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Breakfast with the Polar Bear
It all started this morning at eight thirty. I was not yet quite awake and in the process of my usual morning ritual, which usually involves staring at something inanimate while I attempt to resign myself that I am apparently still here in the world and am going to be forced to tolerate another day on this earth - when surprise surprise - the phone rang. It was an invitation to have breakfast with my neighbor "Joe, the Polar Bear," who has been so nick named because he lives in an unheated building and doesn't seem to mind but has even been known to take long cold baths at his leisure in this frosty atmosphere.
It sounded tempting for sure, a good hardy breakfast, bacon and buck wheat pancakes, and so there I went, rushing with no make up around the corner, grateful to be remembered, especially after being informed that Marty Matz was going to be there, one of the first real poets I ever knew, besides Gregory Corso. I anticipated the meeting with great pleasure.
When I arrived, I discovered the party had been going all night. I was the last one invited because I was not on current speaking terms with one of the guests, (Clayton Patterson) who had actually come on a mission of mercy pertaining to Joe's personal life, issues above and beyond anything concerning the party. However, since it was very late when Clayton left, Joe didn't want to phone at such an hour, but meanwhile, he did call next morning as early as politeness would allow, and so, to breakfast I went, straggling in as a "johnny come lately."
Upon entering Joe's living room, I was greeted by a failing and drunken Marty, who had apparently partied till his gas ran out and was now reduced to sitting in a plate of various buttered rolls and sliced peasant breads, while Joe, who was in his own altered state, was reduced to laughing at him - of no help whatsoever and simply useless as poor Marty was battling whirling circles of nausea, at one point even believing he might vomit right in the center of Joe's huge bed. (Joe is nearly seven feet tall and has an appropriately sized bed).
Needless to say, Marty was not able to concentrate very well when I attempted to read some of MY poetry, although he didn't seem to feel quite as disabled when I read HIS, in fact, at one point, my reading his poetry aloud and not to his satisfaction revived him enough that he was moved to do it FOR me, literally snatching the papers right out of my hands, but that was okay, after all, I had come to hear Marty read, the only problem being, he was so drunk and high and exhausted, he could hardly push the words over his lips, and try as I may, I could not understand the dear man. It was reaching a point where his illegible speech was becoming too hilarious even for me to maintain a polite presence and although I didn't want to laugh in his face, it was not long before I couldn't help it. What finally did it was when I had this vision of being nominated to judge a debate between Marty and Gregory Corso, neither of whom I can understand half the time, even though they are both extremely literate.
Joe was not helping a bit, saying some of the silliest shit a grown man could say, making ooing and gooing sounds, gurglings the meanings of which I could only suspect although I was fairly certain he was mimicking Marty's inability to speak legibly, although the truth of the matter was, Joe was not doing much better. It wasn't long before I was reduced to spasms over these antics, besides which, I needn't have concerned myself about hurting Marty's feelings or his reactions to anything at all, because he was nearing coma, and had turned to stone in Joe's apartment, a petrified poet in the middle of the bed.
The last thing Marty did before he slid into a deep sleep was to get up from the bread and butter and reseat himself into a dish of hot buttered pancakes with syrup and bacon, simultaneously knocking over a glass of scarlet red wine. He them proceeded to try and sop it up with a slice of bread and next, Joe's ecru bedspread, in the process spilling a glass of water, which diluted the stain to pink. This satisfied Marty at which point he toppled over and I heard him saying as his voice trailed off, "don't worry about it, everything's fiiiiinee, ooooooohhhh uuuuuh." And then he fell out, oblivious to all.
Joe was quite content to watch this fresh new comedy unfold before his drunken eyes and not the least bit perturbed about any messes that were or weren't being made, a very poetic host I must say.
Since I had not seen Marty in years, I felt a little disappointed at my lack of ability to communicate with him, but then again, it was a fun experience and reminded me of the very first time I met this mad man, which was after he came to hang out in my "imitation of an apartment." I had just copped some bags of dope for him and Gregory Corso, and I don't remember who else, but Marty didn't care to wait till he got home but wanted his dope RIGHT NOW and so he shot it up right there in my kitchen, every last drop, at which point, he fell out on the floor, making a perfect circle of drool, scaring the shit out of me, I mean, I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO DIE RIGHT THEN AND THERE. But as it turned out, Gregory handled it VERY well, by first going through Marty's pockets and removing forty dollars, after which, like the good friend he was, put the rest back while informing me that one should "never take it all." He then called the Chelsea Hotel to request that Marty's wife Barbara send over some help, which she did, somehow locating some strapping and mighty young lads, verse lovers all of them - who she convinced to do the chore. And so, with their help, Marty's angelic and over dosed lagging poet's ass was carried down five flights of stairs and I didn't see him again for over five years.
I remember marveling at how gracious everyone was, no one the least bit put out, surprisingly I myself not pissed either, (even though my high had been ruined when I pictured myself going to jail for manslaughter), but in spite of it all, I too was gracious and smiling as I watched Marty's old lady arrive. I was impressed too, because she was quite a lovely gal with a pleasant personality, smiling and cheerful, accompanied by these two muscular fellows from the "Chelsea," who were also smiling and friendly.
It was like they were making political statements and poetic history, as the last strands of "Howl" reached out across the years, and I was gladdened by this, by the realization, "haven't there always been bohemians and haven't they always been insane and ISN'T IT WONDERFUL?" And I too was happy to be involved in an incident that may someday rate mention in someone's beatnik poetry or book of stories.
Many months later, while talking to Jerry Poynton about how Marty only seemed "too ill to function when I ready MY poetry but so quickly revived in time to read his own," Jerry smiled as if recognizing an old friend, then laughed and said, "Ah yes, Marty - one of the few who can actually yell down Gregory Corso." That's when it occurred to me - I must be far more brazen about my climb up the icy mountain of poetic recognition. Maybe I should have ignored Marty's protests; maybe I should have ready my poetry till he puked. Perhaps then I would always be remembered as the "lady who made Marty vomit with her savage verse."
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