Copy Queen Papers, part 1.7

28 marzo 1996

I realized something about my prose tonight. There was this incredible clarity of light at Bianca and Maurizio’s tonight. I epiphanied several things…among them: I shouldn’t mail this letter, I miss Neil, and my prose is wasted on anyone who doesn’t know everything I’m trying to say already because I mix emphatic persuasion with dire irony so indiscriminately that if you don’t already know precisely what the fuck I’m on about you’re lost.

I’m having a great time. I went to Paco de Lucia last night at the Smeraldo theater. This reminds me of a couple of women. One who I wanted very badly to love—perhaps still do—and another who is a good friend to me, but needs to reconsider the number of lessons she feels I’m in need of. Probably ought to bring the number up, just to be safe.

Oh, yeah, I think I’d like to go to a hooker. Never wanted it. Even now I think I want it in the same vague and dangerous way that Holden Caufield wanted it. Not to have it but to be there and hear about it first hand. And then get shaken down by the pimp for an extra five bucks for not fucking her.

I take it back. This letter is not for either of my grandmothers under any circumstances. Who am I kidding, I’m not going to mail it.

Fear of flying. What an odd thing to have. I had this dream about Cort once. About flying and all. I can’t explain but suffice it that I could make the thing fly and he ran after crying out it couldn’t be because of some set of established…blah, blah, blah-bonk-bonk on the head!

Everyone has a double here. You’d be amazed. Uggi. This fellow’s name is Uggi. He looks exactly like Neil. He has the same sense of humor too but he isn’t so mean. And I don’t think he can take a punch which, believe me, Neil can. Anne Marie Emanuelli has a couple I’ve seen. Claire Haye had one on the street the other day. I saw myself and a couple of exes at the Paco show. Sybil Dunbar was walking a dog in the park today. It’s incredible—everyone from Parma looks like Pat.

Bed is screaming for me. I’m designing a lot you’ll be glad to know. I am as happy as a really happy thing in a nice place. But my eyes are killing me. Ciao, buona notte. Buenos noches. Something like that.

The distant future of America is as clear as the future of Italy. I recognize in America two distinct classes above all the others that are pushed into every swiss cheese hole of the teevee and papers. In America there are people who will do anything to get a job done and people who won’t. The future of America is with the Red Addairs. The people who will risk their lives and don’t mind getting very dirty. Today I see Americans alone in the world in this. These few of us understand that dirt can always come off. “What? You don’t want to pick up that shit? How much don’t you want to? Is that in marks, yen, or greenbacks?” Who needs gloves, we’ve got soap. No traditions or superstitions to hold us back. The religious elements of America…that’s the backwash of Europe married with the bloody genitals of the Incas in the psychotic stupor of an Asian poppy field. The gates of the dark ages the world has been slaloming for all time.

Well, I seem to have dropped the format a little. What day is it? I’m not even sure.

Let’s see. I’ve been watching the news here. Looks like the FBI is up to their hijinks in Montana. Of course this time they seem to have fished the Una-bomber out of the woods. Now I’m not scared to open mail anymore. But I’m kind of pissed off all the same. I just forked out five hundred dollars for a bomb sniffing beagel.

Foods are getting weirder here. Among the things I’ve eaten lately…kid (at least I understood that it was baby goat…capretta, you know; capricorns look out) and a plate of beef ligaments con le cipolle. You’d be surprised how good ligaments taste if they’re cooked right with some nice onions and nobody tells you what you’re eating.

That Chip Thompson may know Evil Eggs but these Italians know how to do Easter eggs. Man, I’m telling you. The things are like three feet high and they come with presents inside. I’m also happy to report I sampled some Berlucchi. I attest it’s better than Champagne, “thanks for coming anyway,” to the French.

It’s the little things that get you around here. Like the mailboxes are red. You know, instead of blue, right? So what looks like some sort of fire related apparatus is really where you stick letters.

The girls here are increasingly nice. I had a good offer yesterday. There’s a girl who’s willing to be mine if I get a hair cut. So I’m not taking any chances. I’m cutting four or five. Actually I’m not interested. The girl is kind of like a leech… …but in a bad way.

I’m writing a movie script. It’s almost done so I guess I can’t jinx it too bad by mentioning it. I wrote a hilarious scene while at the park today. The weather is lovely.

Spent the Easter weekend in the countryside. Castelleto. Beautiful place. Fields of grain as far as you can see. It all used to be wine country… but I guess as AA got more popular they had to go with bread. Nobody loves a wino but everyone loves bread, right? Tell me I’m not right. I know I love bread.

