scott warren wilson

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12.12.65

Thursday contained a good, long day at the Academy followed by dinner with D. at my favorite trattoria in the Italian district. We both had a sufficient amount of drink during a sufficient amount of conversation.

Friday morning I finished a painting, a double portrait begun Wednesday - first painting for me, some of it good. That afternoon the protege and I wandered across City Hall Square resounding with high-amplified Christmas Carols bellowed by the Policeman’s or Fireman’s or some such-chior on our way to tinsel-layered Wanamaker’s for D. to pick up his new suit. From there to The London Ale House for a couple of beers on our combined last dollar.

Andrew arrived at my place at about 7:30, Bob Barnes at about 8:00, Dennis at about 8:30, as Bob was dashing out for his train to Wilmington. The three of us lingered over drinks until half-past-nine-ish, talking and having a lovely time, when we set out for dinner at mirrored, candlelit The Emperor. Drinks with an acquaintance of mine on our way out before staggering off in our separate directions.

Returned to Spruce Street, D. and I spent a very serious hour in very serious conversation. Approximately, it went by way of Denny’s reproach of my “weakness” (the accusation so spookily echoes Ed’s reproach of me a year or so ago. I feel as though it is la recherche du temps passé as well as perhaps the definition of a pattern, a repetition of the boy’s sincere devotion to me, and from my point or view, a rather sobering realization of this potential ardor. Through my alcoholic mist I was suddenly very conscious indeed of the intensity of emotion smoldering under his cool and delicate crust of non-acceptance like the fire banked for eruption in a volcanoes crater. I deeply hope for Denny that the potential passion will be unleashed an the proper cause, the proper recipient for him. Tonight, now at this moment I am not objective enough to predict its sex or character.

We talked on and on, on the whole more or less unintelligibly until he left very gently…

Saturday afternoon, a raw day reminiscent of a Parisian winter day. Andrew and I lunched at Bookbinder’s. We went to a revival of the extraordinary movie “8 1/2” at a cinema in Market Street following which we sat in a near comatose state over a couple of beers at the bar of a phony Polynesian-type restaurant. Home for a nap in the early evening. Andrew came to Spruce Street from the Warwick for a couple of drinks before we dined late and simply at a delicatessen.

A. winded his way back to the Warwick and I went for one beer at a bar before returning home, collapsing in my bed for hours of sodden sleep.

12.8.65

After sleeping very soundly for perhaps half-an-hour I awoke mind awhirl a few minutes ago at quarter past one. As I’m out of cigarettes, I lie in bed smoking a cigar and scratching here. Multicolored paisley crawls across the spread, blue smoke swirls above.

A telephone call placed earlier to V.J. was rewarding in that it didn’t cause me to totally re-evaluate my regard for the person. (Apologies Mr J. for such a dreadfully condescending statement but an explanation follows) In short, the effect of the man as a person of feeling, i.e. some feeling for me, didn’t vanish. He recalled details even I didm;t remember remarking, for instance regarding my approaching vacation - when will it be? (He seemed pleased at the possibility of my return flight to Philadelphia routing me through Chicago, where he will be from late December - all this I weigh, since the possibility of a public figure are so extended and I know the traffic of persons in their lives must be very rapid indeed - but the man sounded sincere  - and, being a cynic, I take with a grain of salt.) He asked in rapid-fire succession questions concerning my immediate occupations :

  • Was I at home?
  • Oh at the Warwick - where, in the lobby? (relieved perhaps that I was in a private telephone booth)
  • What are my days off?
  • When will I be in New York? (vague regarding a meeting on my visit to Flora, to go to Johnny Beardsley’s party next Thursday - but call, we’ll be in touch before then…)
  • Do I see Miss Merman?
  • My Telephone number, misplaced, give again - repeated a couple of times very accurately
  • Would love to be in Philadelphia on Friday (actually the reason for my calling, as that was pending at the time of his departure Monday night) but sounded doubtful…

Etc. but warm and to repeat my original impression, infinitely winning.

12.7.65

Sunday evening I look up from my occupations at The Warwick desk first into the impersonal gaze of an expensively dressed woman wearing a pale fur coat - I drew a blank until I saw her name on the registration form: Ethel Merman - then from her into the grinning boyish face of a man in his mid forties wearing a vicuna coat and brown hat. Him I recognized immediately as one of the bright stars of the MGM Galaxy in my childhood during the forties. His is a technicolor impression with the happy young phantoms of June Allyson, Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly… shining white teeth, red lips ever smiling, eyes sparkle. My strongest, perhaps imaginary, recollection of him is grinning from a colored page in Photoplay, wearing a crisp white sailor cap and navy-blue bathing trunks posed at the top of steps descending into a turquoise swimming pool under a brilliant cobalt sky. Whether or not I imagined the picture, that was exactly his environment as one of America’s favorite young actors during the World War II years and a few years following. Then the bright image begins to fail me and is replaced by a maturer black-and-white one, which eventually fades altogether - until Sunday night. (My eyes and mind return to the word “boyish” above like pins to a magnet but I’m damned if I can find a word to replace it with, for in spite of signs of mileage and some fleshiness, freckled and boyish and open fax remains- in public at least.) The man was loud, the professional extrovert (perhaps high on something), and infinitely winning.

In private I found the semi-buffoon, the public person, painfully altered and appearances confirming his simple statement of loneliness  - for in moments of tenderness never have I seen a more desperate -looking, indescribably sad eyed human being. I felt he wanted total love as well as sure destruction from the same person -  his tragedy perhaps, a romantic hope that he will find the two in one person. One person can fill each capacity, but never can the two be combined… I don’t believe.

12.5.65

The street - Oakland Blvd where it slopes down from Normandy Road past 1908 to the branch which forms a triangle at Meadowbrook Dr - was ice coated. A car could run only at great hazard over it. Snow was thick. It was, in short, an Eastern winter in Texas. Were people in my parent’s house? How did D come to be transplanted there - and mainly in the street, picking his way over the ice with an indefinable implement as though he mounting Everest. His azure eyes burned in the frost, his face wore that half-injured, half-regretful expression it sometimes does in moments or particularly sensitive response. In spite of the danger the car bore slowly down on him and I wanted so urgently that he climb in - it seemed of such importance - the unknown mission of the car, its destination?, the warmth therein?, something more? - but he still was adamant in his refusal as I unwillingly relinquished the dream, the azure eyes, for the clearing haze of a light filled low loft - narrow skylight - whitewashed large pipe in the corner near my head - window extending below the floor of the loft to the lower level - a red blanket reflecting pink on the filing only about three feet above me - the person beside me.

Friday night after leaving The Warwick I decided on a beer or two at a nefarious boîte on 15th St. There leaning at my station against the wall and juke box I was approached by a rather wild-appearing Larry Formica who was fuming and trying to quench his fury with a flow of Beefeater’s on the rocks because of the ironic misadventures unleashed by some comedy of errors. Larry, for once less than his usual cool and contained presentation lived up to his Italian name and had great appeal. We talked, Larry’s eyes glued to the door, and eventually moved on. 

Several drinks later I ended up at home with a guest - the night dissolved in a haze of booze and the chill blackness of outer space, where one is actually aware of each undulation of a limb as though it were no longer subject to the laws of gravity, caused by a tiny explosion.

