Four Young Turks
Veteran's Day. At home playing. I decided to use annual leave time and take off tomorrow as well, giving me a four day weekend. Kind of needed actually.
I want to tell a story about a long ago cadre of four youg men starting out. We were literary types also into the arts and into thinking. There was L.D., who can be found in my Bottom City Blues collection. There was the Virginian who we all slightly deferred to. There was Senecatheduck the linguist. And there was me, one sorry assed high school drop out. The place was Charlottesville, VA. Time frame: the seventies. Parts of the story I've mentioned before. But not the part I'll focus on.
In retrospect it felt like a grail quest, what we were doing. How we came together can't be explained. It just happened. We would meet up, sometimes in a restaurant called the CK, sometimes in a member's home. We all smoked cigarettes. And we all drank cheap wine. Rarely was it beer. We were all readers, maybe a little addicted to books. More so to ideas. We all had jobs that tended to pay little. Just enough to keep us going. All but for the Virginian would, from time to time, leave town for some destination and for reasons somewhere in the range restlesssness. For L.D. it would be Philly, New Orleans, Providence. For Seneca it would be Texas, the south of France, and Providence. For me it would be N.O., the Pocano Mts in PA, and Providence. We would exchange notes, which was something we did almost habitually. Notes on people, places, things, on experiences, and especially on books and ideas. I've said before we were absolutely unprogrammatic in our proceedings and pretty much critical of all ideologies. It is true. We were constantly culling through things, taking in what seemed true, eschewing what seemed false. I remember one time the Virginian was steeped in Castaneda while I was steeped in Nietzsche. That made for a lively exchange, each of us being absorbed in our respective thinkers. This went on for about 7 years I think. Frankly, I never thought it could end. But, of course, every young Turk eventually has to stake out a (limiting) direction, commit to a vector.
It all culminated in a literary production. A local lit mag done in the old way before the portals of cyberspace were discovered. There was also a fifth spoke, a friend neither literary or into thinking too much, but who hung out with us. Maybe he was charmed by the idea of us. I don't know. But he had a degree of disposable income. He offered to bankroll the production. I can't remember the name of the restaurant. It was on a strip leading out of C'ville. A steak house as I recall. We convened one evening to try to figure out what the magazine should be called. L.D. and I were into the Tarot cards and so I threw the cards, looking for a name. Concluding card: The Fool. And there it was. The mag's name. Fool's Journal Not A Fool's Journal. But Fool's Journal.
We soon put out a call for submissions. C'ville has always been a town for literary types. Hell. Faulkner ended his days there. Richard Farina set his one novel there. And U Va had a strong lit department. We also had contacts. I remember one photographer especially. John was his name. His daytime job was being a social worker. I think he worked a lot with poor Appalachian folk up in the hollers of the county. His photography tended to the Walker Evans kind. Clean and honest. Black and white and somehow still textured. Other contributors, but for one, I can't remember as well. In any event there weren't many. Renumeration being not so good. I just remembered another contributor. Chuck was his name. A good writer. I remember his story we included. It was about a young man of less than fortunate circumstance out of high school who, by way of vectoring his life, joins the Marines. After signing up his mother asks: why? His answer: it was the only best I could think of. Man. A story as true today in America as it was 30 years ago.
More or less I guess I was the creative director. It just panned out that way. The Virgian, always impeccable, served as chief editor. Seneca, also an editor, additionally was the production's work horse. I remember the day visiting where they were working on putting the text layout down...on type...with a typewriter. Careful and close word techs they both were. I remember another day when the Virginian and I sat in the CK Restaurant with manuscripts, photos, and art work spread out on the table. Slowly, coffee cup after coffee cup, we organized the material in front of us. What would lead off, what would follow, what would cinch the thing. In brief we treated the production organically with every poem, story, essay, photograph, and illustration integrally succeeding each other. I remember the Virginian's eyes going sharp when we finally got the shape of it. That is a sweet memory.
L.D. was no longer in C'ville. He was up in NYC and married. But his material was in the mag. His pen and ink drawings and his poetry. The Virginian had one especially good lyrical essay whose story is set on a cold Virginia beach in winter. Thirty years later and the story line still haunts. I had material too.
It might have been my first prose piece. That year I was a gas and water meter reader for the city. The job gave me access into interior, domestic spaces. In journalistic fashion I wrote about what a meter reader sees when he or she enters the homes of private citizens. Pretty funky what a govt employee becomes privy to while only looking to read a meter. The article gave me some local noriety for a month or two. Actually generated a job offer from a big time, monied, mag. A mag with advertisement income. Offer turned down, but only because I knew I couldn't replicate that kind of experience, not of local interest, and not without compromising many of the town's decadents, my then wife included. Sometimes I wish I had never stepped foot into that town.
So the mag actually makes money. This without ads. No advertisements. Money made on purchase of content. Senecatheduck was in charge of the account. The thing made $500. We decide on the perfect way to spend the money. We decide on a five course meal, comprising French haute cuisine, with each course accompanied by its appropriate wine. The moment was nearly perfect, but not quite. L.D. wasn't there. The chef was a friend and into what we were about. We had put out a lit mag actually stirring local senses and we spent our profit on a dinner.
That dinner was the last of us. A good ending.
Nov/11/2010, 5:45 pm
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