He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt.–Einstein
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER NINE: PART ONE: THE MAYOR OF HELL
After warning me that there were certain things I was too young to know about, Old Doc Ketman apparently reconsidered, and decided that in my case, a little knowledge was a dangerous thing, and so he suggested that we walk and we talk. We strolled through a dusty alley and stopped in front of his horse-drawn wagon; the horse was in its stable and so we leaned up against the back of the unhitched conveyance.
“In all the bars–in the Seven Stars tavern most of all, Yellof–you can bet they talk–even of old Doc Ketman–in the most guarded of terms. They give him credit, sure. They say those stories about the whore murders was a frame-up. But they also say other things. They say that they wouldn’t want to be the yellof who the Big Man is got his eye on. They say Old Doc Ketman is a poisoner. And yet it’s the Big Man his own self who would know from poison. Some say he favors arsenic, others say he goes to the pharmacy for good old number nine–strychnine. Works fast. You know old Skip? Harmless duffer. Made a flub. Kilt the prize roses of the Big Man. Soon after, he went into convulsions and choked to death. Good reason they also call the Big Man “Chokey,” though never to his face. Well, they don’t know it, Yob, but old Doc Ketman has charms that make him immune to most poison, and also give him keen hearing, and he can also read lips. I can hear what they say or at least I can see it and I can’t say as what they say is totally unfair. Sure, I work the roots, and I reakon I could poison a Yellof if I had a mind to, but I never use my root-craft for bad. But Stolas has no such scruples. You ever cross him, you best beware. He has a powder he puts in a woman’s drink, makes her act wild. Soon enough she’s down on all fours and barking like a dog. What’s worse, she don’t care who her Mammy or Pappy is and you can do whatever you like to her.”
“I do not say this lightly, but that man is the Devil, or one of his high priests–there’s a laugh–that such a man would be priest of anything, even evil–and well has he earned his title, spoken only sotto voce–‘The Mayor of Hell’. Hell, yob–there’s a grim story. But well has he earned it, says I. Your ears are too tender to hear half of what this man has done. Lord Jesus, thy wounds so red will guard me against death.”
“There are two worlds, as you may have reckoned. One is the ordinary world whose air you swim through and never give a thought of–like a fish in a pond ye are–bulgy eyes and all–never nane the wiser of what you are and where ye be, because ye never give it a thought. But then there is the other world–call it the Underside if ye will–ye see it when you get a knock on the head, or when the wind is knocked out of you, or when ye just wake up in the morning or just before you go to bed at night. Some see it when they be lost in drink and their spirits start to leave their bodies. It’s a shimmering world, and there’s nought in it that can be trusted to last, but some men have said that this is actually the real world, and, at the very least, the world in which all the magic spells commence, and also the home of earth’s holy matter. Lord Jesus, thy wounds so red will guard me against death.”
“Do ye not know–I might well ask myself, do ye need to know?–could such things be–I don’t know how to say this–but maybe God is not good. Maybe God is simply the difference between what we now know and what we used to know before we knew how to talk or think. Maybe God throws bombs from on a height. Maybe the Devil is the True Friend of Man–he gets involved. He is down and dirty. God…God, he don’t much care. He’s a shy one. You’ll never see Him where people gather–in a church or an the type of social club where all the Dagoes go, or in a gin mill or a private club or, for that matter, any place where two or more gather. Where is he? he ain’t there! That’s because God is a very Private Yellof. He’ll come to you, if you know how to ask, but if you ask wrong, or you ask Him for the wrong thing, it’s the devil you’ll find instead. And the chances of asking wrong are a dozen to one. More, if the truth be told.”
He paused and gave me a shrewd look.
“That there’s a recipe for another Smash Conklin.”
I was surprised at the mention of that name, but Ketman looked at my calmly and said, “His sins are as red as his beard. Lord Jesus, thy wounds so red will guard me against death. Lord Jesus, thy wounds so red will guard me against death. Lord Jesus, thy wounds so red will guard me against death.”
FRAGMENTS FROM GREENWICH VILLAGE
By Guido Bruno
Holy Modal Rounders – Bird song (1971)
“Only 5% of American Hoboes have been blinded from drinking Wood Alcohol!”
JAPANESE TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING AMERICA
“My biggest complaint about life is that”…is a good stand-up formula. If you could come up with twenty pithy observations, you’d have a five minute set and could go onstage as a comedian. In fact, my biggest complaint about life is that too many comedians seem to be doing exactly that.
*11A BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED
THE LOUDEST VOICE IN THE ROOM. SHERMAN. ****
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. BERENDT. ****1/2
THE MONEY MASTERS. TRAIN. ***1/2
NIGHTMARE IN PINK. MACDONALD. ***1/2
THE REAL STATE OF THE WORLD ATLAS. ENLOE & SEAGER. ****
RED HOOD: THE LOST DAYS. ***
SECRET SPELLS AND CURIOUS CHARMS. BEISNER. ****
ZERO HOUR. KAMEN. ****
Starbucks is for junkies who wish to Christ they still used drugs. All the ritual and expense and all the cult behavior, and all for a batch of badly burned beans served by a brusque Barista.
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
“Liberace…is the summit of sex–the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she and it can ever want. A deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love. This appalling man—and I use the word appalling in no other than its true sense of terrifying—has hit this country in a way that is as violent as Churchill receiving the cheers on V-E Day. He reeks with emetic language that can only make grown men long for a quiet corner, an aspidistra, a handkerchief, and the old heave-ho. Without doubt, he is the biggest sentimental vomit of all time. Slobbering over his mother, winking at his brother, and counting the cash at every second, this superb piece of calculating candy-floss has an answer for every situation. Nobody since Aimee Semple MacPherson has purveyed a bigger, richer and more varied slag-heap of lilac-covered hokum. There must be something wrong with us that our teenagers longing for sex and our middle-aged matrons fed up with sex alike should fall for such a sugary mountain of jingling claptrap wrapped up in such a preposterous clown.”–William Connor