A Tall Tale of Jackets & Friendship.
Lying on Bill Shakespeare grave its 03. 00 am and pissing down, my sleepin bag's soaked, better warmth than borrowed genius so heading of in the dark to find a derelict building or shelter. I find in the rain-soaked night a house that seems empty, go in and in the pitchblack night find a patch of floor and lay my weary head to sleep, morning comes-I look around and see hanging on the wall a blue double-breasted donkey jacket, I call out, no answer, place seems to be deserted, smoke a fag, feel hungry, thirsty and in need of a piss, roll up said sleepin bag and take the donkey jacket from the wall's rusty nail, it fits like a glove.
I leave Stratford to the River Avon and it's inhabitants and head off toward , Cornwall, Dover and God knows where else (with the jacket over my shoulders), heading for the sun and to cut a long story short, the year rolls on and I arrive In Istanbul via Paris, Fréjus, Stockholm, Kobenhavn Trieste, Beograd, Sophia, Edirne and a million rides, trucks n trains, tomatoes squashed into puree under my sleepin body on a truck in Bulgaria somewhere, round-abouts cut in half by a mad Professor in Salzburg,Austria and finally settlin in Istanbul, I'm on the Gulhane Hotel roof, playin Tony's guitar, sittin on this Donkey Jacket, halfway to paradise when this disreputable character with outrageous knee-high red boots, beat-long hair and inquisitive eyes sits down and we smoke Turkish cones and take Chai, sharin travellers tales of Baalbech, Beiruit and the road between, he's older than me by a few years which inspires instant respect in self, and the afternoon drifts on till Steve, as I find out he's called, has to move 'n on rising he suddenly freezes,
“Where the fuck did you find that jacket” he asks and I embark upon my shaggy dog Shakespeare story,
“Thats my jacket” says he,
“What?” says I, worried immediately as winter is in the air, and I know there are very high mountains twixt here and India.
“Thats my name sewn on the inside, Stephen Pitt-Trower, look! “ and shure enuff, it's there, Steven Pitt Trower.
His Mother had sewn on the name tag for school years earlier, he'd bin in Sratford 6 weeks before me and due to a story of a skirt with legs inside it and tits on top ,had left the jacket behind, I'd inherited a FRIEND and a jacket, Steve graciously bequethed me the item in question, intoduced me to his life and we became the dearest of friends till he died in Martigues 3 years ago, talk 'bout God remaining anonymous, the jacket had travelled 10, 000 kms at least to do its job, survived Customs, rides, derelict buildings, nights of joy n days of hunger, I'll say no more but
WHEN COINCIDENCE KNOCKS AT THE DOOR OPEN YOUR HEART-SOMETHINGS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
Pieds-noirs & France,July 1964.
Crossin' the Channel from Dover to Calais in a rusty ferry, beer and cheap fags arriving in La France, down Avenues along the Route Nacional, trees touchin branches over the road, leafy, low slung Citroens full of families, kids baskets, bottles and towels, picnics by the roadside, thumb out, family stops n' finds room fer self plus sleeping-bag & guitar, and to Paris we head, n they tell me of fleein' Algeria, of leavin behind farms n vines, graves and fields, rich earth, of burnin sheds tools of labour lost forever to a war they didn't want, of eyes flirtin behind scarves to conceal beauty, just makin that beauty even more desirable, of Casbahs and Souks, of abandon, lost under North African skies cobalt blue, burnin buildings and hurried departs with shotgun-arms, moustaches breezed with brown earth, frightened eyes, smell of fear, children pissin in the dust, brimmed hats blown away in the winds of time immemorial, like Carthage down the road n Hannibal n his elephants, a salted-earth Roman style, refugees, betrayed promise of pompous Charles de Gaulle in Palais Matignon, off the Champs-Elysés, boats and seagulls screamin off the Cote d'Azur, rusty tramp steamers groanin in a choppy sea, dumped in Marseille, a country unknown- La France.
Great Grandad had been buried near Oran, Grandma within the sound of the sea, as she wanted it on Africa's northernmost coast, hard to quit the dead, children raised without shoes, and peasant love, refugees again!
Wasn't my war, my people, my land but I know that feelin so well, just do, and they take me to a flat in Sarcelles, the Bronx d'içi, Nanu d'içi, the Scrubs d'içi n treat me like a King, wine n cheese, and a clean bed, daughter's eyes freckled brown getting too interested in my teenage rebellion, and it's down the road I go afore I'm in trouble again, to Ile de la Cité. Weepin Willow in the lazy summer Seine, the same tree there to this day, beats n tramps, clochards and chicks, friends made in Finches, Googe Street & Duke of Wales Rathbone Place London, in Café Nic Kobenhavn, in Tetleys Tea house Kunstergatten Stockholm, in Constituion Place Athens, in Café Baba Tangiers, Hotel-roofs in Istanbul, Yenners Cafe Sultan Ahmet, at Chez Popoff in the Rue de la Hauchette, in St Michel Paris, a crossroads of those of us to whom the roads home,
Wine-drinkin, dope smokin, fornicatin under bridges children, buskin beggin, stealin and a cheatin children fuckin a system (we hate to this day), opium ball eatin, cognac consumin, no good life-loving children escapin to wherever's better then from where we come, escaping armies n parents like Sergant-Majors, education that stunk to high heaven from destinies imposed by a society under a mushroom cloud, spies and cold wars, gentlemen politicians stuck n a timewarp of the First World War, oh what a lot to be angry about. JFKs dead-our last hope, Gandhiiji's long gone.
