Patrick Carroll | Notes of a Footnote – 9 – Back in Bohemia
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Notes of a Footnote – 9 – Back in Bohemia

South… & Other Spots

We were an odd quartet.  Walking the streets in a gang we resembled an ambulatory Kodak grey-scale.  Major Wiley was saliently black.  Jerry Lugo – half Italian and half Puerto Rican – was a swarthy Latin-Hispanic in complexion.  Teddy Teschner, half-Hungarian and half-shanty-Irish, had the typical Midwestern pallor, something between a tan and jaundice.  I featured the washed-out Yevtushenko look: not as pale as milk but scarcely bronzed, nor even much weather-beaten.

Ted Teschner

Ted Teschner

I began to drift back down to Greenwich Village more regularly during the spring of 1963.  The reasons were a mixture of social and family activities.  My mother had been living for over a year in a small apartment on East Thirteenth Street and I often looked in to see her.  Being in the neighbourhood I would occasionally wander down below Washington Square and catch up with Denny Baggs – now at N.Y.U. – and such of my other South Village friends as were not in the Navy, gone to the outer Boroughs or New Jersey, or otherwise not around.  Sometimes I also would bump into Major.  He had by this time become immersed in the vibrant coffee house culture that revolved around the folk music revival, poetry and jazz events, alternative stand-up comedy, and the other counter-culture phenomena that flourished in that period bridging the beatnik and hippie eras.  It was Major who introduced me to Jerry and Teddy.

Major Wiley poster

Major Wiley later

To this day I have no idea how old Jerry Lugo was when I first knew him.  I assumed he was a little older than I was, but he had a kind of ageless quality.  Nor can I remember what part of New York he sprang from.  It may have been Brooklyn.  At that time he had been clean from his smack habit for over a year.  He still had connections with the drug world, being employed by middle-rank dealers to roll loose joints.  His products in this line were beautifully formed, like slim-line commercially packaged cigarettes.  He would sit at a table with a plastic bag holding about a pound of good grade grass in front of him and roll joints methodically, keeping one on the go for himself.  Over the time I knew him I came to regard Jerry as the definition of what we thought of as hip.  That is to say, someone who was preternaturally aware of what was going on around him at all times; one who instinctively read the psychological condition of those with whom he was in contact and the evolving subtleties of their reactions to the physical and social milieu in which they found themselves.  To what degree this was a result of the dope or whether it was a natural talent for social observation and empathy, I don’t know.  I just witnessed it.

Ted Teschner was five years older than Major and me.  He came from Toledo, Ohio and was a man who – in a phrase of Raymond Chandler’s – ‘needed a lot of room for his personality’.  He was a good six-foot tall (about my own height at the time) and had a solid provincial high school football player’s physique that was beginning to soften with the indulgences of life in the Big City.  He was an avid grappler with life and experience and resented any time he had to spend sleeping on account of the hours he thus lost of being awake.  He had large appetites for food, drink and drugs and said of his amatory proclivities, “I’ll fuck a snake if I can get someone to hold it.” Teddy and Jerry were both working in a place called The Rocking Horse Buttery when Major introduced me to them and they were sharing an apartment on the second floor of a tenement building at the southeast corner of Seventh Street and Avenue C.  The communal living room – the floor of which was also often used by visitors crashing for the night – had windows looking down on both Seventh Street and the Avenue.  The effect was like having four television sets on 24 hours a day, as there was always some kind of action going on down in the street.  I remember sitting for nearly an hour one summer evening goofing on four Hispanics on a stoop across Seventh Street, playing cards, talking and passing the bottle in the brown paper bag.  I was fascinated.  I was also stoned.  At ground level, immediately under the apartment was a Jewish bakery.  On Sunday mornings you woke to the smell of fresh challah wafting up through the Avenue C miasma.

I still had my apartment in the West Seventies but sometimes the Village nights, especially at weekends, stretched on into the early hours and there didn’t seem much point in schlepping all the way home.

There wasn’t much furniture in Ted and Jerry’s place; just a table, a few chairs and a beat-up old sofa.  Not much in the way of interior décor either.  Oh, in one corner was the No Parking sign.  The four of us had spent the better part of an afternoon in McSorley’s Old Ale House, also on Seventh Street, just off the Bowery.  Having had eight or ten mugs of ale each we set off toward Ted and Jerry’s.  Somewhere between First and Second Avenue we came across a New York City No Parking sign that had been snapped off at the base of its pole and was lying on the sidewalk.   Naturally, we picked it up and carried it on our shoulders back to the apartment.  An opportunity like that doesn’t arise every day.

