All Fucked Up
2001-11-08 05:00:55 (UTC)

1010 Montgomery VIA Ferlinghetti

Dedicated to Bhakta Tony, who dared to ask, "Who is that
voice on your voicemail?"
Note: Ask me a simple question, recieve a long ass four
page answer that deviates from the original

1010 Montgomery VIA Ferlinghetti

Allen Ginsberg. One of the greatest voices of American
poetry to emerge over the last century. As the man once
said, "Poets may be damned but they are not blind, they see
w/the eyes of angels." Ginsberg was no exception; he was
very much "fly-in-the-face-of-convention" w/his ground-
breaking aesthetics and unusual faith in vision. In 1956 he
spit forth his infamously arresting anthem that boldly
denounced a corporate hedonistic America and it's square
morals in praise of creativity, spontaneity, sexual freedom
and individuality-- HOWL, a poem compromising 26 pages of
unrestricted urban hell. It was published by City Lights
Bookstore (the intro to Howl states, "All these books are
published in heaven." So true) in San Francisco by
owner/poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who had posted a sign in
the front window announcing, "Banned books"

Subsequently, HOWL and Other Poems was seized by San
Francisco police and the U.S. customs who immeditaely
deemed the book as "obscene" and "indecent" w/it's bare-
all attitude. This resulted in a long court trial in which
professors and poets alike stepped forth to defend the book
as being an essential revelation to human existence.
Ultimately, Ginsberg won and gained over-night notoreity as
an "outlaw" poet of the Beat Generation

The poet's task is this, my friend:
To digest his dreams and comprehend

And that is exactly what Ginsberg did. A few years prior,
he recieved a life-altering vision from William
Blake......something to do w/a sunflower, I believe. In
general, the vision opened his doors of perception in terms
of revealing that "we are not our bodies of grime, but
sunflowers inside," as a quote from his "Sunflower Sutra"
later revealed

I find it somewhat ironic that Ginsberg recieved visions
throughout his life, especially since I was introduced to
the Beat Generation through childhood visions. But apart
from these visions, I recall having once visited my uncle
in San Francisco. Uncle E.L.M. and I were on a trolley in
the North Beach district when it suddenly came to a hault
and this porcine, bespectacled man w/floppy shoes boarded
and took a seat in front of us. Uncle E.L.M. leaned over
and whispered, "That's Allen Ginsberg, the poet." "I know,"
I said matter-of-factly. My uncle was perturbed by all means. How
the fuck was a 5 year old kid to know that?? Myself, I just
sat behind the old poet and stared ahead at the back of his
balding head wondering what was in that crazy mind of his.
Before exiting, he turned and acknowledged the serious child behind
him w/a knowing bodhisattva smile

Ten years later the smiling Buddha-like poet would leave
his body and I would find myself sitting at a poetry
reading given by Lawrence Ferlinghetti who was reciting his
poem, "Allen Ginsberg Dying"-- which is perhaps the most
beautiful ode in history. Also as a child I can recall
being utterly fascinated by a wooden house w/a flat roof in S.F.'s
North Beach which stood at 1010 Montgomery. Whenever we'd pass by it
during our visits I would point at it from the back seat
and excitedly and casually announce, "I use to live there!"
As a result, my sibs would snap at me, telling me to either
shut the fuck up because I'd never lived in San Francisco,
or would make comments about what a flamboyant imagination
I had. I was genuinely offended-- it was NO imagination

One night two months ago, Dean, my best friend, burst into
my room and said, "Hey, let's go to Frisco." W/o hesitance, I packed
my canvas duffle. The next morning I found myself standing in front
of 1010 Montgomery. Dean grew tiresome and bitched, "Dude,
let's leave! We've been here for 10 minutes! I'm fuckin'
hungrrrry." "You're always hungry!" I snapped before slipping
off to the front door. I knocked a couple of times and a
few moments later a young man appeared and asked in a
gentle voice, "May I help you?"

I was a bit freaked out. Not only did the dude have
cigarette papers stuck to his pants and leaves in his hair
and not only did he resemble a young Allen Ginsberg w/his
coke frames, crew cut and porcine build, but he also had the
same voice-- that annoying but lovely (what a combination!)
nasal quality. Rashly, I asked the first question that came
to mind; a strange one, no less: "Yeah, uh....can you tell
me who use to live here?" "Well...." he answered, "I've
been living here since the 50s. Some friends have lived
here w/me from time to time....but they've all died for the
most part or vanished, so to speak. 'Fore that, I don't
know who lived here. Hey, are you from Peru?"

A little confused-- by his inquiry about Peru and that whole
bit about residing there since the fifties (he looked no
more than 25), I said goodbye when he called out, "Hey--
I've missed you; it's been awhile. See you in eternity, kid!" I
didn't think much of it, brushing it off as mere North Beach
eccentricity and left for Cafe` Trieste, feeling somewhat
accomplished. Sipping on a decaf, I spotted Lawrence
Ferlinghetti brush past, so dropped everything, scurried
outside and called, "Hello, Mr. Ferlinghetti!" He hollered
a "hello" back and I rushed back inside, pleased as a motherfucker,
and explained to Dean what had happened. She was genuinely upset; it
had been the fourth time I'd ran into him and she, as usual,
had missed him. "I dunno..." she sighed, "I guess
it's 'cause you two have similar karma...or maybe you knew
eachother in a past life or something...similar paths that bring
you guys together now." "Your chakras must be open," she surmissed

