Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole
Another Chapter from Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole
Lighthearted Beachhead pieces
People of Venice
Art in the Beachhead
Venice institutions from the Beachhead
Jack the Liar
by Vaughn Marlowe
Vaughn Marlowe was
a bookstore proprietor
The Man Who Cried Wolf
Jack was a marvelous liar. He probably couldn't help it. As my grandfather said about another man, ''He'd rather climb a tree to tell a lie than face you and tell the truth.'' It was compulsive lying, perhaps, but maybe not. I have doubts because he had a successful career at Hughes Aircraft as an aeronautics engineer, where one of his coworkers told me Jack was regarded by management as something of a genius; and he was also apparently a decent family man, with a wife and two young sons. Maybe it had something to do with being a reformed drunk, which he admittedly was. Furthermore, he was an AA proselytizer who regularly visited the Santa Monica jail's drunk tank; and although I don't know the drill, I imagine AA's 12-steps have something to say about lying.
To be fair, Jack's lies were neither malicious nor economically motivated. They were, I suppose, harmless and mostly about his totally imagined military record. Such war stories might have played pretty well among civilians, but Venice West had plenty of former soldiers who saw through them easily enough. Their reaction was to shrug off Jack's preposterous claims because he was otherwise legitimate. For instance, he was a ranked chess player and a member of Mensa. He was also generous to bums and beggars and consoling to the wretched. So what if he was a compulsive liar? They were merely self-aggrandizing tales, fantasies, even amusing; every outfit's got its barracks bullshitter.
One other area brought out the fabulist in him: women. To hear Jack tell it, he had bedded a different sort of army, one made up of the fair and the famous-all before his marriage, of course. Except for one notable exception (which I am building towards), the girls and women of Beatdom found him totally resistable; and, indeed, he seemed more interested in playing chess and bullshitting about how he and General MacArthur could have won the Korean War than he was in beatnik girls. The point is, Jack was tagged as a liar by everyone, although no one disliked him. He was even liked by some because of his willingness, even eagerness, to coach less skilled chess players, and by others for his generosity at picking up coffee tabs and sympathetically counseling drunks and junkies.
So when he came into the bookstore one Friday and offered me a ride to San Francisco, I accepted. My wife had driven up in our car with a friend a few days earlier for a Women's Strike For Peace conference and I was going to fly out of LAX and meet her in the city and then drive back to Los Angeles together. Jack pointed out, however, that I could save both trouble and money by sharing the day's driving with him. He was going to some sort of conference himself. I knew enough to steer him away from the subject of women by pretending a disinterest in vicarious sex stories, and he knew I was a veteran of that war he was obsessively revisiting, so he avoided that; but we could talk of other things-his voluminous knowledge of the history of human flight, for instance, or the entire line-up and baseball statistics of the 1946 Boston Red Sox World Series team. Jack possessed an encyclodedia-like knowledge of many things other those two glaring exceptions where he felt compelled to lie and invent.
We somehow ended up at a party that night in San Francisco at my friend Steve's flat in a big 3-story Victorian house. During the course of the evening a ''beatnik chick,'' as Jack described her, unpredictably took a shine to him (or his MasterCard) and they disappeared for two days. My wife and I sort of disappeared too, taking a leisurely weekend return to Venice via Big Sur. A few days later Jack came in the bookstore and, after some hemming and hawing, asked me about the 20-year-old ''girl'' he had spent an idyllic weekend with. How well did I know her? Would she try to contact him? Would she go to his wife? Was she the sort given to blackmail? Poor Jack was at a loss; his Don Juan pose had collapsed. He was scared and regretful.
A few months later he was transfered to the Hughes facility at Long Island, NY and of course never saw the girl again. There was no effort made by either to contact the other. It was no big thing; they had simply hooked up for a weekend. I never saw him again either. Steve and I got into a laughing fit some years later when we speculated that because Jack The Liar had no doubt exposed his new friends and fellow workers to his confabulations, he was soon dismissed as a hopeless liar on such matters, and that perhaps at that very moment he might be desperately trying in vain to convince someone, anyone, that he had once spent a lovers' weekend with ... Janis Joplin.
Because of course he really had.