Acid Ace remembers the womb; remembers hanging upside down in warm liquid darkness and listening to the Beat. This is why Beat is all for him, because booming blood beat is the first thing he knew. When consciousness dawned, there was nothing: no light no movement no gravity; nothing nothing nothing but Beat.
Later there was another sound, growing louder and louder as the space got smaller: an irregular sound - not unnatural, nothing in that Place could be unnatural - but different from the Beat. It was, of course, the Voice of the Mother. If Beat was the backdrop for Ace's consciousness, the voice was its sole character, its soliloquy the only drama on the stage of wakeful dreaming. And Ace watched in fascination, for truly there was nothing else like it in his world. As the space grew smaller, the Mother grew louder, and other voices emerged. These voices were fainter, and therefore merely minor characters. They would speak, and the Voice would respond. Just before he was born, Ace could hear whole conversations through thin membranes of meat and fluid. (He must have been listening pretty carefully too, because he was in utero in 1969, but grew up to become a hippie who would have done that era proud.....)So this is how Ace learned about God, and love, and the outside world: the other voices and conversations were the outside world.
The Voice of the Mother was love.
And the Beat was God.
Beat Juice. Minor prophet of the American '50s. Souped-up chrome dream-machines and gee-whiz mickeymouse bobbysoxers were just the fantasy, Jack: the '50s were all about sitting the lap of the world, America after the war, when all dreams were equally viable, whether you wanted to own the largest car dealership on three continents, or just to let the road own you. One long asphalt miracle bound America together, tied neatly at the top with a length of iron rail. If you had a thumb and you could run, you didn't need the chrome: the country was your dream-machine.
I rode those rails with Jack and Neal, sat on acid-soaked Tangiers beaches with Bill, but you wouldn't know my name... My few books of beat poetry lingered on the shelves of City Lights in the early '60s, now all gone and rare and dusty in the back shelves of Berkeley's library, waiting only for some university English professor to taste, seeking the flavor of dissertation. The taste of dust is bitter indeed. In dead....
Cancer cured me of life shortly before the profs got ahold of us all...but not until after the sorry square version of Jack's Subterraneans made it to the screen. We were all concerned, rightly as it turned out, what the world would do when it had its way with us; whether "genuine Beat sandals" would be sold at Penney's for $2.49 a pair, tax not included. In short it seemed true Beat was simply dying of its own growth...just like me.
Well a dying beat prophet, even a minor one, can't hurt for painkillers, and one night surfing Bill's yage wave (peyote? a mescalini cocktail? all three? can't remember) lo I beheld a vision, not beatspeak poetry but truly a vision, I saw the future. Waking from fevered dream like a man renewed, I rewrote the instructions for my burial, one of my last and least significant works, now totally forgotten by the profs - but my best investment ever in the future.
And the Lord saith, there be Beat again at end of century, and only then would We the People understand, only then, long after most beat bards had bit the dust. So my instructions, and my dust, were left to the ex-lovers and friends who celebrated my memory. And for the next nearly twenty years, wherever they went across America, they sprinkled my ashes along the highways, the alleys, the main streets and farm roads and forest paths. The last bits were flung to the winds in '76, just after Carter cured the White House of Republicans (a temporary remission, alas). Ashen I thumbed a ride with the wind, and I was On the Road once again.
Now I wander ghostlike along vast asphalt ribbons, never tiring (fortuitously, for the cars never stop), and thinking about the history I have seen, alive and dead, and watching more unfold before me. The vision came true. Beat lived on, better than ever, especially in the '60s. And if you think those sweet flower children were never beatniks, you forsook the meaning for the word.... Beat is the road, the life, a way of thinking and being and particularly enjoying and rejoicing and celebrating the moment, the way a stoner stares with primitive, childlike fascination and joy at a grasshopper, marveling at the green machinery of nature in worshipful silence.
Pot has a lot to do with it, in fact...that's why hippies and beats are souls alike under unwashed skin....
Where cigarettes say why bother, pot says why not.... THC turns the smoker to stone prophet, affixed on a vision of the world and undaunted by authority's nightstick persuasion. Hippies and beats remade the world around them by passing the joint around the world. Stone circle democracy. Theirs was not to escape reality, but to remake their sphere of influence...although beats and hips differed on the size of the sphere, the later getting political in an effort to wreak their reality on unrelenting Republicrats.... They got not all they wanted but at least engaged some changes, becoming the praxis to our philosophers.
Ah beat bit manifests unrequested in my manuscript. It always returns.... Beat bit the dust soon after the sixties, sinking in the seventies, sunk for certain in the '80s...or so it seemed. Silently stalking the streets of America I saw Rainbow dreams still living, some beat spirits hiding, not in fear, nor subterfuge, simply waiting....
Waiting for what?
I think the turn...change of century, of millennia...a time when all is uncertain and anything possible....
A time that has come at last.
