Changes - June 1st, 1971

(June 01, 1971)

Originally Published: June 01, 1971

Alice Cooper's a Real Nice Guy But Jack Kerouac Was A Saint

Author: Ed McCormack

B.B. King's on the radio playing his ass off and I'm sitting here late at night, banging away at my typewriter while the decent people of Yorkville are long asleep and an ash is burning white on the joint cradled in the nearby ashtray and wondering how I got into this mess-really understanding B.B.'s blues better now than ever, for I'm stoned and frightened and afloat in a world that is not of my own making, even my lady is asleep, even she has deserted me to face the solitude of writing alone in the late night so black and engulfing that I wish I were a messenger toting packages through the hellish subway all the day long, for at least then I could crawl into the comfort of my womb rooms at night and fall fast asleep dreaming pleasant poetic dreams-but no, I'm trapped here at this infernal machine, clack clack skeletal robot recorder of dying thoughts trying to create an ant army of words out of the solitude of a dead moment in the rear room here in eternity as the old man who lives down the hall hauls his coughing corpse up the stairs, drunken cursing mumbling and fumbles in the corridor trying to unlock my door but I don't move (too stoned) but sit thinking he'll go, he'll go away, when he finds that the key doesn't fit and sure enough he does he does, he stumbles upon his own door and I am still thinking of my solitude and all the other long and lonesome nights I've sat like this trying to drudge some tangible form from my shattered mind and the hours I've spent talking and the coffee cups of adrenaline I've drained discussing the futility of art with bearded weirdo artists and pretenders and the joints rolled and smoke, lamenting the futility until the euphoria took over and smothered the dullness of the hour with its temporary anyway answer and gazing, sat gazing at my reflection flashing in the black window that looks down on the street, the beat Yorkville street with its excavations and renovations and everyone down there and up there asleep except me, and maybe I was just always meant to be a mad midnight rambler, a cookie crunching wildeyed dopefiend typing and waiting til the grey and lucid dawning come creeping over the buildingtops remembering when I was a kid and my grandfather raised pidgeons on the rooftops of the lower east side and waved a big pole of bamboo in the sun in the frying tar of the roof on Henry Street back in the days of James Dean and the dawning of the contemporary energy known as rock and roll-back when it was used as a pacifier to keep us from killing each other at the Henry Street Settlement teen record hops when you danced your first furtive grind with some shy girl whose breasts were so pointy in their ice-cream cone bra that they poked holes through your red Rebel Without A Cause windbreaker and you first heard Rock Around the Clock in "Blackboard Jungle," and the social workers who came from the Midwest and tried to reform us were all a bunch of fools and we laughed at their innocence from out the depths of our citykid's concrete hearts-Always I have sat way into the night, even when older in pseudo beatnik phase, listening to good old Symphony Sid, to someone (Lambert Hendriks Ross praps?) singing "she digs Kerouac, cafe espresso . . ." and thinking that was oh so hip, for that was back before the sin of my present sophistication and back then before we had a movement and indeed before I had become so young, for it is true what Dylan said in "My Back Pages"-"I was so much older then, I'm younger then that now", yeah, that's how it is indeed when you get past the worry and the hassles of that dreadful 50's consciousness that still haunts us all if only by recurrence, but I am older too in that I have been sitting here for a million years drinking coffee and trying to inscribe the ten commandments of my dubious ambitions on these tablets-I mean I have not emptied the ashtray for centuries although it be red Woolworth's plastic and the roaches of burnt down joints and the matchbook covers I have rolled up to hold them so I could smoke my dreams down to the tiniest common denominator have accumulated at an alarming rate and the ashes are piled upon it all like the dust that blew over the pyramids, that blew over Cleopatra's tomb before she became Elizabeth Taylor and married Richard Burton who was once married to Sybil who was the Steve Paul of her set when the rock and roll was just beyond the Peppermint Lounge phase and we were preparing to enter the new era of newer fantasies and three in a bed and the dream of dog collar fetishes that give Alice Cooper a mysterious rash on her wrist when she wore them for a bracelet and you can imagine that Mick Jagger probably never gets a rash from anything he wears but Iggy Stooge probably does and you might even catch the crabs attending one of his concerts but at least because of Iggy we can forgive Danny Fields for discovering David Peel who everyone regarded as a nuisance before he got famous and became a bigger nuisance while Danny laughed and said "David is fah-bu-lous!"