Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.

Eighteen hours spent swimming in the Beats.

We were out in North Beach last night at one of my favorite old-school speakeasies, tucked in there amongst the little alleyways and the cobblestone streets where the tourists can't quite find you. Being there is always enough for me to feel smack-dab in the middle of Gold Rush San Francisco. Driving home past Vesuvio and City Lights, a martini and a few bottles of dangerously-swillable Pinot deep, all my tippling mind could think of was this Allen Ginsberg piece from Shambhala Sun that I've had open, half-read, on my desktop for the last week or so.

(“Although I live in the slime and muck of the dark age, I still aspire to see your face.”)

Funny how so many of us - when we're new to San Francisco - gravitate toward the old Beat haunts as sources of inspiration and comfort. E. was telling us how, back in the day, in the wee hours when he couldn't sleep, he'd wander into City Lights, pick up a book, and lose himself in the dusty stacks. I had the same experience as a new local. Didn't know a goddamned soul, so those first few weeks were all spent in solitary walks, learning the City, and more often than not, they'd end up on a stool in the basement of City Lights curled up with the best friends I've ever known: books. Radical books, progressive books, mindful books, there in that old space haunted by so many of the spirits of Kerouac and Ginsberg and Snyder and crew, with Vesuvio a drunken haven across the alley.

So this morning I took my dull ache of a head straight to finish Ginsberg's spiritual autobiography. It's a thoughtful, down-to-earth piece rich with ruminations on poetry, meditation, sangha and a drunken Chogyam Trungpa. Worth your time, fer sure. And it's bookended a bit thematically by the beautiful line above from The Sadhana of Mahamudra.

Check it out. Then haul yer ass over to City Lights for a gin-soaked poetry reading. Mmm.

The Vomit of a Mad Tyger (Shambhala Sun)


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