I ran a peepshow number on your website the other night. Excelente oferta, compadre! Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, these Thai Internet joints are obscenely fraternal; I can actually smell peoples' parts from a couple of feet away. I can't help it. That's probably because, unaided, I see rather like a topo, and sport a blown rock/roll ear, and have the kind of desensitized fingertips that would have driven Glenn Gould to suicide... thanks to a Guillain-Barre Syndrome I contracted in Pochutla, Mexico (on the western cordillera outside Oaxaca) in the early 1970s, while eating the local (and extremely potent) version of the Psilocybe Cyonescens, aka "el derrumbe" mushroom, out- of-season from old peanut butter jars preserved with honey and crawling with not so little white worms - and if that isn't mangled grammar, I don't know what is. But. . . mierda! There's a Russian gal sitting uneasily to my immediate left and . . . Aye, Chihuahua!
I say "peepshow" because . . . I guess I like the word, with its carnavale undertones. And because I never know quite what in the name of the sweet Baby Jesus is going to leap out at me on your Website. Which is no bad thing. I just have to . . . cover myself, given local mores, the Buddhist thing, not to mention an easily ruffled Royal Family. And could we possibly have some pornographic penwork from you one of these fucking days?!
Yeah, Alastair. Give it up, mutha! Just dig into those old bachelor files, which I know you got. At this point, I would probably even settle for some erotica, pathetic cop-out jive that it generally is. You know, one can't helping wondering where all the eroti
c tunes are? I was always game for writing some overtly sexy lyrics for somebody. I just couldn't find the right musician. I don't mean like "Old man 'Mose, he kicked the bucket. Buck, buck bucket!" Although that, in its day of course, was headsnapper. . . Country Joe McDonald, admittedly a minor talent, attempted it with his own rendering of Quiet Days in Clichy. . . .
Which brings me to your Heroes, which I read (up to Jung so far) with equal parts pleasure and admiration. Those impressionistic thumbnail sketches of yours are first rate. Better yet, they must have been good fun to write. I have done a little of that myself (museum hackwork/artists sketches) and. . . I really dig the space- constraint thing. Mine often have to run almost uniformly in the 90-110 word category. So it's, jump right in. Cough out your spiel. And slam bam thank you, ma'am! I confess that I have been writing my own version of comic Haiku recently, which really paints a guy in. But that's another matter.
Your Heroes is a brilliant idea, and nothing better to while away the odd rainy day. The fact that the next one out here isn't expected till May notwithstanding. . . Very enjoyable to mull over. Gets me out of the Thai sun, and I learn a thing or two in the process. Like. . . can you truly read Karl Jung? Great guy. And I love the way he stuck it to Freud, and all that good shit. But his prose. . . It's like reading an Army Training manual on Angel Dust. So, since you can do it, man, I am impressed!
Kurling up mitt Karl reminds me of wrastling with Gurdjieff (without Ouspensky's timely aid): "The evolution of the Earth, above a certain point, or beyond a certain percentage . . . would be fatal for the moon."
I have often thought about the notion of heroes. You know, looking yourself squarely in the old 3rd Eye and first, admitting you actually have any to begin with. Of course, it is absurdly unflattering psychologically not to have any. . . That would probably never do. It brings to mind Dennis Hopper's (Terry Southern) Easy Rider script. Oh come on! Hear me out. Cast your mind back to the inimitable campfire scene, and a joint being passed around among the principals, plus that hippie guy they've picked up at the New Mexico commune after banging his girlfriend(s).
Peter Fonda ("Capt. America") being in possession of the J, out of the blue , directs his attention to the token Hippie:
[Capt. America] "You ever wanted to be anybody else?"
[Hippie with tie-dyed bandana around his head] "I think I'd like to try Porky Pig."
[Capt. America, head resting on his Capt. America Stars & Stripes crash helmet, musingly drawing upon the Bogarted J] "I never wanted to be anybody else."
It occurs to me that one of the tests of a potential hero is: would I be scared absolutely shitless to confront him/her/it in public or otherwise, even in my Jungian dreams. I think, yes. That's my own first test. Who would totally rattle my bones even as I looked up to it/she/he? Instead of say, squirreling right up to the motherfucker and sticking out the sweaty paw. Anyway, I slipslimed through your alphabeticals, passing G for (no Goya!) and H (hey, where the devil's Hannibal?) It occurred to me that, besides not figuring in your heroic pantheon, these geezers may be too old by now. Too bad, 'cause Hannibal drew some crazy shit. To be honest, roughly 38% of the heroes I didn't even recognize (gulp).