-Staying up makes me strangely aware of jazz and Charlie Parker even as I listen to the Nightbird Allison Steele, who swathed in black leather like an S&M Cosmopolitan girl touched my arm at a press party for Wilson Pickett and asked if I'd had a good day going around the city and though I didn't know what she meant it seemed reasonable enough and I said that yes, I had, and she said good and whisked off and someone told me later she thought I was part of some visiting English band with a name that sounded like Wounded Knee Bathtub and I said uh huh-Yes, it makes me think of Charlie Parker listened to at age 16 in Scott McKeezie's 9th street pad which was always filled with beatnik girls because his mother was a whore and left him alone in his sad and skinny latent homosexual teens of sorrowful studiousness, poor old Scott who seemed so lucky at the time to be tragic enough to wallow in all that soothing sympathy for in my own pseudo beatnik heart I was a romanticist as hungry for love as I was itching with lust, always making grand gestures like stealing a candle in a waxdripped wine bottle off a table in the Cock n' Bull coffeehouse to give to my fourteen year old black turtlenecked Jewish modern dancer girlfriend who had fallen with me into the clutches of sinister older beatnik types we hung around with, learning how to be groovy and always dressing in black with white tennis sneakers, the funkier the better-I mean, that's how you get into these late night habits and never grow up the way they said you would (thank god) and get hung instead on self destructive Billy Holiday, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin forays into the cool death of the early morning light. Awhile back-few hours-I stood behind Jeannie and she said my vibrations were so desperate and crazy she could feel them in her back-Could feel the mad itchiness of my existence entering her own, infecting it with its infectious disease of survival, which I undertand now totally as I try to keep the blue train of words from twisting off its track, but think fuck it, that's music too, just like beautiful old Ornette, and if I remain true to the flow, the heavens can be trusted to impose their own order and logic on whatever I might do-Even just listening to the Dreadful Great on the radio and remembering the dreadful claustrophobia of their marathon at the City Center where as you entered there were bikers who hit you if your ticket didn't show so you hadda flash it in their faces (which were stoned and sleeping anyway) and then there was no room to breathe inside and it's all a nightmare dream of murder on St Marks, that supposed West Coast joy all speedfreak grim with the Dread singing about riding a train high on cocaine and stoned on grass beyond remorse Danny Fields had offered a snort of coke back at his pad which you declined, Danny saying "don't you want any? It's a miracle drug" and snorting through a rolled up ten dollar bill inserted in each nostril as he sits on the mattress covered with a colorful indian print spread under the nude pin up portrait of Iggy Stooge by Richard Bernstein who did the portrait of Johnny Winter hanging in Steve Paul's bedroom, too, and the rain turned to sleet and Danny said the Dead concert would be less crowded tonight because of the weather and when we went there it was unbelievable, like a wailing wall of bouncing bodies, speedfreaks, crazy bikers, manic, madeyed freakyfunky burnt out spiritual basketcases who've gone the whole route of nirvana and would up back in hell in the inferno, writhing as the former loveband of the now defunct Woodstock Nation sang its ode to the goddess of snow- and I fled and saw a sign that said ONCE YOU ARE IN YOU CANNOT LEAVE, and I was stoned and said to the kindly elderly black guard "Sir, may I leave hell"- and how appropriate now that Jagger, the Devil Himself, is singing. We all need someone to bleed on on the radio and it is a song of such perfect evil ease as Jagger leers and says We all need a little coke and sympathy and Danny sticks a ten dollar bill up his nose and snorts some snow and you look at the bottle of Southern Comfort on the table and remember Danny talking about Janis in the book called Nobody Waved Goodbye, and Jagger is singing now in the actual moment about coke and sympathy and bleeding on me and you want to ask Danny to take care, you know, because we all have to take care somewhere in the total scheme of all our extremes....

