Chapter Thirty One
Zev went for walks. Long walks. He listened to the ambient sounds of birds and the ocean. People looked at him like someone they couldn’t figure out. His long hair and black clothes didn’t fit in with the beach town attire. Zev tried to be as evasive as he could be. He looked at the ground when he walked. He didn’t make eye contact or say hello to anyone. He wanted to remain obscured. Zev ate boiled noodles from a paper cup. Sometimes he took himself out to a seafood dinner where he always ordered a side of corn on the cob. He was adapting to a life lived alone, without fame or the pursuit of it. He still thought about Amy much of the time but was no longer as hyperbolically fixated on what she had done. What could he do about it? It had already almost killed him. What is done is done. He needed to accept it and move one. He needed to save himself. The smoking of cigarettes had gotten out of hand. So had the consumption of marijuana and alcohol. He became even more indulgent and self-destructive in his despair. But he didn’t care that much. He would do what felt good for as long as he could. Zev had a brain that brought him more suffering than it should. This was not the biological purpose of a brain- to inflict so much psychological turmoil on its host. Something had gone wrong in its wiring. Maybe it was society. Maybe it was his childhood. He was already troubled long before fame entered his life. Whatever the case may be, he needed to keep his brain sedated. It was the only way he could feel some semblance of joy.
Zev utilized many different modalities to sedate his irascible brain. Music and reading. Marijuana inhalation from the moment he woke until the moment he slept. Endless cigarettes. Music. Continual snacking and cleaning. Pornography. Instagram. He was continually looking at what other contemporary painters were posting on Instagram. For the most part Zev thought it was all soulless crap. Images created just to attract attention to the artist’s skill. Those were the worst kind. Zev wanted art that was organic and raw. Outsider art which possessed little skill but much soul. He spent his evening hours drunk, stoned and scrolling through his phone. Sometimes he watched films. Sometimes he texted with Amy. Other times he would lay in bed and stare into the darkness. There was nothing else to do. What was the point of doing anything anyways? Why make art? Why try to achieve some sort of critical acclaim? As Buddhists figured out, it all turned to dust eventually. It all became unimportant and irrelevant as time went on and gave birth to new generations. Why not just spend the day loafing around, watching the day turn to night? Why slave away at a solitary desk or in an isolated studio space for the sake of art? Why not be outside, wandering around? Zev thought about these things.
After his first month living on the old yacht, Zev felt he was growing happier in solitude. Not having to interact with others brought him relief. No more pretending to be someone he was not. He no longer had to be nice to people just so he could sell some paintings. He didn’t have to shower every day and try to make himself look nice enough that others wouldn’t negatively judge him. He could do what he wanted, when he wanted. He didn’t have to waste time talking with people. The arguing with Amy had all about ceased to exist. If she was in a relationship with Arthur now, fuck her. Sometimes he felt like driving over to the Silverlake house to see if Arthur was spending the night but he never did. It was too far of a drive for something like that. Women left men for other men sometimes. It was just something that happened in life. Why should he be exempt? Zev spent a lot of time working on his yacht, trying to get things just right. He sanded. He painted the inside and outside. He painted the floors. He ripped out a few walls and built a new bed. He enjoyed this more working class life and understood why Jesus worked as a carpenter. He put in new shelves in the kitchen. He fixed the yacht’s circuit breaker. He installed a new toilet. It was enjoyable working on things that made a difference in life, unlike art.
Zev set up a desk for himself where he could write and draw his cartoons. He wasn’t working on his cartoons as much as he wanted to but was keeping things clean. On his desk, everything was in its correct place. Miscellaneous things laying around bugged Zev. Now that he was living alone he had no reason not to have everything in its right place. For years, he suffered through living with a restless and fidgety woman who couldn’t keep anything in its right place. It caused him much distress. Every time Amy walked into a room he knew something would get messed up. This caused him a continual agitation. Amy thought Zev was anal and obsessive. She pitied him for needing as much organization in his life as he did. He wasted so much of his time cleaning, Amy thought. But there was nothing she could do about it. It was the only way Zev felt a sense of control in his life. Now that Amy wasn’t around to mess things up, Zev took advantage of the opportunity to keep everything looking just how he wanted. This pursuit took up much of his time but he wasn’t half as angry anymore.
One afternoon, the poet Tottman Haul stopped in to visit Zev. Since Amy’s party, they had maintained a correspondence. They liked each other. Zev had sent Tottman many desperate emails where he would write about how stressed out and hurt he felt. He would tell John about the hell he was enduring and hope to get some palliative words back in return. Tottman never failed Zev in this way. He was always able to provide some consolation. When Tottman arrived in Oxnard, he was feeling very distressed. The drive from LA had been long and tiring. The night before he spent with Lydia Lunch, which he found exhausting. The woman just talked so much and could be so loud and vulgar. When Zev went out to the parking lot to greet Tottman, he couldn’t find him anywhere. Then he noticed a thin man standing in the distance, with curly hair blowing in the wind. He wore a black blazer and black dress pants and had a black book bag in his hand. Immediately Zev knew it was Tottman. Zev was happy to see someone else who did not fit in with the lazy and unsophisticated fashion choices in Oxnard. When Zev walked up to Tottman Haul he felt like giving him a hug. He was happier to see him than he thought he would be. The day was sunny and warm. Zev remembered that Tottman was uncomfortable with hugging so he held out his hand instead.
Zev showed Tottman Haul around. Tottman asked Zev if he had been doing any whoring. They walked side by side and talked about various things. It was the first human contact Zev had had in some time. On the yacht, Tottman and Zev sat on white beach chairs and drank beer that Zev had bought. Zev smoked cigarettes. They watched boats and birds go by. Tottman told Zev that he was living a nice life. Tottman Haul felt happy being out of the city. He told Zev about his night with Lydia. Zev was impressed that Lydia Lunch was one of his many girlfriends. Whenever Lydia was in LA, they would get together. They would make love and argue. Tottman said his nerves couldn’t handle another evening with the woman. Zev asked if Tottman wanted to take a walk on the beach.
As they walked in the sand with the ocean in the background, Zev told Tottman about what was going on with Amy. He told Tottman Haul about Arthur and Tottman couldn’t understand the appeal. He strongly disliked trendy contemporary writers. Tottman asked Zev a lot of questions, which Zev appreciated. Not many people asked questions because they just wanted to speak of themselves. But Tottman understood Zev’s situation. He had been there many times before himself. In love with a woman who was no longer in love with him. Being in love with a woman who has moved on with another man. Being incapacitated and destroyed by his lust and attachment to another woman. These were things Tottman Haul knew and wrote about. Tottman told Zev that he was gradually weaning himself off of Amy. This made sense to Zev. It wouldn’t all happen at once. Lust took time to dissipate. It was a very slow drip and would take time. Tottman told Zev that he should try and find other women to fuck and reduce the amount he had sex and contact with Amy. Over time he would feel better. Who knew, maybe Amy would even return to him. Tottman bent down and picked up rocks and seashells. He took deep breaths. He was enamored by the sea.
In the early evening, Zev took Tottman to an Asian food court not far the yacht. Zev said that if there was ever another pandemic it could start here. They ate noodles, shrimp and blackened cod. Fish swam around in glass containers behind them. Crabs and lobsters with their claws taped shut were stacked upon one another in dirty fish tanks. Families and couples sat around masticating their food as they talked about nothing. Tottman Haul dropped a piece of shrimp on the floor and Zev noticed it out of the corner of his eye. Tottman looked over at the shrimp on the floor. What a waste, Tottman thought. Tottman smiled at Zev and got up from his seat. He walked over to the cooked shrimp on the floor and said hello to the couple who were sitting near it. They looked disdainfully at him. Like he was invading their privacy. Tottman bent over and picked up the shrimp and then stuck it in his mouth. He chewed the shrimp and told Zev that it tasted delicious, as he sat down in his seat. Tottman asked Zev if he wanted him to put a shrimp on the floor for him. Zev laughed harder than he had in years. Tottman was one of the few who could make Zev laugh like he did. They shared a similar dark sense of humor.
Back on the yacht they drank more beer and listened to some of Zev’s records. Zev played The Dead C, Terry Riley, Coil and The Residents. Zev had been getting into Mark Of The Mole, which was becoming his favorite album by The Residents. Tottman Haul read through some of the books and magazines Zev had lying around. They talked about the tragic downfall of Nick Cave. How in his older age Nick Cave exploited his personal tragedies because he had nothing else left to say and his fans ate it up. Zev smoked cigarettes and marijuana. Tottman Haul abstained. He had grown up a smoker in England and told Zev about the few years he spent living with the band Nurse With Wound. There was cigarette smoke mixed with marijuana smoke hovering in the air continuously. In the studio and in the house they all shared. In the pubs they drank warm beer in. Tottman had lived in smoke. Tottman Haul told Zev not to feel judged for his smoking habit. He knew all about it. Tottman asked Zev about what he was going to do now that he had left the old lady. Zev told him that he didn’t know. He had enough money saved to last awhile. He wanted to make more cartoons but he lacked the inspiration to work on any of it. Maybe he would write a novel or a memoir about his time as a famous abstract painter. Tottman told him that he should think about doing that. There could be good money in it. Zev told Tottman that maybe he would really sell out this time. Maybe he would become an ordinary man not doing much of anything with his time. He could work on a fishing boat or in a restaurant when his money ran out. Tottman told Zev that that didn’t seem very pleasant. Once it got late Tottman decided it was time for him to head back to Echo Park. His car window wasn’t rolling up and he would freeze the entire drive back.
As Tottman Haul drove back to LA that night, he kept his heater on high. His car was old and the heater didn’t warm things up much. Cold evening air caused his body to constrict. Tottman cursed his fate. He cursed the world. He couldn’t understand why Zev would throw away a perfectly good career. For what? Zev drove a nice car. He once had a very nice house and studio space. Zev had the kind of cultural attention he would be happy to have. Now he was living on an old yacht in some tranquil town by the sea. It seemed to Tottman that Zev was self-destructive in many ways. He couldn’t accept any happiness into his life. Instead he destroyed it. Tottman Haul felt sad for Zev. It must be difficult to be living that kind of marital life. Tottman was happy to be single and living alone. After decades spent dealing with love, he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to fall in love. Why would they do that to themselves? Tottman Haul thought about how few things were as symbolic of cowardliness as a couple walking hand in hand. Two people terrified of being alone. And now Zev was alone. Tottman sure hoped Zev knew what he was doing with his life. He didn’t like that talk of becoming an ordinary chap but he certainly understood why one would want to. Tottman decided that he would listen to some Nurse With Wound as he drove the rest of the way. He reminded himself to not sleep with Lydia Lunch again. He thought about a better time, which was now obsolete.