I'm lushing it here; it's 6 am and I'm bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, lonesome, seedy, but contented having just returned from a head-clearing walk down around the river and the baseball field, no it's not a cornfield, though it is Iowa, but hey, this is a river town, with a gambling boat parked at its downtown dock--and Louis Armstrong once worked the gambling boats as they sailed up and down the ole Father of Waters, yep, Native American name, the ole Mississippi--M-I-doubleS-I-doubleS-I-PP-wide--that's the way we kids spelled the river's Native American name ("Hey, Ma, how come we white folks use so many Indian names for things; and why does Uncle Packard claim he's part Fox Indian; he's no more part-Indian than I am." "Please, sonny boy, let your uncle live in his dreamworld if you wanna call it that--it's the real world to him and let's face it, in profile, your uncle does look like an Indian." She had me there), I-PP-wide being the joke that made us guffaw like cockeyed imps as we butterflied around with the joy of having blurted out "I-PP-wide"--oooooooooh, but what young boy didn't love pissing in the outdoors? Not shitting. No. Shitting in the outdoors was too embarrassing--when you shat in the outdoors peepers could see your genitals hanging down balls and all under your bare ass--when you pissed in the outdoors, no problem, you unzipped, pulled it out far enough to not wet yourself and let go--yeah, the right peeper in the right angle or position could possible see your cock--you know checking on whether you had a big one or what not--young boys loved checking each other's cocks out--it's that homosexual space we boys have to grow through--hoping we haven't read Freud by the time we're 7 or 8 and develop a block while horny as the birds and the bees and any cock-a-doodle-do--great news in the animal world: human male animals once they get past puberty and out of the homo zone get to stay horny year-'round--plus we human male animals avoid a rutting season where normal male animals take their sexual frustrations out on each other with sometimes ferocious results--yep, we male human animals do sometimes shoot and kill and maim each other over the privilege of mating with a cute babe with divided attention--so yeah we rut, we get "randy," and I knew a guy named Randy and I know where the Brits get that term--because Randy was always ready, Ready Randy, always randy, Ready Randy Randy--he lived in Paris last time I heard about him--living with a Paris cop on the Champs d'Elysses (or is it the Champs Elysses?) in an apartment left to them by an old Parisian rich woman who died one night and I think Randy and his cop left her there in memorial--naw, I'm bullshitting you--outdoors, too.
I was fortunate, I learned sex from Havelock Ellis. Oh what a joy my best friend back home and I had reading Studies in the Psychology of Sex, volume whichever number we could get our mitts on--until a paperback abridgment of it came out in Mentor Books in the 60s.
Here's a little excerpt from Vol. 1 of the Studies--
"The knowledge came one summer when I was leading a ratherThis is from a chapter on Masturbation. This damsel has written her experience down for the investigating "doctor"--a sex doctor; back in the wonderful old licentious Victorian times; I mean come on, a "Doctor" could talk about sex and get people to talk to them about sex, in their white coats (purity and god-like), "Relax, my dear, and spill the beans--you masturbate all the damn time, right?" "Just like you, doctor, right?" So I learned early through Ellis that when my mother learned me that masturbation would grow hairs in the palm of my wanking hand and eventually make me blind as a bat. I met a guy one time who confessed to me he was a "double stroker"--like hand-over-hand wench operation--you know, when your wenching up a motor out of a car--I suppose it was a last minute feat, right, switiching from one hand to two hands near the culmination, during the coda of a great masturbation symphony--like the Old Man From Kildaire--remember? "The bannister broke so he doubled his stroke/and finished off in mid-air." I can't imagine. I guess a parachutist could tell us about finishing off in mid-air. Then perhaps a person on the ground could say, "God-damn, a pigeon just shit on me!" "That doesn't look like pigeon shit to me," she said brushing off her boyfriend's jacket--"Oh, Jesus," she said, shaking her hand wildly, "that's F-ing sperm!" "You mean a pigeon masturbated on me?"
isolated life, and my mind was far from sex subjects, being deep
in books, Carlyle, Ruskin, Huxley, Darwin, Scott, etc. I noticed
that when I got up in the morning I felt very hot and
uncomfortable. The clitoris and the parts around were swollen and
erect, and often tender and painful. I had no idea what it was,
but found I was unable to pass my water for an hour or two. One
day, when I was straining a little to pass water, the full orgasm
occurred. The next time it happened, I tried to check it by
holding myself firmly, of course, with the opposite result. I do
not know that I found it highly pleasurable, but it was a very
great relief. I allowed myself a good many experiments, to come
to a conclusion in the matter, and I thought about it. I was much
too shy to speak to any one, and thought it was probably a sin. I
tried not to do it, and not to think about it, saying to myself
that surely I was lord of my body. But I found that the matter
was not entirely under my control. However unwilling or passive I
might be, there were times when the involuntary discomfort was
not in my keeping. My touching myself or not did not save me from
it. Because it sometimes gave me pleasure, I thought it might be
a form of self-indulgence, and did not do it until it could
scarcely be helped. Soon the orgasm began to occur fairly
frequently in my sleep, perhaps once or twice a week. I had no
erotic dreams, then or at any other time, but I had nights of
restless sleep, and woke as it occurred, dreaming that it was
happening, as, in fact, it was. At times I hardly awoke, but went
to sleep again in a moment. I continued for two or three years to
be sorely tried by day at frequent intervals. I acquired a
remarkable degree of control, so that, though one touch or
steadily directed thought would have caused the orgasm, I could
keep it off, and go to sleep without 'wrong doing.' Of course,
when I fell asleep, my control ended. All this gave me a good
deal of physical worry, and kept my attention unwillingly fixed
upon the matter. I do not think my body was readily irritable,
but I had unquestionably very strong sexual impulses.
