Thursday, November 25, 2021

“The Divine Afflatus”

“So, are you still feeling it, Gerry?”

“What’s that, Araminta?”

“You know –”

“The divine afflatus?”


“Divine afflatus.”

“That sounds like a fart.”

“Ha ha, no, divine afflatus is the, you know, the divine, uh, how shall I put it –”

“I meant are you still feeling the muggles.”

“The muggles?”

“The weed we smoked back in my pad.”

Suddenly it all came back to him. It had only been, what, less than an hour ago? And yet it seemed so long ago…

“I think you’re still feeling it,” said Araminta.

“Yes, to some extent,” said Gerry.

“Excuse me,” said a man’s voice, yet another man’s voice. This was somebody standing just behind and between Gerry and Araminta, and they both turned to look at the speaker, who was a smiling, curly-haired young fellow wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a lumberjack’s shirt. “I don’t mean to intrude, but my friends and I are fascinated.”

“By what?” said Araminta.

“By you two,” said the fellow.

“And why is that?” asked Araminta.

“Because you both emanate a strange – I want to say numinous – aura. My name is Allen, by the way. I’m a poet. Those are my friends over there.” He pointed to a table near the entrance where three other fellows sat, and the three guys each gave a little wave of the hand. “They’re all writers and poets also. And something tells me that you two are also members of our sacred sodality.”

“You pegged us, pal,” said Gerry. “Was it my shabby tweed suit and the lady’s beret?”

“In part, yes,” said the young man, “but I think mostly it was the aura.”

“Excuse me, Allen is it?” said Araminta. “Now please don’t take this the wrong way, but you wouldn’t be insane, would you?”

“Well, I have to admit you bring up a delicate topic. Oh, by the way, may I know your names?”

“Araminta,” said Araminta, “and this distinguished hunk of manhood is called Gerry.”

“Very pleased to meet you,” said the guy called Allen. “Hey, would you two like to join our table?”

“But you still haven’t answered my question as to whether you are insane,” said Araminta.

“Well, it’s true I’ve done some time at a psychiatric institute –”

“Which one?” said Araminta.

“Columbia Presbyterian Hospital?”

“Oh, okay, go on.”

“You’ve heard of it?”

“Yes, I hear it’s top-notch.”

“Well, anyway, it’s true I spent seven months there, but to answer your question, I don’t think I’m insane at present.”

“But,” said Araminta, “if you were insane you might not know it.”

“This is true,” said the young man named Allen. “But still, my friends and I would so like you to join us. The both of you.”

With the last sentence he smiled at Gerry.

“But, Allen,” said Araminta, “Gerry and I are having a tête-à-tête.”

“Yes, of course,” said Allen. “I see.”

“So please don’t be offended.”

“Oh, of course not.”

“Maybe later,” said Araminta.

“Oh, that would be swell.”

“What are your friends’ names?”

“Well, the guy wearing the denim work shirt is Jack, the thin fellow in the grey suit with the glasses is Bill, and the smaller guy in the sweatshirt is Gregory.”

“You’ve got a regular little crew there,” said Araminta.

“Yes, that we are. We’ve been through thick and thin together. Weed busts, cross-country automobile trips, even a foray or two into ancient Mexico. You see, we like to think of each other as a like-minded band of angelheaded hipsters, digging the whole mad universe and trying our best to lay it all down in words that sing to the swinging stars just the way Bird or Diz do with their respective axes.”

“So you’ve got your own little movement going on there!” said Araminta.

“Yes, we like to think so.”

“Do you have a name for it?”

“You know, Araminta, we were just discussing that. Bill suggested we call ourselves the Moot Maharajahs.”

“Ha ha.”

“Jack thought maybe we should call ourselves the Pooh Bear Boys.”

“Not bad.”

“Gregory proposed the Katzenjammer Daddies.”

“And what do you propose, Allen?”

“I was thinking the Beatific Generation.”


“You don’t like it?”

“I’ll give you a name,” said Araminta.

“Oh, please do.”

Araminta looked at Allen, and then over to the table of his friends. All three of the fellows were looking over at Araminta and Gerry and Allen, as if expectantly.

“I dub you the Beat Generation,” said Araminta.

“Wow,” said Allen. “The Beat Generation.”

“Do you like it?”

“I love it. The Beat Generation. I’m gonna go tell the guys right now. Wow. Thank you so much, Araminta.”

“You’re welcome, Allen.”

