Happy Birthday Patti Smith

Berenice Abbott, Automat, 977 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan, 1936.

Happy Birthday, Patti! (Patti turns 65 years old today)

Quite a year for Patti Smith – notably that National Book Award. We’re wondering who’ll play Allen in the (inevitable) film version of Just Kids (wondering who’ll play her and Robert Mapplethorpe, for that matter).

Here’s the iconic account of the meeting-in-the-Automat.

“…I went through our belongings and found exactly fifty-five cents, slipped on my grey trench-coat and Mayakovsky cap, and headed to the Automat. I got my tray and slipped in my coins but the window wouldn’t open. I tried again without luck and then I noticed that the price had gone up to sixty-five cents. I was disappointed, to say the least, when I heard a voice say, “Can I help?”. I turned around and it was Allen Ginsberg. We had never met but there was no mistaking the face of one of our great poets and activists. I looked into those intense dark eyes punctuated by his dark curly beard and just nodded. Allen added the extra dime and also stood me to a cup of coffee. I wordlessly followed him to his table, and then plowed into the sandwich. Allen introduced himself. He was talking about Walt Whitman and I mentioned that I was raised near Camden, where Whitman was buried, when he leaned forward and looked at me intently. “Are you a girl?” he asked
“Yeah, I said, Is that a problem?”.

He just laughed. “I’m sorry. I took you for a very pretty boy.”

I got the picture immediately.

“Well, does this mean I return the sandwich?”

“No, enjoy it. It was my mistake”.

He told me he was writing a long elegy for Jack Kerouac, who had recently passed away. “Three days after Rimbaud’s birthday”, I said. I shook his hand and we parted company.

Sometime later Allen became my good friend and teacher. We often reminisced about our first encounter and he once asked how I would describe how we met. “I would say you fed me when I was hungry”, I told him. And he did.”

Patti Smith, poet, 70’s cult pop singer artist, early house-mate of Robt. Mapplethorpe, Rimbaud & Wm. Burroughs devotée, retired 14 years from stage fame to raise two children, till her musician husband passed away. We did Buddhist Jewel Heart Center benefit performance in 4,000 seat Hill Auditorium together, she came from Detroit retirement to Ann Arbor’s Univ. of Michigan. Next day, signed new volume poems Early Work 1970-1979 in bookstore, that night we supped at Gelek Rinpoche’s home, February 17, 1995. (Ginsberg Caption) photo. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate

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