5 Beat Central
I'm about to lose my sublet underneath Elizabeth of the Vajra Guards. From serial dining at its Parisian-flavored Fleur de Lis restaurant, I hear tell that the historic Boulderado Hotel has a room to let by the month. I had no idea they offered that sort of arrangement. Promising. After polishing off a strawberry omelet, I inquire at the front desk.
Turns out there actually is a vacancy—which just happens to be on the top floor. It has a vintage rotary telephone. It comes with maid service. Room service is available. It's got a view of the Flatirons to die for. A porcelain tub is adorned with clawed feet, which inspired the podiatric nom de plume Claude Feet. I instantly rent Room 509 for a whopping 150 bucks a month. A few years later, the yuppies of America will eagerly shell that out for one night in the hotel's refurbished Victorian bedchambers.
Thrilled to stumble into such a sweet situation, I haven't even considered who my immediate neighbors could possibly be. It turns out that not only have I been hanging out with some very unusual characters, I'm living among them as well. The rundown but evocative Boulderado is a magnet for the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets' faculty, students, and hangers-on.
Marc Campbell, the Boulderado's manager was a poet, Beat fanatic, and punk band frontman. Familiar with offbeat writers' preferred accommodations, i.e. Manhattan's Chelsea Hotel and Paris' Relais vu Vieux Paris, a.k.a. "The Beat Hotel," he mandates that all artistes in residence must be "insulated from reality," freeing them to do their best work. "Insulated from reality" was an appealing phrase I could readily relate to. Campbell was good for the occasional great line. I had to hand it to him after he likened his girlfriend's vulva to "a valley of lilacs."
You can't debate the quality of beatnik in residence at the historic Boulderado Hotel. I'm flabbergasted to learn that William Burroughs and manservant James Grauerholz are my next door neighbors in 510. I'm not sure Mister Rogers had the Naked Lunch author in mind when he sang, "Won't you be my neighbor?" Still, that'll look good on my permanent record. Alan Ginsburg lives two doors down, in 507. Poetry pal Peter Orlovsky is a frequent visitor. That, too. Anne Waldman has the best set-up, a romantic corner suite, 501, down the hall. Her panoramic views include both the majestic Flatirons and the neon art deco splendor of the Boulder Theater. The place is Beat Central.
A big part of the Boulderado's ambiance is the presence of Mr. Lowry, a living, breathing, still ambulatory 105 year old man who has lived in 505 since time immemorial. It takes the creaking Methuselah a good half hour to negotiate the fifty yards from his room to the elevator. I'm not expecting the guy to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but sheesh. I've had ample time to notice the slow pace of his peregrinations since, in a gesture of respect for his long-term residency and mascot status, hotel elevator operators have been instructed to hold its original 1906 hand-operated Otis elevator for him after he calls for pickup. Marc told me that the centenarian gets seriously stressed if the vintage conveyance isn't there waiting for him. I think Anne Waldman hipped me to the poetry readings and the parties during the twenty minutes or so we stood watching the approach of Mr. Lowry and his ever-probing cane.
Anne's pretty chill. One afternoon I was having a late lunch at the Fleur de Lis with some local talent, Table Mesa-born twins Annette and Nanette Maxson. Trying for the daily double. Hey, if you're not busy living, you're busy dying, right? In walks Anne with none other than Joni Mitchell. Oh. My immediate reaction was here's the second human I've ever seen in the flesh who I'll never be as good a songwriter as—Paul McCartney being the first. Joni's looking a tad weathered, but it's her all right. Anne could have easily passed our table with just a little nod of acknowledgment since her celebrated friend was obviously a very shy person keeping a low profile in Colorado. Instead, she trusts me to be cool about the situation and introduces Joni to me and the mirror images. That boosted my status enormously with the "sin twisters," so much so that après déjeuner I found myself hot-tubbing with "Kitchenette and Basinette" on the rooftop of the-notorious-even-for-Boulder Time Out Baths. Bubbling communal bacchanalia was all the rage. About the worst fate that could befall bathers in the pre-AIDs world was watching a few pubic hairs surface on the gurgling scum.