Dr. V is really Mother’s doctor, inane, as most doctors tend to be, in between taking shots of morphine. In fact he birthed me and prophetically claimed, “She’s perfect!” where other doctors would be content to note a child had the correct number of unwebbed fingers and toes. Dr. V has a famous approach to patient care, which is to blame for Mother’s longevity. Loosely summarising, Dr. V’s theory positions dipsomaniacs and cynical youths such as myself as standing at the precise intersection of a psychological, physiological and spiritual malaise. As any fool knows, repressed libidinous desires lead to ill health; without relief, ill health, having in effect “hollowed out” the patient’s cells, will let the fulfilling effects of all constructive social, political and spiritual activities simply flow out, as through a sieve, into a void. The body, perceiving thus, cries out for another airy kind of sustenance, then depending on the type of initial repression, the subject attempts to “stop up” this gap, but only develops a boundless appetite: for food, drink, dope, tobacco, abnormal sex, self-obsession, murder, theft, or whatever the case may be.
“However,” says Dr. V, in scientific tones, by isolating and then relieving all of the original symptoms, with a complete, if complex, combination of modern medicines and products to aid mental and physical exercises – starting at bottom with Eno’s Fruit Salts and Barbitol for sleeping, then varieties of rubberised girdles and electrified massage devices, and so on. And then, once all of the “delicate and spiritualised machinery” of the physical body has been worked out and a fix applied, the subject will experience the “fullness” of health, develop “normal reactions” to constructive [Christian-Capitalist] activity and hence the natural cessation of his (or her) mania.
“Criminal activity was once thought to be incurable,” said the Doctor, and so on, and so forth, a whole theory worked out and expounded upon across three consecutive half-hour sessions (at $70 per half hour), at the bottom of which was a quite sincere and originally harmless belief in the benefits of Eno’s Fruit Salts. “O ye gods of health—.”
I had gone to see him on the Friday after the vegan thing, afraid I’d become all too used to weeping. In the end he said I simply had to gain some Rest & Perspective. Obviously Dr V was unaware that I’ve already had long years of Rest (i.e. uninterrupted idleness) and have gained a very long Perspective indeed due in no small part to the telescoping properties of real Texas peyote, which can make everything come to a neat, sharp point then wink once, like a boat in the sun before it disappears over the horizon line.
It is no coincidence that every time I feel close to having a nervous breakdown I think about going back to Texas. When Dr. V recommended Rest & Perspective I immediately thought of Mineral Wells, TX, (“Where America drinks its way to health”) which I passed through on my way to Shitsville last year. Picture postcards show downtown Mineral Wells dominated by the The Baker Hotel, “a famous spa and health resort”, with 14 storeys and over 400 rooms. The Baker was opened in 1929, shut up in 1972, and has since been empty and rotting. It’s supposed to be haunted, for the benefit of the few tourists who still will fag to Mineral Wells, TX, without the promise of a first class resort (meanwhile everything is bigger in Texas and everywhere in Texas is supposed to be haunted), when I would have thought the most frightening thing is that anyone would lock up an Art Deco glory and let it rot.
You can find some really awful, digitally blurred photographs of the interior of The Baker Hotel on the internet. They’re awful because the artless photographer has set their digital camera to “Black-and-White” and under-exposed the pictures, in order to convey a sense of decrepitude and hauntedness in James Cameron’s Titanic-at-the-heart-of-the-ocean style. In short, it’s cheap sentiment, where a good photographer will have some sensitivity to subtleties and can let an image speak for itself.
In decent pictures you can see there’s a particular shade of faded-out art deco aqua-mint-green everywhere: on the far wall of the lobby beside the elevator doors; the bathroom fixtures; the lie-down, strap-in exercise machines (still there) and a fountain near the empty swimming pool.
I got stuck the other day trying to convey this particular shade of Texas-tourist green to a shop girl, who would say things like, “I like the way this jacket is… ‘cropped’ at the back,” and then appeared bewildered when I said, “I think it’s revolting… I’ll buy it.” This in a shop where the music shouted some repellent number, “I’M A FASH-SHON SLUT!” (I’d prefer respectful silence). Guess is a brand that makes that perennial oxy-moron: good quality trash “fashions” – without irony – and it’s incredible tasteless shit, but every now and then they’ll come up with something that I adore precisely because it’s truly awful. The type of green I long for in eyeshadow reminds me of – empty swimming pools, Texas Motels and caravans with 70s print lino, plywood cupboard doors and bathroom sinks painted to look ‘hygienic’, and even though there’s no worse a scent than mint (unless it’s something fecal like ocean breeze), when I was in Texas, in my fagged mind the shade somehow became associated with relief.
That is, respite from carrying a pair of black lungs through the shimmering, baking desert, trying to breathe through a screen of golden dust and always struggling to focus my poor eyes through vintage Dior pink sunglasses in order to read un-syntactical evangelical signs apparently written in mock-biblical pidgin (“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness”) and ads for Coca-Cola, all faded to a nostalgic brown, on the outskirts of a one-horse town famous for their “Chicken Shack.”
The Baker Hotel depressed me no end, until I heard somewhere that the Baker Hotel was almost a copy of the New Arlington Hotel (Hot Springs, Arkansas) and that the Arlington has been maintained through the years. So I high-tailed it to Arkansas when I could (stopping at the famed Chicken Shack on the way).
The New Arlington was built in 1924, replacing the second Arlington Hotel, which had burned down the year before. A souvenir picture postcard shows the dramatic event. Then, when I got there, glory of glories – there was Coca-Cola! Air-conditioning! A pool with water and chlorine in it…!
The lobby of the New Arlington is yellow, and at either end is an alcove, one is the “lobby bar” and the other is the band stand – and the alcove walls are painted with fanciful murals: jungle scenes in Henri Rousseau fashion, cheeky monkeys and juicy oranges, glossy leaves, big flowers that look like oversize daisies, impossible birds, and that very particular shade of aqua-mint deco green… A Rousseau-like jungle scene being quite spectacularly out of place and unexpected in the arid cultural backwaters of the US, and for that reason one of the most fantastic, beautiful things I have ever seen.