Alan Brooks Remembers – 4

Alan Brooks, New York City, September 1987 – photo by Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

Alan Brooks‘ memories of the ’70’s and of Allen continue

In October of ’76 Alan Brooks hitchhiked out to the West Coast to Berkeley and spent, in his words, a “Hippy-Dippy half year in the West” – “mostly getting high and meeting certifiably-insane people” – “One fellow thought he was Barbara Eden, another guy marched around in combat boots – they called him ‘Napoleon’

He continues:

In March of ‘77,  Allen sent a letter to me and (my brother)  Peter Brooks (who was named after an ancestor named Pinkus, not Peter Orlovsky). Pete had been told I was staying at a California Commune (It was actually a Reverend Moon camp in Mendocino County).
In the letter Allen sent us, he stated that if we traveled to Boulder, we could stay with him.  We thought nothing of it at the time, we had gotten used to California by then, but we did save the letter.

One day I got punched in the head for interfering in a fight between two hippy-dip types.
I told Pete Brooks that we really ought to go to Boulder, and he finally decided that, yes, leaving Berkeley might indeed be a good idea, leaving might possibly save the both of us from possibly both being punched in the head!

So back onto the highway we went, and off to Boulder.  We arrived three days later
and moved in with Allen at the Boulderado Hotel.  It seems like a really long time that we were at the Hotel, but, looking back, it turns out that it was only three weeks.
Even though there was a great deal of activity, it was, frankly, oddly inconsequential after the pure insanity of Beserk-ley.

Pete stayed on in Boulder for a while to hang out with Gregory Corso.  I hitchhiked (you could still hitchhike then without someone such as John Wayne Gacy burying you in his crawlspace) alone, back to NYC.
I still had a job, of sorts – “the house tard” at Bleecker Publishing.  Allen had already returned to NYC also.  His apartment hadn’t changed hardly at all since the year before.
It was still as it had been – the whitewashed walls, Allen’s harmonium, the incense, the pictures on the walls, even the cracks in the walls somehow lending it a peaceful “Buddhist atmosphere”. Once in awhile I would see Peter Orlovsky flitter around the apartment wearing nothing but a woman’s panties or an apron. That too, for some reason, conjured up a Buddhist image for me. Everything seemed to fit. It would stay pretty much the same (even as the neighborhood around it changed) for the next twenty years.


Alan Brooks, Julius Orlovsky, Harry Smith and Allen Ginsberg, 1987 – photographer unknown

Harry Smith was there, I remember, a savant who I’d visited at the Chelsea Hotel, north of Greenwich Village (Bob Dylan had stayed at the hotel a decade before,
thus it was a place to be).

Allen’s apartment was just as pleasant as the rooms in the Chelsea, and Harry would stay over sometimes. He liked milk a lot, and one time he recorded me playing piano.
That’s all I remember about him, because, truth be told, I didn’t visit Allen as much that Spring & Summer as I had the year before. Son of Sam was stalking the streets of the metro area. I hunkered down in the Yippie basement, waiting for him to be caught.
Unfortunately, the crime rate was inching upward in NYC, so I decided not to venture out on a daily basis, as I had the year before. Now that I was twenty-one, time felt like it was speeding up – the year passed quickly and uneventfully. No more “skyrockets in flight”

The punk scene was going full force by then. Captain and Tennille were replaced by Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, a drastic change for hippies to take onboard. It was quite a switch from ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” to “God save the Queen,/her fascist regime.
Allen could relate to the punks, though –  Gregory Corso had presaged the punks by decades,  and there was William S. Burroughs, who was punk albeit transcended punk.
I saw Burroughs at 12th street only once. He was relaxed, maybe the apartment had a soothing effect, what with the church across the street?  Too bad Kerouac wasn’t there – but Corso was. One day when only Corso and I were at the 12th street pad, Gregory attempted to pull the cork out of a bottle of wine, only succeeding with the top half of the cork. So he broke the neck of the bottle, poured the wine into a glass and drank it all right away.

Punk – Allen wrote a poem about the punks (“murder me in the gutter with orgasms” was one line!), and subsequently became quite creatively involved with The Clash.
He didn’t pay too much attention, I don’t think, to the music because there really wasn’t much “music” to speak of, it was more the jarring lyrics and attitude.
I never saw him play any punk records on his phonograph (sic), tho’ we did, I remember, talk about The Sex Pistols and CBGB’s and The Ramones

All our conversations would took place in the spacious 12th street kitchen –  or in Bob Rosenthal’s office when Bob had days off.

Allen and I never actually got along all that well, it was more of a case of “Opposites Attract” – Allen was gregarious, I was not. Allen had a natural feel for literature but not for music, whereas I knew music but only scratched the surface of literature. Jane Eyre, MaggieTS Eliot. Auden. They were about all the classics I’d read at the time (besides what was taught at school).
Allen knew so much about literature he later became an esteemed professor at Brooklyn College  (and with only a B.A. to his name).


Bob Rosenthal and Allen Ginsberg at 437 E 12th Street – photo by Brian Graham

Bob Rosenthal kept the place together. He was so level-headed he appeared to be a square, but only relative to the Beatdom at the pad.  Julius Orlovsky was there frequently, easy-going and willing to do whatever he was asked. A parade of visitors came and vanished into the city. Once a stranger rang Allen on the phone, asking to be his friend
“I have enough friends!”  Allen shouted
“Can I come over to visit you?,” the fellow asked.
Well, he did indeed have no shortage of friends. And admirers. Another time Allen called on a locksmith, to replace an old tumbler. He gave out his address, and then (foolishly?) gave out his name.

to be continued

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