This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/
Part 2 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/
Part 3 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/novels-teaser-part-3/
Part 4 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/
Part 5 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/novels-teaser-part-5/
Part 6 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/novels-teaser-part-6/
SYNOPSIS: The American “Nig” has been writing his South African friend “Kaff” about his experiences upon returning to the United States after a year at a strict boarding school in Scotland. He has expressed dismay because the establishment of a society of “Peace, Love and Understanding” hasn’t gone forward, and despite the efforts of his friends to make life a non-stop party, the revolutionary social reform seems to have suffered a set back. Nig has decided to “get down to work,” and solve all the problems. This new letter describes his first efforts.
(The boys are able to write as fast as they can talk, due to the fact they communicate using a “secret shorthand”. What you read is that shorthand transcribed to ordinary English.)
I start this letter in a sort of panic because the calendar says it is nearly August, and that means Mother and the Fossil will be back soon. As soon as they get back this place will stop being any fun, which is a shame, cos I finally got it running like I want it to. It’s felt like a real home. I suppose it sounds bad to say my home will stop feeling like home when Mother shows up, but that’s just how it is.
She called last week to say I had to let Halsey use the Fossil’s car until his motorcycle got fixed. I don’t know how she knew about Halsey’s bike, but her tone aggravated the hell out of me. After she hung up I was so pissed off I cracked the receiver, slamming the phone down.
It’s not that Halsey might take forever to fix his bike, and I might not ever get the Fossil’s sedan for myself at all before they get back. That doesn’t even bother me, cos when Halsey procrastinates at the piano I can use the car to go to Weston Center and he never even notices.
Instead it was her tone of voice. I think she’s still mad at me for not touring Scotland. Not that she has a clue she’s being vindictive. She’s sure she’s perfectly reasonable, and not emotional at all. But I have fingers and can count, and when her reasons all add up one way I know what she’s feeling, even if she doesn’t. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be pleasant ‘round here, when she gets back, so I’d better get off my ass and work while I can.
I’ve been getting up early every day and working hard on getting my songs typed up neatly so I can get them published. Halsey’s been pottering about and playing the piano a lot, and Millie swings by in the evening, and Hurley’s even come charging through a couple of times. My friends have been dropping in and we’ve had some serious talks about stuff, and also some not-so-serious talks, but the main thing is I get to be the host and for me that means I control the conversations most of the time, which I like. Also Eve‘s back from camp. I managed to get her over here once and we even got around to kissing, but mostly she has no interest in watching me be a host and control conversations. Instead she‘s depressed cos there‘s nothing to do in Weston. That’s weird, cos I have too much to do, and just plain don’t have the time to think about why she has nothing to do when I have too much.
Eve bugs me to go play tennis with her but I don‘t want to have to go all the way to the center just to get beat. Also I managed to get her mad at me cos I told her I was going up to New Hampshire to see my Dad for just an afternoon with Halsey, and would be back to see her by five, but I got stuck helping my stepmother Sally with the haying, and when I got back to the farmhouse Halsey had taken off without me, cos my Dad said he‘d drive me down the next morning. But he didn’t drive straight down and instead drove me all over kingdom come. It was like he wanted to show off that I didn’t think he was evil like Mother does. We headed north into the woods to some half-naked, decrepit old doctor who taught him in Medical School, and then to Cape Anne to see some buddy-pal surgeon his age, and then down to Charlestown to see our old cook Alice, (who was his spy when Mother said he couldn’t see his own kids any more), then in to Boston to see a lawyer and scare a reporter in a bow tie, and finally out to Auburndale to see my grandparents and uncle, before he dropped me off in Weston. I actually started you a letter about that crazy ride, but I lost it under my papers. It‘s around here somewhere, but the point is I managed to be twenty-six hours late to see Eve. I think that‘s a record. I had a lot of explaining to do but was in no mood to explain, cos I just want to focus on my focus, and my focus has been my songs. Anyway if I find that letter I’ll call it “How To Be Twenty-six Hours Late.”
The good thing about that detour was haying with Sally. She’s not much older than Halsey, and a rip-roaring cowgirl. It’s like everyone knows her and everyone likes her. She’s opposite my mother. With mother it is like you have to sit and have sherry in cut crystal glasses before you can even say, “hello.” By that time Sally would have visited three different farmers and swapped cedar posts for hay and a heifer. I’m thinking I’ll head out the back door for New Hampshire as Mother comes in the front.