“Very pleased to have met you. And, seriously, if you and Gerry would like to come over and join us we would love it.”

“We’ll see.”

“We’ve got some weed by the way, and we could take turns going outside and sharing reefers under umbrellas in the mystic streetlight rain on the corner.”

“Well, that’s certainly a selling point,” said Araminta.

Allen shook hands with both Araminta and Gerry and went back to his friends.

“That was weird,” said Araminta.

“I liked him,” said Gerry, but still he was glad to have Araminta to himself for the time being, in their own little world within the world of this bar, within that greater world outside and all the other infinite worlds beyond that one.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

Thursday, November 18, 2021

“How High the Moon”

 “That poor pathetic ass,” said Araminta.

“Yes,” said Gerry, “I know. But perhaps he’s happy.”

“Who’s happy?”

“That’s a good question. I think people are intermittently happy, when they’re doing things they enjoy.”

“Or sleeping,” said Araminta.

“Yes, unless of course they have horrible nightmares.”

“There’s that,” she said.

“Or unless they have insomnia.”

“That too,” said Araminta.

“Or unless they’re suffering from some sort of chronic painful ailment,” said Gerry.

Mon dieu, Gerry!”

“But it’s true,” he said. ”Just wait until you get older and your lumbago starts acting up. It’s all you’ll be able to think about.”

“Do you have lumbago, Gerry?”

“No, but I only used that as an example. You see I find it very tiresome when people bring every subject back to themselves, as they nearly always do, and so I attempt not to do so myself.”

“Don’t want to bore yourself?”

“Try not to,” said Gerry.

A new song had come onto the jukebox, “How High the Moon”, Gerry recognized the song but not the singer, a girl singer –

Somewhere there's heaven
It’s where you are
Somewhere there’s music
How near, how far

The darkest night would shine
If you would come to me soon
Until you will, how still my heart
How high the moon…

“I’ve realized,” said Araminta, “that perhaps these are the best days of my life.”

“Well, you’re young,” said Gerry, “so I should suggest you enjoy your youth while you have it.”

“And did you enjoy your youth, Gerry? That man Dickie Throckmorton certainly seems to think you fellows had fun.”

“I think we had fun in our youthful and asinine way.”

“You must have had loads of fun in your time in Paris.”

How high the moon
Does it touch the stars
How high the moon
Does it reach out to Mars...

“Araminta,” said Gerry, “I feel I must disabuse you of any romantic notions of my two post-graduate years in Paris.”

“Do go on, mon cher Gérard.”
“I spent most of that time alone, sitting in cafés, drinking beer, reading, staring off into space, taking walks, going to movies, talking to no one. Occasionally I would jot down a line of juvenilia in a notebook. I had no affairs, because I was very bashful. If I were approached by prostitutes I would pretend I couldn’t understand what they wanted. In short, I shouldn’t say I had a bad time, but let’s just say it was not all that, what’s the word, novelistic.”

“Not a single affair?”

“Not one.”

“I don’t mean to pry.”

“Oh, pry away.”

“Surely you must have had some affairs, Gerry? If not in your Paris years, then later.”

Gerry sighed. Should he be honest? Why not?

“No,” he said.

“Not one.”

“No, not even one,” he said.

“Wait, not even a, you should pardon the expression, a one-nighter, with some drunken floozy at Bob’s Bowery Bar?”

“Araminta, you’ve seen the drunken floozies at Bob’s. I’ll admit that possibly, on a very few rare occasions, I might have been able to, uh, attempt an act of concupiscence with a very softhearted and magnanimous drunken floozy, but, as drunk as I was, as drunk as I ever was, I was never quite that drunk.”

“I take your point, Gerry. You had what we call standards.”

“I suppose so.”

“And do you miss it, not having had affairs, or, dare I say, marriage, children?”

“I know this may sound odd, but I don’t think about those things too often.”

“You are like a zen monk,” said Araminta.

“I’m so glad you noticed that.”

“Ha ha.”

“The thing is, in my small way I do think of myself as a philosopher, and so even though I know I’ve missed out on much of what life offers, I suspect that there are chaps who’ve had lots of affairs, as well as marriages and children, who might envy the simple life that I lead.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it.”

The song on the jukebox had ended, and the only sounds were people’s voices, laughing and chattering.

“And anyway,” said Gerry, “in a very strange way, I feel that this right here right now is the best of life.”

“Sitting here in the San Remo?”

“Yes, it’s all been building up to this.”

