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Saturday, June 8, 2013

1958. Hello.

96 Perry Street, Greenwich Village, 1958.

Beats, Beat artists and the Beat Generation. I’m not here to explain them, but I can tell you it’s a time when everything is changing. It’s changing us, too.

The poetry you read and don’t read. Books. Music.  Art and clothes. This blog is about how I think it started, who started it and where it started to go. It’s also about me and my street—the beat on Ruby’s street.

The first “Beats” were supposed to have met at Columbia University in Manhattan, where I live (but Columbia’s way uptown.) Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lucien Carr, John Clellon Holmes and Neal Cassidy were some of the guys who started what came to be known as the Beat movement. Gregory Corso, too.  

The most famous Beat artists are Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, but I don’t want to forget (or have YOU forget) there were women writers too, like Elise Cowen, Diane Di Prima, Hettie Jones, Denise Levertov and Anne Waldman.

Jack Kerouac started the term “Beat Generation,” which includes a lot of different things:  being "tired" or "beaten down" by the world but also beatific, meaning blissful and serene. It can also mean on the beat – musically and rhythmically.

Beat culture is about a lot more than rebelling, but… I don’t want this to be like school. I want to share what it's like as I’m living it.

So besides sharing names and stories about my favorite Beats I’ll also talk about the people in my neighborhood. 

Me: Ruby Tabeata – eleven, going on twelve.

Saying yes to: Leotards, blood oranges, black cats, Checker cabs; Hazelnut ices at Rocco’s, movies, music, Natalie Wood, POETRY

No to: Raisins, math, anything pink or with ruffles, centipedes and tourists who stare

Sophie: my best friend, also eleven

Yes to: Hazelnut ices, feather boas, turtles, dancing, comedy routines, I Love Lucy

No to: Math, vegetables, centipedes, hats that tie under your chin and New Jersey

Gordy, 11, friend of mine and Sophie’s 

Yes to: Math, German shepherds, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, hot dogs, quiz shows, stilts

No to: parties, vegetables, bananas, sports, especially football

Ray, my 14-year-old brother.  

Yes to: Saxophone, jazz, blues, motorcycles, hot dogs, orange juice, his girlfriend Jo-Jo, Audrey Hepburn, leather jackets

No to: Dressing up, opera singers, listening, following rules

  • Nell-mom – artist mother who knows the name of almost every color but wears mostly black
  • Gary Daddy-o – musician father who juggles oranges (which is how I got to like them.)
  • Sky and Blu – owners of Blue Skies, kinda-sorta teachers for Sophie, me and Gordy
  • Cyn – owner of my favorite leotard store. Wears snaky-looking glasses and hoopy earrings
  • Soroccos – own the bakery with hazelnut ices
  • Yogi – does yoga in Washington Square Park; likes to meditate.
Then there are the poets – Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Elise Cowen, Diane Di Prima, Charles Bukowski and more.

So yeah, I may go back and forth to the 30s, 40s, early 50s and maybe 60s – but mostly
stay here in 1958. There’s a lot going on here.

On my street.

Kerouac Street Sign: Julie Jordan Scott