“And this I dreamt and this I dream and sometimes this I will dream again and all will be repeated, all will be re-embodied, you will dream everything I have seen in dream.” Arseny Tarkovsky
Lokkal is indebted to “The Snook Gazette” for allowing an exhumation of the following dead and buried interview with Duke Miller from the year Texas burned in 2011.
Interviewers (Charley and Robert Zipp): Thanks for taking the time for this interview Duke. The citizens of Snook as well as OId Dime Box are big followers of your writing.
Duke: Thanks Charley. How’s the beer and tacos?
Interviewers: Very good. We’re both on the wagon, but because we’re interviewing you we decided to have a few. Can’t pass up the vegan tacos, right?
Duke: Okay, wonderful. I’ll just stick to my Manchurian mushroom tonic.
Interviewers: We were excited to speak with you once we heard about how you could turn yourself into Faust.
Duke: I’m surprised you guys would be interested.
Interviewers: Tell us everything. What’s it like dealing with the devil?
Duke: Well, the devil is key to Faust. Many nights I sit in a chair waiting. Usually the only thing that happens is I fart from the beans at dinner. There is no Faust without a devil. In many ways, there is no history of humans without a devil. One of my favorite Mexican memories is the devil on a velvet painting. One of the secrets of Faust is that he has outlived the devil. Goethe survived the Inquisition. Most people neither know nor care about any of this.
Interviewers: We care. What does Faust mean for you?
Duke: He is more of a chill and shake of medieval pageantry with tents, the plague, maidens and what not. Which way to the rats? Why do they want to siege us? Stuff like that. I can become Faust when my moods turn hopeless and I start thinking about mortality. That’s an invitation to enter the inside fast lane of the Dark Ages.
Interviewers: Fast lane? You consider being Faust in San Miguel Allende as life in the fast lane?
Duke: Absolutely. Having the opportunity to be Faust is like riding lightning. My skin falls away and I twist into mythology. You know, changing one’s skin is an extreme act, perhaps even crazy. However, don’t be confused by the normal definition of skin and crazy. San Miguel is the perfect place to become a character from old literature. Transition is my shelter. Nights can be long here; filled with bells, bombs, barking, sirens, elves and somewhat doomed internal reflections. The stone walls are often cold, the rooms dark, and all of us have a yearning to perform magic acts on our bodies, particularly our faces when they begin to turn downward.
Interviewer: I’m not sure I follow.
Duke: Of course not. I was just saying that… okay, whatever… put your feet up and finish your tacos and I’ll make everything clear. Look around. Do you think it was an accident that I picked this big obra negra balanced on the precipice of Xichu to call my home?
Interviewer: Accident? Were you involved in an accident?
Duke: That’s not the question, but yes, I was. I fell 60 feet off a cliff and twisted my spine. I moved my lumbar a quarter inch forward and now I can’t stand to listen to politics or gringos whine about Mexico because it hurts my back. When I go to parties I usually end up flat on the floor. People talk down to me, but I don’t mind because I’m going inside their nostrils. I feel like I’m in Hospital Mas undergoing an operation at ten p.m. Incidentally, ten o’clock at night is when the spirits come out and retirees feel mortality. It’s what you might call the bewitching hour. Dogs talk to me. Usually poodles, black ones. In fact, the first time I became Faust of Xichu, a black poodle told me how to get off the dime.
Interviews: Why Faust and not one of the more identifiable figures: someone like Rick Sanchez or the monster King Kong?
Duke: Is King Kong a monster? Don’t know about that. Well, for starters those are fictional characters and you guys are totally weird by referencing Rick Sanchez. I doubt if anybody in San Miguel over the age of 20 knows about Rick Sanchez and the impact he’s having upon the mental fabric of the planet.
Interviewers: Sorry. We don’t mean to upset you about Rick Sanchez.
Duke: That’s okay. I’m just a little stressed by this interview. Funny, I’m always ready to defend King Kong and Rick Sanchez. Anyway, why Faust? Well, as a historian, medical doctor, and international mediator, I wanted to be someone who carried a certain amount of gravitas, mystery, and ignorance. Faust fit the bill.
Interviewer: What can you tell us about you as Faust?
Duke: Well, for starters, the vision of Faust is a shadow over the centuries and the old sad sack has stalked many of us down to San Miguel. However, in order to become Faust, I had to put together a decent alchemy lab. Nearly all of my equipment is nationally stolen by unknown third parties. [We got up and Duke took us into his lab.] Here it is… I’ve collected stuffed birds, out-of-date encyclopedias, dry yellow lists, dusty maps, and various small ground animals with eyes that occasionally crawl out of my mouth and onto Talavera plates. Despite the ambiance they engender, the real action is with my extensive chemical ingredients and the beakers, burners, tongs, strainers, and scales. Alchemy, despite what you might have heard, is a precise science.
