the Goliard

Sept 2002

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Original Writings 

[What's This All About?]


The Night Guy Series

Part 8 - Pyrotechnics and Goliard Poets


Things had continued to deteriorate at the club that night after the awning caught fire and although Harry and Nate managed to soak the blaze with pool water and extinguish it before it spread to the main structure, it had left a mark and lingering smell that wasn't going to be easy to explain. Harry had somehow convinced Nate to sit on the deck and continue to drink with him by arguing that everybody's holiday deserved a dose of pyrotechnics anyway and besides, what else were they going to do. They finished yet another gallon of beer before Harry stepped down the stairs to relieve himself and must have stumbled off to his truck because it was the last Nate saw of him. The next thing he knew he was back at the front desk, teetering on his stool and trying to focus on the spread of goliardic literature he had strewn across the counter.

Nate's studies of late had led him to investigate the beatniks and hippies of the fifties and sixties, particularly Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlingetti, as they seemed to represent the closest thing to modern day goliards he had come across. Nate had a good deal of their poetry with him that night and as he sat in the silent aftermath of Harry, drunkenly trying to tune into Ginsberg's desperate words, he remembers feeling an unprecedented urge to skip and go naked down to the sauna where he could sit sweating for awhile and continue his reading.

Nate grabbed some of the plastic bags kept at the desk for storing lost swimsuits, waterproofed the Ferlingetti, grabbed the two remaining jugs of beer and headed down to the indoor spa where he vaguely remembers splashing around in the hot tub a bit before turning on the sauna and settling back to read. Things get a little fuzzy from there but Nate suspects he became dangerously dehydrated and crawled forth from the sauna in a stupor. The next thing he knew he was staring into the incredulous wrinkled face of Ms. Crabbe.

"Young man! Young man!" She was saying in leering wonder, standing above him with arms akimbo and a blue, one piece bathing suit which was sagging in unfortunate places. "Are you alright. What on earth? What on earth?"

She had apparently had the similar idea of attempting to sweat out old spirits from the passing year and had wandered over in the dawn to find Nate snoring on a bench outside her sauna door instead of up at the front desk reading like she expected.

"I'm doing so so," Nate lisped, head pounding and tongue and lips crusted together. "I must have dozed off. Would you like a towel ma'am. Perfect time for a swim."

Suddenly Nate noticed that there wasn't the customary stack of towels near by, he was naked, and not at the front desk at all but in strange, chlorinated surroundings. Nate sat up. "What's going on? Is something burning."

"I don't know what's burning." Ms. Crabbe said moving a step closer.

"Well," Nate said, snatching up the splayed and soggy Ferlinghhetti, which had dropped at his side, and using it to cover himself. "I suggest we investigate. Perhaps the sauna has been left on and a circuit blew or something. In fact, I remember now! I was down here testing it because some of the members had been complaining and of course I didn't want to get my clothes all sweaty. You haven't by any chance seen a pile of clothes around here have you? That Harry must be playing tricks on me again." As Nate blabbered, Crabbe had taken another step forward.

"What have you got in that jug?"

"Huh? Jug? Oh that jug there. That isn't mine but I was wondering about it myself. Maybe I'd better go dump it out. It's probably just dirty water or something."

"It looks like beer to me. Is this what I pay you all that money for?"

"Well, you pay me minimum wage and you'll have to admit that this is pretty minimal effort here. I think that..."

"I've always admired the cut of your jib young man."

"My what?"

"Your jib. But I took you for an ethical boy...."

"Well ethics, they can be a tricky thing to put a finger on.."

"A more decent sort. The kind who wouldn't think of..."

"Decency. Now there's another word that's tough to get a handle on sometimes.. Whoops."

As Ms. Crabbe made a final lascivious lunge forward, Nate rolled off the side of the bench and took off down the hall towards the front lobby, ripped Ferlinghetti still in hand and picking up what he could of his clothes along the way. When he arrived at the desk, he gathered all his books together, nodded at a startled woman who was waiting to check out the first towel of the new year, and went crashing through the front door for the final time. Nate stood for a moment blinking into the first rising sun of 1986 before pulling on his sweatpants, stuffing every thing else down the front of them, and mounting his bike which he rode unsteadily back to his hovel. Once safely inside, he collapsed into bed and slept until the doorbell rang.