Of course I also got your note of the 24th. You must be trying to drive me crazy by never telling me what you’re up to, and just asking me for my stupid “Party Woods” book. I know you’re in Rhodesia though. You can’t hide a postmark. How’d you get up there, and what the hell were you doing? Besides blowing all the overtime you made plumbing, I mean.
You don’t know what you’re asking for, when you just ask me for a copy of “Party Woods.” I never should have told you Lilac told me copies are only five cents when you copy over twenty-five pages, cos now you think I can afford it. But the whole stupid book is something like two hundred pages of our shorthand squiggles, and that’s ten bucks when I can hardly eat. To make copies would mean going without cigarettes, cos they’re up to fifty-nine cents a pack, and you’re crazy if you think I’ll go without cigarettes for you, especially when you won’t even write me a long letter.
Also you have no idea what a pain it is to get organized enough to put those pages in the right order and fix up the scribbled-over parts and so on. I did take the damn book out and start trying fix it up, but it got me thinking way too much, and taking speed, and now the pages are strewn all over the place. Not only are people coming and going all the time, but thinking about the past gets me miles and miles away from the present, and I lose track of time, and I can’t do that, cos I needed to take any jobs I could find, mowing lawns and feeding animals, and if I don’t feed the neighbor’s horses on time they start screaming at me from a pasture across the road.
I’d rather write you letters cos I never have to look back or be organized or correct my spelling or anything, but even letters are a pain when I have to start looking for an envelope and stamps and find your lost address. Sending a novel is much harder, but you probably don’t believe me. The best I can do is describing what a royal pain it is just to get my songs in shape to show to a publisher.
Let me try to describe how hard it has been for me to type out the damn things.
I lugged my old portable typewriter out of the attic, and immediately discovered the heat up there had the ribbon bone dry. That looked like it might be the end of my ambition, because I don’t even know where to get a ribbon, or whether I have enough money. Luckily Halsey showed me a trick he learned at college where you can get a dry ribbon wet again.
Then I had to face the fact I can’t spell worth a shit, as you well know. It’s always been bad. I nearly had to stay back in sixth grade, my spelling was so bad, but that teacher drilled the dickens out of me, and I scraped by. But since then my spelling’s gone steadily down hill. I spell worse at eighteen than I did at eleven. No one can explain it, cos they say you’re suppose to get better if you read a lot. You’re suppose to see the word spelled correctly over and over and just recognize how the correct spelling looks, but I seem to be living proof that rule‘s got an exception.
I’d blame pot, but it started before I ever smoked. So I guess I’ll blame my mother. My spelling makes her worry so much you’d think she was having a bad trip on LSD. (I think I told you she couldn’t bring herself to mail my college applications cos of my spelling.)
Her worry got so bad I didn’t dare show her anything I wrote. Why cause suffering? But then I started to notice some pretty famous people couldn’t spell worth shit. Guys like Washington and Jefferson and Hamilton and Adams and Franklin pretty much spelled words any damn way they pleased, because I guess Webster hadn’t even gotten around to inventing the dictionary yet. But my mother said that was no excuse because the dictionary has been invented now, and I said its a damn good thing it wasn’t invented earlier or there wouldn’t have been a revolution and we’d still be an English colony. Mother then said we’d be better off if we were still part of England.
Luckily I had an English teacher I called the Fussybus who wasn’t like my mother. She tried to improve me, but when she saw I’m a hopeless case she gave it up. Instead she told me lots of famous writers also couldn’t spell, and that it aggravated the hell out of their editors. E E Cummings aggravated one editor so much the guy got revenge by publishing something just as Cummings wrote it, but the public called all the screw-ups and misspellings “art”, and thought Cummings was wonderful. And Balzac used to totally wreck even the proof copies of manuscripts with messy scribbles, and his publisher just had to bear it. So I need an editor, I guess, but my mother sure isn’t an editor. She couldn’t last a week.
