My buddy Dan Lybarger stood in line to have this signed for me one freezy November night while I sweated and slung espresso at excited and frenzied droves waiting to meet Allen Ginsberg.
Packed inside a humid Borders Books, writers and readers teemed in hopes to breath the same air, to lock eyes with the man, and to share an inspired moment of the likes he birthed in his writings.
When he finally made his way through the lines, and up to the table where the poet sat, Dan handed Allen a City Lights’ copy of his epic poem Howl.
Allen asked, “Who shall I sign this for”
Dan said, “For Lisa”
Allen asked, “For Lisa? For Lisa who?!!!”
Dan and I hadn’t known eachother all that long at the time, and my last name hadn’t yet come up in conversation. We were on a first name basis.
Dan stated that that he didn’t actually know my last name to which Allen snarled, “Well, I didn’t SLEEEEEP with LISA, so I need a DAMN. LAST. NAME”.
Still only being on that first name basis, Dan was not able to tell him. Allen refused to sign the copy without my last name. Perplexed but persistent (thank you Dan) he made his way back to the cafe where I was working, pushed passed the espresso-breath crowd, met me behind my own planche, and asked for my last name.
” Allen wants your last name. He won’t sign this without it”, he said, sort of waving the book around.
I wrote down my last name (was it in the back of a reciept? Or on a napkin? I don’t remember) But he got it obviously, and Allen signed my book.
Cranky in his elder years, Allen Ginsberg was nonetheless a prophetic writer and poet. His poet-eyes cut through to the unseen and he wrote tenderly about the underbelly of the droves. I am grateful for how his writing and his insight informed my own, and this thinly written post doesn’t do justice to the beauty, or the madness, or the peace Allen articulated for many of us. Happy Birthday, Allen. You were a cranky beautiful mensch.