And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – Nevermore!
After a week of performing everyday at a poetry festival in Kent, Ohio, I got on a Greyhound bus exhausted and settled in for the ten-hour journey. Akron, Youngstown, Pittsburgh, along the rivers of the Golden Triangle, climbing into the stony hills, then up and over the Allegheny Mountains, down through the pass at Bedford. On the road to attend my Forest Park High School class reunion in Balamer, Murlin (Baltimore, Maryland). "Let's get together. We'll celebrate," the invitation said. "It won't be a party without you. Kosher or special dietary meals upon request."
Most of my fellow classmates were even fatter and even more overdressed than they had been back then. When they got depressed those that didn't go to psychiatrists and/or eat, it appeared, went to jewelers. Had these oldies ever been newies? Years ago someone had written a book called something like Is There Life after High School? And I felt for many of them there had not. I would even bet a lot of them still kept their lacrosse sticks. Yet why had I come back? If you had gone to high school like this, you spent the next half-century existentially questioning your bravery. How come, you think, I didn't have the nerve of those boys at Columbine, the grit of a Timothy McVeigh? It all reminded me of a bit of doggerel I had read at the poetry festival:
Women used to send me
Photos of themselves
Now they send me
Photos of themselves
With their grandchildren.
Being shy, I'm not good at meeting people I haven't seen in many decades, but I promised myself to behave, do the best I could. Surfing the zeitgeist and yarning on automatic, for a while I was getting along almost fine weaving through the milling crowd of blazers and dowdy summer dresses. However, I overheard a former fraternity brother bluster (he had become a white-haired millionaire in his father-in-law's fast food packaging business, their potato salad factory located near Babe Ruth's birthplace). "Yeah, my son went to Harvard," he bragged. "They found out Jews were the only ones who would pay full tuition, so they started accepting more of us." I started heading for the door. Stopping only when I heard a woman's voice exclaim my name, and croon lasciviously, "Save the last dance for me."
It was Gwenn, looking as sweet as she did when we dated at sixteen. The same prankish smile and laughing blue eyes, the same sandy-blond hair in a ponytail, the same round, wide-hipped, firm and full Rubenesque figure.
After a greeting and an awkward embrace, we took off our shoes, she her pumps and I cordovan loafers. The theme of this reunion was a Sock Hop. On the dance floor we discovered both of us could still hack it. The Locomotion. The Watusi. The Stroll. Hully Gully. Continental. Mashed Potato. The Fish and the Lindy. All of it. Our feet couldn't keep still with that music playing. She became my jitterbug Juliet and I her rock 'n' roll Romeo. Again. Between numbers, we spoke about the legendary Scaggy Maggie. She of the Hamilton Rec who had a shape like Rin Tin Tin and a face like my Uncle Ben, but when it came to twist or doing the bop everybody called her the Queen of the Hop.
We mused about our first date. Clumsy laughter and popcorn. We flicked out to that art film place on North Avenue near Eutaw Place. They were showing Viva Zapata. Afterwards cruising uphill past Druid Hill Park, talking, finding in each other an echo. Then copping a Powerhouse burger, cherry coke and fries at Ameche's drive-in on Reisterstown Road, we drove out into the county in my parent's two-tone pale-blue and white '55 Chevy Belair hardtop convertible. Parked at the Loch Raven Reservoir "to watch the submarine races." Turned on the Motorola AM radio to listen to polar cool Big Daddy and jivey frantic Hot Rod on WEBB ("It's web spinning time with rhythm & blues") and gave each other hickeys while dry humping.
Two popular Hollywood films were made about that era in Baltimore. Barry Levinson's angsty docu-naturalistic Diner showed us the worlds of money and spectator sports, obsessive charade and repressed sexuality. Too many of our classmates at this reunion were still living in that space. Then as now, Gwenn and I preferred the universe re-created in John Waters' crackpot satire Hairspray. The feel of bodies in motion. Political involvement. Behaving frivolously in the face of horror as metaphysical gaiety. And poetry.
We were progeny of rock 'n' roll. Gwenn got really excited when I told her I had kept the faith as DJ of Europe's earliest and only Doo-Wop radio program playing that first generation rock. The romantic and extreme music made before Elvis and the Beatles distorted everything.
"In the beginning everyone was singing," I declared firmly. "Then they stopped to listen to celebrities do it for them."
"My car is in the parking lot. Out back," Gwenn replied suggestively.
"Right. There's a moon out tonight. Let's go strolling. Through the park."
