My Lunch With Lautréamont
Being a Little Green Man isn’t easy.
We get a bad name because the only people who can see us are alcoholics or those who claim to have been abducted by aliens or both.
Little Green Men come from all over the galaxy. From as far away as Zetox. Every planet capable of sustaining life has a population of Little Green Men.
We don’t all come from Mars.
Some of us disguise ourselves as plants.
I have tried to blend in as human but to no avail. I remain invisibly green.
Even stripped of all fantasy and delusion I am yet a wayfaring refugee from the valley of the shadow of death.
Hindered by confusion, naïveté, invisibility.
Nothing makes sense ultimately.
The only path is to persevere.
Such is the plight of the Little Green Man.
One midsummer Sunday afternoon, as I walked unnoticed amid a throng at the Tar Pits I noticed that Isidore Ducasse was the keynote speaker at an impromptu rally put on by an unnamed society for the benefit of everyone.
Ducasse’s book Les Chants de Maldoror, published under the pseudonym Comte de Lautréamont, was primary text for me, a piece of writing that taught courage and fidelity to one’s muse.
He’d been dead over a hundred years and yet there he was preaching the most subversive God-talk.
Ducasse delivered his speech in French which made it incomprehensible to most but they all nodded their heads as if they understood and agreed, simply awed by being in the presence of one who had actually done fisticuffs with the Almighty.
I followed along via my skeezmo, an adept universal decoding device from my home planet.
He spoke, “The hinges of reality,” (I’m translating), “must come unfastened if we are to attain the next step in our evolution. No more doors on totality, no more separate rooms. Nothing but time ensues when the sky is void of Heaven.”
“You don’t believe in God?” asked this really famous guy — not Sinatra — whom everybody used to think of as a kind of God. Now he was just a dinosaur at the Tar Pits.
“I believe in the God who isn’t there,” Ducasse bowed and disappeared into the crowd.
It turned out he was standing right there in the midst of them the whole time because when the gathering dispersed I saw him looking through the fence of the main tar pit at the plaster mastodons eternally innocent of their ever imminent demise.
“Excusez-moi, Monsieur Ducasse,” I tried to greet him.
He remained rigid, facing Wilshire, unresponsive to my call.
“Comte de Lautréamont, n’est-ce pas?” I tried another tack which is weird for me because usually I give up really easily and spend the rest of the day hating who I am.
At the mention of Lautréamont he stopped and turned.
“Oui, c’est moi,” he offered, visibly apprehensive, like I was a cop or something.
“May I ask you a question?” (I’ll translate the rest), “or, oh, wait, I just did,” I said provoking a relieved smile on his face that I had a sense of humor and therefore could not be a cop.
“How do we make right this divine misalignment?,” I asked, in reference to the enormously fucked-up state of humanity.
“Burn down Los Angeles, “ he said, “The city is badly contaminated. Corporate porridge gets fed to the populace who dance a scherzo through bullet-mad avenues. This city should be devoured in a swarm of locusts.”
“There are some good things about it.”
“Googie architecture. If there were more Googie architecture in Los Angeles, you wouldn’t be so keen to burn it down, I promise you. Los Angeles is at its best as a ’60s Tomorrowland.”
“Show me an example.”
“Let me buy you lunch at Johnie’s. Right over on Wilshire and Fairfax, where the people on the street have always been old.”
“I am older than all of these pipsqueaks,” he said as we walked to Johnie’s, “mere children they.”
“I look at all the old people on Fairfax and realize that they were young when I was a kid looking at the old people on Fairfax (who are all dead now).”
“And one day you will be one of the old people on Fairfax, oui?”
“And then dead, correct.”
Ducasse and I entered the welcome air-conditioning of Johnie’s and were seated in a white booth on the Fairfax side of the shop. He ordered a coffee.
“And what is your name?”
“Gazoo,” I said.
“Is that the name you were given at birth by your parents, or is it something you made up yourself?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Rock and roll,” he pumped.
“So, listen, Monsieur le Comte, you do not appear much older than I am, yet you were born like over a hundred years ago. How is it you are here?”
He pondered his answer for several unresponsive seconds and then said, “The safari has ditched me here on this massive savannah. I am beaten to clockwork by ceremonial trampolines. Dud touches and icky kisses assure me I must remain without charge, without loyalty, without bias, without tension, without tenderness, without tendency, without allegiance, without religion, without a flag, without consummation.”
“And to what trauma-induced syndrome do you attribute this circumstance?” I asked.
“I have no mother, after all,” Lautréamont shrugged.
“Let me tell you, I’m in a similar neurotic paralysis,” I admitted, “even though I do have a mother. Standing on a dotted target I play the lackluster nebbish, the sexually insolvent blob, the colorless epitome of debt, the railyard ghoul, the one who stays behind, the generic shopper humming along with the Muzak in Safeway, the substitute teacher whose name escapes you, the lawful average cat, the fair muddling fellow you don’t ever remember having seen before. Can you comprehend this, monsieur, such militant invisibility?”
Ducasse pointed his forefinger in loving accusation at my cloyingly sincere face, and admonished, “You have allowed your ego to become a trifling island. This is a weakness you must eliminate if you are to have any successful intercourse with the world.”
“I could use some successful intercourse, for sure.”
He gestured to indicate the entire interior of Johnie’s, and said, “If the raging chaos of the world frightens you, then let this be an oasis in the middle of the wasteland, a spot to calm your conscience, to stay your breaking heart, to heal the feelings battered in love wars and work wars and art wars and all the other fardels you bear.”
