"We knew that over in Michigan his lifestyle was nigh-identical to ours, just getting fucked up all the time and trying to find the girls who'd fuck us and usually failing. Fuck the establishment, fuck the counterculture, fuck the Beatles after that white atrocity, fuck rock and roll for that matter, everybody being so god-damn protective of it like it was some sickly child of something...and fuck everything. Fuck you. I'm fucked up already."
Having pretended to be, tried to be, and having succeeded at being a writer (of English words, I add to be new world hip) now for many silvery moons, I've come to think of my style as, wow, finally uniquely mine-all-mine. I've never written pretentiously, like the three-name literary dolls write, or even like Truman Capote and that ilk wrote, or certainly not like the "new" Tom Wolfe of the "Kool Aid" zoom to fame writes and anyway that guy's not my old favorite, THE Thomas Wolfe, the great Tom Wolfe from Catawba, North Carolina, country who came to New York City at a swinging time, the roaring twenties, to write and drink and love, a time in America I loved reading about and I read The Web and the Rock and god-damn that book made me want to write tons of books about what I started dreaming about as a kid sitting in front of my grandmother's ancient L.C. Smith typewriter pecking and hunting for words (English words) that expressed who I was, where I was, and what I wanted to be, and where that being wanted to go. Yeah, OK, I wrote to promote myself as a writing wunderkind; I wrote to write about what I saw as I evolved into what I became and am still becoming and in the words I heard and I learned to use, the vernacular of the women who raised me, the idiomatic words of old men who advised me, the connecting connecting words of a babbling, bobbing, bounteous aunt who could talk faster than a hip-hop emcee, the squeezing-carbon-tightly words of jaded and greedy oilmen, the diamond-strategic-and-long-drive words of baseball nuts, the neologistic collaborations my peers came up with nearly every day of our learning and playing together, the biased words of wisdom imparted into my left ear by the barbers who have cut my hair in various degrees of proficiency over the years, the human-simian responses of the many girls I pursued with intentions of seducing them and how utterly and wonderfully human I felt when my seductions worked and I got to explore their lusciously semiotically smooth feminine bodies as well as to aurally record their sighs and whines and squealings and ouches and ahhhs and later all the wondrous questioning and answering reams of thoughts that came gushing from the possessors of those bodies--I mean, I was seeking a way of describing this strange existence into which I had really JUST been dropped like mail coming in through the mail slot in front door--I mean, I even thought about how my conception affected me later, learning how to write the words of conception, and learning how to write about how my mother and father made it together on that particular winter's night I was first created, when I first appeared and became the champion speed-demon spermatozoa of my dad's best fleet of champions and I was the champion sperm that hit my mother's hot egg with my name on it head first head on and I dove into that egg's yelling yoke and then I split off into ME--and, like the curtain going up on a stage play, I shot out of my mother's expanded-beyond-belief vagina and there I was on stage in front of a strange audience--yet I seemed to know how to act, how to get their attention and keep it, how to win them over, how to entertain them--yet the challenge was could I, as a writer, make them think as they read my words and had to go on with their boring lives at the same time. How could I by writing powerful fables lead my fellowman out of the forced and volunteer slavery of everyday life and into the oasis of what this earth is, Paradise, the one and the only Paradise. Super planet. "Eden" right in front of our eyes. Or maybe my writing encouraged them to write their own tales--we need tales; like we need more and more music we also need more and more tales.
That's how much of a writer (of English words) I was early in my life (a little too idealistic for me now)...and then I hit my first submission, a poem, a poem I'd written to my 16-year-old lover back in my hometown while I was an 18-year-old college boy away from home for the first time, a F-ing smart-ass freshman, free as Bird, my favorite musician, and free as the be-bop he invented, and be-bop became my style, my way, even my language, a language of "Slip me fives" and "ooh shooby doobies" and "Hey, mans" and "Cool" and "That's too much, man" and "I dig it" and "that's the most, the most, man" and "fingerpoppin'" and "lollygaggin'" and "julie flippin'" and that was my culture, it was my hideout culture, I hid out with my ears stuffed safely full of cookin' be-bop to keep out the loud, glaring commercial noise; I hid out from the nonsense and the misdirections and the tons of tumbled out bullshit and the denigrating intrusions of popular, commercialized culture as it tried harder and harder to flood over and drown out everything but its own monotony and apathy. And some of us, I call us the Forgotten Generation (the Overlooked Generation), understood be-bop as language and way of life and direction and drive and we understood each other and nodded agreement or said "Yeah, man, yeah" or "Go, man, Go," a jazz term before it became a rock & roll cliche. And be-boppers and re-boppers did understand; and we really did really understand each other and the way the world was turning.
