Thursday, December 30, 2010

the pleasures of living in the past

sure, there's pain, nostalgia, fear, hope, all comes to the surface when your mind slips into the memory gear. that said, it's as exciting, maybe more, than anything you will do today by bravely facing the future which does not exist!

gosh, i listened to matt damon reading kerouac's on the road to berkeley. i've never been able to read it, only the lookout stuff in lonesome traveler, darma bums, and desolation angels (the last has the best account of being on a fire tower anywhere). yet given voice on the way to xmas and back, his most famous book brought up from the bog of my mind past joys.

no, not the rocking alcoholic binges, but drives across country, the wanderings around north beach in the beat heyday (1957-9), me a literary teenager and my father stationed on the presidio. commuting to berkeley, i discovered allen ginsberg when he came to class and read us part of kaddish for his mother. long sunday walks took me in and out of mike's place and the co-existent bagel shop, a big reading at columbia house, all the poets around on the balcony as we looked up from the gloom below and watched them hug each other and declaim.

true, i never spoke to any of them, very much a loner in those days, yet i absorbed what applied to my own experience and i've been writing and wandering ever since. yes, i really should have entitled this THE LAST BEATNIK, however i have bigger fish to fry.

my brother and many others counsel, 'forget the past, create a new life.' alas, a writer's life is his past. plus, how can you travel so fast and so far as in memory? hey, somewhere squirreled away in quarantine is everything you've ever done, dreamed, and far more. consciousness is only a small part of it. a novelist friend, david helton, used to relive complete passages of his past on lsd, down to the minutiae. and as we had a conversation in a cafe, we unknowingly recorded all the conversations around us.

the pundits exclaim: the past is present. on a quiet day at home i'm trying to make the most of it, pretending another year isn't almost gone.

i'd like to put a plug in for a friend's website. i find his photos of Philadelphia very moving: