For Martha

When we got to Provincetown, we drove out to a bar at the
very end of the point (is it Stingray Point?), a place where
Provincetown locals hung out. There we discovered an old
schoolmate, Ed Gearing, sitting at the bar. We took a table
and invited Ed over to talk with us about life in P’town.
Apparently he was caretaker and child-care giver for
Norman Mailer. He looked after the house, when the
Mailers weren’t in town and after the kids, when they were.
Maybe 2, maybe 3 beers later, Norman Mailer, who
everybody knows was a Golden Gloves Champion, and
who then was known locally as Provincetown’s reigning
resident celebrity hard-ass, came through the door.
Mailer shoved his way through the parting crowd,
swaggered over to our table, and started shouting at our
friend, Ed. Ed, in response, stood up and started,
defensively, apologetically, to offer a reasonable
explanation for whatever the problem might have been.
Norman Mailer, wasn’t satisfied. He felt it was his duty to
humiliate Ed loudly and openly in this public arena.
He was well underway when, inspired by the quest for
justice which dwells deep within me, after three beers,
Henry Edward Fool
I rose to my feet, bottle number four in hand, and placed
myself directly between Norman Mailer and Ed.
“Excuse me,” said Norman Mailer in a tone that any
celebrity might use in speaking down to anyone who is not.
He tried to step around me to get to Ed, but, as he moved I
moved too, blocking his way.
“I’m trying to talk to my au pair,” Mailer complained.
I remained where I stood. (I didn’t know what an au pair
was.) At that point in my life I’d never done anything like
this before—although I’ve done it since, each time in the
name of justice—but, when Mailer moved again, I moved
again. Each time I repositioned myself so that I was
between Norman Mailer and my friend, Ed. This dance
didn’t last long. Mailer gave me a look which made no
impression on me whatsoever at the moment, but later—
after I’d heard that he’d stabbed his wife, for example—
gave me much to think about.
I think Ed may have saved me when he said, “I gotta go,”
and simply departed.
That left me and Norman Mailer looking at each other. He
was looking at me coldly. I, inadvisably, looked down at
him, bemused. I stood my ground with a silly drunken look
on my face until Norman Mailer snorted, observed me for a
brief moment, sneered, and walked away shaking his huge
block-like head. I’m told that the local crowd sighed a
massive sigh of relief…or disappointment; I wasn’t told
which. At any rate they all returned to their drinks while I
remained standing, bottle raised in glorious victory. I was
Rick tugged on my sleeve and said, “Mailer used to be a
Golden Gloves champion, Edward.”
I snorted loudly in disregard. “Yeah,” I said, “and I used to
be sober!” (Much of this story is pieced together from the
eye witness reports of others who were seated at that table
that night.)
So, at that point in the trip it was: went to New York, saw
Bob Dylan emerging from the White Horse Tavern;
wandered up to P’town where Norman Mailer considered
cleaning my clock, but didn’t; and we were on our way to
California, by way of Aspen, where we stopped in for
another beer, or three or four or more.