I don't mean to stir the muck but. . . I would be interested in hearing from your Villains. Not that I didn't catch your drift - Heroes influence in a positive way. But is that to say that artists such as yourpre-Eminent Self are in no way shaped, formed, polished and/or waxed by their passionate dislikes, personal revolts, prejudices, etc? I'm afraid I must insist you answer that one, buddy. I could go on. I'm not doing anything this evening, after a lovely day on the Chiang Mai circuit. But I won't. Funny how I can always go on. But I suppose that has to do with my feeling that... we sort of understand each other. And at least for my part, I know I can fairly safely get Out There when writing you. Without being threatened with an admonitory letter to my mum, or castration, or a tax audit, or a Rorschach Test. Because, let's face it: There is no Sanity Clause, right?
Never was. And thanks for running that silly Ark mail of mine. The illustrations are swell. You're welcome to any drivel I have sent you over the years. And I look forward to something from Rab B. And more. . . .
What it is ?
I will take the pause since I last asked after your wellbeing (Seattle/July) as a mute manly sign that the levee didn't break this time around and that you and Diane, toughing it out, did not go down in the Flood - for which I am gratified. Now we're getting the dreaded Gilga-wrath over here in the American Heartland, which is to say Nowheresville, Wisconsin. What hath God wrath? Not to mention Where will it all end?
Meanwhile, were you aware that the Ark was built of gopher wood and stood three stories tall dripping wet with a single door and that Noah got the word that the levee was gonna break when he was 480 years old give or take, and 600 if he was a day when he completed the job giving him 120 years to sort out the problem of constructing a vessel aprox 450 feet long or roughly half the size of the QE1 decked out to accomodate an estimated 75,000 animals, and that it weighed, well, golly ... I guess you'd have to begin at the beginning with the specific density of gopher wood per foot. Which would likely involve consulting some think tank on the lunatic fringe of the far Christian Right....
But what disturbs me even more is: whatever became of all those laborers Noah had in his employ? Buried in the rocks ... like Dylan's grandpa?
Flash-forward to early Sept 1980, just about a week , give or take, before the Iran-Iraq War broke out and my girlfriend Karina and I have landed upon the Turko-Russian border on a Black Sea steamer out of Istanbul; women bedded down on one side of the ship, men on the other. Clouds of black cigarette smoke over a roiling sea and Turks blowing lunch all over the damned place.
The general idea was to sling myself with abandon into the Caucasus and fullfill my ancient destiny of wallowing in Russian soul, slugging back rot gut Vodka shot-for-shot with just about any dribbling fool that happened to turn up with crossed eyes and stains on his bib, wrapping my choppers around dirty onion sandwiches on gravelly local bread, and slurping pickled herring with my fingers while quoting from The Idiot.
Destiny is bunk. I think Tolstoy actually said that, more or less, didn't he?
Anyway, Pres Jimbo Carter, head pugnaciously wedged, happened at the time to be leading a hapless boycott of the Moscow Olympics by way of protesting Brezhnev's invasion of Afghanistan the year before, and the Russian border goons took the affront personally.
Turned roughly back, we ended up hitchhiking to Anatolia in a long hot dusty caravan of Turkish truckers headed to Iraq. We relentlessly moved in an exhaust-ridden herd, between ludicrously frequent blowouts, through the marvelously flyblown city of Kars and eventually down through Anatolia, passing Mt Ararat as we went. But we didn't get down. Our trucker friend wouldn't have it. Dacoits! I recall sleeping sitting up in the foetal position in that unbearably hot stuffy cab with the windows rolled up and the doors latched, I in the middle and Karina at my right, for three or four nights. When we parted company, I gave the driver my Buck knife, in gratitude for not mugging and raping us and making us drink raki with him. He was a good bloke and as a parting send-off we split a surreptitious bottle of raki he kept under his seat, beside his pistol and whip and rubbery prosthesis.
That day we headed for Konya, of Whirling Dervish fame. We always hitch hiked in Turkey, because it was so absurdly easy. But sometimes out in the remote areas there were so few passenger cars that we would hail a bus, which is what happened in Diyarbakir. A couple of hours out of town we started noticing disturbing signs of restlessness among the Turkish natives, like burnt-out cars and bullet-ridden buildings. Suddenly we lurched into what looked like an abandoned petrol station, urged hurredly off, and once inside the place were made to lie down on the floor and keep our yaps shut. I can't remember how much later it was that Karina and I learned a military coup had come down. I don't mean to leave this little anecdote here coyly dangling for dramatic effect. Only I have to say that once we hit what we thought was going to be a refuge of sorts within the defunct Dervish complex at Konya matters turned to whirling mayhem fast and I swear were it not for Karina I would definitely have been in for a blue rogering a la Turk.
But enough is simply enough. I don't know why I put this old stuff down on paper to you, Alastair. Oh, yes I do! Could it be that the world has become one big sprawling boring global village in the past twenty-five years just like Hilary Clinton predicted?? Or is it that I have become a bored and boring global villager? I'll bet The Bob knows. Bob's coming near my local village on tour. That man never stops. He just goes on & on from village to village. I could maybe send a note to his dressing room. "Dear Bob ..."
