It was the very late 50s, 1959 probably and I was kid living in Greenwich Village just starting to write poetry, not what I write now, but the Beat sort of poetry. It was summer and hot, sticky as I wandered down MacDougal Street past MacDougal Alley and stumbled upon the Gaslight Cafe.
A small looking place, down a few stairs and into a dark coffee house. John Mitchell had opened it a year or so earlier and Ginsberg read there. A hero then, as he remains now. I recall later seeing Paul Stookey, before Peter, Paul and Mary doing standup, much like Peter Ustinov's "car racing" riff.
I tend to think of things like that now. I read poetry there as well, even played the guitar a bit, though not very well, with a voice that was just dreadful I thought then (as I do now), though everyone seemed to accept it as they snapped their fingers in applause.
Thinking about that, I found an old, very old poem I wrote and read there.
WON'T IT BE FUN
when i come and shear you from your pedestal
and kick you naked in the street where you
pick golfballs and live from puma droppings
then you'll know what it was like to be loved
and you'll want to crawl back and kiss my mirage
when i take my knife
and cut kaleidoscopes on your nose
you'll weep and moan and yea,
much gnashing of teeth, for
rememberance is corroded brass
and huck finn never made it to the island
for the raft went down
and huck broke his teeth.
call me ishmael said the man in the whorehouse
and id did and he kicked me out on my ass
and said that this was a clean place
and only gentlemen were allowed inside
now i want you to think about that
when you go downtown sometime
and ask for a dozen red or green roses.
listen, girl, i blew my nose this morning
and when i looked on the handkerchief
like i always do
i don't know what i ever expected to see
(and now i know why i always looked)
for there was mahatma ghandi
and his glasses were broken and he said
this is brotherhood week
i got pissed on by a cloud the other day
and when i looked up i found it was a limp bagel
so then i knew was only the air-conditioning
and didn't give it another thought
until i went home and mother told me
that the russians had come
and we were all dead
yes, you're going to live it, honey
when chicken little hatches in your christmas tree
and i get my finger caught in the electric fuse
so i can't deal anymore
and you'll have to work for a living
well, won't it be fun sweet mama
when the baby comes and everyone can eat.
Reading it now, I think how it worked then...and sort even works now. But mostly I think that I am glad I raised in those times and retain values devoid of many things I find tedious, at best, these days.