My Lunch With L Hat
Late Friday, I got an email from my old pal L Hat. He said he was grabbing a bus at six in the ho-hum (a.m.) in the middle of Massachusetts and setting sail for Manhattan, with several goals in mind--like looking for books he's constantly craving. You can read all about his trip on www.languagehat.com
And we hadn't seen each other in four friggin' years. Time and its swift passage keeps on amazing me. I recall times I've wanted time to pass speedy fast and it turtled on by--on the other hand, I've wanted time to last forever and afore I knew it it was time for her to go home! Like now thinking of this meeting, thinking fastly about how fast it went by, and I'm like trying to write about it as it happened with the phone ringing, L Hat on the other end, "I'm on blah-blah and blah-blah," "You're early!" "Yeah, I'm ahead of schedule...I was just up at the Donnell Library and, damn, guess what?" "There is no Donnell any more!" "Yeah, the building's cleaned out--no sign it was ever a library except the sign over the front" "So come on down and let's have some lunch...come by the den first and let's regroup the troops...." And he came. And he hadn't changed. And I'm thinking, Jesus, I've known this dude for 26 years, and I still feel the same around him I did back then even though I haven't seen him in 4 years and both our lives have gone in such "other" directions since we both were kicked out of the pharma med-editing profession by the same boot toe--"The bitch!"--I'll say it, but L Hat is too much of a charming gentleman to be so foul (Fowler), though he loves those of us who use the language at it's most penetrating, we crudes, vulgarians, which is bullshit, it's not that at all, and L Hat respects this aspect of the English language and all languages--they're all the same; saying the same things; each language full of clever and witty vulgar differences--mocking life--am I mocking life? Maybe. I just threw that idea into the hopper! Am I mocking life? Not defying life like Evel Knievel and those guys, but mocking it, "Yah-yah-yah, you stupid son of a bitch, is this the best you can give me? You promised me paradise and instead you make me a god-damn human animal"--what a burden to put on a beast? A beast of the jungles and trees. A beast who fell to earth from out of the trees. A beast of the forest floor. A beastly creature. A fang-dripping-drooling beast. A growling beast. A howling beast. A speaking beast. And L Hat is a master of how we beasts use language--to curse, to jive, to pontificate, to illuminate, to baffle, to explain, to mesmerize, to finagle, to hoodwink--and L Hat is enjoyable because you can approach him from any number of language and intellectual levels and he's there with you unless he thinks you're nuts, then he clams up and goes back into his own realistic world! And realism is our connection. I'm about as realist as a human character can get; I live the life of a realist. I can get along fine with an asshole like Paul Krasner (Who? Really? Have we forgotten Paul Krasner?). I used to drink and jive and party with the master asshole of rock and roll, Lester Bangs. I've been drunk as a lord on the floor of major cokehead asshole John Belushi's restored bar (his apartment was above it), then kicked awake by asshole Dan Ackroyd. Assholes all. I've been like an asshole rolling huge truck tires down the middle of Hudson Street with freemason glee, speaking of Hudson Street, in the deep hot male-passionate middle of one summer's night with my old pal, my guitar-playing friend, we, the original members of the Mockers of Lower Manhattan--and we mocked our ways all over our domain, like mockingbirds, our songs mocking all songs, our music a mocking music, our act mocking our audience! Arrogant bastards!, our audience would shout with admiration. But then a mocker knows you have to sometimes be an arrogant bastard in this world of arrogant bastards. And L Hat is an arrogant man, arrogant in being protective of his intelligence, and this man is one intelligent human animal. Approachable though, you see, on several levels, like I said.
He enjoys a well-thought-out and rhythmically told piece of mockery or an especially delightfully witty comment. He enjoys a good piece of satire. He enjoys the richly sarcastic. He enjoys especially a well-turned paragraph of great imaginative and sizzling brilliance. He and I heartily agree on finding Nabokov's Lolita one of the best damn books, and certainly one of the funniest, ever penned in whatever language.
