Table of Contents
MORE NOTES OF A DIRTY OLD MAN
God knows I am not too hippy. Perhaps because I am too much around the hip and I fear fads for, like anybody else, I like something that tends to last. Then, too, the hippy foundation or diving board or resting place or whatever you want to call it does suck in its fair share of fakes, promoters and generally vicious people trying to overcompensate for some heinous psychological defect. But you have these everywhere—hippy and non-hippy. But, like I say, the few people that I know are either a bit on the side of the artistic, the pro-hip or the understanding-hip, so I have been generally getting more of this slice of cake and it has seemed a bit SWEET.
But, lo, the other day I got the OTHER bit and I think I’d rather eat sweet than shit. Being locked into a large building where 4,000 people work at dull and menial tasks has its compensations but it has disadvantages too—for instance, you can never be sure who is going to assigned to work next to you. A bad soul makes for a worse night. Enough bad souls can kill you.
He was balding, square-jawed, mannish???, with this look of hate-frustration upon his face. For months I had sensed that he had wanted to talk to me. Now I was hooked—he was assigned to the place to my left. He complained about the air-conditioning and a few other things, then worked in a question about my age. I told him that I would be 47 in August. He said he was 49.
“Age is only relative,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are 47 or 49, it doesn’t make any difference.”
“Umm,” I said.
Then the speaker screamed out some announcement: ALL THOSE QUALIFIED ON THE L.S.M. MACHINES REPORT TO . . .
“I thought they were going to say LSD,” he said.
“Umm,” I said.
“You know,” he said, “that LSD has put a lot of people in madhouses—brain damage.”
“Everything puts people in madhouses.”
“I mean the LSD brain damage scare is probably an exaggeration percentage-wise.”
“Oh no, leading doctors and laboratories and hospitals say so.”
We worked away without conversation for awhile and I thought I had escaped him. He had one of those easy mellow voices that drowned and warbled in its own conviction. But he began again:
“Are you for LSD?”
“I don’t use it.”
“Don’t you think it’s a passing fad?”
“Nothing that is against the law ever ceases to exist.”
“Whatcha think of the hippies?”
“They don’t harm me.”
“Their hair stinks,” he said. “They don’t take baths. They don’t work.”
“I don’t like to work either.”
“Anything that is unproductive is not good for society.”
“Some college profs say that these kids are our new leaders, that we should listen to them. HOW THE HELL CAN THEY KNOW ANYTHING? THEY DON’T HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE.”
“Experience can dull. With most men experience is a series of mistakes; the more experience you have the less you know.”
“You mean to say you are going to listen to what some 13-year-old kid tells you?”
“I listen to everything.”
“But they aren’t mature, they aren’t MATURE, don’t you see? That’s why they’re hippies.”
“Suppose they got jobs? Suppose they went into industry, went to work turning bolts for General Motors? Wouldn’t they still be immature?”
“No, because they’d be working,” he said.
“Furthermore, I think a lot of these kids are going to be SORRY that they didn’t go to the war. It’s going to be an experience they’ll wish they hadn’t missed. They’re going to regret it later on.”
There fell again the peaceful silence. Then he said, “you’re not a hippy, are you?”
“I’m working, damn it. And I told you I was 47.”
“The beard doesn’t mean anything then, does it?”
“Sure it does. It means, at the moment, I feel better wearing a beard than I do the other way. Maybe next week it will be different.”
Silence, silence. Then he switched his stool, turned his back to me as much as possible and continued working. I got up and walked to the men’s crapper and stuck my head out the window for fresh air. The guy was my father all over again: RESPONSIBILITY, SOCIETY, COUNTRY, DUTY, MATURITY, all the dull-sounding hard words. But why were they in such agony? Why did they hate so much? It seemed simply that they were very much afraid that somebody else was having a damn good time or was not unhappy most of the time. It seemed that they wanted everybody to carry the same damn heavy rock they were carrying. It wasn’t ENOUGH that I was working beside him like an idiot; it wasn’t enough for him that I was wasting the few good hours left in my life—no, he also wanted me to share his own mind-soul, to sniff his dirty stockings, to chew on his angers and hates with him. I was not PAID for that, the fucker. And that’s what killed you on the job—not the actual physical work but being closed in with the dead.
I got on back to my stool. He had his back turned to me. Poor, poor fellow. I had let him down. He’d have to look elsewhere. And I was white and he was white and most of them were black. Where ya gonna find a decent white man in a place like this? I could sense him thinking.
I suppose he would have gotten around to the Negro question if I had sent out the proper rays. I had been spared that.
His back was to me. His back was broad, American and hard. But I couldn’t see his face and he didn’t speak any more. What had hurt him worst was that I had neither agreed with or argued with him. His back was to me. The remainder of the night was peaceful and almost kind.
Tucson, Arizona, 6-29-67
Sitting in a country store that went broke, sitting at last after getting out Henry Miller’s
Order and Chaos Chez Hans Reichel
, one year’s work, putting the thing together piece by piece, magic by magic, held up by lack of funds and a praying, quivering, shaking 8x12 Chandler & Price, 50 or 60 years old, that fell apart on the last page; sitting there a moment, moulding their next move, hoping there is enough money for a next move are Jon and Louise (Gypsy Lou) Webb, who wrought the miracle of this third book out of LOUJON PRESS—which already has won awards in Typography, Type Direction & Design in TDC’s 13th annual awards show in New York City.
Sitting here now behind an abandoned store front of crumbling adobe—they call it their “desert workshop printery”—they are almost broke.
It is Tucson and I am down here interviewing Jon Webb in 105 heat, and you know that Art can come from anywhere: the center of hot hell and the ghosts of old bean cans. I begin the interview:
“Both of you are great editors and bookmakers. Loujon Press is up there with the gods with your books and the Outsider Magazine. Your Miller book is perhaps the most revolutionary piece of bookmaking in the past several hundred years. My question is, do you think that you will be able to survive or will the walls fall in and eliminate you?”
Jon: We’ll survive, but the walls suddenly will fall in, they always do, same as they did on Alan Swallow—tho we don’t put ourselves up in his area of greatness, we’re far from it.”
Buk: “O.K., so, well where did the idea ever begin to become editors of this sort?”
Jon: “I gave up writing after two or three million published words because I felt that I’d never make it creatively, that I’d never get published without making compromises of some sort. Of course, that could have been an excuse for laziness or inadequacy—but I’m convinced I made a good move, from writing into publishing. I think I’m a better editor than I was a writer. If I keep going, tho, I’ll only get into a morass of rationalizations.”