Thursday, June 20, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt one)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

We played army in the dirt piles. Scouting over a hill for enemies, I had the first scientific insight I can remember. I realized that in order to see anyone, I had to expose enough of my own head that I’d be visible too. You had to come out of hiding in order to see anything.

Cowboys and Indians, though, was the main game. I loved my cap-gun six-shooters and holsters and neckerchief and cowboy hat. The caps came in matte red rolls, with little disks of black powder set in them. You’d thread the roll inside your metal pistol. When you pulled the trigger, the strip advanced, and the hammer hit the next cap with a bang, and smoke rose. I would like to smell the smacked burnt snap of a detonated cap like that again right now.

There were the fan clubs, or the brotherhoods, of the heroes of the Saturday-morning TV shows. Flash Gordon, who lived in the future and rocketed through outer space. I joined his club. You found out how to join them from the back of cereal boxes and sent in for a membership card and an ID ring. Sky King, who was a modern-day rancher who flew a little private airplane. Spin and Marty, modern kids at a western boys’ camp as presented by The Mickey Mouse Club. Zorro and the Cisco Kid and the Lone Ranger. There was often a wandering hero and his devoted sidekick, who provided comic relief. That happened over and over in Howard Hawks and John Ford westerns too. (Whenever I could, I’d take the bus into town on Saturdays to go to a double feature. Often they were John Ford and Howard Hawks movies, by which I was contaminated with the Code of the West.) There were also buddy teams in which the members were equal and were complementary in other ways than as hero and faithful clown. Tonto wasn’t a clown with the Lone Ranger, nor was Dean Martin with John Wayne in Rio Bravo (Walter Brennan was the clown on that team). The Three Musketeers.

I grew up thinking men worked best in wandering small teams, usually two-man. You needed someone to conspire with, someone to help you maintain the nerve to carry out your ideas. Someone to know what you were thinking (otherwise your thinking didn’t really exist). Someone who had qualities you wanted, maybe, too, and that you could acquire to some degree by association.

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