And Louis Armstrong was with Fate Marable on the riverboats, the palace boats, sternwheelers and sidewheelers, all paddlewheelers, from whence Mark Twain got his name--"Depth?" "Mark T'wain." And those boats docked at Davenport and everybody rushed down to the riverbank and checked the boats out, the showboats, the party boats, the freight-haulers, the passenger boats, and the gambling boats with the great Fate Marable New Orleans band with the fabulous Louis Armstrong, that kid genius from New-R'luns, known up and down the river--and when he came several times to Davenport one of Davenport's own, a kid named Bix from a good family that lived in a big fine house up the hill in white Davenport--yep, Davenport weren't no equality city--segregated--but you could get on the boat and could get up close to the black jazz bands and the black girl dancers in the shows--see them shakin' it on down to the raggedy music of the riverboat bands--the Riverboat Shuffle--and young Bix heard Louis Armstrong and was blown away--and he went back home and took his high school band trumpet and started learning how to blow Louis Armstrong riffs, listening to Louis's records then later after he was older and Louis was off the river and safe in Chicago where he became an overnight sensation and Hoagy Carmichael writes about the first time he saw Louis blowing, he and Eddie Condon or Gene Krupa or Bud Freeman or somebody went to this Mafia-goombah nightclub where Louis was featured first with King Oliver's band and Hoagy said he was high on pot and that the first note of Louis's horn that night took him away from the reality of the club and into the new imaginative and ultracreative world of original jazz and Hoagy was blown away--no need for more muggles--he was high on Louis Armstrong--and got higher and higher, Bix drunker and drunker then later when Louis put together his own bands, with his Hot Fives and Hot Sevens and his wife Lil Hardin, the wondergirl pianist from Memphis Minnie's Memphis, Tennessee, on piano, and Lil had gone to Fisk and really knew how to play the piano in a classical white way, but she was also a natural jazz pianist, too, and that's what she got proficient at playing and then she saw Jelly Roll Morton playing after she came to Chicago with Louis and then it hit her what Jelly Roll did on the piano that made him special and she figured it out and became one of the hottest jazz pianists of those early days--and from Lil came Mary Lou Williams and the "Foggie Bottom" way of playing jazz--and Lil died as she lived, playing the piano, playing her set at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago back in the seventies--dyin' with her true love still at the tips of her fingers--Tuts Washington the famous old-timey New R'luns pianist also died playing the piano at the New Orleans Blues and Jazz Festival, one of the early ones--boy howdy, what a way for a pianist to go--Wow--look at all the pain and shit a pianist misses by going ahead and takin' his or her exit from the coil while doing his or her most exciting pleasure ever--outside of the sex you get after you've played your ass off all night--you get sex or you die--playing the blessed piano in your own sweet way.
And I look out the window of my cheap-hotel hotel room one way and I see the river but the other way I see up the hill from the river uptown to where the Beiderbeckes once worked and lived--and where Bix later drank himself to death--jazz got to be too heavy a life for this fragile white boy from Davenport in the corny state of Iowa--ahhhhh, it's time for a swig from my jug of Keokuk corn--yep, the minute I hit town--I come in the shadows as secret as hell, but my Keokuk connection is always there when I check into the Fleabag Arms--"Mr. Wolfie, hey buddy, old pal, I gotta a couple'a new-made jugs for you, man." "Come on up, you distillery-meistergeneral and let's check your latest distillation." "Geez, Wolfie, I like the way you make literature out of a rotgut liquor that'll have you drunk as a god-damn riverbank skunk in an hour or so." "Hey, pal, them riverbank skunks don't have such a bad life--nobody bothers 'em 'cept those who don't know no better." "And we know better don't we?" "Pop the cork on that jug, Froggie." "You bet."
The gambling boat is docked and ready to swing out into mid-river later in the evening. I may go on it tonight--but usually the music on the gambling boat is unimpressive--Mid-American music--ugh. I'd rather stay back at the hotel and read Janie Bowles.
A bird's-eye view of good ole Davenport, Iowa. Right down there to the left just off the bridge is the baseball park and the waterfront walk which I take every morning to clear out the cobwebs left by having drank yourself to sleep in a downtown Davenport fleabag hotel.
for The Daily Growler