in this damn psychiatric ward. Seems there's a problem locating Stanley
so he can sign the release papers. I have a feeling I know the reason
why. I have been trying to get as much fun as possible out of the situation,
however, and whenever a nurse comes in the room I start a rambling monologue
about God and Diane Linkletter, all the while throwing meaningful glances
at the window. It makes them nervous as hell.
Am also working on my monograph about the
LSD experience for publication in the Harvard Medical Review. It will,
of course, be much deeper than anything Huxley did, for he was too superficially
intellectual and male and lacked my intuitive understanding of the recesses
of the psyche. Face it, Huxley was a guy who spent all his time getting
high and looking at a plate of beans in the hope it would improve his
eyesight. He was not what you would call a "party animal." And what in
bloody Christ's name is keeping Stanley?
It got boring in my room and, as the staff
psychiatrist luckily didn't consider restraints a necessity in my situation,
I've taken to wandering around the hospital to pass the day. Also, I'd
written a long prose poem about my harrowing descent into madness, and,
as a public service, I thought it would be generous of me to recite it
to my fellow patients to help cheer them up. The immobile ones proved
to be the best audience those who, because of traction or networks of
tubes, syringes and IV's, couldn't maneuver to buzz the nurse, or worse
yet, run out in the corridor screaming for help. The folks in the cancer
wing were generally too weak to move, too, but things were a tad squishy
and disgusting there, so after a few visits I stayed away.
Then, along my travels, I chanced into a
room occupied by a man with a nose catheter, his arms hooked up to an
IV of blood and fluids. A virile, robust looking man. Maybe even a little
bit hairy. But not too much, though. A doleful woman sat by his side,
twisting a ring on her wedding finger. I had hardly begun to declaim my
poem (It begins with the line "I have seen the best mind of my generation,
mine, destroyed by madness...") when the man fairly leapt from his pillows.
"0 my God," he cried. "A kindred spirit
in these antiseptic halls." And he began to chant, in a voice much louder
than mine so I had to stop, the following:
"A man walks through a field at midnight.
His face is bright purple. There is a new moon out, but he can't see it.
Enraged, he eats a whole cow alive. There
is no A-1 sauce in the field of the damned.
"When I was a boy, my mother took me to
the monster truck show. There were no monsters, and the trucks were hideously
deformed. I knew then that someday I would commit incest.
"Authority is my enemy. I have always fought
authority. I do, however, plan to cash my social security checks."
It turns out that these excerpts were from
a book of trenchant prose poems, The Journal of Icarus Sunrise, which
was soon to be published by the prestigious Aluminum Valley Press. We
exchanged introductions--the poet's name is Blake Seersucker. Blake is
in the hospital because of a perforated ulcer due to alcoholism, where
he lost about 160 quarts of blood. I thought, how nice it is to meet someone
who's really doing something. I am so sick of poseurs. True, Roberto
will ofttimes vomit in public after drinking a half bottle of Nighttrain,
but afterwards he takes to his bed for a week and must be spoonfed jars
of pureed hamburger from the Gerber Baby Co.
The woman was his wife, Miriam. She was
pretty, I suppose, in a mousy, non-descript, lumpy, bloated and blotchy
sort of way. She spent most of her time wringing her hands and interjecting
variations of "But Blake, how will we pay for all this?" in the middle
of our serious conversation about Art. Finally, I said, "I imagine you'll
have to take a second job, my dear. It happens all the time."
At this, Blake became quite animated. "Never!"
he shouted. "No wife of mine will ever work. We'll make it on my writing,
or we'll starve together!"
Frankly, I was appalled by this display
of macho bluster. Why, in France, the women always worked to support their
geniuses. Clearly, I would have to take this young couple under my wing.
They had so much to learn.
Stanley showed up this morning, looking
as sheepish as I've ever seen him, and that takes some doing. I gazed
at him sadly, my large beautiful eyes filling with tears. Luckily, I had
put on some mascara before he came--it ran pathetically down my face like
a painting by Dubuffet. Bursting into manly, belching sobs that made my
teeth ache, Stanley told the story of his evening with Emily.
They met at the Bookstore, the hang-out
for yuppie intellectuals with $7 to spend on a glass of wine that my set
would never be seen dead in because Sterno is so cheap. Having presented
Stanley as a tortured artist in desperate search of inspiration, I wish
I could have seen Emily's face as he related the problems of his comic
strip "Stanley's Wacky World" in The North Seattle Silent Majority
Tattler & Apocalyptic Gazette, where his biggest difficulty is
getting the Norwegian accent for his character Sven the Wonder Pooch down.
