Bring Me The Head Of The Town Burned Down
(More, from the Salamander book. Burning. Across. All lands.)
The other day the weather went wrong, so I had to wear a Hawaiian shirt. I have been dreading this. Once, it was okay, to wear Hawaiian shirts. I would get them from Paradise Surplus, used but like new, actually came from Hawaii, sold for ridiculous prices like $2 or $5. But then the town burned down, and Paradise Surplus with it. The guy tried for a while to have a tubes store, but it didn’t really work out. So now it’s just one of hundreds of stores, that once was, but never, again, will be.
The building was small, but there were hundreds of thousands of items in there. It was like Merlin’s magic bag: seemingly minute, but with capacity infinite. You had to be careful moving around in there, because, if you oafed, your elbow, it might dislodge, hundreds of objects.
Sometimes, I see them, burning, in there. In Terrence Malick’s film Badlands, Kit Carruthers, who is Charlie Starkweather, who totally would have voted for the Kleagle, shoots and kills his girlfriend’s father, then burns down their house.
For this, Malick, actually burned down a house. Because, you know: Malick. The camera lingers over her childhood treasures, as the flames take them.
That’s what I see, in the surplus store. I wasn’t actually there. But I am. Like in Jeannie’s, the antique store, farther up the Skyway. I wasn’t in there either. But I am now. I see the flames, taking all those treasures. I see the flames coming for the two zebra finches too. For the cat. These locked. Trapped. In their cages. I see them burn. Hear them. Burn.
Months, months, more than a year later, when Jeannie’s reopened—now, a junk store, rather than an antique store; it had formerly thrived on estates; but now, where were the estates?; they had all burned; burned down; burned down, right to the ground—in a small sad lean-to, on a small stretch of unscarred Pearson, I asked the Jeannie’s guy: why, on that day, didn’t you come, for the cat, and the zebra finches? And he said, that when he came down, that morning, on the Skyway, at about 9:30 a.m., there were already so many flames. There were just; too many flames. And so. He turned around.
Yeah. Well. Yeah. Well.
I haven’t, since, been back.
Anyway. So no more Hawaiian shirts, from the surplus store. And no other store I know of knows how to have Hawaiian shirts, as did the surplus store. And the shirts I still have, some of them are getting kinda frayed. But so what. I’m kinda frayed too. And nobody really cares what sort of clothes a male wears anyway, so long as they cover the penis. The penis is Nasty, and therefore no one can look at it. To be neighborly, here among the humans, I try to hew to this convention. But sometimes it’s hard. Like right now I have these pajamas that are too big, and so I have to take a big hank of them, twist it, then tuck it inside the rest of pajamas, so the pajamas will remain on me, and not go to gravity, and fall down. But still sometimes when I go out on the porch to feed the animals, the pajamas, they fall down. And then: there is my penis. If a police happened to be driving by, he might see the penis, and then he would arrest me, and I would go to the penis jail. You know that where you are living, it is not enough rural, when on your porch your pajamas are falling down, and you must afear, the penis police. The police with whom I burned down: they would never arrest me, no matter how many penises I might fall down. But, since the fire, there are some new police here now. And: they: don't: Know.
Anyway. The reason why I have been dreading wearing Hawaiian shirts—besides the fact that means it’s too warm, it needs to be cool enough outside to wear a coat, and at all times, even and especially in August—is because boogaloo bois are now wearing them. Boogaloo bois are one of a numberless form of nazi birthed and encouraged by the Kleagle. Like all of his orcs, their minds are gone, their hearts are filled with Hate, and they are about killing people, and breaking things. And for reasons passeth understanding, these bois orc around in Hawaiian shirts. And I do not want anybody to see me in a Hawaiian shirt, and think I am one of them. Somebody so orced, they make Piltdown Man, seem like Albert Einstein
I have had this problem before. When the nazi gamer orcs went into Columbine to shoot it up, they wore black trenchcoats. It emerged that they considered themselves of “the black trenchcoat mafia.” And, after, if you wore a black trenchcoat, it was assumed you were of them. But I had been wearing black ankle-length wool coats many moons before these orcs, and I did not appreciate that they had appropriated my clothing. As with these Hawaiian shirt orcs, I wish people would just stay out of my clothes. I wear these clothes, because they are me. Not because, I’m out on an orc rampage.
It’s like when Peter Sellers fell out of the airplane, while arguing with Stanley Kubrick, and fortunately it was a fall of only fifteen feet, because it wasn’t a Real airplane, only a partial model of one, and it was in Shepperton Studios, rather than up in the air, but still in the fall Sellers broke his leg, and that meant in Dr. Strangelove he could no longer play Major Kong, because there was no way with a malfunctioned leg he could crawl around in the partial-plane cockpit, and so Kubrick hired Slim Pickens for the role, and when Pickens arrived at the studio, people looked at him, and thought: take a look at this guy, he showed up in costume. Except, no, that’s how Slim Pickens always dressed, he was pretty much Major Kong, at all times, though it is true that in his Normal life, he didn’t usually ride any nuke bombs or anything.