Did you see that Cate Blanchett, among others, is playing Him in some upcoming Hollywood Biopic? It's called The Early Years, or something. They're all the rage now, these Bios. Ever since the success of that Johnny & June movie. I see they're doing Freddy. I can't recall who's scrapping for that one. Jimi ... Forest Whitaker? Don Cheedle? Miles! Everybody's looking for a piece of that action. Don Cheedle was up for it. I know Harry Belofonte wanted it bad. Cate Blanchette. But I think she already signed on to do Janis, didn't she? I ask you again: Where will it all ... ?? Furthermore, where's God when we really need Him?
What I need is an editor. I never needed one before, when I was writing semi-seriously. I do now, though. Can I borrow yours? I seem to write gibberish. I don't spellcheck. I repeat phrases, omit words... I see, scolling back in time that I even sent you two Cormac mails, 12 & 16 July, possibly identical; can't say, can't bear to read 'em this morning. It would be great to turn over a new fig leaf. But it's hard, brother. Yeah. Like workin' on de chain gang.
Words To The Wise, Alastair. Never ride your bicycle at midnight under a crisp northern sky as I did last night, treat yourself to a fistful of Himber Geist Marzipan, and then turn in with Oriana Fallaci's hair-raising interview (Interviews With History) of Mohammed Riza Riza Pahlavi. Does anybody in your household have a birthday coming up?
Mi estimado Alastair,
I intended to write you over the weekend. But the neighborhood wolves suddenly took to howling under a waxing Tundra moon (in Aires) and between the tonic-toned-tinnitis and all that baying, I couldn't get a word out edgewise. No matter. As usual, there was precious little to my Cyber-musings. Just a wee shamen reflection or two. Oops! Sha-people. Got to watch that one. 'Cause the Canadian border ain't close enough to save a guy when he blows that shit off among the feminine American public. Indeed, there's not much worry of that around here in Nowheresville. It's so bad, I'd bang a woodpile on the chance there was a snake inside. But then, I'm no prize myself.
As Kinky Friedman of the Texas Jewboys puts it: "Too young for Medicare; too old for women to care." Anyway, I was thinking of shamaneria, and it occurred to me that I really never knew one. At least not in Amazonia. In San Jose del Pacifico, outside Oaxaca, I used to smoke it with a sort of . . . . mountain brujo. Well, he would prepare the kif, and I would do the heavy lifting on his magic pipe. Then another. And another. Twisted lotus-like. Then, when I was duly hammered, he would pull out a reed flute and try to bust my chops. He just raped that flute, man! My heart beating off the charts. . . . Sometimes I really thought he was trying to kill me. But once, the Federales hit town and he saved my arse; hid me under the bed in his one room mountain shack, its walls papered over with newspaper clippings of busts & broads. It was open season on gringos back then (1970).
An American I knew had been tossed in the Pochutla old nick for selling arms to the bandidos, and perhaps they had seen us together. Anyway, I used to take the durambe mushroom up in that town, too. But no brujo. I had assumed control over a shotgun shack that had previously been home to what was obviously a very strange young American hippie-girl: over her rope bed - indeed, from the entire ceiling - depended a disconcerting collection of dried dead birds. The choza lay just the other side of a spooky misty cemetery ruled by a pack of wild dogs. I had always to run the proverbial gauntlet between shack and village. Truly Basquerville shit. It was in San Jose that I caught the Guillain-Barre. A few years later in Ecuador, my first trip through S America (1973-74) I got intimate with the San Pedro cactus. A young Andes brujo introduced me to it in Cuenca, where four rivers met. That part of southern Ecuador, along with the longevity pueblo of Vilcabamba where I later stayed, has some of the finest Pedro in the Americas. While my partner Robin, and his Detroit pals were shooting coke back in our pension room, I was sitting on the riverbanks of Cuenca with the brujo, who taught me how to skin the cactus, and clean it. Sometimes we would boil it up right there on the spot. As often as not I would eat it raw
. Like most mescaline-based plants, bitterness (as in peyote) approaches extremes. It's like . . . swallowing toads. Great high though: non-spooky, not tricky particularly, very centred, earthy. Unlike mushrooms, which are airy and very very fast. I came up with a way of getting the most bang from my buck, with the Pedro: once I could chew up no more, I would pick a close-to-round pebble from the riverbank, lie down on my back, and place the pebble between my eyes. I think you get the idea . . . . I have only taken ayahuasca (or "Yage") once, and then unsupervised and not in a jungle setting, but rather in the genteel city of Popayan, Colombia. So it really doesn't count. That was in 1974. A year later I went into the Colombian Amazon for the first time. My mission was to do the Real Thing, in the Yage "capital" of La Chorrera on the Igaraparana River. I was so green, I went in there with my all-leather Frye boots. I came out two months later barefoot.
