Friday, August 31, 2007

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Twelve: an unpleasant encounter on the road, continued

In our previous episode of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain (a David Susskind Production): Poor Harvey, still his first day back from Vietnam in his hometown of Disdain, NM (he’s already had to kill one man) and now here he is on the side of a desert road in a white Thunderbird convertible with this beautiful lady Daphne “Smith”, trapped by a motorcycle gang called the Motorpsychos, with their evil leader Moloch standing on the hood of the car.

(This episode rated R for excessive sex, violence, and lurid writing.)

“First,” said Moloch, “I am going to --”

“Moloch! Moloch!”

Everyone turned to see a bearded behemoth in a Nazi steel helmet hopping and dragging himself on only one good leg through the cordon of motorcyclists.


“What is it, Crackle?” said Moloch, with testiness discernible in his tone.

“Moloch, that bitch run into me! She done broke my leg. Look at it! She done broke it!”

It was true that his left leg was dragging behind the man, the foot at an alarming angle vis-à-vis his massive torso.

“Lookit! She run into to me and broke my leg!”

“Yes,” said Moloch. “And?”

“And?” asked the man.

“And,” said Daphne, now seemingly recovered from her knock against the steering wheel, “you ran into me, you fool!”

She picked her bag up from the car seat and fished out her cigarette case.

“You bitch!” said Crackle.

“Crackle,” said Moloch.

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m sorry you broke your leg.”

Daphne offered Harvey one of her cigarettes and Harvey took one.

“Truly sorry,” said Moloch.

“Thanks, Moloch. I appreciate --”

“But do not ever --”

“I mean I appreciate your concern,” said Crackle. He had now dragged himself and his shattered leg up next to the front of the car. “I do appreciate it --”

“Do not ever interrupt me whilst I’m speaking again.”

Harvey lit up his and Daphne’s cigarettes with his Zippo.

“Ever,” said Moloch.

“I won’t, sir,” said Crackle. “I surely won’t. But --”

“I’m not finished speaking.”

“I unnerstand, Moloch. I do, but --”

“So please shut up.”

“But Moloch,” said Crackle quickly, “won’t you let me just rape her?”

“Crackle, what did I say?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I mean, you go ahead and rape her first, you’re the boss, but, like, can I go second at least?”

“Crackle, please shut up.”

“I will. I surely will, sir. I’ll just stand right here and cheer you on whiles you go first, but --”

“Crackle, hobble just a step closer.”

“Yes, sir, so’s I can see better --”

“Put your hands on the bonnet.”

“The bonnet.”

“The hood.”

“Yes, sir.”

Crackle hobbled up and put his hands on the hood, and Moloch reared back and viciously kicked the steel toe of his boot right into Crackle’s mouth, sending his helmeted head flying back like a soccer ball with his enormous body tumbling head over heels behind it into the harshly lit dust, where he lay crumpled and still.

“Now,” said Moloch, “where was I? Oh, yes, I believe the subject of rape had been brought up --”

He turned again to gaze down at Daphne and Harvey, and a great burst of shouting, whistling, and applause burst out as he unzipped his fly and yanked out his penis.

“Now,” he said, “the only question is with whom to begin. The young lady is indeed most attractive.”

“Oh, fuck you,” said Daphne.

“But the soldier boy is somewhat alluring as well, in a youthful Montgomery Clift sort of way.”

“Now you just hold on a minute, man,” said Harvey.

“Oh, yes, brings me back to my days at Eton,” said Moloch, stroking his penis with one hand and his chin with the other. “I think I might just go for the soldier boy first --”

Suddenly a car pulled up. No one had noticed it above the racket of the idling belching motorcycle engines.

It was Dick, in Big Jake’s red Cadillac. Big Jake was in the car too, but he was cowering fatly down in the footspace.

Dick cut the ignition, neatly vaulted over the driver’s-side door, and strode toward the Thunderbird.

“Um, excuse, me, fellas! Excuse me!”

He was smiling, and his even white teeth fairly glowed. Actually he was just completely wasted on the acid now and riding on the moment like a surfer on a big wave, trying not to wipe out.

“Hey, fellas, fun’s fun, but that’s a borrowed car there. Excuse me. Sorry.”

He edged sideways through a couple of the bikers and then deftly hopped over Crackle, who lay in the dirt now moaning and shaking his head and trying to push his massive body up.

Moloch still stood on the trunk of the Thunderbird, stroking his penis with his right hand. Dick came up right next to the car, and put his hands in his shorts pockets. He had to admit that Moloch had a big johnson all right. But it seemed to have some sort of tattoo on it, as well as numerous scars and pimples and several open sores.

“Hi there,” said Dick. “Look, really, if it was my car I wouldn’t care so much, but this baby happens to belong to a very old friend of mine from the Naval Academy, and --”

He was very much aware of the oddness of what he was saying but the words were just pouring out.

Moloch held up his left, unoccupied, hand.

“I have changed my plan slightly,” he declared. “I think instead I shall bugger this imbecile first!”

The mob roared.

Dick smiled and nodded his head and then chuckled, “Now wait a minute, buddy! I’m as broadminded as the next guy, but really --”

Moloch continued to stroke his ravaged penis as his men now began chanting the “Oh we yo, yo rum” marching song from The Wizard of Oz.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” said Daphne, tapping her ash into the dashboard ashtray.

Dick, still smiling, still with his hands casually in his bermuda shorts pockets, turned and looked around at the chanting bikers and then back at Moloch, whose johnson was getting really big now. He saw that the tattoo read “BITE ME”.

Back in the Cadillac Big Jake still huddled quaking in the footspace. He wanted to jump quickly into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition on and slam it the hell out of there, but he was afraid that Moloch would be mad at him if he did.

“Well, fella," said Dick to Moloch, “I gotta say that is one hunk o’ horsemeat you’ve got there, but the fact is, tonight I’m just not in the mood.”

“Too bad,” said Moloch, breathing heavily, his half-closed one good eye behind his mirrored shades roaming from Dick to Daphne to Harvey and back again, like a little boy who doesn’t know which Christmas present he really wants to open first.

“Yeah, that is too bad,” said Dick, and then his right hand came out of his pocket with the little .38 revolver and he held it at arm’s length right against the purple uncircumcised head of Moloch’s penis.

(Click here for the next thrilling installment. Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for links to other episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain, and to links to appreciations of many of his fine motion pictures, all of them available on DVD for a modest fee, with special discounts to members of the armed services, veterans, senior citizens, and libraries.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Fourteen: a theological discussion beneath the stars

Previously in Railroad Train to Heaven, our memoirist, Arnold Schnabel, having partaken of marijuana for the first time, finds himself on a second-floor rear porch with the dark-haired bohemian girl Elektra.

The year is 1963, the place, Cape May, N.J.