For the seeds of destructiveness are so deep in all of us who inhabit the uncertainties of night as was evidenced by the suicide of Joe Cino who was so brilliant and hip in the fifties and early sixties when it was harder and lonlier and who inhabited a world of incredible private agony that I could never have understood so wrapped up then in my own Holden Caulfield adolescent agony trip-the Cafe Cino made off off Broadway history back when hipness was not so easy a commodity to come by, but Joe wound up killing himself and when you read about it one shocked day in the Voice you remembered a night when you ran into him very late in the lonely subway and went for coffee and talked into the pink dawn chill, huddled on a cold corner in James Dean actor's studio slouches, hepcats of a particular era before Leroi Jones split for Newark, back when he was reading his poems in the gaslight, before Jack Kerouac got prematurely senile and got a hernia and drowned in beer married to an old lady in the suburbs, singing the drunken praises of Spiro Agnew in the sorrowful disintegration and disillusionment of his truly angelic soul, beatific beautiful Saint Jack, who approached Nirvana and turned around and took the trolley back to Lowell, who wrote from the actual depth of the deep deep darkness of the great Pan American night, who returned to the simple home of error from the whirlwind heart of the matter-who was a pilgrim who returned from the night to dry up in the daylight, and what do you think the Stones' new song "Brown Sugar" is about-it's a subject Kerouac covered a long time ago in a book called THE SUBTERRANEANS about the mystery the black woman's sexuality has for the white male enthralled and impaled upon it-Jagger is undoubtedly celebrating his affair with the beautiful black groupie named Devon (whose star-stock has gone up in the backroom at Max's-who asked me for a joint I was too stingy to lay on her, hoarding my own sweet phantasies so covetously, which I later regretted for what true gentleman would not give a j to a lady?) which is exactly what Jack's beautiful book was about, about being smothered in a black girl's all enveloping darkness, weeping in the deep jungle of her womb, ashamed and embarrassed about asking to examine her closely after thinking he saw something inside of her foreign and strange that he never saw in the vagina of a white woman, heartbroken at the sad way in which she submits to satisfy his fears, his white supersitions, and Mick sings "Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good-Brown sugar, just like a young girl should"-Jack knew too all that longing wonderment and pain and pang of erotic exotic fantasy back in the cobblestoned gingerbread town of San Francisco and they even made a movie of it which wasn't any good, had some fifties Tab Hunter surfer type playing The King Of The Beatniks himself-it was so dreary and dissapointing to see that personal and lovely little book ripped off in technicolor by the media with neo corn ball pseudo beatniks talking jive when that wasn't the idea at all, no, it was a subterranean trip inside a man's head all shook apart by the conventions of an innocent age that he imagined, like Hamlet lamenting the loss of the American Railroad, dream of decent Gee Whiz innocence when a man could still sit down by the track and open a can of beans and write a bestselling novel, typing away late at night and bopping his head to bebop, to Bird to Prez and even old Dave Brubeck-in his foolish, innocent and trusting way he dreamt that there was such a thing as blissful groovy goodness and he could not understand when they took his novel and made a film out of it, that was a travesty and when they took his beat generation for a ride and glorified the kids who didn't know he was their spiritual father in his earnest exploration of his plight in the night back when he stood on the corner in Times square with a napsack like a pure and proud literary Li'l Abner, like a hip hick whistling in wonder at the gone lights of Now and Wow blinking like strobes of the future-and shit, he had a pocketful of joints way back then and his jazzfreak's head was stuffed with undiscovered rock and roll-oh god how he made those words rock and roll! Just like Hendrix on the radio now (I can't help pointing to these plaster busts of all the saints because we must have heroes in any age) wailing, twisting shrill tortured notes out of his guitar, strangling it, for that's how he played, strangling and straining and straddling it as though twisting the actual notes visably around his body - in the magic air that surrounded him, wailing and flailing like any excessive giant.. and he is so present among us still....

