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All My Jellies, and: Old Poets
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All My Jellies, and: Old Poets

All My Jellies

I’m riding shotgun as we tool around Memphis in Tad Pierson’s        ‘55 Cadillac, looking for the house where Johnny Cash livedbefore he hit the big time, and people are shouting, “What year’s    that?” and “That thing is clean!” and sometimes just “All right!”

and “Right there, right there!” and I think, Funny, nobody yells        stuff like that when I’m in my 2006 Prius. What’s the dealwith old cars? Or any car, really. Dorsey Dixon wrote    “Wreck on the Highway” in 1937, five years after Ford

came out with a V-8 engine and more people began to die        all over the nation. More power, more uncertainty;more uncertainty, more art. You can cheat somebody    with a car: Sam Phillips promised a brand-new Cadillac

to the first Sun Records artist to write a hit song, which        Carl Perkins did with “Blue Suede Shoes,” thoughthe car was bought out of Carl’s royalties. Before Zelda    Fitzgerald married, she rode around in the backseats

of convertibles, and when she passed a group of boys, known        as “jelly beans,” she’d laugh, stretch her arms wide,and cry, “All my jellies!” She made a king of Scott,    at least for a while: together they put flesh on the spirit

of the era he would call the Jazz Age. And then it all        went wrong. What happened? All we know is that Scottwrote in a notebook, “I knew something had happened    that could never be repaired.” It was as though, having [End Page 232]

eaten from every tree in the garden, they turned to the one        that was forbidden to them, and when they ate of it,they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden    in the cool of the day, and they hid themselves from

the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden,        and the Lord God called to the man and said to him,Where are you? and the man said, I heard your voice    in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked,

so I hid myself, and the Lord God said, Who told you        you were naked? In Paris, the Fitzgeralds meet Picasso,Cole Porter, Fernand Léger, John Dos Passos, Hemingway,    though when Scott kneels at Isadora Duncan’s feet in

a restaurant near Saint-Paul-de-Vence and she runs her fingers        through his hair, Zelda throws herself down a stairwell;later, she collects jewelry from guests at a party and dumps    it into a pot of boiling water “to make soup,” tosses her

clothes into a bathtub and sets fire to them, buys a gigantic        gilt mirror, has a barre installed in front of it, and practicesten hours a day, seven days a week to “The Parade    of the Wooden Soldiers,” which Scott says later is engraved

on every organ of his body. It was as though the Lord God        said to him, I will put enmity between you and the woman,and to her, I will multiply your sorrow, and to them both,    Cursed is the ground, thorns also and thistles shall it bring

forth, and in the sweat of your face shall you eat bread        until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken,for you are dust, and to dust shall you return. Where did    Adam and Eve go when God drove them out of the garden? [End Page 233]

Genesis tells us only that they were farmers, so you have        to imagine a little town with one stoplight, a store or two,and what else: Camels? Arabs? Were there even Arabs    then? Maybe a policeman in a cart pulled by a mule;

he’d go from hut to hut to make sure everybody was okay,        pull somebody in if they coveted somebody else’s wifeor livestock or simply drank too much wine or beer,    since hard liquor wouldn’t come along for centuries.

Scott Fitzgerald dies at forty-four; he’d given up drinking        a year earlier but collapses while eating a Hershey bar.Zelda outlives...