Boot Laces

Everything is a project. The tiles fell off the area at the bottom of the bathroom window — three and a half 6 inch tiles — another project. I’m pondering options for repairing that. The BIG problem is it an awkward height for me to work.

Training Teddy is a project. My yard is a project. I picked two Scarlet Emperor Beans (young ones) yesterday and ate one raw. It was incredibly sweet. These are green beans for salad. We’re having good bean weather. Three days of rainy afternoons followed by three days of sunshine and warm temps.

Getting rid of books is an endless project (though I did actually read one — You Can’t Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan. That was a project, too. As for Richard Brautigan — Ianthe’s father — I never got into his books much though he was one of the luminous voices of “my” generation. His daughter has written rather lyrically about her life with her dad — who was a binge-drinking alcoholic — and how she redeemed herself and him after his suicide. Now I have another book to get rid of.

Reading Ianthe’s book I saw some of the old tropes about writers. Troubled people, seeking solace in alcohol or drugs or both. And male. I thought about my own life as a writer. There are a few huge differences. 1) I’m not successful in any conventional way shape or form. One of the high points of my success as a writer was meeting a buyer of Martin of Gfenn one cold day last January in front of the Del Norte library. She climbed up in Bella, gave me $16, told me she loved my books and got out. It was like a drug deal. 2) I’m not tortured. There might be a connection between those two. Reading Ianthe’s book made me wonder that again.

Once Brautigan published his big hit novel, Trout Fishing in America, he was trapped. It wasn’t his first novel. That was A Confederate General from Big Sur. I found both of those books uninteresting and semi-unreadable, but everyone was reading Brautigan so I kept trying. I bought In Watermelon Sugar at the bookstore at my college, Colorado Woman’s College, in preparation for a trip up to Boulder to visit a high school friend, Malerie, who was attending the University of Colorado. I arrived, went to her dorm, we hung out, ate lunch at the Alferd Packer Grill then, that night, we went up Boulder Canyon to hang out with her then boyfriend, who as “old.” He was 25 or 26, a Vietnam vet, and a drug dealer. He had some opiated hash.

We passed around the pipe — which was a beautiful cedar burl — and I got very, very high. I didn’t do a lot of drugs — never did — so I was a lot more vulnerable to the effects than were the people around me. Everyone thought I was very funny. The boyfriend handed me his marine boot and a shoelace and told me to lace the boot. That was incredibly amusing to all and sundry. It was also very very difficult. Finally, fed up with these sadists, I took my boot (toward which I’d developed a kind of loyalty) and went to a quiet dark corner and went to sleep. When I woke up at 6 am, my arm around the boot, I got my things and took off.

I walked down the canyon to town. I had my bus ticket, my little backpack, and In Watermelon Sugar. I went to the bus station and waited for the first bus, trying to read Brautigan’s book. It just seemed to be more of the same scene I’d left behind me, an inscrutable grim world of unkind people.

I set the book on the bench in the bus station and went back to Denver without it.

14 thoughts on “Boot Laces

  1. The only Brautigan novel I honestly liked was The Hawkline Monster. That was pretty good. I also liked the poetry in The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster. The rest? Mildly entertaining in places.

  2. I’ve just finished a book described as “experimental fiction” and well, it isn’t my cup of tea. It is one Sparky checked out of the library, Fra Keeler by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi. It is like an acid trip narrated by a schizophrenic. Maybe you need to be under the influence for it to make sense. Maybe that’s why it got so many rave reviews…

    • I’d have to read it and probably I won’t. Sometimes I think “experimental fiction” means “bad writing.” But I guess every reader and every writer has his/her own idea about what constitutes good writing. 🙂

  3. I love the mental picture of you trudging off to a bus stop and leaving the grim, angry people behind. I hope you put the boot somewhere they would never find it.

    I also liked that you don’t live a tortured existence, even if this dooms you to backyard book exchanges with shifty bibliophiles. Is this any consolation for a lack of fame? I don’t know. It depends on whether you wear your insecurities on the outside or the inside, I think.

    • I don’t care about being famous at all. Financial success would be nice, but I’m fine as I am. I don’t think famous writers have the kinds of experiences I have as a writer. I imagine their experiences are suited to them and mine are suited to me. ❤

  4. I read Brautigan in high school and loved him. I should reread some of his books now. I mostly avoided whatever was currently fashionable among my friends and read it later…several times I discovered (years later) why everyone was reading something. Sometimes a great book is just unreadable for some reason. I tried to read “100 Years of Solitude” several times without getting very far. Finally I read it in Colombia and read all the way through – a rather extreme measure and one I can’t afford to duplicate for very many books, but one which led me to set a goal of reading it in Spanish. I’ll probably never manage that, though I did manage to read a few short stories and a screenplay by Garcia Marquez in Spanish.

  5. Those were some mean “friends” indeed; glad you left there relatively unscathed.

    I just checked my bookshelf, the one where I keep the books purchased I in the ’70s-90s that I either have read more than once (e.g. all of Austen’s books, seven by P.G. Wodehouse) or am likely to, the ones I was willing to haul around every time I moved (the rest went to local libraries or Goodwill). I have NINE of Brautigan’s titles, so apparently I liked his stories. I remember reading them when I was in my 20s, but that’s all I remember. Might have to reread one, see what I think now.

    • Ha ha ha! I’ve done it several times since, sometimes with books I liked. I’ve finished some books in airports and just left them there. 🙂

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