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I’ve long thought Walter’s interest in Zen was very much a mutual relationship: He disproportionately wound up in the right place at the right time. Sure, occasionally, he may have overstayed a welcome, but he always was just in time getting to the next place he needed to be. Intersecting Circles of Life. Zen Venn diagrams.
In 1973, I visited Walter in Portland. I was starting an indeterminate wandering of the West Coast, having spent two years prepping a van, filling it with camping stuff, and two weeks of circuitous driving across the country. My first night there, someone broke into the van. They stole everything. Every. Thing. I was staring at a surprisingly generous insurance check, contemplating which way the wind blew, when Walter suggested “Greece”. Now, when push came to shove one night in our little house on Karpathos, he would deny ever inviting me, but to his credit, he did assume responsibility for “disturbing the peace” when we were invited down to the police station the next day. So yeah, after navigating assorted ‘other’ Venn diagrams, we settled in, mostly, on the yet-to-be-travel-writer-discovered island of Karpathos. It was a good news bad news kind of a thing, tending more toward the latter during a long dreary winter. On the good side, there were only so many places to drink Ouzo and Retsina, and one night Marilyn (who became a big rainbow-colored circle in the Venn diagram) was ensconced in one, glass in hand.
I returned in 1980. The travel writers had made up for lost time. I went back to the now crowded hotel Walter and I had originally stayed at. Annazula was still managing it, still dressed in Olympos of Karpathos garb. You can Google that. She gave me a room to myself with three of the typical cots you’d find in better-lesser establishments at the time. The next day she tapped on my door and asked if I’d consider sharing my room with a couple from France. I hope that my lack of enthusiasm was not apparent as I said “But of course!” Later, I passed Jacky and Maite in the street, “Greetings!” I said cordially, and the next thing I know we were spending nights and then weeks in some of those same places that serve Ouzo and Retsina.
I did, on occasion, try that “Greetings!” salutation in other situations …not so much.
In ‘82 I was living in a “day-light apartment” in Albuquerque. I’m pretty sure I was still under covers, my girlfriend, drinking coffee, in her slippers (yes, just her slippers) and absentmindedly staring out the only actual day-light window, called out, “Um Mark! There are two strange people staring in the window.” I wrapped the sheet around me. There stood Jacky and Maite, cracking shit-eating grins, staring in the window. Their stay was a-whole-nother story, but as they were leaving to drive their rented Pacer back to New York City I said, “Stop in Peoria. Visit my friend Marilyn”. They were dubious. “Trust me”, I said. “Marilyn. Peoria”. I was not at all sure they’d actually go — they had a limited number of days left on their trip, and a long list of druthers. They spent three days there.
It is possible, even likely, that a barbeque and a party into the wee hours might have happened in any event. Marilyn lived in a converted mansion along with chefs, artists, professors, writers, ne’er-do-wells, and an abnormally large group of friends passing through. Jacky and Maite probably had a beer or glass of wine in their hands before anyone said “Hello”.
Glasses, plates and people were half full, and everybody was minding everybody else’ business, when a lone rider, in black leather, erupted into the yard. All six foot three, plus the cowboy boots, you can’t forget the cowboy boots, climbed off the motorcycle. (Well, OK, it was a BMW, so maybe he didn’t exactly “erupt” into the yard).
He climbed off that same bike at my place in Albuquerque about a week later. He had mentioned staying for two or three days; it was more like eight months. Which would be about two months longer than my girlfriend at the time. Neither of which would probably surprise anybody. He eventually (just in time) moved on to Santa Fe, and the rest is his story.
Well, until ‘96, when Walter mentioned he was heading back to Europe for a book tour, with a stop in France. I suggested he visit Jacky and Maite in Pau, but his itinerary was not that flexible. So, Jacky and Maite went to Paris. They’d arranged to meet Walter at the Catacombs, but they were concerned they wouldn’t recognize him after the intervening years. Not to worry. He was the tallest person in the queue, with or without cowboy boots. The picture of Walter, and Maite, un-cropped, was taken in the Métro.
Simple as that.
– submitted by Walter’s brother Mark