Mother likes Zane Grey, and one time the Fussybus pointed out Zane Grey’s first manuscript has his wife’s tidy corrections written neatly on all its pages, and you can bet I pointed that out to Mother. But Mother could never be helpful like that. Instead she gets so anxious you can’t help but feel you are a cruel asshole, and causing a poor woman a nervous breakdown. And after years and years of this she doesn’t even have to be around any more. When I try to type a final draft she’s standing like a ghost looking over my shoulder, real critical.
Even if I know how to spell a word I get doubtful. I’ll be about to type a word like “Their,” and suddenly I wonder if it obeys the I-before-E rule, so I type “Thier.” Then I feel it’s wrong, and have to look the dumb word up. It doesn’t matter if I just looked the word up ten minutes ago, I get all doubtful all over again.
Then I usually can’t find the dictionary. It took me two days to figure out what the tenants did with Mother’s huge one, which always stood prominently on a fancy dictionary stand in our dining room, cos Mother always liked to fuss about whether we were using words correctly, during dinner. But I couldn’t locate the bloody thing, so at first I asked Halsey and Millie how to spell words, but you can only ask people about spelling so many times before they start giving you a dirty look, especially if you ask them how to spell “their” three times in three minutes. So I had to stop everything and conduct a hunt. I’d pretty much decided the tenants hocked the dictionary for beer money before I finally found it. I guess the tenants weren’t big on spelling, for I found the dictionary stand in the cellar behind the furnace.
Once I had the dictionary upstairs I had to really grit my teeth. I always get sidetracked, cos I like thinking about the derivation of words and seeing how they evolved over the past couple thousand years, and our huge dictionary is big on that stuff. Or I might see a strange word besides the one I’m looking for, and get sidetracked learning a new word. In fact it seems most anything is more interesting than how a word is actually spelled.
Having a dictionary doesn’t help solve the problem I have with typing. I type with two fingers, and the left one is spastic. Sometimes it hesitates over the keys, and then it shoots out and pecks the wrong key like a berserk chicken. Instead of “Their” I’ve written “Rheir.“ At that point the invisible Mother over my shoulder clutches her heart and keels over.
Luckily Halsey got me a kind of typing paper he uses in college. It has powdery pages that let you erase the ink, but it only works a time or two before the eraser rubs all the powder off. When I misspelled a word three times I’d have to rip out the whole page and start over. It was making me crazy, but then Millie brought me a little bottle with a tiny little brush inside the cap, which lets you paint white over your screw-up. After the paint has dried you can try again. The paint is a whiter white than the paper, so a lot of my stuff winds up looking sort of polka dotted, but at least I eventually get the damn things done.
I don’t know what I’d do without help. I don’t know why my mother can’t help, and only criticizes, but having Halsey and Millie around has been much better. I really do need a secretary and an editor, or at least a girl friend like Zane Grey’s wife, because I really have trouble with the petty stuff. It really doesn’t seem to be what writing is all about.
All my songs are about the light shining down, or else they’re about missing the light shining down. Thinking about the light so long gets me really high. Pretty soon I want to write, and not correct. I start adding a stanza here and changing a line there, or walking about worrying about if a word is the right word. I actually like that part a lot more than typing, but it doesn’t help me get the bloody things typed.
Weirdest is how the light can be in the writing, and then suddenly it’s gone. One moment I think a song is great, and the next it seems awful. I can’t figure out that part at all, but it makes it really hard to correct, when the correction itself is really great one moment and totally sucks the next.
I think maybe the light is never really in the writing. The writing is like a piece of tracing paper. You put it over the beautiful thing, and trace the beautiful thing, and if you’re a good tracer then, when you take it away from the beautiful thing, the tracing might remind people of the beautiful thing. But it can never be the beautiful thing. The beautiful thing is different.
It’s also weird how a person can come along and turn the light right off, just by saying a song sucks. They may just be in a bad mood, and be being an asshole, but a song will go from seeming like the best one you ever wrote to seeming like something you should flush down the toilet.
It makes me really mad when people do that. They are always saying I can’t take criticism, and sometimes they’re right, but sometimes they are just assholes. I can see the light, and I want to share the light, but they just don’t want to be reminded of the light. It just bugs them, for some reason.
