Meanwhile I was preoccupied with the tasks and adventures of day-to-day living in the French Quarter, where I shared my living space with a young man who had accompanied me from Southern California.

My roommate, Gregory Hill, was short in physical stature with curly black hair. Elfin blue eyes combine with his squat physique to give him a Pan-like appearance.

A lover of wines, cheeses, unusual tobaccos, exotic teas, strange blends of coffee, and anything else calling for subtle distinctions -- including abstract optical effects in art and mind-bending intellectual paradoxes -- a connoisseur of everything quaint, particularly when he discovered for himself what was quaint about it, Greg would spend hours looking into something that most people would never notice.

Expressions of gratitude to Saint Jude and Huey P. Long for prayers answered among the personal classifieds of the New Orleans Times Picayune, Cajun jokes, French Quarter architecture, Irish Channel slang and crackpot cults all amused him enormously.

Our first outings together in El Monte, California, had in fact been to meetings of a far-out religion of flying saucer buffs founded by a man named Daniel Fry. The cult was called "Understanding" (except that it was spelled with a Christian cross where the "t" would ordinarily go).

Greg found in Slim an amusing and intellectually stimulating companion.

I took Greg to visit Slim's pad -- where, in keeping with his notions of hospitality, the landlocked seaman immediately served up a Mason jar full of room temperature coffee.

Greg took a sip and wrinkled his nose. "This coffee's cold!"

Slim laughed. "Man, you don't drink coffee -- you drink temperature!"

Always a pushover for utilitarian logic, Greg was to remark to me many years later: "You know something? From that day to this I have never once complained about cold coffee."

Greg and Brother-in-law met only once or twice. First on the Sunday before Memorial Day when Slim, Gary and Ola dropped into our Saint Louis Street pad for a visit. I don't recall much of the conversation that afternoon -- only that Brother-in-law kept looking at Greg's typewriter, with which I was currently writing my novel about Oswald.

Hands behind his head, Gary tipped his chair back and stared at the machine with a loutish grin and began talking about a pawn shop on Canal Street where it was possible to have stolen goods fenced.

For my part, I spent most of the time observing the serene, resolute Ola, whose liberal cultural and racial views rebuked her Mississippi background. I was trying to figure out what she saw in a self-proclaimed Nazi, since in spite of her professed agreement with Ayn Rand, some of my own much more rational right-wing views seemed to annoy her. Slim had told me Brother-in-law liked Ola because he deemed her red hair a Germanic trait.

In those days, we were inclined to leave our door unlocked, and the next day, Memorial Day of 1961, when Greg and I were out somewhere drinking coffee and arguing philosophy, somebody made off with the typewriter. Both of us suspected Brother-in-law, but we didn't see how we could prove anything -- the idea of checking with the pawn shop he'd mentioned never dawned on either of us.

We did call the police, however. Two cops came to visit us. They said from now on to keep our door locked. "Believe me," one of them added, "after you've been in our business awhile, you know better than to trust your own brother."

As for any hope of recovering our stolen property, the chances were, they allowed, slim.

Since I was drawing unemployment, retroactive from the period before I got part-time work as a phone solicitor, I gladly paid the greater portion of the price for a new typewriter -- something which Greg commented at the time, was "more than generous," compelling me to explain that my motive was self-interest: "I want to finish The Idle Warriors."

Later when the Foster Awning phone room closed down, Slim gave up his apartment to live for awhile in a skid-row mission, and at widely spaced intervals he would use our shower. Sometimes he would make such a visit when neither Greg or I were home, and we could always tell he'd been there because of the lingering stench. Slim would wear the same clothes, unwashed, for days at a time. This was not simply because of poverty, for he told me once that he actually preferred not to change clothes.




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