Saturday, October 27, 2018

Mary Spalding: Intelligence, Far Ahead of Its Time

Mary Spalding 

Intelligence: Inspector Mary Spalding is head of Vancouver’s federal Organized Crime Unit. She’s beautiful, she’s black and she is brilliant. She reminds me of a mama cheetah, living in the open on a small mound with her cubs: vulnerable, sharp, and silently fierce. Mary doesn’t have cubs, but she’s just as protective and nurturing of her country as of any children. I wouldn’t want to be in her sights.

Intelligence is a 2005-2007 Canadian TV series now streaming on Netflix starring Ian Tracey as Jimmy Reardon, weed dealer, shipping magnate, lumber guy, a real Hamlet sort of man, intelligent, deeply introspective, slow to action, fair and calm beyond everyone else’s belief. Mary Spalding, played brilliantly by Klea Scott turns Jimmy from criminal to informant by promising him information in return. Theirs is a tentative and exciting partnership, very sexy without being sexual, very like animals in the wild circling and helping each other. I can’t help thinking of the baseball bat though, every time I hear her name, Spalding: she came to play.

Intelligence was written and created by writer, Chris Haddock, who wrote the show for the actor, Ian Tracey. It works. Tracey is roughly handsome. Wiry. Powerful. Whether you watch him as Reardon calmly negotiate with thugs or drive his daughter to school, somehow his life seems relevant to your own. I Googled Chris Haddock. He looks like Keith Richards’ older and more experienced brother. I mean experienced in the Jimi Hendrix, “Are you experienced?” sort of way. I wanted to bow to him, wailing, “I’m not worthy!”

Intelligence is waaaaaay ahead of its time!

I ventured on to Amazon to see if I could buy it. Suddenly, I realized, hey, it’s not a Netflix original! It’s an old TV show, shit! I better see if I can buy it. Well, hundreds of other people had the same idea and the discs were disappearing out from under my fingertips as I hesitated. I bought both seasons. I got the last Season 2.

One dreams of a Season 3.

But, I digress.

Here’s how Intelligence is ahead of its time: (and thank you, Chris Haddock, I just can’t believe how heavy you are!)

1. Seed patents, which captions seemed to think were “seat patterns.” Oh yes, and don’t “blame it on Canada,” Monsanto was busy, busy, busy turning God’s good seeds into evil, patented GMO Frankenseeds in every agricultural space it could dig its creepy little claws into since the mid-90s and thank you, Chris Haddock for saying so!

2. The North American Alliance: I used to hear about this idea in the early aughts, about the time this show was on Canadian TV. Mary begins to listen in on the meetings of a certain group called the Blackmire Group. (Maybe you've heard of the real life Blackwater, a private military service renamed Xe Services in 2009.) Mary hears the guys from Blackmire talking about The North American Alliance, i.e. the concept of joining Canada, the United States and Mexico into one country. In real life, I heard it would be called Pan America. The Canadians in Intelligence are against the idea. "If we lose the border, we lose Canada," was a quote from a top analyst in the show. Beware of fiction. It can be truer than truth.

3. Water: The next oil. And you can't drink oil. Mary realizes that Blackmire is also talking about how to control Canada's water rights. Ever hear the rumor of President G.H. Bush buying up water resources in Paraguay? Ever hear of Nestlés currently buying up all the good, fresh water in Michigan?

4. Gun Violence: "America is scary with all those guns!" A warning, a foreshadowing of coming events as a violent American crew attempts to infiltrate the Vancouver drug market. There's been only one defensive shooting in the story and it was considered tragic. Jimmy doesn't carry a gun. The feds don't carry guns. Nothing like all the mass shootings and street violence we have in the U.S. I've always heard Canadians were nice.

5. Spying is everywhere rampant. Manipulation by government forces is insidiously operating everywhere, every day; nothing is too small or too big for interference from your own country or another country. We’re just beginning now to overtly see this kind of covert foreign interference in our elections and our media. Mr. Edward Snowden resides in Russia right now because he tried to tell us about how our government was secretly manipulating our personal lives. 

