scrapbook incorporating some of the stuff we were learning that year — which was, now that I think of it, quite a solid year of education, with U.S. history, some poetry, singing, the Mexican Hat Dance, Christmas carols (the teacher banging at the piano for those were the days when every teacher, always female, had to be proficient at the keyboard) . . . well, I am digressing.

I wrote a story for my scrapbook about a space ship that went to the moon, and the crew was able to see outside because there were patches of the metallic hull which were rendered transparent by application of something I called "the Thornton ray." I didn't think any glass could stand the rigors of outer space.

I was a dreamy student, so I didn't finish my scrapbook, through sheer laziness, and I was supposedly "held back" and not promoted to the sixth grade, which was not really true because I was assigned to a joint fifth-sixth grade classroom, and we studied sixth-grade stuff, and finally my mother badgered me enough so I got the damn book finished, and I cajoled my older brother to help make a wooden cover for it, decorating its exterior, via our wood-burning set, with the illustration of a comet bounding from outer space. I still have it somewhere, and I might go find it because now I am getting all nostalgic.

I completed the sixth grade and went on to what we called an "intermediate school," where I also dreamed a lot and, like most boys, pulled off some really dumb escapades. I do not envy any person, male or female, who chooses to teach 13- and 14-year-old children.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can't remember the first STORY, but I can remember the first WORD.

My older brother was in first grade, and I was about four or five. He brought home a picture book, and we lay excitedly on the floor, because he was going to teach me how to read. He opened the book, and pointed to a word. "That is 'green,'" he said. That was my first word. It was magical — marks on a piece of paper turning into an actual thing — a thing that represented a color. And we went on from there, learning more words, but I don't remember what they were.
What is your writing process?
I like the researching better than the writing (because the writing is hard). It's easy to find interesting stuff on the internet; I soak it into my febrile brain; I make electronic copies and store it away somewhere, magically, in electronic computer blips that later I can track down and wonder about all over again. Then I try to combine everything, and I try to figure out what happened to this person or that person, and why he or she fired the gun or laced the pie with poison or ceaselessly wrote bad checks all over the country. Often I can't figure it out, and I just have to admit there are some things we simply never can know: I never make stuff up, because I am a journalist and actually taught college students not to get fictional in their writing, so how could I conceivably do it myself? If I want to advance a theory about so-and-so's thoughts or actions, well — I will call it a theory, or intimate to the reader that it is a theory.

That's kind of a process, I guess. Did I answer your question?
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Let's see . . . the Holy Bible, the Kama Sutra, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Catcher in the Rye, the Bhagavad Gita, To Kill a Mockingird . . .
Also, I like long walks along the beach, and I am six feet tall, with blue eyes.

Just kidding.

Except for the blue eyes.

People who list their "favorite books" are snobs.

But, really, my favorite books are the three written by me, in hard covers, lying around the house somewhere.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read the newspaper in the morning. It is very pleasureful to walk out to the front of this small apartment building where I live in sight of the ocean and pick up the paper from the puddle where the delivery man has thrown it, free it from its two plastic wrappings and spread it out on the kitchen table while I have breakfast. I devour the comics page, from top to bottom, left to right, except for that dumb strip at top left, "Rose Is Rose," which I have forced myself to simply ignore.

It has thus been so. I would come home from elementary school at 3 p.m., and about 4, the newspaper boy (they were always boys) would fly by on his bike, and by magic there would be an object of pulp paper and black ink on the front lawn, so I'd pick it up, bring it in, spread it out on the floor, and, recumbent on the floor with my butt in the air, I would read it from back to front, starting with the comics (in the back) and ending with the news (on the front). That's how I found out we won the Battle of Midway.

When I was grown, the morning newspaper would tell me that the Soviets had invaded Hungary and that young white freedom workers had been killed in the American South.

Still later, in New York City, I couldn't get the paper thrown in front of my building, or somebody would steal it, so I would walk to the bodega on the corner and buy the Times, then head back home for breakfast, and the newspaper, but no comics because, well, it was The New York Times.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I would like to be a smart ass an say "my eyes," but I know what you mean.

I will have to admit that my favorite reading device is my new iMac computer. Because I absorb information in bits and pieces, the computer is admirably suited . I can increase the type size (and I have to, these days), scroll rapidly up down, jump to Wikipedia to look up a fact, and generally act like I was living in he 21st century — not the 20th, when the mantra was "I'll be damned if I want to read a newspaper on my television screen!"

(Did I ever tell you about the time in 1982 when I worked for CBS-AT&T in New Jersey on their weird new project called Videotex? It was the first time I ever saw a computer "mouse," a really funy name, I thought. In Videotex, we actually delivered the printed word via the phone system to monitors in people's houses! Shocking! But mostly the videotex receivers sat idle until the kids got home and started playing what few games were included with the experimental service.)