L Hat even enjoys reading the Russkies in Russian! He's reading War and Peace in Russian. Tolstoy! Think of that! And we both love Tolstoy--and we both as young men loped along behind Hemingway! And L Hat was also a book collector and mad about books and reading and hearing about books and then having to have them and then finding rarities among the common book stalls and then spending his survival money on a rare dictionary or obscure Russian novel, and I came from a bookish bunch, too, and so did he, smart mother and father, smart brothers, and my brother was smart and once owned a book store and was a book reviewer and then became a book writer and my grandmother babysat my little ass in the Carnegie Library in my hometown where she was the head librarian. And for years I, like L Hat, carted around a 2,000-book library (he more by now surely) from coast to coast, shipping them once by parcel post from New York City to Austin, then carting them all around the USA, shelving them once in a beach house in Boca Raton after having them shipped along with a 62 Renault in a big truck from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and shelved in Boca they got sand in them and salt water from the air and they dampened and began mildewing and I actually had books starting to rot in Boca, as they called it, and I called it "Cula Raton" and loved the beach but hated the people who were all over the beach all the time and me chasing them off my backyard which was the beach, the top of the beach, my backyard spilling off a grassy bluff down a sandy slope right onto the beach--and we packed the books then in huge boxes so heavy I'm sure I got a hernia during that move, renting a U-Haul trailer and filling it with those god-damn books--and books, my friends, are heavy as hell--books combined with LP records (33 1/3 rpm records! Whaaaa? I know; forgotten now), of which I had 2,000 also, sent that trailer down to its rims and when we hooked it up to the Jaguar, that poor old Brit-made son of a bitch almost hit bottom, and as we herky-jerky-pulled out of Boca one fine summer morning and started humping and bumping up the highway, I told my wife, 18 and so sweetly sexy, but I'm getting sentimental and a mocker can't let sentiment send tears to his eyes, so I told my wife, "Honey, I mean this, I'm selling these god-damn books and records--I swear!" "Yeah, sure, you liar. Like the time you threatened me with that book! Remember?" "Whaaaa? I've never threatened you with a book." "Yes, you did, you bastard. Back in your den back there with your precious books and I was pissed at you and came back and railed on your ass about something and you picked up a paperback book, OK, so it was one of those Scribner Library big ones, but anyway a paperback and threaten to sling it at me." "I really wanted to fuck you." "Shut up, you vile bastard...and I said that day you threatened me with that paperback book...'Hey, why don't you throw one of your precious first-edition Hemingways at me, you trick-bagging bastard.'" Wow, my wife sounds like a harridan--she wasn't, "R.I.P., baby, I'll tell the truth," and the truth was she wasn't a bitch at all; she was a darling thing that idolized me until I started failing and then she fell off my horse--you know, her knight in shining armor got caught in a wine cellar with a fair maiden of open bosom and loose morals--but that's a story for another time.
So L Hat met me at the abode and then we scurried down to my favorite Irish pub and my special table (you bet I have a special table at this joint) and we ordered two of the fattiest of the transfatty fattest fat fat-bacon-fat-cheese-hamburgers they could custom make us and out they came and out came the beer and soon we were back like we once were, hell, 20 years ago. I never really socialized with L Hat. But for 12 years I was with him every damn day of my life in a job situation. I ended my editing career working in the same stuffy, fucking, tiny office for two years until I got my walking papers from that last place I've ever worked in my LIFE. You hear me! Then we parted company--he moved first up to Peekskill--then to Pittsfield--P-ing his way across the chessboard of our geographical lives to finally end up in the navel of Massachusetts--with wife, cats, Saturn, books--the house is wallpapered in books, I'm sure--wine, song--the life of a New England squire!
[I interrupt myself--arrogant of me--but I just read thewomantrumpetplayer's comment--a post ago. She's in a low mood. She said she was listening to Chet Baker--with Bill Evans--and I'll be damn--you see, mine and Debbie Harry's parallel line theory's back at work, because one of the CDs I keep sort of in the loop of music that's pouring through the apartment most of the constant time is something Chet Baker recorded for Orrin Keepnews's Riverside label in NYC back in 1959--that's 49 years ago, friends--with a back-up group Orrin put together from his stable of Riverside musicians, Bill Evans, Pepper Adams, Herbie Mann, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones and Connie Kay--a very tasty session with Chet playing standard ballads--Chet was said by the critics to play a lyrical trumpet--and here's old lyrical Chet trumpeting away with casual bounce and gloom-overcoming on tunes like "Alone Together," "It Never Entered My Mind," stuff like that--great sympathetic music for one who is sad and being contemplative--and we don't want people to be sad. Being sad is a form of stress. One must laugh one's way out of sadness. At any given moment of any day just think how many times a day maybe our parallel interests join hands with someone else's parallel interests! That's something to rejoice about--laugh about. OK. I'm getting Freudian here. "Herr Doktor, please, you're passe now--stop pushing me back on that horsehair settee."]
And soon Nacho brought the check (la cuenta)--$44.00 for two hamburgers, three beers and a coffee!--and then L Hat and I were out in the street tipping our hats good-day to one another --L Hat was wearing his authentic Greek fisherman's hat, one of his constant-companion hats--that's why his Website's called language hat--betcha didn't know that--or maybe you did. And off up the street toward where he was meeting his bus back to Massachusetts went my old pal--picking up a bad gyro on the way--serves him right for drooling for what used to be so lamb-fatty-damn good and juicy and stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, white sauce, hot sauce, in a well-grilled pita wrap--the kind that start sloppily falling apart as you bite with big bites into them, with sauce and lamb juice squirting out the sides of your mouth--nope, they don't make 'em like that anymore. That was the Lebonese way of making a gyro in the good ole days when the Lebonese ran all the falafal joints--but now most of them are run by Moroccans, Pakis or Bangledeshis--they're making the street gyros--allah, allah, akbar.
Wow, that was fast, I'm thinking now that a day has past and L Hat's probably already got another post up--and here I sit listening to Chet Baker and listening, too, to the disruptive sounds of a bunch of noise-making dudes on the roof of the building behind my building who are erecting a strange-looking metal platform containing two huge generator-looking machines they lifted up on that roof yesterday (Sunday) with one of those cranes that can sprout up to loom above tall buildings, a superman of a machine--plus it can lift huge big-ton loads on a thin-wire cable up to the moon if need be.
And it is a gentle Monday morning in New York City. Going up to 77 today. Peaceful because the Colombo Day Parade happens today--it's Columbus Day, kiddies--the son of a bitchin' Italian businessman who seduced the Queen of Spain, the Jew-hatin' Isabella--though some people swear Colombo himself was a Jew--and thus Columbus discovered America, which we now know is bullshit, but what the hell, we still have Columbus Day in New York City to celebrate our Italian friends and neighbors--except, I don't think there are any Italians in my building, unless there are Chinese Italians--Korean Italians--Vietnamese Italians--there is a French couple in my building and the older she gets the more attractive she gets--I go a little silly every time I'm on the elevator with her--you see, I love French babes--I don't care if they do have bad body odor.
How vulgar! Just like me.
And L Hat's right, we didn't talk about baseball--not once--you know what we talked about after not seeing each other in 4 years? The fucking economy and how stupid Americans are and how utterly abominably stupid John "Near Death" McCain is and how embarrassingly white HICK Sarah "Paleface" Palin is, Independent Nation pin-up girl and freaky fundie Christian who believes all gays should be horsewhipped before you burn 'em at the stake. That's what we wasted our lunch talking about. That's what everybody's talking about, isn't it?
for The Daily Growler
And Speaking of L Hat, Here's a Relevant Quote From Him From a Good Book:
Byzantine diplomacy was very expensive. Dowries, gifts, subsidies to whole nations, all involved the treasury in enormous sums. Even economic blockades, sometimes effectively employed towards the Saracens, were costly for the Empire also. The Government was moreover perfectly willing to pay its enemies direct not to invade its territory. Lawless princes across the frontier thus became clients, almost wage-earners, much preferring a regular income of Byzantine gold to the uncertain takings of a raid. At times even, if Byzantium was for some reason unwilling to undertake a war, a yearly some of money would go to Baghdad or Preslav. The Calif or the Tsar might call it a tribute, if he chose. To the Emperor it was merely a wise investment; when he was ready to fight the payment would cease. But it all depended on a full treasury. So long as the money was there Byzantine diplomacy flourished. But when Constantinople was no longer the financial centre of
the world then there came the decline.
– Steven Runciman
(Byzantine Civilization, p. 129)