I was reading Richard Brautigan's "A Confederate General From Big Sur" today on the train. I thought I should share this excerpt.
Even before Lee Mellon made the old place his official San Francisco headquarters in the spring of years ago, the building was already occupied by an interesting group of tenants. I lived alone in the attic.
There was a sixty-one-year-old retired music teacher who lived in the room right underneath the attic. He was Spanish and about him like a weather-vane whirled the traditions and attitudes of the Old World.
And he was in his own way, the manager. He had appropriated the job like one would find some old clothes lying outside in the rain, and decide that they were the rgiht size and after they had dried out, they would look quite fashionable.
The day after I moved into the attic, he came upstairs and told me that the noise was driving him crazy. He told me to pack my things quickly and go. He told me that he'd had no idea I had such heavy feet when he rented the place to me. He looked down at my feet and said, "They're too heavy. They'll have to go."
I had no idea either when I rented the attic from the old fart. It seems that the attic had been vacant for years. With all those years of peace and quiet, he probably thought that there was a meadow up there with a warm, gentle wind blowing through the wild flowers, and a bird getting hung up above the trees along the creek.
I bribed his hearing with a phonograph record of Mozart, something with horns, and that took care of him. "I love Mozart," he said, instantly reducing my burden of life.
I could feel my feet beginning to weigh less and less as he smiled at the phonograph record. It smiled back. I now weighed a trifle over seventeen pounds and danced like a giant dandelion in his meadow.
The week after Mozart, he left for a vacation in Spain. He said that he was only going to be gone for three months, but my feet must continue their paths of silence. He said he had ways of knowing, even when he wasn't there. It sounded pretty mysterious.
But his vacation turned out to be longer than he had anticipated because he died on his return to New York. He died on the gangplank, just a few feet away from America. He didn't quite make it. His hat did though. It rolled off his head and down the gang-plank and landed, plop, on America.
Poor devil. I heard that it was his heart, but the way the Chinese dentist described the business, it could have been his teeth.
Though his physical appearance was months away, Lee Mellon's San Francisco headquarters were now secure. They took the old man's things away and the room was empty.
Isn't it strange? The syntax is unexpected, the language is elusive and yet there is this mysterious childlike quality. I suspect that I have been deprived of books for too long; I've become much too easy to impress.