6. Mary’s race is only mentioned twice, both by herself. This is epic. Once, she asks the detective she hired to follow her husband, “Is he fucking a white girl?” and another time when she asks a colleague if they can “shake up the color and age” in the room of analysts. I can’t imagine a show not mentioning race. When we can have a character like Mary who’s simply her fabulous self without going on about race, then we will be truly liberated.

7. Intelligence is real. My late Uncle Tony had nightclubs. Uncle Tony had a scar from ear to ear. Uncle Tony kept a baseball bat hidden under the steering wheel of his Cadillac. I grew up around that world and every time someone goes into the Chickadee (Jimmy’s partner, Ronnie’s strip club) I marvel at how real it looks – filthy, moldy, seedy, dark, tacky, sexy, friendly, comfortable and uncomfortable. I thought of Uncle Tony when someone tried to take a shot at Jimmy and Ronnie in the club and suddenly from out of nowhere, Ronnie wields a baseball bat, bam! down on his head. I love you, Uncle Tony.

8. There are so many times, I’ve been amazed at Intelligence’s, well, intelligence. I love the even handedness of how the characters are fully drawn but because of the deftness of the script, direction and acting, never stumble into stereotypes. I love the portrayal of Jimmy's ex-wife, Francine (Camille Sullivan) who's a wildcat; Bob, (Darcy Laurie) the fixer, who is serene and graceful; Ronnie, (John Cassini) the partner, Italian, loves to be happy, hates to be annoyed with problems; Stella, (Sophie Hough) the daughter, 13 years old and more mature than any of them. But I am never more intrigued than I am when Mary is working.

Back to Mary. One has to nod to the wonderful presence and acting of Klea Scott who makes Mary Spalding possible. Why don't we see this actress more often - wake up casting! 

Spoiler alert – I’ll try to keep it at a minimum. Believe me, you’ll still enjoy every minute!

Mary Spalding is far ahead of her time. 

When we first see Mary she is scurrying to control what seems like an out-of-control personal and professional life. But, that’s just the beauty of it. You get to see how bad it is and you watch in awe as she reins them in – husband, underlings, overlings, senator, cop, hotel manager, prostitutes, informants, bounty hunters, criminals, DEA agents – it’s amazing to witness! Mary has a special talent for appreciating. She can appreciate anyone into submission. I watched in awe as her sworn enemies went from, “That bitch has got to go!” to “Sure, thank you, yes, Ma’am!” I love to hear her agents answer, “Yes, Ma’am.” One of them is a small, brilliant woman with a doctorate on covert seduction techniques, kind of a sexual intelligence; whenever she nods and says, “Yes, Ma’am,” I silently tell myself, “She has a doctorate.”

Wanna hear Mary’s resume? When Jimmy has her investigated in turn by his informant on the police force, René Desjardins, dirty, sloppy, insecure, “I’ll work for center ice tickets” Desjardins, a character I love, we get to hear how Mary has gotten to where she is now.

(Desjardins)  “Inspector Mary Spalding. Graduated from the Academy 13 years ago. Went directly into undercover work where she made some really big biker busts in Montreal. Wiped out the whole chapter. From there she went into a Joint Forces thing into Panama, Caribbean. Going after the big coke cartels. From there she became a handler and then she ran another big international operation in Australia. This girl, she’s been around.” Jimmy asks, “Any other family?” René answers, “Dad’s still alive, ex-Army intelligence, retired, living in Jamaica. Guess it’s in the blood. Brother, two sisters living out east.” (Jimmy) “Where’s she living?” (Desjardins) “Nowhere. She left her old man. No fixed address at the moment.” (Jimmy) “I like her. Don’t trust her, but I like her.”

My favorite thing Mary does is when she makes a ninety-degree turn while running, just like a cheetah in pursuit of her prey. As the situation changes and the ground shifts under her feet, you can observe her thinking, moving her weight from one foot to the other, then, pounce! I like her best when she is narrowing her brow, focusing her eyes in front of a man or a room full of men. 

Believe me, this is not the slick posing you’re used to. Mary doesn’t get up in tight leather pants and stiletto heels, both hands on a gun. It’s all internal – for a while, at least. Her maneuvering is breathtaking. I love her best when she stands up to leave and all the men just look at each other as if to say, “What the hell just happened? Did you see it too?” 