“How thrilling, and I speak with a complete lack of irony. I’ve been having a pretty damn good time myself. Why couldn’t you be twenty years younger, Gerry? Or fifteen.”

“The universe did not ordain it thus.”

“Ha ha. My wine glass is empty.”

“So’s my beer.”

“Should we have another round?”

“Sure, why not?”

Gerry caught the bartender’s attention, and gave him the two-fingered “two more, please” gesture. He looked at Araminta, who was gazing in the direction of the colorful rows of liquor bottles on the shelves, and then he looked past her, out at the open doorway of the café. The streetlights had come on while they were sitting here, and the rain was still falling down sparkling on Bleecker Street as cars whooshed by and people walked or stumbled along under their umbrellas.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, brilliantly illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

Thursday, November 11, 2021

“The Ballad of Dickie Throckmorton”

 “It's autumn in New York that brings the promise of new love,” sang the woman on the jukebox…

“And another trick, Araminta, is knowing what not to write,” said Gerry, abruptly returning the conversation back to a previous thread, and, anyway, he would much rather talk about writing than about love and romance. After all, as little as he knew about writing, it was still a hell of a lot more than the absolutely nothing he knew of the carnal and emotional relations between men and women. “That is to say, if you don’t write all the words that you shouldn’t write then you just might be left with a few words that are perhaps at least somewhat worthwhile, or –”

“Gerry,” said someone behind Gerry. “Gerry Goldsmith?”

Now who could it be? Gerry turned to see.

It was a big fat man, with a salt-and-pepper beard, another one, that is to say another big man with a beard, and this one was wearing one of those striped Breton fisherman’s jerseys, and he had the beret to go with it. Like Gerry he was holding a bottle of Rheingold in one hand, and in the other hand he had a corncob pipe.

“Hello?” said Gerry. 

“Don’t you know me, Gerry?”

“Um, uh –”

“Oh, sure I’ve put on a couple of pounds, or maybe it’s the beard? But it’s me, Gerry, don’t you remember me?”

“Uh,” said Gerry.

“It’s me, Dickie Throckmorton!”

Oh no, of all people…

“Dickie Throckmorton!” repeated fat, middle-aged, bearded Dickie Throckmorton. He turned and leered at Araminta.

“And this must be your charming daughter?”

“You’re the second person who’s made that supposition since we’ve been sitting here,” said Araminta, “and, no – Mr. Throckmorton is it?”

“Yes, but please call me Dickie.”

“No, ‘Dickie’,” said Araminta, “Gerard and I are not father and daughter. We are, in fact, what the Italians call innamorati.”

“Hey, does that mean what I think it means?”

“Actually,” said Gerry, “Miss Sauvage and I are merely, or should I say not merely, but –”

“Hey, say no more, fella, and God bless you both. I’m so very pleased to meet, you – Miss Savage is it?”

“Sauvage, but since you seem to be old buddies with Gerard, you may call me Araminta, Dicky.”

“Araminda, so very pleased to meet you. D’ya know, Gerry and I were on the Harvard rowing team together, and, get this, the tennis team too, and the golf team!”

“Gee, you fellows were awfully athletic, weren’t you?”

“Sport is all we cared about, and of course drinking, ha ha, right, Gerry?”

“Yes,” said Gerry.

“Play all day and drink all night, that was our motto. Right, Gerry?”

“Heh heh,” said Gerry.

“God, the times we had!”

He addressed Araminta again.

“The only thing was, Gerry was a reader. Always reading! Smart guy.” He turned his gaze back to Gerry. “What you doing these days, Gerry?”

“Well, I’m working on a volume of philosophical observations –”

“Me, I chucked it all, pal. Sold my interest in the company to my brothers, moved to the Village and took up abstract painting!”

“Well, that’s great, uh, Dickie –”

“Best decision I ever made! Say, would you like to come over to my studio and see my work? I’m right down the street on MacDougal.”

“Well, uh –”

“Okay, maybe not right now, on account of I can see you two are having a ‘tête-à-tête’, heh heh –”

“Trying to,” interposed Araminta.

“– but maybe some other time,” barreled on Dickie. “Any time! So, Annabella, what do you do? I mean, like, besides being beautiful. I mean, what do you do. If anything.”

“I am a poet,” said Araminta, “and I am also writing a novel –”

“No kidding, what’s your novel about?”

“A young woman’s coming of age in the big city.”

