Mittwoch, 19. März 2008

Cadmus Edition Special: John Hopkins, South American Diaries

October 15

On the train from Mazatlán to Mexico City, via Guadalajara. The name of our car is Marruecos (Morocco in Spanish). What a weird coincidence. What does it mean? Lowry would make something of this.

I feel heavy inside . . . the head isn't working too well . . . got to lay off the tequila. Going through the motions of maintaining this journal, feeling the darkness within. One problem is---I can never tell whether she's happy or not. Perhaps we have jumped beyond that simple consideration. If so, I'm not sure where we've landed. The constant preoccupations, the mood swings she refuses to discuss. Emotions become dangerous when you don't deal with them.

The truth of the matter is that I'll probably never be able to make her happy because we've sinned. A sin that can never be atoned for, explained away, or assuaged by the passage of time. She left her husband and ran off with me. Worse, much worse, she left her child behind. She's been ostracized by her family. That's more emotional baggage than we can lift. We live with pain we cannot escape, no matter how far we run. She says, “Sabes todo,” which means she loves me, but is love worth this amount of suffering, our flawed and imperfect love.

But, boarding the train, we both somehow begin to feel better. She's laughing at Chula flying around inside the compartment, shitting here and there.

What is it about the road? Why do I always feel lighter when I'm on it? Movement seems to loosen my brain. The rocking of this train dislodges fresh ideas from the crannies of my mind. Shifting vistas evoke deeper meanings. Rimbaud tramped all over Europe with a head full of visions. He was a hard man, road -toughened. It's my bet he got all his ideas on the road. Only a hobo understands this feeling of liberation. I can see right now that this journal will be my salvation until I get to work on the novel. I've just got to keep on writing things down.

We have locked up the parrot, opened the window and lean out, excited, as the train chugs along.

Cane fields, green hills and red earth. Children with shiny brown bodies splash like seals in brown rivers. Men on horseback and astride donkeys with machetes. A profusion of orange flowers, the dark morning glory, broad flats of the water hyacinth. The ubiquitous vultures circle. Extinct green volcanoes . . . others, with clouds of steam pouring out. Gigantic thunderheads build up in the afternoon. We have climbed up from the coast, and the air is cooler, drier. Multiple slumped volcanoes. The hazy peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental in the distance, where Humphrey Bogart sweated for gold. No, wrong, as he set out from Tampico, he would have panned for gold in the eastern range. B. Traven knew his way around. Gila monster country, jaws like steel. They say the lizard won't release its grip until the sun goes down. You have to chop its head off. Actually their bites aren't poisonous . . .they just chew into you you the regurgitated contents of their last putrid meal.

Suddenly it's much darker. Thunderheads have blotted out the sun. Banana farms, sisal plantations, these bright green hills. The blue-gray sisal is planted along hillsides in wavy rows. An ancient lava flow. Madeleine points out a cloud like a ragged fish swimming past an exhausted mountain. Mountains have spewed out other mountains, ridges and hills---the whole configuration of the landscape vomited from the giant's maw. Corn grows everywhere---in the valleys and on hillsides so steep they only could have been tilled by the Indian hand plow. A fiery sunset---great glittering streaks of yellow light falling behind us in the west. Volcanoes do brood over a landscape. Circling vultures do cast a spell . . .

Malcolm Lowry's Letters---after publication of Volcano, the tension seems to have gone out.

October 16, Mexico City. Hotel Maria Christing $74.00

Restaurant (Mariscos) Colonial Laredo

High, cold and gray. Dizziness in the head, weakness in the limbs, especially the arms. The suitcases have become as heavy as lead. After the languid beach life of Baja, the swirl and noise of this big city confuses us. Altitude sickness? Difficulty in hearing, remembering, even caring. Or the result of too much tequila? Unaccountable lack of concentration, difficulty in keeping any thought in front of the mind. Fatigue---can't walk, diminished appetite.

The first thing I did when we arrived in Mexico City, even before we had left the railroad station, was to buy a train ticket out of here.

A few drops of rain come down and the electricity shuts off. Street transformers erupt in green flame as the citizens run for their lives. Ah well, a city of ten million Mexicians has to be one crazy place. A miracle anything works, and, at eight thousand feet, no wonder one feels out of joint. This morning Madeleine was very nearly run down by a fleet of charging, roaring, polluting second-hand taxis imported from the United States. Very nearly. The horror and the absurdity of that. The wide boulevards: one minute they're empty, the next seething with these decrepit stock cars which have been given a green flag at an intersection around the corner, bearing down on one. After yanking her back, we clung to each other as the herd of wheeled machines thundered by.

Suave, good-looking, Spanish-speaking German businessmen in continental suits stride confidently before ranks of jewelry shops. Every other store sells either optical equipment or shoes.

And, to top it all off, we had to chose a vegetarian restaurant, where they served up this weird food . . . And God, what dreams! They torture me . . . every . . . single . . . night. Must be the tequila.

The Dream

M and I visit Paul Bowles, who is the guardian of a lighthouse, a small one. He lives with a nasty woman and her son, an enormous 17-year-old, who says little but gives everyone dirty looks. Very bad vibrations from this scene. We are very ill at ease. Finally they set off in a car towing a trailer as big as a house (In fact it is their house on wheels; M and I are to live in a hut). Somehow, we do accompany them, along dusty roads, Paul very much harassed by the woman and her son.

We arrive at a cross roads, where Paul, M and I are separated from the others. The locale suddenly is Far Hills, NJ, and I plead with Paul to come with us to my mother's house, where he will be free from the woman. But Paul as usual is nervous, indecisive, weak. It becomes clear that we'll never be able to get him away, although he is clearly being abused and taken advantage of by the woman and her son.

Then down the dusty road ambles Jane. We all meet, the six of us, at the crossroads.

Final scene: Jane is a school teacher, sitting at a desk, paying no attention to her students, as she counts, over and over again, a pile of traveller's checks. The checks are bent and wrinkled in her hands. The class is in chaos. The children chant that Jane is a “taddletale.”