And my first poem was published in the Piggott, Arkansas, weekly newspaper, which came out every Saturday and had a "poetry" page in it edited by this woman who'd been pals with Hemingway's second wife, Pauline, she was Pauline Pfeiffer from Piggott, Arkansas, before she became the second Mrs. Hemingway (she was Hemingway's first wife's friend; he cheated on his first wife with her--now who wouldn't want to be a writer with Hemingway as his hero?), and her father was Gus Pfeiffer, a well-known Piggott, Arkansas, bigshot, and this editrix remembered a time when Hemingway had come to Piggott to shoot doves or quail or some such little innocent bird like a quail with old Gus....
Quails are so tiny each little bony carcass is just a little bigger than a chicken's drumstick, though they can sure be tasty eatin' if you dress 'em out in the fields where you shoot 'em and clean 'em out out there, gut 'em, then meat-cleaver their cleaned bodies smack-dab down their spines to bust 'em open flat with their meaty little breasts spread out like little quail Jesuses hanging on their crosses. Then you salt and pepper 'em good, roll 'em in some yellow cornmeal, and then place them face down in a wide-mouthed iron frying pan already bubbling with an inch full of hot-popping and fat-burning-smoking bacon drippings; and then you fry the little rascals up good and deep over the hot, hot wood fire--OR you can wrap their little whole carcasses in bacon strips, affix them to a spike-tipped knife-hewned tree branches, make spitzes out of them, then salt and pepper the birds good and maybe slice up a red onion and stick the slices on the spitzes between each little bacon-wrapped quail carcass--and then you stick your spitzes straight down straight up into the hot wood-fire coals and you roast 'em over those hot coals until they are nice and sizzling golden crispy brown.
Whoooo boy, I ate 15 little quail one night out in the middle of a field near Jim Ned Creek when I was home for Thanksgiving holidays when I was that freshman in college writing those poems about flying red horses and telephone poles--out in a field whose bottom was Jim Ned Creek with pilot Ernie and his insane father Whoops (they called him "Whoops" because he was always doing something that would inevitably involve his saying "Whoops" at some moment during whatever he was doing, like hammering a nail and hitting his thumb instead--that kind of "Whoops" stuff. Like the weekend we were on Jim Ned Creek quail hunting--old Whoops took his over-and-under shotgun and as his hound shook a covey of quail loose from some brush he let go a blast, which as he fired that barrel, then we all heard the loud "Whoops!" and as Whoops was falling from the "Whoops!" at that same time, the other barrel went off, too, and old Whoops slipped more, his feet slipping out forward from under him, and he fell backwards loopy like, the recoil of the shotgun knocking old Whoops straight back and up into the loop and then slammin' his old ass back flat and down to crack it against the rough clods of the hardened ploughed field in which the farmer who owned it had given us permission to hunt--"You, OK, Whoops?" we all hollered thinking he'd probably broken his back or maybe his neck. "Yeah," Whoops called back, "everything's in good shape, 'cept I shit in my pants and I didn't bring any clean ones with me...." That was why they called him Whoops)--with us, too, were Jerry the Preachin' Fool and my funeral home pal, Little Fridgie.
I cooked dinner that night while the other dudes cleaned their weapons. I wasn't a hunter; I was a drinker, a raconteur, and their field cook, "the girl," as they called me; hell, I didn't own a hunting gun, my parents wouldn't allow guns in our house--but my friends always invited me along because I was, as pilot Ernie put it, "So full of such interesting shit and observations we can't hunt or fish without him." Because around the campfire after dinner, I took over and entertained the tired but pleasured gang--and I could play the harmonica as well and was funny as hell, and surely I was the best damn cook among them.
I could cook because my father taught me how to cook--once he taught me how to cook, I had to get up every morning and cook his breakfast for him, make the coffee for the family; I mean, I got good at breakfasts and later outdoor cooking, too, when the old man had an old oildrum customized into a bar-be-que smoker and brought it home and set it up outside our backdoor on our makeshift patio--just some stones thrown helter-skelter on the lawn. The sides of this oildrum had been cut down and holes were cut in its bottom and four little iron legs were welded on the bottom of the drum. You filled the bottom of the drum with logs or coals and its top was modified into a grill with a little metal tabletop area welded onto one side where you prepared your meat and fixin's and stuff; it even had an ashpan that went under it to collect the ashes as they fell through those bottom holes. Over the top of that big-boy smoker you put a big customized garbage-can lid with a smoke-control vent punched in it. Boy could I cook on that oildrum grill. Porterhouse steaks were my specialty. I learned from a black friend of mine to put bleu cheese on the steaks while they were sizzlin' on the grill--we ate our meats well-done in Texas in those days of mesquite (our native tree) wood being the only wood we had around the area that made for good bar-be-que-ing--my dad didn't like oak; he thought it had too wild a treey taste to it for him. "My mother once cooked meals over buffalo chip fires," he's said many a nostalgic night after I'd cooked him a nice big porterhouse with some grilled spuds and tomatoes. I never questioned that part of my dad's reminiscing, though his mother was an awfully elegant old lady and I couldn't imagine her cooking over a fire made by burning cow patties or buffalo chips, whatever the hell you wanted to call them.
