Friday, February 28, 2014

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 386: advice

Let’s return to that famed Greenwich Village bohemian watering hole the Kettle of Fish, and rejoin our memoirist Arnold Schnabel on this sultry rainy night in August of 1957…

(Kindly click here to read our previous thrilling episode; go here if you must to return to the only dimly-remembered beginnings of this 69-volume Gold View Award™-winning masterpiece.)

“My head cold lingers on, but what do I care? I have my cozy easy chair by a roaring fire, a nice cup of ‘hot toddy’ to hand, and open on my lap a morocco-bound volume of Arnold Schnabel’s magisterial and magnificent
chef-d'œuvre.” – Harold Bloom, in the Sports Illustrated Literary Supplement.

Finally I made it to where Ben and that Norman Mailer guy were at the bar. Norman was sitting sideways on a stool facing Ben who stood looming over him, and they were smoking and shouting, not angrily, but shouting because it was so noisy in here. They each held large reddish-colored drinks, which I had to admit looked refreshing.

I stood about a foot and a half away from them waiting for them to acknowledge my presence, but they didn’t notice me, they were so enthralled with their conversation, not to mention obviously drunk, but Ferdinand did notice me, and he flew out of Ben’s drink and over to in front of my face, where he hovered shakily.

“Arnie baby!” he said. “Where you been?”

“Well, it’s a long story, Ferdinand,” I said. “I got stuck talking with Robert Frost and some other poet named Eddie Guest, and it was pretty boring, but the good news is that I finally got a pen off this Eddie Guest guy –”


“And so I was headed out the door to try to find someplace quiet to write in my book so that I could write myself out of this world and back to my own, but it was raining really hard, and then I saw the lights on in this bookshop across the street, Mr. Philpot’s, the guy who sold me this book –” I held up the green-covered book full of blank pages, a book full of nothing, but perhaps a book of uncreated something, The Ace of Death by Horace P. Sternwall – ”and I thought if he was still there he might let me just sit there quietly, and, you know –”

“Write,” said Ferdinand, “write your way out of this world.”

“Right,” I said. “Write. But then I remembered you. And Ben. And I knew I couldn’t just leave without you guys. Or without at least saying something to you –”

“I am touched,” said Ferdinand. “Go on.”

“So I came back in, but then I got waylaid by this Bunny Wilson guy, and then after him I got trapped by some failed old poet named Scaramajevski – oh, I forgot, and I drank some bock laced with ambrosia –”

“What – like, the nectar of the gods?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. I didn’t mean to drink it, but this guy Bunny bought me a mug of bock, and I thought it was ordinary bock, so –”

“Okay, these things happen,” Ferdinand said, or rather he communicated telepathically, as I now realized we both were doing, which was nice, as I was tired of shouting to be heard, and tired of being shouted at. “So how do you feel?” he said, in my echoing brain.

“I feel strange,” I said, silently.

“Stranger than usual.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I hope you’re not gonna go crazy.”

“Me too,” I said. “But.”

“But what?”

“I seem incapable of telling lies now.”

“Well, after all, you have imbibed the sacred sweet syrup of the gods, my friend. Gods don’t lie. Gods don’t have to lie.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s right,” I said. “But it does feel a little –”


“Awkward,” I said.

“Arnie, you have lived a lifetime of telling lies. Of course it’s going to feel awkward now, telling the truth all the time. But don’t sweat it, it’ll probably wear off after a while and you can go back to your usual duplicitous ways.”


"That is the word I used.”

“Do you really think I’m duplicitous?”

“Do you really want me to answer that question?”

I thought about it for two seconds.

“Never mind,” I said. “Where was I?”

“Trying to return to the world you think of as your world.”

“Oh, right,” I said.

“So you say you got a pen?”

“A what?”

“A pen. Remember? Scribble scribble?”

“Oh, right!”

Frantically I checked my shirt pocket, and yes, the pen was still there. I brought it out and showed it to Ferdinand.

“Great. I’m impressed,” he said. “You’ve really made some progress.”

“Yes,” I said, “slowly.”

“Does it ever happen any other way with you, Arnie?”

I thought about this for less than a second.

“No, slowly is the way everything seems to happen with me,” I said.

“Okay, so now what?”

He sounded a little bored and impatient, and who could blame him?

“I just need to find someplace where I can write, undisturbed,” I said, and I held up the ballpoint pen in my one hand and the green-covered blank book in my other hand, in a pathetic sort of way.

“With your pen and your book,” said Ferdinand.

I shrugged, or at least inclined my head a half-inch to one side, and then back again.

“It’s worth a try,” I said.

“Sure,” he said. “Possibly.”


“Yes. Possibly.”

“You mean – it might not work?”

“Well, yeah, it might not work.” He looked from right to left in a pensive sort of way, he was still hovering there in front of my face, and then he held still and looked into my eyes with every one of his thousand tiny eyes. “In fact it might go horribly wrong. How can you know until you try?”

I lowered the pen and the book.

“Now I’m afraid,” I said.

Ferdinand paused before speaking. I should mention, perhaps I should have mentioned it earlier, that Big Ben and Norman still hadn’t noticed me standing there not two feet way from them, both of them yelling happily away at each other, gesticulating with their drinks and cigarettes. Funny that they were getting along so well.

“Arnie,” said Ferdinand.


“Lookit, man. We’re all afraid.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you said you were afraid. Well, I’m saying everyone’s afraid.”