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night
And as "Howl" rants, they will come from Denton, from Boise, from Lawrence and Denver and Berkeley and Brooklyn and Baltimore, drawn together by the Net, the Gatherings, the secret threads of coincidence; by the secret knowledge they share, the revealing of which can shatter the sickness and save the world. That knowledge is simply this: they are aware of how they are connected...
Beat beat beat...
"Dam' roaches," breathes the woman who dances nude as "Dolly Lama," stamping at the offending insect with the sole of a shoe held in one hand. But it skitters behind the dresser and escapes into the infinite 'cause she doesn't have time or patience to chase it down right now. In two hours she'll be on stage, under the lights and mirrors and naked gazes of middle-management executives and bored horny good ol' boys. In four hours she'll be waiting in a cold old bus station in the bad part of downtown. In seven hours she'll be on a bus for Boise, the roach forgotten...but it has not forgotten her.I'm getting ahead of myself...hardly meaning to, but a hard habit to break. Ghosts, poets or otherwise, have another sense that makes itself quite annoyingly known shortly after death. Time, you see, is merely another direction, and our sight no longer limited to the happenstance here and now. We can look sidewise, if you will, at any person or object and see their future, their past, before and behind them - because it is a part of them. It isn't easy to explain. Imagine your father as a man six feet high, two feet wide and 58 years long. I would ask if you understand but already see that you don't...
It's the end of the world. Ace has never heard the Beat louder or faster. His liquid life is gone, drained away. He thinks he is dying.
Instead, he is living.
"Push," the midwife breathes, and "push," and "PUSH!" and Ace is squeezed screaming out into bright lights, taking that first terrible breath after nine months immersed - but he can still feel the Beat in his belly. Squeeze time like the muscles of his mother's clenching cervix and he is the same baby, only 18 years longer, wider and taller, no longer bound to her by umbilical but by something far stronger, something that shapes his cells and his very soul.
Ace uncircumcised, 18 years old, wanders the very North Beach streets Kerouac once trod in old San Fran, not seeking subterranean spirits but merely a place to piss like a racehorse after two too many Tsingtao beers in Chinatown. He finds both in a quiet pre-Happy Hour bar called Comeback Charlie's, whose faded wood paneling hasn't been reshellacked since the days I sat in the back booths, dictating moments and observations to an interested ex-lover (who knew shorthand from a stint as a secretary). I'm back in town for a Beat reading at the City Lights (not performing, of course, merely attending in spirit silence), stopping in at Charlie's to see if Sarah's still behind the bar (she is). Ace enters in the kind of agony one only knows in a city where every bar, bookstore and supermarket proclaims NO PUBLIC RESTROOM in large letters out front. But Comeback Charlie's is different - maybe that's why they keep coming back.
Standing intangible at the bar I take him in: green and purple tie-die t; bogus love beads bought in a Haight souvenir shop; flop-soled thrift-store sandals; faded cutoffs with strings hanging down and pink skin seen through spots in the seat. I was in SF in '67 when stone hippies jonesing for a protest marched in state down Ashbury, bearing a cardboard coffin inscribed "THE HIPPIE - 1964 - 1967 - Killed by commercialism." Absorbing Ace's appearance in 1987 I think, if that was so, there's two walking dead in Comeback Charlie's.
Suddenly I look at him sidewise - hardly meaning to but hard etc. - and see why I'm really in town. This hippie holds my future. Our paths cross again and again through time, intertwining inextricably like a rope winding itself into existence. (It's a hemp rope, you bet.) What I see when I look along that rope into the future stops me dead in my silent tracks. I see the prophecy I observed in yage dreams nearly 30 years before: Beat destiny manifested in the future, and then....
I been dead long enough to know TANSTAC - There Ain't No Such Thing As Coinicidence. I follow Ace out of Comeback Charlie's, and into this current chronicle. (He is relieved.)
As way of introduction, look along the rope of time that is Acid Ace, and you will see our other adventurers at intersections ahead. Trace Ace seven freakin' years into the future and you find him finally meeting Mouse in 1994, after they have shared so much love for so long.
Only a few months earlier, Mouse is on I-40 east of Flagstaff when she passes Harlan and Tracy going the other way, never suspecting the effect these strangers will one day have on her life.
Tracy and Harlan, coincidentally, had chased down a cockroach in their hotel room only the night before. The roach bore a curious resemblance to the one sought by Dolly; but then, all cockroaches look alike. (To humans.)
Tracy wouldn't let him kill it because she didn't like to kill things, and Harlan was agreeable to that. He tossed it outside on a napkin and a little later was having hot sex with Tracy on the hotel bed, so I guess he made the right decision.
From what I've seen so far, I suspect cockroaches connect many of our characters, like a kid's cosmic connect-the-dots across space and time. For example, Annie Lane, poor Annie Lane, at the doors of perception, on the edge of psychosis. She feels as if God - a God whose infinite anger she understands at last - is crushing her underfoot like a cockroach, twisting and twisting His heel against the concrete. In six more hours, she will be in ecstacy, glowing like Galahad; in another twelve, suicidal. There's not much room in Annie's gray matter for gray areas.