Of course I know what bugs my mother. It’s the bad spelling. She gets to the first misspelled word and just keels over and is down for the count. And I’ll bet that, even when the page is all corrected, she’ll be really bugged by all the polka dots of white paint, cos she’ll know that there’s a misspelling under each cover-up. But even if I had someone else retype it all I’m pretty sure my stuff would make her queasy. Sometimes maybe it’s cos I might say stuff that she might take as critical, like that you should be faithful to the man you marry, but other times I haven’t got a clue. It just bugs her.
Eve’s a mystery. Partly my songs bug her because I want her to be different from my mother, and to jump up and down and clap her hands when I sing her a song. Not really, but maybe a part of me does. But she’s not like that, so it makes her real nervous when I sing her a song, cos its like I’ll get all mad if she just stands there and is silent, when that’s just the way she is: She doesn’t clap even if she thinks a song’s a hit. So instead she stands there and looks as nervous as hell.
Also I think my writing has been connected with Durf, so it’s connected, in Eve’s mind, with my burn-out, Hippy friends. To make matters worse, when I get all involved in a song I lose track of time, and suddenly realize I’m late. Just the other day I was going to make another coffee, so I could get my mind to focus on spelling and not on rewriting, and as I was stirring the sugar into the cup I looked at the clock and realized I was suppose to be playing tennis with Eve in ten minutes. So I went flying outside and swore cos Halsey was using the Fossil’s sedan, and then I hopped on this old, rattley bicycle I got when I was thirteen, and took off as fast as I could, which isn’t too fast on that thing. I went wobbling up Weston College Hill, which is pretty steep, and then went screaming down the other side at around fifty, but slowed at the next rise, and by the time I got to the courts behind the Brook School I was drenched in sweat and walked funny with my butt sticking out, cos I hadn’t ridden a bike in over a year and my thighs felt like wood. But Eve got to trash me at tennis, which was the important thing. I hate getting beaten by a girl, and I can tell she sort of likes it when I’m a bad sport, as long as I don’t get too ridiculous.
If that doesn’t show you how hard it is to type out a song, maybe this will:
Another time I totally forgot I was suppose to be playing tennis. I can’t even use the excuse that it is hard to type out a song, cos I wasn’t looking up spelling words, and I can’t say that I was writing a whole new verse, cos I had gotten totally distracted and was writing a whole new song.
I did move the huge dictionary on its silly stand out onto the patio, but mostly I was chain-smoking and guzzling coffee and eating erasers rather than healthy food; in other words, having a blast and enjoying myself, sitting and pecking away at the typewriter, basking in the warm sun, wearing nothing but my shorts. Then I look up, and Eve is just standing there, looking at me.
I guess she got fed up with waiting. I don’t know why she didn’t call, maybe she thought that if she had Iz drive her over she’d catch me smoking dope with Durf; I don’t know. I only know I’m more than an hour late, and there she is.
Did I catch hell? No. Instead she has a smile, and her head is tilted just a bit to the side, and her eyes have a real soft and friendly look, and she says, “I wish you could always be like you are right now.”
I’m surprised my chair didn’t tip over backwards with a crash, I was so flabbergasted. Usually writing songs just gets me in trouble. I’m not sure why she felt the way she did. Maybe I was looking at the light and it was reflecting off my face. Anyway, I had the urge to rush over and give her a big kiss, and I did the rush-over part, but she held out her palms and nudged her eyes sideways, and I followed her eyes and saw Iz was watching, looking pretty embarrassed, so instead we went and played tennis.
But that was the exception to the rule. Usually trying to write a song earns me nothing but crap, and some go out of the their way to tell me they don’t want to be reminded of the light in any way, shape or form. It just bugs them, for some reason.
My brother Hurley is like that a lot. When he comes charging into a room my hand slides over to cover what I’m writing. I don’t want his opinion, but I know I’m probably going to get it.
In 1969 there was a lot of really hopeful music, and one of those old songs was playing on the radio the other day, as Hurley came zooming through the house as I typed. The song sings, “Everything is beautiful, in its own way.” Hurley came to a screeching halt, and listened, and his face slowly changed to a look of complete disgust. Then he looked at me and shook his head slowly, in a really pitying way, like I was a moron to listen to such stuff. Then he zoomed off. He hadn’t said a word, but he sort of wrecked that song.