After lunch we crossed Columbus to City Lights, Lawrence
Ferlinghetti's bookstore. As usual, I climbed the 20 or so
steps upstairs to my favorite room in the world-- the
upstairs of City Lights is like being in a serene mausoleum
inundated w/books in the middle of an indifferent, brooding world--
whenever I found myself there I was always alone except for the books
and the voices of the writers and poets who wrote them and haunted
the place in a desperate attempt to fuse their decadence into a
single self-transcendence. At the back of the room was a small
window plainly decorated w/whispy Tibetan prayer flags. Ginsberg,
I've learned, was fascinated w/Tibetan Buddhism, as evident from the
unique role he played as "Alvah Goldbook" in Kerouac's 1958
novel, "The Dharma Bums"

Shrewdly, I gazed at that window; what a sight-- through
that small window radiated a single ray of light through
the patchy fog that lit up the upstairs area and
illuminated the multi-colored flags like a sparkling, avant-garde
mosaic. I snapped a picture, after which, a flag fell. Immediately, I
remembered what a Tibetan friend from Venice told me, "These flags
symbolize good luck and if one falls, bad luck." Ironically, nine
days later on the 9th month of the year, NYC was under attack

I filed languidly downstairs to the basement. On the way, a
street sign that read "Via Ferlinghetti" (it was an actual
SF street sign. A few years ago, SF renamed many of it's
streets after it's famous poets) fell from the wall and on
to my head. Dean, who was around and saw, howled wildly at
my misfortune and joked, "Haaa!! Looks like you've ran into
Ferlinghetti twice today...literally....looks like spirits
of the Beat Generation are trying to reach you....VIA
Ferlinghetti." "Dude, cut that out!" I groaned, unamused.
Her laughter ensued

I didn't do much in the basement-- mostly children's books
down there-- but absorb the vibrations-- and God only knows
that place is filled w/them. Wedged beneath a door w/a
mural that read, "I am the door," was a rustic looking
item. I pulled it out, brushed it off, and inspected it-- a
pair of glasses w/missing lenses. The same Ginsberg wore

Before leaving City Lights I looked up at a sign painted
personally by Ferlinghetti that boldly announced, "BOOKS,
NOT BOMBS." How prophetic of what was to come in the
dawning days. A few days later back in L.A. (9-11), I was
lying on the floor in disbelief to the news that had
abruptly awoken me that morning. My mood was shattered as a
pounding emanated from the door. "Just a fuckin' minute!" I
hollered. Seconds later I opened the door and was surprised
to find that no one was there; just a small package bearing
no return address, postmarked "San Francisco, 94133." It
was addressed to me

Inside was an unusually big copy of Howl and Other Poems by
Ginsberg (the standard copy fits in your pocket) that
included lost commentary, pictures and other bitchen'
stuff. No further explanation. I opened it directly to a picture of
an eerily familiar looking man w/a look of self-disturbance painted
upon the landscape of his face; the photo was fuzzy, but I got
that much from it. Underneath him, the caption read, "Peter
Du Peru, San Francisco friend of Ginsberg's at the time of
HOWL's writing. He was a North Beach remittance man
wanderer, Broadway corner a few doors below 1010 Montgomery
Street." Peter Du PERU? I was instantly reminded of the
young man at the door of 1010 Montgomery and his question
regarding Peru-- "Hey, are you from Peru?"....and
then, "I've missed you; it's been awhile. See you in eternity,
kid!" Later, I learned that Ginsberg made vows w/his friends that he
would refuse to enter heaven unless they were all there w/

I flipped through some more pages and once again stopped
abruptly, overwhelmed in disbelief-- I was staring at a
black and white photo and instantly recognized it to be a
bedroom inside 1010 Montgomery. Everything was there and in its
proper place just as I had visited it in ever recurring childhood
dreams-- the tattered rugs and curtains, the classical music records,
the books that were symbolically sprawled across the floor, the
paintings, the typewriter that would lull me to sleep countless
nights as someone endlessly typed away at it (that HAD to be what I
was hearing 6 hours south)-- the ALTOGETHER sense of
retrospect, all that beatness...the soul epitome of BEAT. All those
forgotten elements...were THERE...flashing before me like an old,
scratchy film. The pieces were beginning to fit. Sure enough, the
caption stated, "Allen Ginsberg's room at 1010 Montgomery where he
wrote Howl." So he DID live there. The dedication in the front of the
book was equally interesting:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Editor, Publisher and Defender of "Howl"
in gratitude for his comradeship over three decades

Missing all our appointments
and turning up unshaven
years later
old cigarette papers
stuck to our pants
leaves in our hair

So what exactly does someone my age make of all this?
Well...there's too many theories to put forth here and no sufficient
time to do so, but I will say that I have full belief in the power of
poetry/words/lit and the martyrs who write them. And I will also say
that the written word WILL have a MASSIVE impact on the world at
large-- in ways that man has never seen before or even construed--
both positive and negative, but ultimately, the results
will be positive and I do intend to stick around to see the
fruits of those literary endeavors w/leaves in my disheveled hair,
a pen in hand and wild dreams of a new beginning

"Don't use the telephone. People are never ready to answer it. Use
poetry"-- Jack Kerouac, Beat Generation writer/madman

There are great whitecaps lashing the Embarcadero
I am reading Greek poetry
Horses weep in it
The horses of Achilles weep in it
here by the sea
in San Francisco
where the waves weep
They make a sibilant sound
a sibylline sound
they whisper ALLEN

--Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
taken from Allen Ginsberg Dying