It was a sunny summertime afternoon in Queens, Henry in his apartment was drinking Margaritas and reading a book he picked up in the village, A Fan’s Notes by Fredrick Exeter.
The book blew him away, Exeter or Ex as he called himself had busted out of the box that creative writing lived in—he was a free flow freak show.
Ex just goes, goes and goes, from the first page to the last, he is on fire, going here, there and everywhere.
During my final weeks at the farm I did an odd thing, scarcely knowing at the time why. Though I now presume I created this room that I might one day come back and put down these words, I was unquestionably distraught at being deemed insane and was avoiding, as long as possible, being locked up.
I drove with top down on the Mercedes and the chillness of the season cutting our faces a fierce pink, we shot through the autumn-lemon hill of Putnam County, and across the snakelike mountain roads into that valley,
I especially liked the antiqued towns flush with streets beneath the fall trees. Looking at them, one thought of cavernous hearths opening onto great, smoldering logs, of huge copper kettles, of rooted people with a sense of the past, warm, loyal, dignified people who endured in a kind of unending autumn.
Ex writing it down as though the stuff comes out of a bygone room in his head. His work flavored with a heart he numbed with booze, the heart was ever-present and unstoppable.
Henry looking at a clock that hung loosely and unevenly on his living room wall— it is 730PM, time to eat, he would clean up and head out to Chaim’s Deli for fuel—what happened after that wasn’t written yet but would be written soon.
Sitting at his favorite booth at Chaim’s Deli he was greeted by his regular waitress Ruby, walking real sexy like in a short skirt, wearing an unbuttoned blouse that exposed ample cleavage—Henry says to Ruby,
Ruby you sure are a fox, give big daddy some sugar girl!
Henry, who are you today Superfly or Shaft? Well, thanks for the compliment, I want you too baby, but not here—
Ruby laughing now—
How about we take a walk to the kitchen and rumble in the storeroom baby?
Henry didn’t know if Ruby was serious, but he often thought about taking the short trip to the storeroom to find out.
Ordering and looking Ruby in the eyes romantically with a smile— matzot ball soup, a grilled pastrami and cheese sandwich, well done french fries and a double Jack and Coca-cola to wash it down.
Leaving Chaim’s after eating, walking through the Bowery, avoiding the bums —you never knew what they would do, they were always maximumly fucked up on booze and psychotic, going this way or that mentally from second to second.
Henry made a b-line to Times Square to the New Amsterdam Theater, he saw on the marquee that The Night of the Iguana was playing. The cowboy junk, part pimp, part film reviewer, part dealer was standing near the ticket both dressed like one of the Village People—he grabs Henry and says speaking at a gallop,
dog, I got some awesome Brown Mescaline and some Humboldt County bud, Iguana a great, great film, hip to the bone baby.
Henry buys a ticket and then shuffles to the back row of the musty theater. He sits down and puts his feet up on the seats in front of him, then washing down the hit of mescaline with some Jack Daniels wrapped in a paper bag.
He knew The Night of the Iguana well, he had seen the play on Off-Broadway and had read it too. Tennessee Williams was an absolute stoned genius and the greatest playwright of the 20th Century—a gay and addicted to everything genius like Truman Capote.
Coming on to the mescaline as the film came on the screen, the music by Benjamin Frankel was haunting with a sinking feeling, Henry felt as though he was falling into it, floating in an ocean of sound.
The movie opens in a small New England town, an Episcopal priest, the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon brilliantly played by Richard Burton is having a nervous breakdown as he is preaching on the pulpit to a conservative crowd of old fuddy duddys, his sermon degenerating into a tirade on phony religious values.
As the faithful exit the chapel in disgust the film cuts to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—the defrocked Shannon is now a busted up tour guide on the booze for a low rent tour company.
John Huston enlisted a host of characters including a hitman as a bodyguard, actors, lovers and friends and the movie's crew, the list looked something like this,
John Huston, Richard Burton, Tennessee Williams, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Emilio Fernandez, Ray Stark, Elizebeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra—all or most where multiply addicted to something.
Henry beginning to peek on the mescaline, Iguana was in black and white, he sees multicolored expanding geometric form coming out of the screen— it engulfs him.
It is act 3, Shannon breaking down again, wrapped up and tied up in a straw hammock by Maxine Faulk and Hannah Jelkes, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr respectively.
To Henry, it looks as though the hammock is spinning like a top, round and round with Shannon inside it. The hammock balloons up as though it is being inflated and then explodes with the sound of a pop.
Henry then sees the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon on an upright wooden cross, his body t-shaped, raising his head and then looking at Henry and saying,
Henry— Beware of the Ides of March, you are throwing your life away, you go up and down and nowhere, you're a free flow of chaotic brainwaves without direction or form.
The movie ends, Henry is coming down and feeling paranoid as he walks out of the theater. In his mind's eye he sees a hoard of Roman senators in togas running after him with their daggers raised in the air. Ignoring the cowboy junk at the entrance he runs away as fast as he can, dodging people and things on the sidewalks and streets, running home to his Queens apartment, going into his bedroom and locking the door.
Henry would crash in bed that night with his clothes on, not cleaning up or brushing his teeth, he didn't even take off his shoes. He would wake up in the morning with no memory of the previous night, he had unconsciously blacked it out.
In the morning it was still morning and I was still alive— Bukowski