IN THE TRACES OF THE MULE DANCERS. TRAVEL NOTES, PERU. JULY/AUGUST, 2019. Post 1 of 6

By Iain Sinclair

It was a long-held ambition to follow the journey mapped and described, with picaresque vigour (and a degree of latitude), by my Scottish great-grandfather, Arthur Sinclair. He published his version of the 1891 expedition, undertaken with fellow planter Alexander Ross and ‘practical botanist’ P. D. G. Clark, in 1895. These men were on commission from the Peruvian Corporation of London to survey a vast tranche of land, more than 500,000 square miles, to assess its potential as an economic resource: exploitation by way of coffee estates and forestry. The journey, involving mules, bounty-hunting priests, encounters with indigenous people and a river adventure on balsa rafts, had serious and long-lasting consequences. 

 

The push to make the trip in July 2019 came from my daughter Farne, who was determined to record a series of podcasts and to satisfy her own curiosity about her distant relative’s motives and experiences. She was returning to a country she had previously visited in her gap year before university, earning the money required by working for the printers who had published all my early books. We were accompanied by the filmmaker Grant Gee, who had his own agenda, gathering material for a piece entitled The Gold Machine. My brief diary jottings are framed by quotations from Arthur’s book, In Tropical Lands: Recent Travels to the Sources of the Amazon… 

 

DAY ONE. THURSDAY July 27th. LIMA.

 

Arthur Sinclair: ‘And now, when in the capital, I am afraid I shall disappoint you, for I am not fond of cities; my heart always longs for the quiet country beyond. A simple man, my tastes lie among the simple people on the mountains, or in culling the common weeds by the wayside. I cannot, therefore, enter here into any detailed description of Lima, which at one time, we are told, was considered the gem of South America, and though now somewhat sullied, is still beautiful; picturesquely situated, with a climate almost perfect, the sun rarely scorching, and the rains never bedraggling the inhabitants.’ 

 

Dust. Haze. Horns. Arbitrary cab jumps: we learn, by experience, the more battered the better. The wrecks operate in wild, improvisatory spins and surges, down streets they have never before attempted, patron saint swinging as you corner, taking off on speed bumps, avoiding the main, permanently stalled boulevards with their Cola hoardings, cancelled hotels and new narco banks. The smarter vehicles, addicted to airport runs, have blind faith in the oracular pronouncements of sat-nav, robotic voices that always land them in the same twilight waste ground, by a perimeter fence, near a discontinued railway. With dogs.

 

With Farne, I set off, at her suggestion, to find the South American Explorers Club. A nice metaphor for what followed. Time is provisional. ‘Twenty minutes, comfortably’ becomes an hour of traffic dodging and shade chasing. The given address is a locked gate and shuttered windows. Enquiries at the Brazilian/Peruvian Cultural Institute carry us back to another dead building. The Explorers Club is just a Borgesian test: we fail, until we appreciate that the thing to be explored is our own incompetence. The Club is long gone (exploration rebranded as Adventure Tourism) – although, as we learn later, it was once operated by Lucho Hurtado, the man who will be our guide through the cloud jungle.

 

Arthur Sinclair: ‘Here I was shown the remains of the “Gran Conquistador”, a fit relic for this holy of holies. Pizarro, the pitiless tool of priestcraft and the conqueror for covetous Spain, had, like the last Napoleon, one redeeming trait in his character, viz., a taste for architecture, of which this cathedral is an example… It was on the 26th June, 1891, the 350th anniversary of Pizarro’s violent and bloody death, that the coffin was opened… On removing the lid the body was found almost in its entirety and completely mummified, still partially covered by rags of silk… and the remains of a finely embroidered shirt. The body was quite desiccated, and of a dingy white colour. On close examination it was found that certain portions were amissing, viz., the fingers, toes, and certain other parts, having been cut off and removed. From the appearance, the committee were satisfied that these mutilations had taken place immediately after death…’ 

 

Access to Plaza Major and La Cathedral is denied by a line of black uniformed police in baseball caps. We were told that they were anticipating a gay/lesbian protest action. Passage to the cathedral and the remains of Pizarro might be possible in one hour or two. Honouring Arthur’s taste for Chinese enterprise, we lunched on a platter of rice and bits with compulsory litre of sweet Cola. And delirious TV news reports shot raw on phones and surveillance cameras,  ferociously edited: motorbike thefts, looped corruption trials (often lasting for decades), street killings and chases.