Durf’s been by a lot, in the same sort of mood. He’s broke and has no pot, and I think he’s addicted to the stuff, though they say pot isn’t addictive. He can’t get high without it, and is in a real bad mood, and when he’s in a bad mood it annoys him to hear my good mood.
Durf wanted to borrow $225.00 so he could buy a pound of pot. He said he’d sell 16 ounces for $25.00 each, keep an ounce for himself, and give me an ounce as interest for the loan. That way he could make $400.00, pay back the $225.00, pay $150.00 for his share of his big-city rent, and have $25.00 left over for food. I told him I was broke and couldn’t loan him a dollar, let alone $225.00, and he left. But he kept coming back. I think he didn’t want to show up at his apartment without his rent, and was hiding out at his parent’s here in Weston. So I had to put up with his bad mood every day.
We argued a lot, which bugged me. We argued non-stop as kids, but in 1969 it stopped and we agreed about everything. Now we’re back to arguing about dumb stuff again, like we’re back in grade school.
When he first came by and tried to borrow money I pointed out a pound of pot should only have 16 ounces, but if he gave me a free one and kept one for himself and sold 16, he was breaking a pound down to 18 ounces. He said that was just the way it was done. I said I used to break my pounds down to 15 ounces to make sure everyone got a good deal, and sold them for only $20.00. He said I was too generous, and you had to be greedy. I said the light wasn’t greedy; it was generous. He said the light didn’t pay the rent. I said he ought just get a job rather than being greedy and blaming the light, and he said he didn’t see me working any damn job. I said I was working hard to sell my songs, and he got all scornful and said I just want to be a rock star, which everyone wants to be because no one wants to work. I said writing was too work. He just said Bah Humbug it isn’t.
Durf’s not exactly encouraging. It got to be a sort of battle, with him around so much, and I decided I had to blast him out of his mood. I’d be damned if I’d stand by and let him turn me into a sourpuss. In the end I think I won, which made me pretty happy.
Talking people out of bad moods has gotten to be a sort of secondary job I’m doing. I don’t know what the hell happened to everyone when I was in Scotland, but its like everyone needs a pep talk. Come to think of it, that’s what my songs are too: Pep talks.
I had good pep talks with the Lesaumille brothers, but that’ll have to wait. Halsey’s taking the car in an hour, and I need to zip to town for some stuff before he goes.
I lost this letter so I started another about giving Durf and the Lesaumille brothers and the Lodge brothers pep talks, when I should be fixing my spelling and finishing up my songs. If I find it and finish it I’ll call it “Pep Talks In The Party Woods.” But I lost it and found this one. This house is really turning into a mess.
I’ll have to clean up before my mother walks in August 4 but first I have this urge to describe the sort of sidetrack I get onto, when I should be disciplined and forcing myself to just correct spelling and type. This actually happened just after I mailed my last letter, so I guess it was around a week ago.
I was going through my songs, trying to decide which were good and which to forget, when I came across one called “Wind’s Song.” I never thought much of it, but after Millie got thrown out, the Fossil’s house had a spare bedroom, and after Halsey got out of the Army and spent some time at a commune, he went back to Harvard, (he’d gotten drafted when he dropped out,) and while at Harvard he brought home all sorts of interesting Harvard geniuses who needed a place to stay, and they stayed in Millie’s bedroom. Just before we left for Scotland Audley Bine came and stayed in Millie’s bedroom for around a month. Of course I’m always singing, and he overheard me singing my songs, and he wanted to read the lyrics, and that’s how I got his opinion of “Wind’s Song.”
Audley Bine was the complete opposite of my brother Hurley. Where Hurley is towering, strong, naturally athletic, and quick to tell a teacher or policeman they are full of shit, Audley is this prissy little pear-shaped fellow who constantly smiles with eyebrows up and nods like crazy at teachers and policemen. Where Hurley lifted gigantic barbells to get even more absurdly strong, Audley did all these silly, arm-swinging, trotting-in-place exercises every morning just to stay pear-shaped. Where Hurley said all sorts of rude things and leered at women, and girls swooned, Audley was disgustingly polite, and girls shuddered. So of course Audley and Hurley became great friends. I reckon opposites attract.
