Thursday, May 1, 2008


We are sitting in a rather splendid working-class Mexican restaurant in Carpinteria, its succulent and tasty dishes matching the concern of the owner and his wife, who hover, asking if everything is all right to the point where both Conrad and I exclaim, "Formidable!" Whereupon the patron demands to see Conrad's license, lest he have to pay a fine for serving beer to a minor. The well-intended humor puts us in a rather boyish mood which lasts until Conrad remembers something, dips into the pocket of his rumpled Madras jacket, and extracts a print-out of an email from Chris Buckley, to Conrad's eldest son, whom I have taken to calling BC3 Conrad's portrait, a charcoal of the elder Buckley was a vibrant likeness which Buckley in life enjoyed and kept in his study. Chris reported that the portrait was placed above the Buckley casket at the wake, then remarks, Aren't we lucky to have such splendid fathers--please send my love to your Dad. It is a quiet, lovely moment, and we are both silent while allowing it to sink in, my own thoughts taking a contrapuntal path, first of all to Jake, my own father whom I feel fortunate to have had, but also to the fear that if Conrad and I remain silent and contemplative much longer, we will edge over into the terrain of the maudlin, muddying the rest of our time together. An immediate search and rescue mission is launched i my mind.

"Listen" I say, as one can only say to a friend, "You've got to stop doing those portraits of people you care about. You did John Steinbeck and Christopher Isherwood, and Jose Ferrer and Kenneth Rexroth, and look what happened. They're all dead."

He regards me for a moment, fumbles in his Madras, extracts a trail of tidbits he has torn from various magazines and newspapers, and a black felt-tipped pen, whereupon he seizes a napkin and before long my scraggly eyebrows begin to appear in a likeness exquisite enough to delight any voodoo practitioner. "Stop!" I protest loudly, my hand covering my stomach. "Already I can feel trouble brewing."

El Patron is over in a moment. "Everything is bien?"

"This kid," I say, indicating Conrad. "Este nino. Un cuarandero."

"Hokay," says El Patron, "So long as it is not the food."


R.L. Bourges said...

nino cuarandero: muy bien. Confirmo.

Bureau of Public Secrets said...

For those who may be interested, there are a lot of Kenneth Rexroth writings at