COLUMN THIRTY-NINE, NOVEMBER 1, 1998
(Copyright © 1998 Al Aronowitz)
THE SAGA OF MANUEL MENÉNDEZ (CONT'D.)
PART 4: MANUEL FINDS A LOVE LIFE
Again, I'll let Manuel's email do the telling:
Monday, April 27, 1998.
. . .I got this Saturday the best lay I can remember. You were right, hookers do have a heart, and when I do die, soon I hope, that afternoon would go down with me into an unmarked grave on Potter's Field, after the Medicine students had picked my bones clean. But who cares, old friend? I lived in that hour as much as in a meaningless year, I was fucked the head out of my wits, and every tiny detail, a flavor, a smell, still lingers on my nostrils and my mouth. Please tell me if you received the stuff. I'll try to recover a photo someone took from me at Madame Tussaud's, in the infamous company of Lenin.
Write. Loves you:
* * *
Saturday, May 2, 1998:
No, I didn't witness Calabaza's raffle, the same way I didn't see Elegua's shooting by firing squad. They are just figments of my imagination, perhaps more real than reality itself, poetic licenses I took, for the sake of that book I doubt I'll ever finish.
Don't worry: I fooled shrewd Tom Shroder himself [editor of the Miami Herald's Tropic supplement], he who reads 50 mss a day at the Herald. That's the good thing about my writing, that people just don't know where reality starts or imagination takes hold, 'cause I don't know myself. Everything is so diluted in the mass of my tortured brain. There's more on your way to air it on your website, I owe you that story about gambling in Cuba, it just needs polishing a bit.
* * *
Monday, May 4, 1998.
. . .I read in this week's TIME magazine an extremely interesting article called "The Viagra Mania." It's a pill that cures impotence in 80% or more of the cases. I'll send you the story. I couldn't screw my hooker Michele this weekend: my salary wasn't deposited in my bank account, meaning that all my checks are going to bounce: the rent, my VISA, and the huge telephone bill.
Take care and tell if the Arenas essay arrived. Loves you:
* * *
Saturday, May 9, 1998.
It fucks me up, bothers me, irks me that you got in hock for a grand, you who live on a paltry Social security check, to give a homage to Ginsby, the same guy who called everyone on the phone from his deathbed, and even sent money to many of them, and wouldn't even call you to say goodby, you who hyped him in the Post when he was a nobody.
And the same token applies to old Bobby Dylan, he who slept on your sofa, and whom your late wife cooked for, when he was making his bones at Gerde's Folk City. What did he write? "Of all the money that in my whole life I did spend/ be it mine right of wrongfully/ I let it slip gladly to my friends/ to tie the time more forcefully..."
Bullshit, tightfisted kike that he is. How much did he give for the Ginsberg homage? Did he offer to appear on the stage? No way. Fuck him, Mr. Al.
This last week I had my own test of treachery, a quote-unquote Ecuadoran friend lost his asylum appeal, and was evicted by the Pakistani landlord, so he asked me to sleep in my room until the return flight. No problem, I told him. Anyway I work the night shift, you can sleep here. Take any food or booze you want from the fridge. He went away without saying goodby, didn't even leave a note. And I just received a letter from British Telephone: he made long distance calls worth 179 pounds, that's roughly $300 US, enough to feed my family in Cuba for a couple of months. I'm surviving this month thanks to that VISA card, that plastic money I despise. Fuck me up real good.
But, ah, well, what can you expect? I'll never profit from experience, we are suckers, both of us. By the way, have you heard about this Viagra pill that cures impotence in 80% of the cases? Seems it's the rage in the States, and that it really works. Haven't seen my hooker Michele for three weeks now: I'm broke, and will be next month too.
* * *
Monday, May 11, 1998.
No, you ain't no kike, you're just a secular Jew. You only take the insult to provoke me, and that's good: you're my intellectual sparring partner, as well as my statutory father. But your old friend Bobby is a Circumcised-Barmitzwahed-Born-Again-Christian-Son-of-a-bitch. I respect his art until 1972, before he went in absolute decline. But I don't hate him, despite what he did to me: I just despise him. He ain't even on my hit list:
1) Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2) Fidel Castro Ruz
3) William Jefferson Clinton
4) Rev. Jesse Jackson
5) Bill Gates
6) Vladimir Zhirinowsky
7) Winnie Madikizela Mandela
8) Pierre Elliot Trudeau
9) Muammar Gadaffi
10) Ayatolah Ali Khamenei,
Etc. If I only could gun down just one of them, I wouldn't have lived in vain. But to more terrestrial matters: What was wrong with Arena's essay? The punctuation? Tell me ASAP, perhaps I can fix it from here.
* * *
Tuesday, May 12, 1998.
The essay about Reinaldo Arenas is based on absolute, real truth. I read everything he ever wrote, didn't like it, though. Except his autobiography: "Before Darkness Comes," which is a book that everybody that still holds Castro sacred should read. How much he suffered, only to succumb to AIDS and take his own life at 42. I wish I had the negatives of the photos of him that I had, originals, that I lost during my debacle, incarceration and deportation from Canada.
