I first landed on the old continent in 74, taking passage on the Dover-Ostend passenger ship. I stood on the docks in the pouring rain, pondering my next move with fifty English pounds to my name, then walked into a café with the sign Maes-Pils. A man waved me over to his end of the bar, and introduced himself as Gaby. Gaby had a face that rolled around like an egg on a counter. He wore an oversized black overcoat, and talked on about Eddie Mercx and the Paris-Roubaix cycling race.
After we got good and drunk, Gaby insisted I stay for the night at his house around the corner. Gaby had a freckled wretch of a ten year old son named Jos who drank table beer and smoked cigarettes from morning onwards, while Simone, his suffering wife, served plate after plate of stews and endives and glass after glass of that table beer. After a few days watching those potato eaters slurp down anguilles au vert and wetloof, the novelty was starting to wear off. Then a local hotel owner named Gerrit dropped by, a pretentious son of a bitch with a gorgeous black haired girlfriend, Magda. Gerrit was carrying a book, Nexus, by Henry Miller. Nothing better to do, I opened the book to the first page. “WOOF! Woof woof! Woof! Woof!” The author was barking into the night. …”Alone – with eczema of the brain.” But he didn’t just bark – he whinnied, he yelped, he mewled, he whined, he bayed at the moon, he bawled, he bared his teeth, he dropped his drawers, he clawed at the wall of his madness as he described the unquellable reverberation of a woman who had pushed him right to the edge. He was Isaac Dust salivating, ruminating, spewing out his love from Dante’s fifth heaven. He was Strindberg. He was the fifth cuckold of the eighteen thousandth implosion. He was a Pascalian bug, crawling across the shite of Botticelli, Bosch, Giotto, Cimabue, Piero della Francesca…I had arrived at the end of page one of Nexus. Thanks to a Brooklyn boy – Mr Henry Valentine Miller – I had been granted passage through a portal into old, corrupt, decadent, rotten Europe. I would never return to the maritime port of Vancouver. Ostend marked the port of entry into the millennial cesspool of Europe. Miller marked the day I vowed never to redeem my soul. My exile would be organic, total and irreversible.