Monday, June 14, 2010

On Turning 31

Preface: Nine months have elapsed since the writing of these birthday memoirs. The author now resides at A Home Away, occasionally grabbing the thigh of a nurse. Wife Suki Mothra is currently dating producer Sol Megabucks and acting as a technical adviser on a film based on the author's life story. The film's working title is Groins of Passion. Despite the time, we still feel the author's recollections are timely, amusing, and uh___. Oh, I'm sorry. I must have dozed off.

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Thirty-one years old. Frightening number, 31. Adds up to a 4, which is a dismal number. It doesn't really matter unless you're into numerology. Not much into that anymore. 31? Well, rubber ducks and cheese Ritz! Might as well be 81. Feels like 81 sometimes. Why that gives me fifty more years. Ah, yes! I remember now. The memories come flooding back to me. That's the problem with poor plumbing.

Picasso used to say to me that life was like fighting the bull. Conquer it and you will be fed for a year. Turn your back on it and you'll get a horn in the butt. Not many people know this, but Picasso was an incredible dancer. He used to drink a combination of cheap Spanish red wine and hand soap. Camay beaujolais, I believe. "Cleanliness is next to drunkeness," he would say, staggering around in my Paris studio. Then without warning he would start his little erratic jumping dance. The Barcelona Pogo, he called it, finally collapsing in the corner, still singing Lady Insane, I Adore You. I'll never forget him, Marvin Picasso. He used to work as a waiter at the Chez Bon Tits Cafe. I never met Pablo.

Paris, 1933. What a time to be alive. At the time, of course, things seemed to be rough. My artists friends and I all had one thing in common: We were starving. But we didn't seem to notice much.

We were all in the Montmarte flat of Anais Ninge. A most delightful eccentrique lady she was. She had taken up smoking opium as a fashion, but never knew that she had only been lighting up her slippers. She was so happy and so innocent, that we never told her the truth. After all, Colette had smoked her boots. Puffing away on her shoe, Anais said, "We could all write dirty stories for money." It seemed like a joke at first, but Anais was serious. We all added various naughty bits to the stories. Some rich patron was buying the stuff. We didn't care. It meant more wine and fish. Years later, these stories would become the collections called Dented by Venus and Little Toasters. I remember one passage from the latter book that Anais and I had worked together. The story was called A Model in Her Kitchen.

"The model couldn't understand her passions. Why was it that Pierre failed to excite her when she saw him in the club! Didn't his saxophone playing bring the other girls to the brink of ecstasy? She could still remain aloof. But once Pierre was in her kitchen, she became an untamed animal. What was it about him? Perhaps it was his smell. It was like an incense. She had smelled it on certain women in India. An odor of Musk. Like the African veldt. Was it because Pierre slept under the sink? She didn't care, especially at moments like these. He came to her now. Her eyes couldn't escape from the sight of his spatula. His saxophone playing was second rate, but Pierre knew how to cook." Writing stuff like this was a giggle to us then. Years later I would try to recapture the feeling with Tropic of Virgo. I'll never forget Anais, however. Seems strange, though. My friends say I've never lived in Paris. They may be right. It's the syphilis, I'm afraid. Great Grandfather and his sheep. Curse his knees!

Ah, yes, the women! I'll always love the women. Still can't sleep with them, though. Keep waking me up. The Curse! The Curse! Still would like to have an affair with a Japanese ballerina. If she gives back massages, I might be able to sleep. She could dance Aurora's Wedding Ballet on my back. I'll hum Tchaikovsky. It would be bliss. "Women should be put on a pedestal and then under the sheets, " Casanova once said in Venice after eating a mushroom and sausage pizza. I have never forgotten those words.

My memory is pretty good for a man in his thirties approaching his middle eighties. I always thought an octogenarian was a non-Oriental who ate only squid. Sushi yourself. I'm sorry. The old war wound is acting up. Adventure! Adventure! Quick, get the nuns in the cellar! I'm sorry, again. If only the treatments would take.

Things are starting to calm down now. So many cities I've travelled to: Paris, Tokyo, Munich. And never once leaving the Home.

Life has been good. Only people disappoint me. But now I live on the California coast. I look out across the ocean. I see a range of mountains. Qu'est-ce que c'est? I realize I am facing the wrong direction.


(Photograph shows the author with then-wife, Suki Mothra, at their home in To Big Sur, With Love, CA.)

[First published on June 16, 1981.]