Sellers and Kubrick never fully reconciled, after that argument that broke the leg, and that is why in Kubrick’s next film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sellers did not appear as the monolith, as originally intended.
Pickens usually appeared in films directed by Sam Peckinpah, where he would be shot in the stomach. Once when Pickens was shot in the stomach, Bob Dylan, who was also in the film, though not shot in the stomach, he was viewing raw footage of Pickens, shot in the stomach, and sitting on a riverbank, waiting for death to come, and Dylan was seized by a Sad, and so he went off and wrote “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” So that’s where that song comes from.
Peckinpah, when once watching raw footage from the same film, though not the Slim-shot-in-the-stomach part, noted that the cheap bastards of the studio, in failing to fulfill his requests for the proper lenses and proper technicians, had caused several scenes to be filmed slightly out of focus. And so he stood on a folding chair, and, with his penis, he wildly urinated, all over the screen.
Also, there was yelling.
Dylan, who had never been in a movie before, turned to Kris Kristofferson, who had barely been in any movies, and asked: “Is this Normal?”
“What,” wondered Kristofferson, “is Normal?”
Another time, Peckinpah was lying around in his bed, in the motel room, drunk, hating himself, and he saw his reflection in the mirror, so he picked up his gun, and he shot himself, there, in the reflection. James Coburn came in, to see what the shooting was about, this time, and surveyed the scene. “That’s it, Sam,” he said. “You’ve found the end of the picture.” And so he had. And thus, in the film, after Pat Garrett shoots Billy The Kid, he catches sight of his reflection in the mirror, and he shoots that, too.
Coburn did Oscar-worthy work in that film, but of course he didn’t win one. The first problem was that no one saw the movie. When Peckinpah delivered his cut, the studio went insane: they hated it, and with all of their hearts, wished it had never been born. This was Normal, for a Peckinpah film. Generally, Peckinpah would fight for his films, and sometimes he would even win. Mostly. But, this time, after a time, he just gave up. Because he was just too drunken. So the studio went after the film with cleavers, jackhammers, chainsaws, and machetes, and released a thing that had no idea what it was. Then they dumped it in a drive-in, in Beaver Falls, Idaho. For a week. And, for the film's release, that was pretty much it.
People then laughed at Peckinpah, and they called him names. But he gave no shits. He said: Fine. For my next trick: Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. I will make a film about a guy who drives around drunk in Mexico with a severed head in the car, on the passenger seat, in a burlap sack, and there will be flies all over the sack, and the drunk will yell at the head, and push it around with his gun, but then he will feel bad, so he will give some whiskey, there to the head.
You think people didn’t see Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid?: they ran from Alfredo Garcia like Richard Pryor with his body on fire.
One day, during Pat Garrett, Peckinpah and Coburn were sitting around, going over scenes yet to shoot. And they figured they better go to this one that occurs when Coburn, as Garrett, reels out of this cantina, after inside humiliating three miscreants, and killing a fourth. Because that fourth miscreant, several months earlier, at Garrett, had Laughed. And so. He needed. To be. Dead.
So they start to set up the shot. Then a continuity person takes his life in his hands, and walks up to Peckinpah and says: “Sam, you already shot this scene.” “Like hell I did,” rumbled Peckinpah. But it was true. Peckinpah and Coburn had already shot the scene. But they had both been too drunken, then, to later remember it.
In this scene Coburn portrays a man too drunk to stand. And yet, he is walking. Sort of. You can see it, in the film. So, here, Coburn was not acting. Even, as he was. And, you know: generally, it’s best that way.
Dylan also wrote a song for that miscreant Garrett shot because of the Laughing—“Goodbye Holly”—but it didn’t get into the film, or even onto a record. Because it was just too drunken.
It’s available now, of course, because these days everything Dylan has ever sung, or even said, is available, out there, somewhere. You can even go to tubes where you can hear Dylan breathing. Picking his nose. Scratching his ass. That sort of thing. At some point there will no doubt be an All Bob All The Time tube. Maybe there already is.
Like all the Dylan songs, and breathings, these days Leaking out, the Peckinpah-approved version of Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, it has since been restored, and released, and is now generally recognized as the greatest drunkenness film of all time. You don’t have to actually be an alcoholic; you can just watch this film. As Paul Seydor writes:
One of the things the film embodies is that haze, that peculiar kind of edgelessness that alcohol induces and is in part consumed to induce. The distended rhythms, the utter lethargy with which everyone moves, the slowness with which they speak, the swollen pauses, the faces that come wearily into focus before the replies, the overall sense of drifting, of languor, apathy, and melancholy. It is precisely this quality—that is, an embodiment in the very style of what it is like to be continuously drunk—that led Richard Burton, no stranger to the abuse of alcohol, to once tell Peckinpah that if he ever directed Under the Volcano, he, Burton, would play the part of the consul for nothing.
But that film was never made. The best ones, never are. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.”
In Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, Bennie, the guy who drives around Mexico with the head in his car, at one point wears a Hawaiian shirt. But: not to worry. I don’t have a car.