- Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.
- — Albert Camus, The Stranger
Actually it was three months ago, my mother’s death, I mean. I just found out about it on Friday. No one in my family would tell me. They thought, I suppose, I would be so sad I would drink myself to death. I had thought about it for years and wondered how I would feel. Whatever it was, it wasn’t much. I stayed in that night though. I thought that was, at least, something. Like Camus’s Monsieur Meursault, I guess I thought it didn’t have anything to do with me.
I should cry though, if for no other reason than, if like Monsieur M., I kill an Arab, then I might get off.
I had two ideas for columns this past Friday. Rather, the Specialist had them. She comes up with most of the ideas. I am often given Plan A and Plan B. This week was no exception.
I went to Balboa Park with a newspaper clipping, “Interational Awards Exhibition of work by talented regional artists...Young Artists’ Gallery showcases work from regional schools, grades K–12...” Kids’ art would be great. I was in the mood for kids’ art. But there was some mistake. The exhibit had closed or maybe hadn’t appeared yet, so I wandered around the park with a disposable “Wedding Camera” ($5.99).
I took a picture of a butterfly, some guy in what looked like a kind of opera costume, a Spanish cavalier maybe, and a guy in a gorilla suit who refused to say anything. He just held a sign that read, “With the end of humans what will happen to the gorilla?” Something like that anyway. Next to him was a large easel-like stand with blank sheets of paper and the word, “Questions?” I couldn’t think of any one particular question so I walked on toward the fountain.
I sat down and smoked, brought out a paperback (The Alienist by Caleb Carr) but didn’t read it. A boy, say, six or seven, with a perfectly formed head stared at me. I don’t think he ever saw anybody light a pipe before. He looked like me when I was that age. We stared at each other for a while.
Plan B was the auction at the Salvation Army. Every weekday morning (that includes Friday), washing machines, ovens, computer monitors, and hairdryers are auctioned off, mostly, said one Salvation Army guy, to people from Mexico. The gatekeeper at the auction wouldn’t let me in. Another guy told me I had to see the Major before taking any pictures or asking any questions. He led me into a building through a maze of corridors and into an office waiting room. I read Entertainment magazine and my book for nearly half an hour while I waited for Major Doug Williams’s permission to witness the auction. I lost interest in the whole thing and left.
- “Gentlemen of the jury, the day after his mother’s death, this man was out...and going to the movies, a comedy for laughs. I have nothing further to say.”
- — The Stranger
On Saturday I went over to the Specialist’s house. We watched School of Rock, which she had taken out of the library. It was a lot funnier than I thought it was going to be. We had cake and ice cream after a salad.
Sunday was the Hillcrest Book Fair. I bought The Lost Get-Back Boogie by James Lee Burke and two copies of an old novel of mine, long out of print. It all cost about ten dollars. I have friends in the book business. I saw poet Steve Kowit and Jim Miller, contributor to Under the Perfect Sun and Sunshine Noir. Miller read and seemed to be suggesting that San Diego might not be as fine, all together, as it’s cracked up to be. I’ve had that same feeling sometimes.
- The director [of the home] then looked down at the tips of his shoes and said that I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I hadn’t cried once...
- — The Stranger
The last time I saw my mother was a few years ago. I was helping her move from her house in rural Illinois to a home in Chicago. I met the director (or whatever he was called) of the home. I cried back then, but he didn’t see me.
She fell down in her apartment, and while she had one of those I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up devices, it was hooked up to her phone and she hadn’t paid her bill. I thought that could easily happen to me. We were a lot alike, I guess.