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one last 'whoo-hoo!' for the pullman

i was traveling with a copy of the hitch hiker's guide to europe by ken walsh, a very battered copy that i had borrowed from someone. in fact, since this was 1971 and i still have the book, it must count as stolen by now. i didn't have a copy of europe on five dollars a day (as it then was) because i wasn't in that financial league.

night was beginning to fall on my field as it spun lazily underneath me. i was wondering where i could go that was cheaper than innsbruck, revolved less and didn't do the sort of things to me that innsbruck had done to me that afternoon. what had happened was this. i had been walking through the town trying to find a particular address, and being thoroughly lost i stopped to ask for directions from a man in the street. i knew this mightn't be easy because i don't speak german, but i was still surprised to discover just how much difficulty i was having communicating with this particular man. gradually the truth dawned on me as we struggled in vain to understand each other that of all the people in innsbruck i could have stopped to ask, the one i had picked did not speak english, did not speak french, and was also deaf and dumb. with a series of sincerely apologetic hand movements, i disentangled myself, and a few minutes later, on another street, i stopped and asked another man who also turned out to be deaf and dumb, which was when i bought the beers.

i ventured back onto the street. i tried again.

when the third man i spoke to turned out to be deaf and dumb and also blind i began to feel a terrible weight setting on my shoulders; wherever i looked the trees and buildings took on dark and menacing aspects. i pulled my coat tightly around me and hurried lurching down the street, whipped by a sudden gusting wind. i bumped into someone and stammered an apology, but he was deaf and dumb and unable to understand me. the sky loured. the pavement seemed to tip and spin. if i hadn't happened then to duck down a side street and pass a hotel where a convention for the deaf was being held, there is every chance that my mind would have cracked completely and i would have spent the rest of my life writing the sort of books for which kafka became famous and dribbling.

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