Her eyes, which seemed suddenly to have grown enormously, looked into mine. I felt as if I could fall into them. So here I was, precariously suspended between being thrust backward out into the stars or falling into this interior universe which seemed to me just as unknowable.     
“You’re a very, very strange man,” she said.     
This was the second time she had said this, now with an extra “very” attached.     
I think I sighed slightly.     
“Those other guys try to be strange,” she said, “but you don’t have much choice, do you?”     
“No,” I said.     
Now she was touching me, immodestly. What the heck, I thought. I masturbated on a daily basis: that was a mortal sin. Every week I went to confession and like clockwork I would confess to seven or more acts of willful self-abuse; the priest would usually not even bother to give me a lecture, and after all, I knew deep down inside that the priest masturbated too, if not worse, so who was he to be judgmental. But the point was, if I was going to go to hell for masturbating, why not go to hell for doing what I was imagining doing when I masturbated? But then it occurred to me that performing sexual intercourse with another person was involving that other person in a mortal sin as well. Unless —     
“Are you Catholic?” I asked.     
“Oh, God, no,” she said. “My parents were Jewish, but I’m not anything.”    
“Oh,” I said.     
“I think all religions are nonsense. Or not so much nonsense as superstitions, myths.”     
“Think about it, Arnold. There’s a thousand or more religions in the world, and every one of them thinks they know the score. Why should one religion be any better than another one? And why does there have to be a God? And why should we worship a God even if there is one? Is he that insecure that he needs all these little humans to worship him all the time?”    
“But —”     
But nothing.     
It’s true that I had imagined Jesus speaking to me once, and it had seemed real to me at the time, but then look where it had happened: in a mental hospital. {See Arnold’s poem “A Guy Named Jesus” in the listing of his poems in the right hand column of this website. – Editor.}     
“Religions only came about so that people could make some sense out of the randomness of life,” she said. “This is it, Arnold. Here. Now.”     
With that last phrase she pressed her hand particularly forcefully against that organ which had been such a bother to me my entire adult and adolescent life.    
 “So — extramarital sex would not be a mortal sin for you,” I said.     
“Not necessarily,” she said.     
She took my left hand and placed it on her right breast. I caressed it. It was pleasant to do so.     
“Wait,” she said.     
“Yes?” I said.     
“You’re not a virgin, are you?”     
Well, there was that one night in late May of ’45 I got drunk with a couple of the guys in my outfit and we went to a whorehouse In Frankfurt, so, technically:     
“No,” I said.     
I hadn’t wanted to go, but my buddies talked me into it. Despite my inebriated state I huffed and puffed and managed to reach climax, albeit into a rubber. I felt guilty, and sorry for the German girl. It was not an experience I have ever looked back fondly on, but at least (at the age of twenty-three) it had taken care of the virginity business, so:     
“No,” I said, again, hoping she wouldn’t ask for details.

(Click here to go to our next installment. For links to other episodes of
Railroad Train to Heaven (“And I thought I wrote a staggering work of heartbreaking genius!” -- Dave Eggers), and to many fine poems from Olney’s “Rhyming Brakeman”, check the right hand column of this page.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Eleven: an unpleasant encounter on the road to the ranch

In our previous episode of this “uncut” version of Larry Winchester’s epic novel, :

The time is September, 1969. The moon landing and Woodstock and the Manson murders have all taken place the previous month. The number one song in the country is "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies...

Twenty-year-old Harvey
has returned from a court-ordered hitch in the army to his impoverished and depressing hometown of Disdain, New Mexico.

It is still only Harvey's first day back, but already he has killed a bully in self-defense and been hired by the local rancher Big Jake Johnstone to act as some sort of guide to a mysterious couple named Dick and Daphne “Smith”.

(This episode is rated R for ridiculous writing).

Big Jake got too drunk to drive, so Dick drove him in his red Cadillac and Daphne drove with Harvey in the Thunderbird. Daphne took off first, with Harvey giving her directions out to the Johnstone ranch.

Five minutes into the drive Big Jake, who had been lolling in his seat singing horribly along with Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” on the radio, suddenly said, “Ah, Christ, pull over, Dick. I’m a-gonna hurl!”

Dick pulled expertly over to the side of the road and Jake got the door open and tumbled out to his hands and knees and started puking into the dust.

Dick (pretty much peaking now on the Owsley) turned off the ignition and lit up a cigarette. From the way Big Jake’s massive body was bucking and buckling, like some fat buffalo in its death throes, this was going to take a while.


Harvey felt a little nervous the way this Mrs. Smith was driving -- very steady but very fast, but what the hell, at least there wasn’t any traffic at all out here.

Or was there?

Lights up ahead, then a whole lot of lights, coming straight at them, then it was a whole bunch of madmen on motorcycles hogging the whole road and heading straight at them, and Mrs. Smith looking damn near likely just to plow right on through them hell bent for leather and damn the torpedoes.

Harvey closed his eyes, he could feel the Thunderbird swerving and lurching then hitting something hard and swerving again and then it jerked to a stop and somehow he was in the back seat. He clambered up and Mrs. Smith was slumped over the steering wheel. He reached over and turned off the ignition because he was afraid the car would blow up, and then he passed out over into the front seat, rolling down into the foot space.


The motorcyclists pulled their choppers up all around the Thunderbird, their headlights shining directly into the car. Through the swirling cloud of dust and exhaust they’d created they looked at at the beautiful woman and the young soldier both groggily trying to sit up straight in the front seat.

The motorcyclists laughed and laughed, showing their broken discolored teeth in the harsh jagged light.

They were called the Motorpsychos (a name they had stolen from a certain trashy drive-in movie); self-styled “scum of the scum” -- who for the most part had been drummed out of other motorcycle gangs for behavior too vicious, swinish, dishonorable and vile even for the likes of the Hell’s Angels or the Pagans -- they lived in foul caves in the wasted hills, subsisting on the profits of the drugs they sold to the local youth.

Their leader, a former Oxford don called Moloch, switched off the engine of his Vincent Black Shadow, kicked his kickstand down, dismounted and then vaulted up onto the hood of the Thunderbird. He stood there with his hands on his hips, grinning through his scruffy beard. Greasy filth covered him from head to toe. He was a rangy tall man in tight leather pants, jackboots with two-inch heels and a black leather jacket worn directly over his bare flesh. His dark blond oily hair was long and knotty, falling dramatically around his sculptural shoulders. He wore mirrored Ray Bans and an SS officer’s cap; a ragged Magdalene College scarf, once black-and-white but now the color of a week-old dead trout, was knotted around his corded neck and flapped behind him in the night wind; a tarnished Iron Cross hung on a tattered black ribbon over his chest. He had at one time been a stunningly handsome man, but now his nose was crushed, his lips were brutally scarred, and his right eye had been thumbed out in fight with one of the Wheels of Soul and thus he he wore a black leather eye patch. He had never bothered to have a glass eye installed in the empty socket, and whenever he encountered a little child he liked to remove his sunglasses, lift up his eye patch, politely say hello, and then watch the child burst into tears.

“We are going to have some fun,” he declaimed. His diction was impeccable, and this utterance was met with a chorus of cheers from his cohort.

(Click here to go to Episode 12. Check out the right hand column of this page for links to the other episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain -- soon to be a major motion picture from Selmur Productions -- and for links to appreciations of many of Larry’s classic films.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Thirteen: what happened after she said, “Come here."

In our previous episode of Arnold Schnabel’s never-before-published memoir, Arnold -- “the Rhyming Brakeman”, recovering from a mental collapse with his mother at his aunts’ boarding house in Cape May -- has met and befriended four “beatniks” on the beach (Rocket Man, Gypsy Dave, Elektra, and Fairchild). After dinner and marijuana at their pad, Elektra invites Arnold to go out onto their second-floor back porch for a smoke. After a brief conversation she tells him, “Come here.”

