The Beats Go On

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

But Ide never seemed able to shake the well-wishers or himself, and it nearly killed him: 12/15/92...So here I am makin' another start at the clean life, I really was gettin' outta control all over again...did a big old shot and remember the rush and lighting a cigarette & the next thing waking up in E.R. surrounded by Drs. & not knowin' where the fuck I was or why a nurse said to me "You dunno how close you came to buyin' the farm."...I do wanna stay clean...because I honestly dunno how much longer I'll live if I keep fuckin' around...& cuz my writing suffers hard from dope, booze...

Hale and Ide met again in Boulder in the spring of 1993. Ide was just arriving, and Hale was leaving for New York City. He thought his friend looked good, and he was pleased to hear that not only was Ide clean and sober, but his future was looking bright again. He'd been published in the New York Quarterly, one of the top literary magazines in the country. And Ginsberg, that eternal optimist, had given him another chance as a teaching assistant at Naropa.

They left each other promising to reunite soon. Maybe he'd come to New York, Ide said. Sure, Hale replied, that would be great. But Ide never made it.

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.

Ide was sleeping on the couch at Miles's house one night that April when a young poet, Bill Harper, dropped by with some morphine and opium that he wanted to share with the photographer. Harper was another Beat aficionado who bought into the idea of emulating the Beat lifestyle: Burroughs was a junkie, so he was a junkie; Kerouac and Ginsberg used drugs and became great writers, so he used drugs to become a great writer.

Although he'd never met Ide before, he was familiar with his work and was more than a little impressed that Ginsberg had labeled him "the best young poet in America." He decided to do the drugs with Ide instead of Miles, and they soon split and went to Harper's place.

They shot up the morphine and smoked the opium. When that buzz began to fade, they broke open Vick's nasal inhalers and ate the wicks for the amphetamine. The wicks weren't as powerful as they were in the old days when Joan and William Burroughs snarfed them by the handful, but they still turned up the brain amp pretty good.

Through it all they talked about poetry... exchanged verse, suggested revisions. The world outside was growing light when Ide excused himself and went into the bathroom. When he returned a few minutes later, his wrists were dripping with blood where he'd slashed them. The Blood of the Poet.

Harper bandaged the wounds, which weren't serious, and he took Ide back to Mile's house. Several hours later, Harper was awakened by a call from Miles: Ide had discovered a bottle of anti-depressants and swallowed them.

Ide survived the suicide attempt and a month later left for Chicago, where he entered yet another rehabilitation center at his mother's urging. He again wrote Hale from "some trendy literary cafe w/pics of Burroughs on the wall & all...I arrived one eve at the point where I went apeshit & decided I no longer wanted to inhabit this body & (gads) swallowed the remainder of Steve's antidepressants, after an unsuccessful attempt at slitting my wrists w/part of a disposable razor--jeez how pathetic...I don't mean to sound aloof about this thing, but it almost seems laughable now that I lived through it..."

And now that he'd lived through it, Ide was eager to get some of his poetry to an interested publisher. He told friends that he thought that seeing his poetry published might be the one thing that would keep him alive. But Ide was hedging his bets, sending his friends copies of his poems with the admonition that "if something happens to me," they were to try to get them published. Among the poems was one he titled "Epitaph":

That future boys and girls might read
these days I drag ass through and feel
a bit less lonely fear, I send back
my love, a confused, hungover thing now,
Nonetheless, take heed, my heart slows for you
from whatever foreign city, state,
or body I now inhabit
I pray to touch you.

In the summer of 1994, Naropa scheduled a tribute to Ginsberg's work. It was the culmination of a satisfying few years for the poet. In 1992 he'd been awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture -- essentially the French equivalent of being knighted. Then in 1994, Bill Morgan's work organizing Ginsberg's papers paid off when Stanford University agreed to pay $1 million for them. The Naropa tribute was going to be the icing on the cake.

Everybody who was anybody was expected to be there. Literary types, including Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, David Cope, Anne Waldman, Ken Kesey.

Everybody who was anybody, except for Chris Ide.

In June, before the big event, Ginsberg had stopped in Chicago for a reading -- where Ide had shown up high. Ginsberg, his protegé and Ide's mother went to lunch, and they'd taken a photograph together. When Hale saw the picture, he was startled. His friend was smiling, but he looked like a ghost, pale and almost translucent...as though he wasn't really there anymore.

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