I had no use for either of them last summer, because I was worried about how strung out I was and how much weight I’d lost. I had taken about six trips on stuff called “black dot” which was suppose to be peyote, because it made you throw up. Actually I think it was rat-poison, mixed with speed. (Ot really did make everything look odd, right after you threw up, which is why I threw up six times.)
In the end, besides the strychnine making me sick to my stomach, it made me sick of everyone and everything, and I took off hitchhiking and wound up in Montreal, and then down by Lake Ontario. By the time I finally got back to Weston all I wanted to do is go straight, and lift barbells or do silly trotting exercises, but for some reason both Hurley and Audley were not into that, just then. Instead they were into telling me not to be so square and so un-hip, and laughed at the idea of me going straight, and blew smoke in my face when I tried. They said I’d never make a good jock, and that my problem was that I was too up tight, and ought to just get high and mellow out.
Hurley I could handle, cos I’d a history of fighting Big Brother. But Audley was harder to handle.
For example, I’d written a three-line-poem while blitzed. As usual, it didn’t seem so great after I came down. But when I was high it seemed all oriental, like Haiku, and wicked profound, especially cos I capitalized the word “blue.” It went:
In Blue sky
Makes me sigh.
Pretty lame, I know, and Hurley made me know exactly how lame it was, when he saw it on a bit of paper I was fool enough to leave sitting out where he could see it.
That’s what I mean about writing not really holding the beauty. When you are high and not just stoned, you see how beautiful the blue sky is. So you write down, “the sky is Blue, Blue, Blue,” and think you are better than Shakespeare. When you come down you read, “the sky is Blue, Blue, Blue,” and know you aren’t Shakespeare.
So I’m heading towards the rubbish tip with the dumb poem, but just then Audley comes wandering out of Millie’s bedroom, blasted out of his brain on hashish, and also sort of cross-eyed because he’s been doing some sort of yoga that he claims pushes stuff called Kundalini up his spine. He sees the page, and says, “You write poetry?” Before I can answer, he adds, “Will you read it to me?” When I say, “No,” he says, “Puh-leeze?” When I say, “It’s lame and belongs in the garbage can,” (which is American for “rubbish tip,”) he says, “I’ll be the judge of that.”
So I sigh deeply, and condescend to reading the first line in a deadpan voice, “Butterfly.” Audley clutches his heart and says, “Ah!” I read the second line, “In Blue sky.” Audley staggers slightly and exclaims, “Oh!” Then I read the last line, “Makes me sigh,” and he bursts out with, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” And wrings my hand and says, “Thank you for reading that! I think you saved my life!” Then he walks off dabbing his eyes. I’m left standing there sort of stunned. Then I look down at the lame poem and think, “Maybe it isn’t so bad.” And I actually didn’t throw the stupid thing in the trash. I found it, while going through my papers up in the attic, just the other day.
That’s what I mean about Hurley and Audley being complete opposites. It was hard to know what writing was good and what was bad, with those two around.
I preferred Audley, though he was a nuisance and I was worried he might be a poof. He was bloody flattering, the way he swooned over my songs. I might think I was home alone, and be howling away like a banshee in the shower, and when I got out and headed to my bedroom in a towel Audley would pop out of Millie’s room and wring my hand and thank me for singing and walk off dabbing his eyes. Hurley sure never did that. My songs always seemed to give Hurley migraines.
Anyway, Audley is the reason I didn’t go straight. He said I should stay away from street acid and speed and other pills, and only smoke the wholesome weed and hashish he was selling. Also I should sit cross-legged and say “Aum” and make Kundalini go up my spine. I tried, but my knees hurt, and I don’t think my spine has any Kundalini in it. However the hashish I did like, and I liked Audley’s coral inlaid water-pipe made of silver, which some Harvard friend got him in some remote part of Kashmir. But most of all I liked his flattery.
Even my best English Teachers, Fussybus here in Weston and the Goat at Dunrobin, who got paid to read my papers, never asked to see any stuff they didn’t assign. When I brought them extra-credit stuff they sometimes looked a bit tired, and lots of other people looked for the exit, when I’d say I’d written a new song. (That was what made being asked to sing at White’s Pond last week, and getting applauded, so special to me.) But Audley was something else. He couldn’t get enough of my writing. He wanted to see every little scrap of paper I ever inked, and then went “Oh” and “Ah” when I read it. It was like non-stop applause.