Three of the four of us were more or less book readers.   Major tended to the Beat Generation canon along with a full helping of black writers such as Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright and James Baldwin.  His mother, following her move to New York, had been culturally well acquainted with the post-War residue of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance and Major combined that with exposure to other novelists including John Steinbeck and William Faulkner.  He also read a good deal of poetry including the Beats Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, as well as American classics such as Carl Sandberg and Robert Frost, all of which nourished his emergent song-writing talent. Teddy had done such reading as was required to get him through high school and college and now consumed a fairly steady diet of contemporary fiction.  My own reading – freed for several years now from the prescriptive constraints of formal schooling – was fairly eclectic.  During my Broadway period, in company with Charlie Mantovi and others of the Al Lang’s New Follies symposia, I absorbed a good deal of existentialist philosophy, the works of Albert Camus – both fiction and non-fiction – in particular.  Returning briefly to the life academic I enrolled to audit (without credit) a course at The New School entitled Atheism, Agnosticism & Scepticism.  This introduced me to David Hume whom I admired (and still admire) for the elegance of both his thought and literary style.   However, my main man had by now become James Joyce.  This was partly an inheritance from my father and was enhanced by exposure to the dramatisation of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Stephan Hero for which Joe’s play The Barroom Monks had been the companion piece.  By this time I had been through the entire oeuvre, including Ulysses several times and had even ventured tremulously into Finnegans Wake.  Joyce once said that he didn’t ask much of his reader, only that they devote their entire life to his works.  I suppose he thought that this was fair enough; after all he had.

In this literary-cultural ambit Jerry was the exception although some of the effects rubbed off on him.  One morning, after the usual early-hours crash-out by most of the company, Teddy came into the communal room to find Jerry in his underwear fast asleep in a canvas director’s chair.  There was a copy of a Dan Jacobson novel open in his lap and a dictionary on the floor at his feet.  Teddy reverently kissed the top of the sleeping head.

The East Seventh Street apartment was given up in time and Teddy took another in a building at the corner of Seventy-fifth street and Columbus Avenue.  The building dated from the 1870s and was said to be the first private apartment house in New York to have an electrically operated elevator.  The apartment was also a corner one on the first floor with windows looking out on Columbus and the side street running between the Avenue and Central Park West but the view from these did not have the colour or continuing human interest that one witnessed on the Lower East Side.  While Teddy was the lease-holding occupant the flat was, like the previous one, a crash for a variety of people.  At about the same time I gave up my West Seventies apartment and more or less camped out in my mother’s place on East Thirteenth Street, though I often slept on a floor or on a black leather-covered sofa in the Seventy-fifth Street place.  On one or two occasions I shared a bed with a sultry, dark-haired lass called Stevie.  Nothing of interest occurred during these shared-bed occasions.  Stevie tended to keep night owl hours.  She usually slept until the mid-afternoon and would then spend several hours over her make up and clothes, going out at about ten or eleven, usually to Harlem.  Once, while she – in some deshabille – was intent on applying her war paint she caught me, still abed, looking at her reflection in the mirror.  She put her heavily mascara-ed eyes on me, saying roguishly, “Hey, don’t you be hawking my fine young bod like that.”  I mumbled “Sorry…”  “Oh, I don’t know,” she added reflectively, “I might roll over on you one night.  Although you’re a bit whiter than my usual thing.”   It never happened.

Major was in and out of the flat periodically.  The only fixed abode of his that I recall was an apartment in a house on Pitt Street that he shared with a very nice young woman named Karen Balacek.  But over that period, what with the homes of various other women, those of fellow performers and his mother’s house in Harlem Major didn’t need to sleep in the street much.  The same could be said of Jerry.

