The Beats Go On

How a kid from Boulder became an eyewitness to the passing of an era.

After the angry German junkie left his house, Hale decided it would be wise to vacate the premises. He waited until later that morning to return. The German had come back, busting four windows and then leaving. Now Ide was in the kitchen, calmly scrambling eggs.

Hale was angry and told Ide to move out. Ide shrugged. Shit happens, he said, and besides, he was planning on leaving town anyway.

Soon Hale left Boulder himself, returning to New York City.

Allen Ginsberg and his protegé, Peter Hale, at an early Naropa summer session.Although Peter Hale wanted to talk with William Burroughs (above), he wound up becoming Ginsberg's assistant.Ginsberg with his Peters: Hale and Orlovsky.Chris Ide and Peter Hale in Boulder in the late '80s.Ginsberg and his "best young poet" Chris Ide at Naropa.Chris Ide in the early '90s, when the drugs were catching up to him.Peter Hale as he looks today, and as photographed by Steven Miles in 1985.
Steven Miles
Allen Ginsberg and his protegé, Peter Hale, at an early Naropa summer session.Although Peter Hale wanted to talk with William Burroughs (above), he wound up becoming Ginsberg's assistant.Ginsberg with his Peters: Hale and Orlovsky.Chris Ide and Peter Hale in Boulder in the late '80s.Ginsberg and his "best young poet" Chris Ide at Naropa.Chris Ide in the early '90s, when the drugs were catching up to him.Peter Hale as he looks today, and as photographed by Steven Miles in 1985.
Allen Ginsberg and his protegé, Peter Hale, at an early Naropa summer session.
Steven Miles
Allen Ginsberg and his protegé, Peter Hale, at an early Naropa summer session.

This time, Ginsberg was feeling flush. In the past he'd had to support himself through lectures and poetry readings that required nearly constant traveling. In 1987, though, he'd accepted an offer to teach at Brooklyn College, which allowed him to slow down and travel less. But Ginsberg hadn't used this new affluence to move out of his apartment.

As he learned more about Ginsberg's past, it became obvious to Hale that the poet was mellowing. Ginsberg even regretted some of his earlier political stances, such as his support of the North Vietnamese and the Iranian mullahs; they were worse than the regimes they replaced, he now acknowledged. These days his political activity was much more localized. Ginsberg was always defending or agitating on behalf of the "unusual people," such as the homeless in nearby Tompkins Park, or squatters who took up residence in the abandoned buildings that proliferated in the area. His files were filled with stories out of The New York Times concerning city politics and corruption. Although his causes weren't always popular with some of his neighbors, who complained that supporting a needle-exchange program would encourage junkies to move in, that was Ginsberg, speaking for people who had no voice of their own. And other causes were easier to accept, such as loaning his name to organizations like poetry centers and Buddhist groups that needed the support.

Ginsberg had always had a love-hate relationship with the press. Reporters frequently called him for a quote about some issue like the "war on drugs" or CIA conspiracies. But Ginsberg frequently complained that his "hometown" newspaper, The New York Times, would not give him his due. It was a constant battle to get the newspaper to review his books, and when it did, the reviewer implied that he hadn't written anything of note since "Howl" or "Kaddish."

What publicity he got Ginsberg often didn't like -- even if he brought it on himself. He was getting plenty of attention for coming out in support of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. To anyone who would listen, Ginsberg explained that he was not himself a pedophile -- he preferred males who were post-pubescent and beyond the age-of-consent laws -- but this was a free-speech issue. NAMBLA members had a right to meet and discuss their predilections without being monitored and harassed by the FBI and police, he said. The press and the public didn't get that distinction, though, and even some of Ginsberg's friends, who understood his lifelong abhorrence of censorship of any kind, thought this was a battle he should have avoided.

Hale was much more interested in Ginsberg's past than in present controversies. He loved hearing stories about Ginsberg's visits with important, if somewhat obscure, players in twentieth-century literature and arts. Ginsberg flying to Paris to see painter Marcel Duchamp, or going with Corso to London to meet with poet Dame Edith Sitwell. These vignettes were made more real by Ginsberg's memories of small details. In the '60s, Ginsberg had lunched in Rome with ex-patriate poet Ezra Pound. The older man ate pasta and answered Ginsberg's questions between slurps. Other recollections weren't as amusing. When Burroughs and Ginsberg had gone to talk with Celine in Paris, the writer's dogs had barked and snarled, and Ginsberg wasn't reassured when Celine told him they were only there "to keep the Jews away."

Ginsberg wasn't the only one whose stories Hale treasured. He was still hoping to hear some from Burroughs, and thought he'd have his chance the night he and Ginsberg went to dinner at an apartment known as the "Bowery Bunker," where Burroughs had lived during the heyday of the Beats.

Three years after Hale asked his first questions of Burroughs in class, he realized just how little he'd known back in 1985; this time he was determined to say nothing stupid. So Hale kept quiet during dinner, listening to the others talk, and then, to his horror, suddenly found himself alone at the table with Burroughs, trying to think of something clever to say.

"So," he began, "you used to live here?"

The silence seemed to last forever. Fortunately, there was a crash in the next room, which Burroughs used to excuse himself. Hale stayed in his seat, his face bright red. So you used to live here?What an idiot!

July 1991, San Francisco

"Fucker stole ten Valium from me...When I'm done here, I'm going to go find that asshole."

Hale and Ide were standing in line at a methadone clinic in San Francisco's Tenderloin section. The two had been summer roommates in 1989 and again in 1990, but they'd never been as close after the summer of 1998, when Ide left, angry, after taking the drugs.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Denver Concert Tickets
Loading...