My clothing was rotted, too. At one point I was disgorged in a swamp by an Andoran padre who ran a backwater school for Indian boys God Only Knows Where. I shared his boat for several days. I had been bumming riverboat rides. On what would turn out to be my last day aboard ship (though I didn't know it) I chewed up some acid, thinking that I had a long easy pleasant day ahead of me on the river and not a care . . . All of a sudden, it's adieu time and I'm overboard and wading up to my chest through a creepy-crawly swamp a couple of hundred yards from a Huitoto Indian village. Fellow just dropped me off, though he was kind enough to treat me to a small going-away bag of pulverized coca leaves, as I happened to tell him that I intended to walk to La Chorrera, a stroll of what turned out to be about 80 kms. I remember to this day gingerly making my way across that nasty stretch of water. It was noon and the Huitoto guys were playing basketball on a makeshift dirt court.
Next thing I knew, I was out there with 'em running up and down, right and truly stoned. Dripping with sweat, which I guess was the idea, the Huitotos finally drifted off to a cool pool the other side of the village, and I with them. That night I hung my hammock inside the school, trying my best to come down. Next morning at dawn, under a blinding rain, I was sloshing along a trail in the alleged direction of La Chorrera and an ayuahasca adventure. My sister Barbara, at Stanford U, had sent me about a dozen hits of windowpane acid, and thank gawd for it, 'cause they got me through. Rough 60 day trip. My first Amazonian experience, too. In the next five years I would go down the Amazon River to Belem, Brasil twice. But those were cakewalks, compared with La Chorrera. Pity that, for all my pains, I never did hook up with the Ayahuasca. But then, maybe I didn't really need to crawl up my own arsehole, either.
Which is, after all, what you get from the Beeg A. Jungle drugs! Makes my skin crawl with pleasure & pain just thinking about 'em. Is this relevant to your work? Probably not. But . . . The thing about Amazonian shamen, and this is important, Alastair, is that . . . they're drunkards all! Sots. They positively adore the piss. Don't generally do drugs themselves, as far as I know. You can even pay 'em in hootch. Which means they probably don't live all that long. Although they tend to look it. And the trick is to find one who's sober and needs you for the booze. You probably know that ayahuasca is fundamentally a diagnostic tool. Basically, we're talking about people who are sick, but don't really know why. So, they give the brujo a brief rundown on symptoms. Then he prepares the brew. And during this outlandish trip, you may or may not come, among other frightening and ecstatic revelations, to a deep understanding of which, for example, bodily organ is on your case. It's like mesc or acid or peyote: you can see the blood flowing in your veins, absolutely no sweat.
But it's way more intense. The problem is . . . some people just get Out There and stay out. Some do harm to themselves. Develop other traumas. It's like . . . burning down a house to roast a pig. But that's the risk you take. Anyway, in a perfect world, from the arsehole crawl to finally soaring with the eagles, you eventually come down and stop babbling like twelve loons, and have found the clothes you stripped off during the trip and chucked in the nearest river. Still shaky and dazed, you are just coherent enough to explain to the brujo what it is that ails you. Right! At which point he produces some dirty scraggly dubious herbal specific for your pancreatic cancer, and sends you on your way. Which may, depending on the situation, be several days upriver and beyond. No need to worry about sorting out the bill: geezer demanded your money upfront! Just to put the polish on this one . . . As far as I can tell, and this comes from stays in the Bolivian, Colombian, Brasilian, and Ecuadorean Amazon basin, the only drug widely used by Indo guys everywhere is "Yopo".
At least that's how it's known in Venezuela. In Brasil it's Epena. You could look it up. Interesting stuff, this . . . snuff. I've done it a number of times, but I never got as loaded as the Indian, who get behind it in a major way, staggering around, eyes up in their heads, moaning and weeping, noses gushing rivers of viscous gunk. But it's funny. And cool, because you blow it up your buddy's schnoz through a bifurcated reed tube. So it's like shooting somebody up; then getting shot-up yourself! Ain't life grand? The drift of all this drugging, I suppose, is to maybe . . . lend you a little support on the shaman front. Because they are real characters, these chaps. Comic and cunning and dissolute. And powerful, some of them.
I assume this is drug-free shamanism you're working on, given local mores and shit. Musn't blow the childrens' minds! True? or False? I see I have the promised mail from you, which I have yet to open, and which will doubtless be something to live for. Give me a little bit with it, will you Alastair? I'm driving to Florida tomorrow.
Two days On The Road. The gods compliant. That idea of attaching Suba to the Work In Progress is a brilliant stroke. I detect a winner Out There . . . Extremely hastily yours,