While we didn’t necessarily sleep in the Village all the time, our social and cultural life tended to be centred in the MacDougal Street area.  Gerde’s Folk City, The Figaro, The Gaslight, The Café Wha, The Fat Black Pussy Cat, The Bitter End, and similar places, including the ephemeral basket houses, were where the grey-scale quartet were not unknown.  Most of these were primarily music venues and will be dealt with in more detail in the next and last chapter of this… whatever it is.  Folk, folk-related and jazz music were the main focus but other forms were around.  There were stand-up comedians, the most notable being Lenny Bruce.  Others included Woody Allen, George Carlin, Flip Wilson, and Bill Cosby.  A universal favourite and admitted inspiration for some of these was Richard “Lord” Buckley, who had gone under the wire in 1959.  His influence was also felt in the phenomenon of the Poetry & Jazz genre.  Bruce parodied this form in the bit “Poetry & All That Jazz” included on the LP “The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce.” My own experience of these exercises never recovered from a session at The Gaslight.  The four of us were there when, with a background of spiky, low tempo bop, the bard of the evening began his initial offering in full stentorian tones with the line: “I dug an elephant in Brooklyn…”   We all simultaneously broke for the stairs, barely suppressing our guffaws.  And we weren’t that stoned at the time.

Major Wiley poster

Major Wiley publicity poster

Brigitte!  Ah, Brigitte.  She was our unapproached and unapproachable MacDougal Street goddess: the archetype of the early-60s post-Beatnik beauty.  Crowned by a dark modified bohemian beehive, she wore sack dresses and had smoulderingly mascara-ed eyes and full lips gilded with white lipstick.  We first spotted her in The Gaslight and we never later saw her in the street without deep intakes of breath and erotic rolling of the eyeballs.  We called her Brigitte due to a fancied resemblance to La Bardot and even Major – ever anything but shy with women – was content to worship from afar.

“Stealin’, stealin’, pretty mama don’t you tell on me,

‘Cause I’m stealin’ back to my same old used-to-be.

Don’t believe I love you, look what a fool I been;

Don’t believe I’m sinkin’, look what a hole I’m in…

Woman I love, she’s just my height and size;

She’s a married woman, comes to see me sometimes… Stealin’, stealin’’’

Memphis Jug Band

The thought of Brigitte brings me to the subject of women and my dealings with some during the period between my re-entree to the Village and departure for Ireland.  It is the only period of my life when my sexual behaviour could be described as even mildly promiscuous.

I’ve always liked women.  Not simply in the erotic/romantic way in which most men get themselves into all kinds of troubles and tangles, but in general.  I like the idea of women.  The root of this feeling probably lies in my friendly and affectionate (although distinctly un-Oedipal) relationship with my mother.  She was among the first generation of American women who became legally entitled to vote and, appreciating and supporting her suffragette fore-sisters, she remained a quietly insistent advocate of women’s rights all her life.  My father also, considering the narrowly patriarchal, Irish Roman Catholic culture in which he was raised, advocated the emancipation of women, reasoning that if one championed equality and the political and economic liberation of humanity it was probably logical to include the female portion of the human race in that aspiration.  In short, I was raised by two more or less conscientious feminists. I’ve also, like Bernard Shaw, come to instinctively recognize that the trigger creative principal of the universe is a fundamentally female one.

It is some years – not to say decades – since I got over any vestigial image of myself as anyone’s idea of a sex object but in my late teens and early twenties I was at least as averagely libidinous as the next painfully shy social fumble-bum.  During the period of which I speak the number of women with whom I slept probably came barely within groping distance of double figures.  I have no wish to identify, individuate or describe these women.  The relationships were, with one exception, broadly friendly and recreational with little expectation on either side of deeper or longer-lasting emotional involvement.

The exception was an important one.  The woman involved was married with four young children.  She was also six years my senior and was, to my knowledge, the only married woman with whom I’ve ever slept to whom I was not myself married.  She and her husband were acquainted (I seem to recall) with my friends Teddy and Major.  I met them in Gerde’s Folk City one Monday Hootenanny Night.  She later told me that she took me in, thinking: “Well, who’s this long skinny drink of water?”

Her husband was a chemical engineer whose work often took him away for periods to the headquarters – located in Kentucky – of the firm for which he worked.  One night while he was away we were all again in Gerde’s and at the end of the evening after some of the gang had repaired to Brooklyn, I found myself sharing the marital bed, there being no other available crash, in their Fort Greene apartment.  Well, what with one thing and another…  I later tried to tell Major that, “No, really, man, I just slept there.”  His reply was, “Yeah!  I’ve heard that shit before and everything.”