 

When, eventually, we are allowed into the grand square, it is deserted. Pizarro’s remains seem to have been classified and reclassified on numerous occasions. Real flesh, fake bones.

 This is the right setting, without question, for Grant to record a brief reading I’ve been asked to do, to promote an anthology edited by Chris Kelso. ‘Death’s charnel house and every stage in the process of mortality, the unrobing of flesh from bone, is made visible…Churches are large buildings, in which, after the concept of sanctuary lost its force, nobody chose to live. And only marbled duplicates are permitted to sleep and wait.’

DSC07370

Picture 1 of 4

 

Iain’s comments on the new edition of Lud Heat

I was pleased to receive the new edition of ‘Lud Heat’ from Skylight Press. They’ve done a lovely job of blending the original eccentricities (photos, drawings, prose journals, riffs, lyrics) with contemporary commentaries by Allen Fisher and Andrew Crozier, and Moorcock’s generous afterword from 1995. The whole production has more breathing space than any of the earlier editions. I think this is the sixth version since Albion Village Press launched the frail craft in 1975.

 But the most unexpected aspect of the reissue was the discovery of how oddly prophetic the final section, ‘Running the Oracle’, actually was. It predicts, by nutty and occulted means, back in 1974, the exact position of the future Olympic Stadium.
‘The point is sited on the Northern Sewage Outflow, raised Ridgeway, slanting south-east… But the shrine is at the price spot where this secret route passes above the River Lea… That crossing place… The invasion path… From this platform we look across water and waste and nomansland to Stratford… He knew it had to be RUN.’
Iain

Buy the new edition of Lud Heat clicking on this link:

On Rebecca E Marshall’s short film: Glitter and Storm

With what magic of witness Rebecca Marshall has captured the marine process of reverse evolution: how citizens of Hastings long to become one with their neighbour ocean; how they twirl and twist in eroticised tumbles, feeling for gills, stroking salt-smoothed dolphin skins. Conversation is redundant, but they willingly squawk and squeal, attempting to articulate what they have already proved, so effortlessly, as their somersault, strip, micturate and moonworship. Artists and humans are made joyful in this banded horizontal world, where the camera, democratically, plunges beneath the rippling petroleum-jelly surface. Delightfully complemented with sounds alchemised by Susan Stenger, the fortunate amphibians crawl and cramp between transcendent glitter and the wild energies of advancing storm systems. This film is a delight, a drench, a dream: as reviving as the thing it depicts, the elective rinse in the English Channel.

Iain Sinclair

Rebecca E Marshall’s website

TITLE:                                                GLITTER AND STORM

 

Featuring:

Andrew Kotting

Christopher Chasey

Sarah Evans

Savannah Karr

Laetitia Yhap

Nick Snelling

Hilary Spencer

Ivor Thomas

Berry White

         

Director:                        Rebecca E Marshall

Associate Producer:      Polly Stokes

Camera:                        Alasdair Beckett-King

Sound Recordist:          Aristotelis Maragkos

Editor:                           Daniel Passes

Sound editor:                Mauricio D’Orey

Composer:                    Susan Stenger

Country of Origin:            UK
Duration:                         15mins
Completion date:             March 2012
Screening History            None

Synopsis:

Water, sunlight, breathing and skin – this is a submersion into the joy of sea swimming by night and by day.

A series of moving portraits and interviews filmed exclusively in the sea off the coast of Hastings in the South East

SWANLOG DIARY, Sunday. 18 September 2011. Hastings Old Town

SWANLOG DIARY

Sunday. 18 September 2011. Hastings Old Town.

Taking a feather dipped in the blood of my companion, who is visibly wasting before my eyes – and seizing every opportunity to demonstrate the extent of the damage by peeling off jacket and shirt like a Premier League footballer who has scored an accidental goal – I make these notes on bills for pizza orders; which I will later toss over the side when the swan comes close to human habitation.

Last night the swan pedalo, a female, was liberated from Swan Lake by the film-maker Andrew Kötting. It had been, up to that moment, a propitious evening. Coming away from Marine Court I ran into the poet Nicholas Johnson, who was pushing a large Spanish pram and carrying out his latest seaside project, the growing of a beard. Nicholas was accompanied by a beautiful infant, his daughter; a creature who, only a few months in this sorry world, was already pulling herself up to get a better look at it, or at the smiling porter, her father. Nicholas, among his many activities, promotions, migrations, had published several of my most invisible books. Some, it was rumoured, were now stacked in a sailmaker’s loft in the Old Town.

