Wednesday, May 23, 2001


Today, May 23, 2001, marks the 30th anniversary of the disappearance of the great American poet Lew Welch.
Welch was a college friend of Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, and was also good friends with Jack Kerouac.
Relatively few have heard of him but all are familiar with his most famous work, the advertising slogan that former Poet Laureate Robert Hass calls “a modern
classic”: “Raid kills bugs dead.”

Lew disappeared into the woods off of Gary Snyder’s property, with only a gun for company. I have been thinking about this since I first read him (Spring of ’96, I believe), and in honor of his memory I decided to hike my local mountain and reflect on the matter.


11:15 a.m. About to ascend Monadnock from Old Toll Road off 124 in Jaffrey. Bringing notebook, flannel, orange, 48 oz. water, Italian sub (no hots), 2 pkg.
jerky, 1 power bar, lots of thoughts.

Lew: On a disappearing road
among crenelated mtns.,
Thinking of whores. (Trip Trap)

11:36 a.m. Beginning of White Arrow trail, the start of the rocks. All my deep ideas seem to have been left in the car, and any inspiration has turned to idle wondering. Also beginning to suspect I will need more water, sunblock, bug spray than I have – but then, I always think this.
It is a perfect day to do this. Probably about 70 degrees, with a nice wind blowing up (whichever direction that may be). Very dry, so no mosquitoes.
The blackflies are not severe but their awareness of me grows. I have just been passed by two descending men talking about their faith. Quoth one: “… and I’ve always thought of the Catholics as a cult. But they’ve got healing practices, they’ve got things going on…”

Lew: “Why is it,” he said, “that not matter what you say,
a woman always takes it personally?”

“I never do,” she said. (Circle Poems)

11:56 a.m. Sidefoot Trail, the best way to avoid the excessively rocky portions of White Arrow. Voices guided me up an uncertain portion. Encountered a taciturn, distant man, perhaps mid-30s, with longish grey hair and beard. In response to my stock “Nice up there?” he replies with a strong, scary NH accent:
“Don’t know, not been up there yet. In no hurry to get there.” I half expected him to laugh in a high wheezy voice and start chanting in a long-dead tongue. His apparent companion, a red-sweatered gent of about 70, added something about it being “mostly clear” atop the mountain. I wished them good climbing and hauled on.
About 15 yards later I came across a pile of bone-white broken branches. I heard the distant man growing less distant. Something susceptible in me moves me, fast.

12:35 p.m. Head throbbing, heart pounding, wind blowing— at the top. Only two other hikers. No sign of Distant Man. 1 bottle done, and half Powerbar. I have managed to find cool rocky shade, and will let my nose stop running before I eat.

12:53. I seem to have sweated off all the Coppertone.
Ate sandwich, rest of Powerbar, some jerky (oddly distasteful—too salty perhaps). There were a few minutes of tranquility before two small crowds arrived. From my crouch I see no one, but the nearest to me seem to be oldsters predicting boom-boxes from the younger hikers.
I am bothered but not startled to find my lover more prominent in my thoughts than Lew. Figures, really.
Think I’ll walk some.

Lew (speaking as the Red Monk): Anyone who confuses his mistress with his muse is asking for real trouble from both of them.