At a distance of over 50 years I find it difficult to contemplate in an analytical way exactly what my feelings were during the course of this affair.  Even less would I be able to say definitely what the emotions were at the time of the woman in question.   I may well have been in love.  On a later occasion, after listening to someone trying to describe their feelings for the current inamorata. Major observed: “I’ve been in love.  I know what it’s like.”  The erotic element of the relationship was fairly gaudy but there were other aspects as well.  We had things to do and to talk about both before and after lovemaking – and it was lovemaking not simply The Graduate-Benjamin-and-Mrs. Robinson sex. She was an interesting, lively-minded woman and my exhilaration in her company was mixture of a young man’s rather humble gratification in being the object of an older woman’s affection and the awareness that between us there were very few intellectual or spiritual dead-spots.  There was also the fact that – things being the way they were – there was no expectation that either of us was expected to be sexually faithful to the other.

It couldn’t, of course, last or come to anything lasting.  She had her family and I had my ambitions to go to Ireland, which were not dulled by my realization that the situation could not go on without fallout and ramifications that I would have been entirely unable to deal with.  It should also be said that I was on friendly terms with the woman’s husband, although I think he came to have suspicions about the affair.  After I had been in Dublin for a month or so I had a letter from my father saying that the woman had come to my parents’ apartment in a state of some agitation wanting to know exactly where I was.  My father, grasping the tangled nature of things, invoked to me Rosaline, who, most forget, was the girl that Romeo dumped in favour of Juliet. Minimize the pain for everyone was his message. The paternal advice-come-rebuke recalled to me an earlier occasion when I had transgressed in some way.  We were walking east along Twenty-third Street toward Eighth Avenue when he said to me, “Paddy, I know that you do know the difference between right and wrong.”  And I thought then, ‘what a horrible thing to say to your child: sticking all that responsibility and the assumption of having a conscience on you’!  I also had a letter from the husband saying that he had found notes betraying the nature of the relationship between his wife and me and  asking how I squared this with the high-minded literary/moral posturing to which I, as a jejune, over-read 22 year old, had sometimes been prone.  Utterly unable to deal with these relationships in any kind of a mature way I pretty much stayed schtum in Dublin.  Some ten years later a friend of the couple looked me up in London.  She told me that although they had separated the former husband and wife now had “…a beautiful relationship.”  I was glad.  Oddly enough, the woman was fair-haired and had a vague resemblance to Virginia Mayo.

In late August 1963, being temporarily between Dye Transfer jobs and having some holiday time and money in hand, I joined the other three members of the Kodak grey-scale for a trip west.  The purpose of the expedition was two-fold.  Major was booked for a two week engagement at a Chicago club called Mother Blue’s and Teddy Teschner had hit on the idea of possibly opening a club in his native Toledo.  The reasoning was that there being clubs that featured folk and folk-related music in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland one based in Toledo could go toward making up a Midwest circuit.

We set off early one morning in Teddy’s pink 1955 Hudson (named Bessie) for the 600 mile trip to Toledo.  The journey was fairly uneventful save for an interval when Teddy, feeling sleepy, decided that I should take the wheel.  I don’t drive.  I’ve never driven nor had any desire to learn how to drive.  Neither of my parents were drivers and growing up in downtown Manhattan I never felt the need to avail myself of any other means of transport than the subway, buses, taxis or shank’s pony.  The ten or so miles of US80, during which I held the steering wheel in what I well imagined would be my death-grip, combined with a memory of the one previous occasion when an old family friend had undertaken to give me a driving lesson, confirmed my life-long conviction that if I ever tried to become a motorist I could look forward to a bleak future rife with property damage suits and manslaughter cases.

That trauma notwithstanding, we four arrived in Toledo in the early hours of the next morning.  We were initially entertained by Teddy’s parents and the briefest acquaintance with them showed us that our friend had come by the ebullience of his own personality through a combination of obviously honest family/cultural influences.  Teddy’s father – the Hungarian – half of the genetic equation – owned (as I remember) a furniture store.  In tandem with his wife of Hibernian-stock they made for an amusing kitchen double act: a kind of non-stereotypical up-dating of Abie’s Irish Rose.

The Toledo folk club idea in the end never came to anything.  We did inspect a few possible premises.  The one I recall best was a cavernous ground floor complex of connected rooms, bare but for a few pieces of abandoned furniture and a fine collection of Northern Ohio dust.  The building that housed it was located on a wide avenue that appeared to be Toledo’s equivalent of skid row or the Bowery and as we emerged into bright daylight from its dim, echoey interior none of us could really envisage it as a future Gate of Horn, Bitter End or Gerde’s Folk City.  It retrospect our collective want of entrepreneurial spirit – to say nothing of a total lack of capital – made the whole notion something of a chimera.

