Corso Talks Me In
On an impulse I decided to put in a call to Gregory Corso and the room full of wanna-be poets said what are you doing? He’s dead.
I dialed anyway.
It rang three times and he picked up.
“Gregory?” I said.
“Whoa, man, they told me you were dead.”
“Whatever,” he said.
“So–what’s going down, big man?”
“The humdrum of the afterlife,” he said.
“Are you alone?” I asked. “Can you talk?”
“I’m in a holding tank,” he said. “I’m in here with Kenneth Patchen and Henry Miller and Bukowski.”
“No shit!” I said.
“No shit. They keep hitting us through the bars with a high-pressure fire hose. We’re naked, no windows, an overhead 40-watt bulb in a mesh cage. Patchen has the biggest cock I’ve ever seen. Miller’s is about average. I don’t know about Bukowski, he keeps it covered with his hands.”
“Where’s Ginsberg? Is he in there with you?”
“He’s one of the guys working the hose. He cut a deal. He’s eating good and writing sonnets.”
“What’s he saying, what’s he saying?” the wanna-be poets in the room clambered. Then they dimmed the lights so it would feel like a seance.
“You’re on your way out,” said Gregory. “The same thing happened to me. Except I picked up the phone and dialed a random number. I got Marcel Proust, talking his head off. I couldn’t understand a thing he said.
That gave me a jolt, Gregory saying I was on my way out.
“Go with it,” said Gregory. “There’s nothing else you can do. And listen, it’s not always like this, being in the holding tank. They keep moving us around. Last week I was on a long stretch of ocean beach with the whitest sand I ever saw, alone with Marilyn Monroe. She’s pretty ordinary without her clothes and make-up. A little heavy in the thighs. But innocent and a little baffled, that’s the same. She’s always on the beach, and every now and then someone gets put there with her. Bukowski, Miller, Patchen–they’ve never been on the beach. It pisses them off that I got put there. I told them it’s karma, I paid my dues.”
“Well how come you’re in the holding tank if your karma’s so good?” I asked, and the wanna-be poets moved in close, trying to hear Gregory’s voice.
I held the phone out for them. “Karma’s a mixed bag, man,” Gregory boomed. I could hear him loud and clear with the phone at arm’s length, but the wanna-be poets said, “What the hell? There’s no one there, man. It’s just a dial tone!”
I pulled the phone in close again.
“Don’t listen to them,” said Gregory. “They think you’re delusional. Once you’re gone they’ll start talking about you like they were the only ones who understood you. They’ll go for each other’s throats like starving dogs fighting over table scraps.”
“You’re talking me in,” I said, my stomach full of butterflies.
“Yeah. It’s my first shot at it. Miller’s talked in thousands. Patchen refuses to do it out of some fucked up moral objection, and that’s why he spends 90% of his time in the holding tank. He’s a glutton for punishment. They don’t let Bukowski do it anymore, he insults people and drives them back into life and they go around talking to anyone who will listen about having had an out-of-body experience. Proust is obsessed with talking people in, but he gets so convoluted he always fucks it up. They had to pull him off when he was trying to talk me in. They stuck in Neal to replace him before the connection got broke. Neal sliced through the red tape like butter, just the way he used to drive. He had me over the line in a heartbeat. There’s an art to it.”
“I’ve been thinking,” I said. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Maybe–“
“Don’t think,” said Gregory. “Just get ready. Because here goes…”