Long ago and far away, on a planet called 1963, in a time called Schnabelia...

I was only about a foot away from her. I didn’t have very far to go, to go to her. I took a step forward. She put her hands around my waist.     
“You’re a real man,” she said.     
“Technically, yes,” I said.     
“Those other boys in there, they’re boys, not men.”     
“They seem like nice guys,” I said.     
“Boys,” she said. “Not men.”     
Now she was pressing against me.     
“I want you to kiss me, Arnold.”     
What the hell, I’ve always aimed to please people. I kissed her. It didn’t kill me to do so. And for once I surrendered, and I fell, and it was as if a great part of me at last opened up to life. Previously I had felt that nothing could be quite as pleasant as lying in bed on a cool afternoon with nothing to do, staring at the ceiling and dreaming of a world beyond this world, but now I was not so sure.     
We disengaged, she laid her head on my chest. I had an erection. Perhaps I was not completely out of the norm after all.     
And I had a thought.     
“Wait,” I said. “Elektra, aren’t you Rocket Man or Gypsy Dave’s girlfriend?”     
“No,” she said. “But I don’t dig these labels. What does that even mean, ‘girlfriend’?”     
“I don’t know,” I said, honestly enough.     
“Do you want to go to bed?” she said.   
“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, it is getting a little late, I suppose, but I don’t usually go to bed quite this early —”     
“No,” she said. “I mean go to bed with me. Here. Now,” she said.     
“Oh,” I said.     
“I can tell you want to,” she said, pressing her hip against my erection.     
“I — this is embarrassing,” I said, “but I’m a practicing Catholic. I don’t believe in extra-marital sex.”     
“Oh, give me a break, Arnold. You can’t really believe all that crap. What good does it do you? You just had a complete mental breakdown you said. Give yourself a break. Sex is natural, man. You think the priests don’t have sex?”     
She had touched on a delicate subject. In my work as a parish usher and as a CYO boxing coach I had heard rumors. Many rumors.     
“Arnold,” she said, hugging her body close to mine. “I can feel you.”     
And indeed I could feel myself. I knew of course that it was the marijuana, the wine, my own barely controlled insanity, but I felt all of myself now suddenly within my erection. It almost felt as if it were pushing me away from her. She had my back against the rail now as she pressed herself against me and it almost felt as if this damnable erection I was suffering was, as I say, pushing me back, trying to push me up over the railing and off the porch, perhaps even up and out above the trees and house-tops behind me.     
I took a breath.     
“I think we should go inside now,” I said.

(Click here to go to the next episode. Check out the right hand column of this page for links to other installments of
Railroad Train to Heaven, and to the sublime poems of Arnold Schnabel, now available as ringtones, read by such notable actors as Patrick Stewart, Brad Pitt, and Martin and Charlie Sheen.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Ten: then came Cleb, and here come the Motorpsychos

Previously in our serialization of the “director’s cut” of Larry Winchester’s “swaggering, staggering”* epic novel A Town Called Disdain (A Sheldon Leonard Production):

September, 1969.

The young soldier Harvey, forced to join the army or face jail time after shooting his mother’s boyfriend in the leg and shooting and killing the boyfriend’s dog, returns after his hitch to his home town of Disdain, N.M. He goes right from the bus to Burt's Hideyway, the local roadhouse where his mother Doris works. Harvey gets into a fight with the local bully Bull Thorndyke and smashes a beer bottle in Bull’s face. Bull pulls a switchblade but Sheriff Dooley walks in, tells Bull to drop the knife, and sends him off to see the doctor. A radiation-stunted little boy named Cleb Parsons pockets Bull’s knife. Sadly, Bull comes right back in with a shotgun, bent on killing Harvey, and gets the drop on the sheriff. Just then a mysterious and beautiful couple (Dick and Daphne) walk in, distracting Bull for a moment. Harvey draws the sheriff’s gun and shoots Bull dead.

* Harold Bloom, The Road That Should Not Have Been Taken: Great Unknown American Novels.

(Go here to revisit the wonders of our previous episode.)

Sheriff Dooley had kicked young Cleb Parsons out of the roadhouse after Harvey shot Bull Thorndyke, but instead of going home Cleb went out back, out past that big heat-shimmery mountain of abandoned tires in between Burt’s place and Tuk’s Service Station, and he’d practiced throwing Bull’s switchblade knife at an old cactus out there in the scrub. The blade made such a satisfying sound when it stuck in the cactus, and, after a couple of sweaty hours, pretending he was James Coburn in The Magnificent Seven, he got so he could make the knife stick from about twenty feet away, every time. He cleaned off the blade one more time on his t-shirt and folded it up and stuck it in his back pocket. Then he went and got his Schwinn out from where he’d stashed it, in between the dumpster and the back wall of Burt’s. He pushed off and headed out onto Main Street, which was as deserted as it usually was. A few minutes later he was out of town and on the two-lane blacktop that led out to the dirt road that went down through the gulch that came out on to the patchy stretch of ground by the dried-up wash that was the Parson family's ranch.

He had dinner with his father and his older sister Attie, then he did his homework, and then he went outside to practice some more with his new pocketknife.

He wanted a good tree to practice on, and since there weren’t any trees near the ranch he walked out to the mountain road, about a third of a mile from the house.

A half hour later he was tossing that knife with great skill and accuracy in the moonlight at a dead mesquite when he heard a roaring and rumbling from the hills up in the west. This could only be one thing.

Cleb crouched behind the mesquite trunk and waited, felt the rumbling in the earth and in the tree, heard the roaring. He peeked around the side of the mesquite, saw the dust first, lit up by headlights, and then all of a sudden here they came, roaring like hell on their hogs: the Motorpsychos, twenty-five or thirty strong of them, and at their head, wearing his dark goggles and his filthy scarf and his long greasy hair flying behind him, was their leader, the one-eyed bastard they called Moloch.

The gang roared on by, heading in the direction of Disdain.

“You best go on by,” muttered Cleb, holding his knife in his skinny little hand. “You best not try and fuck with me, or with my family. I’ll stick you with this here knife.”

Finally they were all gone, their roaring and rumbling diminishing, their dust slowly settling down like a dirty shroud along the roadway and the scraggly land on either side of it, and onto Cleb, who stood now, away from the dead tree, staring down the road after them.

“Yeah, you better get,” he said. “And don’t let me catch you comin’ round here again, neither. Maybe you’ll get me in the end, but I swear on my dead mother I’ll take at least one of you to hell with me!”

Then he went back on home, because he wanted to watch Then Came Bronson on the TV.

(Go here for our next thrilling episode!)

(Please see the right hand column of this page for links to the other episodes of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain, and for links to appreciations of many of Larry’s classic films.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Twelve: Elektra

Previously in our seemingly-endless serialization of the memoirs (called by no less a literary light than Jackie Collins, “One part Pepys, one part Proust, and one large part sheer unadulterated brilliance”) of Arnold Schnabel, "The People's Poet": Arnold, recovering from a mental breakdown and on a half-pay leave-of-absence from his brakeman job on the Reading Railroad, has met four “beatniks” (Rocket Man, Gypsy Dave, Elektra, and Fairchild) on the beach in Cape May. He returns to their pad (as recounted in Part Eleven) for some dinner and conversation.

