Texas. Fucking Texas. More a nervous state of mind than a Serious place with a usable history. Skippy thinks Texas is like postwar Germany and that it has "ein unbewältigte Vergangenheit" - an "undigested Past." Stolen from Mexico who took it from the Spanish who took it from the Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs, Miztechs, Mayan and the Injuns, all of whom who took it from the birds. Texas is a quarter-million square miles of dust, flies, idiots, and broken roads. It's a Get-Thru State and Skippy was trying.
You can see Lou taking this picture in my handle-bar mirror. It's the end of June and we are heading southeast to the Gulf Coast, down to New Orleans for the Bicentennial Orgy, and then across Florida, thru the Okefenokee, and down to the Keys. Skippy is doing Puja and he needs some Grace. The Voodoo Bitch Queen has been calling to him in his fitfull dreams and she's been warning him that he's not safe and that Dylan is right: "You can die down here, be just another Accident Statistic." He's got the Omens deep in his belly soul and nothing in Texas is going to save him. That's Greg & Julie on the bike in front; they rode with us for a month before they split for Colorado and a new life. Greg and the Wizard had recently finished wiring the College for the Audio-Visual Computer revolution; Julie had been the College President's Secretary. She was Front Desk; a stunning Blonde with creamy tits and a deliciously sardonic mindset. Every night we would keep each other awake in our separate tents while we were fucking and licking and going oh oh oh under the stars of the American Southwest. During the day, on the road, we would fantasize about the nights.
San Antonio. Hot. Drinking our way thru the Maze of the Paseo del Rio, River Walk district. Skippy wears his yellow bandana like a 1st Cavalry Injun Killer. When you are Deep in the Heart of Texas you can viscerally understand insane things like Beauty Pageants and Rodeos. Cowgirls may get the blues but they're huge & have hills like roller coasters and valleys like moist pecan groves. You have to climb Cowgirls like Mountains, digging in, hanging on, pylons in all the crevices and crannies. If Texas did not grow huge females to mount, the Desperados would hack themselves to pieces in a week. Skippy and Lou spent an afternoon at the Alamo where Skippy would approach the tourists and say: "Excuse me, but did you know that Davy Crockett surrendered to the Mezzicans at the Alamo and was executed as a coward by Santa Anna a day later?" Recently declassified diaries of Mezzican Soldiers at the battle all agree that there was no heroic Last Stand like that Idiot Custer - all bunched on a hillock waiting to die. The last group of defenders surrendered - including Crockett - and Santa Anna had them killed. Exactly like he said he would. So much of our History is inefficient. Unusable. Undigested. "Ein unbewältigte Vergangenheit"
Galveston. We spent a couple days chasing Hermit Crabs & walking the long strand with the warm gulf waters lapping at our feet. Skippy was still trying to shake off the Alamo where for $17.76 you could have your name placed in a time capsule and buried in Alamo Plaza to be dug up in 2076. "Assure your place in History!" The sign said. So that's what happened to History in the West: Sold as Indulgences to anyone with the bread. But then that's the way that all Religions work and History in Texas is just that: a Religion. Shrimp boats and Oil rigs on the Gulf horizon. Jellyfish, Nettles, Palm Trees holding together the lagoons. We eat shrimp & gumbo in the Long-Pier Restaurants. We are heading into Louisiana and following Texas 82 & Louisiana 87, the coastal highways which dip and disappear into swamps & bayous. The coast smells like Sulfur and Sea life, Oil and Salt. After a day on the bike you have to scrub it off yourself in the KOA shower. We stop at a Melon stand and are squatting in the shade scarfing melons when this Chicano pulls up on a Gold Wing 1000 exactly like Sol. So we are immediately brothers of a sort. He tells me that he had his first front-wheel flat on the bike the day before and he rode it down with a beating heart. You can just sit on a rear-wheel flat and usually ride it to safety with little problem. But a front-wheel flat takes your steering away quickly and you better not be on a curve when it happens. You can judge riders by how they handle a front-wheel flat at speed. I knocked on the Wood when I told him that on my 3 motorcycles over time I had never had a front-wheel flat. He told me to Via con Dios ese. and I wished him the same.