I also own a Kindle on which I do crosswords, read the Washington Post and the New York Times, and generally dabble.
Describe your desk
Oh, what a great question! I love it! I will try.

From left to right, I have a wire basket which is supposed to hold stuff to do pretty soon but not right now. Today, perched on its edge is a clipboard containing a couple of sheets of paper printed out from my i-Calendar, which should be hanging on the wall, so now I will do it.

OK. It's done.

There's a modem which Charter put in to serve my computer and my phone. (I don't have a tV, so they should quit sending me invitations to buy their service for THAT kind of stuff.)

I have a dark blue cup with a silver coat of arms on one side, with the word "Garrigues" at the bottom, and on the other is printed in italic type: "La Garrigues / Languedoc, France / Garrigue / Garrigus / Gargus / Garrick," which I got at a family convention in San Dego about twenty years ago. It's filled with pens and penclls and one of those rubber pointy things to clean between your teeth.

Next to it is a penholder, without the pen, which bears the words "George Garrigues," which was given to me by my students at University of the Pacific when I left them to go to Detroit back in the 1980s.

Flat on the desk is a pica ruler, or a "pica pole," which I bought through Amazon because it reminds me of the days as a staff member of he UCLA Daily Bruin.

Then my mother's old stapler from her secretarial-servce years.

A recipe and instruction card for "Burgers and Red Cabbage Slaw" from Blue Apron because this morning I wrote a critique on their site. Atop it lies a crumpled paper towel.

Not any more. I tossed it in the trash.

One of the two magnifiers on this desk.

A personal greeting card which I found stuck in my front door early this week. She said she was the new girlfriend of a fellow I know here, and they wee worried about me because they hadn't heard from me in a while. Nice, huh? So just two nights ago I went over there for a delicious dinner, which he cooked.

A green folder marked "Pixelmator," whjich I have just put back with the other folders on the opposite side of the desk. There are papers inside it.

"Nutrition Facts" about another Bl;ue Apron meal I made and critiqued, this one for "Chicken Enchiladas."

One of the two small lined notebooks I keep at hand for, well, notes.

Lid to Planters Mixed Nuts. I run through about one of these tins every four or five days.

Left speaker for my computer.

Post-It note with the name and address of a woman who took one of my parakeets, the vicious little guy who had torn another bird's throat and killed it. Remember, birds are related to Tyrannisauruses.

Computer monitor and keyboard, which I had to stick on top of another keyboard in order to get it to the right height.

Loose pens and pencils, which I have just put into the "Garrigues" cup.

Another magnifier. I have three.

Rubber band.

Almost-empty jar of Elmer's rubber cement. It's supposed to be on the other side of the desk, so I am moving it. There.

Very small magnifier in a leather case which I seldom use and should give to a thrift store.

Another lid to another tin of nuts. (Now it's in the trash).

Right speaker for the computer.

A verticall filing rack with a bunch of colored folders and a white looseleaf binder, all full of junk I suppose I will be needing close at hand.

Rubber stamp with my name and address.

Tube of anti-itch cream because, uh, sometimes i have an itch.

Nice decorated hinged wooden box, which I'm sure was a gift, which I will now return to the drawer where it is supposed to be. It filled with postage stamps I use on letters, mostly commemoratives, like a sheet with Wonder Woman on it in various dynamic poses. What a babe!

Now it's in the drawer.

A Post-It that says "Call Dr." on it. I have called that "Dr.," so now i will dump it. There.

Seven of my business cards.

Solid tape dispenser with a roll of Scotch tape therein.

A folder with a lot of cooking recipes in it, many of which I have actually used. Also that's where I keep the DVD-CD reader. To the side is my backup disk, where you will find all my Time Machine files.

A book — "Resisting McCarthyism: To Sign or Not to Sign Californa's Loyalty Oath," in which, to my surprise, I found my name because the author had quoted from my senior thesis about the UCLA Daily Bruin.

A Canon printer.

That's it. Thanks for helping me get my desk cleaned off.
Published 2017-02-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Battered Wife and Her Five Little Kids All Dressed in White
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 28,220. Language: English. Published: November 30, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Family violence, Nonfiction » Relationships and Family » Abuse / domestic partner abuse
A man's body lay on the floor of a stately New Jersey mansion. A shaking woman held a smoking gun. Two little girls crept from their bed and clung to their mother. In fright, she threw down the pistol, sank back, and wept. Six-year-old Marie ran to soak a towel in water from the sink and returned to bathe her mother's face. The servants came. Was it murder or self-defense?