Saturday, March 20, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 9 (Allen Ginsberg)


HOWL
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Ginsberg, Allen
Howl


I believe I plucked this from a box of books left by Kyle Schlesinger before he departed Buffalo a few years back.

I wanted to finish the story of high school mornings left over from the other day. Each morning after our torturous drive to school, my father would drop me off--at school if we he had time, but usually at the Farragut North Metro station, where I'd catch the Red Line to Union Station, then walk the final few blocks down North Capitol Street to school.

During this time I suffered from horrible gas pains in the morning. I don't know if this had something to do with smoking or with my diet or with stress, but the pains were often so bad that I'd double over at some point before arriving in school. Most days the pains just subsided, but other days I'd end up in the bathroom for half an hour before the first bell. Once they were so bad I passed out while seated on the toilet and was only awakened by the morning bell.

I smoked heavily at this time, was in fact completely addicted to cigarettes before I even got to high school. This added to the tension of the drive with my father, as he did not allow me to smoke. When he would drop me off, I'd head straight for the Union Cafeteria across the street from school, where I would order a small glass of coke in a plastic cup or a mug of coffee, which I would nurse while chain smoking until school began.

We had a whole gang of people that met there each morning. There was T, who was heavily into hardcore and punk and who came to school each morning with black leather motorcycle jacket and studded leather wristband. The rest of his outfit consisted of black leather shoes, black slacks, and an oxford shirt, which meant he was within the dress code of the school.

Then there was J, a very suave Parisian transplant who smoked Gauloises and Gitanes and would mock us when we tried pronounce those names.

I learned one unfortunate lesson from those two about the two-facedness people often reveal when they feel they have to perform for others. I was quite small, and basically physically defenseless and so was often the target of physical abuse from my peers. Wedgies and fist thumps on my arm arrived more or less everyday throughout high school.

Because of this, I learned to choose my friends carefully and thought I had done so among my "outcast" peers at the cafeteria. One day, approached the two of them in the parking lot after school, which I often did, and asked for a light. A group of jocks stood nearby and yelled something at me. Suddenly the two of them jumped me and gave me a wedge and started beating on me for no apparent reason other than to show the jocks that they understood the social order.

I showed up again the next day at the cafeteria, pretending like nothing had happened, but things were never the same after that. I don't know if they ever felt bad about it, and it was never mentioned again.

I am remembering a couple of others form our group. There were two B's, B1 and B2. B1 was three years ahead of me. He wasn't a freak or a punk or a goth or a jock, just one of those guys that looks really normal but is actually incredible weird, to the point of being disturbing. He alway smiled and always mocked everything that came out of anyone's mouth. He never had his own cigarettes and would show up each morning and demand one from me. I never liked him much, but there he was, every morning of my freshman year.

B2 was something of a goth. Small and wan and pale and well-dressed in dark clothing, he cultivated a sophisticated image of himself, which included smoking clove cigarettes, to which he introduced us all. We were eventually told by cafeteria management that we were not allowed to smoke that kind of cigarette on the premises because they smelled so bad. I think he went to art school.

And then there was M -- a girl! She went to Notre Dame Academy, an all girls school which was at the time physically attached to our school. I can remember J and B2 and T egging me on to ask her to a dance my sophomore year. They basically sat me down at a table with her, told her I had something to say and left us alone. I almost fainted with nervousness. My hands shook. I couldn't even look her in the eye. I think the most I could get out was, "Those guys want me to ask you to the dance." She said yes, and we went, but I was so tongue tied and frightened that I am sure she had a terrible time.

I think everyone in that group was at least a year older than I was, so by the time I got to my senior year, I was the only one left. I stopped going -- who wants to smoke alone, anyway? Besides, seniors were allowed to smoke on Campus, so there was no longer any need to hide out across the street,

Ginsberg reading "Howl" at Reed College in 1956:

http://www.reed.edu/news_center/multimedia/2007-08/ginsbergreadings1.28.08.html

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