London Recalling

Aquarian Weekly 11/21/07 REALITY CHECK

LONDON RECALLING Musharraf Sweats, Mailer Dies & The Genius Poet Tails

It was sometime in the early hours of an endless bipedal drinking marathon, slumped in a cramped hotel room at the edge of the literary Bloomsbury district, that my traveling companion, Jersey Pedro and myself watched in relative horror as General Perves Musharraf, the acting president of a crumbling government, spoke to his nation and the world beneath a sheath of Nixonian flopsweat. His stuttering pleas for sanity seemed to ring hollow as the BBC cameras captured apathetic shoulder shrugs and glares of disdain from the heavily armed members of his cabinet, who were recently forced to beg the foreign press to shed light on the president’s suspension of all laws, allowing him to systematically jail dissidents in and around the powder keg that is now Pakistan.

Carolyn Cassady & jcThis was nothing worth processing either mentally or spiritually while working on little sleep with nagging back pains and creaky knees. London is an unforgiving town. It moves at a snail’s pace and closes well before midnight. You must be drunk by noon and brandish your own steak sauce or escape is futile. The real action happens beneath the ground, something Musharraf will fast be learning soon, when he is likely deposed by his government and sacked by his military chieftains.

Pedro, for his part, was angered over the lack of cricket highlights and football scores, making it his business to sing the same incessantly cruel Ringo Starr song over and over, as if he were recovering from secret shock treatments. I tried in vein to decipher Musharraf’s vague references to martial law and terrorist coups, and recalled, if only for the briefest of moments, a piece I penned for this paper in late May of 1998, when the Indian/Pakistan border war escalated into its current nuclear parameters.

I wrote then: “Iran and Iraq is a tea party now; a second-rate, five & dime whiz bang of a blip on the ass of this horrible development. Not even Hussein’s babbling psycho-rhetoric can rival the impoverished and enraged populace due east.”

I was busy paraphrasing the above paragraph when Pedro, hoarse-throated and clearly hung-over, reminded me that years before I’d gotten it on pretty good authority from my baby brother – knee-deep in human feces on the streets of New Delhi trying to train dumbfounded Nortel representatives – that Indian newspapers were rife with misinformation about how much nuclear tonnage the government had acquired from the Chinese, and that “nuking was imminent”.

I drowned out the terrible memory by turning up the television. Musharraf was sounding more and more like a puppet of the United States government by promising another round of free elections, easing the “state of emergency” and complying with international demands to release embattled former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

“To hell with that army thug, he’s doomed,” Pedro said, before gasping towards his lap-top sitting beside him on the bed.

“What is it?” I asked, glued to Musharraf’s increased levels of perspiration and weird stammering.

“Remember yesterday near the Thames when I concocted a plan to buy up volumes of nearly deceased authors to sell at increased rates years from now, and used Norman Mailer as a prime example?”

“Was that before or after the Genius Poet Incident?” I asked innocently enough.

It was then Pedro grew tense. His eyes glazed over and he swallowed hard. “Don’t speak of that again,” he whispered. “Not now. Not ever.”

I had attended the event as a proper representative of American authors, shuffling confidently past the make-shift ticket stand wondering aloud if we could just drink quietly and listen to the faint echoes of poets plying their trade downstairs. The young patron waved us through to the main bar.

He would get no argument from me. I was there. The newest incarnation of the legendary Marquee Club on Upper Saint Martin’s Lane, where for nearly two hours London’s pretentious cross-nagging underground poets made transparent attempts to impress the aging Beats who’d come to sell books while still appearing vital. I had attended the event as a proper representative of American authors, shuffling confidently past the make-shift ticket stand wondering aloud if we could just drink quietly and listen to the faint echoes of poets plying their trade downstairs. The young patron waved us through to the main bar.

No one seemed to mind the two yankee interlopers perching themselves on the winding staircase taking in “Ode To My Cunt” and “My First Blowjob” sonnets delivered with stunning power from angry middle-aged female scribes, and then, a short interlude with former Beat Queen, Carolyne Cassady, who I’d chatted up earlier in the evening when a glowing Irishman was challenging the fragile 84 year-old to a drinking duel. She laughed in his face. I laughed too. No one who could take on both Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac would lose her bravado to a soused barfly.

“Jack said to always drink at home,” I reminded her, feeling somewhat proud.

“And in hotel rooms, sonny,” she winked, punching my shoulder.

After Cassady was done trashing Kerouac for seventeen uninterrupted minutes on stage – “If not for my husband, who mister Kerouac painted as some kind of beast, there would be no On The Road” – I retired to the upstairs lounge to find an effeminate black man dressed conspicuously in a brightly colored motorcycle body-suit sitting at my table.

For long minutes we said nothing to each other until Jersey Pedro sat down and sparked a bizarre conversation that began with the destruction of the human race. I startled our visitor for a moment with my predictable, “Yeah, sure, there should be more genocide and abortions” routine. This usually defuses the issue. This time it did not.

“People scare me and I despise them,” he said. “I cannot suffer them any longer. I’m a genius.”

“I’m an idiot,” I responded. “Glad to meet you,” and shook his hand.

Soon thereafter we sussed his plan, as he brashly slid a hardback edition of his collected poems across the table and demanded we work as his American agents. This succeeded a Q & A session on Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, Charles Bukowski and more bullshit about he being a genius.

“I have my own fucked career to contemplate,” I told him.

“I’m merely a highly motivated unemployed musician,” Pedro added.

But the Genius Poet would not quit: “You must represent me. Don’t you want to be rich? I’ll give you twenty-five percent!”

We excused ourselves and bolted towards the door. The young lady from Lousiville, who had engaged me in a delightful discussion on Hunter Thompson only hours before now yelled “Run!”

“Jesus, this guy is crazy!” Pedro remarked.

I refused to look back, but I knew he was tailing us out into the street. We sped across Oxford and down towards the closest Tube entrance, beyond the crowd of braying youth stumbling from the pubs en masse as the bells struck eleven.

“Guess who just died?” Pedro aasked me back at the hotel the next morning, snapping me out of my funk.

“Who?” I asked.

“Norman Fucking Mailer!”

“Shit, we’re too late.”

“He was a self-proclaimed genius, you know.”

Musharraf was now taking questions. Still sweating. Doomed.

“We wasted ten billion dollars on this asshole and he’s going down like Custer,” I said.

It was a tough day in the grand old town for generals and geniuses.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Social tagging:

Leave a Reply