Bawitdaba Da Bang A Dang Diggy Diggy!

The Reagan legacy at a bar

Photo by Amy TheligHe made a secret agreement with the Ayatollah.

Do you have any idea what that means? While Ted Koppel was going on Nightline every night to somberly update us on the hostage crisis—53 Americans held in Iran? And Jimmy Carter was being painted as a great big puss?—Ronald Reagan sent William Casey to promise arms to Iran . . . if they would keep the hostages until after the election. This was the October Surprise. And if Ann Coulter wants to call the mild whispers of criticism of the War on Terror "treason," then what the hell is this?

Ronald Reagan was not a good man. He was not a beacon of optimism and hope. He was an embarrassment who needed note cards to greet Mikhail Gorbachev; he was a pathological liar, saying he'd liberated the Nazi death camps when in fact he was on Hollywood backlots for the duration of World War II; he thought trees caused pollution; he tripled the national debt; his administration had more than 130 convictions or investigations into bribery and corruption; he broke the law to fund the Nicaraguan contras specifically against Congress' intent, and he did so by running coke and arms; he joked about bombing the USSR on radio (which at least led to a whole lot of Americans getting jiggy for a nuclear freeze); and, perhaps most unforgivably, he declared a war on the poor in place of the war on poverty, launching a public smear campaign as if the poor were shit beneath our shoes. He turned our noblest compassion—made concrete by FDR and the non-fucked-up parts of the Johnson administration—upside-down until we were calling poor women with children lazy and stupid and spitting with anger that they would dare need our help. Welfare queens in Cadillacs. Those sneaky, dirty poor.

Still, I'm feeling kind of bad for Nancy.

Saturday night, we headed to Huntington Beach's The Office for "PSA—Objects/Images/ Actions" by Finishing School. I was expecting white-on-white-on-white with a gouge here or a scratch there—Ed Giardina and company's normal Finish Fetishcrap—and I was looking forward to shouting drunkenly that the art was racist! just to give Ed heartburn.

Instead, only one element of the exhibition pissed me off: Brian Boyer's map depicting surrounding streets in the flat, geometric monochrome of Mondrian or Klee. That, of course, wasn't the problem; the problem was that I confused art and reality, and though Boyer's art was real, it claimed to be facing north when it was oriented due east. Maybe this doesn't stick in your craw like it sticks in mine. So when we tried to head home, it took us 45 minutes of going the wrong way on the 22, and then overshooting the mark consistently in ever-widening concentric circles and being totally discombobulated directionwise, all because Finishing School didn't want to mount the map on the window facing north. Grrrr, Finishing School!

But the rest of the exhibit? A small beauty of anger in two facets—either of which could get me pissed off at Reagan all over again. One room was outfitted with posters and a clothes rack bearing gleaming white Gap shirts. The bouncy Gap-commercial soundtrack—Madonna et al.—played, while each hangtag on the pristine tees bore a statistic about CEO Paul Pressler (formerly of Disney) and his more-than-$90 million pay package or Sofia Sazo, who earned about $3.60 per day in a Guatemalan Gap-contracted maquila where when supervisors didn't understand what workers were saying, she says, "they hit us in the face." Let's hope "they" did so with the invisible hand of the marketplace!

The second room bore a wall of vivid green plastic bottles in varying cleaning-supply shapes, each placed precisely on a shelf and labeled with a text on the environment. Issues range from deforestation to globalization to hazardous waste, with a big concentration on energy consumption and air pollution (which we all know is caused by trees). The audio tour (far too long to listen to at a party) began by instructing you to walk out of the gallery and turn left; it led you eventually some hundreds of yards to a sandwich shop. There, you could get a sandwich! At least, assuming you aren't one of the 20 percent of Californians living below a poverty line defined as making less than $18,000 for a family of four.

After getting lost forever, my friend Suparna the Rocket Scientist and I arrived at some kind of AIA architecture awards. Everyone but the hosts (and Santa Ana arts activist Don Cribb) had already gone home, but the Santa Ana space in the middle of nowhere was so incredibly Brooklyn brick, and even at 10 p.m., there was still food and wine, so we sat and talked at everyone on the patio for a good hour and a half, their hospitable smiles frozen in place except for Cribb, who was animated and talky and very hosty with the hosts' red wine.

Artist Skeith DeWine, a friend and I had gone the night before to O'Hara's on the Orange Circle, a gorgeous, long bar absolutely packed with college punks. But tonight our AIA hosts' daughter was telling us we should have gone right around the corner to Paul's! "It has $2.75 well drinks," she said. That sounded fun!

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