We were at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square at 6am on July 4th, 1976 after a sick and sleepless night in the Slidell, La. KOA. We were on the way to St. Louis Cemetery #1 where Skippy was going to find the grave of Marie Laveau the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans to offer his Obeisance and garner the Bitch's protection and patronage. So he and Lou were hunkered in a cheap bar on Basin Street drinking Café Royale and eating bad Crêpes soaked in Raisin Rum. The place is Hq. to a couple of Black Pimps who hold court, each on one side of the bar's seating tables. Tall mulatto girls in ruby red high-heels and vanishing miniskirts bring the pimps money from time to time; it's an early morning "putting away the night" scene as the new day dawns around you. The Bicentennial is good for Pussy Bidnez & the Pimps are laughing, and grinning, and in a good mood. Skippy buys a double shot of Bourbon and pours it into an empty bottle of aspirin. You cannot approach the Queen of the Underworld empty handed. One of the pimps tells Skippy that he knows exactly where the Grave Vault is in the sprawling cemetery and that for 12 dollars and fiddy cents - the cost of his breakfast - he will be a personal guide for Skippy and Lou. He says that Pretty White Boys & Girls should not gawk-walk around the Cemetery without heat. He opens a light, silk, suit jacket and shows Skippy a huge Ivory-Handled 45. So on the 200th Anniversary of Amerika's birth, Skippy and Lou and a Nigger-Pimp packing heat are crossing Basin in the early-morning humidity on their way to a Voodoo Queen's Grave where they will pledge what's left of their souls.
Common wisdom says that the New Orleans Cemetery system has got to use the above-ground Vaults because the water-table is so high that when floods and Katrina's come any ground burials will simply percolate to the top and float away down the street. But actually the 3 St. Louis Cemeteries were laid out and constructed by French and Spanish and they simply brought their own burial customs to the New World with them. St. Louis # 1 reminded Skippy of Père Lachaise in Paris. The Pimp, whose name is 'Raymound,' is telling Lou and I that Marie was the most powerful Pimp of her age in New Orleans and ran a spectacular Whorehouse - and while most of that is true, running Pussy was only a sideline to her real Métier which was Intel and a benign form of Blackmail which Marie thought of as Reciprocity. Pimps see what Pimps see so Skippy didn't argue with Raymond. You should never argue with an armed pimp in a graveyard. Marie Laveau was a little bit of every Race in the Americas; she was more than likely an Octoroon with lineage from White, Black, Indian, and Island sources. She was the Melting Pot. The female one which simmers us into Americans.
On a hot, grey, July day we stopped at a reststop in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. There were 4 Seminole Injuns sitting at a picnic table next to their Parkland Truck - they were Swamp Rangers at lunch. Skippy tore his helmet off and as he did he caught sight of Lou who had also just removed her helmet. Her entire face was instantly covered with 10,000 mosquitoes and just about the time that Skippy opened his mouth to warn Lou he saw in her eyes that his face too was covered in mosquitoes. Later, out of the Swamp, we sat in a bar for hours drinking beer while the swelling went down.
The 4 Injuns watched silently as we ran back to the bike and got the hell out of there. They neither smiled nor did they wince in any kind of Mirror-Neuron Sympathy. Skippy will always remember this: the Injuns had no mosquitoes on them at all. After the beers they headed south but soon pulled over to help fight a wildfire in the Cane along the road. A trucker stopped to gawk and Skippy told him to call the fire in on his CB. A half-hour later an Army Staff Car pulls up and a Black Spec/4 with Mirror Shades got out with a 2 Quart Foam Fire Extinguisher. "Be, all that You can be."
The Cane and the Brake were still burning when we left. The smoke drove us away. I get the idea that wildfires are left to their own devices in the Florida wetlands. I stopped at the fire because I saw a Honda 550 and a Yamaha 650 parked alongside the road and 2 bikers beating at flames with their leathers. It was "Larry & Gerry, eh" from Ontario who had stopped to fight the small fire because no one else was stopping. They had just had a run-in with a famous Sheriff from Homestead who loved to hassle bikers - thinking they were all druggies. But "Larry & Jerry, eh" weren't Carrying. So the Sheriff had to let them go.
