Sunday, October 01, 2006

Past Green Woods

Yesterday, I traveled up north to St. Johnsbury with Bill Morgan and Peter Hale to visit Peter Orlovsky whom I hadn't seen in over a decade. Peter O whose health is fragile was lucid and sweet tempered. We were all impressed how well he is doing under the circumstances and the great support system he has within the Shambhala community around Karma Choling. Peter lives in a pleasant house down the street from St. Johnsbury's historic district and the Athenaeum; America's oldest unaltered gallery space that we visited before meeting Peter and his attendant, Michael, for lunch. Prayer flags were fluttering on the porch and the house had great light and simplicity. You can see from the photo that Peter (right) enjoyed the visit. That's Bill Morgan in the background and Peter Hale, on the left.

Bill brought along and gave me his newest publication, a literary biography on Allen called, "I Celebrate Myself, The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg." He also brought to give to Peter O, the gorgeous publication of Allen's earliest journals he edited with Juanita Lieberman, an old girlfriend of Peter Orlovsky. As the Allen Ginsberg Trust archivist, Bill probably knows more than anyone about the details of Allen's life having meticulously catalogued every piece of paper and artifact for decades. One interesting aspect about the biography is that he annotates the external events with poems and journal entries next to the narrative of events in the text body, which will prove invaluable to future scholars. I had forgotten about the huge fight between Peter and Ronnie Laing and how Allen and I had cleaned up the Naropa townhouse afterwards, an event Bill mentions in the book. All those Naropa summers seem to merge into another life. It usually takes some kind of trigger for me to remember the rich display of those years.

But I do remember a funny dinner party at Anne Waldman's after the Orlovsky/Laing confrontation with Bill Burroughs, Philip Whalen, a Japanese scholar, Soiku Shigematsu, (Allen for some reason not there) and Reed Bye where Burroughs was really interested in the story about Peter and Ronnie Laing-- grilling me intensely about it. Burroughs seemed to take great delight that Laing was wildly out of control. In the middle of that dinner, Philip fell backwards in his chair tipping over his wine glass that, in turn, triggered a domino effect of chaos all landing in the lap of Mr. Shigimatsu. It was the strangest thing, as though in slow motion. Anne then supplied the gentleman with a pair of her colorful Japanese pants since he was drenched whereupon we all resumed our dinner. For sometime afterwards, Anne and I always had a good laugh over that dinner hoping Mr. Shigimatsu recovered from the ordeal and Philip's mind-stopping behavior that undercut the conversation about Peter and Ronnie Laing.

On the way back from St. Johnsbury, we stopped at Karme Choling briefly which Peter Hale hadn't visited since Trungpa's cremation twenty years ago when he traveled as a young man with Allen and Peter O in the blue Volvo to Vermont from NYC. During that drive home, Allen wrote his wonderful poem about Trungpa's cremation that Peter Hale ( the young man in the poem) recited a bit of...

"...I noticed the path downhill, noticed the crowd moving toward buses
I noticed food, lettuce salad, I noticed the Teacher was absent,
I noticed my friends, noticed our car the blue Volvo, a young boy
held my hand
our key in the motel door, noticed a dark room, noticed a dream
and forgot, noticed oranges lemons & caviar at breakfast,
I noticed the highway, sleepiness, homework thoughts, the boy's
nippled chest in the breeze
as the car rolled down hillsides past green woods to the water,
I noticed the houses, balconies overlooking a misted horizon,
shore & old worn rocks in the sand
I noticed the sea, I noticed the music, I wanted to dance."

--from AG, "On Cremation of Chogyam Trungpa, Vidyadhara"