We flew east from Pie Town, Magdelena, and El Paso. Taking Poppi back to the Swiss country. Stopped in New York City and met with George Kimball, who used my songs in his new boxing book: “The Fighter Still Remains,” a collection of songs and poems about boxing. The book also includes Paul Simon, Colum McCann, Jack Kerouac, Tom Paxton, Muhammad Ali, and more… George has another book coming soon called “Manly Art.” I painted the cover. There also his great collection of American writers on boxing titled: “At the Fights.”
The night we arrived we wandered down to the old village to my wife’s favorite pizza joint, Arturo’s on Houston Street. Arturo’s could be a chapter out of Kerouac’s “Desolation Angels.” There was a one-armed trumpet player blowing wild; with a jazz trio of bass, snare and piano. A chanteuse named Joni Paladin nailed a hip version of “Moonlight in Vermont.” The pizza arrived from the coal oven; the white wine was poured in carafes; and the naïve paintings on the wall rattled against the beat of the snare. The regulars at the bar sipped martinis, brandy, and red wine. The waiters looked as if they were born there, sixty years ago. In fact the whole joint was born in another time of muted jazz and cool and cocktails. I thought of Kerouac reciting “October in the Railroad Earth,” and Allen Ginsberg, twenty five years ago, signing his book of photos for me in a loft in Soho; taking the time to draw an alligator, because I told him I was into alligators. Gone, man. Gone.
I’m leading a little beat tour into San Francisco as part of our next train experience and hoping to touch base again with one of the last true Beat poets, my amigo Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He’s 92. One morning in San Francisco Lawrence and I were having breakfast with NPR radio host Maria Gilhardin, in a café in Japan Town, across from the Fillmore West. Lawrence loved the record, “The Man From God Knows Where." He was sketching me with a felt tip pen on the paper place mat. He dipped his finger in ice tea and made the picture run, like a water color. The little breakfast painting is framed next to my Ginsburg drawing. We have film footage of Lawrence reciting my song, “The Pugilist at 59,” in our upcoming documentary “Don’t Look Down.” And I can’t forget Lew Welch reciting “Ring of Bone,” in Santa Barbara forty years ago, before he left a note and walked off into the wilderness, never to be seen again. “I saw myself a ring of bone, floating in the clear stream of it all….” Our first recording, in ’76, was called Ring of Bone. Ah, the Beats!
On our train tour we plan to visit City Light Books and walk down Jack Kerouac Alley and commute with the Beat spirits…check the train experience out: www.rootsontherails.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dispatches….On The Road.