Monday, June 15, 2009
The Aqua Mustang 90 – PROTECTION
In August of 1970 I decided to finish my picaresque novel in the White Mountains, which, strangely, I thought would not distract me from this basically true story I had sold to Harper’s of my wildly unsafe adventures in the night world of Bangkok. So now I was staying partly at White Wings with Mickie and her new husband Charlie and partly at Lovett’s, the restaurant and high end cabin complex at the corner where you turn off for the Profile Club.
Here in the mountains I kept silent about my recent activities except to let them know I planned to put the finishing touches on this novel right here – letting them see I had credentials of my own apart from family heritage. This was no place to talk of how I had spent the eight months between the time I got the contract and this time now, one of my rare returns to the White Mountains.
With the contract in my self consciously battered briefcase I had gone from New York to London, where I had friends from Southeast Asia days and also could check in with Jason Bacon, who I had known since the third grade. Jason was in London running the big money office of Kidder, Peabody. For years I had considered him my only Republican friend.
With overvalued dollars from my advance I took an apartment on the Chelsea embankment with a view of the Thames. Then I left London, where I knew people, for the Canary Islands, where I knew no one – these sad though lovely islands of the Africa coast that are sparsely inhabited with depressed Iberians and overrun by bargain seeking Brits of the sort who start every other sentence with “as it were,” and mark their wine bottles so that between meals the wogish locals who did menial work in the hotels would not sneak drinks which, the “as it were” bargain tourists said, represented “value for money.” My isolation in such a place weighed so heavy that it was sort of a relief after a night when drunk to incoherence to wake up in a jail cell being glared at through the bars by a man in the costume drama uniform of the fascist Guardia Civil.
Then back to London which was full of people coming and going whom I had known in Southeast Asia – which at least was company, though these were journalist war lovers taking a break before deciding whether to go back to the killing fields in Indochina or look for new ones in the Middle East. And then I was off to Malta with an old boozed-up writer friend who knew a famous alcoholic Australian novelist there. The Australian lived in an old ocean-view house with cool tile floors and glass cases containing dead stuffed birds. I had a room that opened on the roof, where I kept forgetting how many sleeping pills I had taken. Our best reason for being there was that the next town over had the sweetest young prostitute on the island which in the circumstances did feel like connection. I twisted my ankle badly coming down the stone steps from her house, but soon could have it fixed with British national health service. This was not something to talk about in the White Mountains.
Next, back to London again and then a sojourn in Frankfort, where I had old friends from Athens days, and on to Zermatt, which was so clearly not at all like what they said it was in the White Mountains where they somehow connected their wild scraggly ranges with the perfectly ordered Swiss Alps. I hiked and wrote, happy to be far away from English food – which was something else that might seem strange if I mentioned it in the White Mountains summer crowd, whose members from Baltimore, Boston and Chicago often talked, in mysterious ersatz aristocratic style, with what sounded like English accents. For two weeks I did not have a drink – though it worried me that if this continued it would prove offensive to the remnants of my family.