Archives for posts with tag: 1960s

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PORTLAND COLISEUM
by Allen Ginsberg

A brown piano in diamond
white spotlight
Leviathan auditorium
iron run wired
hanging organs, vox
black battery
A single whistling sound of ten thousand children’s
larynxes asinging
pierce the ears
and following up the belly
bliss the moment arrived
 
Apparition, four brown English
jacket christhair boys
Goofed Ringo battling bright
white drums
Silent George hair patient
Soul horse
Short black-skulled Paul
with the guitar
Lennon the Captain, his mouth
a triangular smile,
all jump together to End
some tearful memory song
ancient-two years,
The million children
the thousand words
bounce in their seats, bash
each other’s sides, press
legs together nervous
Scream again & claphand
become one Animal
in the New World Auditorium
—hands waving myriad
snakes of thought
screetch beyond hearing
 
while a line of police with
folded arms stands
Sentry to contain the red
sweatered ecstasy
that rises upward to the
wired roof.

— August 27, 1965

“Portland Coliseum” by Allen Ginsberg commemorates the Beatles’ appearance in Portland, Oregon, on August 22, 1965. The poem is found in READ THE BEATLES: Classic and New Writing on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter (Penguin, 2006), available at Amazon.com.

Photo: The Beatles performing “I’m Down” in Portand, Oregon, on August 22, 1965 (Bob Boris, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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Photo: Girl posing with 1959 Ford Fairlane. (“Betty, go stand by the Fairlane and let me snap your picture.”)

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, many people considered their Ford Fairlanes valued members of their families. The car boasted a beautiful design that inspired love and devotion among its owners.

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LOCOMOTION

Poem by Philip Bryant

I heard the
locomotion behind
the album by Monk my father
was playing.
The finely tuned
machine humming like
a top, purring like a kitten.
 
The first time I
saw the Santa Fe “Super Chief”
at Union Station in Chicago,
gleaming as a silver bullet
carrying the blue uniformed
conductor who gave a low whistle
and “All Aboard” for places as far away as Kansas,
Laredo, Tucson, Las Vegas, Palm Springs.
 
At that point
I knew it all had
something to do with jazz music.
The slow hiss of
the engine, the steam
let out by the jowls of the locomotive,
and the massive, muscular wheels turning
slowly counterclockwise to the engine’s beat
 
Come on Baby Do the Locomotion
Come on Baby Do the Locomotion With Me
 
heading out onto the open tracks,
that smoke-blown phrase repeated
over and over in my head through the years,
as miles of the real American landscape
began, slowly, to unfold.

Photo: “Santa Fe Super Chief at Chicago’s Dearborn Station”  (closed in 1971) by Harold A. Edmonson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Music mentioned “Locomotive” by Philip Bryant: “Locomotive” by Thelonius Monk — from his album Straight, No Chaster (1967) — listen to “Locomotive” here. “The Loco-Motion” (1962) written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King led to a dance craze of the same name — watch Little Eva perform “The Loco-Motion” at this link.

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MIRROR TALK

Memoir by Barbara Alfaro

I don’t have as much time for reading as I’d like – if it were up to me, I’d read as a full-time occupation, eight hours a day. Most of my reading these days is work related – material I’m editing, manuscripts I’m evaluating, or reference materials for writing projects. But once in a while I’m able to spend time with a book that’s so enjoyable the pages just breeze by – and, I’ll admit, books like these aren’t easy to find. I’m happy to report I recently encountered a book that succeeded on all fronts – beautiful prose, laugh-out-loud humor, as well as depth and introspection. The book is Mirror Talk, a memoir by Barbara Alfaro – winner of the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award.

In the approximately 30,000-word book, available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions, Alfaro covers a lot of territory – from her Catholic girlhood in New York during the 1950s, her career as an actor and director during the 1960s and 1970s, and her eventual development as a poet, playwright, and writer.

The Mirror Talk chapter entitled “Make Mine Cognac” about an experimental play Alfaro appeared in was the funniest story I’ve read in years – and had me laughing, and laughing, and laughing out loud. Alfaro’s sharp, witty writing style is reminiscent of the wisecracking reporter Hildy Johnson in the Ben Hecht comedy His Girl Friday or even the ultimate wit – Dorothy Parker herself.

