Richard Maguire, and Besides

Richard Maguire knows his name, inexplicably, is spelled funny, but forgot there’s an i in it, and doesn’t and won’t have anything to do with it. He considers himself a great “street” poet, and could be if he’d only stop trashing his reputation with doggerel. Like most, he drank to get drunker and drunker, though we reneged after three tiny bottles of vodka, and he got so upset he threw his notebook into the trash, which my artist friend, Geoff Bate, rescued, but not the six pages of evidenced trash he’d torn out and chucked first.

Did I mention he’d stridden off rather well, considering? It isn’t good grammar anyway, but Firefox thinks it’s okay, “stridden”.

There were about a dozen words on each page, with three dozen per poem.  He only wrote on the odd pages (“rectos”?).  That’s good and wasteful, but it’s not everything.

The Japanese write very good poetry while practicing “attitude-of-anti-wastefulness”, but not in English, which might be harder to fathom, to translate, to rationalize, to cherish, etc. It has nothing to do with the alphabet, which is fine. It works, and is utilitarian, and we can play a bit with fonts, if it tickles our fancy. We even like calligraphy a bit. We just don’t demand it.

I recorded the whole first half of a two-hour interview, and more besides, including two nice poems, in high-quality stereo, on the northeast corner of Calle Ocho and Fifth Avenue, in a Chinese dump Geoff raved about, and we were all alone in a large dining room. Geoff’s on the left, Richard on the right, and I’m in the middle.

The food would have been fine, if Geoff had dropped his raving, and the broccoli was undercooked, but, for the sake of impression, he called “to perfection”. At that point, I filled in the remaining few squares of his crossword. He’d asked me to.

Geoff and I had had a funny chess match earlier, one game ending in mutually declared stalemate, the other abandoned. In the former, we’d exchanged queens quite early, but he complained when I took his (directly across the board) before he took mine with his king. When we each sacrificed a bishop to equal advantage, he was discouraged a bit at that, too. I almost tried castling across a square under attack, but he corrected me. I was abashed, of course, and he couldn’t castle at all. He’d opened 1 … P-K4 (playing black; I know I’m old-fashioned), followed by 2 … P-QR3?, an opening which he told me had a good name: “Defense”! A two-move opening, as it were.

I left a generous tip, but nobody, but nobody, appreciated it, not bothering to engage in the arithmetic of 15%, either mental or otherwise.  They probably didn’t notice it was over 25%, or cared whether the room were empty or not.

At Richard’s insistence, I inquired of the management whether I’d been short-changed, which was absurd, and I knew it. He said they always do, but that’s probably unintentional anyway, and I didn’t think they had.

A good time was had by all, but soured at the last minute, despite my best efforts, at the last minute. I’m sure he left hating me. I may not get around to editing and presenting the occasion, with or without the photography, which he praised, just by observing my demeanor, which was what I was doing, with his to and fro pacing and gesticulation, which I’d encouraged.

He gets high on cocaine and bad-tasting mushrooms, and probably considers vodka, his nemesis, innocuous. The two “poems” of doggerel were (1) I get high and (2) I have dreams. That’s it. He said he’d give us limericks, but forgot.

The other poetry was impressive to me, a bit under-delivered, which is sure better than over-, but that was before the second two bottlettes. Even Geoff had one, and so did I. It’s not like us.

The smoothies William Swink, Jr. made for Geoff and me earlier were amazing, with walnuts, garlic, blueberries, cherries, cocoa, bananas, and soymilk blended in a Black and Decker, but Geoff gulped his down and then started distracting me, his pet hobby. It isn’t amusing. My Pennsylvania lawyer wasn’t in Bill’s extensive legal library, but Florida lawyers, and much more, are all in the huge green section, which he hadn’t noticed, of his impressive, beautifully bound appointment book. Today’s spread was blank. In the evening, he’s a corrections officer, a sergeant. Lawyering and being a good Catholic is his day job. He does both well, but until today, hasn’t exactly been a barrel of monkeys. You should see his toilet, where he eats lunch and operates his electric toothbrush. I suggested he get a Radius; they’re addictive!

I was in Swink’s three-room, air-conditioned office building (right behind his house, and legal) to document Geoff’s portraiture progress, and bought the latter “double minute” status and the heftiest phone card on the market. I took care of the arduous bit, too. His birthday’s December 27, and though I don’t do Christmas, I made an exception. He was down to two minutes, and is penurious. That’s what’s incredible, considering his life history, and the success of his only son, Adam, from whom he’s estranged, and the insistence of Beanie Backus, his inspiration and master, to get rich, much and fast, on cheap supplies. He concentrates on the secondary stuff, such as sell and forget it fast, but do nothing you don’t want to live with forever on your dining room wall, and of course, paint much, at least some, daily. He’s been working on three copies, one smaller than the others, of a famous portrait of John Gill Landrum, until I pointed out it was taken from a copy of a photo in his biography, and not a decent likeness. He’s gotten the point, slightly. After months, they’re lousy, but coming along nicely.

Richard Maguire will probably become a greater disappointment in the course of events, begun with the vodka, and continuing with his imminent eviction from an abandoned house near the Cuban Chinese “Castillo de los Farnes”, best forgotten.  I’m looking for a place to stay, but not with Richard, and he agreed, thinking I might hasten the eviction. Little did he suspect I might implore the owner to consider a mutually agreeable thing, considering my admirable, genuine, totally legitimate, hand-written house-sitting references, which I will get as soon as they’re signed. My former hosts, except for Lydia, will sign them gladly, and receive a call or two, too.

Why not? I’m on the better side of 17th Avenue, a step neither up nor down from where I was before, when I was renting someplace lousy, but living in a house William Jennings Bryan built in Coral Gables, almost a century ago. He must have been elderly, but hadn’t lost his foresightedness, a word Firefox knows about!  My host and hostess were psychotherapists, but much more besides. The former, now deceased, said he loved me, but she likes me, too, and so does the whole family but one son, who’s above me now.  He’s the big shot in a highly prestigious hospital, with responsibility for all the expensive imaging hardware, the top radiologist. Good thing he considered graduating from Johns Hopkins at the top of his class, in medicine, after a great career at NASA getting patents in electronics, while dissing other patents. He was so good there, he decided to aim even higher, and become a rich man, too, though his heart’s not really in the money.

Imagine, radiology, what’s become of it!


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