Life under the Pont Neuf
Irish fishin songs from the Arran Isles ringin out under the Pont Neuf, smell of sunbaked piss and broken glass n Swedish gals with blond bosoms n long hair blue borealis eyes, brown Frenchgirl eyes and sunburnt skin aquiline noses and cleavage promisin' heaven . Patched jeans n anoraks, rucsacs safe in the midst of Chez Popoff's, Rue de la Hauchette's back room, fountain of St. Michel my shower, so many lovely faces watchin the river flow, Devils and Gargoyles starin of over the vaults on the Pont Neuf from whatever's comin this way, even the rats are descended from noble stock as they frisk about at night, Diego Rivera's walked here Tamara de Lempika too, Pic of the Arseholes walked here, Montpassant's walked here even Modliani probably spat 'is lungs on these cobbles, Portos n Arthos, Dartagnan fought duels under my feet and here's Baron Lima, expatriate Italian Count, wizzled face a conker of a nose, twinklin eyes dark curls falling across his sholders, rings a shinin on every finger, small in stature big in soul, pointed boots and a rap from heaven in an Italian accent,
“Whereee uuus caaannn sllleep, I know and eatin Si Si muito importante I know too, and café drinkin soon ah yes “Petter, nice to c you again, Police no so bad in Paris? “
The perfect ambassador to divine decadence, homosexual methinks but he never tried it on with me, and I was Gay meat in my youth, more later of that, sleepin in a derelict palace near the Pantheon, broken staircases and leakin taps, six stories high of beats and nicks, of bums n girls, a babel o languages, promiscuity and love, a safe haven 'til the Cops show up n carry y'all to the local dungeon round the corner 'coz some intelligent mudda wants to blow the President (Mr. Charles de Gaulle), away, the Renseignements General- French Secret Service know he's out there-the Jackal of Michael Caine fame -but don't know where or how, even what he's lookin like! So we pass 3 days bein checked up 'n out, smokin black Gauloise n eatin soup 30 in the cell, laughter 'n sleep till were let out into the streets and back to the Palace, and were ready for Bastille Day
-14 de juillet-
which is celebrated in immitable style with red wine in copius amounts, of Morrocan keef and whatever else is to hand, the cobbles of Ile de la Cite are awash with pools of vomit smellin of wine, I've earnt a 100 dollars playin like a scalded cat on the Pont Neuf, Alelulah I'm a bum, and the French people laugh with us at us, who cares, arms thrown around each other, stolen kisses with respectable good family girls whilst parents hunt the shadows in angst for their daughters, Boulevard St Michel packed with la fété, Mai '68 is 4 years away still, but the Syndicats are out, Communists to a man, and Left Wing rags n calls to strike ground underfoot in this Celebration of Life.
Down the road apiece.
In the morning, bad head, bad breath and the feelin 'tis time 't leave Paris City, n the days roll onto the long road 't the south, to Juan les Pins, the Jazz Festival, Fréjus and hikin n hitching and more avenues of trees, more rides, 3 or 4 days to get down to the beaches and find the tribe, songs of wine and lust, sand up the arse, sand in the food, sand in sleepin bag n, and my mouth full a boils from swimmin in the Seine drunk and it's off to hospital in Nice I go, untill they wanna keep me in, so escapin' into the night, back to the beach back to Ulla's arms thighs and smile.
« Jimmy you wanta go t' Stocholm? Says Ulla .
“Let's go”, more roads up thru' Switzerand Germany and Demark and thru' endless pine forests and small wooden towns, to the suburbs of Stocholm, and a Swedish house, Swedish bread, Swedish herrings, Swedish mum n Swedish Sex n and things get confusing.
I'm no Casanova and two in the bed plus me is outta my league at the time, and it's out the door- Ulla'less -into the night or mornin, not too much night in Northern Lights, and to the Kunstergaaten do I go with sleepin bag n guitar and tumble upon Boz Scaggs near the statue who teaches me some Blues. Come Back Baby- (later he joins the Steve Miller Band-then Silk Degrees and other songs)-and Mad Paul with Oswley Acid from Frisco-n I realize that it's happenin over there too, in Amerika, I know Bob Dylan, Ramblin Jack Eliot, Woody Guthrie n Pete Seeger, José Marti, Tina Moriaty, Pancho Villa, all very political, ain't read Kerouac yet, never heard of Tim Leary and Wavy Gravy or the Pranksters, didn't exist yet methinks, but hell, were all at it, breakin the rules, fuckin the codes out the windows, playin the songs- Subteranaen Homesick am I, and I go to live under the pontoon bridge, with Finns who sling vodka down like water and pull out long knives and take care of me with Prince and Cecil stolen cigarettes.
Like all beautiful cities, of which ain't too many left (as there buried under the automobile,) statues are everywhere, fountains with Baltic fishes spoutin out water, statues of people I ain't ever heard of, oh so beautiful