Chapter 6 - The Wayback Oven
But someone, I forget who exactly, discovered that if you cranked really hard to the left (on the rotary models), you could make it so that you actually go forward in time, but the microwave suddens functions as a quickfreeze.
Odi profanum vulgus et arceo.
I hate the uninitiate crowd and keep them far away. – Horace
I first met Hank Gurdjieff when Oliver Sutton, sheesh, back in the ‘70s, prodded me to meet a fellow with whom he worked, and who also shared my love of esoteric music. King Crimson was the one Oliver knew, not being, himself, much into non-popular music. Probably a function of his Dionysian alluvasuddenness, and how this can prevent serious study.
At any rate, Hank was not encumbered with such limitations. He seemed infinitely bright, and as such, I was attracted to him. Well, not him, per se, but his brain. His personality left a lot to be desired.
The first time I met Hank Gurdjieff was when Oliver brought him over to his place while I was there. Caint quite remember the circumstances, but I think they may have come over straight from work. But it was at Oliver’s apartment, so I’m not really sure why I was there already. Maybe Oliver and I were there, and Hank just popped in. Yes, I think that may have been how it happened. God, my memory is not really what it used to be. I don’t think. Can’t remember how it used to be. But I do remember this. Let me think…
Threlkeld. Okay so I remember one word from Harry Brown’s Memory Book. More will come to mind eventually. Was his name even Harry Brown? Maybe it had an “e” on the end of it. Harry Browne. Hmm. I know it was Harry. Well, Harry Something wrote a book, which I think was called “The Memory Book”, back in the 1970s, and I read it. I know that much. I did read it. And in it was a list of unrelated words that he would have you memorize…and showed you how to memorize it. By making associational links between each succeeding word. Threlkeld was one of the words. I believe it is a surname. At the time I hadn’t a clue. But I did memorize the list, and it stayed in my brain for a number of years, until I realized that it was stupid to store meaningless lists in my mind, especially since it prevented me from memorizing other important lists, like the succession of English kings…which can be mnemonicized thusly:
No place like yours to study English wisely.
Going down the list, with No meaning Norman, place meaning Plantagenet and so on, the succession is: Norman, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor.
No place like yours to study history wisely.
Pretty cool huh? Well, I have a friend who spends almost all of his spare time memorizing these algebraic little mnemonic devices.
Bad boys rape our young girls but prostitutes give willingly. I bet you didn’t realize this, but it is true, and it is getting worse every year. Call me Ishmael. It was the Best of Times, stately plump, river running past even Adam.
Back to Gurdjieff. Hank Gurdjieff. Third Ear. Musical mentor…who walked into Oliver’s crib over to the Lake Apartments as some of the locals say, and stood there, looking at me like a wise barn owl, pupils ever maxidilated, absorbing all I suspect, and nodded his head as if to say, “I see I am in the company of someone new.” He was never much the emotive type.
“You must be the notorious Hank”, I said, as I walked over, arm extended, hand appearing to want to touch the reticent Mister Gurdjieff, to which Hank held out his own hand so as to disallow any touching in any other place. We shook hands.
“Sutton tells me you are a connoisseur of fine musics.”, Hank said, as our hands disengaged and we moved back to a more appropriate distance from one another.
“Oh yes. It is true.” I said. “You got yer King Crimsons and yer Genesis and yer Yes and yer ELP…and of course I like The Association.”
That last one had its bathetic effect, as it was true that every other band was held in fairly high regard by young Gurdjieff, but not, of course, the dessicated and mickey mouse Association, whose song, “Wendy” so to say, really sucked.
Hank, Oliver and I sat around and listened to some new acquisitions Oliver had made today. Triumvirat, Golden Earring, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep. Not bad stuff really. Some of it was very good. He particularly liked Deep Purple, which was, probably, my least favorite of them all.
Later that night, Hank asked if I would like to pop over and check out some of his records. Records. That’s what we called them back then. That’s what they were.
Hank, it turns out, lived in the same apartment that was later occupied by yet another very clever friend of mine, only years later. Garrick Ammonium would not, however, be so gifted in the music department. He liked Nirvana, which is fine, but with Ammonium, it was all Nirvana all the time. And this just seemed plain wrong.