Always cool and smart, Gwenn answered by singing appropriate lyrics from another song. She grinned, "Bluer than velvet was the night. Softer than satin was the light. From the stars."
The sonorous sound of forced laughter carried across the lot toward us, mingling with the cyclic chuckling of the crickets. Sitting in the front seat of her silver Toyota Corolla, I slipped a tape of one of my broadcasts into the Sony cassette deck. We spontaneously and naturally started necking, feeling each other up (through our clothes). Fumbling like in those happy days. Down down down down do di do di do memory lane to that age of innocence.
"Hey nonny ding dong a lang a lang a lang. Boom ba doh, ba doo ba doo. Life could be a dream, sh-boom, if I could take you up to Paradise up above, sh-boom," blasted through the speakers as I noticed one pleasant difference from the past. As a feminist lawyer specializing in young drug offenders and immigrant cases, Gwenn wasn't wearing a bra. I opened the mother-of-pearl buttons of her cream-colored silk blouse, placed a nipple in my mouth and cupped her other full breast in my hand as the music shifted to "Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire!"
What haunted us was that we cared so deeply for this music of puerile lyrics and rhythms, seen and heard by so-called True Lovers of Music as simplistic, unsophisticated, trite, boring.
Roll over Beethoven.
Gwenn was kneading my thigh and teasing my balls by rubbing the Haspel cord of my suit pants against my jockey shorts when Jerry Lee Lewis' classic screamer faded into the all time great creamer. The Penguin's moaning oration. "Earth Angel, earth angel, Will you be mine, my darling dear, Love you all the time. I'm just a fool, a fool in love with you." We both could look Statesmen and Superstars and Members of the Academy of Arts and Letters in the eye, unashamed. But felt like cases of arrested development when our eyes filled with tears as we listened to the piercing high-pitched Paragon's falsetto singing, "Let's Start All Over Again."
"There's something silly I've always wanted to do," Gwenn whispered, "but I've been too embarrassed to ask my lovers."
"Well . . ."
"Go on! You won't snow me."
"Well, it's . . . It's that I want to be spanked in the back seat of the car. Then licked."
"Great! How about a little trade-off? While I'm sucking you, you record your most secret fantasy."
"You're an audio voyeur then, aren't you?!?" Gwenn said, remembering words and sentences could also excite me. And within seconds we were laughing and scrambling over the seat of the passion wagon, this bed on wheels. Reclining seats sure look neat. Might come in handy when you turn on the heat. Gwenn wiggled out of her gray linen skirt and threw it over the steering wheel. Under nearly sheer panty hose, she still wore agreeably WASPish, white cotton underpants that seemed to hint the presence somewhere of a field hockey stick. I pulled both cloth obstacles down to her ankles, exposing her, yet binding her, turned her over my knee and asked:
"What do you have to confess?"
"For one thing, each night I lay awake and ask the stars above, why didn't I ball you when we were teenager's in love."
""That alone is worth seven smacks. Close your eyes and take a deep breath."
Even in the dim light of the street lamps I could see bright pink prints of my hand forming on her still winter-white ass. Like the image forming when photograph paper is placed in the developer. Gwenn confessed something else after each smack.
""O, Jesus, Mary and Joseph going ape," she blurted out. "I haven't been this wild in years."
The cassette from my radio show was still playing from the front of the car. I heard myself chant the regular riffs. "Oop shoop be do be do. Dr. Doo Wop gots the right medicine for you. Don't shed no tears. Let's drag for beers. You play with my keys. And I'll shift your gears. Want to rock pretty baby. Want to rock all night. Want to squeeze you till the broad daylight. Rock Rock Tick Tock. Give me a few inches of your time. I'm going to speechify and signify and simplify and try to magnify any and every moment. I wandered through each Amsterdam street, coming here to appear on cue. And marked in every face I meet, marks of weirdness, marks of Woo Woo." As I introduced the Jive Five wailing hysterically, "Beggin' you, beggin' you, beggin' you--Pleeesse."
After seven smacks the seals were opened. Gwenn kicked off her panties and underpants, spread her legs, placing her heels on the ledges of the back windows as I knelt down, crouched on the floor and began measuring her darkness with my tongue. From my ever present canvas-and-leather shoulder bag, I handed her a voice-activated recorder.
