“‘The Idiot’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ were our favorite books then, because those books dealt with heroes who were constantly rushing up to each other and looking in each other’s eyes and asking about each other’s souls and getting into big conspiracies or crimes or emotional climaxes together.” – Allen Ginsberg, “The Best Minds of My Generation”
Boy, when I read those words yesterday morning they leaped off the page of the book and into my heart. I get it. I understand that. It’s where I am at and have been at – the ache of not having that life – and what I’ve been talking about and writing about, the whole isolation thing and the friend things, and the joy and blast and absolute rightness of having partners in life just like this to go through it with. Conspirators.
I’m 71 years old. It it a truth and deep sadness that I have lived past the majority of the most important people in my life. Gone – Bob Zimmerman, Doug Martin, Billy MacDonald. I had those times with them. Those times like Dostoyevsky described. We romped, even if it wasn’t on the big scale of the ‘Beat Generation’ and those romantic characters. But we did our thing and our thing always had heart and always stood with good and justice and not taking ourselves too damn serious but taking every day of this life like it was a big gift. Cause it was. It is still. I have a more connected consciousness with the preciousness of each day when I wake up now – I’m still here, ain’t got a white-chalk outline circling me yet – and I get up hungry to do something with such a gift. But where are those cats to roam with, the kids to fly through the day with? The real ones? Really? And my wife is my best friend and we get to do the celebrate life together thing every day, thank you Lord Dedith – But man…
After Bob Zimmerman had hired me to work an overnight shift at a runaway house on the grounds of a crazy hospital in Massachusetts, after I’d been working a couple of weeks, I casually mentioned that I had refused induction in the army as my way to say No to the Vietnam war and had been ordered to serve two years alternative duty, credit given for one so I owed one and, well Bob, it’s actually this runaway gig and can you fill out the paperwork please, and he just did it. He just did it. And 30 years later we walked on the grassy shore of old pier and oil containers in Richmond, CA, so many years later, so many times later, and he schooled me about life some more, like when way back I’d followed him to Venice Beach, slept on his floor, roomed together in Santa Monica, kissed his Mexican girlfriend, seriously, and he was telling me that day in Richmond you are moving out here and we will be able to play and laugh and dance and, Oh Lordy, ain’t it all a groove. Here’s what he’d say – “Ain’t it grand.”
And Doug. Never one like Doug. He loved me, it was clear. Cross-country calls – “Bud.” I met Ed Roberts with him. I crashed on Judy Huemman’s couch with him. I rolled through the halls of Washington with him, ADA advocates way early on, chasing Steppenwolf through the Rayburn building. I got to shake Cesar Chavez’s hand with him. I spent an hour shooting the breeze with Hunter Thompson as a result of a Boston-to-Berkeley attendant scam thing with him. I rolled with him through Oakland and West LA, Venice Beach and the Center for Independent Living – he made that – and I hooked up his breathing equipment every night and managed to get it right, drunk and high at times and with the grace of something, and it was a lack of electricity that eventually killed him and thank God it wasn’t my screw-up, but the man is gone and has been gone coming on 20 years and he was my inspiration. So special a human.
And Billy MacDonald was my boy – my mentee, my mentor, my protector, my guide, my instigator, he put me up twice when I went homeless, he got my ass to Martha’s Vineyard after so many years of me being right around the corner and never making it on my own, we saw about a million rock groups together, living at the Boston Tea Party, down on the Cape, up at Salem State. He was ready to fight for me. And we did these things, I did them with Billy and I did them with Bob and Doug and we looked into each other’s eyes and asked about each other’s souls, we checked in for real and we called and we wrote and we hitchhiked and and flew and we crashed on floors and couches and spare beds and we were always in conversations about our next blows against the empire. Digging the main vein.
And for me now I have Gavin in Oakland, who I saw a couple of weeks ago for the first time in three years – and it has been like that with him as well, the soul-connection thing, since ’06, he lifts me up every time – but, man, three years. And my main man Keith, who’s currently down outside LA but who knows where he’ll be next month and the fact is I have that life with him too, the Dostoyevsky life, but I haven’t laid eyes on him since ‘08. Like had a coffee at a table together, like at three different churches in P’town, fighting the good fight, like at early-in-the-morning Farlands.
I tell you these things, being stunned by Ginsberg’s words yesterday, because there is so little of that left. For me, now in my life, today. And when I write on social media about not giving a rat’s ass if I have 400 “friends” on Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn, or you likely won’t be coming along with me, it ain’t about did someone buy my book. It’s about this. This. Are you checking in on my soul? Cause if you ain’t…
There are a few other names, Butchie, David, Andy. Of course my son Cameron. But times together are so very rare.
I’ll just have got to get my butt down to the Bay area a lot more. I must. And I have got to track down my gypsy pal from Provincetown and hang out. Off of some highway somewhere, talking about spirituality and painting, his screen acting gigs, and this life is too chock full of grace and possibility and beauty for suicide, Brah. And I have got to find some new folks. Seriously. I need some new folks in my life. Because honestly, I ain’t got any time left for all the rest. I know how good, how tender and sweet, the real thing is.