"Once you've captured the Ballard market, the city is yours," he told
her. "The trouble is, should I write 'Yumpin' Yiminy', or spell it. with
a 'j' to be more subtle? After all, I don't want to play down to my audience."
Fortunately, Emily was sympathetic to Stanley's
creative plight. Knowing that I would be at the reading, she offered to
go home with him and critique his current panels. Finding an error in
perspective in a drawing of a parking meter, she quickly stripped to the
nude in order for him to work from the live model.
Well, one thing led to another, what with
Stanley not having sex for three months and all (and that was only because
my quarterly allowance was due the next day.) I wish I could have been
a fly on the wall when, at Emily's suggestion, they did it doggie-style
to provide ideas for Sven, all the while screaming "Ya Sure You Betcha"
at the top of their lungs. (Once started, Stanley's confessional fervor
was disgustingly thorough.)
As I sat listening to this tale, tears of
pain welling up in my eyes, Stanley's guilt reached truly incapacitating
levels. At the end, when I told him that someday I might find it in my
heart to forgive him, his gratitude was overwhelming.
The upshot is, not only is my allowance
increased, a 6month writing sabbatical in Paris may be in my future. I
sadly watched as Stanley left the room to sign my discharge forms. After
he left, unfortunately, I had a laughing jag so intense they had to sedate
me and I ended up stuck here three extra days.
One of the reasons my book isn't selling,
I realized, is lack of a concentrated PR blitz. True, I am acknowledged
as the leading light in the literary and artistic circles here in Seattle,
but it is so difficult to get people to actually admit this. Face it,
the whole lot of them are a bunch of mindless sheep who will only agree
that something is true if they read it in the papers. With this thought
in mind, I decided that it would behoove me to get my name mentioned in
some of the more prestigious columns in the city. Walter, my publisher,
would be the logical choice to pull strings for this, but unfortunately
the incident with the two 15 year-old girls from Renton has made him unavailable
because of that silly bail thing.
Emmett Watson, of course, I immediately
rejected as being insufficiently avant-garde. True, he supposedly had
a drink with Hemingway 50 years ago, but that is hardly the sort of thing
that pulls any weight in the postmodern school. Derek Scatological, whose
column "Fast & messy" appears in This,Week, would seem a more
appropriate choice, but there was that ugly incident a couple months back
at Canlis, where I started humping his leg in an effort to get him to
notice me. How was I supposed to know he was having an anniversary dinner
with his wife at the time? And even after I apologized they refused to
let me join them for dessert.
Luckily, as I was sitting in Two Bells waiting
for an admirer to buy me a drink, who should walk in but Hubert Humphries
of The Hermit. To appear in his column "Ad Nauseum" would be worth
its weight in gold in the cultural vanguard. (I knew Hubert from that
time I glanced into his cubicle as I was being bodily ejected from The
Hermit's offices, but that's an old story I'm sick of telling.) As
usual, Hubert was muttering to himself as he sat down at the bar and ordered
a plate of nachos.
"MSG level down in Chicken McNuggets. I
could taste it. The world must be told." So saying, he pulled a laptop
computer from his satchel and began typing away, oblivious to the cheese
sauce he was getting all over the keys.
I saw my opening. "Excuse me, is that HYPERCARD
in your lap, or are you just happy to see me?" Hubert's reaction was curious.
He began sputtering and slapping his head uncontrollably, completely unable
to form a word for several minutes. It was if it was the first time a
woman had spoken to him in five years. (I later discovered it was twelve.)
When he finally calmed down enough to ask me to sit down, I introduced
myself and asked what he was working on.
"It's a cyberpunk novel written on computer
disk set in Seattle 50 years from now," he said. This did not surprise
me, as in the past two years I have yet to meet a person who wasn't writing
a computer cyberpunk book set in Seattle 50 years from now. "How interesting,"
I cooed. "I'd love to see it."
Pulling a disk from his trouser pocket,
he slapped it into the machine. (I saw now my opening should have been
"Is that your floppy, or are you glad to see me?") For my benefit, he
flipped ahead to the erotic scenes--big buxom Aryan women in leather halters
copulated with green-skinned lizard boys with reptilian erections that
never went away in orifices that bore no relation to human physiogomy.