Oh, yeah, I remember what I had to say. Irregardless… why it’s wrong and stupid: it’s a double negative. -less…a suffix meaning the opposite of, or lacking of; & ir-…a prefix meaning contrary to… So, technically irregardless would mean “without lack of regard”. But that would sound stupid, wouldn’t it?

Strunk and White have given me a gem of advice. If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, say it loudly. Why compound ignorance with inaudibility? I’m trying to practice this with Italian. Which I could stand some more practice with.

I have a revelation about laissez faire traffic. You’ll love this. Okay, so there are elections here now. Prossima settimana, right? The one guy was saying, «Look at Reagan and supply economics and how absolutely devastating it was for America.» They read a lot of fumetti here. That’s comics. I think they smoke ’em too. Someone in a country where unemployment is thirty percent in some regions ought to consider the words “disastrous” and “economics” more carefully when they’re connected with a predicate phrase. Wait! I’m coming close to defending America. Fuck that. Anyway, these folks are a bunch of commies and fascists mixing it up with some seriously corrupt socialists toting the barge (and taking the mafia pay-offs, but who’s keeping score?). They wouldn’t let a free market run here for anything. But listen to this. They were having a lot of traffic accidents after one a.m. in Milano. People were running the red lights and the people in the green lights weren’t smart enough to pick up on this I guess. Anyway, wrecks all the time, right? So some genius decides that at midnight all the lights just flash yellow. Not some red with the others yellow like in America. Just a bunch of “yield if you feel like it” signs in a town with two million frigging crazy Italians driving Fiats like bats outta hell on their way home from the bars. Guess what? It worked. Like no wrecks now. Everyone has to take responsibility for themself when they come to the intersection. It’s laissez faire traffic and it works really, a-really well. No one buys you a new car and holds your hand saying…poor fellow, you couldn’t have known that intersection would be full of cars at that time of night. Who knew?

Who would’ve guessed that the only right way would be… ah, you get the idea. …I did it my way…

Things are on a sort of New Mexico clock around here. When my train was fifteen minutes late Alberto reminded me of the saying, «When HE was here the trains were always on time.» Mussolini built the train station in Milano. It’s really nice. Apparently it used to be very punctual too.

We went to a dinner theatre the other night. Le sette pecatti…the seven sins I suppose. There was this comedian after dinner.

So he is doing his routine and gets to me and says, «What about you, Jesus. What’s your name?»

Which I understood so I said loud and clear, «Ashley.»

He does a double take. Stares at me, then to the crowd something like, «One foreigner in the place and I go right to him.»

After that he tries Alberto’s brother-in-law, Francesco. Except Francesco always goes by Franz. Franz replies, «Franz» sounding rather German and the comedian goes after him next. But a second later he calls him again, saying, «Hey, Franz» to which Franz replies, «Ja?» Talk about a laugh riot.

Alberto is a rather funny fellow. He stole the comedian’s thunder on one line. The comedian then commanded him to leave. He told a joke that I was laughing at and said something like, «At least the foreigner gets it.» Alberto says, «He’s the only one laughing because he can’t understand.» And the comedian starts yelling, «Judas, Judas!»

I take back what I said about Italy’s future. They are also much slicker in advertising copy than most of the rest of the world. Not television copy but the 2d stuff. Genius stuff really.

Okay, so this very shy woman who’s not had any sexual experience in her life but is quite sure she wants to, finally works up the courage to go into a sex shop. She is looking at the dildoes thinking this is a good place to get started. The clerk goes over to help her. She timidly says, “Yes, um…I guess I want the white one, the black one…and the red one over there.” The clerk replies, “Well, ma’am the white and black ones are no problem, they’re ten dollars each, but I’m going to have to ask my manager about the fire extinguisher.”

I spent an hour with the bidet yesterday. Scherzando!

Italian has quite a few homonyms and double entendres. Which leads me to analyze English a little more. It’s amazing how many words in English have at least two meanings; and how many idioms we’ve got. Per esempio: Duck, plumb, flush, get, and (as “to”), by myself, clogs… How was your trip? Or…Have a nice trip, see you next fall. Or…I hope your trip goes bad.

