Sunday, August 7, 2011

learning how to HOWL

it all seems so bizarre now, being seventeen and wandering around north beach san francisco, mike's place, the co-existence bagel shop, not really part of the beat scene, a literature student at berkeley.

last night i spent the whole evening on netflix creating an even longer instant queue for myself, bouncing from anime, to french thrillers, documentaries about butterflies and beautiful insects, collecting a long list along the way, longer than i will ever be able to watch.

this evening i wandered down the stair of movies, trying to find a landing, and nothing stuck til i stumbled across a movie about alan ginsberg and the obscenity trial for his poem HOWL, and began watching it without high hopes, but having listened to most of ON THE ROAD last summer and remembering the sad death of neal cassidy by the railroad tracks outside san miguel, mexico, the police coming to the author of EPISODES pierre delattre to ask if he knew this body of the man who'd been given divinity by jack kerouac and he said yes, i let the movie pull the memories out of me.

at that time (1957) i studied modes of fiction in a thomas parkinson class, a friend of ginsberg, the prof had him come speak to us, and alan pensively  read part of KADDISH, a requiem for his mother, which he'd been working on out in the courtyard while waiting for class to begin, not shaggy haired and bearded but a young fifties guy in normal clothes, just like in the movie. 

one kid in the class demonstrated outside the courthouse during the trial, very nervous about being arrested himself and what what would happen, and i don't know what did, but it's all like yesterday, years later alan coming up to me at a table in the new school for social research where i was helping with registration and asking where he should go, limping for some reason.

and then  when he read at the city center in santa cruz, jingling his bells - he'd been to india in the meantime and wore the white of a guru - when the loudspeaker called out someone had planted a bomb and we all filed out while alan cheerfully kept chanting and told us to be calm. 

alas, too many of my ideals come from these guys, the movie PULL MY DAISY, local readings by gary snyder, who lives in the area and who lost his sense of humor after his first book of poems RIP RAP as did alan after HOWL, both becoming sages who couldn't make fun of themselves. 

since i'm just a clown stumbling through the universe, i can't say i've done the same, a ridiculous hold-out from the rebellious boys of the fifties and still trying to find my own voice up here on the mountain where the coyotes howl. 

feel free to wander through my galleries and see if you can find a faint echo of that radiant epoch: