August 12, 2005

Lighting up the Neon Liver


front of Peace Eye, ed sanders influential bookstore, 147 Avenue A, circa 1968

The sign was created by noted artist Spain Rodriguez (who also painted the Free Store Sign around the corner on 10th Street.). Peace Eye was a well known cultural center for its era, for instance sponsoring the first exhibition of important comic artists such as R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Spain Rodriguez, Kim Deitch, and others. Peace Eye also served as a community print center, and was a stopping off point for the underground railroad helping people flee the war. America's first LeMar demonstrations were organized out of Peace Eye.

* Excerpts from Ed Sanders history in verse 1968:

Many times
as the decades have trickled past
I've asked myself why I,
a pacifist, bard, and Social Democrat
ever associated with
the violent-hearted core of the Yippies.

I think its because
of the evil I perceived
going on in Vietnam
To me the use of napalm and
fragmentation bombs
sank down to the gutter of Hitler

& I wanted very much
to believe in the Yippies
just as I had come to believe
in Olson and Sappho
in Greek lyric poetry
in "Howl"
& and those early Joan Baez records

I wanted the level of belief
I gave to a work of art

-----

Bacchus, as ever
pushed into the Grief
and the Fugs flew the day after King to Cinncinati
for an arts festival

I remember how someone
at Frank O'Hara's funeral
asked if there was a party afterwards

Sitting next to me on the plane was
a young women who claimed she was returning
from a tour as a hetaira for
one of Ohio's senators.

For a city that
later persecuted Mapplethorpe
there was a glut of fun in Cinncinati

for instance, a party in our motel
where a Fug (not I!) frolicked with a fan
after which they watched a Mexican vampire movie
while his toe was
moving gently
in and out of the entrance
of Venus

-----

September 3
the day after my
prayer for the pig
I was on William Buckley's television show
Firing Line with Jack Kerouac and sociologist Lewis Yablonsky
author of a book called The Hippie Trip

I was in the elevator
going up to the studio
when a guy came in
in a checkered jacket
with two friends

I didn't recognize him at once
All of a sudden he said,

"you look like Ginsberg
you talk like Ginsberg
you write like Ginsberg"

Then a prosopognosis with a jolt of thrill
One of my heros
whose novels
especially Big Sur, Darma Bums and the Subterraneans
had been like religious texts
when I was in college

I knew he'd swung to the right,
as they say,
and was supporting Buckley's run for mayor of NYC

He'd ridden to NY with two pals
Joe Chaput and Paul Bourgeois

They'd had a couple of drinks on arriving in NYC
then checked into the Delmonico Hotel. Burroughs was also
at the Delmonico, finishing his piece on Chicago for Esquire.

Jack chugged and smoked his pot
into the zonk mode
Burroughs urged him not to go on the show

After the first segment
his chair fell off the studio riser
and it was obvious he was stumbly-drunk
The producer wanted to substitute Allen Ginsberg
(who was in the audience) for Kerouac
but we all protested
and on he went

I mentioned Ginsberg & Kerouac
as heros of my generation
but Kerouac said
"I'm not connected with Allen Ginsberg
and don't you put my name next to his."

He wasn't very friendly
his face was very florid
and his forehead vein popped out
when he stroked above his nose
with a hand that held
a coronella-sized cigar
I told him I respected his writing too much
and that I wasn't going to fight with him
on camera
even though my years steeped in controversy
as a poet, publisher and Fug
had trained me well
to give back razor raillery --

I was very tempted to metion his daughter Jan
who'd come to many Fugs shows
I remembered how the owner of the Astor Place Playhouse
had come upon Jan and a Fugs guitarist making it
on the drum riser
one midnight
I remembered how Kerouac would call me now and then
and recite little poems
which I would write down

I remembered other things
that Peter Orlovsky told me
in Peace Eye
after Kerouac visited Allen's pad
just up the street at 408 E. 10th

but why tell all
just because Tell tells you to tell?

and I kept silent
in front of the author of
Mexico City Blues

Afterwards we all went out
to a bar in Times Square
to light up the neon liver.

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