We were watching The Wall at the Lobo Theater. This guy in the balcony was ripped six ways from SuperBowl Sunday on acid. He was shouting the lyrics and reacting quite vocally to the events on the screen. Halfway through the movie he did it again. Someone from the lower tier shouted, “I hope your trip goes bad.” You know what? That bastard didn’t make a peep the rest of the movie. Power of suggestion I guess, go figure.

My movie script is great and almost done. Best ever written. You wouldn’t believe it. Okay, like for instance. There’s this guy who falls at the beginning. No wait, I told it wrong.

da Monet a Picasso…

I have seen a very nice art show today. I will have to revise some of my opinions about some painters. For instance…I will no longer beat anyone up for criticizing Monet. He is still aces in my book but seeing his work up close (except for the Cathedral at Rouen which was orgasmic from six inches) makes me realize that what he has above all the other Impressionists is that his work reproduces better. I like Renoir quite a bit more than I thought. But not the portraits still. I dislike Picasso perhaps a little more than I thought. I have to take back everything bad I ever said about Van Gogh. And I would just like to add that Sissley, while shown in France and spoke French was British as boiled beef.

“da Monet a Picasso” is an example of how easy it is to be dirty in Italian. Alberto and his pals called the show «da Mona a Pi’cazzo». Which in dialect is… “from Pussy to Little Dick.” Hey, I don’t write them, I just transliterate them, okay. I got some of you fruitcakes a post card at the show. I’ll mail them as soon as I figure out what to write on them. If you get one it means I like you. If you don’t, it means the Italian mail service is experiencing a «sciopero». Much like say the airport is. The air traffic controllers are striking and they seem to be dragging it out a little longer than the traditional day. Eighty flights were cancelled this weekend. And they pooh-poohed Reagan. Humph!

Hey, this is a long letter. Still there are some things you should know about the honeymooning couple that hand fed rays and a solitary moray on the beach in the Azores; there are things you should know about a faceless clock that keeps perfect time; there is one thing you should know about the youngest member of the ANC and how he answered me with his eyes that afternoon in 1986; and there is something you should know about me.

For the reunion gang… Say, kids, perhaps you’d give a copy of this to Becky Hopper if she’s around. Although Lisa will probably take it so it doesn’t matter. I guess it’s not too risque for the hicks in Smallville. Everyone already either hates me or thinks I’m nuttier than a squirrel’s attic. So what’s to lose? I’ll never forget the first time someone finally told me that to my face. La parola del giorno adesso. But what are you gonna do, am I right? As Todd pointed out, I’m so narcissistic that my idea of a centerfold is a mirror with the word “January” written in lipstick across the top. I’ll never live that one down entirely. Unless I get a mirror and a magazine. Then we’ll see who’s laughing, suckers!

Let’s see… what do y’all want to know? Okay, I’ve had a lot of romantic horror stories; I’ll put together an expurgated version for the 20th. Very little professional success (I have yet to break 16K, even GED equipped cops in Questa do better than that in their first year). I haven’t gotten a hair cut. I have kept in touch with a few of you and been curious about quite a few others.

Milano at night is fascinating sometimes. Whoops, I was writing reunion stuff. Ah, we’ll get back to that. This thing’s only about eight thousand words so far. I’ve got time. Anyway…The trollies are on electric wires. When they pass you in the uneven street and they jump the cables, they light up like flash bulbs. It’s unnerving, you feel as if someone is taking your picture on an empty street.

In a Catholic country I get some odd looks. For those not up on current events I do have a semi VanDyke intelligensia type beard which I guess makes me look like Jesus (or what Hollywood would have him be). Anyway I get stares because I walk around with a sort of benevolent vacant look, this apparently heightens the resemblance. But if they chance to make eye contact with me they look away immediately. It’s far too clear what’s back there then.

Anyway, for the renunion. Seriously, for not overly long. I miss a lot of you. Ingri comes to mind right away, I hope you and your family are great. I’ve seen many of you in the last ten years. Some not at all or only once. A surprisingly good bunch of people really. A lot of you took really good care of me. That’s hard to elaborate because of the circumstances and the distance but I just wanted you all who remember to know that I do too and it still matters. Though many of my friends were in the classes of ’85 and ’87 so I guess I have to leave them out.

