On the 32nd Chorus
AG Now, these are very pretty lines:
“.Little cottages on hills receive/ the Constellation of/ the Southern Hemisphere/ Where rosy doves’re seen flyin/ Past Pis Cacuaqaheuro/ Monte Visto de Santo/ De Gassa – healing helium/ gas – from the substance/ on the sun star -/ gas discovered on the sun/by spectral gazing/ Sorcerers hoppity skop/ with the same familiarity/ In my Buddhaland dreams -/ Monotonous monotony/ of endless grape dirigible stars..” – (” Monotonous monotony/ of endless grape dirigible stars..’ – (The line – “Monotonous monotony/of endless grape dirigible stars” was what I thought was the knock-out. Because it seemed to mean something – I could never figure out what it meant instantly when I read it, but it’s such a beautiful thing, like Shakespeare – “Monotonous monotony/of endless grape dirigible stars.” – or else, I’d developed a taste for such odd phrasing – “grape dirigible” – “grape dirigible” – putting together “grape” and “dirigible” – “grape dirigible stars” – dirigible balloon – grapes, I suppose).
Student (What’s a dirigible)?
AG: Oh, a dirigible is a.. softer than air… no, lighter than air… cigar-shaped, fat cigar-shaped.. filled with hydrogen or helium that was experimented with in the ‘Thirties.
Student: Like a blimp?
AG: Blimp. Yeah, but a big blimp made out of aluminum.
Student: Football blimp.
AG: Football-shaped blimp. with a hanging cockpit, with a cockpit attached to the underside where people could go and dance and travel from Germany to America.
AG: And the great dirigible or Zeppelin as it was called or dirigible … what was the one that burned, that …
Peter Orlovsky: The Hindenburg.
AG: … the Hindenburg. The Hindenburgen..
Peter Orlovsky: Hindenburgen.
AG: …which was built by Hitler as a demonstration of the triumph of the Germans over the air. Because it promised (to be) like an ocean liner in the air, moving slowly and smoothly – soundlessly.
Student: (Slowly and smoothly?)
AG: Well, it went pretty fast. It used the winds. But the first great (one in) 1936 or ‘(3)5, (Editorial note – actually, 1937, May 6, 1937) the first great German dirigible, Graf von Hindenburg. floated across the Atlantic and landed at Lakehurst and it was about three hundred feet in the air, thirty stories or four hundred feet in the air…
AG: … New Jersey. New Jersey. Southern Jersey. And some kind of static electricity had accumulated, and so the instant it touched the landing tower (or that its ropes touched the landing tower, something like that) there was a crackling of static and then, since they were using hydrogen to buoy the balloon up, the whole fucking thing exploded in the middle of everybody’s newspaper photograph. I was in Paterson, New Jersey, listening to the radio about how the dirigible was landing and all of a sudden the announcer (said), “Wait, oh, it’s terrible, something’s happening, it’s exploded, people are dropping off from it like flies, people are jumping out of it” – as it was way high in the air and it was this fantastic explosion of hydrogen. And then thing was about, I don’t know, a thousand feet long.
AG: It was one of the great marvels of disaster of the 20th century transport communications and progress. And it was also a great, well, negative publicity for Hitler, because they were using it boastfully.
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy minutes in