AS EVER, BILL WHITTLE speaks the truth.
Maxence had once been a cutthroat but murdering was long behind him. Now, at 78, he was a bellman at the Marbol Hotel.
He was sitting on this dark night, 2 a.m., at the hotel bar sipping a Guinness Stout and talking to Bo the barman. Maxence’s shift had just ended, and big black LeRoy had taken over the baggage cart till 10 in the morning.
Maxence always ended his nights at the Marbol bar. Nobody was waiting at home. It was ever the same. He would talk to Bo a bit, and he would ponder the past even more. Maxence had been born in France — Sant-Amant, a small town south of Paris — and had been a mercenary man.
First, it was the Legion. Later, he freelanced.
After the second Guinness, perhaps even sooner, his thoughts always turned to Chloë Jomo-Gbomo, his long-gone lover from Sierra Leone who had been killed by a berserk jitney bus driven by a Mende man high on ganja along the main avenue of Freetown.
Maxence later killed that Mende man out of pure fury, but he didn’t feel any better for it because Chloë was still dead and gone. He cried and cried.
Maxence liked Guinness Stout because it was dark and savory like the women of the African men he murdered which was how he met Chloë Jomo-Gbomo.
Chloë’s man at that time had missed Maxence’s Jeep with a bazooka shell during a dustup in the Congo. Maxence’s aim was better with his .45.
Chloë dashed out of a nearby hut and kicked her man’s dead body and spit on it. Maxence knew right away there had been no love there, and Chloë was very beautiful. He immediately made her his own, and she was happy with that.
The two of them fled the Congo together and moved to Freetown where they lived six years in a third-floor walk-up. Chloë found work plaiting hair while Maxence drank blazing café and smoked Gauloises.
Nights were spent naked and sweaty under the ceiling fan.
Maxence drank Castle Lager in those days because Guinness Stout was not sold in Freetown. It didn’t matter, he thought, because he already had something dark and delicious with Chloë Jomo-Gbomo.
On Chloë’s free day they often picknicked at Siaka Stevens Park where they would spread a blanket under the African sun shaded by a cercropia tree.
They drank Castle and ate cans of cashews. And sandwiches.
He would rub her silky bare legs beneath the skirt of kuba cloth, and she would caress the scar on his cheek.
Our spirits call you ghosts, she said one day, white and unsolid. But the scar is a good thing because it proves you’re a protective man.
He fell deeply in love for the first time in his brutal life.
And then she was dead on the main drag of Freetown as the jitney driver tried to escape, but a jitney jammed with passengers makes a lousy getaway vehicle.
She had only stepped out for a pack of Gauloises.
Maxence wandered some years through Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean picking up piecemeal murders till one day he realized he was too old for that game. He retired to hotels, luggage and tips.
The Marbol was a good gig, and he intended to stay as long as they’d let him.
Later, he would kill himself. He knew the ropes.
Another Guinness, Bo.
Coming up, Max.
* * * *
(The above is an excerpt from the longest and strangest thing I’ve ever written, The Old Marbol — Skullduggery in Dark City and Beyond, which was published hereabouts perhaps a decade ago. I just reread it for the first time in a very long time, was impressed with myself, so I put this here. The Old Marbol contains a cast of bizarre characters rivaled only by those in the famous barroom scene in the first Star Wars movie. Maybe I’ll do more excerpts here in the future.)
RIGHT-WING FRENCH politician Marine Le Pen opines: There is no more Left or Right. There are only Globalists or Nationalists.
I think she is right, no pun intended. But those labels are another, fresher way, of saying Left and Right.
The key issue is multiculturalism, the diversity thing. It you favor it, you’re on the Left, a Globalist. If you oppose it, as I do, you’re on the Right, a Nationalist.
Multiculturalism has been the rage in elitist, left-wing circles for decades, and its heavy hand inspired the backlash that has Donald Trump heading to the Oval Office. Perhaps he can knock a little sense into our heads.
Multiculturalism was seeded in the 1960s, a hippie thing. It’s Utopian, idealistic, lovely to imagine, dreamy-eyed, and totally unworkable. Like socialism-communism.
It birthed the curse of Political Correctness.
In the real world, people embrace their differences, their individuality, with a vengeance. We love what separates us, what makes us think we’re better than others.
Obama’s a Globalist. Trump’s a Nationalist. The next eight years will be fun as Globalists collide with reality.
I like the new labels.
BEING A SHARING sort of fellow, I thought it would be nice to show these photos from ancient history. You may have seen one or more before because, frankly, my memory ain’t so good, and never has been.
