Assistant’s Note: Hi! I’m Fabian, Mr. Dust’s personal assistant. As some of you may know, Mr. Dust performed his first public reading in San Diego last week at the vaunted TNB-SD “Stay Classy Edition” event. I’ve heard over and over that it was a total blast! Of course, I wouldn’t actually know, since I wasn’t allowed to come. Invited, yes. Allowed, no. The word through back channels is that Helmsman Listi himself really wanted me there. Nevertheless, I was forced to stay down in the bunker and coordinate. I guess you can’t always get what you want, even if you try sometime and you may find that you get what you need. Can you? At any rate, if you were at the event and “heard” rumors that I refuse to fly anything but first class, well that’s just not true.
The bottom line is that ever since the event, the Castle Dust mailroom has been DELUGED with letters. Let’s get to them, shall we? Yes, we shall!
(Also, Mr. Dust made me promise not to post these pics. Did anyway! Ha. Next time, maybe I’ll get an extra legroom seat in business class.)
Was that really you? I couldn’t decide. I wanted it to be you, since if it was you, it would be, like, a true event and maybe even a little piece of history. I’ve always wanted to be a part of history.
From the Back Row
Yes, that was me. You may now feel free to tell the story of our initial contact at various cocktail parties, tailgates, seances, and family gatherings for the next twenty years. It’s almost like you were at Actium. Or Belleau Wood. Or Altamont. Or the Jersey Shore.
I keep hearing rumors that the guy in San Diego was Thomas Pynchon. Does that mean you’re Thomas Pynchon, or that you’re friends with Thomas Pynchon and got him to come and stand in? Or that rumors should be ignored, and you actually brought down the house? Or that Rumer is the name of Bruce Willis’ daughter, and you are simply you?
I’ve never been that fond of Gravity’s Rainbow, and I found V to be pretentious and unreadable. That said, Thomas (who is known in certain writer’s circles as “The Pinch,” mostly for his tendency to unexpectedly lean over and “take stock” of your junk, usually saying something along the lines of “I cannot trust the prose of a man slimmer than a broiled kielbasa”) and I once went on an author’s retreat/white water river rafting trip together, down the heart of the mighty Congo river. I will say that there was no small amount of bonding over our shared love of Meryl Streep’s milky white skin. Which we discussed at length by the light of rows of votive candles set upon a dead Banyan tree while our cheeks rested on the soft nap of our plaid sleeping bags, as the cooks and guides and sherpas performed their duties and ablutions at base camp below. In any case, I am me. And that particular me took the stage at San Diego’s Sunset Temple and, hopefully, killed it–just like I once killed a charging rhino at thirty paces with a single shot from my 1895 Winchester .405 while The Pinch and the rest of the help moaned and cowered in the scrub like children.
Why did you pick San Diego for your coming out party? I mean, hey, why not Radio City, you know?
Well, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that San Diego was not my first offer. In fact, for six months certain promoters have been dangling both the groupies and the profit margin likely to result from an Almond/Dust 2011 tour of the deep South. I always referred these offers to my lawyer, O. Acosta III, who declared them to be “practically Nigerian” in the flimsiness of their schemes and enticements. No, I finally agreed to read publicly because San Diego was the first venue at which Helmsman Listi agreed to lay out sufficient cheddar in order to make both the travel and The Unmasking worth my while. The remuneration–which came in at just under five times my normal fee, plus airfare and hotel, and with an additional grant of preferred, backdated TNB stock–was simply too generous to refuse. Also, I live to surf. The break at San Elijo was truly outstanding on Friday morning, set after set hitting hard along a reasonably deserted stretch of sand. I carved that shit fierce, made a few friends while floating out in the lineup, one of whom I would have sworn was Lori Petty, then paddled in, tossed on a flannel dashiki, and partied through a long night’s beach barbeque supplied by cooler after frozen cooler full of Keystone Lights. The moon came out, the foam was sibilant, pop tops popped, fire crackled, lips glistened, the spirit of the waves was discussed at length, and salty flesh was repeatedly pressed. Who says it pays to stay in the literary closet? Mahalo.
