4 Those Who Wait
Ah, the parties. Phew. Finally! Will good things come to those who wait? I hear tell this evening's soirée will be held at an unsuspecting unit in the University Townhouses complex. The cookie cutter student domiciles are the go-to Naropan summer sublets. I've already hinted at my primary objective, that's no big surprise. Palling around with "Ginzy" or "Bill" or Gregory Corso is a secondary objective. Both objectives are attainable. So I'm not sure why I have the irrational fear that I'll be completely out of place?
I'm only an amateur psychologist, but I'd wager my insecurity about being Beat-worthy stems from the fact that I missed out on all the natural advantages of growing up in Alphabetland with every wino, junkie and beatnik in lower Manhattan. I've had to work hard to overcome my suburban upbringing. It's a work in progress. I've got thousands of hours of disgustingly healthy Cub Scouts and Little League activities to overcome if I ever hope to pass myself off as a hip, bohemian kinda guy.
I insinuate myself into a group of Naropans trekking up side-streets from the Pearl Street Mall to "The Hill." Presently, the townhouse grounds come into view. An outstanding assemblage of hedonists spilling out of the party unit and lining the balcony and stairs suggests this has to be the place. Enlightened and unenlightened blades, not at all unlike myself, appear in various phases of non-meditative bliss. As yet unidentified soul music is blaring.
A sighting: Gregory Corso, in a flowered house dress, extending a martini glass aloft, reciting in cadence every bit as flowery as his frock. The guy was really hamming it up. I appreciated that. I caught something along the lines of, "I am watching them churn the last milk they'll ever get out of me, they are waiting for me to die." It's not every day you get to hear a poem delivered in the first bovine. Impressive! I noted the tense for future reference. More concerned with delivery than gravity, Corso weaves dangerously close to the railing. Taking a deep breath, I climb the stairs and am immediately swept into the vortex.
How do Naropans throw a Beat party? Take a 750 sq. ft. college townhouse, stir in the same amount of spiritually and sexually elevated pheromones that moments ago filled an entire gymnasium, throw in copious amounts of booze, pot and blow, set the hi-fi to 10 and the AC to 60. Allow to simmer.
After hibernating through the poetry reading, everyone is reanimated, as present as they'll ever be. They are actually boozing, schmoozing, and choogling with the surprisingly accessible pantheon of Beat gods. Come to think of it, you don't get to be a Beat great by acting like you're above other people, you get there by interacting with all types of people. Eventually, you become an "everyman" capable of communicating anything to anyone.
Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" is hurtling toward its frenzied denouement. Redding's impassioned wail, augmented by a jacked-up Stax horn section, whips hundreds of inebriated souls into a writhing, sweltering mass. What air there is carries the scents of cheap aftershave and chi chi perfume, mingled with tobacco, ganja, human sweat, alcohol, and the seared charcoal fragrance of fresh volcanic ash everyone's hyperaware of. A prodigious greenhouse effect is being produced. The "unit" has become a veritable dharma biosphere.
Within five minutes I'm sharing a doob and conversational bon mots with Ginsburg, buddy Peter Orlovsky, and Corso. I help myself to some Beat booze and Beat chips, before I'm swallowed up on the dance floor. Surely this is real truth!
Inebriated, invigorated, and intoxicated, lustful partygoers look to, um, broaden life experiences. The more outlandish your rap, the higher quality of human you can go home with. No one's blabbing about real estate values, the square footage of their breakfast nooks, or their swelling portfolio of mutual funds. It's like Tahiti when the H.M.S. Bounty showed up. And equally humid.
Air. Need air. Fast! The balcony beckons, but I'm hardly the only organism seeking an oxygen boost. Battling my way out there past the wrenched torsos is about the closest thing to hand-to-hand combat I've ever experienced. After finally hacking my way into the clear, I find a dominant silverback holding court, pontificating for a captive audience. Ah—it's none other than Dr. Timothy Leary, every bit as smitten with decadence, Naropa style, as lesser lights.
"Dr. Leary, what do you think is the best LSD?" one starstruck Naropan ventures.
"Jack Daniels," quips the being who coined the phrase, "tune in, turn on and drop out."
The Harvard Prof's masterclass in psychotropics is illuminating, but at this point in the evening, what I can really use is some strange. My roving eye detects a couple squabbling in another corner of the balcony. Instinctively, I move closer. I catch Jubu Nadine Binzaroff's eye. She's resisting the overtures of an insistent brute she'll introduce as "The Animal." Nadine begins flirting aggressively with me, either to discourage the modern day Minotaur, or because she intuits that I'm someone with whom she can discuss that which lies between being and nothingness. Maybe she'll want to lie between being and nothingness with me.
"Hey, aren't you the guy Özel Tendzin said would attain all of his spiritual goals?"
"'That's-a me," I confess. Hey, might as well work it.
"What else did he tell you?"
"That you and I are destined to be woven together," I embellished, which she didn't know quite what to make of. "Your shrine or mine?" I added, which she did.
Turns out Nadine's a secretary at Naropa. Okay, so she's a secretary and I'm a cryptozoologist (I sensed she liked brainy guys; that seemed about right). What more did we need to know? Ignoring The Animal's hateful snarl, Nadine and I work our way through the dance floor, past the booze 'n chips, by the sloshed Beats giving us blissful waves, and, eventually, out the front door. Twenty minutes later, we're scantily ensconced at her Pine Street duplex. Being the curious type, I survey the surroundings.
The first thing that strikes me is the glaring absence of any decorative Denver Broncos Sherpa Throws; most Front Range households had at least one, usually draped over a sofa. That's just plain un-American. I also noted the presence of a traditional Zen Buddhist altar. Naturally, it contained each of the four essential elements: a vessel of flowers (earth), an incense bowl (air, thank god it wasn't patchouli), a water offering (water, obviously), and a candle (fire, as you'd imagine), arranged just so. At that point, the integrity of cataloging other ritual objects in the immediate Zenscape like reclining Buddhas and begging bowls had become compromised—I was no longer upright.
Having became one with the universe, I assess recent events as Nadine draws on a Virginia Slim. I've finally managed to drag myself to a Naropa event. I've been blessed by a holy man. I've gone to a three hour poetry reading and come out on the other side. I've met and gotten high with the entire who's who of Beatdom. I've tackled the meaning of life with a sensual and sentient woman.
Not a bad night's work. My man-of-the-world training, progressing nicely all summer, has kicked into overdrive now. Small wonder I became a regular at these blowouts.