I like Mary best when she is standing ankle deep in her enemies’ blood; she makes a phone call to Reardon, “You can come out now. It’s over.” Or when her colleague makes a definitive announcement about their progress, "He's dead. Mary's alive."

I’m speaking figuratively about the blood, of course. Mary doesn’t carry a gun. She doesn’t need one.

She has intelligence.

©Patricia Goodwin, 2018

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Pretty Door, The Beauty in the Tragedy

Cover of TIME magazine, October 11, 2018

the beauty in the tragedy

In 2006, I published my poetry book, Atlantis, poems about the United States possibly being another Atlantis. One of those poems was The Pretty Door (posted below). I couldn't help thinking of that poem when I saw the latest cover of TIME magazine. The cover is meant, I'm sure, as a tribute to the courage and the veracity of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I saw all that, and I agreed, yes, she is brave and true, but I also saw something else, something dangerous that perpetrates male entitlement - the beauty in the tragedy. Beauty being beautiful women. Beautiful women as victims. It's an age-old theme of literature and art. How many stories and poems and paintings of beautiful women tossed about by love or war or myth, one breast revealed in the turmoil, whilst standing over her are any manner of monsters and gods. This idea goes way beyond the GOP. They wish they could bottle it and sell it like they have the waters of Michigan. My answer to those who think only old, white Republicans do this - Chappaquiddick. The only difference between the privileged white preppies of the Democratic party is that when they are working, and not partying, they are trying to help, not hurt poor people.

Justice Sexualized

The popular feminist answer right now to all of this injustice is to get women in, to vote for women and somehow that's going to stop male entitlement in the courts. It hasn't so far, as long as women keep wanting to please the powers that be - men. Let me quote Gloria Steinem on this idea, I'm paraphrasing - "Let's get a feminist in the White House; it doesn't necessarily have to be a woman." Let's face it, I just watched three girl suits standing by while one of them blabbed about why she was voting to confirm a criminal. There's a special ring in hell for her, along with Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin and all the women who voted for the Cheeto, another accused rapist.

Three Girl Suits

"Let's get a feminist in the White House; it doesn't necessarily have to be a woman."
- Gloria Steinem

The Pretty Door

This only opens the pretty door

hair eyes nose mouth
this time
God didn’t play a joke

or did He?

Pretty opens 
not the talent door
bend over, clean the bathroom, make the coffee, 
here, take out the trash
not the smart door
bend over, clean the bathroom, make the coffee, here, take out the trash

Pretty opens the rich door

“You are the equal of Kings!”

when she passes
for white bread
in a white world

she’s self-educated
that’s the key

when learning to speak
She mimicked her favorite actresses:
Myrna Loy as Nora Charles
Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane
Meryl Streep as anyone

She practiced grammar and
took an etiquette book from the library

in order to pass

for a short while
angels sing

“She shall have Springtime
wherever she goes.”

“...and, as she passed, 
she took the Spring.”

“Wear a veil to hide your looks - and 
keep it down!”

“Women’s faces have too much power!”

Beautiful women are the last minority
no one will care
if they suffer
except that they look so good doing it
and, when they are murdered,
they make sexy victims on the evening news

every one of them
fears being stopped
by a cop 
on a lonely highway
as much as a black man

they are about as safe as a black man

“He told me to step out of the car… 
he threw me against the car
and frisked me.”

“I rested my hand on the seat next to me.
He took it as an invitation.”

“He was waiting for me…”

“you could sometimes see
her twelfth year in her cheeks or her ninth
sparkling from her eyes;
and even her fifth would flit 
over the curves of her mouth
now and then”

Her face only opens the pretty door
since she was twelve, she couldn’t 
walk down the street 
in peace
lying in a pool of blood
she had a restraining order

don’t sit next to a man unless you want it

“They put us in a trailer, it was so hot in there,
I couldn’t breathe.
I pushed my nose into a crack in the side. 
I thought, this is it.”

“She was sleeping soundly
and upon her eyelashes there lingered tears.”

this still happens in Atlantis

©Patricia Goodwin, 2018

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse.