J.D. Salinger




IN CASE you don't live in New York, the Wicker Bar is in this sort of swanky hotel, the Seton Hotel. I used to go there quite a lot, but I don't any more. I gradually cut it out. It's one of those places that are supposed to be very sophisticated and all, and the phonies are coming in the window. They used to have these two French babes, Tina and Janine, come out and play the piano and sing about three times every night. One of them played the piano―strictly lousy―and the other one sang, and most of the songs were either pretty dirty or in French. The one that sang, old Janine, was always whispering into the goddam microphone before she sang. She'd say, "And now we like to geeve you our impression of Vooly Voo Fransay. Eet ees the story of a leetle Fransh girl who comes to a beeg ceety, just like New York, and falls een love wees a leetle boy from Brookleen. We hope you like eet." Then, when she was all done whispering and being cute as hell, she'd sing some dopey song, half in English and half in French, and drive all the phonies in the place mad with joy. If you sat around there long enough and heard all the phonies applauding and all, you got to hate everybody in the world, I swear you did. The bartender was a louse, too. He was a big snob. He didn't talk to you at all hardly unless you were a big shot or a celebrity or something. If you were a big shot or a celebrity or something, then he was even more nauseating. He'd go up to you and say, with this big charming smile, like he was a helluva swell guy if you knew him, "Well! How's Connecticut?" or "How's Florida?" It was a terrible place, I'm not kidding. I cut out going there entirely, gradually.


It was pretty early when I got there. I sat down at the bar―it was pretty crowded―and had a couple of Scotch and sodas before old Luce even showed up. I stood up when I ordered them so they could see how tall I was and all and not think I was a goddam minor. Then I watched the phonies for a while. Some guy next to me was snowing hell out of the babe he was with. He kept telling her she had aristocratic hands. That killed me. The other end of the bar was full of flits. They weren't too flitty-looking―I mean they didn't have their hair too long or anything―but you could tell they were flits anyway. Finally old Luce showed up.


Old Luce. What a guy. He was supposed to be my Student Adviser when I was at Whooton. The only thing he ever did, though, was give these sex talks and all, late at night when there was a bunch of guys in his room. He knew quite a bit about sex, especially perverts and all. He was always telling us about a lot of creepy guys that go around having affairs with sheep, and guys that go around with girls' pants sewed in the lining of their hats and all. And flits and Lesbians. Old Luce knew who every flit and Lesbian in the United States was. All you had to do was mention somebody―anybody―and old Luce'd tell you if he was a flit or not. Sometimes it was hard to believe, the people he said were flits and Lesbians and all, movie actors and like that. Some of the ones he said were flits were even married, for God's sake. You'd keep saying to him, "You mean Joe Blow's a flit? Joe Blow? That big, tough guy that plays gangsters and cowboys all the time?" Old Luce'd say, "Certainly." He was always saying "Certainly." He said it didn't matter if a guy was married or not. He said half the married guys in the world were flits and didn't even know it. He said you could turn into one practically overnight, if you had all the traits and all. He used to scare the hell out of us. I kept waiting to turn into a flit or something. The funny thing about old Luce, I used to think he was sort of flitty himself, in a way. He was always saying, "Try this for size," and then he'd goose the hell out of you while you were going down the corridor. And whenever he went to the can, he always left the goddam door open and talked to you while you were brushing your teeth or something. That stuff's sort of flitty. It really is. I've known quite a few real flits, at schools and all, and they're always doing stuff like that, and that's why I always had my doubts about old Luce. He was a pretty intelligent guy, though. He really was.


He never said hello or anything when he met you. The first thing he said when he sat down was that he could only stay a couple of minutes. He said he had a date. Then he ordered a dry Martini. He told the bartender to make it very dry, and no olive.


"Hey, I got a flit for you," I told him. "At the end of the bar. Don't look now. I been saving him for ya."


"Very funny," he said. "Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?"


I bored him a lot. I really did. He amused me, though. He was one of those guys that sort of amuse me a lot.


"How's your sex life?" I asked him. He hated you to ask him stuff like that.


"Relax," he said. "Just sit back and relax, for Chrissake."


"I'm relaxed," I said. "How's Columbia? Ya like it?"


"Certainly I like it. If I didn't like it I wouldn't have gone there," he said. He could be pretty boring himself sometimes.


"What're you majoring in?" I asked him. "Perverts?" I was only horsing around.


"What're you trying to be―funny?"


"No. I'm only kidding," I said. "Listen, hey, Luce. You're one of these intellectual guys. I need your advice. I'm in a terrific―"


He let out this big groan on me. "Listen, Caulfield. If you want to sit here and have a quiet, peaceful drink and a quiet, peaceful conver―"


"All right, all right," I said. "Relax." You could tell he didn't feel like discussing anything serious with me. That's the trouble with these intellectual guys. They never want to discuss anything serious unless they feel like it. So all I did was, I started discussing topics in general with him. "No kidding, how's your sex life?" I asked him. "You still going around with that same babe you used to at Whooton? The one with the terrific―"


"Good God, no," he said.


"How come? What happened to her?"


"I haven't the faintest idea. For all I know, since you ask, she's probably the Whore of New Hampshire by this time."


"That isn't nice. If she was decent enough to let you get sexy with her all the time, you at least shouldn't talk about her that way."


"Oh, God!" old Luce said. "Is this going to be a typical Caulfield conversation? I want to know right now."


"No," I said, "but it isn't nice anyway. If she was decent and nice enough to let you―"


"Must we pursue this horrible trend of thought?"


I didn't say anything. I was sort of afraid he'd get up and leave on me if I didn't shut up. So all I did was, I ordered another drink. I felt like getting stinking drunk.


"Who're you going around with now?" I asked him. "You feel like telling me?"


"Nobody you know."


"Yeah, but who? I might know her."


"Girl lives in the Village. Sculptress. If you must know."


"Yeah? No kidding? How old is she?"


"I've never asked her, for God's sake."


"Well, around how old?"


"I should imagine she's in her late thirties," old Luce said.


"In her late thirties? Yeah? You like that?" I asked him. "You like 'em that old?" The reason I was asking was because he really knew quite a bit about sex and all. He was one of the few guys I knew that did. He lost his virginity when he was only fourteen, in Nantucket. He really did.


"I like a mature person, if that's what you mean. Certainly."


"You do? Why? No kidding, they better for sex and all?"


"Listen. Let's get one thing straight. I refuse to answer any typical Caulfield questions tonight. When in hell are you going to grow up?"


I didn't say anything for a while. I let it drop for a while. Then old Luce ordered another Martini and told the bartender to make it a lot dryer.


"Listen. How long you been going around with her, this sculpture babe?" I asked him. I was really interested. "Did you know her when you were at Whooton?"


"Hardly. She just arrived in this country a few months ago."


"She did? Where's she from?"


"She happens to be from Shanghai."


"No kidding! She Chinese, for Chrissake?"




"No kidding! Do you like that? Her being Chinese?"




"Why? I'd be interested to know―I really would."


"I simply happen to find Eastern philosophy more satisfactory than Western. Since you ask."


"You do? Wuddaya mean 'philosophy'? Ya mean sex and all? You mean it's better in China? That what you mean?"


"Not necessarily in China, for God's sake. The East I said. Must we go on with this inane conversation?"


"Listen, I'm serious," I said. "No kidding. Why's it better in the East?"


"It's too involved to go into, for God's sake," old Luce said. "They simply happen to regard sex as both a physical and a spiritual experience. If you think I'm―"


"So do I! So do I regard it as a wuddayacallit―a physical and spiritual experience and all. I really do. But it depends on who the hell I'm doing it with. If I'm doing it with somebody I don't even―"


"Not so loud, for God's sake, Caulfield. If you can't manage to keep your voice down, let's drop the whole―"


"All right, but listen," I said. I was getting excited and I was talking a little too loud. Sometimes I talk a little loud when I get excited. "This is what I mean, though," I said. "I know it's supposed to be physical and spiritual, and artistic and all. But what I mean is, you can't do it with everybody―every girl you neck with and all―and make it come out that way. Can you?"


"Let's drop it," old Luce said. "Do you mind?"


"All right, but listen. Take you and this Chinese babe. What's so good about you two?"


"Drop it, I said."


I was getting a little too personal. I realize that. But that was one of the annoying things about Luce. When we were at Whooton, he'd make you describe the most personal stuff that happened to you, but if you started asking him questions about himself, he got sore. These intellectual guys don't like to have an intellectual conversation with you unless they're running the whole thing. They always want you to shut up when they shut up, and go back to your room when they go back to their room. When I was at Whooton old Luce used to hate it―you really could tell he did―when after he was finished giving his sex talk to a bunch of us in his room we stuck around and chewed the fat by ourselves for a while. I mean the other guys and myself. In somebody else's room. Old Luce hated that. He always wanted everybody to go back to their own room and shut up when he was finished being the big shot. The thing he was afraid of, he was afraid somebody'd say something smarter than he had. He really amused me.


"Maybe I'll go to China. My sex life is lousy," I said.


"Naturally. Your mind is immature."


"It is. It really is. I know it," I said. "You know what the trouble with me is? I can never get really sexy―I mean really sexy―with a girl I don't like a lot. I mean I have to like her a lot. If I don't, I sort of lose my goddam desire for her and all. Boy, it really screws up my sex life something awful. My sex life stinks."


"Naturally it does, for God's sake. I told you the last time I saw you what you need."


"You mean to go to a psychoanalyst and all?" I said. That's what he'd told me I ought to do. His father was a psychoanalyst and all.


"It's up to you, for God's sake. It's none of my goddam business what you do with your life."


I didn't say anything for a while. I was thinking.


"Supposing I went to your father and had him psychoanalyze me and all," I said. "What would he do to me? I mean what would he do to me?"


"He wouldn't do a goddam thing to you. He'd simply talk to you, and you'd talk to him, for God's sake. For one thing, he'd help you to recognize the patterns of your mind."


"The what?"


"The patterns of your mind. Your mind runs in―Listen. I'm not giving an elementary course in psychoanalysis. If you're interested, call him up and make an appointment. If you're not, don't. I couldn't care less, frankly."


I put my hand on his shoulder. Boy, he amused me. "You're a real friendly bastard," I told him. "You know that?"


He was looking at his wrist watch. "I have to tear," he said, and stood up. "Nice seeing you." He got the bartender and told him to bring him his check.


"Hey," I said, just before he beat it. "Did your father ever psychoanalyze you?"


"Me? Why do you ask?"


"No reason. Did he, though? Has he?"


"Not exactly. He's helped me to adjust myself to a certain extent, but an extensive analysis hasn't been necessary. Why do you ask?"


"No reason. I was just wondering."


"Well. Take it easy," he said. He was leaving his tip and all and he was starting to go.


"Have just one more drink," I told him. "Please. I'm lonesome as hell. No kidding."


He said he couldn't do it, though. He said he was late now, and then he left.


Old Luce. He was strictly a pain in the ass, but he certainly had a good vocabulary. He had the largest vocabulary of any boy at Whooton when I was there. They gave us a test.