Quail have been a small part of my life. And I got off on quail because the Piggott, Arkansas, newspaper published my poem, "The Flying Red Horse and a Telephone Pole," a poem about a collision; I was into collisions of all sorts as a young fool poet as a freshman at college writing poems mainly to impress my 16-year-old girlfriend back home; you know the big college man, coming home, bringing champagne with him and gifts and poems to please his teen-age, high-school-girl lover. How romantic! The bitch. Now every time I try to use her in an example, I get pissed. I gave her my huge jazz record collection to keep for me while I was in the Army. Then when I got out of the Army, after she'd gotten herself knocked up by a god-damn disc jockey on the smooth-music FM station in my hometown--the bastard, she refused to give my records back to me. God, I hated that curly-haired, horse-faced dumbass, and I was gonna be damned if I was gonna give those records to her for HIS listening pleasure--he was too dumb to understand my records, but she stood firm in her refusal to give them back saying I gave them to her to be hers and no longer mine--"Yeah, when they would be OURS, damn your eyes, and not YOURS and that flapping-ass dickhead disc jockey you let knock you up. He'll never have my records." So I went over to her house one night and just forcefully took my records back.
You see what I mean about living as a writer? Living within your writing; all the characters though some are long since dead become so alive again in your imagination and you start remembering them as real-people images and soon you give them corporeal form in words and start putting those words whole hog into their mouths...still they are fictional characters.
And after a while, I published over 20 poems while I was in college and later while in the Army and 2 poems I published got me a 15-minute time slot on the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee FM station one long summer's night, a super cool college station coming out of the beer and sausage and bowling capital of the world--at least it was in those days, it really was, with Blatz, Schlitz, Miller High Life, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beers, all beers made in Milwaukee, and on that radio slot, I read about 6 poems of mine, one a questionaire about Gertrude Stein--a poem. I never heard the program--I taped my part of it and mailed the tape to them. I know it played; they gave 15 minutes to all poets whose poems they especially liked they'd published in one of their poetry journals, a journal in which I had published the 2 poems, including the Gertrude Stein questionaire--a poem, that got me the radio slot in the first place.
I really didn't want to be a poet. Hell no. My grandmother was a poet and I didn't like poems and I only wrote poems for sex--OH MY GOSH, for sex, yes; and later, decades later, I was talking to a Lesbian friend of mine, an actress who I got really loony for she so intrigued and attracted me and one day I came in quoting something of Charles Bukowski's at her with a gleam in my eye, and she responded lovingly with, "The last time I fucked a MAN he seduced me with Bukowski." I started quoting Bukowski like a motormouth but she sweetly leaned over and kissed me and whispered, "It doesn't work now, Wolfie...like I said, 'the LAST time I fucked a MAN' the very last time...so save your breath." She later married another Lesbian I had the hots for, but that's another tale for me to write about. There's always something to write about; maybe that's why I'm a writer.
I always wanted to be a writer--I guess I didn't think a poet was a writer when I was a kid. Later I gave up writing poetry--my 16-year-old lover married and left me making it with her best friend, a girl who wanted to write children's books, "I really think I'm good, Wolfie," and oh God she was good and when she then told me one night she was knocked up and when she looked at me and started talking about things like "What are WE going to do about it?"--I mean I responded like with a shoulder shrug and then went on with my merry business. Having a kid coming when you're still a soldier and goofy and unsure of where you are going and what you are going to do and all the money you have is your military pay--85 bucks a month--and shit "Why me, Lard?" and this fabulously pretty young girl-child was such a dipstick, I just made out like it would just go away if I kept going on with my merry business in a merry manner. It didn't really matter to me. Remember, you didn't just go down to the Tender Loving Care Clinic and get an abortion in those days--hell no--if my girl was knocked up then, hell, it was my responsibility to stay and make it mine or to run like hell. My friends teased me about it when I conferred with a few of them about it. "You guys ever knocked a chick up?" Hell no they hadn't.
for The Daily Growler