The sense of anticipation, walking towards the burnt-out pier, was extreme. A weak rainbow, arching out over the pier and into the bay, seems to mark the very point at which an unlucky swan would go down. Add to this natural effect, after a day of sun and showers, the lightshow of the golden hour and the burning disk of the sun dropping behind Bexhill. The whole business was supremely cinematic, but too obvious for the film crew who delayed their arrival, in a monster RV, a mobile dormitory/cookhouse, until the Turneresque dramas were safely over.

I parted from Nicholas who had mislaid his partner. He warned me that the official launch of the swan, on Tuesday, would be accompanied by a choir from the Women’s Institute.

What this long first evening reminded me was that film is what happens when the key moment has passed. There is the thing done, which can be posthumously described, mythologized, and there is the thing predicted, scripted, cleared by finance, health and security, which never quite happens. Or not in the way the book says. Nobody mentioned, by way of example, that when I returned to Marine Court, with my dripping, swan-feather scribbings on greasy paper, builders would be demolishing chunks of cancerous concrete outside my window, on my very balcony, with a noise like RRRRRRRRRRRGHRRRRRGHRRRRR. Like counting the infinite seconds as the tusks of a giant walrus are drilled.

 

Kötting, in waders, entered the water. He released a swan, bonded with it at once, and coaxed it to the rim of the pool. With some assistance, and a few acerbic asides from your correspondent, the creature was wrestled onto dry land. Furtive couples, benched in the neighbourhood, were not much interested. A dog-walker looked at me. I was standing, as instructed, under a lightpole.

‘What’s he doing?’

‘Stealing a swan.’

‘Oh, right. Night then.’

 

We got it, by the time the stars did not appear, to the shore, over humped contours of shingle. And there it waited. Eyes blank as eggs. Kötting had chosen well with his crew. They indulged him and took the strangeness of this night with no backbiting, no shows of pique or vanity.

I thought of WS Graham’s The Nightfishing.

Now within the dead

Of night and the dead

Of my life I hear

My name called from far out.

I’ve come to this place

(Come to this place)

Which I’ll not pass

Though one shall pass

Wearing seemingly

This look I move as.

 

Nick, on camera (on many cameras), says that he quite likes a bit of poetry.

American Smoke: Road Talk (by Iain Sinclair)

2011. March 23. Heathrow to Vancouver. The once in a lifetime experience of an upgrade to Business Class. Pulled from the check-in scramble, we expect to be bumped to another flight, but instead find ourselves in a privileged lounge, where we observe air-miles collectors and other canny freeloaders snacking and sipping, gratis. Broadband links are so swift, they compose the script for you. In flight, we are given dos-a-dos pods. Movies are interference. Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel: bad money chasing the wrong investment. The epic of travel eclipsed in wilderness slumber.

 

Sylvia Hotel, Vancouver: a dark bar imprinted with memories of Malcolm Lowry, Dylan Thomas and Errol Flynn (spectres who will shadow this voyage down the West Coast). William Gibson recalls a dinner here with William Burroughs. Before or after he died, I’m not sure. The lights don’t go out, neither do they shine. Windows jungled with posthumous reflections.

 

It’s a good place to walk away from: container ships waiting in the bay, snow-covered mountains. A scenic curtain disguising devastation, upcountry, by the logging industry. Stanley Park with its wooded headlands and shrouded perspectives. Beyond the marina, the seaplane pontoons, the islands where native tribes perched their dead in the trees, is a mall called Sinclair. Heritage is managed by legends of gold rushes, bandits, martyred labour heroes. And a broken-nosed muleskinner called Cataline. An east-facing city, on whale watch, well-mannered, hospitable, with necessary pockets of corporate madness, alien architecture and drug psychosis. Stay too long and you’ll never get away. This is the only place I have visited where a post-office counter clerk says that she’ll ring me if she can find somebody to cash my money order. They don’t keep banknotes in that part of town.

 

A local scholar, abjuring the second half of the England/Wales Euro qualifier (no great sacrifice), drives me to the spot (or series of possible spots) where Lowry had his squatter’s shack. Dollarton. As crystal clear, that morning, as the Lake District. As time-travelling monochrome portraits of Lowry on the terminally bad journey that carried him from the blasted Mediterranean island of Vulcano to the lush territory of Wordsworth and Coleridge. And to his mysterious end in the village of Ripe in Sussex. A stone with erased inscription. Set some distance from the grave of his wife.

