Many times, I don't remember too much about the time I spent near Venice. The past is like that, as it recedes into the distance and is overlaid with new experiences. Especially a distant past, concealed perhaps, opaque certainly. I wonder sometimes but not too much why I am trying to reconstruct and revisit these times.
I don't believe it's a simple affliction of the nostalgia manque, although that might be part of it.
The Venice West was a rundown coffee house even at the time. They served coffee in small chipped cups. The smell of Picayune cigarettes was in the air, though sometimes that was replaced by the sweet stink of Faros. Cheap folding checker boards defaced with a large printed number in black crayon or a cribbage board with the price tag from the Salvation Army store were strewn about on the tables.
And there were books with well worn spines on the shelves, and the books had their small prices penciled in on the front page (also from the Salvation Army store). Ten cents for "The Razor's Edge." Imagine that.
John left it there for the Korean War vets in the area. Most were shattered, I could tell by seeing them.
You know, I borrowed that book to read and I was profoundly affected. I tried to return it to John's place, honest. Reluctantly, I admit, as I wanted to treasure that experience and feeling for all time. When I went to the Venice West to give it back to the tables and shelves there, the Venice West had closed and gone out of business. I carried the book for years, it held a special place on any of my bookshelves. I carried it in a suitcase when I traveled sometimes and wanted to reread certain parts. I even carried it for courage. I wanted to hold on to it and hold it close, as if the story would somehow rub off and go straight into me.
I eventually gave it to someone to read, I believe he was an actor or had something to do with the stage, and I told him it was a very special book, a little of its history in my stewardship, how I came to acquire it, and why I was passing it along to him at this time. I promised him he would have a metaphysical experience just reading the book.
My copy of the book, the one I handed on, had a slightly darker green as the cover.