I was awakened Saturday noon by Paul, in town for the day. He came over for a pre-lunch cup; we- he Ed and I lunched at McGillan’s  in Drury Street. That night followed a routine fairly similar to the one of the night before save it wasn’t my place but a funny two-and-a-half level “apartment” that resembles a warehouse. In a narrow alley one came to a door on the inside of which hung a key on a string (caught and fished out like a minnow on a line through the mail slot); the door unlocked, one proceeded past the wrecked skeleton of a heap of pieces of furniture up a narrow stairway into a kitchen-bath arrangement. Above it, approached by a narrow ladder, was the sleeping loft of about four-an-ahalf or five feet high. Beyond this compartment one went through a tall door, black enameled against white walls, into a square, very hight-ceilinged “salon” one wall of which was an expanse of warehouse-like windows hung with a full Austrian blind. An immense Victorian square piano dominated the room (one halfway expected a travesty of Empress Eugenie to appear at any moment) and a rough-hewn table, laden with tiny gardenia plants being nurtured to life, was there. A painted wicker swing, long as a bed, sat on the floor perpendicular to the piano. Clutter, books and boxes everywhere - and one hell of a lot of character (mainly inherent in the layout of the place and less imposed by the nature of the occupant I was vaguely disappointed to find out). I immediately flung myself on the swing on the floor while my host, a very pleasant, broad and sweetly-burly type with rich, coffee colored eyes gave an extemporaneous concert on the piano.

12.1.65

The painting progresses. Walking back to Spruce Street this clear, cold afternoon - a prismatic afternoon - I felt, briefly, for the first time, that I must paint. I felt it is something that I have to do and prayed God to nourish that feeling in me.

A late night last night so a pill was in order this morning. It seems necessarily to follow that I paint with greater intensity on such days, as today. (a figure study, a seated nude 3/4s rear with playing cards, a paisley robe in evidence).

Lunch was for me depressing. I felt both defensive and aggressive toward D. because of the painting - obscurely. Until I realized that the painting had become for me the object - the recipient, as it were - of my neurosis and frustration regarding the other situation. A sort or vicarious punching bag so that after my three hour battle with the canvas I was on edge and mentally transferred my belligerent spirit to the innocent bystander. Unknown to him, for I analyzed the cause and was on guard against destructiveness. Tom was with us at lunch, and he talked constantly and knowledgeably on a variety of subjects I found either embalmed with intellectuality or too obvious to warrant discussion.

Not his fault, but mine. But that added to my self-pity (must call it what it was)… leo the effects of the pill were wearing off and a couple of beers left me feeling drained.

11.29.65

A rarity this (Academy) year - lunch alone. As frequently with another or others - at the London Ale House (a scollop-edged “cottage roof” over the bar, beautifully dingy, once-pale mustard ceiling, dirty rose walls of intricately pressed tin (there is an echo of Millard in the pattern, I can well imagine what he might do in gouache with the interior). The walls are hung like a taxidermist shop with mounted buffalo, stag, mountain goat, deer hears as well as a small black bear, a boar, mountain lions and an assortment of small animals and birds crouching whole in high loges. A zest of neon red punctuates these loges. Blue light from a wide window facing the street tries to compete with the murky, dim-yellow lit interior but loses).

I enjoy my solitude this noon after a morning of conflict, earlier (walking in the street, over my coffee and roll) with my confused emotions about the sentimental involvement. Where does it begin (if at all) and end (if it does exist)? Am I now, lately playing it safe and being gutlessly raisonnable in what I feel to be a disengagement or was the whole intensity, even the profound sense of loneliness cause by it, trumped up by me - in short, a mirage? I weight these questions and can resolve them no more than I could, later in the morning, the conflict facing me on canvas. In fact, so as not to get complacent or “safe” about the painting, I try very hard to transfer the neurotic distress of the situation to the picture and consequently to struggle and weight and conclude the whole business - both businesses - at the easel. So far I’m not ahead.

11.28.65

This afternoon is a splendid spring-like afternoon of Manet clouds - rich gray with sparkling white borders against pure cobalt - floating past a hide-and-seek sun. Its rays shower down, dissolve and vanish in an instant to leave the moment before bright street monotonous gray - only to reappear again on a whim. One expects to see flower vendors with great bunches of jonquils an each corner.

Thanksgiving Day was an uneventful day until Paul (Fine) arrived from Princeton that evening. We were invited to Pinkie’s for dinner with her and a friend - Alice. Pinkie had heard a great deal about P. when I first arrived in Philadelphia, and I wrote to him in Morocco about her, so their meeting had a predestined quality. And right I was to think they would hit off, for hit it off they did increasingly as the evening wore on and the bottle diminished. We lounged, each at separate a corner or her bed, talking about all manner of things from books to biology ( a hobby of Pinkie’s and Paul’s field of study at college) until about four, when Paul and I weaned our way back to my place for still more talk.

