What Rough Beats

“I met Tim Leary at Allen Ginsberg’s apartment in the East Village one snow Sunday in January to interview the poet for an article I was writing on marijuana [“The Prodigal Powers of Pot” was published in Playboy.] I had been apprehensive about meeting Ginsberg, fearing he would have Kerouac’s hostility to writers who weren’t part of the Beat scene or exhibit the same kind of condescension that some of the Beats treated outsiders with who they put down as square. To my great surprise and relief, I found Ginsberg friendly, businesslike and helpful.

NY in the 50s

He gave me information from his own experience and from his files, making me feel welcome many friends and hangers-on who flopped or crashes simply fell by his place in those days. He was like a practical saint who sheltered and fed the floating population who passed through his pad; every time I was there he was roasting chickens to feed whoever was hungry at the time.  

He introduced me to Dr. Leary, who looked like an eager fraternity guy among the more laid back beats. When Leary heard I was doing an article on marijuana, he immediately wanted to tell me about psilocybin. It was a wonderful stimulus to creativity he said., which was why he was so excited to try it out in some of the poets and writers here at Ginsberg’s apartment. He was going to give order pink viagra online them pencils and paper and see what they wrote after taking the drug. He said this was “a scientific experiment. . .”

Once the psilocybin was ingested (I was offered the drug but opted to be ‘the objective reporter,’) Leary told me all the wonderful things it did.  Besides his claim that it ‘made people more creative,” he said that it made people “mellow.”

“Take Kerouac,’” he said, “Now there’s a guy who exhibited a lot of hostility, especially when he was drinking.”

I said I knew.  I’d seen him around the Village when he seemed quite angry.  

“Wait’ll you talk to him today, now that he’s taken the psilocybin,’ Leary said with a grin. “He’s mild, calm and very friendly.”

Jack was standing by himself, staring out the window, with what looked to me like the same sour, glowering expression.    Still, I went up and introduced myself, smiling.

“Oh yeah, Kerouac said, looking me up and down. “Didn’t you write that big bad piece about me in Commentary?”

“No,” I said, ”it was in The Nation.” 

“Yeah, I know you, you bastards are all alike. You know what I’d like to do?”

 I didn’t want to guess.

“I’d like to throw your ass out that window,” he said.

 I went back to where Leary was standing.

“I don’t think the drug has taken effect,” I said. . . 

No,” he said.

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Cecelia is “Grieving for Guava”

Cecelia Fernandez was working as a pharmaceutical rep when she took my class in the Graduate Writing Program at Florida International University. She was a single mother supporting a daughter (who was on the way to Princeton) and twin sons in high school. She wrote a story called “The Button Box, conjuring up a childhood memory of her last visit to her beloved Cuba before her family fled to the U.S. from the revolution they did not support. The story had power, evoked a lost time and the  love of  a lost homeland. Her story held the promise of a writing career – but such promises are seldom fulfilled.

Cecelia was committed. She left the pharmaceutical world and pieced together a teaching life, working as a part-time instructor at five different schools and colleges around the Miami area. And she kept writing. She wrote and published a memoir of her time growing up in Miami’s Cuban exile community, Leaving Little Havana, that won  First Place for Most Inspirational Book in The International Latino Book Awards. She kept writing. She wrote short stories, and compiled enough good ones to have a book of stories that has just been published.

When I go to Miami two or three times a year to visit my God Daughter, I always check in with Cecelia, to hear of her latest accomplishments, the trials and obstacles she overcomes. She told me she couldn’t ativan buy online no prescription think of a title for her collection of stories. I read with fascination this book that told of the Cuban exiles’ longing for their lost island, the sights and sounds and tastes of La Habana, that city that becomes more richly mythical as it recedes into memory. I realized that the spirit of her work could be evoked by the memory of a favorite Cuban food. I suggested she call her book Grieving for Guava. Cecelia liked it, and so did her publisher. Now it is out and available on Amazon.

Many people have Cecelia’s dream of becoming a writer; few reach the goal. All it takes is blood, sweat and tears. Red Smith, the legendary sports writer of the New York Times, was asked once if it was difficult to write a daily sports column. “No,” he said “All you have to do is sit down and open a vein.”

So it is with all good writing, so it is with creating a book. Cecelia has written a book of stories that dramatically tells of the love and the perils, the pathos and courage of those who have come to a new country to make a new life with a new language, new rules and customs, new obstacles and challenges.  This is real life drama, told with verve and spirit. This is what is called “a good read.”

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Who would Kurt Vonnegut vote for?

Kurt Vonnegut

“. . . I suggest you work for a socialist form of government. Free Enterprise is much too hard on the old and the sick and the shy and the poor and the stupid, and on people nobody likes.  They just can’t cut the mustard under Free Enterprise. They lack that certain something that Nelson Rockefeller, for instance, so abundantly has.”

“So let’s divide up the wealth more fairly than we have divided it up so far. Let’s make sure that everybody has enough to eat, and a decent place to live and medical help when he needs it. Let’s stop spending money on weapons which don’t work anyway, thank God, and spend money on each other. It isn’t moonbeams to talk of modest plenty for all. They have it in Sweden. We can have it here. . .”

Kurt Vonnegut, address to the graduating class of Bennington College, 1970
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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield