Riding and Running with Allen Ginsberg
Written for Stew Albert
March 20, 1973
The homosexual theme
that runs thru my poetry
is not intended
as gay proselytizing
nor as American program for salvation
but as manifestation
of that subjective Frankness
for any salvation program,
& old fashioned
"nothing human is alien to me
humanity mammal humour.
It was Allen Ginsberg's turn.
He looked messy and messianic. Not with the intense angry arrogant eyes seen in early beat generation photographs. Ginsberg's beard now seemed kindly, his warm eyes were the type that looked into souls and found them beautiful. Yet there was also something slightly worn out and shabby about his dress and physical presence, as if maybe his best creative days had ended during the previous week and that some artistic decay was now just barely noticeable around his mid-section.
His chants and recitations joined together the evening. Sweeping flows of kaleidoscopic imagery mixed with highly precise glorification and denunciation. Sex, the body and the dream of love were praised on high, war, repression and death were scorned, ridiculed and erased. The evening felt like it had all been scripted as overture for Allen.
I don't remember how I got into the car with Ginsberg and his bard pals. It isn't that time has erased the recollection. I'm sure I couldn't have answered the question when I was in the car. Very strong marijuana laced with something speedy, inhaled at a Vietnam Day Committee party took away my present and past and future. Just so. I was in the car with Ginsberg and for some reason we were driving around San Francisco and I really didn't care why. A couple of days off the bus and I was hitting the bohemian jackpot. Touring Frisco with Allen Ginsberg.
He was telling me about his tortured relationship with Peter Orlovsky. About fear, violence and love. Stuff from poems and movies. Why? Maybe because he realized it didn't matter. I was much too wasted. I couldn't understand him. I couldn't respond. He left me off at my North Beach hotel.
"I think I stayed at this flea bag when I first came to San Francisco. It's possibly the same place."
Walking up the stairs to my room I left the sixth heaven and climbed to the seventh and a new life.
The Hellís Angels had been approached by another great compromiser, the poet Allen Ginsberg. Allen bought off the Angelís maximum leader for life, Sony Barger by writing a poem to him.
Ginsberg was a regular at the big Vietnam Day Committee membership meetings. Humbly he would wait on the side. A very friendly approachable guy. Modest it seemed. He chatted up his pacifism and eagerly listened to your response. How easy it was to hang out with our very own Walt Whitman. Just another VDCer was our poet.
But when Allen addressed the assemblage en mass, he took a different tone.
"You can decide what you want. But if you vote for violence, I'll have to pull out and leave. town. I wont be meeting with the Angels. You'll be on your own."
Ginsberg's humility had limits. He wasn't bound by our vote. Our vote was bound by him. You want a big celebrity poet on your side, cooling out your enemies? Then you do what he tells you. Ginsberg must have taken great pleasure in wrapping both Jerry Rubin and Hell's Angels leader Sonny Barger around his finger.
And novelist Ken Kesey, who was greatly respected by the bikers, made sure the rank and file gang members had plenty of discombobulating LSD on the day of our big march.
This time the Angels would have a hard time standing up, much less physically attacking thousands of not necessarily pacifist peace marchers. The few that showed came with signs proclaiming the perhaps over complimentary slogan "VDC = VC" but next to twenty thousand marchers they didn't seem very formidable.
My head wound persuaded our poet minstrel peacenik messiah Allen Ginsberg to show off my battered blond head to a visiting literary delegation but William Boroughs, Terry Southern and Jean Genet were only moderately impressed. My scar was acceptable as an opening gambit but six stitch gash, even if administered by a police blackjack, would not inspire a literary masterpiece or remove a writer's block.
Allen Ginsberg, who once howled the beatís constitution of purpose, and who later, inspired the Vietnam Day Committee to practice non-violence in their dispute with the Oakland Hellís Angels Motorcycle Club, sat in a Lincoln Park circle of Om chanters.
Allen and the Omers gave the impression of withstanding tear gas and night sticks by the power of meditative concentration. Focus on your breathing and the universe of pain will vanish, non-attachment will reverse chaos, but Allenís brave benevolent circle, like the Christian ministers, fell before the rampaging mob of official atheism.