We were sitting in the Drenched Beagle in Vancouver when a guy from the bar asked me, “Where are we?” “Here.” I said. Later he asked, “What time is it?” “Now,” I said. When he asked me if I was a writer, I guessed it was because I was sitting at a table in a corner with some writers that he had heard of. So I shrugged and said, “Sometimes I scribble after midnight but I ain’t no writer.”
He nodded and went away happy. I guess he recognized a writer when he saw one.
Jim Christy was sitting next me at the table. He watched him walk away, shook his head, took a shot of apple cider and started to tell me about a trip he would be taking to do an article on apple cider farms in the U.S. It would be hard to get the good apple cider there that you could get here, he thought. So I told him to take some apple seeds with him and think like Johnny Appleseed.
He laughed and said, “Scribbling after midnight, I like that. I’m gonna use it. Right after I plant some apple trees.” We had another drink or two and then went off to his poetry reading.
After the reading I went to another literary beer joint. My friend Gus was sitting alone at the bar, an almost empty glass in front of him. He was holding his hands out, studying them for clues as if he was looking for testimonials to their loyalty. His fingers are his marines, he once said, his first wave at the point of attack.
Clouds of gunmetal gray smoke frame his apparent contemplations. He is lost in the peril of his own strategy. It seems like he sees nothing in the mirror but the empty space surrounding him.
I had a couple of drinks with him. We talked about Dylan and Ginsburg. He loved one, hated the other. He told me he had written a new piece. He said he would email it to me. Just as I was leaving he grabbed me by the arm. “Can I borrow a couple a bucks? Writing sucks,” he said and turned back to the bar.
I read his piece early the next morning before I went out running. It occurred to me later that maybe he had seen everything he could see, at least for now. That maybe he was just passing through the writing, that for him it was safer and easier to hide in the here and now of the smoke and whiskey. As it is for all of us. Far safer indeed than to try to go back inside to the beginning, before conscious thought, to wherever it is that the words come from.
Scribble courtesy Creative Commons