Of course, while we were undertaking these abortive explorations we needed some digs.  In answer to a couple of newspaper ads for furnished lodgings Teddy and Major surveyed a couple of possibilities.  The prospective landlords and landladies in turn surveyed the prospective tenants and indicated with varying degrees of subtlety that they could not accommodate a group as, to put it mildly, multi-ethnic as ours.  In the face of these rebuffs, Teddy and Major repaired to the Toledo offices of the Urban League, a pioneer campaigning organization for racial equality and civil rights.  Within an hour we found ourselves welcomed tenants of the entire second floor of a clapboard house on Floyd Street.  Both Major and Jerry had girl friends who had joined us from New York and, although there was sufficient room to ensure privacy for all, the two couples occasionally economized on space by disappearing into one bedroom together, leaving Teddy and I – unaccompanied just then – to fill in our time with books, music, the occasional joint and a brand of Canadian ale that came in Imperial rather U.S. quarts while the others indulged in some freaky frolicsome foursomes.  In the evening we would put on such glad rags as we had with us and check out the local night life.  I was then a few months past my twenty-first birthday and – having been used to New York’s more civilized (and realistic) drinking age of eighteen – was appalled at the post-Volsted social barbarians of the Middle West who kept asking me for proof of my age before they would sell me anything in the way of alcoholic wet goods.

It was during one of our daytime forays that we visited a burlesque show.  The occasion remains my one and only experience of such entertainments.  The star turn was an erotic dancer who, after stripping down to G-string and pasties, climaxed her act with some rather interesting double-jointed contortions featuring intriguing back-bends that left little to the imagination.  And we had plenty of that.  After the show we repaired to a nearby Chinese restaurant.  During our meal we noticed the self-same stripteuse  – fully and quite demurely clothed – at an adjoining table.  She was in company with a sleekly groomed middle-aged gent wearing a tailored suit featuring fancy embroidered cowboy motifs and a string tie complete with longhorn tie clasp.  She was quite fetching but she wasn’t Brigitte.

After a week or so Major and I moved on to Chicago where he was due to begin his Mother Blue’s gig with me acting as a kind of non-driving roadie.  While we four hadn’t made a deep and lasting impression on the population of Toledo, it was widely admitted that for a while we were the prettiest boys on Floyd Street.

I had not been in Chicago since a foray that my mother and I had made five years previously to see various members of both her family and my father’s and that had also included a side-trip to see a nephew of my mother’s and his family in Milwaukee.  These had been essentially family visits and apart from going to one Dodgers-Braves ball game at County Stadium in the latter city I had not, at age sixteen, been able to do much away-from-the-kin, free range urban exploring.

The first stop Major and I made was to a saloon called (as was a famous coffee house on the southeast corner of Bleecker and MacDougal Streets) The Figaro. A sign above the door identified it as the national headquarters of The Regis Toomey Fan Club.  The sign featured a picture of that ubiquitous Hollywood character actor and I thought at the time and still think that the conceit behind the sign was very droll.  Major was acquainted with one of the waitresses working in the bar, having become (very) friendly with her during a visit to the Windy City the previous February.  She was called Freddy, and, it strikes me now, to think of how many gals of that epoch (cf Stevie) were known by boys’ names.   There exists a photograph taken during that visit that shows Major and Fred Neil, both well-wrapped up and carrying their guitar cases, standing in the street outside The Gate of Horn night club.  The marquee behind them names Lenny Bruce as headliner with Freddy (the singer/songwriter, not the waitress) being the second-on-the-bill support act. It had been agreed that Freddy (the waitress, not the singer/songwriter) would put us up while we were in town.  This arrangement worked well, except for the dog.  I will never forget waking up the first morning – I was sleeping on the living room floor – to find a huge St. Bernard staring down at me from bloodshot eyes set in what seemed to be square sockets while drooling slightly from one side of his capacious jowl.  Cured any hangover I might have had right away.

Mother Blue’s club was located in the Old Town section of the Near North Side, a neighbourhood that was then Chicago’s equivalent of the Village.  It was a large room of double-floor height.  The ground floor held the stage and also tables and booths offering seating for about 100 customers.  An open staircase along the wall opposite the stage rose to a gallery-balcony where the bar, more seating and the dressing rooms were located.  On the whole it was a pretty classy joint, especially to those of us inured to the coffee and basket houses of MacDougal Street.  The owner was a woman named Lorraine Blue – hence the club’s name.  I was told that she had been a typical 1950s suburban Jewish housewife but had broken dramatically with that life and become immersed in the rather more louche – and, crucially, more racially integrated – world of Chicago bohemia.  I didn’t get to know her at all well but during our brief acquaintance I liked everything about her.