Long ago and far away, on a planet called Schnabelia, in a time called 1963...

After a while the girls brought out plates and cutlery and  a big bowl of spaghetti that Fairchild or Fair Child nestled neatly into the hole in the middle of the big spool we were sitting around.     
“There’s no meat, I’m afraid,” said Elektra.     
“That’s okay,” I said. I was so hungry at this point I could have eaten the spaghetti raw and uncooked.     
They filled my plate and I confess I immediately dug in. It was the most delicious food I had ever tasted, and when I came up for air I told the girls so.     
“It’s just vegetables from our garden,” said Fairchild or Fair Child, “and garlic and olive oil.”     
What did I know about garlic and olive oil? All I knew was that the food was sublime.     
“You want some more wine, Arnold?” asked Gypsy Dave, and I said yes, thank you. We had been drinking red wine from another one of those big bottles wrapped in wicker. We drank out of Flintstones jelly glasses.
For a time we simply ate and did not talk much. A record was playing. I had asked them to put on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan because I liked the cover picture, a young chap walking arm-in-arm down a winter street with his girlfriend, something I myself had never done. After my second plate I sat back and lighted a cigarette. The others were still eating.     
“Is he a hobo?” I asked.     
“Who?” said Rocket Man. “Bobby Dillon?”     
I picked the record sleeve up off the floor. “Bob Dyelan,” I said.     
“It’s Dillon,” said Rocket Man. “He pronounces it Dillon, like Dillon Thomas.”     
“Oh, I don’t know who that is,” I said.     
“He was cool, he was a poet like you, man,” said Rocket Man.     
“Oh,” I said.     
“Bob Dylan’s a poet,” said Fairchild, Fair Child, the blonde girl.     
“A hobo poet,” I said.     
“Well, he’s not really a hobo,” said Rocket Man.     
“Arnold’s right, though, he does sound kinda like a hobo,” said Gypsy Dave.     
“When I first started on the railroad there were always lots of hobos around the train yards,” I said. “I was just a kid. Sometimes when we stopped I could hear them out there by their fires, singing. They sounded like Bob Dyelan, I mean Dillon.”     
“That’s really heavy, Arnold,” said Elektra. “How old were you, man?”  
“I was seventeen.”     
“And you’ve been on the railroad ever since?” 
“Yeah, except for a few years in the army, and in the army they had me working on railroads too.”    
Elektra looked at me. She had very dark eyes. It’s always made me shy to have someone look at me, man or woman, but I suppose because of the marijuana and the wine and the food I just didn’t care any more, and I even looked back at her.    
“So do you miss it?” she said.     
“The railroad?” I said. “No. No. I feel like I’ve wasted my whole life actually.”     
“How old are you?”     
“I’m forty-two.”     
“You still have a whole life to live,” she said.     
“I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives,” I said. “And yet I feel like I haven’t lived even one life.”     
She pushed her plate away and reached over and picked up my pack of Pall Malls.     
“Can I have one of these?”     
“Sure,” I said. 
Gypsy Dave was to my right, and Elektra was to the right of Gypsy Dave. I reached across and gave her a light.      
She inhaled, blew out the smoke and looked at me again.     
“Let’s go out and have a smoke, Arnold.”     
“Where,” I said.     
“Out on our back porch.”     
“Okay,” I said.     
I heaved myself up, I was stiff from sitting crosslegged; Gypsy Dave grabbed my forearm and gave me a boost. Elektra for her part seemed to float up as if she were a weightless spirit. She led the way to the rear of the apartment, through the kitchen, and I followed.     
We came out onto a second-floor wooden porch, looking down on a dark garden. Trees billowed and waved and whispered in the starlight. There were a few mismatched chairs on the porch, a small wicker table. Elektra went to the rail and leaned on it. I went over next to her, but I didn’t lean on the rail, I’m a little afraid of heights – even though I've walked along the roofs of fifty-thousand hurtling train cars in my career, I'm still afraid.   
After a minute she turned and looked at me, her cigarette smoke trailing up into the night.     
“You’re a very strange man,” she said.     
“I know,” I said.     
She looked out at the moving trees. The air was clean, so much cleaner than the metallic harsh air I’d breathed all my life living right next door to the Heintz factory, and then on the trains, all those thick engine fumes, breathing them in all my life. And of course here I was smoking.     
“What are you thinking about?” she said.     
“The air,” I said.     
She paused, staring at me.     
“The air,” she said.     
“Yeah. It’s nice.”     
She turned sideways to the rail. Her dark hair swirled into her face, but she didn’t seem to mind. I could hear the ocean gently crashing beyond the sounds of the rustling trees. It occurred to me that oddly I actually liked being where I was at the present moment or series of moments, although I did rather strongly have that feeling I’d done my best to keep submerged these past months, that feeling, or knowledge, that without too much effort, or rather by surrendering all effort, I could float upward and away, saying fare-thee-well to this world I’d never understood or felt at home in.  
“Give me your cigarette,” she said.
I did as I was told, and she went over to the wicker table and stubbed out both our cigarettes in a tin ashtray. Then she came over and stood near me.      
“Come here,” she said.

(Click here to find out what happens next, if anything. And kindly go to the right hand column of this page for links to other episodes from Railroad Train to Heaven and to the poems of Arnold Schnabel.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If you have five seconds to spare, Mr. Arnold Schnabel will now tell you the story of his life

Arnold Schnabel made an unusually direct foray into the mystery of his sexuality in this sonnet (“Not merely perfection, but perfection squared,” as John Updike put it), first published in the August 10, 1963 edition of the Olney Times. (Thanks to Kathleen Maher and to the good ladies and gentlemen of the Arnold Schnabel Society.)

“Committed Bachelor”

My life’s been a series of more or less
Humiliating moments, and so much
More often more than less; I’ve made a mess
Of all my fitful bold attempts to touch
Another human being (except for
My mom) and in that rather rare case
Of someone else presuming the rapture
Of my company I will always race
For the nearest exit, out of the fear,
Bordering on certainty, that there must
Be something deeply wrong with a person
So desperate; and also they are just
So homely usually, and worse than
That, dull; and thus is curiosity
Trumped by the demon dubiosity.

(Kindly go to the right hand column of this page for links to so many other splendid Arnold Schnabel poems as well as to our on-going serialization of his previously unpublished memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.)

And now a word from the lovely Miss Joan Jett:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Eleven: Arnold Schnabel and the beatniks, the train and the miles

(Click here to see the preceding chapter.)

In our previous installments of this never-before published sprawling memoir by Arnold Schnabel, “The Rhyming Brakeman of Olney”: Arnold, still in recovery from completely losing his mind the previous winter -- and being hospitalized at Byberry for two months, followed by a return to his job on the railroad and a subsequent summary leave-of-absence (thankfully at half-pay) resultant to some sort of oddness of behavior or demeanor -- has gone with his mother to recuperate at the huge ramshackle Victorian boarding house of his three maiden aunts, in Cape May, NJ. He has taken to long evening solitary swims off the usually deserted stretch of beach that curves down to the Point; one night he swims back in and meets four “beatniks” sitting by a fire on the beach. They invite him to smoke marijuana, and he does, for the first time in his life.

The month is July, the year 1963.

