About the Author
The Moustache House
The Moustache House had curlicues on the outside that resembled sad, drooping moustaches. Beau called the house that because he saw things metaphorically, and soon I was seeing everything that way too. Poetry was for me the beginning of life.
The house had a round Victorian turret and our two rooms were on the top floor, so the round room was ours. Beau painted it in three broad stripes, like Neopolitan ice cream and we laid an old rug down. We didn’t know what to put in a round room, so we left it empty.
Our other room had windows looking out over the roofs on Schrader Street. There was a built-in bookcase and under it a space for a bed to be pulled out. We put a mattress in the space and nightly climbed in, clasping each other in our very own cocoon.
The wall opposite the bookcase Beau painted like a work of Jackson Pollock. Standing a foot or so away, he deliriously took a paintbrush dipped in lime colored paint and flung it forward, splattering the wall. That wall in its simplicity was a wonder to behold.
We were, alas, not alone in the Moustache House. We had noisy neighbors and nightly cockroaches climbed the walls leaving hints of themselves over everything. I called them little sharers and hated their allotment with a passion.
Before coming to San Francisco I bought a pair of loafers to walk the hills and we walked everywhere except where I wanted to go. I wanted to travel to Paris to live a literary life. It doesn’t matter where you are, Beau said, you take your world with you, and I did not believe him. My shoes chafed at my feet.
In Honolulu Beau had asked me where I wanted to go, because we both agreed we wanted to leave the islands. I said, I don’t know, and he said, I’ve been to San Francisco once and it was a nice place, let’s go there. Paris was out of the question at the time, so I said, Okay, just like that. And a lot of poets lived there, which helped us make up our mind. We arrived in San Francisco with $100 and two suitcases. The Moustache House’s rent was $65. I learned quickly to juggle money. We could eat for $38 a month. I know, because I kept a record of everything we bought. I discovered chicken wings for 39 cents a pound when I found a recipe in the Chronicle for sweet and sour wings. I was always cutting recipes out and Beau cut them out too, until we had a cluster of recipes and no money to make them.
The friends we made loved our apartment. We sat in a circle in the round room and into the night drank Red Mountain wine that came in gallon bottles. We read poems to each other and critiqued them. What began as an occasional meeting became a weekly event with sometimes 20 or 25 people there. I had my world with me, my literary life, and did not believe it.
I got a job working as a waitress in an Italian restaurant. We rubbed cloves of fresh garlic on the bread and long after the night’s shift, I stank. Nothing I put on my hands could get rid of it. Our poetry group could smell me arrive. It became a joke and they’d say, try lemon, try clorox, and nothing I tried worked.
I was not a good waitress, being nice but slow. An Italian meal has so many courses and between the bread and the antipasto I’d forget the soup. I remember feverishly serving a party of 12 and finding nothing on the table for me when they left. Still, I would have doggedly stayed on except one Sunday when I came in only the owner was there, a man of about 75, and he literally chased me around the kitchen wanting a kiss. I quit the next day and soon after heard that he had had a heart attack. It seemed poetic justice at the time.
That year was my first Christmas away from home. I was not homesick, but lost, lost in a morass of ordinariness. Things were just as they seemed. The street and the cockroaches, the need to begin a lifetime of jobs, the walking and the humdrum. Beau was eternally optimistic because he carried his world with him, while I wanted to be somewhere else.
He was older and more experienced than I was, and he’d come to terms with life in a way that I, at 20, had not. I began to divide things in two — to begin with, his dreams and my dreams. He wanted a bookstore and my dreams were more far flung.
We were broke as Christmas approached. If nothing else we just had toget a Christmas tree. The store on Haight Street was asking too much and I stared at the trees on the sidewalk longingly. To cheer me up Beau promised me a tree.
One day when I went out on an errand, he came through. When I opened the door he told me to close my eyes and led me into the round room. Nothing can describe the simple splendor of the tree he created. There in the middle of the room in a pot of sand taken from the roof next door, standing five feet tall and shooting upwards in all its glory, was our upturned broom. He had wound some lights someone had given us around its handle and threaded them through the straw, and around it forks and spoons rounded out the ornaments. I have never had a Christmas tree that I loved more than that one.
Beau had a moustache and beard. Many Christmases later I gave him a moustache kit with a little brush to brush his moustache and wax to make it into curlicues if he wanted to. He liked the brush, but never used the wax. And once, to my complete surprise, he shaved his beard and moustache off, shaving his head too while he was at it, explaining that everyone should shave themselves bare once in their life. I could never shave my head. But then there are lots of things I could never do, while some I’ve learned to. For example, to my regret, it’s taken over 20 years to learn to carry my world with me.
|© Laura Beausoleil, 2010|