The spring they broke out of the porn underworld both her graveled voice and his complexion cleared. His transitional tattoos of carpet burns, leather snerds, hair whips. Her roller derby arias invoking god and apocalypse, a glass flamingo grinning upside down on the nightstand. The spring they broke out of the porn underworld he still vomited off camera (so to speak) but this would pass.
She dropped the name of Jane Doe but he kept Dick Gravity, at least for a while, until he found the name was inappropriate when not wielding his phallus in a flail of carnal siege.
When the name went so it seemed a part of him went but there were no tears; the only critical aspect was whether to reinvent himself before or after he bought his first guitar.
This was 1977 and they lived in New York at the time and the possibility of unconditional ruin seemed exciting. There was money saved from the salad days of Ass Captain v. California and Buttamungous and so he couldn’t begin to express his lack of interest in work to the small succession of interviewers who considered him over his carelessly optimistic resume. By night from within the security of leather-soled socks he honed a truculent discourse on the futility of American labor to Jane, who had momentarily taken back the name June and all the Lutheran impatience of her Minnesotan upbringing, who at one point responded I sure hope your mule knows the way home.
Most afternoons he took his coffee to the stoop on Bleeker and watched the show, the city, from within the anonymity of his latent southern surrender. He wore pajamas and chinese slippers as if to supplant the street with a proprietary immediacy, as of gazebos or outhouses. He sat and smoked and sipped coffee and the pretended to do the crossword in order to watch street performers and musicians and poets and the homeless and even vendors demonstrate in the classic mode and he made note of their dress and their syntax and of the lines between harassment and solicitation, the convulsing symmetry of violence and participation. From this morass of manifest identity arose the distinct. There was a large black man who caught his eye who sold rubs of his hairless belly for a quarter and there was a junkie mime whose work consisted of muscle amnesia and strategic unconsciousness and there was a blind traveling autoharpist with a potted sunflower picked clean by the cynical in a red flyer wagon harnessed to a malnourished shepherd with a sign saying Without you I’m nothing.
All this was salvageable.
He happened upon the name of Billy Noe by way of regular plaints drifting up through the plumbing late most nights, a soft ethnic voice repeating Billy, no. It representing a hopeless and remote fending off of American Will that he found touching. On this foundation he began to assemble the subtle vanities of his character, the possibilities of assault.
He is catching up on this image, pursuing it. There are always clues. At his conception Billy is in another time zone, several frames away, a missing center panel in a triptych of age. There are clues, but frozen, immaculate instances but without anything to move them in time.
His mother, who will eventually be sacrificed to this all-consuming invention, knows her son. She visits from New Orleans, eating from a lapbag of Brazil nuts for her depressions. Ask me anything, she says. He does not.
Of her there seems little left, little real. By turns she is a blonde suburban, a black voodoo priestess, a Storeyville prostitute, by turns master of the vodka tonic, the root-doctor blues, the thirty -second minute. When he talks about her you can almost see the cave art on the walls of his skull. Images etched by eroding memory, sketches lovingly rendered in the pursuit of a dream.