Tuesday, 14 October 2008

14 October 2008

Newark. In Paris he sat at cafe tables watching the sullen French faces go by. In Athens he looked out of his hotel window at what he called the ugliest people in the world. In Istanbul he threaded his way through crowds of Opium addicts and rug sellers, looking for the facts. In English hotels he read Spengler and the Marquis de Sade. In Chicago he planned to hold up a Turkish bath, hesitated just two minutes too long for a drink, and wound up with two dollars and had to make a run for it. He did all these things merely for the experience. He was a dawdler of the oldfashioned European school somewhat along the lines of Stefan Sweig, the young Thomas Mann, and Ivan Karamazov. Now the final study was the drug habit. He was now in New Orleans slipping along the streets with shady characters and haunting connection bars. There is a strange story about his Harvard days that illustartes something else about him: he had friends for cocktails in his well-appointed rooms one afternoon when suddenly his pet ferret rushed out and bit someone on the ankle; and as everybody hightailed out the door, probably screaming, as he knew many fags in those days, and still does, Bill leaped up and grabbed his shotgun, said "he smells that old rat again" and shot a hole in the wall big enough to shove fifty rats through. On the wall hung a picture of an ugly old Cape Cod house. His friends said "Why do you have that ugly thing hanging there? and Bill said "I like it because it's ugly." All his life was in that line. Once I knocked on his door in the 60th slums in New York and he opened it wearing a derby hat, a vest with nothing else under, and long thin striped sharpster pants; in his hands he had a cookpot, birdseed in the pot, and was trying to mash the seed to roll a cigarette with. He also experimented boiling codeine cough syrup down to a black mash---that didn't work too well. He spent long hours with Shakespeare, the 'Immortal Bard" he called him, on his lap. In New Orleans he had begun to spend long hours with the Mayan Codices on his lap and although he went on talking the book lay open all the time. I was young and I said once "What's going to happen to us when we die?" and he said "When you die you're just dead, that's all." He had a set of chains in his room that he said he used with his psychoanalyst;

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