Having fallen asleep in one city, Thoreau woke up in another. On the
train journey back, a belligerent drunk demanded that he give up his
job in the family pencil factory, and just minutes later, the man
materialized in the aisle again to make the same drunken speech. It's
why Thoreau loved trees more than people.
Spies were everywhere in those days, intent on uncovering what had
happened to the dancing monkey. Police spies trailed Thoreau across
Concord to secret meetings with Emerson and a couple of chorus girls.
"Moose. Indian," they reported him saying.
I don't claim to be a great scholar of the term "Kafkaesque," but it
might accurately describe the Grand, the café in Concord
that used to cater to the literary mob. Emerson especially loved the
cookies. Street toughs would run into him there after one of his
notorious ether parties, his eyes turned inside out and his sunken
cheeks covered in gray stubble. They badgered the poor man, who would
still be experiencing the occasional chemical hallucination, with
questions: "When you knock on a door, do you knock just once?" "Which
do you prefer, the shortest route or the most scenic?"
It isn't all that surprising that a pimp once stabbed Emerson in the
chest, narrowly missing his heart. Thoreau regularly visited him in the
hospital. One day he found Emerson in the sun room doing
arts-and-crafts therapy. "Why force a giraffe into a flower pot?" he
asked. Emerson just shrugged. But, years later, perhaps remembering the
abused giraffe, he would remark, "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness."
Howie Good is the author of a number of books of different sorts, including THE COMPLETE
ABSENCE OF TWILIGHT, a collection of poems (MadHat Press).
Detail of art on main page by Pierre Alechinsky ("Pour la tanti¸me fois," 1976).
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