January 30th was Richard Brautigan’s birthday. His writing had a huge influence on me when I was a young man.
I spent one summer in the late sixties living in a tipi in a ghost town in Northern California reading Brautigan and living off brown rice, rolled oats and Benzedrine. It was the rainy season. As I read In Watermelon Sugar, I felt as though I were made of those sweet volatile molecules so I avoided the rain and a nearby waterfall. I stayed nice and dry in the upside down cone I called my home.
I had a big bag of pot that I buried under the floorboards of a decaying dancehall in the ghost town. Rats ate the reefer. It killed them. I imagined the headlines in my imaginary newspaper: “Mice Murdered By Marijuana.” But they died happy. I found their rat corpses, plump and round, under the floorboards. They died with smiles on their faces. That’s the way I wanna die, I thought.
I was alone that summer, just me and Brautigan and that deadly waterfall. Occasionally I would go to the nearby village where there was a church called The Church Of Tomorrow. Inside the church were beautiful young girls who gave me LSD. I would eat the LSD and make love to the girls, melting into them like watermelon sugar.
When I wasn’t reading Brautigan or fucking or eating brown rice, I would just stare at the sky for hours and watch the sunlight curl along my optic nerve and splash against my brain like a tiny cloudburst made of watermelon sugar.
Ianthe Brautigan Swensen reads “One Afternoon in 1939” from her father’s book Revenge Of The Lawn. It’s a sweet video.