I was working with Allen yesterday afternoon when Anne came to door & said to Allen “Ed Wall’s here to see you” — “I didn’t make any appointments” Allen explained to me as he got up — in comes a tallish redfaced cowboy, 50ish, balding, bright blue gentle eyes, a streak of brown hair over head’s crown, carries yellow straw cowboy hat, light blue print shirt & jeans, introduces self says was friend of Neal & Jack & had employed Neal on his ranch.
“Was he energetic?” A asked.
“Oh, yes, energetic,” Ed smiled; “he was a good worker, if you stayed with him,” he added.
“Putting in fence posts, and —” “Oh, everything.”
“Yeh, I always heard about the ranch, it was mythological, you and I never met.”
“The last time I saw Neal he had driven into Denver, found I was staying in a motel there, and I saw the car come & when they stopped a beer can rolled out, but when I saw it was Neal it was all right. He jumped out, & shook my hand (his was all bandaged from something), that was Saturday, and he left Monday to drive back to San Francisco, and never slept the whole time he was here. That was about two years before he died.”
“Did you get any letters from him?”
“You know Ann Gerraghy out in San Francisco?”
“Yeh, I saw her there this spring, she was dancing topless in North Beach.”
“Well, she and I had met and corresponded, and she and Neal had something going, and she sent me one of Neal’s letters he wrote her from Mexico just before he died. He asked for some money — ‘I’m broke, no big deal, just send a couple dollars.’ And then he said ‘Goodbye, I love you, you old hag.’
“Me & Jack used to know each other too. I was a drinker then — I don’t now — but I was loaded one night, and Jack was in Lowell, had an unlisted number, but I got it, I told the operator it was an emergency, why else would I be calling from Colarada at one in the morning. I told Jack my boy (who’s now at Harvard) was at Andover, and asked him to look him up sometime. And so a year later he did, he came by one night, in corduroy pants and a lumberjack shirt with a bottle of wine, and said ‘You gotta help me drink this bottle.’ Now Larry had a curfew in an hour, all the boys had to be in their rooms in bed, so he couldn’t drink much with Jack, and Jack didn’t like it.
“But I got a card from Jack later on in Spain, he said ‘You made me go see your son, but he wasn’t any more interested in me than a Colarada cow’s ass-hole.’ ”
Allen explained he was due to teach a class in twenty minutes; Ed was deferential, respectful. “No, it’s my pleasure,” A said, “would you like to come to my class & a reading after.”
“No I better take a rain check now but I’d like to see you again when I’m in town.”
“I’m reading with Gregory & Anne Waldman on the 9th, this’ll get you in (A scribbles a note & hands it to him). “& before you go let me show you where I live.”
“You know, Allen, my boy worked one summer at a camp with some kids who were — not retarded — emotionally disturbed, & there was one of em never spoke to him the whole summer, & as they were getting ready to leave came over and asked ‘Larry, what does it all mean?’
“And that’s kinda the way I feel now. My boys’re all gone, I’ve got that ranch I got from my father, 3-400 head, & I’ll have a sure 50 less gettin Larry through Harvard, & I just feel lost.”
“Well, that’s how everybody here feels,” Allen answered, “or they’re examining the problem, what does it all mean, why is there a problem, is there a problem, what’s the nature of the problem. That’s what the Buddhist meditations here are for, you might like to come.”
“Have you found an answer?”
“Yep. It don’t mean nutthin’.”