This short story won a 1994 Associated Writing Programs Intro Fiction Award and was first published in the Fall 1994 edition of Hayden’s Ferry Review. It presages my novel Flicker in the Porthole Glass as an attempt to mythologize my experiences living in Philadelphia in the mid-1980s. It also attempts to comment on the nature of authority, or the author’s relationship to his text.
In preparation for a reading I gave at the University of Maine in 2007, I revisited this story and used it in a multimedia experiment including stills from old industrial Philadelphia and films of Gene Krupa. I called it “The Matter of the Krupa Manuscript” and set it to Gene’s number “Drummin’ Man,” which figures in the story. You can take a look here.
What follows is the story’s first paragraph. Use the link following this excerpt to open the full story in PDF format.
Knowing my mother would disapprove of and regard such an encampment with disgust, incomprehension, and a cold fish-eye, I make my office, my home, Ed Desautels Compound in the shadow of the abandoned Ortleib’s brewery, whence come these amorous frenzies, these staggering bouts with the crack-whore aesthetician Esther Marie, these antipathies, these depraved tastes, this predilection for Camel wide-gauge lights, this melancholy which is caused by grief (nostalgia, for me), these transports wrought by denial, this sense of waiting, this unquenchable desire to watch Monday Night Football all season long drinking hushed bloody Marys until my skin turns orange. My mind is almost totally absorbed in the vivacity of these inflamed musings here in the center of Desautels operations, here in what was once the blocking room of the Stetson Hat Company. I’ve room enough to wander its industrial square footage, swing like Tarzan from the loop of chain suspended from a ceiling I-beam, reorganize space by wheeling around the quasi-Japanese screens I’ve fashioned from abandoned billboard panels—room enough to distract myself and indulge my whims, but still the Krupa manuscript lies paper-clipped on the desk before me. Beyond it, through the barred window of my office/rumpus room, the rotted water tank of Ortleib’s rises skyward in the shape of a gigantic beer bottle, silent and empty above the rubbly Brewerytown cityscape. It’s all crumbling brick, flaccid chimneys, burned-out auto and human hulks, blank stares, and expansive acts of meanness in this neighborhood. I put on a record of the Krup in the hope of establishing an ersatz rapport.
Read the entire story. [PDF]
And, just for the fun of it, Anita O’Day singing “Drummin’ Man”: