1/8/18

The Hip Scholar





It was a cool and moonless night at some point between 1970 and 1980.

Henry  sitting in a busted up patio chair on the small balcony of his 10th floor apartment looking at the ant size people walking below at street level. He removes his old leather belt and coils it around his arm, then he pulls his shirt over his head. Facing in the direction of the Western Wall he begins rocking backwards and forwards on the balls of his feet, the left foot in-front of the right foot, davening, chanting Sanskrit, speaking in tongues, mumbling shit out loud, anything that came to mind—  

The impromptu observance was sloppy but Henry felt absolved. 

730PM in Queens—he was hungry, leaving his apartment and walking a few blocks to Chaim’s Deli. 

Inside the deli sitting in a booth his regular waitress Ruby comes to him and sits on his lap, he says to her,

Jesus Christ Ruby are you trying to turn me on, what will Chaim say?

Ruby laughs and says, 

Is my hot ass too much for you Henry? Chaim wants you to come to his son’s Bar Mitzvah party at the Holiday Inn this weekend, and I want you to be my date?

He says,

Sure thing doll, you can count on me, but I’m short of cash, it's the end of the month, I won’t be able to buy the kid much.

Ruby says,

You can give the kid a symbolic gift baby, a gross of condoms or a years subscription to Penthouse.

Ruby blew Henry away,  she was bi-polar work in progress, her soul was a study in the colors of the rainbow.   

He says, 

Ruby you can count on me, we will nail things down over the next couple of days. How about some corn beef hash, a big bowl of coleslaw and a Jack and soda to wash it down baby? 

After eating he leaves the deli and takes a taxi to Greenwich Village, Gregory Corso was reading at Bookends Cafe. Corso was one of the fathers of Beat, he had spent most of his early youth in juvenile dentition for petty crimes, later shipping out as a merchant seaman.  He was a self-taught intellectual. While in Boston in the mid Fifties he spent most of his time in the Harvard Library reading classic poetry. He was a scholarly and street wise poet. 

Henry sitting at the bar in the Bookends Cafe banging down Jack Daniels and Coke, the place was packed, full of bookish NYU students.

Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso walk in and sit at the bar. Henry had met Ginsberg more than once at readings in the city, Ginsberg smiling says,

Henry we are having an after reading party at the Whitehorse Tavern— full of Beat literati, abstract painters and punk rockers, the bastion of the 2nd American Revolution.

He nods his head and smiles as he says to Allen,  


After the revolution will I still get my SSI check at the beginning of the month?

Allen saying quizzically,

Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit! Who needs a check? 


Henry knew Alan Ginsburg was a nice guy who  help up and coming writers. Maybe Henry would fit into the revolution somewhere between Beat and abstract painter, but wasn't a punk.   

Henry had never met Gregory Corso, but he had read his work.   

Corso was sitting hang-dog with his elbows on the bar, his head was down, he wasn't sad, he was deep in thought. 

He walks to a chair at center stage and sits down, looking towards the audience and squinting his eyes, they applaud politely and he says,

Hello, I’m Gregory Corso. 

He opens a notebook and begins reading a poem entitled— 1959.

Uncompromising year—I see no meaning to life.
Though this abled self is here nonetheless,
either in trade gold or grammaticness,
I drop the wheelwright’s simple principle—
Why weave the garland? Why ring the bell?

Penurious butchery these notoriously human years,
these confident births these lucid deaths these years.
Dream’s flesh blood reals down life’s mystery—
there is no mystery.
Cold history knows no dynastic Atlantis.
The habitual myth has an eagerness to quit.

No meaning to life can be found in this holy language
nor beyond the lyrical fabricator’s inescapable theme
be found the loathed find—there is nothing to find.

Corso’s work was cynical and archeologic, he was excavating and making public his truth about church, government and corporate despotism — telling the world they could do something to change things if they acted now. 

Allen Ginsberg looking at Henry on and off during the reading, smiling the smile of, isn’t he exceptional. 

Corso’s poetry was exceptional and Henry wondered if the hipster NYU crowd in the audience was getting it. Corso would finish up with a poem —Writ on the Steps of Puerto Rican Harlem.

Life has meaning
And I do not know the meaning   
Even when I felt it was meaningless
I hoped and prayed and sought a meaning
It wasn’t all frolic poesy
There were dues to pay   
Summoning Death and God   
I’d a wild dare to tackle Them
Death proved meaningless without Life
Yes the world is changing   
But Death remains the same   
It takes man away from Life   
The only meaning he knows   
And usually it is a sad business   
This Death

Corso thanks the audience for coming and quickly exits with Ginsberg— Mephisto and Faust heavan and hell bound. 


Henry would sit at the bar until closing and drink alone, he wouldn’t go to the after reading party at the Whitehorse Tavern, preferring to debauch in private. 

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