I’m still alive and currently laying my head in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m trying to formulate some clear thoughts out of mixed feelings. That’s the essence of great art, according to Dr. Johnson. Incidentally, it’s also the essence of a long afternoon spent sober and pressed up against the window in a city where you’re a stranger, with a book open but unread and a second cup of peppermint tea steaming on the sill as the washed out trees in the front yard get slowly shook free of their leaves.
I didn’t want you guys to worry, although in the back of my mind I knew you probably would. But you know how it is when I just can’t explain myself. When I can’t deal with picking up the fucking phone, or opening an envelope or turning on the switch that will throw on the light. I felt a binge coming on and I couldn’t stand it. It’s that relentless tug—the invisible current that sucks at my thoughts and turns my thirst into a force like gravity. I needed a change of scene, a change of style. So I took out the old Vans shoebox and felt around for the last of my Grandmother’s bonds. At first I couldn’t find it—my hand flapped around frantically like a fish before I located it stuck against the cardboard wall; I peeled it off and shuddered at the memory of my Grandmother, short and white but with that dark brown hair that might have been a wig, standing in the doorframe of the kitchen in her long since sold house, shouting at me about not sneaking any of her god-damned vanilla bon-bons. Her face was blurry. I started to imagine all the drugs that would fill the shoebox but then I made myself stop. I went online and saw what cheap flights were available, excluding Florida, of course. Northwest had a deal to Minneapolis. I must have scrolled over it ten times before I thought of Will. That’s it, I thought. Perfect.
I could have taken a Greyhound but I wanted to make sure the money would be gone. Solid gone--not sitting in a wad in my pocket like a rainy day ready to happen. I’ve made a real decision: this is my last trip, my last free ride. Everything’s changing after this. I’m going to make my own money again instead of rocking on everyone else’s dime.
I first met Will seven years ago in Ireland, in the village of Kinvara at the head of Kinvara Bay. I was with those two Germans, M. and H. unloading our stockpile of bad E pills across the UK. I remember it was a beautiful day; we started at daybreak in the Mercedes and sped up the coast in time to watch the late morning sun burn the blue mist off the fat green hills. What can I say about those hills? The ocean sparkled and churned beneath them as a green smelling air perspired from out of the soft soil. M. stuck his face out the window and said, “Breathe in deep, this fecundity. It makes you want to shoot a load.”
“Are you creaming in your pants, yet?” H. asked me. His face was glistening like an oil slick.
“Man, you need to lose that English. You’ve watched too many American movies,” I said, dismissing him with a wave of the hand.
“I learned the best English from Pulp Fiction. But I’ll never have that super-cool accent. C’mon, say the part about the Royale with cheese. Like Samuel Jackson.
Bitte, ein bischen
We checked in at a neat white, innocuous looking guest house with a wide gravel driveway called the Villa Maria
, where we did another count and divided our stash. There were the pills that were mostly LSD, the one that were mostly speed and the ones that were mostly straight up bunk. Each of them had a little E thrown in, which somehow made me feel better, as it meant we weren’t total liars. We’d bought them off a Dutch dealer, who couldn’t sell them in the Netherlands, on account of the club testing
. In Belgium and parts of France these mixed pills were sold legitimately at a lower price. Apparently some folks like the half and half. In the UK, however, we were only mentioning the E part and making a nice price—12 quid a pop, to be sold upwards from 25. The plan was to sell them to a select group of dealers in big heaps and jet on back to the continent. Fuck and run. It was strange, up until that point I never had to boogie out of a country. I walked around Ireland with eyes wide open, trying to burn the images into my mind, singing, “We may never pass this way again,” to myself. So far it’s proven to be correct.
Sometime around dusk our connect called and we drove out to meet him by the sea. I remember that he was so impossibly local that my mind was immediately put at ease. Usually I’m wound-up like a clock until everything’s done, but his overalls and homemade scarf made me want to take a nap. He thanked us profusely, even as he handed over a thick wad of bills. I shared the last of my American Camels with M. and the guy while H. went behind some rocks to take a crap and count the money. After we watched the Klein lad (as M. & H. called him) disappear between the barnacle-covered piers, M. had the bright idea to trip and go for a drive by the coast. None of us had taken acid since high school, but among those hills and crystal sky it seemed the perfect way to celebrate.
“Fuck beer! Fuck wine! I never want to drink again,” I remember M. shouting, his face stuck out the window just as it had been in the morning, only the skin was different, it looked pressed down, smoothed of all rough bits, and covered in moving shadows. These patches were the undulating darkness rolling slowly over the hills like glaciers.
I understood the shadows the same way I understood the glistening asphalt, lit-up like a snake’s skin. I was curled up in a ball with understanding—the sea, the earth, the sky—the brightly lit boxes that were corner pubs, the speed bumps that sent the Mercedes briefly into flight…All of it made a deeply resonating, heartbreaking sense. Like the organ in “When A Man Loves A Woman”, or the logic of a finely written eulogy.