Friday night to the theatre with Eileen Haac (Inadmissible Evidence by John Osbourne) and supper for me, a night cap for Eileen at the Adelphia bar afterward.

Saturday afternoon Jean and a friend arrived from New York. After a drink at my place Jean invited Reinaldo - a Cuban emigre who distinctly reminds me at times of Miguel Ferrera - to the Emperor for dinner. They rushed off to the theatre, I went to a movie before meeting the two of them for several rounds of nightcaps at the couple of pulsating bars later. As the night wore on and the haze gathered I was actually aware as I have been over the past months of my change in mood when drinking - from one of fairly general amiability to one of increasing withdrawal dosed with a certain bitterness.

 

11.24.65

A cold night but not bitterly cold. I sit in a Harvey House whose bright lit Pennsylvania Dutch (or whatever) interior is perhaps the antithesis of my shadow-strewn interior. Leaving my apartment, walking down Spruce Street to this place, I felt the victim of an indefinable and indecipherable traumatic occasion. The specifics are a beer - several beers with Denny at the London Ale House this afternoon after class. I felt mightily sad before his arrival, while waiting for D. to perform a kind act for Gilbert ( to deliver some paintings in the Triumph). So a aware and immensely moved by the boy’s generosity and goodwill which I so much wanted to return today and indefinitely out of general gratitude. I wanted to return hiss favor openhandedness and liberation from a constant egotistical sense of need of him. He deserves better than a selfish relationship, he deserves more, all - every sympathy and cooperation in hiss quest for his own truth and effort toward happiness (which for him isn’t to be found in my bed, where in his words he feels a “fake”, at this time. Rationally I recognize that and accept it after our long conversation at lunch yesterday when his plain fondness for me (clear as those azure eyes) was so directly expressed and his confusion regarding the other aspect was so simply stated and explained. That much for the rational, the emotional acceptance of they facts is something else.)

We drank beer for an hour or so while the conclusion of yesterday’s conversation hovered like a ghost (more to annotate the boy’s generosity and his caring for me: his wish to conger from his mind the perfect woman for me, the ideal woman who would make me happy [an important word in Denny’s vocabulary- a word of very real meaning and essence] as only a woman can complete a man… He hesitated to ask me, he was afraid to ask me for fear of my answer, am I “happy” as things stand [quotations to stress the very special import of the word to Denny]). We talked of painting, the myth of the South, Mad comics [ and his first delighted discovery of it in a barber shop when he was twelve] and we were both a little high when he dropped me at Spruce Street. Huge motored off, relieved and happy, to his Thanksgiving holiday with his family, to his date for tonight on the thus far smooth highway off aspirations and high expectations.

I mounted the stairs to the dusk-filled flat, in the dark turned on the radio prior to a half hour of oblivious sleep. I was exhausted and oppressed by my feelings of isolation, resolve and total empathy for Denny.

This partially describes the rapport (Picasso speaking to Françoise Gilot)

When I was young, even before I was your age, I never found anybody that seemed like me. I felt I was living in complete solitude and I never talked to anybody about what I really thought. I took refuge entirely in my painting. As I went along through life, gradually I met people with whom I could exchange a little bit and then a little bit more. And I had the same feeling with you - of speaking the same language. From the very first moment I knew we could communicate.

11.22.65

After not sleeping very well last night and reading the NY times book review section under a yellow light burning in darkness, this morning I felt strange and very perceptive of the inner mechanism of myself. I walked through the gloomy Monday morning to The Academy  prey of all sort of successive thoughts on my potential and possibilities. The conclusion was to devote my primary effort and passion to painting, sparing not my sentiments toward myself nor toward others but sublimating them to the ever more mysterious and hazardous adventure vis-a-vis a canvas. But every atom of the residue of that involvement, every remaining nuance of neurosis, passion and despair will be dedicated to this humanity and thoughts to that affect.