1:05. Could it be that my deep hiking thought about Lew Welch is that I have no thoughts?
I have managed to get away from the noise of my fellow hikers, and am sitting down facing the north.
The sun is nice and the wind a little less. Except for a slight headache, due possibly to allergies, my body seems to have returned to normal.
When hiking, I never feel as I wish I did. I feel:
tired, vaguely edgy (though not in a bad way; more a grim yet lightheaded acknowledgement of the labor ahead), and occasionally uncertain as to my direction.
There is no apparent consciousness of tree or stone, except in terms of how they help or hinder me.
Occasional thoughts of potential interest, but I don’t want to risk precious momentum and so let them go. And today I experience no particular awe of nature or cosmos; instead I think how silly we are, to knock ourselves out so we can lie around on a rocky, scraggly, mostly unshady peak; drink warm bottled water; and stumble down again. These thoughts do of course vanish in the windy solitude and the glimpse of two hawks gliding through the trees below.
As I walked up the Old Toll Road –the worst part of the climb, except maybe for the pre-summit deception—I thought of Lew walking into whichever woods he walked into, and I thought of the clear air and the birds whose names I don’t know, and I thought of the pleasures of natural solitude, and I realized that no matter how low and wild I have been, I have never hit the point where these things would not keep me from ending it. Though I suppose it is a short step from there to wanting to end it in such surroundings. I can see that step but can’t figure out how to take it.
Hopefully I never will.
But this image of Lew walking deep into the woods in just the company of his gun and the trees, it gets me.
Was it clarity that took him there? Or was it clarity he sought? I think of “A Very Important Letter”:

“I just can’t figure it out. But I think the problem is in my mind, now, and only there. I’ve looked everywhere else and it certainly isn’t to be found anywhere.

“I’m going to sit beneath that tree and use my mind to find my mind, even if it means I crush my mind.

I know of no other way. Goodbye.”


and think that surely such words can come only from the mind that’s known satori. There is so much evidence of satori throughout his poems, in fact, that after several years’ lack of practice I read them and am left with the feeling that once I understood them better. Did he who wrote “O Youth!//Who feared Yourself//so much alone!” ever stop?
Now there are five or six hawks circling below. One or two of them have passed over the summit, about twenty feet above.
I wish I had written what Albert Saijo wrote in his introduction to TRIP TRAP: “I sometimes believe… that there in a pine-oak woodland or coniferous forest you reran your life and came out ahead of it.” I didn’t know Lew Welch, and to contemplate him is to contemplate a myth. All I can say is that maybe he has joined Han Shan, laughing and scuttling in the shadows. I hope his demons are down and that his ghost runs free.

-Correspondent Aaron T.

Monday, May 14, 2001


5-8-01 1:37 p.m.

-Standing in HMV, headphones on, looking at four screens playing The Virgin Suicides.

-Finishing coffee drink before returning to office.
Feeling guilty about supporting Coffee Giant.
Now stealthily incognito; posing as a DJ (one earphonestyle).

-Thinking of Stella McCartney and Sofia Coppola, and more briefly Chloe Sevigny.

-Listening to Beck's contribution to Mulin Rouge soundtrack. Not liking it.

-Thinking Nicole Kidman has been in a couple of weird movies. And listening to her contribution to the Mulin Rouge soundtrack. Haven't ascertained whether or not she can sing. Forgetting to listen. Beginning to think about Kirsten Dunst.

-Wondering if the Virgin Suicides was a true story.

-Thinking, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Cruise: Yuck.

-Realizing that compensating for the fact that sugar does not dissolve quickly in iced coffee drink by adding twice the amount of sugar is a shit ass solution.

-Feeling Linda McCartney’s death is one of the saddest things I know.

-Concluding that best track on Mulin Rouge soundtrack
is by Rufus Wainwright. He sings in French. He is
Canadian I will nickname my cat Rufus Wainwright when I get home tonight.

-Remembering that I read this morning that Jackie O.
was a Francophile, Dylan was very calculating about his success, and there is a Wings movie upcoming on Network television. Its About Fucking Time!

-Thinking Kirsten Dunst and the Host for Survivor have the same parenthetical smile. And Ewan McGregor and Kirsten Dunst have the same teeth. Ewan McGregor also sings on the Mulin Rouge Soundtrack.

-Wondering if anyone besides Bryant Gumble shed tears for the 1st contestant voted out of the Outback this year. Nicole Kidman is Australian.

-Now drinking Iced sugar grains with green straw; extra long. Listening to Destiny's Child.
Involuntarily loud, but not unhappily so.

-Going to buy a Rufus Wainwright CD tomorrow and stand in the W’s at the HMV.