My new friends invited me to their so-called “pad” for dinner. Of course I had already had dinner at our usual time (6:00 PM) but I was now ravenously hungry, I could have gnawed on one of the logs in the fire, I could have bounded back into the surf and swum under water with my mouth open, devouring seaweed and small fishes; in short I said, “Sure. Thanks.”     
We walked townward. How merry it was to walk along the sand in this new exuberant (if slightly reminiscent of my previous psychotic fugues) state. I felt like some silly large dog, prancing ahead of and around some new-found human friends. They seemed so much more interesting than the dull people I had met and invariably not befriended (or not been befriended by) all my life.     
They lived above a jewelry shop on Jackson Street. An apartment hung with tapestries and beads, with candles in Chianti bottles and bamboo rugs and lots of oriental cushions and pillows on the floor.     
Elektra and and the girl called Fairchild or Fair Child set to work making spaghetti in the kitchen that was open to the small living room. Rocket Man put a record album on. It was a very strange sort of saxophone jazz, strange to me, anyway, who normally never listened to anything stranger than Lawrence Welk or Larry Ferrari, although I suppose they’re pretty strange too in their own ways.     
“You dig coal train, man?” said Gypsy Dave.     
“Coal train?” I asked.     
“Yeah. Train, man.”     
“Yeah, John, coal train.”     
Now I was totally confused. Why was he calling me John?     
I was speechless.      
The strange saxophone wailed.     
“I think he digs the train,” said Rocket Man, coming over to where we were sitting on the floor around one of those great wooden spools that you normally wrap cable around. He sat down, smiling. “Doncha, Arnold. You dig the train, man.”     
“Well, of course I do,” I said, doing one of my little imitations of a sane person. “The train, after all, has really been my, my whole life –”     
“Your whole life?” said Gypsy Dave. He was rolling another "joint" on a record album cover. It was The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, whoever he is. “That is really heavy," he said. "I mean, I dig the train, and the bird too, and you know, a lot of cats, but I wouldn’t say that they’re my life. But the train means that much to you.”     
“Well, it wasn’t really, um, uh, voluntary –” I said.     
“No, man,” said Gypsy Dave. “It wouldn’t be voluntary. But that’s the beauty of it. It just, like, takes over you. And that’s beautiful man. Wait, listen, now miles is coming in.”     
Gypsy Dave held a finger in the air. I could understand now. Me leaning out from the cab of a hurtling locomotive, staring ahead, watching the myriad storming miles coming in, always coming and speeding by underneath the train's wheels. All those miles coming in for all those years, how many thousands, perhaps millions of miles, coming in, and going...     
“Miles,” I said.     
“Miles,” said Rocket Man. “He digs miles, too.”     
“Coming in,” I said.     
Gypsy Dave handed me the now-rolled "reefer", and I lit it with my lighter. A muted trumpet wailed sadly but wisely, and we stopped speaking and just listened.
(Click here to go to the next episode. For links to other installments of Railroad Train to Heaven, as well as to many of Arnold Schnabel’s classic poems, please go to the right hand column of this page.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gone fishin' with my homies

Yes, we will be taking a few days off. Remember, midterms are coming up, so please review all our previous posts. Feel free to comment and e-mail, and we should be back on the air by Saturday with some fabulous new material.

Mulder does the wild thing in Hollywood

Read all about it over here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The very fabulous Miss Ida Lupino

Calling All Call Girls (1949; B&W; Bob Hope, Ida Lupino, Thelma Ritter, Paul Douglas, Betty Grable, Basil Rathbone, Marjorie Main, Guy Kibbee; music by Pee Wee Russell; written & directed by Larry Winchester).

This little gem, long presumed lost, has now been recovered thanks to the noted author and cinephile Kevin McDoom, of the East Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. Mr. McDoom (author of the classic tale “Gangsta Dream”, as well as the play Dumbo and the sprawling epic novel Almshouse Road), a great fan of Larry Winchester’s work, was overjoyed to discover an only slightly deteriorated 35mm theatrical print of this Bob Hope laff-fest in his basement, near the bottom of a heap of old film cans that Kevin bought at auction when the late-lamented Fern Rock Theatre closed in 1992. Kevin very generously sent the film to Mr. Winchester in Hollywood, asking nothing in return except perhaps a mention in the closing credits. Larry oversaw the digital restoration of the film and he is currently in negotiations with the Japanese company Ha! Karate for a DVD release.

At this point let’s turn the tale over to Larry, from his autobiography I’ll Take the Low Road (now sadly out of print, but widely available on eBay):

As soon as I got out of the army in late ’45 I made my way to Hollywood, with stars in my eyes and five or six scripts that I’d scribbled out in pencil in black-and-white marble copybooks in foxholes and bombed-out houses all through France, Belgium and Germany. I rented a room from a couple of nice lesbian ladies on St. Francis Terrace, bought a second-hand Olivetti portable with a sticky “t”, typed the scripts up, and hit the sidewalks.

I took the scripts around to all the big studios: MGM, Warners, RKO, Republic. And not only could I not get arrested, I was kicked out on my ass and told never to darken their studio gates again with my baleful presence.

Finally I started hitting up the Poverty Row outfits that all used to be over on Gower, and Pauly Rosenweig over at Colosseum Pictures finally bought one, Diary of a Dead Man. (Later, Pauly admitted to me that he never even read the script but he liked the title.) Well, I was young and ambitious so I begged Pauly to let me direct, even though I was only twenty-one and had never worked on a picture in my life. Pauly admired my chutzpah and let me work on the show as second assistant director. We shot Diary of a Dead Man in six days. It starred Larry Tierney and was directed by this old drunk named Joe Lerario. Larry and Joe stayed pretty drunk all through the shoot, so it was pretty much up to the first A.D. and the D.P. and me to make sure the picture got made. Well, we did it somehow, and that little movie went on to make Pauly a tidy little profit.

Within a couple of months I was working steady as a first A.D. all day, and churning out scripts in the evenings. In late ’48 I directed my first picture for Pauly, Lady Private Dick, with Muriel Box, and then I did Whackjob Willie with Jerry Colonna and a few others, like Three Dumb Guys and a Dumb Dame, The Damned Don’t Die, and One-Way Ticket to Nowhere. Now these are all B-pictures, of course, which meant they would be like Z-pictures at any normal studio.

So how did I wind up making a picture with stars like Bob Hope and Ida Lupino, Paul Douglas and Betty Grable?

Well, it turns out Bob Hope liked to play poker, and he played a regular game with Pauly Rosenweig and some other Hollywood guys. One night Bob lost big to Pauly, like fifty grand. Pauly, knowing Bob’s kind of a skinflint, says, “Bob, I’ll forgive the debt if you make a picture for me.” Bob says he’s all booked up for the rest of the year except for the next two weeks. Pauly says no problem; he gets me on the horn, says he wants a Bob Hope vehicle and he wants to start shooting in a week. So, I whipped something up, Bob called in some favors with some of these other top actors, and a week later I’m directing this little farrago I’d thrown together called Calling All Call Girls.

Unfortunately, the Hays Office and the Catholic League of Decency and the Daughters of the American Revolution all came down on the picture like a ton of shit-bricks, but Pauly didn’t care, he released it anyway. It was probably the first underground hit, because no newspapers would carry ads for the show, and none of the stars would further risk their reputations by doing any publicity appearances. Most theatre owners wouldn’t carry it, but Pauly got around that by renting the theatres and posting flyers around the neighborhoods. The people lined up around the block, and I think Pauly pulled in more than enough to cover the fifty grand that that cheapskate Bob Hope was trying to get out of paying him.