Adding my own variant of vibratory blowing on her cunt as if it were a trumpet mouthpiece, I practiced all the koans Lou-Ann had suggested when she took me home after my reading at the poetry festival. Zen and the art of cunnilingus. Slow. Licking all around. Looking. Smelling. Nose. Fingers. Lips. Tongue. Building up, building up, building up a steady rhythm. Could this be magic? Although I heard Gwenn muttering into the tape recorder, I couldn't make out any of the words. Only the wavy sounds of purring and grunting like a King Curtis sax solo.
Later we went to her port view condo on Federal Hill up by Fort McHenry. It was comfortable, stylishly furnished, with abstract pictures by local painters Jim Joyner and Herman Marin adorning one wall. On the other a cluster of old-fashioned framed photographs of noted writers who had lived in Baltimore. Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ogden Nash, H.L Mencken, John Dos Passos, Robert "Rebel Without a Cause" Lindner, Anne Tyler, Malcolm Braly, Andrei Codrescu. Together with her personal note, photographs of Billie Holiday and Wallis Simpson, B-town's two most famous women.
Gwenn led me into the bedroom. She didn't turn on the lights, but the curtains were open and outside the pulsating yellow glow danced across the water from the Inner Harbor Place development diffusely illuminating the room. She loosened my silk rep tie and undid my button-down shirt. I took off my blue cord jacket of my suit and undressed. In a moment, Gwenn was standing before me, naked. The silvery light from the June moon up above gave her a spectral shine; her body inviting, large, almost all circles. I only had time to take off my socks before Gwenn looked down at me, her blue eyes bigger than ever in the moonshadows. She pulled me onto a colorful zig-zaggy Pennsylvania Dutch patchwork quilt. "My flesh is your true home," she whispered. "Come to bed."
We had one of the nicest nights of total sex I can remember. Attached, yet unattached. A harmonic convergence. Boogied in the kitchen. Boogied in the hall. Got some on my finger. Wiped it on the wall. Our spirits so high they were all over the heavens forming new matter in the active heart of galaxies. It wasn't only the sex and rock 'n' roll.
Although I remember when Gwenn's round ass, still a bit flushed from the spanking, was the perfect cushion for a vigorous fuck in the rear entry position. Is that what was meant by Walking the Dog, I wondered? And I remember when I sat on her stomach and she placed my cock between her large breasts, jiggled them while flicking the tip of her tongue in and out of my piss hole until I came. Tears On My Pillow. I can also remember, when seeing my sperm drip down her leg, I placed my mouth on the last drop licking up inside her warm thighs until reaching the place where love is throned. Gwenn shuddered, and said, "Feels So Good." It gave me pleasure to have been able to do something that melted her. "Oh, what a night. Oh, what a night it was. I won't forget all those things you have done to me," the Dells sang.
But it wasn't only the dancin' and romancin', hand holdin' and foot stompin'. It was also the laughing and the crying. Telling each other triumphant stories of love won. Also, of love lost, the bad arrangements we tried to harmonize. This kept us up rendezvousing all-nite-long, till the night meets the morning sun.
After a breakfast of a ton of chicory coffee, scrambled eggs and fried Parks pork sausage with crispy corn meal waffles covered in mahogany dark buckwheat honey I wished Gwenn good luck with the divorce of her third husband. A guy I knew called Charlie whose surname rhymed with slime. He had made his fortune in cash & carry retread automobile tires. Now on his way to do two years in Federal prison for money laundering.
As I left, Gwenn handed me a fresh peach. From the freezer in the kitchen, she gave me a plastic container filled with her own homemade Chesapeake Bay urshter (oyster) stew. And solemnly reminded me not to forget to listen to the tape she had made in the car yesterday evening. We kissed and hugged goodbye in the hallway.
"You're strange, but don't change," Gwenn shouted as the elevator door slid shut.
Have you ever fantasized about what people listen to on their Walkman during airplane flights? Here's what I heard on the trip back to Amsterdam:
Dearest Billy. I am in a carnival dance hall. Arranged along the walls are booths separated by partitions. In each booth a gallery of nude men and women, eating and drinking and taking sexual pleasure from each other. In one booth, a dark-haired girl is sucking the cunt of another girl whose ass rests on the table. Her body leans forward, trembling. Her long hair is splashing in a bowl of soup. A man is sitting at the table eating this soup. He is masturbating. The only sound is a locomotive pulling into a station outside the carnival dance grounds. I see myself in the last booth. I am being fucked. My head is on the earth. The man fucking me is standing up, holding my legs in the air. I look like a wheelbarrow. An old lady enters the dance hall. She walks across the room and stops at the booth where I am being fucked. She says: "I have just come here on a train from a place where you have never been. I have come to read your palm, then I will return. Let me see your right hand." The man who is fucking me is wearing a brown felt hat, and a gold wedding band. Nothing else. The others in the dance hall gather around while my palm is being read. "Seek new perfumes, larger blossoms, pleasures still untasted," says the old woman. My mouth is gagged. I am unable to reply . . .