Audley is now long gone. I heard he tried to start a commune last winter, but people were like me, and liked his hashish but not the part where they had to sit cross-legged and go “Aum”. Also he said that, if he was going to go “Oh” and “Ah” and make bummed-out people feel flattered, they ought pay him for it, like a psychologist. Then he ditched the Kundalini guru called Yogananda for some new Baba who said everyone should quit pot and free love. Audley got poor pretty fast when he stopped selling hashish, but he actually did quit the stuff, but everyone else quit the commune, and nobody knows where Audley went after that.
Even though he’s gone, I still remember stuff he said, and how he said the song called “Wind Song” was my best. I’d never even think of sending it out to publishers if it weren’t for all fuss he made.
I’ve always liked the idea of the wind actually being Zephyrs. When I get stuck with raking the leaves, I feel the wind has too much of a sense of humor, in how it messes up my raking, to be just inanimate molecules.
So I wrote a song about a Zephyr flying over Weston, and not much liking the changes I’ve seen in my life, and speaking to the Naiads and Dryads beneath in a sort of disapproving way. Audley didn’t even hear the tune; he just looked at the words and said it was better than Robert Frost, when it came to capturing the spirit of New England. Then he lit up his hashish pipe and took out a book of Robert Frost’s poems, and we read them together to prove his point. I figure the only reason I got sucked into reading that stuff was to see how I was better than Robert Frost, but I also figure I studied more Robert Frost that afternoon with Audley than I did in all four years of Weston high school.
Now that he’s gone the song doesn’t seem so hot. I especially don’t like the beginning, where it is me talking, and not the Zephyr. It begins,
I went wandering through a woodland where Wind can’t go.
Above, where leaves were sunning, Wind sighed of long ago
When he could blow most anyplace in lands about these parts,
And blow a farmer’s hat off, when farmers rode in carts.
“Old Stonewall! Can you hear me? I know you’re down below.
Remember how I tucked you in with cotton swirls of snow?
Too bad all these trees are here ‘cause now the moss can grow…” (and so on)
Once the Zephyr gets talking, I liked the song, but that first part makes me cringe, especially the line “And blow a farmer’s hat off, when farmer’s road in carts.” Hurley sneered that I just stuck the line in cos I needed a rhyme for “parts,” and I know he’s right. But I don’t know how to fix it.
It frustrated the hell out of me. I was suppose to be focusing on just typing the completed song out, but I wound up stomping off to walk in those woods, to see if I could remember what the hell I was thinking, back when I wrote the poem. In order to correct, I had to be in the mood, but I couldn’t remember the mood. I needed to recapture it, to correct it, so I wound up in what we call the Party Woods.
I think the Party Woods might be the woods Henry Thoreau called “the Weston Woods,” in his book “Walden,” but of course I never knew that, growing up in Weston. My Weston English teachers weren’t from Weston, so I had to go to Scotland to learn about my hometown, because when I started at Dunrobin the Goat got fed up with my know-it-all American attitude, and decided I ought study American Writers on top of all the English ones. (As if my bloody drug-withdrawal wasn’t bad enough, and as if I needed any extra work. The Goat assigned more reading in that first fucking fortnight than even Audley Bine would like,)
Reading Walden just made me even more horribly homesick than I already was. As soon as Thoreau mentioned walking in the “Weston Woods” I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickle, and thought, “I knew those Party Woods were special,” But, when I wrote the song, I didn’t have a clue Thoreau might have walked there.
The Party Woods starts in people’s backyards, where Sudbury Road forks from Concord Road. Sudbury Road gets a different name when it hits Wayland, and Concord Road gets a different name when it hits Lincoln, but the woods between the two roads just keeps on getting wider and wider, until Sudbury Road hits Route 126, and Concord Road hits Route 117, and those two highways pinch the woods back together at the stoplights where they meet. I don’t know how many acres it is, altogether, but it seems like square miles. When I walked out there I suddenly understood why I need to make money with my songs. I need to buy those woods. It is very important.
I am wicked excited about this idea, but can’t keep my eyes open.