It is so silent now that I wonder if you can still hear me talking to you, blowing my lonesome blues riffs out into the night, for I am actually inhabiting an actual moment now and that is something we tend to forget in print, i.e., sometimes I will adopt a selfconscious "literary" stance and see to it that everything is in place like a neat housekeeper at the bordello of tradition-I MEAN, RIGHT NOW I DON'T GIVE A SHIT. I AM STONED AND RECKLESS AND I WANT TO REACH YOU! I KNOW WHAT IS REAL for this instant... and I want to shake the behind of my mind in your face as one of the last living existential exhibitionists, for I refuse to put together a contrived drama for you now, and we can get it on, we MUST get it on on some mutual level and now I know how Buddy Miles feels when he demands that his audience get up off its ass and boogie, and if you have actually followed me this far we must get it on, come on, and if it is futile to be this direct, I don't wanna write nomore nohow....

Form has fallen for the moment and everything is still, and I am the only soul alive to listen to the news this desolate morning. Commerce has its pincers in us all, my friend, unless some sponsor has purchased your dreams for you. Lat at night I sometimes get restlesss and play around the edges of madness and sometimes when I feel evil I dress all in black and dream that I am Billy The Kid just like Michael McClure who wrote "The Beard" and when I get some money I shall buy high black boots and go to the St Adrian bar and stand in the smoke, smoking a menthol cigarette, feeling very slick. We are living in a complicated time and it has transformed our simple human needs inot a multitude of fetishes, for form has fallen for the moment an everything is still... and skinny and black and stringy hair like poetess Patti Smith who is becoming a rock and roll star after making the writing scene, the words on paper scene, moving toward a scene where there are at least people who will stay up with you the way she used to sit up all night with Janis Joplin in the Chelsea Hotel when Pearl was too wound up and full of the sad and lady blues to go to sleep without a man to keep her home and keep her warm when the night became too real to bear alone just as this night is becoming too real for me in the futility of keeping osme supposed sanity when the night is bright and the moon is yellow and Staggerlee is somwhere on some corner and I am alone here trying to grasp the essence of just one single fleeting moment and Allison Steel is rapping softly on the radio and I wait for the burst of energy that will breath the rock and roll back into my weary head and feel it coming on gradually, feel the energy building so that if the rhythm is right it doesn't matter what I write for the energy will welcome you in and the flow will fill you with a feeling of our musical connection, for what is rock and roll anyway but a dream that is born in the loin and you can swim into the stream of my thought and keep as warm as a babe in its mothers arms as we listen to Creedence singing "Have You Seen The Rain" together, moving into the flow of that fine song so deceptively simple and yet so warm, a warming tune in the general thaw of things, the fine and simple rhythm pounding on like the hole in simple logic that can twirl you off the beaten track of commonplace thought into the wild morning where a monster newness is risiing in the world like a sudden breath of laughing gas in a crazy dentist's uncannily his hit "18" right now on the radio just as I start to write about him-Couldn't be programming from abortion chair of transcendental giggles the way Alice Cooper (who's a very nice guy) says he wants to (singing on high?) as he lit the hash pipe for you holding the match in his long Fu Manchu claws in his manager's office on 13th street, telling oyu how he wants to be a "parent killer"-meaning he wants to destroy that deathly parental impusle "although my folks are really wonderful-my dad's a minister"-Meanwhile you're noticing his shoes, women's shoes painted with enemal, the enamel cracked, making interesting patterns, and he's wearing the cat collar around his wrist (red with rhinestones) which he complains is giving him a rash and you talk about going to Nobody's which you both agree is a fantastic scene (meanwhile as I write-NEWS FLASH: Jim Morrison is doing a wonderful impression of Vaughn MOnrow one the radio singing something about "Don't you love her as she's walking out the door?"), the nowhere Nodody's scneen, and you're holding the match while Alice takes a toke talking about how Frank Zappa threw Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful out of his house because they were so stones, saying "Come back whenyou get yourselves straightened out" which is certainly weird enough when you consider how happy a lot of people might be to have Jagger in their house or even Zappa if they were desperate, and you're thinking that Alice seems like a likable Joe after all that weird publicity about killing chickens onstage and all that freaked out transvestitism and other somewhat antisocial behavior and the joke from his manager about "is it safe to leave you two alone" and Alice's tongue in cheek "No!" and you're getting high and drinking apricot brandy or something like that and Alice says someting to the effect that rather than hitting a cop over the head with a brick he'd rather influence his son to wear eye makeup for the effect are longer lasting and you sort of lose him there, but what the hell's the difference, it's all just a bunch of bullshit anyway because the interview situation is contrived and everyone tends to simplify their statements to accomodate headlines in print, so here it is ALICE COOPER SAYS THAT RATHER THAN HIT A COP OVER THE HEAD WITH A BRICK HE'D RATHER INFLUENCE HIS SONG TO WEAR EYE MAKEUP, which is okay with me if its okay with you.