 

I paddled, picking up a beer cap, rusted, golden-yellow: Corona Light. Mrs Gibson, who lived (as a child) beyond the forest path to the spring, recalled the barrel-chested writer’s reputation as a shoplifter from the village store. The storage tanks of the oil refinery, that Lowry read as (S)HELL, are visible still. He was reputed to swim at all seasons, an hour or more, right across the Burrard Inlet. A site worthy of record.

 

Metronews: AMPUTEE HAS PROSTHETIC LEG STOLEN FROM CAR. The leg is described as having a flesh-coloured foot with a silver clamp above the ankle and a long aluminium rod with a blue finish.

March 27. Central Pacific Station. An early-rising (or unsleeping) freelancer hits me for a guilty dollar, as I negotiate the best position for an architectural photograph. The station is a grandly romantic setting for the transition from Canadian courtesy (easy, natural) to US parodic politeness (while ordering you to empty all cases and pay a tithe for impinging on their sacred space).  A hippie couple, pantomiming every form of drug neurosis, pack and unpack their rucksacks and bin bags on the station floor. We have been told, by Vancouver folk who make regular trips to Seattle or Portland, that the border country, with its shacks, creeks, scrub woods, is famous for incest, bestiality and weird sex crimes. Today, the look is benign. Train windows are the most basic form of cinema. I’d be happy to run with this for a week. With a new pocket camera, purchased under advice at Heathrow, I am lucky enough to catch a narrative of the logging industry (China-bound furniture) in a single shot: mounds of stripped trees, sawdust alps, distant boat coming into frame as the train crosses the struts of an iron bridge and arrives, on cue, as we pull clear, to witness ruined jetties of vanished industries.

 

We reverse into Seattle: the usual nexus of grand-project stadia and super-malls decorated by giant portraits of helmeted football players. The cab driver, operating by the rule that insists on the person least familiar with a town being fated to act as guide and promoter, shunts us to our hotel. He is a Bangladeshi, twice exiled, making the best of it.

 

Ice-polished monsters of the deep gape on a slab, while rubber-booted marketmen play them like puppets, working bloody mouths in a scornful ventriloquism. Tourists are prepared to queue for hours to get into the original Starbucks outlet. Half a dozen others, close by, are deserted. This is a layered market, caved and stacked with an obscene abundance of product: flowers, meat, hats, honey. Slow books buried in shops that remind me of Hastings before the coming of the internet. A double purchase: Gary Snyder’s Danger on Peaks and a rescued retro-pulp, The Wounded and the Slain by David Goodis. Goodis, with his skewed account of alcoholic derangement and a holiday from hell, winks at Lowry. ‘Some sixteen hundred miles from Manhattan,’ Goodis writes. ‘But what it amounts to is no change at all. It’s the same gloomy picture. It’s the picture of yourself sliding downhill.’

 

 

‘Jack was married to my sister once,’ says Snyder. ‘We all hung out in North Beach in the fifties, but now he lives in Mexico.’ There is a poem for the sister too. She was driving down 101, the route we will soon take. ‘The pickup ahead of her lost a grass-mower off the back. She pulled onto the shoulder, and walked right out into the lane to take it off. That had always been her way. Struck by a speedy car, an instant death.’ I alternate chapters of yellowing Goodis with pristine, white pages of Snyder. A photograph of Mount St Helens from the North, taken by the poet as a young man, is featured on the book’s cover.  Ten dollars the pair.

 

These were not the only books I carried away. In the hotel room was a smartly produced freebie: What to Read in the Rain. While the weather held, we took a boat around the bay: stacked containers in and out of China, the spindly detritus of world fairs, trade shows and rock museums. The obvious Seattle expedition was to the suburb of Ballard. ‘Shingle Capital of the World.’ Private hospitals. Pet clinics. A riverside park and a heritage lock. Thai fast food for slow people. If you want to identify the end of the line in any city, look for Ballard. In Paris, Balard (one l) is where they tested military hardware, basements with tanks for toy warships, wind tunnels, firing ranges. Now they are planning a French Pentagon. On the other side of the road is a holding camp for Romanian travellers and economic migrants.