It suddenly hit me that Hubert was a virgin. His entire sex education,
like others of his ilk, had come from the pages of Heavy Metal
After a few beers, I had him firmly in the
palm of my hand. "Nanette," he cried, "you are a genius, even if you are
technologically-disabled. A mention in my column is not enough for such
as you. You must have your own page in The Hermit. And with my
recommendation to back you, you shall. Because I love you."
He took me back to his tiny apartment, the
floor littered with old issues of Omni, Factsheet 5, and crumpled
aluminum Dick's Hamburger's wrappers. I was prepared for an infantile
experience, but it turned out to be pre-fetal. Hubert sucked my breasts
until dawn, making hideous gurgling sounds and clutching the crotch of
his stained polyester slacks. By the time it was over, I was sure I must
be lactating. In the words of William Burroughs, "Most disgusting thing
I ever stood still for." Still, it will be worth it to appear in The Hermit.
At least, that's what I keep telling myself when The flashbacks get
I hoped my next effort to charm a columnist
would be more pleasant. At least this one was a woman, thank God--Meredith
B. Smurch, who wrote "Verbal Diarrhea" for Underground City. Her
column largely consisted of her problems with the current boyfriend of
the month, who she invariably dragged to all the trendy spots in town
so she could publicly break up with him, often throwing cocktail glasses
which invariably misfired and hit local celebrities so she had an excuse
to introduce herself and ask for an interview. Tonight, however, she was
dateless. Maybe word was getting around. Anyhow, once she ascertained
I had a car, she agreed that a plug for a sister writer would be a service
she'd love to provide.
I picked her up in front of her apartment
building in Wallingford. She would have invited me in, she explained,
but the place was a mess--her last boyfriend had OD'd there when Meredith
told him they were through, and there were bloodstains and POLICE INVESTIGATION
ribbons all over the joint. "My landlord is furious," she said, "but that's
the price the old coot pays for having a famous working journalist gracing
to be a tenant in this dump."
Meredith herself was a combination of Madame
Pompadour and a parody Hollywood hooker from a 1960's Billy Wilder film.
Low-cut embroidered blouse, tight lace bodice, black leather miniskirt,
fishnet stockings. Her bleached-blond hair was piled on her head like
a Silly Sand sculpture in the current popular style I believe is called
"Rats' Nest." The hair and the stiletto heels on her snakeskin boots added
2 feet to her height, which was fortunate, as without them I think she
might have been 50" tall. Still, in her own slutty way she was an attractive
girl. Until she opened her mouth. Her voice could strip the grime off
the roof of the Kingdome, saving the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of
"Let's go on my rounds while we do the interview,"
she said. I agreed it might be fun. That was my first mistake. Then I
offered to pick up her tab when she said she left her credit card at home
like a ninny. That was my second mistake.
Mistake Two was the back-breaker, because
it turned out that, because of an undiagnosable digestive tract ailment,
Meredith could eat nothing but extremely overpriced bar hors d'ouerves
washed down with only the finest liquor (or the second or third finest
if she was in a pinch.) Our first stop was Casa-U-Betcha. "Not that it's
part of the scene," she explained, "but some of the hunks here might be
potential boyfriends." There she had some gazpacho and several tequila
slammers. Next it was le Bistro, for the theater crowd (antipasto &
a few $9 glasses of wine), the Crocodile, in case Peter Buck was there
to throw a cocktail glass at ($6 cheeseburger & Heineken's), Entros,
for the art crowd (curried chicken beaks and claws in an aspic base, I
think. I was afraid to look too closely. Meredith sucked the marrow out
of them with a hideous slurping sound that brought back memories of Hubert.
With shots of Jack Daniel's for a chaser), and the Off-Ramp, for the grunge
crowd (basket of greasy fries & Black Russians.)
The annoying thing was, she wasn't interviewing
me at all. All her time was spent rubbernecking. "Oh, look, it's Joe Blow
from 'Northern Exposure."' "Hey, there's Jane Belch from Fantagraphics."
"Did you see What'sis name from Sub Pop?" "Omigod, on my way to the john
I passed Kurt Cobain's bookie! The stories he could tell, I'd bet."
