High temperature returns and the little beach becomes the most popular strip on the Bay --well, not the most, that being St Kilda & all along the watch-tower, Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Albert Park, Middle Park & further, oh yes, further --Brighton, Sandringham, Black Rock --one end's big by dint of punter volume, the other by head of wealth, --but Elwood resembles these bigger brothers on such a day as this. Find a space to drop sandals, bag, towel, then straight into the clear sea, shallow for yards tho' discover raised shelf suddenly runs out & midriff's depth leaps to armpits. Hot sun, cool water & clearest sea yet yours truly's blind to a submerged slab of rock, --like the ditched trunk of one fallen on the proverbial hard times, everything he could hock done so including --if this were my story, say Melbourne in Winter,'66 --the wristwatch given me by my Aunt, the charcoal-grey John Collier suit, souvenir of my work voyage on the Fairstar, good now I thought for white-collar job-interviews in Oz, & the best black shoes to match --inevitably tripped & stumbled in avoidance of the barnacled rock and concerned not to fall, trying to maintain balance, smashed my heels into the end of it --heftier bash to left heel than right. Hauled grazes & bruises up the sand --hardly an accident compared to the cut feet & knees swimming "off the rocks" years ago, the beginning times, remembered but borne by hardly changing shoreline --is that true?-- the land-fill further submerged below the hardly new Marina, through which one'd walk, --strange landscape, spongy, compost-warm, broken down waste, broken up building materials. If nothing else the walking-path & the Marina have reconfigured the landscape, but the context, the sight & sound of it, the feel of it, is eternal --each intersection, each trajectory, eternal too.
I sound like Kerouac or how Kerouac might sound to the uninitiated, as tho' Little Golden Book religiosity or --only talking about it on the bus this day, Loretta's Aunty Laurie, on our wedding day for Heaven's sake, April '68, describing new book she'd been reading, The Dharma Bums! --much she could endorse, she said, funny word? reveals quite another attitude, but said she was disappointed by the characters' apoliticism --well of course, Loretta says (--is Laurie short for Loretta? & Loretta named after her aunt? --hasnt this come up before? --growing up within the figure of the aunt & not the mother? --not on account of the name but the apparent personality or character, --as i wondered then although a stranger to the family, but encouraged too by the girlfriend's declarations about her relatives --phew!) --politics, the correct politics, the Party's line, "politics" was everything! --in the understanding of which, i interpolate, everything else is missed! Whatever K said later or in contradistinction to Gary Snyder/Japhy Ryder's "ruck-sack revolution", the prophecy of thousands, millions, of said 'revolutionaries', the young --young men in Kerouac's mind --but of course young women, understood though not yet written (--Of the Beautiful Young, poem i'm writing in 1971, "neither Men nor Women", "who cannot tell yachts from tears", "my beautiful young cannot sail or cry / they are magnificent in their captivity / they drown tearlessly almost i think fearlessly / whilst we walk dry bottom / full of the knowing / of yachts & tears / the years of the beautiful young") --within the enormous suggestivity of the conflation, and i guess ambiguity could retrospectively be claimed, that is author distinguishing between self & character even though the genre being conjured overrides the conventional literary theorem, -- Kerouac's being acclaimed by my time's envoy, Ed Sanders, on telly, on Mr Buckley's show, on behalf of our Hippy generation, "we come to praise you Mr K…", which Jack brushes off peremptorily, no time for hippies since even the shine of his beats had long dissolved, --but hey! the damage was done! --i mean, the history a done deal, all around & everywhere to be seen, --but fancy Aunty Laurie reading The Dharma Bums, evidently containing sufficient pieces of her own life's jig-saw, not least the encounter with nature, ancient Taoist/Buddhist accented appreciation of trails & peaks, eternal corollary ancient or modern, --Laurie at the helm, as she believed, of the modern, Communism's fail-safe schema, to which every particle of existing & potential being was subservient… I wrote about this in 1968, still going on about it! --but the times repeat, similar dynamic excite similar psychologies, and who remembers anything anyway (Santayana)?
Back on the sand, towel around shoulders looking like a Bedouin, surveying the beach & the tribe thereon, sunbathers & tanners of the cliche one thought surpassed, --casually return to the water's edge, the shells there glinting like coins, ingots, treasures from the deep, & the seaweed, the green & brown, the stars & urchins, -- not a prospector now but Doc Ricketts found to have migrated from Canary Row & Sweet Thursday to his own book, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, --brother Bernard's book, recall his Steinbeck collection of paperbacks, read or not i don't know --I'd handled & sampled & taken away with me in my imagination to Australia in '66 --recognised on every beach in every rock-pool thereafter…
OF STEINBECK'S DOC
It begins with Ed Ricketts' death --Steinbeck's straightforward prose protects the event from sentimentality; it owns no greater tragedy than its matter-of-course, its dailiness. The writer celebrates his friend, brings him back to the world, --the world in memorium for every lived, loved & gone day; each lived, loved & gone person & place. For sure, the Doc doesn't die every day, but every day any one of us might. And not going out into the world is the kind of death one's loathe to contemplate. Such is the adventure of each day set against the everyday's incremental dulling. The Doc's surely not a dull man but a daily one, given over to the day's exigencies, as defined by these as by his eccentricities & prejudices which his friend details without the judgements informing them. Steinbeck's Doc is an unruffled man about a small town, except when he isn't. And he & his is the form i now adopt looking into a rock pool, hat on pate, looking & seeing despite, whatismore, his own understanding of the world, especially in its immediacy, as much further & deeper than the 'particular segment' in view --thus ecology, myth, genetics, poetry & philosophy, Ancient & Modern of East & West. Now he is bending to his work, poking through the water, lifting shell or seaweed. He is poking & peering as in the painting of him on the cover of the Corgi paperback, collecting bucket in hand, backpack of implements over his shoulder. First sun or last, sun up or sun down, unambiguously there, as we are here, eternal antidote to the drear & the fear. Clear.