“Sounds great,” said Dickie. “You got a title yet?”

“My new working title is The Boogie Woogie Man Will Get You If You Don’t Watch Out.”

“Ha ha, love it. Here, hold my beer, Gerry.”

Dickie handed Gerry his bottle of Rheingold, stuck his corncob pipe in his teeth, and took out his wallet. Despite Dickie’s bohemian attire, Gerry noticed that the wallet was a good-looking one, probably a Mark Cross if he knew Dickie Throckmorton, one of the richest guys in the old Harvard crowd, as well as the most boring.

Dickie took out a couple of calling cards and gave one each to Gerry and Araminta.

“My phone number’s on there, but if I’m not at home, I’ll probably be here, and if I’m not here I’m probably up the block at the Kettle of Fish. Or maybe at Chumley’s or the White Horse. Or the Minetta. Or if I’m not in one of those places you can probably find me at the Cedar.”

He put the wallet away and took his beer back from Gerry.

Gerry Goldsmith,” he said. He looked at Araminta. “Wow. Really nice meeting you, Angelina. But look, and I mean this for both of you, come by and see my paintings. Any time.”

“Sure, Dickie,” said Gerry.

“And Arabella. Wow. Beautiful. Okay. Great talking to you two.” But he didn’t go quite yet. “The times we had, Gerry,” he said. “Can’t wait to talk them all over with you.”

And then he staggered off.

“Jesus Christ,” said Araminta.

“I know,” said Gerry. He was looking at the calling card Dickie had given him.

“Give me that card, Gerry.”

Gerry handed her the card, and Araminta ripped both cards up into tiny pieces, dropping them fluttering down into the spit gutter below their feet.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq…}

Thursday, November 4, 2021

“The Sound of Rain”

 “I think,” said Gerry, “we were talking about being boring.”

“Ah, yes,” said Araminta, “and being aware of whether one is boring or not.”

“Yes, knowing when you’re starting to put your audience to sleep.”

“Or being aware that they’ve already fallen asleep.”

“Now I’m going to be afraid to say a word.”

“Oh, please don’t be, Gerry,” said Araminta. “I’ll tell you what. Because I consider us to be friends, I shall make a deal with you. If you ever start to get boring, I will tell you.”

“Thank you, Araminta,” said Gerry. “I would appreciate that.”

“And you, too, Gerry, you must stop me if I run on too tediously.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Oh, but that’s not fair.”

“But you see, Araminta, that even if – and please note my use of that all-important conjunction ‘if’ –”

“Is ‘if’ a conjunction?”

“I have no idea.”

“Me neither, but do go on, Gerry.”

“What was I saying?”

“’If’ something.”

“If, if – I’ve completely lost my thread now. I wonder if it was an interesting one?”

“Oh, I’m sure it was.”

“If. Oh, now I remember. Even if I felt myself slightly bored by something you were saying, the thing is I wouldn’t mind.”

“You wouldn’t mind being bored?”

“No, because I enjoy being in your company, and hearing you talk.”

“Even if I’m talking nonsense?”

“Yes. How can I explain?”

“Please try.”

“It’s like the sound of rain. It’s very pleasant, isn’t it?”

“I love the sound of rain.”

“Me too. Sometimes I sit in my humble digs at my writing table for an hour or more, doing nothing but staring at a blank page and listening to the rain.”

“And then after an hour do you write something?”

“Sometimes. But if I don’t it doesn’t bother me. I think that one of the great tricks of writing is knowing when not to write. Which, in my case, is probably about twenty-three hours and thirty-seven minutes of an average day.”

“Ha ha. And so you’re saying my babbling is like the sound of rain?”

Gerry paused, but only briefly to take a sip of his Rheingold, which he had surprisingly been forgetting to drink.

“Yes,” he said, “To me your voice is like the sound of the rain.”

“That’s so nice.”

Now both Gerry and Araminta fell silent, although all around them people laughed and chattered, and a woman sang on the jukebox, “Autumn in New York…”

“The angel passed again,” said Araminta.

“Yes, briefly,” said Gerry.

“If you were twenty years younger,” said Araminta, “or, dash it all, even fifteen years younger.”

“Alas, I am not,” said Gerry.

“Or maybe not alas,” said Araminta.

“Yes, maybe not,” said Gerry, who was, after all, a philosopher.

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, illustrated by the illustrious rhoda penmarq, who informs me that this is our 100th story in this series! Thanks to all who have read them…}