 

By ferry across Puget Sound with our hired chariot, a Chrysler Impala; solid, comfortable, world-excluding. The laminated maps are pretty but useless, the scale deceptive. I imagined Washington and the Olympic National Park as a spin around the Lower Lea Valley, but traffic is swift and serious. Distance unravels slowly and steadily, rain is constant. It comes with the enclosing forests. Military exclusion zones. Fortified camps. Somewhere around here is the prison where they boarded Mickey Cohen, the simian LA mobster. Cleared hillsides and miles of Scots pines so ancient they communicate by languages we haven’t begun to comprehend. Logging rigs, lights blazing, on twisting roads out of Ken Kesey. Sometimes a Great Notion. I read 636 pages of that one, after finding a first English edition in Preston. And before noticing that the last page was missing. I never did discover how it turned out. Flopping in my chair, after a long day in Trumans Brewery, I fell asleep in the movie. Paul Newman directed. And starred. With Henry Fonda, Lee Remick. Never Give An Inch, they called it in England. Not much seen. Kesey, by the time he was picking up change by impersonating himself, on the psychedelic bus in England, was a sorry spectacle. Better to stay on the farm.

 

Snyder got into conversation with a trucker. ‘Those things are huge, how the hell do you drive them?’ ‘They’re real easy.’ ‘Still, you have to find a place to park?’ He laughs, ‘Yeah, you do.’

 

Night finds us, coats over heads, running for a motel in Forks. Not the best place, it turns out, for a pre-prandial stroll, a one-street canyon between sweating neon windows and parked trucks. Rain hammering down so hard it seems to be travelling in two directions at once, bouncing like bullets. In bars and shops, twinned displays: lists of those serving in Afghanistan and adverts for vampires. Forks is a blood town: David Lynch people, costive with charm, contemplate all-day breakfasts. This, so they tell me, is the setting for the Twilight series, a high-school vampire franchise. German tours arrive to experience locations. The writer has never been near the place, filming happens in Oregon, but after a major trawl of the internet, it was decided that this roadside logging halt was the ideal setting for Dracula’s grandchildren.

 

In the diner, next morning, two solid citizens in baseball caps continue a hand of cards that has been running all night, or longer. They reminisce about their kids and their difficulties with the local law, trivial stuff about weapons, attack dogs and contraband booze. Hard to grow up straight these days. The walls are decorated with delicate landscapes painted on handsaws and toothed blades.

 

Later that day, coming off-road for a walk in the forest, an attempt to reach a lake, there is thick silence underfoot and dripping trees to fill our veins with slow sap. Another ten yards and we’re gone, wood. Ancient trails suck out memories of the car, the road. With no transition, we’re pulling into an out-of-season beach resort like Southwold. They are  just as careful about whom they let in. When I creep alongside the surf to photograph a humped rock, a moon that was never there infiltrates the digital screen.

 

Crossing the California state line, they flag us down, to search for suspect cargoes: oranges. Under the microscope, traces of alien spores are revealed. ‘Where did you purchase these items, sir?’ ‘Port Orford.’ ‘Ha!’ A major investigation will be launched. Three pieces of fruit are confiscated.

 

The rumour I picked up on in the gas station is confirmed: 101 is closed, landslide, mud. After weeks of rain. The alternative route is 120 miles over the mountains, through banks of deep snow, a white-knuckle ride against a magnificent Anthony Mann backdrop of forest and alpine peaks. Close to the first summit is a tree of shoes. Like the crow-picked aftermath of a lynching; a regiment of hanged joggers devoured, right down to their rubber footwear. Not a great omen for what lies ahead. The town of Red Bluff.  Where signs warn you not to throw yourself from the bridge. When Anna tries to open the curtains in the hot-pillow motel, the whole business rips from the wall, the rotten plaster. Prison blankets impregnated with Camel smoke. Slippery sheets. Outside the window, drinkers congregate around a defunct, leaf-enhanced swimming pool. Early next morning: deserted forecourts, flapping ribbons, naked palms, the only pedestrians are mortality-protestors doing a length of the highway, out from the old folks’ home, before breakfast.

 

In the Sierra Nevada foothills a man stands in a clearing, still as a tree, rooted, waiting, at the precise time allocated to our arrival. A crazy-friendly dog leaps at the car, licks the window. Her name is Emi. The man is more guarded, as he should be, on his own ground. He’s a poet in America. And his name is Gary Snyder. He’d like to understand what I’m looking for, the angle of purchase against laws of hospitality. The house, beams ordered in an elegantly calculated geometry, is both Japanese and frontier-cabin fundamentalist. An enviable space with its own generators and reserve generators. In the world and of the world. And cleared for meditation, labour, living. The shaping of words.

 

‘What are those birds?’ Anna asks. Of an insistent wrap-around croaking. ‘Frogs,’ Snyder said. A green pool soliciting haikus. Bullfrogs are a plague. ‘How do you put up with it?’ ‘I shoot them.’ We enjoy a thimble of green tea and a dish of dried fruits, before inspecting the library in the barn.

 

Contemporary gold-extracting operatives are trenching the territory. Snyder tells us that this was Native American camping ground: winter game above and fish from the river below, in due season. This is also the place where the poet Lew Welch, who accompanied Jack Kerouac and Albert Saijo on the Trip Trap drive from San Francisco to New York in 1959, stepped out into the forest and vanished. One of Lew’s poems on that road journey: ‘I always take/ more keen/ I cook it in a rifle/ and shoot myself.’ Snyder went up to where Welch’s car was parked to call him to dinner. There was a note, the gun was gone. Friends and neighbours searched for three days. ‘We watched for vultures.’ Nothing. Nothing ever.

 

Bob’s Diner where we used to have breakfast, on Polk Street in San Francisco, has gone. It is still there, the old ripped leatherette seats replaced by something more tasteful, padded taupe frames around sand-coloured backrests, but with a new name: Toast. And toast does indeed come with everything. The TV on the wall is flat screen and disappointingly pin-sharp. A number of other old-established small businesses have gone. Rough sleepers park their trolleys in piss-varnished doorways. Travelling across town on the bus, we fall into conversation with the wife of KW Jeter of steampunk fame. I remember Morlock Night, which ran The Time Machine backwards into the subterranea of 19th-century London. The Jeters lived for a few years in Bath.

 

Poets, visible and invisible, nocturnal or balcony-enhanced, live on the other side of the bay. A day meeting them is a day well spent, and worth the soul-shuddering cost of a rush-hour drive, sun in eyes, traffic rallying through in all lanes, slipstreaming, weaving, elbows on horns. The poets sustain, in different ways, the magic of place; a certain stillness, hard-earned and chipped at the edges. They grant our temporary residence on the crust of the earth a glamour, a sheen. Stained-glass memories. Relics stacked in boxes or displayed in subtle frames. The story of their days is finessed as a series of beautifully honed routines. We should pay them to breathe.

 

The drive, San Francisco to Los Angeles in one hit, hanging over the rest of our trip like a doleful cloud, was one of the easiest. A road that was just a road, through agribiz acres and supermarket plantations. The multi-lane jockeying through unfamiliar grids has none of the psychotic fury of Hackney. Leaving the car at the airport is shucking a burden. The rapper who ferries us to Sunset Boulevard has a London granny, and a routine that involves collecting rents for an elderly Jewish gentleman and depositing the weary and infirm at their clinics of choice. He points out the nodding oil donkeys on the suburban hills, recalled as the backdrop for the last act of Touch of Evil. Hank Quinlan’s future all used up. Everywhere is like the Mexico of Orson Welles (Venice Beach): entropy, chocolate bars, honky-tonk joints, dope motels, bad wigs and tortillas. The driver, who describes his rattling wreck as a limo, has a deal going with the car-hire Latinos at the airport. He could have been a basketball pro, or a soccer star, if it hadn’t been for that knee. David Beckham, in his opinion, was more than an ambassador. He was a genius, an inspiration. A English gentleman. Unstoppable, a fanatic for statistics, the limo-jockey pounded the wheel and spun us a web of get-rich-quick schemes.

 

In a last act of unreality, we are upgraded to a junior suite. Top of the world, ma. The palm trees. The pool nobody is going to disturb. The horizon of downtown towers. Xerox ghosts and escaped celluloid quotations. Errol Flynn, of course, had preceded us into this Thirties tower. There were twin apartments for concurrent mistresses of Howard Hughes. Frank Sinatra. Marilyn Monroe. John Wayne kept a cow on his balcony. Looking down from the Hockney shower: underwear models on giant hoardings posture in constantly revolving mini-movies. Everybody who arrives in the twilight-dim restaurant demands, and is assured that they will get, the best table. Deals founder. Dinner auditions stall.

 

When I take my dawn walk, I encounter the only pavement vagrant on the West Coast who bites back. ‘Didn’t I tell yuh to stay the fuck away from me?’ He is more tanned than weather-beaten. Grey ponytail, leather sombrero. Warren Oates after losing the head of Alfredo Garcia. Does he inhabit the same universe as the hyper-obliging waiter at the poolside breakfast table. ‘You’ll take the coffee? Awesome!’ This is going to be the best day of the rest of your life. Again.