H. insisted on playing the Trainspotting soundtrack, over and over. Especially the Blur song, “Sing.” He drove along, banging his palm against the wheel in time to the beat.
“Ja, ja, ja, ja, ja, ja, ja, ja…,” he said, over and over, in response to Damon Albarn’s
fugue of falsetto ‘ahhyahaahhhhahhhhhhs,’. I liked that I could hear his British accent. The cadence built to Hayden like proportions. Meanwhile, I looked through the car window at the nighttime sky far above, and in my drug induced clarity I realized that the stars didn’t care about us. Whereas before, the stars were mythic gods looking down at us in the form of constellations, now they were just something to gaze up at as you were about to hook-up (if the yellow lights and gasses radiating from the surrounding megalopolis allowed you to see them at all). Science and novels and the primacy of the individual had have made the stars dead to us.
Now they mock us as we put on our best science and fly above the clouds, enjoying the subtle tug of the death drive as it sucks at the drink cart from thousands of feet below. As Damon Albarn started again, quietly yet resolutely, to begin the upward climb armed only with his, “ahyahaahhhhahhhhhhhs,” I understood that we would never be free from the Earth.
It’s that feeling just before you hit the ground, when you can see the airplane’s shadow racing beside you, darkening the green-brown hills and rows of houses and reservoirs and parking lots--momentarily wiping out entire neighborhoods. Here I come, the bubonic plague, a freak of nature, speciman of some monster that slouched towards Kitty Hawk, not waiting to be born. Suddenly the plane passes over a highway, close enough for you to be able to pick a car and discern its year and make. At the last second you can see shadows behind the windshield in the shape of human heads.
We came back sometime around ten. Because the pills were only halves, we’d already peaked and were exhausted. H. tore up the driveway and jerked to a stop at the garage door. I got out and dutifully unlocked the little brass lock and swung open the door. Anybody could get in here. “Lust For Life” was playing, “No more beating my brains, with the liquor and drugs…”,I heard H. laughing like a hyena and M. admonishing him in German before the car flew forward into the garage. There seemed to be a lag of several seconds before I heard a crash. The Mercedes red taillights glowed at me from inside the cluttered wooden garage. It wasn’t as loud as it could have been—it must not have been something too big, I immediately rationalized. I fell forward and found myself walking into the garage.
“What the fuck was that?” I whispered to H through the window. He’d been driving with it down with the hope that it would sober up. Instead it had put him in a trance that he’d only come out of now.
“What happened,” he asked, dazedly.
“You fucking hit something,” I said, trying to keep a straight face.
“What? A person!”
“No, something metal-ly. Go look—c’mon, get out of the car,” I said, still whispering like a maniac.
H. stumbled out and looked up front.
“A bicycle,” he said.
“Yes, it’s flattened now. Ruined.”
“A nice one?”
“Yes, a Peugeot, I think. A little bit of money.”
“A little bit of money. Fuck.”
We didn’t know what else to do so we went inside. I tried to be ready in case someone had heard the crash and was waiting at the door to interrogate us. Maybe it would be the grey haired guy with the round belly who let us into the place. He had a firm voice and the stout, thick-necked frame of a one-time streetfighter. Even at his age he could ensure that no shit went down at the house. However, there was something essentially nonchalant about him. That natty striped and stained polo shirt of his and the droopy bifocals were perhaps signs that he was beyond caring, as long as the bill got paid. Either way he wasn’t there when we came in—nor was anyone else. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen other cars or bikes outside except the one we had crashed into.
“I think there’s only one other person here,” I said. M. nodded and pointed down the hall, to the blue-white TV light that flashed across the wall.
“Ok, just keep quiet.”
“The match is on, that’s where everyone is.”
“With any luck they’ll come home lit. We’ll bust out of here in the morning before they realize what you did. Now
I planned on walking through the common room like it was no big deal, non- confrontational until confronted. Maybe the person was asleep on the couch.
The first thing I saw when I came in the room was the finely clipped back of someone’s head. A drugstore blonde, like a colorized Turner flick from the 40s. He was wearing a pair of grey Seinhauser headphones. The football game was on the TV, but he was looking down at his lap, where it appeared he was writing a letter on cream-colored stationary.
The stiff, plaid color around his neck made me think of Huckleberry Finn.
I knew he felt us came in, but he waited until M. and H. passed single file across the room and up the darkened stairway.
He pulled off the headphones.
“Want to watch TV?” he said. By this time I was standing right in front of him, half-blocking the screen.Klaus Kinski
, I thought, and gasped. This was at least a year before I met you, Fitzcarraldo, so you can see how deep and long my obsession has been there. His blue eyes went right through me.
“No, I’m OK,” I answered. I found myself smiling, and it was only half because of the drug. Will looked at me with a mixture of warmth and perplex ion. Something immediate and indescribable had been exchanged between us.
…Have to run…interrupted and posting the day after death of Paul Wellstone
. Populace in shock. More later…on Will…why I’m here…