The Benny Poda Years
15 - Nola
"Feel like fallin' in love with the first woman I meet.
Puttin' her in a wheelbarrow and wheelin' her . . . down the street." — Bob Dylan
If there's one thing I liked about Dietrich, it was that he knew how to fight.
This is not to say he didn't have loads of other qualities to recommend him, as I'm sure he did, but every time I saw him he was high on coke and fighting. And I was high on coke and fighting, too. But I came to love the man dearly. If I were a fag, like Gary Harris, I would have fucked him. This land is your land. That land was MINE.
New Orleans then as now was a place where you REALLY had to watch your ass. The entire place is like a Paris slum. Paris, actually, is a very safe city. The same cannot be said for the poor-man's Paris of America.
When was the last time you thought about Jim Plunkett, that old dude who used to play quarterback for the Raiders?
We were shooting a game at this joint on Canal Street and Plunkett was in there, drunker than Kenny Stabler. Higher than Don Meredith. He kept screaming at me from the bar that my clothes needed to be washed, which they did, of course, and of course that's not the point. Man, I DID NOT need this shit. I just wanted to finish my game, earn a little money and go drink and eat at a jazz club somewhere.
The only reason I didn't put a stop to it just like that was that, one, he was bigger than me and two, I wanted to finish the game and not get kicked out of the bar, because it was a place the tourists frequented and you could sure make some money beating up on their clueless asses. And then there was the matter of his plays.
I'm the type of man who'll cut a great writer like Jim Plunkett some slack, because that one he wrote where the dude screams STELLA!, well, THAT gave me goosebumps and I saw it, like, 15 times when I was in New York one time and had some money. And the one about all those drunks waiting for the Snowman, wow, that sure hit home. And the one where the salesman dies and the one about that lesbian who offed herself by walking into a pond in her back yard. And I could go on. Have you read his plays? Strange, I'd stopped being able to find them in bookstores. Nothing by a Jim Plunkett, they always said. But those plays sure are terrific.
But finally, a man has to fight or be disrespected, and I broke off a cue and I broke off a long-necked beer bottle and I went up to the asshole. "I love your plays and I respect you," I told him, "But I'm not standin' here singing Hickory Dickory Dock to your dick, either. You need to shut the FUCK up, RIGHT now, or we're gonna scrap." Deet was behind me with a cue of his own. I wondered whose side Kenny Stabler would be on. He was already passed out in the corner.
"My plays?" said Plunkett. His demeanor had changed. I guess he respected my willingness to stand up to him. "My plays are like my CHILDREN!" He said.
I was mollified a bit by the obvious emotion in his voice. "Well, yeah, I'd figured that," I said. "But there's no cause to be railing on me, man. All I'm trying to do here is make a living."
"But how'd you FIND them?" He asked. "How did you KNOW that about me? I've been a failed playwright for YEARS—they've never even been PUBLISHED." He seemed impressed and amazed.
"Jim," I said, you're drunk. I guess it's been a bad week for you. But don't be down on yourself—it's fine work."
And just then, some aging biker dude piped up from down the bar, "Plunkett—and PLAYS! Ha! Are you a fag? Aren't all playwriters fags?"
Plunkett was embarrassed and furious. "Perhaps I AM a homosexual," he said in a what-the-fuck-are-you-gonna-have-to-say-or-do-about-it kind of tone. "Yet unlike Nassir, I have MADE something of my life. And unlike YOU, motherfucker."
Did they fight? You're asking me DID THEY FIGHT? Christ, it was a brawl the likes of which I hadn't seen in YEARS, and when a couple of other old biker dudes pulled blades and were fixing to jump in, me and Deet got in there and started pounding and gouging like you're trying to kill your worst nightmare. And when it was over we were in a New Orleans holding cell, pretty beat up, but WE had been the men still standing at the end of THAT. My only regret was the money and I said so aloud. And after that little "incident," Canal Street would think as long and hard as it was sentient enough to do so about having us back.
But when we got ROR'd in the morning and got our effects back, Plunkett, who was still with the Raiders then, gave us $100 to get on our feet, a gesture I'll always appreciate.
And THAT'S how we finally got the fuck out of Nola.
Lecture on Things to Think about during the Second Half
Do any of you people reading this know that dude who wrote the song about the Tambourine Man? You know that fellow? Well, tell him he needs to give me a call. He'll have to get the number from my publisher, and he doesn't normally give out such things unless he thinks he can probably help me get laid, but for THAT dude, he'll fork it over. He and I need to rap before ONE of us finally shuffles off this mortal coil. And tell him it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there. I'd like to do the final chapter of this memoir live from my cabin while he sings to me and pours my drinks, if you want to know the truth.
Now, I'd like to answer some questions. I got a note from a gentleman in Nashville who observed that parts of this memoir read like J.D. Salinger. Maybe like that paragraph right up there, actually. Well, this IS J.D. Salinger, asswipe! I just got tired of writing under the name Thomas Pynchon and thought I'd use a different alias, just because I didn't want my publisher to have to field calls from people asking if I had liked getting sucked by Joyce Maynard. Well, of COURSE I liked it, fool! I busted a nut in her mouth more times than McGowin's taught Catcher. Oh yeah, I'd like to thank that man for all the royalties he's sent my way, by the way.
And you thought I was a recluse? HELL no! I've been whooping it up for YEARS! I sit here on my grape iMac in Cornish, New Hampshire, and write this shit and e-mail it to that publisher dude, the one that lives in Oakland. Didn't know I had a computer, did you? Well, neither did Kurt Vonnegut. Until I told him. Then he knew it. But actually, I was lying when I told him that, because I DIDN'T have a computer and didn't get around to it for the next three days. I just wanted something to lie about. I'm a terrible liar.
So I was fucking this girl from India. She was from India in the way most women who are from India are. Anyway, I was fucking her and she was fucking me. She was about the most orgasmic woman I have EVER fucked, probably even more so than Mary or Erin or my ex-wife, the one who lives up here near where I do being a loud alcoholic and fucking people and telling them she wants to be an Artist and that she met Kurt Vonnegut. Well, I TOO have met Kurt Vonnegut, In fact, Kurt Vonnegut is a very big fan of The Benny Poda Years. In fact, I AM Kurt Vonnegut. See, that's the big joke, hey? Couldn't you recognize it from the style? Well, so this Indian woman, she was really fucking orgasmic. All women from India are very orgasmic. At least you know that, deep down that's what the fuck you think, anyways.
And the title: Ok, here's The Benny Poda Years contest: get online and start trying to figure it out, and if you find his ass, drop me a line by March 1 and you get an autographed print copy of The Benny Poda Years and a copy of McGowin's CD.
Have a good Break!