By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
I’d go over there and get drunk all night, smoking a bit too, and some pills. I don’t know what the pills were, we threw it together, and there was a piano there and I don’t know how to play the piano, but I played it. I played it like a drum, for hours, getting these strange sounds that I don’t think anybody ever got off a piano before.
One night we all went out for drinks and we were screaming back and forth at each other on the streets and in the liquor store, his girl was along, and this guy came back with us, he thought we were interesting, but the guy started bragging how he’d killed guys in the war, and I told him that didn’t take any special merit, that was sanctified, and that it was much more of a thing to kill a guy out of the war.
“You don’t like me much, do you?” he asked.
“Not at all,” I said.
He left. When he came back he had a gun belt and holster on. He walked over to me. He pulled the gun and put it to my belly.
“I’m going to kill you,” he said.
“I’ve got this suicide complex,” I said. “Go ahead.”
“A little. Death isn’t easy. Shoot. I don’t think you’ve got the guts, killer.”
He put the gun back in the holster. We never saw him again...
Mad Jack was always coming around to my place for the touch, 15 cents, 10 cents. Enough to round out a bottle of wine. He finally became a bit boring — in spite of his paintings. A certain type of genius can be awfully dull. In fact, most genius is dull most of the time until they are ready to explode into their art. The vocally brilliant ones are always the fakes. Anyhow, I got to avoiding Jack. Then I heard he had an exhibition and sold some of his paintings for $6,000. He flew to Canada and drank it all up in the same bar within a week. Then he was back at my door, begging pennies.
Someday he’ll be rich on his paintings, but he’ll still be walking around with dried snot under his nose and a bottle of wine in his pocket, and all those screaming little dull melodramatic things he does will be looked upon as ultimate and precious brilliancies.
Then there’s big T.J. up in Echo Park. I don’t think he’s written a new poem in 10 years, he always read the same ones over and over at poetry readings. T.J. has a problem... Anyhow, he’s a huge man, a sort of myth. He used to hang out at Venice West when it was going strong, you know, the naked girls in bathtubs, the Holy Barbarians, in a sense, the whole sick scene that had to fade because it was based more on a play of creation than real creation, but it all counts, like gas stations and weenies and Sunday picnics, so let’s not get bitter; anyhow, T.J. used to sweep in from the walk into one of those places and with one swing of his arm knock five guys off their stools. Then he’d look for a table to put his chess set up on and brush those guys to the floor too. Then calmly sit down, light his pipe and begin his game with his partner.
You can see T.J. now up in Echo Park, scrounging around in trash cans looking for his special junk. T. is a great junk collector. His place is full of junk, you can’t sit down. A tape is usually playing. Among the junk sit thousands of books, some of which he has read. He is a special expert on Adolf Hitler. His walls are covered with photos and clippings and sayings and nudes and paintings. It is a crass confusion, and T.J. sits in the middle of it.
“If I ain’t happy,” he says, “life ain’t worth living.” His work of 10 years ago is some of the best work done in our time. It is classical and erudite, and it moves easily and contains knowledge and explosions. T.J. doesn’t work. T.J. doesn’t do anything. How does he make it? Ask her. Ask L.
The strange ones keep coming around. They all want to drink with me. I can’t live with them all or be nice to them all or even find them all interesting. But the types are all alike in one aspect — they are disgusted with our present way of life and living, and they talk about it, some of them almost violently, but it is refreshing that all of America hasn’t swallowed the common bait.