Chapter 3 - Surreal McCoy
A damn shame he didn’t also mix in the genius of Strunk, but alas that might be asking too much.
I too met Surreal back in the magical 70s. He was playing a piano at a party given by Kensington Belk, who was probably, although I didn’t think about it at the time, an heir to the Belk fortune. He did drive a snazzy car, and he always did love to party. And at this party sat Surreal, son of Hector McCoy, clacking out songs on the piano and yodeling tunes I later learnt he had written. As I approached him, he moved over on the bench and said: “Jump right in!”…which I did. It sounded pretty good! His part anyway!
Thirty years later, and we still have jam sessions. But I jump ahead…
The party was starting to wear on my patience, and I could see that McCoy was also growing weary and before long we decided it best to leave the good people to their snackeries and mozey on over to the shack where music could be furthered.
Surreal lived in a shack. Well, it was actually a storage room behind a shack. It wasn’t really a shack, but an old army barracks of some sort that had been transported to Austin Farm, along with a host of others of similar construction, and together they formed a neighborhood. Probably back in the 40s. And the McCoys lived in the one on the first corner going down. Don’t keep going or you’ll hit a dead-end.
So yes. Surreal occupied the storage shed behind the main house, where his dear parents, sister and two brothers also lived. He had lived back there since the age of 15, and this had everything to do with the uniqueness of his personality in later years. For one thing, it allowed him the time to practice, practice, practice. “Three hours a day, every day.”, he used to say, and I have no reason to doubt him. He may be creative, he may be strange, he may be weird even…but he is, and has always been a man of his word, and his word was gold, just like everything he touched.
But gold was of no interest to Surreal McCoy, except in its intrinsic beauty, and in its being a symbol of excellence and purity. He would likelier give you the clothes off his back than take a nickel from your neighbor’s rich uncle. He was that kinda guy. A real homo sapiens. Walked on two legs. Stood upright. No jutting jaw. Fact is, he looked like, and probably was Huckleberry Finn. Either he is, or I am. Or maybe we both are. I have read of a theory that talks about “the Huck Type”. Something about it being a recurrent archetype. So maybe we both were, or are, Huck Finns. Or Huck Finn. Maybe there is only one Huck and we are all that same one. Only like holograms or something. Holographic Huck! Dewd!
(I knew I shouldn’t have had that beer.)
Since we are on the subject, let me just go ahead and say that there is also a theory of “The Leonardo Type”. And in that case too I could affirm that we both would adhere to that assessment. Generalist. Renaissance Man. Inventor. Left-handed. Weird. We are all that, except that Surreal is, strangely, right-handed. He is the exception that proves the rule. And I think he does it with a vengeance.
Between the two types, I might have to say we both more resemble, physically, Huckleberry. I don’t, however, know what Leonardo looked like as a young man. Who knows, he may well have been a dashing young lion, like Huck. Well, maybe not like Huck. Dashing Huck wasn’t. Huck probably grew up to look like Mark Twain. Probably kept all his hair too. Leo, as you will recall, lost a good deal of his. On top anyway. No Hair Club For Men back then.
And so I am standing outside the little playroom behind the army shack just getting a look around. I had been past his house before, like everyone else in the universe. Now more than ever. There are hubcaps hanging on the outer wall of the little white shed, which has three rooms. Surreal lived in the middle room. I’d say it was about 6 and a half feet high, 8 feet wide and 15 feet deep. There was also a little, miniscule, bathroom, which was really nothing more than an indentation in the wall with just enough room for a commode, as we called it, and a pair of legs…preferably standing up.
This was to your left as you hunch your way in. In the left front corner, just before the bathroom opening, there is a small table with a percolator on it. In the back of the long side of the room, there is a twin bed sitting on boxes. This was Surreal’s sex palace. The girls loved to come there, because they knew no grownups could fit through the front door. They were safe to explore the dangerous.
Leaning up against the wall was an acoustic guitar. And beside that was a Magnus organ and a squeezebox. At least the guitar was a real instrument.
There were other instruments hanging about which might not have appeared as such to the uninitiated. The tentpole and the trumpet mouthpiece go very well together. The gas can is practically an orchestral tympani. The suitcase is a base drum, or one of those Japanese drums they play in diapers and g-strings. Never understood guys wearing g-strings. No g-spot to cover up!
So the coffee pot is ever-brewing, and before long we are in what is called “a jam session”. Not sure wherefrom came that term. Probably some hepcat lingo from Coolsville.
In time I would learn that Surreal was not only a talented musician, he was also able to construe photo-real portraits using only a pencil and white-out. He also had magic powers. Well, one magic power. He was able to contradict anyone, and magically produce the proof of his claim…which would always magically show up in his art sachel.
The first time I realized that was when I had said something about it being quality, not quantity, and he reached into his sachel and produced an official-looking Supreme Court document which showed that it had been overturned, and that it was indeed Quantity now, and not Quality.
The sad thing is that I didn’t realize until a few years had passed that he was simply using his powers on me. And I was often made the fool by contradicting others whom, I thought, still thought, and proclaimed, that it was still Quality, not Quantity.
Frankly I don’t see why it can’t be both.
So this went on for a few years, but then Surreal picked up and moved to to the mountains. And boy dod he ever hit pay dirt there, at least in regards to his living arrangements.
The first place he had was a trailor which overlooked a parking lot that would often fill with redneck kids drinking beer and spinning their wheels.
OK. This wasn’t pay dirt. That came next. He just had to survive a few months of SHEER TOTAL HELL.
But before long, he had moved, and his new place was at the end of a half-mile driveway that opened up to a house on the left, a garage straight ahead, a pond on the right, and a sunny valley just a few steps through the woods which cradled his house.
75 bucks. That was the monthly rent on the place. The other places he lived while there were equally spectacular and easy on the wallet.
After a few years of living in the highlands, Surreal decided it was time to come back to the foothills, the piedmont, Charlotte and Mecklenburg, home. And while it was fun to have a place to escape to, it was better still to have him back within the frameworks of Virtual Bohemia, our little coterie of remarkable hominids.