Larry sent me a DVD of the digital re-master, and this movie is indeed a treat. Bob Hope plays police officer “Dugs” Doogan, an easygoing patrolman who enjoys a very shall we say laissez-faire relationship with the ladies of the evening (Ida Lupino, Thelma Ritter, Betty Grable) on his back-lot beat. However, a new captain takes over the precinct, the self-righteous Captain O’Reilly (Paul Douglas), who demands that Officer Doogan rid his neighborhood of these frolicsome floozies. Doogan tries to convince the gals to be a bit more discreet and offers them refuge (and a comfy place of business) in the ramshackle old townhouse he shares with his widowed mother (Marjorie Main).

Just when things seem to be settling down the girls start disappearing. A murderer is on the loose in the neighborhood, calling himself “The Son of Jack the Ripper”! Doogan gets on the case and finally trails the murderer to an abandoned warehouse. “The Son of Jack the Ripper” turns out to be none other than one of the ushers at Doogan’s parish church, on a one-man mission to rid the neighborhood of vice. Fortunately, he hasn’t killed any of the missing girls, but has merely locked them up in the warehouse and inflicted upon them an intense course of study of The Baltimore Catechism. A great fight ensues, featuring the first-ever use of a chainsaw in cinema history. Officer Doogan, with not a little help from the kidnapped and bored-silly girls, finally subdues and arrests the madman.

Doogan’s glory proves short-lived when Rathbone spills the beans about the girls’ activities at the Doogan familial manse. Captain O’Reilly arrests Doogan, the girls, and Doogan’s mother.

In the end, justice triumphs. It turns out that the presiding judge in the case (Guy Kibbee) is a longtime client of Thelma Ritter’s. The judge dismisses the case, and Bob turns to Ida Lupino and says, “Babe, would you consider making an honest man of me?”

“Oh, buster, would I!” exclaims Ida, and the movie closes happily with everyone shuckin' and jivin' out of the courtroom to the tune of Pee Wee Russell's "Wailin' D.A. Blues".

(Check the right hand column of this page for links to many other entries in our ongoing series "The Films of Larry Winchester", as well as to our unexpurgated serialization of his long-lost novel, A Town Called Disdain.)

Speaking of Pee Wee Russell:

Friday, August 10, 2007

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Nine: a flashback to Harvey's brilliant military career

Previously in our serialization of this, the uncut version of Larry Winchester’s sprawling epic A Town Called Disdain (A Quinn/Martin production):

September, 1969.

The young soldier Harvey, forced to join the army or face jail time after shooting his mother’s boyfriend in the leg and shooting and killing the boyfriend’s dog, returns after his hitch to his home town of Disdain, N.M. At the roadhouse where his mother works Harvey gets into a fight with the local bully Bull Thorndyke. Sheriff Dooley walks in, breaks it up, and sends Bull off to see the doctor, Harvey having smashed a beer bottle in Bull’s face. However, Bull comes right back in with a shotgun. The sheriff stands protectively in front of Harvey, but it looks like this might not stop Bull. A mysterious and attractive couple (Dick and Daphne) walk in just then, distracting Bull for a moment. Harvey draws the sheriff’s gun and shoots Bull dead.

The local big rancher, Big Jake Johnstone, who has been cowering in the men’s room through all this, comes out and greets Dick and Daphne. Later, apparently at Dick and Daphne’s request, he hires Harvey to act as the couple’s “guide”.

And it’s still only Harvey’s first day back.

(Click here to see the immediately previous chapter.)

No sooner had Harvey landed in Vietnam than he was sent right out to an infantry outfit in the boonies. Morale there was low to say the least. This whole regiment had gotten mauled earlier that year in the Tet Offensive, and everyone’s number one priority now was survival. Things were relatively quiet in that area for the time being and everybody just wanted to keep it that way. Just about nobody from the rank of noncom on down really wanted to engage the enemy, and in fact they did their best to avoid the enemy at all costs.

The men realized that their officers had at least to go through the motions of patrols and ambushes, and they accepted this. The officers for their part realized that if they pressed too hard they were very likely to be fragged by their own men, so they falsified reports and invented or exaggerated bodycounts. Fortunately most of the enemy in the AO seemed to be as unmotivated as the Americans. They had gotten their asses kicked even worse during the Tet. They wanted to live, too, and they, at least for the time being, preferred setting booby traps and laying landmines to fighting. But every once in a while there was a firefight, all of a sudden out of the blue the pop pop pop of rifles, the rattle of AK-47s, and then just complete chaos with nobody really knowing where the enemy was, everybody firing on full auto every which way and yelling and throwing grenades, just as much chance of one of your own guys killing you as Charlie doing it. Harvey did what the other guys did, firing his M-16 in short bursts in what he hoped was the right direction, popping out empty magazines and shoving in new ones and firing until everybody else stopped firing. Sometimes a grunt got shot, sometimes not. A couple of times after it was all over they found a dead Charlie, some crumpled dead rag doll of a motherfucker, but in the few firefights Harvey was in or near he never once saw a live enemy soldier.

And for once karma was looking out for him because he’d only been out there a month, thinking fucking Christ, eleven more months of this bullshit, sweating his balls off in the heat and breathing that boonie stink and getting eaten up by mosquitoes and ants, and listening to all the positive-ass motherfuckers saying this AO had been too quiet too long and it was only a matter of time before the shit hit the fan again, and they were being Huey’d back in to their base one day and this gunner had brought a canteen of JD for them to drink and somebody had some weed and they all got all fucked up flying back in, and then when they were coming down Harvey jumped out too soon and broke his damn fool leg and he never got anywhere near to combat again which was fine with him.

The reason he never saw combat again was he was in the hospital one night and his leg was hurting so bad he couldn’t sleep. So he got his crutches and he left the ward and there was nobody around and there was this little room where they kept medicines and they were locked up but he figured maybe he’d find some aspirin lying around or something and he pushed open the door and there in the pale light from the window was this doctor Major Green putting the blocks to this blond nurse, Lieutenant Puckett, on this little table. Everybody looked at everybody else and held still for a second and then Harvey just let the door swing shut again and crutched himself back to his bed and jerked off in a wad of kleenex and went to sleep.

Come the morning and there’s old Major Green sitting by his bed and offering him an Old Gold.

“Y’know, I don’t think I have to bullshit you, Harvey.”

“No, sir.”

Major Green leaned in close so nobody could hear what he was saying except Harvey.

“Do you want to stay out of combat, Harvey? Do you want to never go out in the bush again? You’ve done your bit. You’ve been wounded for your country.”

Harvey wondered if Major Green even knew or cared about how he’d really been “wounded”.

Major Green pulled back the sheet and glanced at Harvey’s broken leg in its cast.

“I think I can safely recommend that for medical reasons, following your release from hospital and a suitable convalescent leave, that you be assigned strictly non-combat duties for the rest of your term of enlistment. Would you like that, Harvey?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. And remember, Harve --”

Major Green touched his index finger to his lips and then held the finger out in silent admonition.

“Yes, sir.”

“Discretion, Harve. Always the better part of valor.”

