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The Wild Goose Chronicles

Trent Harris (1998)


It was the week after the L.A. riots. My house had nearly been burned to the ground and my film Rubin and Ed had just been released.
Nobody went.
The city was in a particularly mean mood and a movie about two Republicans trying to bury a dead cat just didn't seem to strike the right chord. (1)

Everyone has heard of Timbuktu but no one is quite sure why. . . . Why is Timbuktu famous? For one reason and one reason only: it's just so damned hard to get to. (10)

My foray into feature films had rendered me penniless; however, my years in Hollywood had left me with one untapped resource. I had in my possession an invitation to the 1985 Sean Penn/Madonna wedding. I also had a thank-you card signed by both. I told her I would sell these items and buy a plane ticket. (11)

One may wonder how the poor son of a tractor dealer from Idaho such as myself ended up at Madonna's wedding. It was 1981 and I was making a student video [Which eventually became The Beaver Trilogy — Doc]. I got Sean Penn's number from a friend, called him up, and offered him the lead. Penn took the part and completely transformed himself into the main character, Larry Huff, a man tormented by his compulsion to dress like Olivia Newton-John. . . . Penn and I hung around a bit, and a couple of years later he invited me to watch him get married.
I think everyone at the wedding, with the possible exception of Sean, knew the marriage was doomed. Most thought the couple would kill each other within a week. Much to Penn's credit, he made it a couple of years before the whole thing melted down. I asked him once what it was like being married to Madonna. He said he wasn't sure because he'd been drunk the entire time. In any case, I always liked Sean and I was grateful to him now for providing me with the means to buy a plane ticket to Timbuktu. (12)

My friend Alex and I were discussing the importance of scary people, individuals who can terrorize the entire United States of America with nothing more than an idea.
For an idea to be truly terrorizing it must be:
1. fundamentally true, and
2. something the average person doesn't want to hear. (18)

I had to admit that Oprah Winfrey had systematically ripped any sense of foolhardiness, anarchy, and danger from our lives. I had to admit that she had answered all questions and that all we were left with was comfort. This thought made me uncomfortable.
It was at that moment that I realized why the wild goose was honking. The wild goose knows that when a man is faced with nothing but comfort, it is only a matter of time before that man goes berserk. The wild goose wasn't an evil spirit at all! The wild goose was my friend! The wild goose was forcing me to go to Timbuktu so that I could terrorize myself back to sanity! The trip was on. (17-18)

Randal gazed through the window at the trees whizzing by. "I know now that time is a funny thing," he said. "I know now that there is more in store for me than I ever imagined." (28)

"I know now that I am a new man," stated Randal.
"I know now that I will travel forever!" (30)

I spotted the Italian girl standing in the market, yelling at her lover. The Italian girl picked up her bag and reboarded the boat. The older woman waited a moment, then picked up her bag and followed. Man, am I glad my life is simple, I thought to myself. (53)

I tried again. "Beer, a big beer, please." Still no one moved. They were all staring at an old television set perched on the bar. I turned and looked and there was President Clinton on the TV. "I did not have improper sexual relations with that girl," he stated. Apparently, Clinton was having problems with his wild goose, too. (55)

Mohammed was a Tuareg in his mid-twenties. He wore the traditional blue turban, an African shirt, and new Levi 501s. He'd never been to school, but he spoke at least three languages. He told me that he was married to his cousin. He said that was common in Timbuktu, and I told him a lot of folks in Utah did the same thing. He then said he would soon take another wife, maybe two. I said a lot of folks in Utah did the same thing. (59)

Itchy was a bad machine, like me and most of the people I like. Being a bad machine simply means you really don't fit in with the crowd you're destined to hang with. (71)

On his third bow to Mecca he spotted something in the distance. "Camels," he said. "Thirty, forty—there." He pointed. I couldn't see a thing. Mohammed showed me how to make my hands into binoculars by forming tiny holes with my fingers and peeking. It worked. I too could see the caravan in the distance. (72-3)

The French really screwed these people big time. In their colonial days they carved up Africa and created countries, paying no attention whatsoever to the traditional empires that had existed for centuries.
So for many years the Tuareg, who are heart-and-soul desert nomads, were governed by suits in Bamako who know little of life in the Sahara. Guess who gets the short end of any stick the government happens to come up with? (75)

Once I was sitting at home, minding my own business, when Warren Beatty called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to dinner . . . so I did. The movie deal he was proposing turned out to be a complete sham. He knew that I was friends with Sean Penn and he knew who Penn was married to. I think I was just a pawn in some perverted scheme Beatty cooked up to get into Madonna's pants. Well, that's what he wanted, and that's what he got, and all I can say is, it serves him right. (79)

The screen was a mud wall painted white. There was no roof so we sat under the stars on a metal bench. As I watched the film, which starred Julie Delphi and Eric Stoltz, I thought to myself, shit, this movie makes even less sense than the ones I make. (82)

The truth was, the more I got to know Clover, the more I liked her. She was intelligent. I admired her independence. I appreciated the fact that she liked prostitutes and was trying to save a forgotten language that no one cared about, and yes, I wanted to tie her to the bed with her panty hose. (90)

My clothes were filthy.
My shoes had holes.
My stomach was in my throat, and I suspected I was coming down with malaria.
In short, I felt and smelt like an elephant had just crapped on my chest.
Yes, I had to admit it. It had been a successful trip. (100)

(See also Trent Harris's Mondo Utah)

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