Monday, April 16, 2007

The Balderdash Is Usually Beautiful

Better writers and those who more deeply felt Vonnegut's pull have written well of him and what his loss means, so I won't try to do that. But I will write about his house. In Iowa City at the top of Van Buren Street (and it really is uphill, even in Iowa, promise) sits the house pictured above, with a pretty good sized plot of land about it, featuring a barn into which you can fit a lot of people making an impromptu drum circle (mostly without drums), but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back when I lived in Iowa City in the mid-80s, every May Day--in that spring fling abandonment dance about the May Pole way, not the workers unite or Haymarket Square or Red Square way--there was a huge party at what was called the Vonnegut House, although, from what I can figure Googling, he only lived in it for a couple of years in the late 1960s. Still, the house had a spirit, and that wasn't just because the people who lived there mostly dropped acid for the party (yes, even in the 1980s--it's a college town with a history of creativity, ok?). Now, drinking has always been my drug of choice, so I didn't do that, but I didn't really have to--you could pretty much get a contact psychedelicized high just by being there. Always a bonfire, as it was Iowa and even though May Day is about spring, that doesn't mean spring is about necessarily on May first. Lots of young folks, lots of drinking, lots of options in the air. It was truly charged, and it's hard not to feel that some Vonnegut spirit was present, that absolute need to laugh for humans are so terrifically beautifully absurd and otherwise too easily brilliantly mean.

And the one year, many of us crammed into the barn and started beating. You really can't call it a drum circle, as maybe 4 of 50 had drums, and a circle implies an order our various states of glossy inebriation wouldn't have allowed even if we had such an urge. But we all found sticks or tools or bottles and then found things that echoed well when tapped or thwacked, and somehow it all took a shape. What's more we would follow leads, hushing and crashing, tripling and soothing, cresting and coasting like we were one.

Kurt, thanks for one evening as long as it lasted when a bunch of freaks kept wild time and knew they knew each other, if only in this way no one could explain, but you knew that, that's why you kept writing and hoping, for what else is writing.

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Blogger Mike said...

Cool. Now that's a good story.

Were you there in the 80s for the Writer's Workshop, or the writing program at IU? Everyone I know who's ever been in Iowa City liked it.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Queen Whackamole said...

Stomp: A Novel


8:17 AM  

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