-Realizing that you don’t notice a TV is red tinted or blue or green tinted, until you see a bank of TV’s all in row. Like at the TV store. Then you begin to see
red tinted TVs and blue and green tinted TVs Then
one TV is blank and its like a knocked out tooth.

Correspondent Aaron L.

Tuesday, May 01, 2001


April 30, 2001

My Dearest little Karl,

How these years pass like sand through an hour glass. But it seems just like yesterday when I was kicking a Football at you and I asked, Are you foreign?
You said, I'm French, and you're my Father. And then it clicked for me:
My son, like me, is French! I probably should have known. The way you inhaled, the way you fried, the way you wore your beret and spelled your name with a K. That endearing K, that nod to brother Marx; I wasn't sure the Frenchmen were Communists but now this confirmed what I always
suspected: the French are Communists.

My dearest Karlova Vary, my Charlemagne. They say years make the man wiser, and why does this make me want to ask: What kind of an understatement is this? Because it is understatement to say that you are wise. Was it Charles the Great that said, You Make Me Want To Jump, Jump? Because you do Karlito, you do.

I remember the day you were born just like it was yesterday. On the day you were born it rained. On the ride back from the City hospital to our village, Mother said it was God crying tears of joy. I must've agreed. And when I racked my knuckles between lug nut and tire iron on the side of the road and cursed God in all his glory as I staggered, up to my sock garters in mud, forehead clinched in agony, I thought out loud (very loud), Thank You for Caring So Much God.

As my vision cleared (somewhat), I made out, through the blinding rain, what appeared to be mother, beautiful and serene, inside our silver Citroen (damned half wheel wells) holding, in a baby blue blanket, our baby baguette, King Karl. I was so happy.

Bloody knuckled and eager I assured Mother, No, this tiny black spare tire will get us back home through this muddy French country side. And I will smoke unfiltered cigarettes to that end. Do you have the wine Mother?
Because this will be one of the greatest celebrations in all the land. We will get this boy home. Karlito, your people need you. Star-crossed fate will not keep you from your destiny.


When the Railroad men are not striking in our country, never let it be said that our rail system is not one of the most reliable. Your mother is a trooper, Karly. It is not only your beauty that you owe to your mother. It is also a dogged determinism and dry wit. My chinos already messed, there was no need to pussy-foot. That's what Mother said, anyway. So we all enjoyed a frolic through the increasingly dangerous countryside on the day you were born my little Charlie.

So we rambled and picnicked on your first day in the world. It was our
usual: sausage, brie, anchovy, Mom's Famous crepes, hard boiled eggs, olives, and what I call Three Livers (delicious!).
Oh and a baguette, of course! And wine! Mis en bouteille. Magnifique!

So we arrived at the train station satisfied, muddy-faced, and smiley. The Conductor welcomed us with open arms and said, Your filth is not welcome in my cars, even in coach! Reliable: certainly, service with a smile: less certain.


The rain had not let up and darkness was soon upon us; and we were so happy
to have you, my little Krumb Kake. So we walked, for what seemed like days,
except the sun didn't rise again so . . .
Until, at last, we crested the hill that overlooked our fair hamlet,
Karlville. We could hear the swell of the crowd's roar. It was a sight
that could only be described as amazing. How is it that so many ant sized
people can make such a thunder? And what was this! Was that the sun I saw
piercing the dark horizon? It was! Mother! Mother! We can set our
baguette out to dry! What an incredible day it was, my son. To top it all
off our little village had just beaten the neighboring rival village in a
football contest.
My pride was not easily concealed on that day.

So what is this I'm trying to say to you, my posterity? It is, For all you
do, for all these passing years of doing what Karl does, I say, Today
Kaptain Karl, today is your day. Do what you will on this day, Karlton.
Eat your Pommes Frites right inside your Kabob sandwich. It is your day.

With Love and Pride,
Your Father,
Karl Sr.

Aaron L.