Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Mythopoetic Site Study San Diego Part 2
Writing some of the semi-fictional back story of the narrator of a fictional memoir. . . so traversing some more visual references from my "hometown."
Memories of things lived and things dreamed and things read all get mixed together and coagulate until you can't separate one from the other.
This is part of the crux of the memoir-novel.
When a young man's marriage comes to an end for no discernible reason,
he is beset upon by memories he can neither confirm nor deny. Each new memory unlocks an old one.
His head feels like a flooded prison. Getting more flooded by the day.
Suddenly the people around him, the women and men he gets involved with all seem to be trying to help him unlock something that may or many not have happened to him.
Even his own hairdresser plays the part of some kind of "revelation-pimp" where with every six weeks, he bestows upon the hapless narrator some kind of password or evolving insight as he hacks away at the wild silver and black foliage on top of his head.
One of the garden-holes he plummets down involves an encounter at a rickety old Victorian arboretum many years back
in that twilight period between his late boyhood and early adolescence, when a dark woman with ice blue eyes in a long dark coat, (or maybe it wasn't a women at all) hands him a briefcase, but before he can accept it he is whisked away by his parents.
(But the smell of her. . the rare-earth spices, rotten humidors, ships. . .so reminiscent of how his twin sister smelled when she came back late at night from the ravines and fields near their house. . .)
This encounter happens inside the dim, pungent causeways of the arboretum.
A place I was at a few days ago in real life.
Where I was fascinated by the Ecuadorian blood leaf. Imagined a room adorned with nothing but thousands of bunches of blood leaf and how one might go mad inside such a room.
The young man needs to understand which memories actually belong to him, or which ones are actually important in deducing the course of his life. He has his hair-dresser as a guide. He has other guides: lovers, friends, guys who sit on stoops, old ladies who deal drugs in empty churches, etc.
He remembers one of his first "revelation-pimps": a shadowy man at his high school who demanded information about several students and student organizations.
And how they met at an incongruous corner, in a little Arabic-Turkish-Basque tea house set like an oasis amidst the parched depots and overpriced fishmongers of a desert downtown.
And how there was a tango instructor there named Jill Solomon Miller who was one of the first truly beautiful women he remembers meeting in person.
Cafe Bassam is no longer at its original location on this wonderful corner where you can melt into the backdrop of the loud, expensive nightlife, on wooden chairs paired with marble-topped cafe tables, obscured by thin, leafy trees. Where my friends worked and spoke of conspiracies and arguments and secret backroom deals and secret backroom staircases leading to locked rooms that emanated a pulsing blue light.
And where. . .many backroom deals were made in the darkness of the sidewalk-trees with students and teachers and insiders alike, all masquerading as one another. . .over countless espressos and Gitanes Blondes and revelation-scandals.
The place was open late, later than bars, until three or four in the morning and you could smoke inside and play chess with men who didn't really speak your language. And here the mysterious owner, a man with a steely smile and a differently-colored beret depending on the day of the week, sold me an antique cigarette case. . .made from the bullet-casings of a pistol fired during the Hundred Year's War. . .
or so the owner's friend insisted. . .
That very shadowy man, not the owner nor the owner's friend, but the shadowy man who paid us to spy on our fellow students,
he got me a summer job running a rickshaw through the night streets of coastal San Diego, a shady, unlicensed operation if ever there was one. . .and its base of operations was through the dark porticoes and arcades of Balboa Park. . . . past all the museums, or at least most of them until you reached
the basement of the Museum Of Natural History. In the basement of a museum, a glum, unfurnished, windowless room, a plywood desk
and a single light bulb hanging over it, dangling, faint pearly conspiratorial light. . .