Billy Sax

Here’s another incomplete autobiographical piece that Patrick wrote about his adventures in Turkey. The earliest version of this file was dated 6 April 1997 and the newest was from 16 February 2011. The latter is what I used below.

I suspect the title relates to Billy’s band, but I haven’t checked all the other writings to confirm.

Tony Drum lived in the room across from ours in the pension.  Every night, late, he struggled up the narrow stairs with his kit: cymbals, bass drum, snare, tom-tom, top hat, and a foot locker filled with castanets, mallets, sticks, ratchet, maracas, and all the odds and ends that drummers need – from folding stands, spare skins, and foot pedals to rubber matting to keep his outfit from sliding across the stage.  He normally had to make five trips when he came back from a gig, starting with the bass drum and snares, ending up with the foot locker; every sound that a drummer can make on the job was made in the corridors of the pension, with an occasional solo riff if, for instance, he lost his grip on the crash cymbals on the stairs.

His wife and baby slept from about eight in the evening until his arrival after midnight, when you could hear and smell sausages sizzling in the skillet, while the baby bawled for a dry diaper.

Our room was a garret suitable for tubercular bohemian poets of the turn of the century, the only improvement a skylight through which you could determine the weather, more or less.  Mari and I had been living there two weeks, stretching the last of the four hundred dollars we brought with us to Europe.  The year was 1962, and 400 dollars seemed like a lot of money.  After two weeks in Paris, third-class tickets on the train to Weisbaden, and the fourteen nights in the Pension Weiss, we were close to the bottom of the stash.

Our trunks were in Paris, where they arrived a couple of days after we gave up and left forwarding information with the shipping agent.  In the trunk was Mari’s brown mouton coat, which she already needed now, in September.  Also in the trunk was a collection of books and records which had never before been out of my sight, new stylish dresses bought at Saks Fifth Avenue the last days before we left New York, on Icelandic Airlines, a portable typewriter on which I expected to write the next great expatriate novel, and a few utilitarian items like a portable iron and a universal current hair dryer.

Mari was very depressed at this particular juncture, missing her family, especially her sister and niece, and dreading the moment when we would have to make a collect call and have her father or brother send us the air fare to return to the States.  She was so depressed that a couple of days ago she had curled up under the eiderdown, all her sweaters spread out over the covers to keep warm, and refused to get out of the bed.

She seemed to be paralyzed, and reminded me that she had had rheumatic fever when she was young.  A doctor came, prescribed some enormous pills, and told me in the corridor that in his opinion hers was a psychological condition.  She was afraid, to abbreviate his words, and when the cause of her fear was gone, so would be her paralysis.

The next morning I knocked on Tony Drum’s door.