Hank Gurdjieff’s record collection was a feast to behold. I believe he had nearly every artist on the Nonesuch label. Including many from the Explorer Series. What I found most enjoyable were the contemporary composers, Messiaen, Xenakis, Crumb, Cage, Stockhausen, and such. But he also had wondrous creatures from the avant-garde European underground. Faust, Van der Graff Generator, and more popularly, Hawkwind.
The musical adventures were endless, and one can only feel sorry for the young farts today to whom these marvels will remain hidden.
I remember him showing how to co-perform pieces by John Cage, where the listener would regard a stopwatch and make changes to the bass, treble and speakers at certain intervals of the score. Quite fascinating. I remember one time, after hearing one of Cage’s pieces and not knowing what to think of it….that is until later, as I was leaving, and I realized that I could still hear the piece playing in my head. No, it was just the noises of the city…I had never even noticed before.
In time I would come to realize that John Cage had Carolina connections, since he was a part of the great experiment at Black Mountain College, lo those many years ago, along with Bucky Fuller, Josef Albers, Rauchenberg, Oldenberg, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, and nearly anyone who was anyone in the vanguard of the mid-twentieth century.
Little did I know, that in ten years I would be asked to be on the board of directors of the new Black Mountain College. More on that later. Maybe.
Hank Gurdjieff turned me on to other things besides. He was the first person to turn me on to James Joyce, and in particular, Finnegans Wake. It still, after 30 years, occupies a corner of my mind, and I often return to it for inspiration. The same can be said for much of the music that my early mentor shared. And it is a damn shame that I let a woman come between us, and eventually cause him to want me dead.
As Bongwater says: The power of pussy!
“I don’t get the big bucks, like you, asshole”, Shandy Townes yelled at the radio in his SUV which he still regrets trading in his battered though still somewhat functional soul. “We are at War, you schmuck!” But The Bloviator kept up his bloviance with utter disregard for the fact that Shandy Townes, corporate man, patriotic man, family man, was spitting flames in his direction, and reddening the more he thought about how many years he wasted listening to The Bloviator pound his fist, spew and spin untruths, and collect a hundred mill in the process. Shandy Townes was in transition.
IT’S BIG WORD TIME!
The big word for this hour is:
Bloviance is a word I made up to indicate the presence of bloviation. The Blogs of Bloviance. Hmm. Not a bad title…I don’t think. Notate.
Perhaps Townes was having an early midlife crisis. Perhaps he was regretting having given his mind over so pussilanimously to a dropout from a mediocre university in the middle of nowhere. Whatever it was, he had had enough. He was still feeling the sting from his wife for having pleased their night school teacher, who had posed a grammar problem regarding the use of “had” and “had had”.
Shandy, while his wife had had “had”, had had “had had”. “Had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.
But Shandy already knew the classic answer. The “eleven hads in a row” he had already passed through his mind, and he had actually spend a good half hour wrapping his mind around the problem, and solution. But his wife had not. And his wife was used to winning. Shandy, on the other hand, was getting pretty used to losing. It seemed to a path he was on.
Now, Shandy was familiar with the old tale of the family on the hill, and its message of good luck/bad luck, but it really did seem to him that the bad luck that seemed to return again and again to his door was not actually good luck clothed in bad luck garb…but was truly bad luck. And it was beginning to make him feel like Job…
Arriving at the office, Shandy parked his SUV, snapped his sales kit from the back seat, and marched in to tell his boss, Pinckney Ravenel III, to go fuck himself.
But as he was going up the steps, who walks out but Pinckney himself.
“Morn Shand!” the boss barked at him as the caravan passed. “Damn! When is the next caravan due?”
“I’ve got to talk to you about…”
“When is the next caravan due?” Pinck was livid. His nares began to flare as he looked furiously around for transportation.
“Need a ride somewhere”?
“When. Is. The. Next. Caravan. Due?”
“Look. Fuck you asshole. And fuck selling marital aids. Women buy this Sh*t on the Internet now. Why do they need you? Me?”
“Get out of my light, Townes. And drop off your materials.”
Shandy Townes began to consider the arc of his life, and how it was that he was now standing out front of a gemcrack sex corporation, arguing with his paymaster, inches away losing the one source of income for him, his wife and their family, and calming himself, begged Pinckney Ravenel III to please give him another chance. His ferret had died.
“Your ferret died? Lassie?”
“Oh, you met Lassie?”
“Sure I met Lassie! You brought her to the company picnic over at Freedom Park…what’s now called French Park. Last year, was it?”
Shandy began to laugh, although somewhat nervously, and said, “Oh yeah! Bill Hanna was playing in the hatch shell. I studied music with him whilst but a young’un.”
“You studied with Hanna? I hear he is one of the best.”
Suddenly a caravan pulls up and beeps. Pinckney cranes around.
“Be right there!”
And turning to poor Shandy Townes, says:
“Look, I’m sorry about Lassie. Why don’t you and your wife come over tonight for movies. We got a new batch in, fresh from Europe. And bring lubricant.
He darted onto the caravan and shot Shandy the finger. He was weird like that.
Shandy coughed a finger up in return, and laughing, marched into the main lobby where he was told an officer of the law was waiting in his office.
Walking to the elevator, Shandy Townes began to run over in his mind all the possible reasons why an officer of the law would be waiting for him in his office. Surely all the bills are current. Unhappy customer? Could that be it? Now who…my God, I hope it’s not that whore, Trollium Djeli, I sold those megadildoes to last week. I told her to be careful. Lubricant was required. But she insisted she made her own. Made her own. Hmm. What could she have meant by that?
“I am Shandy Townes.”
“I think you should sit down. I have some bad news. Your son has been killed while serving his country honorably in Falluja.
“Oh my God…”
“And he had some outstanding debts that we were hoping to clear up…”
“My son is dead? Skip is dead?”
“Yes sir. And he has this debt. If we could clear it up, I’ll let you get back to your business.
“My business? Debt? What kind of monster are you?”
“Sir. I am only doing my job. And I have a few other people to see today, if you don’t mind.”
What? You’re gonna rob them of everything too?”
“Sir. It’s only money.”
Yelling. “I was not talking about the money, you bastard. I was talking about my son.”
“Sir. Your son is dead.”
“Get out! Get out of my office, and don’t you ever step foot in here again.”
Charlotte, like most cities, is divided by neighborhoods, each with their own flavor, color and politics. Each has a certain character, and each could, in fact, be portrayed as a character, in a novel, say, or a movie. A movie is not a film. Movies are for the unwashed masses. Films are for the unwashed few. Some day they are going to invent a medium for the washed. Even the waxed have porno. Washed of the world, unite! Carpe media! Carpe narrator!
All right! All right! I’ll get back to work. God!
Where was I? Oh yes. In Charlotte. Capital of the Carolinas. Home of the Dome. Ketchup eaters. Plenty of the kind of folk that kept Jim and Tammy in silk and gold, but also the kind of people who, even in a sea of red, vote blue. Charlotte and Mecklenburg’s wishes were not granted on November 2, 2004.
And Charlotte’s “art scene”, which is to say “human capital”, is among her finest treasures. Writers, composers, artists, musicians, sculptors, archaeoethnobotanists, phrenologists, onanists, dictators, dictatresses…Charlotte has none. Just kidding. Among the former there are quite a few, and of the latter, day saints keep them in checks.
Charlotte has more than its share of day saints. Day saints are people whose lives are centered around helping anyone who needs it. As Georges Gurdjieff said: “Consider externally always, internally never.” These day saints live by that rule. You never hear them complain of headaches or finances, weather or traffic. That would be considering internally. How it affects you. Not how it affects others. If you see a begger on the street, you give them what they need. You are the good Samaritan.
But I digress. It happens.
The Plaza-Midwood neighborhood is among the hippest in Charlotte. It is certainly the most diverse. And if it is true that monoculture breeds disease, Plaza-Midwood is teaming with good health. And it is. Within just a few short blocks, one may find such wonders as Fuel Pizza, The Steeple, The Penguin diner, Thomas Street Tavern and Patio, as well as coffee houses, head shops, Africaniana, a costume shop, a fine library, the best used book store in town, food from far-flung cultures, and predominantly locally-owned businesses. Here is where Charlotteans need to shop. Buy local.
Green Witch Village
Italo Calvino had his Invisible Cities. Charlotte had its Invisible Villages. One of them was Green Witch Village, named after the famous story of the green witch who brought Charlotte the green broom, or the great forest of trees that Charlotte has long been known for.
The actual location of Green Village remains an uncertainty, as it is invisible, and as it obeys the laws of indeterminacy (except on holidays), but some say it is somewhere in the vicinity of University City, over in the Newell – Back Creek area. Some say it is an entirely virtual community. Others deny everything.