Major was sharing the bill with three musicians, also black, called The Glenn Yarborough Trio.  One member, the bass player was Turbour Attenborough.  In contrast to the rather grandiloquent surnames of his two fellow band members, the other third of the trio was named Jimmy Williams.  On the first night of Major’s gig I encountered Turbour (usually called Turbo) by the balcony bar.  He was the epitome of cool in a dark blue double-breasted blazer, grey flannel trousers, foulard tie and the jauntiest of wide-brim, flat-top pork-pie hats.  He asked me where I was from and when I said New York, he said: “So, you from the Apple.  I’m from there myself.  What’s shakin’?”

As was to be expected for people leading the cabaret night life we tended to go to bed late and to rise late.  We were rarely abroad before early afternoon.  One day, however, we did pay a visit to my godfather, Joe Diggles, and his wife, Mary.  As noted earlier I had not previously as a (more or less) adult had the opportunity to meet with Joe and Mary away from my parents.  In the event we spent a highly entertaining and exhilarating couple of hours at their house.  Joe Diggles and Major, both being large and radiant personalities, formed an immediate rapport, and both Major and I took warmly to Mary.  Subsequently Mary along with Frank Walsh and his wife, two other old friends of my parents, came to see Major at Mother Blue’s.  Joe Diggles had, in his younger days, known such Chicago hot spots as the 3 Deuces and the Club D’Liza, but he excused himself from this visit saying that his night-clubbing days, thankfully, were long past.  Diggles had a characteristic way of avoiding entertainments he was not keen on.  He hated movies and said he’d never go to one that didn’t feature Gloria Swanson.  This kept him safely out of the flicks until 1950 when he was wrong-footed by the release of the Billy Wilder-directed Sunset Boulevard, starring that self-same luminary of the ‘20s silent screen.  “Oh, no,” he said, “talkies don’t count.”

I can’t remember much else about such peregrinations as I may have made around the city of my birth during this visit.  I do recall having a meal in a place a block or two away from Mother Blue’s that was a kind of Higher Bohemian soup kitchen.  It featured three huge copper cauldrons that were sunk into the floor and each one of which held and heated a different soup.  These, along with some excellent bread and other accompaniments, made for a very tasty and unusual meal.

Chicago in those days had two types of liquor license.  One required a 2:00am closing time, the other a 4:00am cut off.  Mother Blue’s had a two o’clock license.  It may have been on the last night of Major’s two-week engagement that after Mother’s closed we repaired to another joint a hundred or so yards up the street called The Plugged Nickel, which held a four o’clock license.  We had a drink and decided we would stroll down to another club on (as I recall) Wabash Avenue.  As we walked we shared a smoke which put us in a nice mellow frame of mind.  We were approaching a small corner grocery store when we saw a little man emerging with a paper bag that obviously held a six-pack.  One of us, happily high, suggested to the other, “Let’s put this cat on.”  We waylaid the man: he was about 40 and we knew immediately from his accent that he was Hispanic although whether Mexican or Puerto Rican we couldn’t tell.  We slapped fives with him and him asked what was going on in his life.  He didn’t in any way seem to resent our buttonholing him and, in fact, appeared glad of the company.  We three talked for a space about the night and the weather and the cosmos generally until presently the conversation turned to the horrific bombing of a black church in Alabama in which four little girls had been killed.  This had occurred only days before and the event had left us both, Major especially, feeling pretty raw and angry.  In my state of drink-and drug-heightened disgust and disillusion, I muttered: “Yeah!  The country’s no fuckin’ good!”  The little man, who, it was clear to us, didn’t have a metaphorical pot to piss in, looked at us earnestly and shaking his head said: “No, man!  No. man!  The country’s all right.  There’s some bad people but the country’s all right.”  After a minute’s silence we said good night and walked on.

The club we arrived at ten minutes later was a hyper-cool-cool place.  The tables were low, requiring you to assume a lotus position on cushions to get down to their level.  Needless to say, each table was illuminated by a candle stuck in the wax-covered neck of a wine bottle.  The man we had come to see and hear was Mose Allison: again an exemplar of all that was hip and cool.  A few minutes after the waitress brought us whatever it was we had ordered to drink, and in the midst of this most laid-back of atmospheres, Major and I looked up at each other and there were tears running down both our cheeks.  

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