Let’s see, notes for anyone I can think of: I hope Wendy Caswell is well. Ty Martinez and John Romero; I think of you guys sometimes. I think I still have a crush on John’s sister Tina. Carolyn W, I hope you made it. Sharon Couch, I hope you’re doing terrific, I’ve been wondering about you. Rita Martinez, s’up, homegirl? And to Rita Mondragon, I wasn’t kidding that morning sitting on the heaters in the lobby, that’s what I was really thinking about. Cryptic enough for you? Anna CO(Brown)K…there’s nothing I can write that you don’t already have from me; hope Spain was good to you, I’m looking forward to seeing you on New Year’s 2000 in Hong Kong. Angela W, I wonder what happened, I will always be in love with your voice. Lynn DelMargo…you were one of my closest friends back then, I wish we hadn’t drifted for such nonsense (or whatever it is we did), I miss you and that spaghetti Thanksgiving till two in the morning. Tara, you make me look sane, but all the same I remember a lot of wonderful things about you. Will, I’ve told you everything already, you’re the brother I never had. Cort, huh, I guess I’d have to say you’re the best friend I never had. Charmagne Pamela Santos Cayanan, I think about you all the time, if you want to get married and have some of those babies we talked about, for the love of God please get word to me. Todd G, I think about you sometimes, I wish I knew you better. Alicia Gallegos…I slept with one of your cousins but so did everyone in Santa Fe and Taos including at least one other guy in our class who I ordered wedding invitations for a few weeks ago. Man this is a small world. Sorry I had to break up the monotony with some humor, or rather what I see as humor, which I understand is probably only offensive to the larger part. You know how it is sometimes. Lisa D…nothing to say, you know it; all the rest a y’all show her some respect. Beverly C, I had a crush on you the size of Texas, just thought you should know. Becky Hopper, you don’t remember I guess but you gave me one of the single compliments in my life that mattered to me, you were always fun and thanx. Donna Ortiz, man I wanted to have sex with you in ninth grade, I hope you’re doing great. L(M)AW(M), I think of that winter night six years ago out in front of your Grandma’s; your girl’s beautiful, I hope the twins are healthy and you’re happy. Robin P…I wonder if our handwritings are still identical. Kevin McA, hey. If Felicity Fonseca is around or someone knows where she is tell her “hi” for me; she probably won’t care but I do. One of those things. I know you’ll understand.

For the teachers… you’ll be pleased to know that my teenage insubordination has only fermented like the rotten apple it was born of and that this fact has restrained me professionally and socially. You may not be so pleased to learn that “The Misanthrope” is one of my favorite plays and “The Fountainhead” is my favorite novel. On the pluses column I must commend some of you for exposing me to a wide selection of poetry. Nancy, your taste in poetry is quite dead on and gave me more than a little enjoyment then and since. Mr Peyton, math and statistics have helped me narrowly avert no less than three nervous breakdowns and kept my thinking logical, if somewhat imaginary (that’s: i). Mr Chavez, I’ll never forget the funniest thing you ever said. We were doing organic chem and you were showing us the molecule for Picric (sp?) acid. I asked (always the smart-ass) what would happen if you made pickles with Picric acid. You replied, “In that case you would get pickles that would be highly explosive.” Where were you when the Una-bomber needed you? Mr. McGuiness is long gone I guess. I had a few short talks with his replacement, Bennett; I hear tell he’s about the best debate coach in the country, teaching all the new minds how to think and be persuasive. This scares the hell out of me because he actually rushed (with some hurt feelings, I think, that I dared imply the Chinese government was wrong for slaughtering hundreds of peacefully demonstrating students and the sending families the bills for the executions of political prisoners itemized down to the bullet) right to the defense of Deng Xiao Peng… I read an article in the LOBO once advocating everyone wear a caption to sum them up. If any single phrase could sum a person up… one of them was “Voted for Reagan, twice.” Anyway… Mr. Cordova (do y’all still call him the “Penguin”?) you chump, I wish Stormo had gotten you shitcanned when you beat up that kid, instead of the reverse… oh, hell this is no place for politics, and he’s building a hotel or something now anyway. Mr Gilroy, Mr Ramsey, oi-gente, como ’stas? …memories…

If I forgot anyone, sorry. I don’t have a yearbook in front of me and in the last ten years I haven’t actually thought much about high school. And I was high on pain at the time. I hope all you cholo puto vato ’chuco putzes who called me “honky” every day until I got my blackbelt are all grown up now and doing better with your own kids… like Jose Mondragon for instance. The ironic part is I have grown to have some sort of strange sexual excitement whenever I see a really cherry lowrider.