Skippy was. So he dropped down under 85. In those days a motorcycle often didn't register correctly or clearly or at all on Cop Radar Guns - and all motorcycles look like they're going fast whether they are or not. So you learned to travel well over the limit because mostly the cops didn't chase you. Days later, when we finally made it down to the Keys, we met "Larry & Gerry, eh" at the Key Largo Kamp. The Yamaha was broke-down with a blown piston and either "Larry or Jerry, eh" was pulling the other one with his Honda Supersport. Towing him back to Ontario. 2,500 miles. They said not to worry. Shit like this was always happening to them. We were in Hemingway country and Attitude like this was in the air. Skippy had 3 Degrees in "Quality Litature" and he detested and loved Papa for all the same reasons that his 5 wives had. Papa was like Abe Lincoln, the Author of his own Myth. And that was so American. That was quintessentially American. Writing your own Story and writing yourself in, bigger than life. Bigger than Nature. Bigger than Fate. Bigger than god. Icarus type Myths, most often with the same results. A glorious ascension towards the light and the warmth - and then a dizzyingly spiral plummet to destruction and ruin. The American Dream.
When Papa built his house on Key West he was flush. He had already written everything important, everything which would much later give him the Nobel for Quality Lit. He built the 1st In-ground Swimming Pool in the state of Florida. He cemented a single Penny in the bottom of the pool because he said the fucking thing had cost him his last cent. Papa was alive in Key West. He was young, tough, and vital. He was the type of writer who could imagine Suicide on a typed piece of paper but not yet the kind of writer who can imagine doing it to himself. That came later, with the Cancer, and all the Killing, in Idaho. Later, when he was old, and stooped, and couldn't keep his pants up with his belt with that Gott Mit Uns Nazi buckle which Barber Perfect had switched with the real one he had taken from a captured Nazi - later, when he couldn't get his dick up and couldn't write anything important anymore. Many wives, many brawls, many years later.
That's Skippy sitting on the Porch of Papa's House. In the rear, Hemingway had planted a Banyan Tree and it had swollen to engulf the entire yard and now towered over the house and the lawns. Skippy took a leaf off the Banyan Tree and carefully folded it, placing it into an envelope which he would keep in his Journal. There was another pilgrimage he needed to take, to another American graveside. For Skippy, there is always another Pilgrimage. Skippy had taken a small stone from the Grave Vault of Marie Laveau in St. Louis #1 - that was going with him. And he had once taken a leaf from the gravesite of Pierre Abelard and Heloise in Père Lachaise Cimetière in Paris. He had a piece of the Great Pyramid of Giza. He had a white stone from Auschwitz. He had a large broadleaf from a scion of the Bodhi Tree at Sarnath in India. Skippy has relics and he "Translates" them from place to place, from time to time. Hemingway believed that a man had to write his stories without adjectives and adverbs and any lacy things. He said prose should be clean, quick, and absolutely true - Tolstoi Prose, scratching at god's door. Like one of god's cats come home from its wanderings with a mouse for the master and a story to tell.
In 1976 there were 52 cats in Papa's House on Key West. It was part of his will that his cats and their progeny would always have a place to go. A port in a storm. Hemingway himself, never had such a "Mokum" - such a Haven. His problem was that he kept crashing into the Myth of Hemingway and it was that myth from which he needed Sanctuary. If you write these huge Tolstoi Stories around yourself you may not like - or even recognize - the smaller self which is the keeper of cats and the builder of swimming pools. The CSI flacks in Idaho figured that Papa put a Double-Barreled shotgun in his mouth and managed to fire both barrels - probably with his toes. I guess the last thing Papa ever heard on earth were the 2 metallic clicks as he cocked the hammers. T. S. Eliot said that Cats have the feet of fog and make no other sound when they move.
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