Tuesday, February 22, 2011

catching the wave (beatnik #2)

I coulddaa been a contender... how those words of marlon brando echo down the years. It sure takes a lot of luck as well as balls and tenacity.

Yesterday, I perused malcolm gladwell’s outliers. He shows how your circumstances to a large extent determine your success. For example, the creators of the personal computer, jobs and gates born within a year or two of each other. How the stars lined up for them and their fellow geeks. Gates had computer opportunities almost no one else of high school age had. Jobs, I forget how it all worked for him, though the right partnerships certainly played a part. Had either been born three years later or earlier, they would have missed the wave.

Eureka! I almost shouted in the barnes & noble café, ‘I HAVE AN OUT.’ See, I wandered north beach, mike’s place and city lights books in san francisco in 1957 at seventeen. Attended a big beat reading. Alas, I lacked three to five years of making the scene. Yes, a young ginzberg came to my college lit class and read new parts of kaddish. But I failed to touch the hem of his levis. Others demonstrated at city hall against the suppression of howl. I didn’t let out a peep, let alone a scream.

Damn, that wasn’t only tsunami slightly ahead or behind me. In paris during 1956 with my family at 16 I lacked the maturity to hang out with existentialists, drink booze and get laid. Later in the sixties I did meet an absurdist, the playwright author adamov in a café. With the smoke oozing out between his decayed teeth, he seemed ancient. Once again, 1940 did not do well by me. Of course, I didn’t get killed in ww2, korea, or vietnam, so I guess I should be thankful.

And what about the theater scene in new york, aka the late sixties? Too old, too old, too old. Later my play grandma did get performed in the balcony of a west-side church. 1979, a grandmother, a church, that tells the whole tale. Another monsoon gone by a few years before me.

At san francisco state I studied shakespeare’s contemporaries. What a star-studded group! Right-aged willie stood on his surfboard and soared to the top of the mountain. And the blues singer, robert johnson. Sure he came late in the Mississippi delta but not too late, died unknown, his recordings a synthesis or everything around him. Later, the rolling stones eulogized him. He rose to be the god of rock and roll.

There we have it. Timing is all, said shakespeare and my mother. Now I can really say, I coulddaa been….

here's grandma: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/grandma2