I painted approximately, accordingly in the studio. With intensity.

A beer with D- beguiled, beguiled - before rushing off for lunch with Jean-Pierre Gredy and Pierre Barillet (co-authors of the Lauren Bacall play trying out in Philadelphia these two weeks. Jean-Pierre is a friend of Jean’s of years studying in in Paris) A drink at The Barclay and lunch at Day’s; a french lunch with that predominate language. Mutual friends in Paris were dissected, particularly Jean as a phenomenon. Some gossip, with and intelligence on the part of my two hosts. Jean-Pierre, who is a near-miss on handsomeness (voluptuous features coarsen to thick features but are saved by a set of very fine eyes - oftentimes screened by brown-lensed , tortoiseshell sunglasses), is perhaps quicker but more caustic of the two. Pierre, who when smoking, frowning in profile recalls the not handsome but somehow equal to that, of an 18th century bust, is easier, more winning companion.

Lunch was over at nearly three.       

May 8

11.21.65

I am somewhat amused by my image of myself sitting at the black and white rug-hung writing table of this at best “modest”, now very disordered flat of mine, or “studio”; writing, smoking, quaffing a can of beer or chilled beer, wearing nothing but a black slip returned by mistake in the laundry and a pair of sandals bought six?- seven? years ago at Cassis. One strap is broken and is askew like a broken tentacle. On the radio is a Hindemith compositions - a chelo or violin predominates as a kind of pop note. The cigarette is Chesterfield, the beer Schlitz. The writer is slender - too slender - and his skin is pale extending in the lamplight above the black slip, in shadow into the shadowy stripe of the table cover below the slip.

A white telephone sits like a round-mouthed mask waiting to be properly hung on the wall; the bed is unmade for days, books, magazines, clothes (a tweed jacket on the back of one chair on the seat of which is a yellow cashmere scarf- Denny’s deep-khaki scarf thrown across another), canvases fronts to the wal further indicate the mood of the room.

Obviously I tonight take a cinematic view of it and its occupant - perhaps because the image evoked momentarily coincides with a role I hoped for myself some ten years ago. In all this description, and most of all in my feeling about it, is an a la recherche du temps passé quality  even then my daydream wasn’t Fitzgeraldian luxury but rather nouvelle vague smart-squander.

New York on Friday was a long day at museums: The Modern, the Edwin Dickenson show at The Whitney (ostensibly my reason for going - 3/4 was a disappointment but the last quarter, the beautifully simple abstract quarter, was well worth the indifference of most of it) The Frick, where D. had never been and where I indignant about his attitude on Goya (he called him “sloppy”) and made him work double-time to try convincing me of Rembrandt’s position as “the greatest painter who ever lived”. It was a crisp, clear day and New York sparkled with that special dazzle of late fall when we left The Met at disk to walk down Park Ave to Fifty-seventh Street and to Andrew’s.

A was in good spirits in his very individual way in spite of hangover and tiredness. The booze flowed dark and fast and eventually we taxied to a Chinese restaurant in Murray Hill for more drinks and other delicacies… I’m rather vague about this part of the evening. I do recall putting A in a cab and D and my climbing into another to proceed to Eighth Ave and Fortieth and do recall our napping for an hour in an empty Greyhound D. happened onto and missing a bus to Philadelphia . But after being rudely awakened by some official or other we did eventually board the right Greyhound just in time to collapse with fatigue.

Practically the next thing I remember was being very cozy in my own bed for about three hours when I was awakened for duty at The W. From there I rushed home to change to be at Steumpfig’s apartment at 3:15 when Robin called for the two of us to go to Ernie Biddle’s  wedding in Chestnut Hill. The reception lasted for hours and passed in a kind of champagne haze but at least we were back to town by eleven and having nightcaps at The Barclay.

In bed by midnight, I slept like a corpse last night. A late breakfast this morning with Bob Barnes.