Hal Stowell’s cabin during that time was my spiritual home, and Hal was always welcoming, which, as I look back from my mature viewpoint, is kind of amazing. I simply don’t open my door if visitors don’t call first, and if they catch me in the yard, I’m rude and annoyed. I can’t abide drop by visitors, and it has cost me some friendships, none I minded giving up.
But Hal always had a warm greeting and always met the poetry of the moment, which must have been exhausting because of my intensity. Everything mattered so much to me then! And I’m probably not much better now, but maybe wiser as to overwhelming people, or maybe not (I do try). I can hear a few people snickering. “Fuck you! Try my brain for a few weeks and then report back.”
Of course I always called first and brought beer. And of course I always searched the homespun package stores around Wendell, Massachusetts for something interesting: Rolling Rock when it first showed up in New England with its stubby bottle and tiny label. Later it would go to the impressive silk-screened long neck, Black Horse Ale, Pickwick Ale, Ballantine’s or the rare Ballantine’s I.P.A that was actually and truly aged in wood for 9 months. Narragansett and Haffenreffer and Black Label pounders. I wrote this poem for Hal in 1979:
ONE FOR HAL
The two of us on Route 2 that afternoon
Were a vision of our own time:
Drinking pint bottles of malt liquor,
Singing the naked melodies
Of the open road.
The broken muffler, a low ringing
As we climbed out of the dark valley;
The sun etching the telephone wires,
White gold against the purple shadow of evening;
The pale clouds cut by the black poles,
We follow the two ever-changing curves of the road.
We reach the hill pass, light blinding our eyes,
Our pipes filling the car with a blue soul.
Then the hairpin
Down into the cool shade of the valley again,
Through the tunnel of brick factory-lined streets
We stop in search of better beer;
You a quiet image through the package store window,
I watch the working girls heading home.
And my thoughts:
Like the infinite sun-exposed specks of the windshield,
Like my memories.
You return with two racks of dark bottles,
Ballantine’s aged one year in the wood,
And we reenter the script of the moist dusk.
And our voices:
The whining of the hot tires on pavement,
The cap popped off a cold ale.
And these words, this voice, our voice
I give you,
A prayer to what we have left.
The above 50 inch pencil drawing was given to Jake MacKenzie who lives in Monkton, Vermont. Here I am with Jake (photograph below) in my hometown of Gorham, New Hampshire the morning after I presented the framed drawing to Jake at the Town & Country Motor Inn. As an aside, I believe the drawing is worth three times what Jake’s home is worth. “Might be a first, eh?” Not that I don’t like Jake’s trailer and home!
After the obligatory visit with Hal—at least I rarely stayed more than an overnight and always took Hal out to the Spring Hills Diner for supper—Kris and I headed for Providence to search out the friends who had lived over Duke’s Poolroom on the third floor. It was bizarrely hot, but the Porsche seemed to run fine in almost any temperature condition—from -15 to over 100 degrees f. As I’ve said, 356 Porsches were phenomenal cars as they left the factory; it was the carelessness of American owners who ruined them.
But when we reached Providence, stopping at a bizarre massage parlor in a cement strip of 1970s buildings (nothing quite as ugly ever again) on the way down, everyone I knew had long since moved on. It felt strange, maybe for the first time in my life, to sense that things did not last. When I returned to Providence during the 1990s, the entire area I knew had been razed.
We left the heat of the city and pointed the Porsche to Cape Cod, for the cool air as much as anything else. Heat or not, Kris was still yelling his Mille Miglia cry of joy. It should be noted that Kris at this time smoked pot continually—from the moment he awoke to when he settled for the night. He even swallowed the roach ends, telling me that the more THC in his system the better. I, on the other hand, never touched the stuff, and felt that it did not improve Kris’s insensitivity or obnoxious arrogance.
Rich Bruce’s mother had an amazing house in Woods Hole that was just off the main road on the right before the draw bridge approaching the sleepy downtown that it was in 1975 because Martha’s Vineyard had not been “discovered” yet. We called Rich, and spend a few days with him and his wonderful mom, Edith, a true free-thinker from the old school. She was the stuff!
That night we swam in the calm black ocean, which after the long drive and the blazing city was everything you wanted it to be. I should point out that Rich was a fair match for Gregory Peck during his 20s, so when we drank draft beer at the crowded Captain Kid that evening, I didn’t even consider talking to girls, assuming no female would choose a misshappen aardvark over two tall well-built movie star types. Women were always on my mind, and I must say, Kris for all his faults, has been obsessed with females his entire life as a true Sicilian should be. He truly loves women. Not that many men do, regardless of anything.
Even on the phone today, and even with PD, he talked glowingly about a young woman whom he met on the train returning from seeing my drawing exhibition in New York at A/M/Y. It was wonderful to hear him sounding happy. PD is a cruel way for anyone to end their days, and having watched his father gradually being submerged by the disease doesn’t improve matters. And one thing about Kris Marsala is that he’s as tough as they come. I’ve never heard a single whine from him in 57 years of friendship. “Cheers, old old friend!”
Above is my photo of Kris, below is Kris’s photo of himself.
And Kris and the woman he rejected. He claimed her smell did not appeal to him. A perfectionist! I know the issue!
Kris when he OWNED late night TV talk and Letterman was a pawn.
And the PROOF! These days, the honor of your word seems to be not enough. You are losing out so much of what makes a life great!