Hop in! Where you headed?

I aim this blog at Hitchhiking stories, obviously. However, you can take that in the 'poetic' sense, as we are 'snakes' in time and the asphalt rivers take us to many places, as well as 'places'..

.... occasionally my own 'Road' spurs me to use this blog to communicate with someone I've 'travelled with' who holds a special meaning to me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

..we're still on the A's..if it's alphabetical..I know! ALLEN GINSBERG!!

During my almost a year living in Denver Colorado from November 1972 to July of the next year when the First Rainbow Family Gathering in the Rocky Mountains drew me back towards my former reality as a Northwesterner, I developed an ambivalent memory set towards meeting Allen Ginsberg..ambivalence because I met him, but probably could have gotten to know him better.

I thought I was living in the old Antlers Hotel, a place of such rampant character that I was recently frankly amazed that I could Google not one story about it. Maybe one minor one, but it was so brief it was hard to tell. Other 'Antler Hotel's' arose form other eras, but not mine. Now I'm pretty sure I was instead living across from the Cathedral on Colfax over the pharmacy with the evil landlord pharmacist.

Daily labor was the name of the game. The hardest work I have ever done..and that includes harder than working cutting bottom vines in Yakima Valley hop fields, running ahead of the tractor and chopping through the bottom of the vines so that the guys in the crow's nests on the trucks following me could cut the tops so that the vines would fall nicely into the back of the truck. But at least in the case of these Denver days it was a different job every day. One day it would be jack hammering some guys basement; musta been six of us with jackhammers down there. Or else at a country club by the pool...not what you might think...sledge hammering through the cement to get to a broken pump by the pool.

Whatever it was on this particular day in 1973, I at least was working with a new friend, Richard, I had the fortune to meet up with. We had enough of a connection in this big 'melting pot' of a city to enjoy each other's company. We'd worked our asses off at some hard job, in fact I believe it WAS that pool job. Oh ! I forgot to say hardest work I've ever done AND the absolute worst pay, even for the times. The entire eight hour day netted us a check for just shy of a ten spot each.

So there we were. The company had given us a free ride back to the 'office' and our daily check. Ironically, we decided to celebrate and spend it all that afternoon in a nice little restaurant a few blocks north of Colfax, an Italian place that had a great spaghetti and Italian Sausage. So I think we both had that and a bottle of beer, wiping out our funds. We bonded over some spiritual stuff, got to know each other a little better. Then we paid our bill, after we were refreshed and full, and started to leave the cafe.

Immediately. There he was. Standing on the sidewalk with a woman who turned out to be either Italian or French, I forget. Allen Ginsberg. As if he'd been waiting for us. I was carrying my book, Gurdjieff's All and Everything, or Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson. Straightaway, Ginsberg mentioned it, recognizing the binding and the thickness of my book. He the explained that he and his female companion had I think gotten off the bus and were lost. He spoke of the Revolution, and that he was going there to greet the people who were camped out on the Capitol steps then. It was the time when Nixon had put mines in Hanoi Harbor. People were in protest over that.

I thought Ginsberg would know Denver, but the truth is the downtown area is like a big disk that has been turned so many degrees. Some of the street corners have little static compass sculpture things embedded in the sidewalks to help folks know where North is. They were trying to find the Capitol Building. Richard and I pointed them the way. So I guess we helped Allen Ginsberg through life, so to speak. I'll put that on my resume.

We said a friendly adieu and went our respective ways. Richard and I chatted more as we walked, he relating to me that this wasn't the first time he'd met Allen. Once in Washington Square Park in NYC, Richard witnessed Allen reading some poetry from a podium. Beside him he had a paper sack. As he read, he'd chosen to use a different technique to indicate to his rapt audience exactly where the exclamation points were. He would reach into the bag, clasping a handful of what apparently was human shit, and (EXCLAMATION POINT!!) SLAP it onto the pavement beside him!

Richard later introduced me to a band of spiritual brothers who were bonded by a similar bond I had been missing from my own 'brothers' from the North West whom I'd decided to take a hiatus from. I may write more about the Denver band of brothers later. Denver Tom. Clarke ( dangerously aware vs. sociopath--you'd have to meet him then decide for yourself, he defies description..i vow to try another time). The skinny guy sharply aware, and penetrating eyes. The cabby who apparently liked little boys, but nevertheless turned me on to Idries Shah's Sufi writings, which enjoyed very much over the years.

Throughout the week following meeting Ginsberg I saw him twice more. These other times are the times I kick myself about as both times I sensed he would have welcomed a conversation, but I think I was intimidated, undervaluing my own experiences..shucks.

One time I was walking by the Greyhound Station I think on the same street where we'd met. Inside, in the bus station coffee shop, Allen sat at a little table with a middle aged man, possibly a gay friend of his, but he glanced out the window and remembered me. He waved and smiled, and so did I. This icon. Made my day again. Ah, well.

The other time was across the steet from my little studio on Colfax, across from the Cathedral, just up Colfax from the Gold Domed Denver Capitol building, in a little coffee shop where I spent much time reading. I'd been there downing cup after cup from an hour or two around dinnertime when in walk three or four 13 or 14 year old boys with an older man who I did not ID right away as Allen. Then it hit me. He didn't see me this time. Perhaps because he looked preoccupied. I have no idea what was going on, but the boys did not seem to be particularly and/or sufficiently impressed with this American literary icon who accompanied them. Was he babysitting? Was he interested in something else?... I sure don't know. But his demeanor was, to my completely uninformed eye, depressed. Hunched over. Trying to hide, or uninterested in what the boys were actively talking about...wishing he weren't there. It seemed, if I was challenged to write about what I saw..as I am now challenging myself to do...that Allen was perhaps one of them, and not a very popular one.. like following them around. One can't know all about what one observes, but we always try to make sense of things. I guess I'd lay my money on babysitting a friend's kid and his buddies. Very surreal, but who knows! OK. No drama here. Not fur you, maybe. But it was a highlight in my life back then.

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