June 28, 2005

do you curse where you come from

the bar mitzvah of jesus, by jonathan blum, 2000

* from A Compassionate Leave
-- by Richard Yates.

A WWII soldier is on a three day leave in Paris:

"...But oh Jesus God, the area up around the Place Pigalle. It throbbed in the new-fallen darkness with the very pulse of sex; it had a decidedly sinister quality too, in the shadows and in the guarded faces of everyone you saw. Steam rose from iron manhole lids in the street and was instantly turned red or green in the vivid lights of gas and electric signs. Girls and women were everywhere, walking and waiting, among hundreds of prowling soldiers.

"...And he walked the streets for hours, on sore feet, indulging himself in the bleak satisfactions of petulance. What the hell was supposed to be so great and beautiful about Paris anyway? Had anybody ever had the guts to say it was just another city like Detroit or Chicago or New York, with too many pale, grim men in business suits hurriying down the sidewalks, and with too much noise and gasoline exhaust and too much plain damned uncivilized rudeness? Had anybody yet confessed to being dismayed and bewildered and bored by this whole fucking place, and lonely as a bastard too?

"Late in the day he discovered white wine. It salved and dispelled his hangover; it softened athe rasp of his anger into an almost pleasanat melancholy. It was very nice and dry and mild and he drank a great deal of it, slowly, in one quietly obliging cafe after another...He imagined, as the white wine wore on and on, that he probably looked like a sensitive young man in wry contemplation of youth and love and death -- an 'interesting' young man -- and on that high wave of self-regard he went home and hit the sack.

"The final day was one of stunted thought and shriveled hope, of depressions so thick that all of Paris lay awash and sinking in it while his time ran out.

"Back in Place Pigalle at midnight and drunk again -- or more likely feigning drunkeness to himself -- he found that he was almost broke. He couldn't even afford even the most raucous of middle-aged whores now, and he knew he had probably arranged in his secret heart for this to be so. There was nothing left to do but make his way to the dark part of the city where the army trucks were parked.

"You weren't really expected to make the first truck; you could even miss the last truck and nobody would care very much. But those unspoken rules of conduct no longer applied to Paul Colby: he was very likely the only soldier in Europe ever to have spent three days in Paris without getting laid. And he had learned beyond question now that he could no longer attribute his trouble to shyness or awkwardness: it was fear. It was worse than fear: it was cowardice."

* soi disantra power ranks most of the Silver Jews songs.

* Cheney likely not at Vail Hopital for an "old football injury."


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