Buster Keaton Takes a Walk


[reproduced from "Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down" by Tom Dardis]

Translation and introduction by A.L. Lloyd

In 1930 Garcia Lorca left proud, grave, unhurried Andalusia and found himself in New York. He was appalled. For him it was "a Senegal with machinery." He wrote a group of tormented surrealist poems in which he set down his terror of the concrete canyons of the city where men stagger "unslept like those who've just come from a bloody shipwreck." When his horror had eased a bit, it amused him to recall his favorite American fool, Buster Keaton, and to imagine him making an innocent's journey through the desperate landscape. It was probably shortly after finishing the agonized Poeta en Nueva York that he wrote the sweet little squib--dadaist, surrealist, "absurd,' called El Paseo de Buster Keaton. It remained unnoticed among his papers (missing inclusion in the Obras Completas published by Losada in Buenos Aires) until it appeared in the small collection of Tres Farsas (Coleccion Teatro de Bolsillo, Mexico City, 1959).

Characters: Buster Keaton
The cock
The owl
A Negro
An American Woman
A young girl

COCK: Cock a doodle doo.
Enter Buster Keaton with his four sons, hand in hand.

KEATON: My poor little boys. (He draws a wooden sword and kills them.).
COCK: Cock a doodle doo.
KEATON (counting the corpses on the ground): One, two, three and four. He takes a bicycle and rides away. Among old car tires and petrol cans a Negro is eating his straw hat.
KEATON: What a marvelous afternoon.
A parrot flutters about in the neutral-colored sky.
KEATON: It's great, riding a bicycle.
OWL: Chirri chirri chirri chi.
KEATON: How sweetly the birds sing.
OWL: Chirrrrrrr.
KEATON: Stupendous.
A pause. Impassively, Buster Keaton rides through the rushes and across the rye patch. The countryside grows smaller under the wheels of his bicycle. The machine takes on a single dimension. It could enter a book, stretch out in a bake oven. Buster Keaton's bicycle hasn't a caramel saddle and pedals of sugar, of the sort that wicked men might wish for. It is a bicycle like any other, except that it is the only one that's permeated with innocence. Adam and Eve would run in terror if they saw a glass of water, but on the other hand they would stroke Keaton's bicycle.
KEATON: Ah love, love!
Buster Keaton falls off. The bicycle runs away from him. It chases after two huge gray butterflies. It goes like a madman, half a millimeter off the ground.
KEATON: (picking himself up): I've nothing to say. What was I saying?
A VOICE: You're crazy.
He walks on. His sad infinite eyes, like those of a new-born beast of burden, are dreaming of lilies, angels and silk sashes. His eyes are like the bottom of a glass, like a mad child's. Very ugly. Very beautiful. An ostrich's eyes. Human eyes in the exact balance of melancholy. In the distance, Philadelphhia can be seen. The inhabitants of this city knokw the old poem of the Singer sewing machine and how it circulates among the hothouse roses, yet they never understand the subtle poetic difference between a cup of hot tea and a cup of cold tea. Philadelphia shines in the distance.
KEATON: This is a garden.
An American woman with celluloid eyes comes through the grass.
KEATON: Good evening.
Buster Keaton smiles, and looks at the woman's shoes in close-up. What shoes! We ought never to have introduced those shoes! It took the hides of three crocodiles to make them.
KEATON: I wish--
WOMAN: Do you have a sword decorated with myrtle leaves?
Buster Keaton lets his shoulders droop and raises his right foot.
WOMAN: Do you have a ring with a poisoned stone?
Buster Keaton slowly closes his eyes and raises his left foot.
WOMAN: What a bout it?
Four seraphim with wings of heavenly gauze dance among the flowers. The girls of the city are playing the piano as if they were riding bicycles. The waltzes, the moon, the motor-boats, shake our friend's delicate heart. To everyone's surprise, autumn has invaded the garden like water in the geometrical plot of a sugar-lump.
KEATON (sighing): I wish i were a swan. But I can't be even though I'd like to. Because what have I done with my hat? Where are my paper collar and my watered-silk tie? What a calamity!
A young girl, wasp-waisted, with beehive coiffure, enters on a bicycle. She has the head of a nightingale.
YOUNG GIRL: Whom have I the honor of greeting?
KEATON (with a bow): Buster Keaton.
The young girl falters and falls off her bicycle. Her striped stockings tremble in the grass like two dying zebras. Simultaneously, in a thousand cinemas, a gramophone is announcing: There are no nightingales in America.
KEATON (kneeling): Miss Elinor! Forgive me! It wasn't me, Miss Elinor! (lower) Miss! (very quietly) Miss! (He kisses her.)
Over the horizon of Philadelphia shines the glittering star of the police.

"Creative Mess is better than Idle Neatness."
"He is the personification of a mental minus sign in facial expression."
"That film pulls down my pants and taunts me. -Dieter