After the hospital and the convalescent leave came the cushy job unloading the body bags in Saigon. It was the easiest job he’d ever had. Some days they only had to unload two or three bodies and that was it, so Harvey and this intellectual pot-head guy Fred would just sit around and read and talk and get high all day. Except for comic books and certain sections of his mom’s Harold Robbins novels Harvey hadn’t ever actually read a book before, but Fred opened up a whole new world to him and before long Harvey was reading about a book a day. Fred turned him on to J.D. Salinger and Richard Brautigan and Herman Hesse and Kahlil Gibran and The Lord of the Rings and The Stranger by Albert Camus and something called Chaos and Night by this French dude Henry de Montherlant that he liked a lot and Catch-22 and The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot which he read one night with Fred while they were tripping with Fred reading the footnotes and explaining them to Harvey; that was really weird and for a couple of months after that Harvey walked around with the shiny grey and black paperback in the pocket of his fatigues and he’d take it out and look at it at odd times all through the day. He never could figure that motherfucker poem out.

Fred taught Harvey how to play chess, but even though Harvey soon was kicking Fred’s ass at it on a regular basis he found the game insufferably boring. He invited Fred to teach him something else, so Fred started him in on French. After a few months Harvey was puzzling his way through Fred’s paperbacks of Baudelaire and Beckett and Camus, and he especially liked Rimbaud, especially when he was ripped on good weed.

At night they would sit behind a hangar smoking the good weed and playing John Coltrane on Fred’s little 8-track player while looking up at the sky or the artillery flashes in the distance, and Fred would explain to Harvey the larger picture of why they were all there in Vietnam and the larger picture of why man was even on the face of the earth. It was karma why they were here in Vietnam. It wasn’t good karma but it was something they just had to get through, preferably without killing anyone if they didn’t have to and then they could go back to the World as new men, ready to live new lives of peace and love.

Harvey wasn’t sure about this karma business. It sounded fishy to him; but then he realized he was young and ignorant, so he kept his mind open on the subject. As for the peace and love business, well, Harvey hated to be a downer, but peace and love did seem to be stretching it a bit, at least in this life. He was however determined to try to live right. And he really did want to do something about this propensity he had for finding himself in violent situations.

After his discharge he decided to come back to his home town just one more time, say goodbye to it, and then leave. He wanted to find his own path through the cosmos.

So here the fuck he was.

(Go here for our next exciting chapter. For links to all other available episodes of A Town Called Disdain {“Perhaps the only American novel of our time which could be compared to Moby-Dick for its scope and depth, and considerably less boring than Moby-Dick.” -- Harold Bloom} please go to the right hand column of this page.)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Arnold Schnabel under the Bodhi Tree

This unassuming little sonnet from Arnold Schnabel appeared first in the Olney Times of August 3, 1963. It is notable however for being the first of Schnabel’s poems to make a possible reference to the smoking of cannabis, and for being definitely the first one to refer at all indulgently to another religion besides Roman Catholicism.

(Rebroadcast courtesy of the Arnold Schnabel Society, at whose monthly meeting at the Oak Lane Library this poem was recently read by the famous actor Matthew Perry.)

“Escaping the Heat”

It’s too hot to think, to write or to create,
And so to escape the oppressive heat
I go to see some friends who operate
An air-conditioned shop on Jackson Street.
My friends make trinkets from pebbles that they get
Off the beach, and from shells and other stuff on it,
From nothing much at all, just as a certain poet
Of my acquaintance will jury-rig a sonnet
From the flotsam and the jetsam of a life
He’s somehow always forgotten or declined to live.
My friends seem happy nonetheless to see me,
And we go back to the workroom (the air rife
With solder) where they’re so very good as to give
Me a smoke, as we sit and talk of the Bodhi Tree.

(Please cast your eye over to the right hand column of this page to find links to other fine poems from Arnold Schnabel, as well as to our ongoing serialization of his lauded {“Utterly spell-binding.” -- Wm. F. Buckley} memoir, Railroad Train to Heaven.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part Ten: Arnold Schnabel meets up with the beatniks on the beach

Herewith another installment of our serialization of Arnold Schnabel’s sprawling and vast memoirs, which have already been compared favorably to those of Ulysses S. Grant, St. Augustine, J. R. Ackerley and Erroll Flynn by publications as diverse as The Catholic Halberd and Times, The Olney Times, The Lawncrest Bugle & Times, and The Harrowgate Herald and Times.Just to bring up to date any newcomers to the world of Arnold Schnabel ("That poet of the people." -- Steve Allen): one night in January of 1963, Arnold suffered a complete nervous collapse. After eight weeks in the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry and two weeks’ rest at home, Arnold returned to his job on the Reading Railroad. Apparently he showed signs of a less than complete recovery and within a couple of months was put on an indefinite leave of absence at half-pay. In late May of that year Arnold’s mother (with whom he lived his entire life save for his three years in the army, 1942-45) took him to recuperate in the fresh sea air of historic Cape May, NJ, where they stopped with his mother’s three good maiden aunts (Greta, Edith and Elizabetta Schneider) at their ramshackle Victorian boarding house on Perry Street.

In our previous episode Arnold went with his cousin’s young son Kevin to buy some used comic books, a seemingly simple enough adventure, but then nothing is simple in the world of Arnold Schnabel, as the following masterfully-told little tale will bear out.