"There you go buddy. Sign right there.

"What? I'm not signing anything. Who's there."

"You don't want the package?" Well tell me this then. Are you Nate Johannsen?"

"I am but what the Hell is it?"

"It's that crotchless, baby blue bodysuit you ordered. How the hell am I supposed to know what it is. You think we open every package and inspect the contents before delivery?"

"What time is it?" Nate asked, finally taking the pen he held out.

"Time for me to get going mate. You smell like a bar rag by the way and I ain't paid any more to be chatty. There you go. John Hancock. Good job."

Nate was scratching his head. "You guys work on New Year's Day?"

The driver in the brown suit stopped on the stoop and slowly turned back around. "No we sure don't. That must be why I was watching football at my uncle's place yesterday and not standing around talking to you. Listen, I ain't really in the advice business and I see a good mess of weird things on these routes knockin on doors all the time and everything but, if you don't mind my saying, you oughtta think about comin up for air a little more often. You look like Hell for one thing and if you're having trouble with the days of the week too then I would recommend an overhaul in the personal living department. If I was...."

Nate retreated and shut the door, trying to figure out how the sun could be rising over the gazebo to the west without first setting over the palms to the east. He took the package into the kitchen and sat on the cold linoleum floor by the refrigerator to open it and found that it was a book and tee-shirt he had ordered from a rare book club in New York City. The shirt bore the tortured countenance and deep dark eyes of Edgar Allen Poe with the name Baudelaire stenciled below it.

The book was entitled The Goliard Poets and contained both the original Latin and translated to English versions of poems by all the suspected goliards. Nate thumbed through it on the way to the bathroom and was about to throw it on the bed when he spotted the title of one of the poems and stopped short.

It was The Affair of the Red Headed Innkeeper.

Nate thumbed quickly to the bio of the author and found him described as a poet called Primas or The Primate. It said, In the middle of the twelfth century there flourished in Paris a certain teacher named Hugo of Orleans but nicknamed Primas by his collegues. He was a man of mean appearance and twisted face and while his history is mostly unknown, it leaves an image of a shabby, fleeting figure, roaming the Parisian night spouting Latin invective.

Nate sat back on the bed to read.

The Affair of the Red Headed Innkeeper

A host there was who oftentimes swore himself my friend,
Though all his loud professions came to little in the end;
And you may ask his name, but who he was I'll not declare,
Save this much I may venture: He had Judas colored hair.

While I supposed he'd treat me well as any man alive,
I found his house a den of thieves no better than a dive.
I might have been his brother, though no kinship I could boast
The way they ran to welcome me, a servant and his host.

And the Latter rang the changes on a score of old laments
Hoping with honeyed words to shake me down to all intents
"A single fatted calf for you! Nay Primas eat your fill
You think this was kindly said? You're wrong, he meant it ill

Now on this day it happened while I lingered in his haunt
I tasted wine, and it was old and stronger than was wont
Replete at length, for dinner was more gorgeous then my drench
I only thought to lay my drunken limbs along a bench

Then mine host, he gave a covert glance and smiled a wily smile
He saw that I was nodding, lost to reason for awhile
"No snoozing after meals," quoth he, "A most unwholesome vice,
Come honored friend, let sleep alone -- and risk three sous on the dice

(Delirious in his filthy pouch a few more coins to squeeze),
"Now set a main before me, even ten times if you please.
Too quickly after dinner I was tempted to my cost
Ten times I threw and every time the dice fell wrong -- I lost

Mine host then threw, and luck, so coy to me, became his slave
Poor Primas dropped a five spot just to watch those cubes behave
Then bartenders dashed up with wine, knowing and well rehearsed
"Fill up he cried, and wet your throat. No need to die of thirst

I had believed my drinking bout would cost me not at all
But reckoning in my losses made the outlay far from small
As more and more my heavy head swayed downward toward the ground

So less my dwindling purse gave out a promising sound: 
The purse that, ample-bottomed, sat so plump and firm before, 
Now emptied and with gaping mouth lay silent on the floor; 
Gone was her power to summon up a too abundant dinner, 
No cheerful voice not chink of coin could now be heard within her. 
Bad luck at dice confound the friend, who after such professions 
Thus cleaned me out, till not a sous was left of my possessions.


Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.