So by the time I got back from the men's room, hands still wet cause they’d run out of towels, Tom and Tom had stopped paying each other back-handed compliments and were about to engage in fisticuffs
. Or so it seemed.
"Your anal-retentive soy-intolerant upstate-loving nocturnally-ambulatory extra-wide-load momma!" screamed Pynchon, quite uncharacteristically I thought.
Boyle, pissed as American Standard, face white as new porcelain in a movie star’s mouth, squinted that flinty working-class lunacy he’s got worked out so well and let fly with the old chestnut:
"In a porcine mammal’s exquisitely scarlet mugwump-humping eye, entro-manure!"
He raised his Pilsner Urquell in a decidedly threatening manner, thought better of blasting a living legend nobody’s even seen in twenty years upside the head, and chugged it down.
Their uneaten pizza sat before them like a psychedelic chess board. I knew it would be the perfect souvenir if nobody puked on it. Pynchon sipped his Pernod, silent, wishing it were absinthe, no doubt. We could practically watch his famous mind work its number-crunching madness. If this were tennis, we’d be at deuce and he’d have his balls in his hand.
You had to be there, wasted on acid words and alcohol, watching these literary lions get it on, like Norman Mailer had never split the scene, like Hemingway was back in fighting trim and the South-Southeastern California Bicentennial Black Humour Fiction Writers’ Workshop and Occasional Clam Bake had him, for one night only.
Tommy the C. gave the old prose-master props straight up, no question about that. He had asked him to sign his used paperback copy of Gravity’s Rainbow, the one without the cover, not on the flyleaf, but at his favorite chapterhead, where Brigadier General Pudding goes down on Domina Nocturna, eating her exquisitely resolved actressy excrement, remembering Paschendale, wishing he were young again. Where the pages were stuck together.
Pynchon, to give him his due, was respectful of World’s End as well. Didn’t he go to school upstate? Wasn’t he, really, when you came right down to it, a Friend of the Earth too? Motherfucker? Eh?
I found myself thinking about having to breathe, never a good thing. Last time I was this excited, I was getting my ass kicked in a full contact totally obscure Filipino martial arts contest and hating every minute of it. What made this so oddly different?
Words. The two of them were drunk again on words and it was like watching a train wreck dreamed by Michelangelo, having finished the Pieta.
In the old days, the literary days (not to be confused with the new days, the sound-bit, televised, shrink-wrapped picture-perfect today and tomorrow days), in the days so oft-bemoaned by folks who were never there, embittered, most of them, by the speed of life and the methodical meander of words that mean to represent it, in the old days this co-mingling of Toms, this clash of titans, this complicitous cacophony of comradely comeuppance would have, probably, ended badly.
But the fact is, it didn’t. It didn’t end at all.
She came back from the bathroom, turned her chairback to the table, straddled it, skirt beautifully lady-like upon strong and comely thighs, fingered a naked slice of pepperoni in perpetual check and said:
"You boys miss me?"