Interviewers: When was the last time you became Faust?
Duke: I don’t do it often, because the molecular change takes a lot out of me. Let’s see… back in January, I think, on a night like this one… cold wind, mountain top rain. I poured equal parts of mercury, liquid gold, powdered human toes, an old love letter, and black bean soup into a large glass beaker. Once it began to boil I added some strands of female hair that I had stolen from the floor of a beauty parlor just down the street. The owner’s daughter caught me and laughed, “What are you doing?” I stuffed the hair in my pocket and said, “Don’t worry about it kid. Someday when you get to be 100 years old, you’ll understand.”
Anyway, I drank the potion and suddenly I was Faust standing at the corner of Tyndall Avenue and 9th Street in Miami. I walked onto the porch of my old duplex. A red light cast a glow upon the shoes of my next door neighbor, Mona Keesher. Her feet had left the high heels behind when she passed out in the entryway of her apartment. She was breathing heavily, muttering obscenities as if arguing with somebody from the sheriff’s office. I’d come to expect this behavior.
Okay, guys… am I being too erratic for you? Do you want to hear the story in all its dips and dives?
Interviewers: Sure, we’re able to follow this…right Charley? Right Robert, we got this. Just go for it.
Duke: Okay, well, she was a wild child with bad teeth who had been raised in a number of revolving residential treatment centers. We had decided from the beginning to forgive each other our trespasses. There were more important things to focus on in our relationship like writing verse in the air and then watching the wind carry it down the street to our neighbors from New York, the ones with hidden sandpaper that made them walk funny.
Mona’s hair was scraggly blonde. It normally fell down over her flat chest, a boy’s chest. Her legs were nailed to her butt and she seemed to totter on stilts. The inside of her mouth was always hot with cigarette smoke. Alcohol was her debilitating drug of choice, but somehow she managed to do her job well. She was a currier and carried three passports: Israeli, Honduran, and American. A rich Honduran-Jewish businessman was her protector. Most of the time she was out of town, flying on airplanes, but when she was in Miami she was totally there in a very large way that tended to cover my entire body like the roof of a sports arena. She flew back and forth between San Pedro Sula and Miami. She took checks drawn on American banks into Miami and returned to Honduras with cash dollars. Customs at Morales Airport was in on the whole thing and she was just one pretty thing in an ugly black market ring that was avoiding government scrutiny. Washing money was also probably involved, but she never went into the details. My interest in her was purely sexual and poetic.
Anyway, there I was in the doorway and I bent over and picked her up and took her into the bedroom. On the way there she decided to vomit all over me. I put her back down on the floor and drew a warm bath. She muttered my name, over and over again. After I cleaned her, I laid her in bed like a sinking boat and then went next door.
Interviewers: Where does Faust come in?
Duke: Well, here’s the beauty of Faust. He’s able to intervene in the past; change our memories; maybe kill somebody. So I went back to Mona and hoovered over her as the Honduran authorities incarcerated her in a female prison. I watched as they treated her badly and she lost an arm.
Interviewers: Were you able to help her?
Duke: Yes, as Faust, instead of going home after Mona threw up on me, I lay beside her and along about dawn we made love. It was difficult since Faust had put on weight eating potato chips and Thai food, but Mona said she didn’t mind. We talked as the sunlight cut through the pastels of Miami and I tried to get her to leave with me for Thailand. She thought about it for a few minutes and then said she couldn’t because the money for the Honduras gig was too good. But that didn’t stop Faust from taking her to Thailand. Faust tossed the guard who’d tortured her off the prison wall. The bastard fell into a barranca and the dogs found him later. So we rode a carpet of new memories through the smoke and mirrors and ended up living in a refugee camp up on the Thai-Lao border. I gave her a new arm. We’d bike down to the stream and swim with the Thai children and count the thousands of shades of green that fell over us from the untold gardens of Mueang Thai.
Mona is here with me now. I brought her back from Thailand. I stuffed her inside an armadillo. She’s up here on this top shelve. [Duke reaches up and takes down the armadillo.] There she is boys, Mona Keesher.
Interviewers: Well, I think we have enough for the interview. Thanks so much Duke. This will be published as soon as possible.
Duke: You’re welcome. Just don’t misquote me. I wouldn’t want people in Snook to think I was obscure or hoity toity.