Just before my Visa maxed out, Meredith
called it a night. We went to Wild Ginger, because she liked the Satay
bar. (Satay is two pieces of beef jerky charred to a crisp on a toothpick
that you dip into coconut sauce a $7 a pop.) As the sake arrived and I
thought, "At last, my interview," who should walk in but Walter.
"I had the most amazing piece of luck,"
he said. "The second day in jail, my grandmother dies. The bondsman used
the inheritance as surety for my bail. But Nanette, you must introduce
me to your charming companion."
Well, I was stuck. The second Meredith found
out Walter was a publisher, she was all over him like a bad rash. It seems
she has a book project, too--a chronicle of her years as a media whore
entitled I Slept With Conan O'Brien, But He Still Wouldn't Give Me
A Job. I turned my back for a moment to discreetly dislodge a chunk
of hardened satay from my gums, and when I turned around they were gone.
Just as well, I thought. At least someone else would have to deal with
Walter's slimy perversions for an evening.
Still, I was sad. Sometimes, it seemed,
the world was too crass a place for a sensitive person to live in.
At noon today I had lunch with Blake Seersucker
in his and Miriam's Belltown apartment. I was able to have a woman-to-woman
talk with Miriam, explaining how our Great Artists must be supported in
a modicum of comfort and security in order to do their best work. Blake's
insane macho pride to the contrary, she should take a job. After our chat,
she was allbut glowing with the thought of the Noble Sacrifice she would
be making, and the next day she was slinging hash at one of the more upscale
Blake seems to be taking this new development
in good grace. I had arrived with a picnic-style meal--a broiled chicken,
lobster salad, and a bottle of zinfandel--that I had picked up at Miriam's
deli. She didn't charge me, of course. After all, Blake must be fed. We
sipped wine while Blake showed me his work table, covered with his current
projects. It is astonishing how prolific he is. There is an essay on the
Nature of Genius ("Only dull plodders in the World of Art talk of craft
and discipline and studious toil. The question is: Is anything and everything
touched by a genius therefore a Work of Genius? Yes, I say. Yes! I scream,
in case you didn't hear me the first time, you earthbound scum. Take my
penis, the object most frequently touched by my genius. It is a Work of
Genius, and should be sold for huge sums of money..."), an imaginary
dialogue between Mother Theresa and Idi Amin (MT: "It is not for us to
question God's plan." IA: "You said it, sister. Say, can I offer you another
helping of rack of political prisoner in hollandaise sauce?" MT: "No thanks,
Idi, I'm stuffed. Put it in a doggie bag, though, I'm going to India tomorrow.
They could use it there." IA: "That's what I like about you, babe. Always
thinking of other..."), and notes for his next novel, to be totally comprised
of his grocery lists from 1963-1977 (part one of a projected trilogy.)
As we ate, we discovered that Miriam had
carelessly neglected to pack any napkins. "Nanette, it pains me that such
beautiful hands should be soiled," Blake cried, and began licking lobster
sauce and chicken grease off my fingers. After that, he continued on to
places where he thought he saw a piece of avocado or a drop of wine, ending
up in areas where it would have been damned unlikely for anything to spill
at all. Still, I wanted to be a good guest, so when he was done I provided
the same service for him. I certainly hope that this proves to be the
first of a long series of culturally-edifying meals.
Stanley came home with a look of such suicidal
dejection that I exclaimed, "What's wrong, dear," thinking that he'd lost
all our money in the stock market or something like that. He slumped in
a chair and burst into tears. "They ... they've canceled my strip," he
It seems that The North Seattle Silent
Majority Tattler & Apocalyptic Gazette had pulled "Stanley's Wacky
World" because a bunch of Norwegians found it politically-incorrect, citing
Sven the Wonder Pooch, "an illiterate, beer-guzzling yahoo who pees in
the street," as a particularly derogatory slur on their national character.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I said, "Oh, don't worry. I'm sure that Gary
Larson must have gone through the same kind of thing when he was starting
Stanley's head jerked up, his eyes blazing
with a crazy fire. "Larson! Of course! I'll do what Larson did--I'll just
go down to the San Francisco Chronicle, where they'll see the true value
of my work. I'll be syndicated--famous! Then I'll come back and laugh
in those bastards faces. Ha! Ha ha ha!" Then, he came to himself and looked
at me pleadingly. "I mean, if that's all right with you, honey."
Well, it's not like I've ever been adverse
to getting Stanley out of town for a few days. And San Francisco, to boot.
