Interview With Doctor Rojas
by Seshu Foster and Arturo Romo
Thank you for participating in this interview. Dr Rojas has instructed me to write these questions down and e-mail them. Please feel free to respond with any questions you might have.
Jose Lopez Feliu
1. Your writing on Los Angeles resembles the floating version of the Los Angeles described in my leaflet "Dia de Los Muertos: Secrets." Do you consider your writing implement a floating eye that complements this floating city?
Certainly, Dr. Rojas. I am not familiar with that particular leaflet, but I admire and respect your important investigations into the nature of Los Angeles, as I understand them. Especially the High Low Radiance Corridor project; I admire your neighborhood posters, pamphlets, brochures, and exhibitions regarding this previously largely unexplained phenomena above the Lincoln Heights area of East Los Angeles. While standing in the hills of East Los Angeles waiting for the water to rise, I've been looking west toward the drop-off of the continental shelf. At the edge of the continent, Western Civilization plays out in this city in perhaps its ultimate forms: Hollywood (vast factories of illusion), endless freeways, shopping malls like immense badlands, endless suburbs with sexual predators and lack of community, car culture and consumerism to the Nth degree. Everything Western Civilization has dreamt up and desired seems to be incarnated in the promise of the Golden State and delivered here in mutant strains, at least for some. This is my home town, last stop before the drop-off.
2. Do you know Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa? What are your feelings concerning his reign over the city?
I met Antonio Villaraigosa once and spoke to him on the phone but lately his office is giving me the cold shoulder. You know, the mayor and I both grew up around the same time in City Terrace, a barrio of bright pastel-colored hills along the San Bernadino 10 freeway. Lately I have been collaborating on producing a website that is a traveler's guide for East Los Angeles, and I wrote to the mayor's office asking for the address of the house he grew up in in City Terrace, but I haven't gotten a response. I realize that in an apocalyptic town like Los Angeles, where people face an array of deadly epidemics, fire storms, police corruption on a mythological scale, gang wars resulting in more than one murder every day, random freeway shootings, the threat of citywide riots, the breakdown of social services because of 25 years of federal neglect of American cities, along with the possibility of major earthquakes that the authorities are in no way prepared for, and the mayor has to deal with all these situations, so he probably figures he has more important business to take care of than seeing to this website (www.elaguide.org). Mayor Villaraigosa is a rising star in the Democratic Party, and for good reason, since he represents both its best traditions and its strongest promise for the future. After the fizzled careers of politicians like Henry Cisneros, the mayor represents the best hope of the Democrats to harness the demographic dynamo of brown energy. Obviously I hope it all goes well.
3. The 14 lane section of the 10 freeway that runs through the City Terrace and Hillside Village sections of LA is said to have strange effects on commuters---melding of the senses, strange visions, unexpected heart attacks---what is your experience with this?
I was growing up in City Terrace when the state exercised eminent domain over the homes of friends of mine in grammar school and they were forced to move so that the freeway could be widened, to---I thought---16 or 17 lanes. Maybe the commuter bus lanes have reduced it again. If freeways are the petroleum-fueled arteries of our civilization, and you stand on the Eastern Avenue overpass at rush-hour overlooking 14 to 17 lanes, all a vast exhaust-spewing parking lot, are these clogged arteries just a poetic metaphor? Or are these REAL METAPHORS for actual threats that kill millions? Now that you mention it, my uncle blacked out for a moment driving on the 10 just before the Eastern Ave. off-ramp and a specialist told him he probably had a heart attack. As Dr. William Carlos Williams stated, "Poetry may not be news, but men die every day for lack of what they'd find there." Family practice physician (and major American poet) his entire professional life, the doctor practiced what he preached.
4. Strong fetishes carry strong metaphysical energy--- the kind that whirls into a furious fluttering cyclone. I carry around in my belt pouch a bronze eyeball. What are your objects of power?
I carry a Swiss Army knife and a flash-drive with my novel Atomik Aztex on it (or whatever other manuscript I'm working on) everywhere I go; a tiny sock monkey clings to my rear-view mirror watching the road disappear behind us; my daughter recently brought me a small vial of souvenir sludge from the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound which I keep looking at. It's on the coffee table. I turn it over and over; the water percolates, the bubble rises to the top, the oil sinks to the bottom extremely slowly.
5. On August 29, 1911, Ishi, last of the Yahi was apprehended by butchers in Oroville, California. On August 29, 1970, Ruben Salazar was murdered by the Los Angeles Sheriffs department. On August 29, ____, ___________ was _____________ by _________________ in _______________.
On August 29, around 11 AM I was standing on the street corner in front of Home Depot a crowd of hundreds of other people. We were demonstrating AGAINST the so-called Minutemen ("Save Our State") anti-immigrant group of about a dozen people who were harassing the day laborers. There was maybe fifteen of them and three hundred of us counter-demonstrators. In the midst of this rabble of anarchists, former Maoists or Trotskyists (I don't know what they call themselves now), MECHA students, aging white community peaceniks, and my neighbor Carlos, I happened to see the reincarnation of Oscar Zeta Acosta. He was standing on the corner in front a phalanx of hundreds of cops who had formed a shield between the anti-Mexican demonstrators and the counter-demonstrators. Zeta Acosta waved a huge Mexican flag, screaming obscenities and abuse at the SOS bigots. He was laughing, having a terrific time.