For anyone who doesn’t know me anymore here’s the straight skinny in brief. Everything is jake now. I am in Italy. I am a serious poet (to the extent that I write a great deal of what some people are willing to call “poetry” …but none too loudly). I stayed with music but got good at it; in a very weird way. I wrote a couple novels. One is so good that 16 publishers have declined it (none of y’all own a publishing house now do you?). Just finished my first full length screen play. I got a degree in words at UNM. I have taken up typographical design and have produced about thirty original typefaces. Though I’ve been doing computer layout for five years I don’t make a living at it. What do I do for a living? Well, I sold enough plasma down on Yale to buy a nice hat and now I stand around downtown Milano holding it out looking pathetic… I know how to make copies really well. Though it was close a couple more times, I still haven’t killed anyone; maybe by the 20th, or perhaps at the 20th? I am as single as a really single thing. I type stronger, faster, better than before. I was in love about a hundred times; or only once, depending on who you ask. I’m Glory-Daysing pretty hard. I still don’t sleep (it’s 3.11 a.m. right now). I got politically active, or rather just that I am vocally (and in print) advocating the murder or impeachment of a US President (doesn’t matter which, hang the whole lot after Teddy R for all I care). Voting with a gun is the coming trend, mark my words. I got some tattoos. If you want to know what I look like these days, call Cedar Goebel, he did a sweet portrait of me. I have no cavities. I hate ’Burque cops. I like all the new chick bands. I took a trip to Seattle. I miss Kurt Cobain. I have an affinity for Kentucky and Tennessee whiskeys. And you’re lucky I didn’t come to the reunion because, as you can see from this letter, I got a lot meaner.

How’s that? Back to the rhetoric.

Pat, you’d love the crows here. They are very dapper. They are large; grey in the body, only their heads and tails are black. The fit right in the city. Say hi to Buck and Lylah. That’s hi, not high. You wouldn’t like the cows here, they’re all fucking fruit loops.

The girls here are alarming. They are so gorgeous, so forcefully perverse, so axionometric are their perspectives, they are so demanding and so utterly seductive in their powers of persuasion that I’ve had to beat them them off with a stick. And what do they want me around for after that? Am I right?

Hey, just out of curiosity, how long did it take Jocelyn to get that after you read it to her? And who’s looking for the dictionary to look up axionometric? Don’t ask me, I can draw ’em but I can’t explain ’em. Oh, that’s right, Jocelyn might not get the stick, if you know what I mean, but I bet dollars to frijoles that she can do you (wait for it now…) an axionometric.

I’ve designed better than twelve fonts while I’ve been here. And of course by that I mean to say that I’ve done a design that was better than twelve fonts I saw once.

I fulfilled a lifelong dream yesterday. I stole from a church coffer. 10 Lire. This is equivalent to about 5/8th of a penny but still it felt good. And the coins are collectors’ items now because they’re useless and out of mint.

Hey, turns out I share a birthday with more than the Brooklyn Bridge and Little Bobby Zimmerman; me and John the Baptist. That explains my incredible pull towards submerging Catholic chicks in water, I guess. Hey, huh, hey.

About me and Italian… I understand okay these days but I sure as hell don’t speak well. I’ll tell you, 100% sounds better in Italian, «a cento per cento». It’s harder to say something as stupid as, “Currently giving 110%.”

How’s my favorite Injun, Jocelyn? I’m sorry! The devil made me do it. He’s such a shitty guy.

Va boh…This is too long and it’s been too long. So…

By the way. It musta been all that crack I was smoking when I said it was cold here. Or else they only have two seasons: too hot and too cold.

Ciao ragazzi, buon’ giorno tutti. Write me if y’all feel inclined. But mail it to El Prado if you’re gonna be more than a month at it. I have no idea where I’ll be in another two months. Maybe a palace in Iran, maybe an unmarked grave in Mozambique, maybe your backyard with a periscope and and a box of Arizona scorpions. Who can tell these things?

your pal in hyperbole,


ps: thanx to everyone who helped me get out of Taos for a while…

It’s six thirty here. Tax Day about four thousand miles away. I’m working on a lovely Macintosh portable computer my mom made possible against all odds and justice. I went to the park today and the Duomo, listened to some of Mass and the music. I wrote a lot. Right now it’s ten thirty in the morning in Taos. I’m listening to Italian pop oldies on the radio, making a tiny pot of espresso… I feel so good, I can’t tell you. So hopeful and anxious at the same time. Thank you, isn’t always enough. I want all my friends to know that my antisocial tendencies are precisely why I value you so all. Because I don’t forget that every day is its own arrangement and its own choices. So…


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