Maybe he'd discover his repressed homosexuality and turn gay on me. That
would certainly relieve me from one of the more onerous chores of our
married life. I oozed encouragement. I even told him to look up -that
young receptionist at Harper's I met last summer. "Connections are very
important, dear," I told him. "Why, even a receptionist can be your entree
into a book contract. Invite him out for a drink. Suggest the Castro District--I
hear that's where all the publishing deals are made."
Stanley seemed on the verge of tears again.
He grasped my hand. "Oh, Nanette. What did I ever do to deserve a wife
like you?!" Oh, Stanley, I thought. Some questions are best left unanswered.
Roberto is insanely jealous over my interest
in Blake. As the poor dear should be, of course--compared to Blake's Promethean
energies and boundless imagination (not to mention his connection to Aluminum
Valley Press, the prestigious firm where I deserve to be published), Roberto's
efforts are those of a seventh-rate poete maudite with narcolepsy. Take
his last project, for instance, in his "People's Poetry Press" (Motto:
"Like, man, if you bring poetry to the people, they'll see it's all just
an illusion, dig, and the world will be a better place and we'll all love
one another and buy me drinks"), where he stapled matchbook covers filled
with "Revolutionary Poems" to every tree in Volunteer Park. The trouble
was, matchbook covers being rather small, added to the fact that Roberto
used a largetipped felt marker, the poems read along the lines of "SCRE
AUTHO"I "FU THE SYST". "IMPE MAYO RI",, "DEAT TO T PI", etc. The only
interest generated was from a couple of graduate students in Dead Languages
at UW, who thought they'd stumbled onto evidence of ancient Pacific Rim
hieroglyphics. They were immediately thrown out of the Ph.D program.
Even Roberto's suicide threats have lost
their punch. "Oh Nanette," he'll cry, "if I ever felt your love for me
was dying, I would refuse to stand beneath a doorjamb when the Great Seattle
Earthquake comes in anywhere from three to six hundred years according
to recent seismological studies." I feel only pity when I hear this, and
wish Roberto could just let it go and find someone else. Then again, I
remind myself, who could ever hope to replace me?
Candlelight dinner tonight at Blake's. Miriam
has taken the 6PM-Midnight shift at the Metro Cinema in addition to her
job at the deli. I feel so proud--after all, it was my efforts that gave
the poor thing a sense of purpose to her life. I looked in the window
and saw her at the snack counter before I came to dinner. She was positively
glowing. Either that, or it was the sheen of popcorn oil covering her
from head to foot. Anyway, she seemed very happy.
Blake has assimilated rapidly to his new
situation. "And to think my pride was once such a burning burden to me
that I would have rather eaten molten lead than see my wife toil," he
said. "Gee, it's too bad her evening job couldn't have been at the Metropolitan
Grill--she could have gotten us a couple steaks from the kitchen."
As it was, we ordered some anchovie pizza
from Domino's. The salty taste awoke in us a thirst that wasn't quenched
until early morning. Thank God Miriam has to take the Night Owl Express.
Of course, it must be unpleasant for her, standing at that busstop until
1:30AM. But, Art must be served.
Stanley left for the airport this morning
on his trip to "Baghdad-by-the-Bay" (as he calls it.) Lord, he is such
a cornball. I hope they don't laugh him out of town too fast-I need the
Gathering my mail, I went to a bistro and
sat over a latte. The new Hermit was out. Still no word from Hubert
about my column. As I leafed through it, though, I noticed a new addition
to "Ad Nauseum"--a section called "Bizarre Breeder Sex." To my horror,
I discovered it was a thinly-veiled account of our night together, along
with highly fictionalized parts regarding Hubert's performance (i.e. "Faster,
harder, you brute," she cried, raking her nails along my back, as I penetrated
to her very being with my virile member" and other lies too brazen for
me to repeat.)
As the nightmare that my life would become
for the next week while the issue was on the stands hit me with growing
force (my God, what will Blake think?), I buried my face in my hands and
wept. At times, Seattle can seem a very cruel mistress, indeed. I wondered
if Edith Wharton ever went through days like this. Deciding that she had,
I felt a little better. Ordering a cream sherry from the cute headwaiter,
I tore a page from my notebook and began composing my suicide note. In
order to get the highly polished artistic effects absolutely perfect,
I expected to be at the task for a goodly part of the afternoon.