Confusion often arises when a New Yorker, of which there are more than a few, first hears talk of Green Witch Village, and their first impression is that Charlotte must be filled with peckerwoods and chawbacons, since they can’t even pronounce Greenwich Village.
“It’s Grinnich Village, you foolish slabberdegullion!”
“You just wait!”
And so it goes.
But some great legends have come out of Green Witch Village, such as the legend of Teeter germs.
The Legend of Teeter Germs
Many, many years ago there was an Ag Building. No one really knew what “Ag Building” meant, until Someone thought to ask an adult. So someone asked Mister Lynn, a man who held class in the Ag Building.
“Ag stands for agriculture.” Said Mister Lynn, when asked.
Well goddam, that was simple!” Someone responded. Jerry Someone, I think. Maybe his brother, Terry. They were the Someone Twins. Yep, the same Someones who discovered that not 500 yards away from the Ag Building was a water fountain. Well, it was one of those kinds that had three water founts in a line.
Well…the middle water fount, as it turns out, and sadly, was infected with Teeter Germs, or Teeter germs. Or maybe they were teeter germs. That’s what we thought at the time anyway, although no one was really sure what a teeter really was.
“Sounds like a cross between teat and peter”, Mike Luckadoo said while trying to retrieve a white pickle from a jar he had found behind a mound near the back yard at Johnny Martin’s place, over on Fairhaven. “Bet it’s something sexual.”
But Teeter Germs were not something sexual. They were much worse. They were anti-sexual. And if you drank from the middle fount, you would be forever rendered impotent or infertile, depending on what parts were used to construct you. (This no longer applies.)
“Teats and peters?” Steve Sinnett cut in. “Sounds like one of them morphodikes!”
Steve was spot on, for that is how the Teeter Germs got to infect the middle fountain in the first place. It was when a morphodike was spotted drinking from the fountain a good ten years earlier. Just how the germs rode DOWN the water remains a mystery. And perhaps that is the greatest mystery of all. At least in Green Witch Village: Where nothing much happens. And people prefer it that way.
Or so they profess…
Scientists, over the years, have begun to study the strange behavioral patterns of Green Witch Village and its inhabitants, and different conclusions are beginning to arise, as money pours in.
Garrick Ammonium has discovered that the golden latitude, which runs through an embarrassment of historic world capitols, also runs right through the area thought to be Green Witch Village. 35.16 North, if my memory serves. I forget the seconds. Alas, God is, once again, in the details. And we gotta get him outta there. He is missing so much. So many shadows where there should be light.
But what if he’s a she? Would she be a morphodike? Spreading Teeter Germs? No one knew for sure. What we did know was that Teeter Germs also had a property not many people knew at the time. For the way a Teeter Germ really works is to sap your sexuality, drain it right out, but it is not just thrown away! It is stored. Like a private Social Security account. Like Whitman’s pent-up aching rivers. Like Kane’s vast crated warehouses.
But in 20 years, what do you think happens? That’s right. All that stored energy comes back, with interest, and guys, if your wives are not nailed down you better count your days. Metapuberty is time in man’s evolution. Count not your sins as having been wasted on shells.
Be ye gladdened by having tasted the cool, blue nectar of old.
Glistening down your chin as you drink, I remember sunlight shining in your eyes like a fixed star cradled ever near for to be as good companion and medicine as my stumbling life melts forward.
“Maybe you better take a break!” a voice echoed from down the hall. Perhaps she was right. Perhaps I did need to take that break. Thinking about Teeter Germs is bringing me down. I never drank from the middle fountain.
I Never Drank from the Middle Fountain
I asked Surreal McCoy one night if he remembered Teeter germs, and he said he did. He even knew Teeter. Wow! I never knew anyone who knew Teeter. I knew someone who knew Jack, but this was of no interest to anyone but Jack, and strangely while everyone knew Jack…Jack didn’t know himself. But that’s a different chapter in a different book. 2 Ways Air Escapes The Body, I believe it is to be called, to be released around this time next year.
Upon hearing my lament, Surreal reached behind the sofa and pulled out guitar and started singing in a twangy, almost gospel-sounding voice,
I never drank from the middle fountain
But if I were a great big mountain
I’d fly away with yuuuuuuuuuuuu.
“That makes no sense, Surreal!” I said.
“Who?” Surreal said.
“OK. Point taken. Point scored. You can keep your sachel shut.”