So you finally got to meet a bunch of TNB people in person, huh? What did you think?
Well, it is well known that I am fairly shy. Although I arrived at the event early, I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone until after I read. Also, I was, to be honest, a bit nervous and needed that time alone to get my poetics face on. The reading itself went by in a haze of camera flashes. Afterward, The Helmsman gave me his usual “nothing homoerotic about this” man-hug and then faded away before I could ask him for an advance on my next check. I spoke briefly with a Ms. Zion, who complemented me on my suit, vaguely doubted my provenance, and referred to a long ago contretemps between us of which I had (and still have) absolutely no recollection. Still, I found her to be lovely and quite charming. A Mr. Haney approached me with a fixed sharp-pencil-to-balloon look in his eyes and mentioned that we’d also had a previous verbal rift, of which I had (and still have) absolutely no recollection. Then he wondered what my feelings were on the subject of someone named “John.” I was about to ask him if he mean John The Baptist, Johnny Cash, Johnny Unitas, or Jonathan Livingston Seagull, when he asked “you do know who John is, don’t you?” I was tempted to inquire if he might be making a joke along the lines of knowing “What the frequency is, Kenneth?” but we were interrupted before I could unveil that mot juste. Nonetheless, I found him to be an interesting sort and one that I might like to have standing just to my left during a bar fight. A Mr. Beaudoin read a mildly amusing piece about the devil, and although I cannot imagine a more cliche’d subject for any piece of short fiction–unless it also included the ghost of his cancer-dead grandmother–the piece boasted a few good lines. He also gave me a large hug afterward and, frankly, held it a beat too long. Only Mr. Baldwin knew enough not to touch my suit, and he and I had almost the perfect interchange: a brief mutual congratulation on successful readings at the proper distance of three feet, six inches. Finally, a certain Mr. Daly–in dire need of a hair cut–for some reason used our nineteen seconds together to let me know that while he was not fond of poetry, under the right circumstances he might be in future. I suggested he begin with a steady diet of Baudelaire, read very slowly and always, always outdoors. Have I forgotten anyone? I hope not. Overall, I do very much appreciate my inclusion and friendly reception. I have spoken and read at many a cutthroat event, and this one was nothing of the sort.
The Dust’s One Sentence Summation Of The Evening: A good man is hard to find, a good poet is harder to find, a good group of literary types amassed in a single room is harder yet, while a good massage at 3am in downtown San Diego is a near-impossibility.
You seemed nervous on stage. I thought you were a famous author. You looked the part, but your piece stumbled and you read too fast, and I didn’t understand a lot of it. What’s the deal with that?
Thank you for the generous assessment. You know, I have often wondered why it is that authors–who by definition spend most of their time alone engaged in a solitary and decidedly anti-social pursuit–are simultaneously expected to be public entertainers and smooth operators, leaving those in their folded chairs abjectly disappointed if their favorite sentence-arranger fails to step on stage and instantly light up the room like Carmen Miranda with a sinus full of Kentucky crank. It is essentially the equivalent of expecting newly-rich professional athletes to always be kind and humble on camera, and to never say anything provincial or ignorant, even while the central goal of athletics is to remain willfully ignorant of the world around them so as to focus on the mindless and repetitive training required for jumping further, running faster, or throwing with greater velocity than a vast percentage of the rest of humanity. Is it not so with authors of rarefied verse as well?
In other words, Darrell, the deal with that is that I am not an animal. Such “performing” as I do lies entirely outside of the prosaic world in which I otherwise function–and whether or not I successfully juggle shiny red balls with my flippers to the peanut gallery’s screaming satisfaction–is of zero concern to me.
I never doubted it for a second.
Save it for Fabian. But you’re a good man for saying so.
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