The Benny Poda Years
A Novel by Kevin McGowin
Chapter 12 - Vegas, Still
Before you lose your mind, you lose your shit, and I was determined not to take that defecation. I was alone in my hotel room crying like a baby for all the shit I'd pissed away, and I heard "Mr. Tambourine Man" come on the radio, by the original dude who wrote it, and I realized it must be a tough haul of shit to be that guy. Have you ever really thought about how GOOD that shit is? I hadn't. But there are things out there that wake your ass up, and all you have to do is be awake to hear them. The Goldberg Variations played by that dead fucker from Canada who hums all the way thru it. Let me ask you an honest question. Has YOUR lousy ass ever been saved by something like that? By those moments when somebody just GETS it, just siphons the Mind of God? Have you? Well, until you have, you do not know God.
I bought the record "Mr. Tambourine Man" came out on, and it's the best album cover ever made. It shows the dude and his bitch and a cat. You know what the hell what? That's the happiest album cover ever made. And when it comes right down to it, no matter what the fuck YOU want to say, that dude who wrote "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man" will be remembered as the greatest American poet of the 20th century. Why? Because he is. Somebody once bitched at me about that and handed me The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. It was like reading the shit some dude's rapping to you in the kitchen at 4 am when he's down to the cooking sherry. JESUS! What a load of double-talk alcoholic bullshit. Hey, man, I am not immune myselfbut I don't publish the shit. I don't call it Art. Shit, dude, you have to be utterly wet-brained to publish your drunk shit. Me, I write stone cold sober. That's why it hurts, and that's why you probably don't like what you hear. And do I? FUCK no. FUCK no, man. But it's not the dude who dies with the most toys that wins. It's the dude who gets it down on paper.
So what happened in Vegas? NOTHING happens in Vegas. It never did. Never will. I played some pool, I made a few bucks, but not many. But that Hebrew who did Mr. Tambourine Man, well, GodDAMN, man. There is Life on one side. There is Nothing on the other. And I was drunk off my ass watching Manhattan where the Hebrew details his favorite things. Those apples in Cezanne, he says. Sentimental Education.
So what are YOUR favorite things, motherfucker? Do you even HAVE any? Let's make a quick list. Newcastle. The second movement of Mozart's 22nd Piano Concerto. Wind Among the Reeds by Yeats. Johnny Unitas scrambling and then running in for a touchdown. "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man." Sally's moisture in the honey'd middle of the night. Me in my mother's womb.
And you know what? You can't find these things in Vegas, That's why we have to leave. But not until I've shot the cue with Tugger FitzGerald, son. No, not until then.
And in the meantime, just think about Coltrane. Playing "My Favorite Things" on soprano sax. Or don't! Pierre Fournier in the Prelude from Bach's 6th Cello Suite. McClintoch. Dr. No. Your old home movies. The end of the world.
. . .
Reading Questions for Chapter 12
Okay, we have to keep this short because I've gotta be at a faculty meeting in about 3 minutes, and I have Tenure on the line. But,
- Until he rags on the poet Wallace Stevens in Chapter 12, the narrator has implicitly ragged on exactly eleven American NOVELISTS. WHO ARE THEY?
- The explicit reference to Bob Dylan has been called the "Movement of Departure" in the novel. Why? Dylan is from Minneapolis. Why is he only referenced now? What does the particular song the narrator refers to have to do with the text?
Think. I've gotta go. No class Thursday, as I'll be at a Conference. Study.