THE LOUDNESS OF LIFE by Peter Nolan Smith

Not all intellectuals have been exiled by the exorbitant rents from Manhattan.

The other evening editors, writers, publishers, agents, actors, painters, and pundits gathered at a West Village triplex of a right-wing journalist recently returned from the Libyan revolution. Nobody was famous, although several of the attendees had come close. The first arrivals congregated in the basement kitchen. The Guatemalan maid poured rose champagne and red wine.

Our Saharan tanned hostess was dressed in a sleek black dress complimenting her svelte figure. I congratulated her daring exploits with a paperback 1st edition of Jacqueline Susann’s VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.

“I love her.” Anne thanked me for the gift and swiftly swung her attention to the avalanche of guests descending the winding stairs.

Within thirty minutes the kitchen was filled with smart people sounding smarter with each glass of wine. Conversation was nearly impossible with the rise tide of volume.

Years ago I would have glowed at the center of this cosmos.

Tonight I simply desired some quiet words.

It wasn’t happening in the basement and I ascended to the ground floor, where I ran into a friend’s ex-wife. The 34 year-old brunette also came from Boston. After a few questions about my family in Thailand, the magazine editor asked if I wanted to have a baby with her.

“You have several kids. I want a baby before I’m too old.” Beth seemed so fragile in this desire.

“You will, but you deserve better than me or your husband.” I was devoted to Fenway’s mom and I introduced my friend’s ex-wife to a good-looking and single banker.

Her smile disguised the disbelief of happiness in her time. I left the two to get acquainted and I descended from the mosh pit for another glass of wine. The maid was trapped in the kitchen. She’d never make it any higher to serve the other guests. I signaled for her to pass a bottle of wine to me. It was a Chablis.

The bell rang and I opened the door to another onslaught of guests. They piled their coats and jackets on the sofas before descending into the ever louder basement. I climbed to the second-floor and found a Laotian-French girl was sitting with her Lebanese boyfriend. He was praising the wave of rebellion washing across the Middle East. A Wall Street banker proposed a toast to Democracy. My glass stayed at my side and I said, “This is less about Democracy than the struggle of the poor against the rich. No jobs, no food, no rights.”

“Well, here’s to the rich.” The Lebanese boyfriend drained his glass. A sneer twisted his lips. His aspiration to wealth was no sin in America. Everyone wanted to be a billionaire.

I spoke to a pregnant literary agent about giving birth. She asked for advice from a father of four. I only know what I know and said, “Don’t have a c-section. Let the baby sleep in the bed with you. Feed the baby breast milk as long as you can and quit working your job. Your baby is more important than any book.”

She thanked for this counsel and asked about my writing.

I raccounteured the outline to my short stories about hitching across America in 1974.

“Lesbian orgy in Big Sur, LSD on Black’s Beach, drinking moonshine with ex-cons on Route 66, ghosts in a haunted mountain house in Vermont, gay marines at a disco in San Diego. A tale of lost times.”

“Sounds fantastic.”

“Maybe you’ll get to read it one day,” I said with a smile, even though I have abandoned any hopes of having my stories published in a book.

I’m 58. Editors want young blood. Writers who have a knack for tapping out fiction on their Blackberries. That person was not me. It was time to go home.

Barely midnight, but one the way out I was introduced by an English dandy to his friends as a man who had been thrown out of Thailand.

“Excuse me.” His comment bordered on slander and as a younger man I might have assaulted him in front of everyone, however AD had actually lent me $100 upon my return to the States and that money had come to my family. That favor granted him liberty at my expense.

“Come on, everyone knows how the Thai police escorted you to the airport in chains.” The ex-child star lifted his head to laugh at this image. His friends regarded me with delight. I was a true criminal in their midst.

“That’s a funny story, but not even close to true.” I swiftly explained how the Thai police had treated me with absolute deference. “No chains, no dirty jail cell. They bought me dinner after I paid bail. The head detective said that he would protect me. Three months later I paid a $100 fine for international copyright infringement and the police were waiting outside to take me for drinks again. I’m persona grata in Thailand. By the way I’m paying off everyone who helped me back then. Here’s your c-note.”

The fop snatched the bill from my hand. He has two kids. I left the room, as he recounted to his friends about the sordid details of wiring money via Western Union. AD was quite right about that. Western Union offices are drenched with the sadness of desperation and I haven’t been to one in ages.

I slipped out of the house without any goodbyes. It wasn’t cold outside on the street and I walked over to subway on West 4th Street. The A train was making local stops to Far Rockaway. Home in Fort Greene was less than 30 minutes away. I couldn’t get there faster.

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