Wednesday, September 12, 2012

from the myspace archive: men of mexican mystery (b. traven, arthur cravan, ambrose bierce, and boston corbett) - jan. 20, 2007

men of mexican mystery (b. traven, arthur cravan, ambrose bierce, and boston corbett)

Current mood:pensive
i'm in a bit of a reading rut right now because my focus is so off, so i went scanning the shelves for something familiar and quick to try to ease myself back in and i happened to notice my copy of the treasure of sierra madre. when i first got and enjoyed the book, i did a quick web search to get more info on "b. traven" the mysterious author but found nothing. today, i tried again. and it seems that b. traven was a (maybe?german) writer who didn't want to be found. b. traven was most likely a pseudonym, and there have been guesses at his true identity, but nothing concrete. wiki mentions a graphic novel i'm going to have to pick up that speculated b. traven was actually the prevaricator arthur cravan (who was a character originally named fabian avenarius lloyd -- nephew-in-law of oscar wilde) also last seen in mexico. then of course, my mind flitted to bierce, also never to be heard from again once he crossed over into that country. and then finally, one last hop to my new favourite historical figure, the man who probably shot john wilkes booth, boston corbett. now i don't know about you all, but i'd never heard of boston corbett until recently, though jack ruby is famous enough. so, for those of you in the same boat here's a brief synopsis of the guy's life:
born in england in 1832, he immigrated to the US with his family at seven. he became a hatter (mercury was used in the trade - remember that, it has bearing later on). then he got married. then lost his wife (and i presume child) in childbirth. then he moved to boston and became a born again evangelical christian, and rechristened himself in honour of the town. then he joined the Union army, was taken captive, escaped, was taken captive, was exchanged. oh wait! before he joined the army, and after he became a religious nut, he castrated himself with a pair of scissors in order to resist the temptation of prostitutes. apparently after the impromptu surgery, he managed to go to a prayer meeting, have a large dinner, and then took a leisurely stroll, before he ended up at the hospital for treatment. in the course of time, he ended up being one of the contingent picked to pursue booth after the assassination, who really didn't do an adequate job of escaping, since he got himself trapped in a barn which his pursuers promptly set fire to. though the fire could have done the job for him, corbett managed to shoot booth through a crack in the barn. initially he was arrested for this act, but then the charges were dropped, and he was hailed a hero, and received a reward. then he went back to being a hatter, was exposed to more mercury, (and now all of a sudden i understand the expression "mad as a hatter" outside of alice in wonderland -- we now know that mercury poisoning often spelled psychotic break in the haberdashery trade) alternately sermonizing, and shooting off guns, until they carted him away to an asylum. eventually he escaped, and made for -- where else? mexico...
so here's the thing: i don't think i want to die. maybe i just want to disappear into mexico, and have people wonder where i went. it certainly sounds romantic. i like to imagine bierce, traven and/or/= cravan, and corbett all chilling in some kind of mexican valhalla. i bet bierce and corbett would have some heated debates about religion and maybe some rounds would get squeezed off. and i could pass the drinks around and say alternatively, "mebbe", and "I don't have to show you any stinking badges, you goddamned cabron andching tu madre!"
here's a great quote from bierce in one of his last letters: "Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia."

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