And it began to seem natural, this roaming in a beautiful place with a desirable girl in a time I was coming into my own. Natural to move ahead with the knowledge that everything was changing and that I need not be bound by someone else’s maps. Move ahead in autumn air that carried memories mixed with summer air that had the past in it too. As natural as it had felt when I was first living in New York and was finding out how to be my own person in a life that was not bounded by family or school or college or army. When I was in my first place in the city, the East Village before it was so named – which I shared with the same old friend, Jason Bacon, who became the wealthy owner of this funny old lake house we are in right now.
I am thinking of the powerful sense I had had when first living New York City that, though I had often been there before, everything was for the first time. As I started to learn how to navigate adult life. Small or big things, like how with a young married couple you could eat franks and beans on a floor in Brooklyn Heights. Or you could meet a college friend for lunch from the snack window of a Staten Island ferry boat. Or get drunk at Chumley’s or Diamond Jim O’Rourke’s. Or take a Columbia stacks girl to bed. Or fall deeply in love with a girl who was an action painter. As if the fifties had never happened in New York, as if no one here had ever had to go slow, much less pull back.
That time back then that had felt like stepping away forever from family, and especially from the childhood that had rarely seemed like a childhood even when with child trappings.The first time, though not the first time on my own. I had already, at 24, had a quick wire service career probing sadistic right-wing recklessness in the Midwest, and Klan-backed horror in the South. I had had what seemed to be my one big love affair, which was with a olive-skin married girl whose husband had been stalking me. Love and danger.
I had been to the Cuba of the of Batista regime looking for this Robin Hood figure Castro who had recently been found to be still alive in the mountains – and after I was captured by fat, sweaty Batista men with tommy guns, I was returned to the bars and brothels and brothel-bars of Havana.
That first time in New York, where I continued to work in journalism but moved ahead anyway. Down to Haiti at one point, and then back in the city setting up shows of Haitian art. And then the Haitian women, Irma and Anne Marie. Between all the others. And the new off-Broadway plays down on Second Avenue and then East 4th Street, the theater block down where my serious girlfriend Vannie lived. And blintzes at Ratner's and Rappaport's, and stuffed derma where Hungarian gypsy violinists came to your table, and borscht at the Ukrainian places. And a constant party flowing from my tenement to uptown and then downtown again and over to Brooklyn and back to my next place, on East 11th, coincidentally around the corner from a basement place where in the college time I had lost my virginity to a powdered and pampered dance hall girl of call girl loveliness, and paid her by endorsing over a small Christmas check I had just gotten from my parents.
And in those first days living in the city I was not conscious that in the years ahead I would stay in the city for only a year or two at a time, and after a recurring down time leave whoever and whatever was with in favor of some foreign adventure in some unseen place that might bring me back to life.
That first time was 1959. This current year 1986 is a time for first times again. After these in-between years of traveling and living in sensual and dangerous war zone areas, and finally a marriage and many more affairs, and after dark and lonely and alcoholic times when life seemed to hold nothing, and happy times when it seemed that just possibly I was nearly where I wanted to be, as when my novel came out, or when I first stepped into Haiti or Thailand, or each time I felt so drawn as to be in love with a newly met accessible or inaccessible woman or girl. The first time now after the Middle East and Far East and Central America. And after jail for drunken things in Hong Kong and Los Palmas and a smuggler’s town in southern Thailand. But also jail for just the right reasons in 1964 Mississippi.
And now this new first time, stepping into the landscape of my life that I hope to chart, moving ahead on mysterious knowledge but without reliable maps. Ready now, as never before, to look into every corner of past and present and projected future with a fresh eye.
As I tour old New England with this apparently ready new girl, on this psychic journey that seems more daring than the literal journeys that had been so crucial to my self-definition – and as I wonder when and if ever the sex scene will come.