I thought about this for three seconds. Perhaps four.

“That doesn’t make it any easier,” I said.

“Nobody said it would,” he said.

Five seconds passed.

“Jesus Christ will you make up your mind,” said Ferdinand. “Because if not I’m going to go back to getting drunk if it’s all the same to you.”

“So you think I should try it?” I said. “The writing thing.”

“That is not for me to say, my friend.”

“But I’m asking your advice.”

“I am a fly, Arnie. A talking, sentient fly, that is true. But I am a fly nonetheless. And you are asking my advice.”

“You may only be a fly,” I said. “But you seem more intelligent than most people.”

“Thank you for the back-handed compliment,” he said. “But I still can’t make up your mind for you, pal.”

“So it’s up to me.”

“That’s what I’m saying, yes. You are very astute.”

“I just don’t know what else to try.”

“I’ll tell you what you could do.”


“If you want to hear it.”


“If you think you can deal with it.”

“Uh –”

“Or, I’ll just say nothing.”

“Well, no, okay,” I said. “Go ahead.”

“Here’s what you could do.”


“What you could do is you could fucking relax.”


“For once in your life. Relax.”


“-lax, yes. Just relax, just enjoy being ‘Porter Walker’. Handsome brooding bohemian poet. With the chicks crawling all over you. Get drunk. Get drunk and then maybe get laid. That’s what you could do, my friend. And maybe I could get a little action too. Maybe we both get some action. So that’s what you could do.”

“Is –” I took another one of my famous pauses – ”is that what you think I should do?”

“Arnie, what did I just tell you?”

“That I have to make up my own mind?”

“Precisely. Now, how about a drink? We’re having this specialty of Ben’s – a Planter’s Punch with a float of ‘151’ rum? You should try one, Norman will probably buy it for you.”

He zipped in a helix back and forth in the direction of the bar, then halted hovering in front of my nose.

“Come on,” he said, “what’s the hold-up?”

“I think I want to try this book-writing angle,” I said.

“You’re sure.”

“Pretty sure,” I said, thought, communicated wordlessly.

“Okay,” he said, buzzed in my skull. “Fine. So, what next? You wanta go across the street? To what, to Mr. Whatsisname’s shop?”

“Mr. Philpot,” I said. “Philpot’s Book Shop.”


“Right,” I said. “I mean, all I need is just someplace relatively quiet, I think –”

“– where I can sit and write –”


“He’s got a table, sort of desk there, and he might let me sit there for a while and –”

“Great,” said Ferdinand. “Fine. We should get Ben I suppose?”

“Yes,” I said. “If he wants to come along.”

“Like we’re a team.”

“Sort of,” I said.

“The three musketeers,” he said.

“Um,” I said.

Ferdinand turned around and faced Ben.

“Oh, Ben?” he called, rather loudly, albeit silently.

Ben, who had been in mid-sentence, flinched slightly and turned and looked at me and at Ferdinand.

“Relax, my friend,” Ferdinand telepathized if that’s the word and it’s probably not. “It is only I, Ferdinand, communicating telepathically. Finish your drink, because Arnie here wants to make like a breeze and blow.”

“Arnie!” said Ben. (Bellowed, yelled Ben. Now that I think about it he usually yelled and bellowed all the time, but he did it louder in here.) “Where the hell you been, man? Norman here and me’ve already had like four Planter’s Punches with ‘151’ floats already.”

“Yez, Borter,” said Norman. “We are now on our fiv Blannner’s Bunge wid a fload o’ one fivvy one. Gum join uz.”

He smiled in a sad way, raising his glass, and then turned toward the bar, crossed his forearms down on it, and laid his head face down on the rounded edge of the bar.

Ben put his cigarette in his mouth, reached over and took the lit cigarette from Norman’s fingers and stubbed it out in a tin ashtray that was there.  Then he lifted the glass out of Norman’s other hand and poured its contents into his own glass. He put the empty glass back down on the bar, then turned and looked at me.

“So what’s up? You want a drink, Arnie?”

“No,” I said.

“Let’s go, Ben,” said Ferdinand. “Toss that drink down. We’re leaving.”

“Where we going?”

“Arnie wants to go home.”

“Swell,” said Ben. 

He took the cigarette out of his mouth, raised his glass to his lips, and drank, finishing off the drink in four great gulps. Then he put the glass back down on the bar and looked from me to Ferdinand, who was hovering there between us, and then he looked at me again, staring out from under the brim of that beat-up old yachting cap of his. 
He wiped his lips with the back of his forearm, that forearm as thick as a leg of lamb, all sunburnt and tattooed and bristling with curly orange hairs that glinted like sweating gold wires.

“So what are we waiting for?” he said, and then he belched.

(Continued here, there’s no turning back now.)

(Please turn to the right hand column of this page to find a reasonably-current listing of all other available chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven©, this week’s episode brought to you once again by Fox’s U-bet© Chocolate Syrup: “Next time you make an egg cream with Fox’s U-bet©, try it with just a dash of dark rum!” – Horace P. Sternwall, author, poet, motivational speaker, and official spokesperson for Fox’s U-bet.)


Unknown said...

When I was 6, an old nun cautioned me against writing words on paper. People may forget what you say and do, she said. But the written word is evidence. Ferdinand might be right again.

Dan Leo said...

As Arnold says to Ferdy: 

“You may only be a fly,” I said. “But you seem more intelligent than most people.”

Mas Rooy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.