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Monday, 21 November 2011

Tales Once Told at the Heartbreak Hotel


The Day of God (Mahana na arua): Paul Gauguin, 1894 (Art Institute of Chicago)

Stories Told by the Shores of the Lakes of Africa

While the cash-green palm fronds sway, tears round as coconuts tumble out of their eyes and roll down their gleaming breasts, finally toppling over when they reach the nipples, like big drops hitting the headlights of a Porsche streaming down the Pacific Coast Highway in the rain.

Character Is Fate

God was a woman. Mary was, frankly, God, John said. Yes, she was God; that was all there was to it. Falling in love with her had been like a religious conversion, John said. But you should not make a god out of another person. John was later to find this out the hard way.

Life Among the Canyons

Life among the canyons of Los Angeles. Explorers in jodhpurs and jungle hats drink gin slings on the porches of huts built on stilts. Cars pour up the freeway in the rain like homing salmon, ahead of the full lash of storm tilting in from the Pacific. Arriving home, we hear the women laugh. They run to fasten down the mats and hatches of batting and bamboo, their skin-covered breasts flashing as the water streams down them. We will give them diamonds and record contracts and they will sit for paintings. Our portraits of them will end up in a museum whose architectural character is geometrical and unfriendly. The curator will be twenty-nine years old and from the East.

Death, Revenge and The Profit Motive

Death is good, revenge is a waste of time, and who ever thought up the profit motive didn’t understand either of those things, John said, tipping his head back to pour another drink into it. He was paying twelve hundred dollars a month to keep Mary in a glass and redwood shack with a hot tub in the hippest canyon in town, he said. And now she wouldn’t even talk to him, and – he said – he was dying. “But only to get even!”

Heartbreak Hotel

Heartbreak Hotel is located among the abandoned oil derricks of Venice, California, on Feb. 15, 1954. It is a small bungalow with a white picket fence. A man in a dirty undershirt stands in an open window staring at us. Suddenly a chill wind blows across the oily surface of the grey canal. We look up into the sky, which has no color at all. It frightens us and we turn to leave but as we begin to run, our first footsteps are drowned in the loud strains of “Heartbreak Hotel,” which the man in the window is singing in the window of the Heartbreak Hotel.

View from the Dunes with Beach and Piers, Domburg
: Piet Mondrian, 1909 (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

TC: five tales from Heartbreak Hotel, 1981


aditya said...

These are very very beautiful Tom. A joy to read. A poet speaking with sheer sincerity thru this seemingly never-subsiding casualness.

I wonder how easy how difficult-ly these tales 'came' to you.

Top notch stuff. To get even-

more on Jodhpur


TC said...

Dear Aditya, you will hear more of that blue city dotted with green, before the world is over, gods willing.

The tales took a long while to write, and then longer still to carve down into these mini-versions.

But time is not of the essence, as I'm sure you know. (Until it is, that is.)

Once one thought one had plenty of it, in fact all the time in the world. Now one does not, so much.



"We look up into the sky, which has no color at all" --


light orange of clouds above still black
ridge, shadowed towhee standing on table
in foreground, waves sounding in channel

position of what thought is
in relation to, there

it seems too, exact balance,
forward motion beyond

grey rain cloud against shadowed ridge,
silver of drops splashing into channel

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Book me a room!

With views like this, what more
Could a vagrant like me ask for?

TC said...


That shadowed towhee standing on the table

seems too, [to have] exact balance

in between the splashy raindrops.


You are welcome to share my cardboard pallet in the broom closet any time.

The prodigious bedbugs may be epic in their boldness, but the tiny lyric lice will break your heart.

Elmo St. Rose said...

Hoyt Axton's mother wrote
the song "Heartbreak Hotel"
in Broken Bow Oklahoma
one of the places on the
"Trail of Tears"

somewhat but not quite
a non sequitor

TC said...

Hello St Elmo,

There's a quite a lot of legend goes with the song.

"Official" credits go to Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.

It's been widely reported that Tommy Durden actually wote the song himself, and was performing it long before it was credited.

In any case, Mae, then a high school teacher in Jacksonville, claimed a credit.

She has 200 songs to her name. She became known as "The Queen Mother of Nashville," in fact.

She lived to be 82 and died of a heart attack in 1997, in her hot tub in Hendersonville, Tennesee.

Mae's son Hoyt, in his turn, sang and recorded it.

Here is:

Hoyt Axton lip-synching Heartbreak Hotel, 1990.

aditya said...

This post is worth a fortune Tom.

Pure magic.

I keep coming back to it. Its worth a fortune as I say.

Who who is even Rimbaud, for a piece like this?