“You should try their BLT sandwich,” I replied, “it’s like somewhere over the rainbow.”
“What is your chosen path?” he asked of me, conjuring the beautiful illusion that he really cared.
“I want lesbians to worship me the way gay men worship Judy Garland.”
“I don’t know who is this Judy Garland.”
“Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.”
“Ah, yes, I had intercourse with her once.”
“Yes, It was when I was a child, and my father saw her walking down the street in Montevideo, and he said, ‘Look, look, Izzy, that is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.’ At first I thought it was my long lost mother, but it did indeed turn out to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. My father brought me over to her and said, ‘Excuse me, Dorothy, hello, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, will you say hello to my boy Isidore?’ She turned and said, ‘Hello, your highness,’ and she curtsied before me like a royal subject. ‘Bonjour, Dorothy from Zardoz,’ I said. Then she turned and left. As she walked away I — even at that age — was moved to watch her ass sway. From the back she looked more like Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. That is the intercourse I had with her.”
“Oh, I thought you meant — “
“ — fucking?”
“You need to lose your virginity,” he prescribed.
“I don’t understand how to do that, though.”
“You stick your penis in somebody’s vagina.”
“Well, see, there’s this inescapable technicality: I am not attractive to the human female. I don’t know how to make that happen.”
“But it’s easy.”
“So tell me already.”
“Lay down your weary soul,” he said, “on a bed, on a sofa, on the beach, on a mountainside, across the back seat of a car, on the chaise longue in the backyard, on a rooftop, in a treehouse, on a park bench, in a doorway, in a scary stairwell, in a windowsill, on a northbound train, at a bus stop, in the park, on a bearskin rug in front of the fireplace, up against the wall, at the kitchen table, bending over a hot stove, wherever you best relinquish your control. Let it go, baby, let it go, harbor no sorrow, carry no grudge, let the cool spring evening envelop you and take away your fixations and thorns, let the music play you like a prayer, let the cosmos rock your ossified fontanel, unjar your drawbridge, spread your senses like a satellite, let your entire being open wide and say aaaaaaaaaaaaah . . .”
We both ate BLT sandwiches on white toast, fries on the side. Ducasse refused to try ketchup.
He had ordered jello with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert and sat staring at it for an unusually long time while I watched a girl walk by whom I pictured bending over a hot stove.
“This reminds me of when I was in ‘Nam,” he said as he tasted his jello.
“You were in ‘Nam?”
“Yerp. Airborne, son. Like the pathogens.”
“That’s not possible,” I countered.
“Hey, you’re the one having a conversation with a person who no longer exists. The next time you find yourself wanting to make fun of someone who believes in God, remember this little encounter right here. You are hardly in a position to be judging what’s possible and what’s not, dude.”
“That’s a fair assessment.”
“I don’t know, it’s like you’re on hold and there’s horrible Muzak playing on the radio. Do you realize there are radio stations who broadcast fucking MUZAK, like Montovani type shit around the clock? Is somebody driving around at 3am really going to opt for Muzak? I mean, really and truly? Would you? And, it’s, like, in the same exact way, you don’t know how to grab a girl, grab her by the hair, throw her down on the bed, and fuck her brains out. Like go all caveman and shit.”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“Too nice, right?”
“Fuck Nice. Women don’t like Nice. Nice is boring. Women say they want a nice guy, but they aren’t being honest. I’ll tell you what they really want: They want someone big and strong to overwhelm them.”
“All caveman and shit.”
“Not my style.”
“You’re safer than Switzerland, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am. And cleaner.”
“Same with me,” Ducasse said, “same with me, alors.”
When we got up to leave, Lautréamont grabbed the check, which amounted to something less than $10, and insisted on paying.
So, for my part, I left an overly generous tip for the waitress because she looked like Lana Turner.
As we walked back to the Tar Pits, I asked Lautréamont why the world was so fucked up.
“Because there is a way of life in the balance,” he answered, “a secular freedom that is always in danger of extinction via the Believers who seek to externalize their faith by turning scripture into jurisprudence and legislation. That’s why I have traveled this great distance, to be at this gathering, though I must say based on today I’d say y’all are pretty feeble and will be defeated quite easily.”
“In other words we’re doomed, but we should fight anyway.”
“Has our city offered you any wisdom at all?”
“The plaster mastodons are really stupid looking,” he said, gesturing toward the main tar pit, “That is how I shall remember Los Angeles.”
We bade each other adieu.
“Remain aware of the pattern,” he insisted, “It is a dark and mysterious virtue,” after which he vanished like the dinosaurs before him.
(cue Satie music)
I boarded the RTD going east on Wilshire.
Wilshire had a cockiness back then, a way of making you believe it was the main drag in Los Angeles.
Hell, it had the audacity to call itself The Miracle Mile.
The bus was crowded; the only seat open was the one reserved for the handicapped or the elderly near the door.
I felt Little Green Manhood qualified.
So I sat there.
Nobody said anything anyway.
They probably didn’t see me.
Maybe that one trembling wino in the very back. He was kind of looking at me with the fear of Martians in his bloodshot eyes.
When I got home, my mother was making pumpkin mush in the kitchen.
She asked me where I had been, and I made a face like Andy Kaufman.
“What did you do today?” she asked.
Grabbing a can of Tab out of the fridge, opening a bag of pork rinds, I sat down in the cushioned breakfast nook and and told her all about my lunch with Lautréamont.