Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Drunk agin. And in the classroom!
I am replaying the tapes of my life. Bastards won't stop.
Especially after a couple of drinks.
Again, no future, but what a past.
Many years ago, I attened the Instituto Allende as a graduate student in Writing. At the time, the Instituto was a satellite campus of the University of California. It would have been nice paper to get. Almost as good as the great writing programme at Irvine, because all the good instructors were finally there. Vance Packard, Bob Sommerlott, Tom Mayer and the like, all producers of best sellers.
But there was trouble at the ranch. A dispute with the owner of the instituto, and suddenly the pro writer-professors left in a huff.
So they recruited me. I had taught in Toronto, had the paperwork, and suddenly, il prefessore. Again.
Well. A flash of performance anxiety. What would I teach the kids?...well, adults really, most of them on the GI bill; they had to stay in school fer to keep collecting the money.
So I sort of told them about myself, my own quest, teaching the course through telling the students who I was, my influences and publication credits.
And my fascination with the fictional character of Phoebe Zeitgeist.
Hegel says Zeitgeist is the spirit of the age. Well, this character was certainly the spirit of the age. Cold war age.
I told them about the late Michael O'Donoghue, an alumnis of SNL and former editor of Evergreen Magazine and his creation there of Phoebe Zeitgeist.
Actually, I had a drink before my lecture, always a mistake, for you will ramble and shout wild things, and somebody might even decided to call 9ll.
Anyway, here is how my virgin lecture went.
" It was Norman Mailer who first posited the novel as "The Great Bitch. "The Great Bitch , La Belle Damme Sans Merci, that unattainable Helen of Troy that gets you just about there, but not all the way, and leaves you howling at the moon, sometimes for years. You go to pursue. You scheme. You plan. To no avail. You will never be with her.
I do feel that I have been chasing The Great Bitch all these years with the feeling that I was the only guy in town who couldn't get laid in a Ho-house. Now Mailer is an experienced enough artist to tell the novice writer that getting laid is not really the the point, it's producing the book about almost being laid, as in the original version of John Fowles masterpiece, "The Magus". At least that's what I got out of Mailer's "An American Dream," for all its gaucheries and crudities. ( Not to say, ever, that Mailer is gauche or crude, it's just that the embittered PI in the piece seemed gauche and crude. And violent. Treated women like the Russian whoremasters of all the 'Stans today.. Was it the woman or the unattainable novel that I sought? So I went looking for someone who had a theme, a historical theme and a plan. Well as always thoroughout my misguided education, I had to go back to comic strips.
My quest started in the late Sixties. I found, in a magazine, a comic book collaboration between geniuses Michael O'Donoghue and Robert Springer, "The Adventures of Phoebe-Zeitgeist", a gorgeous drop-dead Moonbeam McSwine, almost out of old All Capp, perhaps, but nothing McSwinish about Phoebe- Zeitgeist. She is beautiful, especially when drawn nude and in extremely stressful situations. She is a Serbian debutante, an aristocrat, really .
Phoebe-Zeitgeist, the belle of any ambassadorial ball, is suddenly kidnapped and captured by a series of bizarre characters, such as crazed Eskimos, Nazis, Communist Russians, Chinese foot fetishists and lesbian assassins. She does have a hard time of all this. She is variously rescued, recaptured and rescued again.
Hey, former soldiers, wouldn't you have loved to have rescued Phoebe from the clutches of those evil Red Chinese, Russian Communists and all the assorted rejects of Katmandu.
( I was fresh out of liberal arts school, still high on old Hege;'s notions on the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, that old German shepherd seeming more abreast of the times even today, than he was during Bismarck's reign, where a united Germany seemed to be the actual zeitgeist. And Hegel had all the brains). Of course, right now America seems to have it all. But brains?
Bob Dylan: Don't let Henry Kissinger tie you in a knot...When you gonna wake up?).
But cut to the chase: I was inspired inspired by the best art of my time, like Howl, by Allen Ginsburg, Advertisments for Myself by Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and, especially Michael O'Donoghue. His was the "Mr. Bill", plasticine puppet on Saturday Night Live, always being dismembered by some sadistic ogre-puppet .("Oh, Oh, no! Ooooh!)
I was half in love and on the way to writing a beautiful novel about Toronto, and if not that, at least meet my personal Phoebe-Zeitgeist. A naked woman in chains, political correctness be damned,was a huge turn- on for a young horny fool who wanted to write. I had to be as good as Micheal O'Donoghue. I had to find a love object as beautiful as Phoebe-Zeitgeist.
Three novels later, I found myself in the unenviable position of an old balding guy in love with a woman who may well have been out of an erotic coming book, myself the very epitome of some pimply guy with a guttering candle stuck his head, looking for Paris Hilton.
Always the Phoebe- Zeitgeist comic strip in Evergreen, Grove Press and even Playboy . Michael O'Donoghue's perfervid imagination, a Diogenes not with a candle in his hand, but with a candle on the top of his head, the picture of his chained porn queen firmly embedded in te demented seeker's brain, and he had to get her. "Gotta get!"
I had somehow stumbled, after my three novels upon this untenured professorship and the porn queen seemed to suddenly appear live as you or me. Professor and the Blue Angel.
I was not aware, in those days that women who went to night school risked the House of the Rising Sun, if not serious marital difficulties.
But my Phoebe was more than a graduate student. She was, in fact, an alumnus of the House of the Rising Sun. Seem lately, there were so many former hookers in Toronto are taking Creative Writing Classes. Or so it had seemed to me. And why not? What are you going to do with a plodding statistician husband, and you with all the imgination?
She told me she was an actress--and what an actress, I later found out as I checked out her VCR tapes. I was in love with the BJ queen of Holland Landing.
Ah the professor and the Blue Angel. Uncle Vanya and Phoebe-Zeitgeist.
There was a dungeon in her basement. We would visit it on her off days, when the pimp was away dealing drugs in Edmonton out of little red Toyota trucks. But it was not me that she sought. It was the idea of me, the tweedy prof, raconteur, classical guitar player (Learned it from Liona Boyd, at least some Ponce preludes).
What she really needed was a new pimp, at least one who didn't have to dress up in her clothes, put on her panty-hose, high boots and somewhow finally get himself off.
I was seriously out of my league. She dumped me for a new pimp. I hardly had the resources. She stopped bedding me, of course, terminating what passed for sex between us. I still had her in the hippocampus of my groin. I had her smell. "Better easy conquests, said old Herodotus. Better that, or your body will drive you mad as you seek the unattainable." Yet there I was, in middle age, the candle on top my head, a character, suddenly out of Michael O'Donoghue.( Mr. O'Donoghue was by now dying of cancer quitting his Saturday Night Live position).
Why him? He was, after all, the genius of my quest, the explainer, the interpreter of our time. I was just a follower...( With the candle on my head).Yeah, yeah, it's fun to be a genius, of course, but keep that old candle before the cart. Listening to Bob Seeger all this time.
Where'd they go
Twenty years, I don't know.
I sit there wonder some times
Where they'd gone.
I beat up the pimp and have scattered the foot-fethishists and lesbian assassins. The PI side of me. Had to break it up. Hero in my own novel. But to me she would still not come. She went to others. Still the candle on my head.Art imitating life?...I had the spookiest notion that she was art and I was life, not the other way around.I sit here on a rock, along with my old Bob Seeger and Julian Lennon tapes, my old walkman with me. Daydreaming in the park."Sittin' on a pebble by the river playin' guitarWonderin' if we'll ever get that far."Doing the Ivan-man.
I was surprised by the applause, but I will never teach drunk again.
Uh, or write a blog drunk agin.