With him dead, I happen to be the greatest writer of my generation, by default: there's no one else. Perhaps inside Cuba, someone writing in pencil cause typewriters are deemed subversive.
I'm reviewing the text, to see if I can salvage the punctuation: that's the problem of being a bilingual writer, and I'll write, without much hope, to Jon Kral the photographer of the Miami Herald, to bother him again for the negatives of Arenas.
* * *
Subject: Arenas, final.
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 02:57:10 PDT
From: "manuel menendez"
Thursday, May 14, 1998.
Dear Mr. John:
Don't worry about me sending around to you letters to other people. Sorry for the cynegetic comparison, but that way I kill two or three birds with the same stone. My "Caro Maestro" is Mr. Al Aronowitz, my intellectual sparring partner and statutory father. It's not by any means an intrusion on my life. You see, I have nothing to hide, so I share my rambling thoughts with all my friends, you one of the best. Mr. Al was a reporter at "The New York Post" in the roaring Sixties, the mentor of Bob Dylan and friend of The Beatles. Don't pay attention to our never-ending racial diatribes: I just goad him on one of his favorite themes. I enclose to you and to him what I hope the definitive version of "The Crucifixion of Reinaldo Arenas." I only wish there were a way of circulating it inside the island.
Thanks for sending the money to Josefina, my beloved sister. Did you go yourself down there, to Cuba? If so, I would like to know your latest impressions. I have sent scores of letters, to her and the rest of my family, and postcards of that British saint, Princess Diana, but none arrives.
Please answer, you are a very good correspondent, something rare nowadays, when epistolography, even electronic, is a dead art.
* * *
Thursday, May 14, 1998.
I enclose what I hope it's the definitive version of "The Crucifixion of Reinaldo Arenas." Sorry I don't have the beautiful B&W photos I lost during my debacle in Canada. No matter, it stands on its own, the best piece I ever wrote, a scholarly essay of sorts. Please e-mail me. I'm getting along very well with my hooker, Michele, she doesn't charge me any fee, whatever I give her is as a present. Perhaps because she likes to be licked and I'm one of the best cunt suckers in the Western hemisphere.
Please answer ASAP if you did receive Arenas', and the punctuation was kosher.
Your statutory son, who doesn't need a Freudian analyst to love you, like your own offspring:
* * *
Thursday, May 14, 1998.
Fuck this e-mail, Maestro. I just wrote a long letter to you, and vanished into incoherent cyberspace, so I have to write it all over again. You asked me who John Conroy is. A Canadian well-to-do retiree, about 67, with a penchant for young. . . He takes money to my sister whenever he goes to Cuba.
My whore, Michele, comes here almost for free because I'm one of the best cunilinguists alive, and she loves it. Whatever money I give to her it's just a gift, a token. If you do know, tell me about "Viagra," seems to be a rage in the States, the magic bullet against impotence. It works on 77-years-old, why not on me, at 49?
Glad you received the Arenas' MS with the correct punctuation. I want to read it again but in your column. I don't dare to write more: computers are unreliable.
* * *
Thursday, May 21, 1998.
Dear Mr. John:
Are you angry with me for any reason? You never answered my last e-mail, which included an essay, "The Crucifixion of Reinaldo Arenas," whom I aspire to surpass as the greatest writer of my generation, those born in Cuba in the 40s. By default: I'm the only one who could fill the vacuum.
My brother-in-law, Amado, is in Havana right now. He's a very keen internist. Was summa cum laude in a class of almost 300 new doctors. Specialized in internal medicine, not because he wanted---his real vocation was Hematology, his father died of leukemia---but the Public Health Ministry assigned him that specialty. He is doctor to his marrow bone, those blessed with the power of diagnosing at first sight, something based in a broad knowledge, but a process that's intuitive. Like Sinuhe The Egyptian.
To the extent that he was sent to the remotest part of Cuba, Baracoa, in the Oriente sticks, and he returned with kudos, to the best hospital in Cuba, the "Ameijeiras," you know it, right there in Havana's Malecon. Sent to Angola, South Yemen, Ethiopia, and then to Dominican Republic, where he defected. He is so good that he took over half of a private clinic, and people wait a fortnight to see him instead of the other doctors. Unshakable faith. Total trust.
Cem Baykara, my Turkish friend, went there, and he tells me marvelous stories: he is just like a "cacique" in Barahona, drives a brand new Mazda with special plates, and lives in the best house in the whole city.
I was scared of him being detained at the airport, since after all he defected. But so far he has had no problems at all. Once more with my sister Josefina, whom you know, and their son Ariel, a man already at 17, but pining for his Dad. I'm very happy for them.
As for me, the news are not so good: on June the 26th all of us are going to be laid off. Right now we are about 100 monitors, only 15 will be left. You see, for a whole year the bastardds have been working on a computer program that can recognize the adverts automatically, so that we now are superfluous. Like good poker players they kept the cards near to their chest, and only told us at the last minute.
Had I known beforehand about this debacle I could have gone to the bank, and get a mortgage, and buy this rooming house and run it myself. But now's too late for that.
Ah well, no use on crying over withered wreaths. Somehow I will survive on the dole, humiliating as it is. And all that paperwork!
Take care and answer, you have no excuse not to.
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