Alan Brooks Remembers – 1 (The Trip to Mexico)

Allen Ginsberg at Naropa, Boulder, Colorado, 1995 – photo by Alan Brooks – courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

We begin the serialization today of “Warts and All”, a fragmented memoir by Alan Brooks, Allen’s nephew, one of four sons (Peter, Lyle and Neal being the others), the son of Eugene Brooks, Allen’s older brother.

Beginning today with Part One – A Trip to Mexico

The Volkswagen bus was parked in NYC’s East Village with care
in the hope that Allen Ginsberg soon would be there.
Our father, Eugene Brooks, walked into the tenement and disappeared,
to help Allen with last-minute preparations for departing the city.
August, 1968. We were leaving for Mexico.

The five children and Mother waited in the bus for maybe an hour
before Uncle Allen and father-Eugene appeared with the luggage.
We were off to the highway.
The Volkswagen van pulled gently away from the curb, rolling on to highway 95.

We headed south-southwest, by the Ancient Mariner’s compass,
Eugene and Allen talking almost continuously
(they might not have had a chance such as that to catch up on things in decades).

Dad drove the bus, and Allen sat just back of the driver’s seat, leaning in to get near Dad’s ear  (Dad was deaf in one ear from a childhood virus or some such). The conversations became quite animated – “Insane Gene, insane!” (Allen was referring to current events, which were indeed becoming insane in August of ‘68, The Democratic National Convention and the riots that would ensue in opposition to the Vietnam War.
“Insane, Gene, insane!” – over ‘n over, Crimson and Clover.

The ride south was uneventful – I don’t remember a thing about it until we got to Alabama, Arkansas, or Texas. But, starting in one of those Deep South states, we came across bugs – insects splattering the windshield of the van so thickly it was rather difficult to see outside. But Dad could still drive. In one motel room, the mosquitoes were so prevalent that my brother Pete and I, who shared a room that night, had to put the blankets tight over us all night to keep from being bitten! We were being swiftly schooled to the fact that not all of America was like the North or, for that matter, the upper parts of the South.

Once or twice Pete and I shared a room with Allen, and he gave us a kindly lecture on the perils of smoking (something he himself indulged in heavily at the time). He spat out a big fat glob of yellow stuff to illustrate his little talk but it seemed innocuous compared to the windshield bug juice.

When the bus arrived at the border, Allen was taken away by the authorities to have his hair and his beard trimmed. Long hair and long beards were not yet accepted by the chiefs of Mexico. When he reappeared, he was smiling. Now
we could enter the country.

The rest of the Mexican trip went smoothly – visits to a pyramid in Yucatan, several days in Mexico City. The only shocking event I recall was at a checkpoint somewhere when a Mexican child reached in a window of our van and grabbed a stick of margarine, wolfing it down as if it were a candy bar. No one said anything about it. Then he ran away.

The rest of the voyage went so smoothly that I remember nothing much about it,  nothing at all about returning to NYC.  Except watching twenty or so long-haired youths departing from a large bus somewhere in America.  It was ‘68, long-haired youths had already become something a fixture in the US.
Allen murmured, quietly, almost to himself, under his breath,  “All those beautiful people.”

to be continued 

****For more Alan Brooks on Allen Ginsberg – listen also to his interview with Stephanie Kip (recorded July 2021) – here   

Allen Ginsberg’s family: Hannah (Honey) Litzky, aunt; Leo Litzky, uncle; Abe Ginsberg, uncle; Anna Ginsberg, aunt; Louis Ginsberg, father; Eugene Brooks, brother; Allen Ginsberg, poet; Anne Brooks, niece; Peter Brooks, nephew; Connie Brooks, sister-in-law; Lyle Brooks, nephew; Eugene Brooks; Neal Brooks, nephew; Edith Ginsberg, stepmother; Louis Ginsberg, Paterson, New Jersey, May 3, 1970 – two silver gelatin prints mounted on linen, overall 8′ x 20′. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation

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