On The Journal Path, Part II
When I came to San Francisco to begin life after school and the army, finally out on my own in the real world, I wasn't all that ready or prepared. I hadn't, you know, quite thought it through yet.
One day, a year or so into my first job, three piece suit, going nowhere at a hundred miles an hour, a friend asked who, if I had the choice, would I like to meet and what sort of questions would I ask? I thought for a moment. There were one or two writers who came to mind. He said he'd like to meet, "xxxxx", the chairman of "xxxxx". Maybe he said "General Motors", maybe he said "Rumble Dumble Stumble Inc.", I don't know, but that was a moment when a door opened and a voice said: "Rethink the three piece suit shit, my man, we may have missed a turn back there somewhere around high school".
No way in hell I was going to choose the chairman of General Motors when I could meet, you know, one of those writers I'd been reading or one of those acid head musicians I'd been listening to on the radio. My friend was where he was supposed to be because he'd obviously thought it through (MBA, career, wife, family, money) and I'd somehow tripped out of step because I hadn't been paying attention when they'd brought the subject up. Maybe this was no big deal and my life just needed a few minor adjustments, I thought: Another hip magazine subscription, a new car, another apartment.
I remember sitting around a kerosene space heater in an old condemned store front in the early days with Moriaty and Taylor. We were drinking beer and they were telling stories, talking of things they'd done, things that had happened, things they thought important, and I sat there listening. Art and life, warp and woof, spinning their threads with care and craftsmanship. In their world, care and craftsmanship in such matters was important and I realized, sitting there listening to them in this weird assed place located right next to something called a Doggie Diner, that I did too.
Taylor was, I don't know, a smart man who might, had life proven less complicated, gone on to accomplish
smart things and great achievements, insofar as such things are measured, but he had succumbed in his second year of graduate school to a life of drugs and heavily amplified guitar music and was very good at relating, because, as I've mentioned, he was smart and thoughtful, the story of his life and condition with humor and wit. And I realized that I'd rather sit there in the dark listening to Taylor (And Wilson and Moriaty and Franklin and Razor and Karin and a whole bunch of others who had come to check San Francisco out, looking for the rainbow's end or Eldorado or the Marlboro Man or whatever else.) than I would discussing the sale and trading of securities across a table on Montgomery Street where for all they knew Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a franchising opportunity.
So (finally) we move to the subject that precipitated this, Steve's thoughts on
confronting the journaler after a year or so of reading his journal. My journal is maybe one of those conversations around a space heater in that building in San Francisco. One person would tell a story that would spark another person to tell a story that would spark another person to tell a story and around it would go. We were talking with one another, certainly, but in another sense we weren't. We were trying out material and listening to material. It wasn't a stand up shtick, although the stories would be repeated at other times with other people, they were whole unto themselves not unlike short stories or, um, koff!, journal entries.
Did I know those people through their stories? Do I know journalers through their journals? I don't know. I think so, insofar as you know anyone. Steve and Viv Amaya? I suspect. Sitting out on their patio talking, eating a light late afternoon dinner, listening to Gershwin coming through the open doors and windows of the house behind us. Gershwin, the defining 20th Century American composer, Rhapsody in Blue, Fascinating Rhythm, Lady Be Good. Listening to Gershwin I recalled the movie, of course, a schmaltzy black and white "great composer" epic which I admired enormously when I first saw it on television in high school, and I thought of one of the actors who played himself in the film, a friend of Gershwin's in real life, Oscar Levant. Another man, I suspect, who told stories passably well.
Why would Steve remind me of Oscar Levant, Levant being the very model of the neurotic snappy patter master, while Steve takes a more laid back approach to observe the world judiciously with pen and lens? Maybe Steve is toying with novel interpretations of the two journalers before him, watching for rim shots and fumbled passes, weird word constructs and idiomatic thoughts. Maybe he was tired after the air show. Maybe this and maybe that and maybe when you put it all together it brings forth an image of the younger Levant. Maybe it was just Gershwin. It had been a long day. Gershwin, Levant, a civilized conversation in the late day sun, Chuck, Steve, Viv and I, sitting around the table talking.
Still, were the images from Steve's journal at least shadows of what I was seeing that afternoon? Was my own journal a shadow like version of myself? I think so. Why should it be otherwise? Then again, this is journal territory and everything is permitted, is it not?