Meanwhile Chris Canton is camped up in Texas, in a beat-up VW van on the outskirts of the 15th century, legs crossed on the fold-out bed, meditating as the rich smoke of burning sage drifts in the air. He pursues his own path to mind-blowing ecstacy, and its name is Jesus Christ.... The same God driving a spike through Annie's heart, hammering her unholy, embraces Chris's hippie tripdom with warmth and love. He inhales in ecstacy, she writhes in agony: two people divided by the God they hold in common. God...it's confusing sometimes. Even for a ghost.
Hope you aren't expecting all the answers to come when life is undone....
* plink *
* plink *
So Ace, Harlan and Tracy are connected by Mouse moments, stretching across time like strands of her hair. Meanwhile Alison, Mouse, Ace and Annie radiate like spokes of a wheel, never touching, but connected all the same; the apex of the wheel is pagan Lucinda, whose name means "light" and whom we'll be meeting again soon.
Meanwhile, a last look at our new friend Ace as he crashes in an absent lover's New York loft: 25 in the year 1994 and on his 432nd trip (thus "Acid" Ace, as he anointed himself one Gathering some 300 trips before). He spends almost 20 minutes grooving on the * plink * of the leaky faucet as it sounds in the kitchenette and echoes through the cavernous concrete reaches of the apartment. Soon it becomes the otherworldly sound of alien rayguns assaulting Washington with saucer beams, firing again and again as their tripods march on the Capitol with robot regularity.
After a while, though, he sez sotto voce to himself, "If this keeps up I'll be stark raving skippy by dawn," and gets up to shut the fucking thing off.
The little light over the stove is on, and as naked Ace rounds the counter toward the sink he swears he sees his reflection in insect eyes.
"Goddamn!" Ace observes. He's been to New York plenty of times before but never seen a roach this big, not even on the carny circuit. In acid fascination he freezes, not wanting to frighten the thing off. It remains where it is, staring him down from the counter, antennae rotating slowly in each direction, as if picking up signals from somewhere else. Its body is two inches long and thick as a Blunt. Its face is broad, with well-defined features, and Ace can see the tentative fingers of maxillae quivering around the mouth parts, just blow the bulges of the eyes. As he watches, the eyes shift, as if the bug is a subway passenger who has forgotten not to make eye contact and is nervously glancing away. To Ace's acid-addled intellect, this is evidence of human reasoning.
"Cool," our true tripindicular hippie breathes, sinking slowly into a squat so his eyes are level with the insect. If he was trippin' balls he could stare for an hour or more and learn everything he ever needed to know about entomology, but this stuff is blotter and it's just not as good. Still, in his present state of mind he might happily observe his tiny neighbor for ten minutes or so. But then something happens that blows his mind. Even acid don't explain it.
The cockroach rises up on its hind legs.
"Shit!" Ace shouts, falling back on his heels in surprise and brief, unconscious terror. The bug remains balanced on its back legs for a moment, somehow, waving its long forelegs as if in supplication, or horror.
Just like a person.
"Hey," says Ace, "don't worry, little guy -" - well-trained by his dog to speak soothingly to an upset animal. It's to no avail. The roach drops to six and hauls insect ass.
Ace sees its intended avenue of escape, over the edge of the counter and into the unreachable space between the cabinet and the fridge. He springs up and slams down a drum-calloused hand - not to kill it, Ace shares Tracy's feelings about offing things, and more to the point, doesn't care if cockroaches eat the cream cheese - but he's not yet done studying Jiminy Cricket's cockroach cousin in acid contemplation.
The roach tries to make an end run around the the toaster, moving faster than it seems six legs should go, but Ace shifts his arm, cutting off that escape as well.As he moves, pre-empting the insect's every maneuver and herding it back toward the open counter, he flashes back to some half-read article about cockroaches surviving nuclear doomsday because of resistance to radiation. As if also remembering this theory, the bug ducks under the microwave. Ace waits for it to dart out the other side.
So he very sneakily (and very stonedly - remember, he is butt-naked in a kitchen at two in the morning stalking a stupid cockroach like Frank Buck on the Serengeti Plain) peers behind the boxlike appliance. No sign of his prey; ergo, it is under the oven. Still moving like a panther on the hunt, he places both hands on the little 500-watter and lifts it off the counter in one smooth silent motion, revealing below it -
"No way!" Way. He holds the stove above his head, checking under and back, beginning to fathom how foolish he looks; but the bug is gone. There really is nowhere it could have gone; the counter connects seamlessly with the wall, there is no space in the stove housing big enough to allow it entry. Nevertheless, like I say, it's nowhere. Exit insect. Ace stares in astonished silence, hearing again the rapid * plink * of water that reminds him why he got up in the first place.
He kills the drip and confusedly returns to the couch, remembering as he reclines a hand-printed flyer he saw tacked to a telephone pole the last time he was in Berkeley:
...but he's not sure of the connection...
|angelheaded hipsters and visionary tics|