Brooklyn: three-lane street. Bridges. Churches and cemeteries everywhere. And candy stores. A little boy helps an old man with a beard cross the street and says, "Happy Sabbath." The old man smiles and knocks his pipe clean on the boy's head. The boy cries and runs home. ...... Exasperating heat and humidity envelop the district. The residents brought their folding chairs out into the street after dinner to sit and chat. Suddenly it started to snow. People were puzzled. A vendor called down the street to sell hot pretzels. He was attacked by several dogs and chased up a tree. Unfortunately, there were several other dogs in the tree.
"Benny! Benny!" A mother is calling out for her son. Benny is 16 years old, but already registered with the police; he will be in the electric chair at 26, hanged at 36, and at 50, he will own his own dry cleaners. That's when his mother served breakfast, and because the family was too poor to buy fresh rolls, he had to smear marmalade on the News.
Ebbets baseball field. Fans lined up on Bedford Street to get a home run ball hit over the right field wall. after eight scoreless innings, the crowd let out a chant. A ball breezed over the wall and eager fans were pushing and shoving to get it! Somehow, it was a soccer - and no one could understand why. Later that season, the Brooklyn Dodgers owner traded his shortstop to Pittsburgh for a left field fielder, then traded himself to Boston for the Braves' owner and his two youngest children.
Sheepshead Bay: A dark-faced man cracked a smile and pulled up the crab trap. A large crab clips the man's nose with its pincers. The man stops laughing, his friend drags at one end and the crab's friend drags at the other. It was hard to separate. The sun was going down and they were still holding each other.
New Orleans: In a cemetery, a jazz band stood in the rain playing a melancholy hymn as a body was laid to rest. Then a lively march was played and a procession began to march back into the city. Halfway there, someone realized that they had buried the wrong man, and not only that, they had made a terrible mistake: the man they had buried was not dead, nor was he sick at all; in fact, he was singing alternately in real and falsetto. They went back to the cemetery and dug up the poor guy. The man threatened to sue them, but they promised to let him send the suit to be washed and send them the bill. Meanwhile, no one knew exactly who had died. The band continued to play, and one bystander after another was buried, the theory being that the dead ones would be buried the smoothest. Soon it became clear that no one had died, and by this time it was too late to find a single body, due to the rush of traffic caused by the holiday.
It was now Carnival and there was Creole-style food everywhere. The streets are crowded with people dressed in costumes. A man dressed like a shrimp is thrown into a pot of seafood gumbo. He was reluctant, but no one could believe he wasn't a crustacean. Finally he pulled out his driver's license and was let go.
Beauregard Square was crowded with tourists. Marie Laveau. Laveau used to perform voodoo magic there. Now there was an old Haitian "man witch" selling dolls and amulets. The police asked him to leave and the two got into a fight. After the argument, the policeman was only 4 inches tall. The angry policeman still wanted to arrest him, but his voice was so thin that no one could understand him. Soon after, a cat ran across the street and the policeman was forced to run for his life.
Paris: Wet sidewalks. Lights - lights on everywhere! I met a man in an open-air cafe, André. Malraux. Strangely enough, he thought I was André Malraux. Malraux. I explained that he was Marlowe and I was just a student. He was relieved to hear this, because he liked Mrs. Malraux and was very reluctant to think that she was my wife. We talked about serious things, and he told me that man is free to choose his own destiny, and that he cannot really understand existence until he realizes that death is part of life. Later, he offered to sell me a rabbit's paw. A few years later, we met at a dinner and again he insisted that I was a Mallo, this time I didn't argue, but started eating his mixed fruit salad.
Autumn. Paris is paralyzed by yet another strike. This time it was acrobats. No one does somersaults and the city comes to a standstill. Soon the strike expands to include jugglers and then ventriloquists, which Parisians see as an essential service, and many students become violent. Two Algerians were caught practicing the big top while having their heads shaved.
A 10-year-old girl with curly brown hair hid a plastic explosive device in the interior minister's chocolate custard. Just after the first bite, the Interior Minister burst through the roof of the Fouquet house and fell unharmed into the Central Market. Today the central food market no longer exists.
Driving through Mexico: the poverty there is staggering. Many of the broad-brimmed hats are reminiscent of Orozco's murals. The temperature in the shade was also over 100 degrees. A poor Indian sold me a corn tortilla rolled with grilled meat. It tasted so good that I drank ice water before swallowing it. I felt slightly nauseous in my stomach, and then I was talking Dutch. Suddenly, I had a slight pain in my stomach that made me fall to the ground with a thud, like a book that closes with a snap. Six months later, I woke up in a hospital in Mexico with absolutely no hair on my head and a Yale pennant clutched in my hand. It was a horrible experience, and I ordered two suits from Hong Kong when people told me I was delirious with fever and hovering on the ghost's doorstep.
I recuperated in a ward that was also filled with a lot of very nice farmers, and I became good friends with several of them. There was one named Alfonso whose mother wanted him to be a bullfighter. He was hit by a bull and later by his mother. Then there was Juan, a simple-minded pig farmer who couldn't write his own name, yet he defrauded the International Telegraph Company of $6 million. Then there was old Hernandez, who spent years on a horse alongside Zapata until that great revolutionary ordered his arrest because he kept kicking himself.
It rained. It rained for six days in a row. It fogged up. I was sitting in a London pub with Willie Maugham. I was sitting in a London pub with Willie Maugham. I was suffering internally because my first novel, The Proud Emetic, had been received poorly by the critics. The Times had published a glowing review, but it was marred by the last sentence, which called the book "a miasma of silly clichés that has no equal in Western literature."
Maugham explained that although the review could be read in many ways, it would be better not to print it on the book's advertising pages. Then we took a walk down Old Brompton Road and the rain began to fall again. I handed Maum my umbrella, which he took, ignoring the fact that he already had one. Maum was holding both umbrellas open, and I was walking alongside him.
"Don't take criticism too seriously," he told me, "my first short story was reviewed harshly by some book reviewer. I was angry and said some nasty things about that person. Then one day, I read the short story again and realized he was right. It was indeed superficial and badly structured. It was something I never forgot, and a few years later, when the Luftwaffe bombed London, I shot a light at that book reviewer's house."
Maugham paused to buy a third umbrella and hold it open. "To be a writer," he added, "one must take risks and not be afraid to look foolish. I wrote 'The Blade' with a paper hat on. In the first draft of 'Rain,' Sadie. Thompson was a parrot. We have to explore, we have to take risks. When I started writing The Shackles of Humanity, there was only one conjunction, 'and'. I knew that stories that started with 'and' would be enjoyable to read. Gradually, the rest took shape."
A strong wind blew Maugham's feet off the ground and sent him crashing heavily into a building. He laughed grinningly. Maugham went on to give me a piece of advice, the best of all that can be given to a young writer: "Put a question mark at the end of all questioning sentences, and the effect will surprise you."