About the experimental play “smuggled from behind the Iron Curtain,” Alfaro writes: “After weeks of rehearsal, it became depressingly clear that no one in the cast had the slightest idea of what the play was about…the director said something about ‘symbolic juxtaposition.’ Finally, one of the symbols clanged. ‘What the hell is this play about?’ The director smiled that knowing, smug smile only directors and successful orthodontists seem able to accomplish…”

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read with a lot of heart and soul, check out Mirror Talk by Barbara Alfaro, available at Amazon.com. The Kindle version, available, here is just $1.99!

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In 1991, novelist Jonathan Franzen (author of The Corrections and Freedom) was browsing the shelves at the Yaddo library when he spotted a slim volume, Desperate Characters by Paula Fox. Franzen sat down and began to read — and didn’t leave his chair until he’d finished the novel.

When Franzen attempted to order a copy at a bookstore, he learned the book was out of print. After trying, without success, to convince people in the publishing business to reissue Desperate Characters, he eventually mentioned his reverence for the novel in a March/April 1996 Harper’s article entitled “Perchance to Dream: In the Age of Images, a Reason to Write Novels” (subscription required to read the article). Tom Bissell, an editor at W.W. Norton, took notice — and the company published the book in 1999, with an introduction by Franzen.

In his introduction, Franzen swoons over the novel, stating: “The first time I read Desperate Characters in 1991, I fell in love with it. It seemed to me obviously superior to any novel by Fox’s contemporaries John Updike, Philip Roth, and Saul Bellow. It seemed inarguably great.” 

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My first reading of Desperate Characters predated the Jonathan Franzen frenzy over the novel. I found a copy (cover at left) while browsing not at the Yaddo artists’ colony but at a Salvation Army store in Chicago and, like Franzen, ended up reading the book in one sitting. I agree that the novel is “inarguably great.”

What’s Desperate Characters about? Well, spelling out the story almost makes it sound inane — a woman feeds a stray cat, the cat bites her, and she spends the rest of the book wondering if she will perish from the bite. As Franzen put it, “I had never read a book before that was about the indistinguishability between an interior crisis and an exterior crisis.” 

A New York Times article by Melanie Rehak from 2001 discusses Franzen’s role in the reissue of Desperate Characters and describes the novel as “a ruthless, elegant portrayal of the social paranoia of a bourgeois Brooklyn couple named Sophie and Otto Brentwood.”

Find Desperate Characters by Paula Fox at Amazon.com. Fox, who will turn 90 next year, has led a fascinating life. More about that in another post.

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“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel

you were famous, your heart was a legend.

You told me again you preferred handsome men

but for me you would make an exception.”

From Chelsea Hotel #2, song by LEONARD COHEN

THOUGHTS: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has expressed regret about naming Janis Joplin as the inspiration for “Chelsea Hotel #2,” a song from his 1974 album New Skin for the Old Ceremony. (Read the lyrics here.) Others believe Janis — who died in 1970 — wouldn’t have minded, since she spoke openly of her encounters with Jim Morrison and Leonard Cohen. Apparently she met Cohen in the elevator at the Chelsea Hotel while  looking for Kris Kristofferson. When Cohen learned of her mission, he told her: “I’m Kris Kristofferson,” though he was sure she knew that the author of “Me and Bobby McGee” was a lot taller.

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In 1969, photographer Henry Diltz and The Doors showed up at The Morrison Hotel — 1246 S. Hope Street in L.A.’s skid row — figuring the proprietor would be more than happy to let them shoot some photos. When the hotel manager told them to hit the road, the group stood on the sidewalk trying to figure out a Plan B. Opportunity knocked when Diltz looked through the hotel’s front window and saw the desk clerk leave his post. He told the bandmates to run inside and assume various positions at the window.

Diltz was able to fire off just one roll of film during the session — but just about every shot turned out a classic. The crown jewel was, of course, the above photo that graced the cover of the 1970 album of the same name. Dlitz’s photos are currently on display at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood as part of the Sunset Strip Music Festival taking place through August 18th.