Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
So I went to New York City to be born again. It was and remains easy for most Americans to go somewhere else to start anew. I wasn’t like my parents. I didn’t have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends and relatives to leave behind. Nowhere has the number zero been more of philosophical value than in the United States. “Here goes nothing,” says the American as he goes off the high diving board. Yes, and my mind really was as blank as an embryo’s as I crossed this great continent on womblike Pullman cars. It was as though there had never been a San Ignacio. Yes, and when the Twentieth Century Limited from Chicago plunged into a tunnel under New York City, with its lining of pipes and wires, I was out of the womb and into the birth canal.
Big John’s son Little John did badly in high school, and the police caught him selling dope. So he joined the Army while the Vietnam War was going on. And the first time he came home in uniform, I never saw Big John so happy, because it looked to him as though Little John was all straightened out and would finally amount to something. But then Little John came home in a body bag.