A curious incident later in the day.     
As usual of late, after digesting my supper over a novel (The Outfit, by Richard Stark) on the porch, I took my towel and my cigarettes and walked down to that bereft long stretch of pebbles and sand and desolation where I take my daily swim.     
When I got to the beach there was no one there, as usual. The sun was dipping down beside Cape May Point lighthouse, as usual. I took off my pocketed t-shirt and rolled it up in my towel along with my wallet, cigarettes and lighter, then tossed the towel into a tuft of scraggly grass under that long high wave of sand that edges the beach, with a fence of wire and sticks running drunkenly along its crest.     
I strode into the water, and when I got about thigh-deep I dove in, and swam out.     
Each day I’m getting stronger, each day I swim farther out, and I swim for a longer time.     
Sometimes I wonder about sharks. Or cramp. Or even a heart attack. Would my body be found? And in what awful condition?     
A mile or more from the shore I treaded water, the sun had now sunk beyond the bay, and on the upsurge of the swells I could clearly see the lights of Delaware, as if beckoning. Well, I may be a strong swimmer now, but not that strong, and, besides, what would I do in Delaware?     
I headed back in, and as I swam I noticed a small living light against the grey dimness of the beach.     
Sloshing in with the surf I saw a group of four people gathered around a little fire. I would have ignored them except they were sitting right near where I’d left my rolled-up towel. I walked towards them. They were all sitting cross-legged, smoking, they had a large wicker wine jug and they were drinking out of Dixie cups. There were two young men and two young women. The men had short beards and the girls had long hair, one blond, the other dark. The girls wore long loose dresses, the men wore khaki shorts and t-shirts.     
“Hi, there,” I said. “I’m just getting my towel and stuff. I left it over there.”     
“Cool, man,” said the one fellow. He had luxuriant curly dark hair.     
I stepped past them and got my towel out of the weeds. I unrolled it. Everything was still there.     
“That was some long swim you took, buddy,” said the other guy. He had slightly sun-bleached hair, a bit overgrown, and his beard was trimmed like Shakespeare’s. “We were digging you out there.”     
“Yeah, I like to swim,” I said.     
“It’s so cool you go out here at night all alone,” said the blond girl.     
“Yeah, I like it that way," I said. I was rubbing myself with the towel with one hand, holding my t-shirt, wallet, cigarettes and lighter awkwardly all in the other hand.     
“You look in great shape,” said the dark-haired girl.     
I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Um.”     
“These guys never get any exercise,” said the dark girl.     
“I’m exercising right now,” said the curly-haired fellow, and he took a long pull on his hand-rolled cigarette.     
He held in the smoke for a very long time and then exhaled.     
He blinked, smiled, and said, “Hey, buddy, you want a toke?”     
"A toke?"     
"Some of this."     
He held out the handrolled cigarette.     
“Oh, I’ve got my own,” I said.     
“Try this, man. It’s Mary Jane.”     
“Yeah, go on. It’ll open your mind.”     
“I’m not sure with me that’s a good idea,” I said.     
“Come on, live dangerously.”     
Don’t ask me why, but I sat down with them and smoked some marijuana. This was my first ever social encounter with beatniks, and the first time I had ever tried “reefer”. Let’s face it, I’ve been a goody two-shoes for most of my life, and where did it land me but the loony bin?     
Before long I was telling them my whole life story. Well, I gave them the short version. They listened politely, and even, oddly, seemed to be interested.     
“You seem fairly sane now,” said the curly-haired guy, whose name was Gypsy Dave.     
“Yeah, I guess so,” I said.      
As sane as I’ll ever be, I thought, which might not be saying much.     
“I think you had a mystical experience,” said the blond girl, who went by the name of Fairchild, or Fair Child, I didn’t know how she spelled it.     
“That’s one way of looking at it,” I said.     
“Like Paul on the way to Damascus,” said the Shakespeare guy, whose name was Rocket Man.     
“Or, like Wile E. Coyote when the Road Runner tricks him into going off the edge of a cliff,” said the dark-haired girl, whose name was Elektra.     
“Yeah, it was more like that,” I said.     
“I want to read your poems, man,” said Elektra.     
“I assure you they’re not good,” I said.     
“I don’t care, man. I think they must be really, like, deep.”     
We sat smoking and talking for another hour or two, and then all of a sudden we realized we were all very hungry.

(Click here to go to the next episode. For links to previous episodes of Railroad Train to Heaven and to the poems of Arnold Schnabel, please see the right hand column of this page.)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Wow -- even a rave from the grave!

Our correspondent Amy has been so good as to forward to us the following notices:

"Driving at night with my ferret I read Dan's authorizing because I so love getting it from a guy deep, as deep as the blue shore." -- Paris Hilton

"Schnabel just can make me go sometimes Honk-Beep-Beep!" -- Yoko Ono

"My neighbor Mrs. H.B. Stowe has been cluckin' so much about somethin' called a blag and an A. Schnabel's great writing talent that just to snap her flap I went out 'n bought me a dang computer! I don't even have a phone yet!" -- Mark Twain

Thanks, Amy!

Friday, August 3, 2007

"A Town Called Disdain", Episode Eight: Dick remembers young Daphne and the bathroom

In our previous epsiodes of Larry Winchester's sprawling epic A Town Called Disdain (a Desilu Production):

September, 1969. Young Harvey, recently discharged from two years in the US Army and two weeks in the San Francisco jail, returns home to Disdain, NM; goes right from the bus to Burt’s Hideyway (the local roadhouse, where his mother Doris works as a waitress); gets in a fracas with a local bully named Bull Thorndyke; shoots Bull dead in self-defense; and then gets hired by the local rancher Big Jake Thorndyke to act as a “guide” for two mysterious but beautiful strangers named Dick and Daphne “Smith”.

In this segment Larry hands over the narrative reins to Dick:

I was in uniform that first time I became aware of Daphne, qua Daphne, at my little sister Betty’s eighteenth-birthday party. I had hardly worn a uniform in years because of my work in Q Section but that night I was sporting snappy new dress whites. I had been standing around getting quietly oiled -- and, wait, now I remember, I had eaten some of this hashish cake which I had mailed to myself from Morocco -- and anyway I couldn’t help but notice this slender tall gazelle-like creature talking to Betty. We traded glances, and a little later I was taking a piss there in the downstairs bathroom when she just walked in and closed the door.

She simply stood and watched as I finished pissing. If I hadn’t been half oiled and under the influence of this hashish stuff I might have been embarrassed but then there was something about her that precluded embarrassment if precluded is the word. I put it away, zipped my fly, washed my hands and dried them. With her just watching there.

“So,” I said. “A friend of Betty’s.”

“Yeah,” she said, taking her cigarettes out of her little white purse.

I gave her a light.

“Thanks,” she said. She exhaled, looking at me, and then she went over to the toilet bowl, lifted up her long skirt, pulled down her drawers and sat down. She smoked and peed, looking about my parents’ downstairs bathroom with all the framed New Yorker Arno covers. I just stood there. What the hell.

“From, uh, Miss Porter’s?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes.


I stood and watched as she peed and smoked. I know, I was being completely perverse, but, well, she didn’t seem to want me to go. And I didn’t want to go. And after she finished and was washing her hands she looked at herself in the mirror and said, “You know, your mother and my mother are only the closest of friends. You’ve been introduced to me on several previous occasions.”

“I was? Was I drunk?”


My mother had all sorts of friends. I never could keep them straight.

And then this ravishing young thing turned, wiping her hands on a towel, and looked at me.

“Devon Horse Show?" she said. "Year before last?”

Devon Horse Show.

“I was sitting with Betty three seats away from you.”

“Oh. You know I think I was a little drunk that day.” (Actually I’d been tripping on this then-newfangled LSD stuff.) “Who is your mother?” I asked.

“April MacNamara.”


I suddenly had a vivid recollection of a Christmas party sometime back in the 50s. I had gone into the billiard room to have a quiet game by myself and I had been lining up a shot when I sensed someone come in and then, just as I was about to shoot, a hand grabbed my ass.

Of course I blew my shot and when I turned around I saw it was this young friend of my mother’s. I wasn’t sure who she was but she was good-looking. She put her arms around my neck and she kissed me quite sensuously, giving me an erection, then she leaned back and said, “I’ve been wanting to do that all night and don’t you dare tell your mother.”

I later found out she was this journalist April MacNamara. (And, later still, that April was the wife of that mysterious guy “Mac” MacNamara.) And now -- back to the bathroom on the night of Betty’s party -- with a shock I remembered this strange little girl April had with her at that other party, then I remembered the tall shy girl with Betty that day at the Horse Show, and so finally I was able to fit this ravishing thing now standing before me into my little Weltanschauung.

I know, a little slow on the uptake.

“You were quite dashing in your uniform that day,” she said.

“Was I?”

She reached out and touched my chest. I looked down, she lifted her finger up and flicked my nose, then she smiled and walked out.

It was very weird but her damned mother had flicked my nose exactly the same way that night in the billiard room a dozen years before.

Okay, suffice it to say I was enormously attracted, but look, she was only eighteen or maybe even younger, she was my little sister’s friend, and so, you know, just put it the hell out of your mind, pal. For the time being, anyway.


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