Michel of the Moor

Susan Brown was the best friend a man could ever have. I have tried to honor her in some of these glass pages. I have written about our life together. Parts of it may have read like a True Confessions magazine, I hope not, but what the hell, I took that risk.

We had money and we were broke, we travelled the world and we were hermits, we loved and we fought. I forgot it some of the time, but I loved her more than anyone else in my crazy life. One thing I do know — she deserved better than me. That thought must have occurred to her too, but — and this is the truly amazing part, she stayed with me and put up with my bullshit for thirty-four years. If that doesn’t deserve a medal, nothing does.

Susan Brown was the best.

She supported me while I wrote the Great American Novel, which turned out to be the Not-So-Great Australian Novel with the unmarketable title of ‘Nerve Sprike Tan.’

The title derived from the Australian expression ‘He’ll ever nerve sprike tan the waze goane,’ which is how an Australian says, ‘He’ll have a nervous breakdown the way he’s going.’ I took the phrase from a book written in 1965 called Let Stalk Strine (‘Let’s talk Australian’) about the hurried speech patterns of many Aussies. The book was written by a guy calling himself Afferbeck Lauder, which itself is an example of Aussie speak, and translates as ‘Alphabetical order,’ and was the pseudonym of Alastair Morrison (who died in 1998 at a good age of 86.)

My book began with a story about a French aristocrat, Guillaume Michel, who fled to England during the French Revolution to save his neck and established his own business in southwest England on the English Moor — holding up stagecoaches on the London to Exeter road and stealing passengers’ valuables. He soon became notorious, and wanted posters were tacked up throughout North Devon, West Somerset and Dartmoor:

WANTED for Banditry on the high road. Mask’d & Well Dressed. MICHEL OF THE MOOR. Armed with Sword and Pistols. 50 Guinness Reward!

Susan Brown was the best

Michel of the Moor lived well. Until he was captured and hanged in Devon County Gaol in Exeter. Before that, however, he had sired, by way of a buxom lady, a daughter, who, after the execution, and a modification of her name, travelled to Australia with her mother. And thus was established the Michelmore clan in the Land Down Under. The story may have been a load of Aussie bull but my grandmother swore it was true.

The novel went on to recount my life in that sun-baked land — my father stopping by my elementary school and taking me out of class to go to country race meetings with him; his death when I was eleven; the death of my older brother in a car crash six months later at the age of 24, and the guilt and remorse of his best friend who was driving the car; and other stuff.

The manuscript found an agent and did the rounds in New York City publishing houses and I ‘took meetings’ and ‘did lunches’ and received some excellent feedback, but in the end, bupkus! It was passed over (one publisher called it ‘too ambitious’ — wtf!). And that was the name of that tune. I could have continued to flog the book but I went onto something more enjoyable — playing the horses.

But I digress… and now I’ve forgotten where I was going with this — except to say, Susan, wherever you are (and I do hope you are Somewhere), thank you for staying with me all those years, and forgive me for all my craziness and for the times I didn’t treat you right. I will love you forever, or at least until the day they hang me, or I hang myself, whichever comes first.


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The storm of life

The coming of the storm had been broadcast with as much fervor as doomsday prognosticators announcing the Second Coming of Christ.

And when you had given up all hope of its arrival, from out of the black sky suddenly flashed the lightning and the thunder crashed.

You had been waiting for the storm like a husband awaits the arrival of a plane carrying his wife who has been away too long. 

You hoped your wife would come down with the rain.

Admittedly she would be drenched but it was like when you lived in Miami Beach and she was taking the bus home from work (where was the car? in the shop perhaps) and suddenly the sky opened and the rain came down and she took shelter in a bar near the bus stop and phoned you to say she would be late for cocktail hour because she was going to wait in the bar for the storm to end and you grabbed an umbrella and walked to the bar in the rain and sat down next to her and you had several cocktails and waited for the storm to pass.

And on this night, thirty years later as you listen to the rain on the roof and the wind blow, you wait for the phone to ring so you can grab an umbrella and walk to the bar and be with your wife until the storm passes, but the phone doesn’t ring and you sit there and listen to the rain. And you wait.

What are you waiting for?


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Not a breath of air

Not a breath of air.

The humidity’s high and I am low. It’s two-thirty in the morning and I cannot sleep. The windows are open but there is not a breath of air. There is no air conditioning in the house. The cat is stretched out on the hardwood floor. It is cooler down there.

A storm is on the way, coming across from the northern Plains, due here Saturday. Maybe cooler then, maybe not. ‘Cooler, Hilts, ten days.’ ‘That’s Captain Hilts.’ ‘Twenty days.’ If The Great Escape was on right now I’d watch it. But it’s not so I write this— whatever it is.

The older I get, the less I can stand humidity. In the 1980s my wife and I lived in Miami. The days of Miami Vice and Sonny Crockett when the humidity was high and so was I, so were we both.

We had air conditioning down there, of course, but in Upstate New York it’s not essential. Nights and days as stifling as this aren’t that frequent. May is kind of early for it. July and August are the worst of course, but then autumn is just a couple of weeks away.

I do love the Fall. The Fall and Rise of the American Empire. America was a better place when I had my very own American woman. She had a big heart and I was inside it.

She is not with me now. I don’t know where she is. In another world I hope. Perhaps the spirit world. In another dimension in the multiverse. But God I wish she was with me now. That’s why I am low.

I don’t normally do this at this hour, but since I cannot sleep I will make myself a gin and tonic, with three ice cubes. 

The cat will rise and come and sit by me, thinking it’s either a very late or very early cocktail hour. I will wait for the first light and the departure of demons. Maybe then I’ll be able to sleep.

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