Saturday, February 23, 2013

Coffee Shop Manifesto

Last month, I watched A Poet On The Lower East Side, a very low-budget documentary featuring Allen Ginsberg in the 90s and his Hungarian poet friend. The reviews on Netflix complain of the sub par production. Obviously those reviewers don't get IT. (If you don't know what IT is, then you need to read On The Road). I'm currently reading Big Sur. All this Beat energy sent me to Grey Art Gallery at NYU to see Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg. To make the title hold more weight, my mom came with since she has real memories of the times and all I have is false nostalgia. When I see the photos, they remind me of the photos I saw as an undergrad and ever since. When she sees the photos, she remembers real times.

The weather treated us okay: no rain or snow, but lots of freezing blustery air. Between buildings were wind tunnels. My face ached. That did not mean it was too cold for pictures. This must be where I get it from: my mom passed a pizzeria and was like, Take my picture with him!

When we got into the gallery, the windows were fogged floor to ceiling. The heat was on full blast and so I stood over it as if it were a fire in a can. Ahhhhh.

The exhibit included snapshots and then some of the same photos blown up and captioned in Ginsberg's inky script, some of which was difficult to read.  My mom said that some of them should be postcards.  Knowing, I was like, The naked ones?  She laughed and walked away.  The captions were helpful in figuring out who's who in Kerouac's books as Ginsberg explained in which literary tales they appeared and their code names.

I loved the letters.  There were hand-written letters between writers.  There were typed letters between writers a la a typewriter.  I was surprised to read a quick letter from Carl Solomon to some rich woman apologizing for Ginsberg's "Howl."  Hmm, didn't know he wasn't a fan.

One of my favorite photos was of Neal Cassady and a car salesman on the car lot.  It's so telling of everything that's to come for him and the rest of them.

I was not allowed to take pictures.  No cameras, food, drink, smoking, and I think maybe one more thing that I can't remember but was listed on the door.  And so, I had to break some sort of rule in honor of the Beats:

Then to honor the era and all the artists of downtown, we took a stroll through Washington Square Park and finished our excursion at the Waverly.

My mom said, "Take a picture!  Get the Empire State Building in it!"  I did.

We switched places exactly.  Where is the top of the arch?

There goes my plan.

At the Waverly, we walked past a woman who had her prescription pill bottle opened and standing at the center of her table and a large cup of coffee.  By the end of our meal, she had put the pills away, had another large cup of coffee steaming next to her, and was scribbling viciously along the edge of an already-filled paper in the middle of a white legal pad that seemed to have the same sort of scribbling on all the previous pages.  The muse is alive and well in New York still.

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