This first shot shows me kissing my parakeet. One must kiss parakeets to keep them content. I look to be about 8 years old.
I remember that chair, and I know where the photo was shot. It had only been about a year since my mother, father, sister and I had left Granny’s farm in Georgia and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where my father got back into the newspaper business after his six-year failed attempt to make it as a pulp-magazine writer.
We moved first into an old second-floor walk-up on Osceola Street, but we didn’t stay there but a few months. Then we moved into a much nicer, two-story rental nearby on Herschel Street. It had a huge yard to play in. That photo above was taken in the living room on Herschel.
I’m licensed to fly small planes if they don’t have more than one propeller. I guess two propellers would confuse me. No matter. I do not fly anymore even though the license is still good.
But it clearly was in my genes as evidenced by the second photo, which was taken, well, I do not remember. Nary a clue. I don’t appear to be much older than I was when I kissed that parakeet.
Flash forward a few years. We had moved from Herschel Street across the St. Johns River to the bedroom community of Arlington where my parents bought a humble, one-story, three-bedroom ranch house painted aquamarine at 2030 Cesery Boulevard.
This photo was from the Senior Prom at Terry Parker High School in 1961, but I was not a senior. My date was, and I was stepping into the lurch. She lived just around the corner from us and her scheduled date had backed out at the last minute after she’d bought her prom dress.
Her mother spoke to my mother who spoke to me, and the next thing I knew I was in a white coat and black pants and posing for a photo before a paddle boat on some distant Southern river reeking of magnolias.
Her name is Johna and she is now retired from a career with the Duval County Sheriff’s Department in Florida.
The following year I was a senior, but I skipped the prom.
I thought I was a Beatnik by then.
I was 16 in the prom photo, and I am 19 here, standing with my roommate in our barracks at Castle Air Force Base outside Merced, California. The other guy was Adrian Landres who was not wrapped too tightly and later was discharged for psychiatric reasons.
He was a year older than me, and about five years ago I saw his obituary online. There was no mention of the cause of death.
Adrian and I were two of a group of three guys who were quite tight during my Air Force time in California. I lost track of Adrian in the late 1970s because he was not a communicator.
The third of the trio was Gilbert Gorodiscas who had been born in Sant Amant, France, and migrated to America at the age of 14.
Both of these guys were Jewish.
Here are the three of us sitting atop an Indian trike motorcycle in the yard of Adrian’s parents in Redondo Beach, California, in 1964. The trike belonged to Adrian. That’s me on the right and Gilbert behind striking his best French fop pose, which he did often, especially for the ladies.
Never did him much good.
Gilbert married a woman he met during a stopover in New Orleans on his way to a base in the Caribbean where they lived for a spell. She was a sultry, New Orleans, Latina “Yat,” who are the people who live in the city’s Ninth Ward. They’re famous for asking: “Where y’at?”
I was living in New Orleans by that time, going to the university, and I introduced the two of them. Her name was Joanie Ruiz.
Joanie’s daddy was a Dixie Beer truck driver, and I loved visiting her parents’ Ninth Ward shotgun because daddy kept a second fridge jam-packed with Dixie Beer which he got free, so you could drink all you wanted on sweltering summer days, or any day, for that matter.
They divorced about a decade later, proving yet again that multiculturalism usually ends badly. He was a blond European Jew, and she was a Catholic Yat, but he still lives in New Orleans, running his own chemical-supply company, something he’s done for decades.
Jews are good at business.
Joanie remarried, but he never did.
* * * *
In the late 1960s, my first wife, my daughter and I were living in New Orleans, and Adrian came to visit, riding a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle all the way from Redondo Beach.
He stayed with us for a time, but his habit of lounging around the apartment in his underwear did not sit well with my wife, understandably, so we had to ask him to leave, and he got his own place where he lived a few months, driving a Yellow Cab for cash, before returning to the West Coast.
In the mid-1970s, I was passing through Southern California, and I visited Adrian. He had married a woman whose two front teeth were missing, and they were living with his parents in Moorpark. Adrian was working as a projectionist in a movie theater, the only occupation I ever knew him to have outside the Air Force.
After that visit, we totally lost touch.
Lastly and many years later, the late 1980s, I’m standing with my father inside a Farmer’s Market in Atlanta, Georgia. This was about three years before he died in 1991 at age 75 of a heart attack. Though he failed to realize his youthful dream of being a pulp-magazine writer, he did become an excellent — famous even — haiku poet in his last years.
And with that, we’ll close the photo album for now.