Back in 2011, a longtime friend that I’d never actually met — Beef Torrey, known at birth as Gregory Kent Torrey — came to visit.
Beef and I had corresponded for years and he helped me immensely with my Mile Marker Zero book. When I was going to interview Jim Harrison, a central character in the book, Beef advised me to show up with American Eagle cigarettes and a bottle of wine. Jim appreciated both gifts and talked my ear off.
Beef died suddenly a few years later and when it happened, all of his friends felt a disturbance in the force. He was a great man, a literary character, and a person who enjoyed life on earth.
When he came for that visit, he brought my boys gifts, including vintage issues of Mad magazine. He spent a lot of time with them as we sat on our veranda overlooking the ocean. They adored “Mister Beef.”
Mile Marker Zero was dedicated to Beef and to Tom Corcoran and Dink Bruce. The paperback version, which came out after his death, is dedicated to his memory.
He brought me a gift too — a copy of his latest book, Conversations with Tom Robbins, which he compiled with Liam O. Purdon.
Beef and Liam interviewed Robbins for the final piece in the book and it contains this wonderful passage:
I’m for writing that is willing to wrap itself in the chiffon of dream and the goatskin of myth, but that shuns the mummy bandages of good ol’ earnest mainstream social realism because it can’t abide the smell of formaldehyde. I’m for writing that has the wisdom to admit that much of life is indisputably goofy and that has the guts to treat that goofiness as seriously as it treats suffering and despair.
I’m for writing that glugs out of the deep unconscious like ketchup from a bottle: writing that can get as drunk on ketchup as on cognac — and then sing all the way home in the cab with Cutie.
I’m for writing that sings in the shower. I’m for writing that shoplifts sleazy lingerie from Victoria’s Secret and searches the clear night sky for UFOs.
I’m for writing that quivers on your lap like a saucer of Jell-O and runs up your leg like a mouse. I’m for writing that knocks holes in library walls.
I’m for salty writing, itchy writing, steel-belted, copper-bottomed, nickel-plated writing, writing that attends the white lilacs after the heat is gone. I’m for writing that can swing like Tarzan — on a vine woven from the nose hairs of Buddha. I’m for writing that rescues the princess and the dragon.
I thought you might enjoy that.
Thank you, Mr. Torrey.