There was a long pause in the tape when the only thing I could hear was me shuffling on the floorboard between Gwenn's legs and some faraway slurping sounds. The sound of one tongue lapping. And then:
. . . OH! OH! I'm pressing my cunt upwards toward the sky . . . My legs are spread . . . tightening my muscles . . . OHO . . . OHO . . . OH my eyes are full of sky. I'm dripping. My cunt is so moist, the juices are dripping out . . . He's dipping his tongue into my cunt again . . . It's so hot! . . . I'm wet . . . O . . . O . . . He's going faster with his tongue . . . So FAST . . . So Fine . . . Sends thrills up and down my spine . . . I'm tightening the muscles of my ass . . . OH. OH. OH. Closing my legs around his head. My clit is . . . SPASMS . . . OH, OH, erOH eroOH . . . O . . . O, O,O . . . Ahahhhhhnnnnnnnn...nnnnmmmmmmm......................
The tape ended just when the airline hostess came with a small bottle of red wine and the packaged dinner. No wonder she gave me a strange look. I was grinning so hard it felt like my face would break.
Ooh yes, I'm the great dissenter! From oral history to oral mystery, from oral text to telephone sex--orality is on everyone's lips. I can't wait to broadcast on the radio again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hello Boppers, Now Dig This. William Levy's popular Dr. Doo Wop Show is celebrating its 14th anniversary, still Europe's only regular doo-wop radio program. It can be heard in Amsterdam every Friday evening from seven to eight on Radio 100 (99.3 fm) and now available globally on the Internet. Any groovy music sent is most welcome -- of your own making, from friends, or from your unique obsessive collection. It will be treated with maximum respect and given maximum airplay. In addition, everyone wanting to try their hand at being a DJ is encouraged to dispatch their cassette(s) of approximately fifty minutes. Dr. Doo Wop is a river to his listeners. He is eager to broadcast them all. Send to:Invisible Language Society
Fokke Simonszstraat 28-I
1017 TH Amsterdam
William Levy (b. January 10, 1939) also has a flip side. He is the "provocative, lustful, funny, impassioned" author and/or editor of The Virgin Sperm Dancer, Wet Dreams, Certain Radio Speeches of Ezra Pound, Jeremiad Chants, Natural Jewboy, Voicings and Transmissions, Radio Art, Blood, An Introduction to Political Porno in Europe, A Vilna Legend, The Night Before Charisma, Billy's Holiday, Viagra Blues and Is There Sex Over Forty? -- as well as other scorching cult classics. His writings have been translated into eight languages including Lithuanian, Slovenian and Georgian.
Uneducated at the University of Maryland and Temple University, he taught in the literature department at Shippensburg State College, in Pennsylvania, before sailing off to England aboard the legendary R.M.S. Queen Mary in the autumn of 1966. In the sixties and seventies, he was founder and chief-editor of magazines at the cutting edge of the zeitgeist, such as: The Insect Trust Gazette, International Times, Suck, and The Fanatic. More recently, he served as European Editor for American glossy fanzines High Times and Penthouse and as an associate editor of Amsterdam stylezines Het Gewicht, Ins and Outs, La Linea and Atom Club. He has been a regular contributor to Exquisite Corpse (http://corpse.org/index.html) and Libido. Currently publisher of Transactions of the Invisible Language Society series. His prophetic meditation play Europe in Flames was featured at the Festival of New Radio in New York.
An American from Baltimore, Bill lives invisibly in Holland with his wife--the literary translator Susan Janssen--plus a bevy of other babes. Since his very first arrest, this spare man has continued to explore dangerous ideas about eros. A good cook, a shy populist. He adores dancing and has been observed along the canals talking with himself, making frenzied gestures while riding a bicycle.
He won a coveted Erotic Oscar for "Writer of the Year 1998" awarded at London's Sex Maniac's Ball in front of a colossal crowd of radical perverts. During the summer of 2000, he was appointed Ambassador to Amsterdam for the Independent Republic of Uzupis. Their motto is: Don't win. Don't defend yourself. Don't give up.