Isn't Rich Simpler?
I had no need of tools or machines. I was free as the wind, like the Algerian superintendent of my first apartment in New York used to say, whenever I asked him how he was: "Libre comme le vent! Libre comme le vent!" Free like the wind. Louis was my guru. His answer was my motto.
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Under this idealized photograph, there lay, however, a darker reality that my memory could not hide for long. There were long periods of gloom in those days. Eating Campbell's chicken soup and canned beans for weeks was not great. Keeping myself from making a commitment to the woman I lived with, had its uneasy reality, too.
Going Greyhound and hitchhiking led to encounters with psychos and pneumonia from standing in the rain waiting for a ride.
My fellow poets were a grungy bunch who would have sold their mothers for a drink, if their mothers had not disowned them long before. The lovely apartment Louis presided over was in a building without a lock on the front door.
Junkies and drunks threw up and slept in front of my door. People with money, even if they were just middle-class, were our object of derision and hatred. We blamed them for everything that was wrong with the world, especially with our diet.
Twenty years later, I never expected to find myself among them. Back then, if presented with the bourgeois alternative, I would have said that I'd rather commit suicide than live in a suburb with 2.2 kids.
I never expected time to roll over my generation with a blanket of prosperity the likes of which I never imagined. This blanket did not roll over me, exactly, but enough of its affluent coziness caught me to put some flesh on my bones and twirl my keys. I said some flesh, not 50 pounds. Please.
In any case, I have often thought about throwing it all away, and regaining simplicity. Poverty. The woods. A monastery. Anything. The more responsibilities I acquired, the more pristine my fantasies of the simple life became.