I picked for a title of today’s post a coining “Allen raga.”
“Allen” is Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), the poet and prophet whose “Howl” first changed the world’s definition of obscenity (with “redeeming social importance” or not) then years later became a James Franco movie.
“Raga” is a type of Indian music. I don’t know much about Indian music although I’ve seen Anoushka Shankar’s tattoo, and I met recently at least by phone and internet a guy named Scott Davidson in Delaware who is willing to fly out to play tabla behind me while I read the following famous literature passage, perhaps for Fathers’ Day, (when Palo Alto has a street music event), perhaps at Lytton Plaza (where I’ve performed the entirety of “Howl” several times), or perhaps at 27 University Avenue, for reasons I am too coy and sly to lay out here. For Ginsberg, he thought of “Moloch”, a Hebrew monster, when, (perhaps after some bad mind-altering substances) he started to be extremely worried about a society that worshipped (perhaps contrary to #2 of the Ten Commandments) giant gods of steel and glass, and were making if not yet dropping Hydrogen bombs. I woke up this morning initially wanting to write a take on Emma Lazerus’ “The New Colossus” but substituting “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” something about computer programmers huddled over their desks yearning to be IPO billionaires. I am not on any substance this morning, not even a double cappucino from either Coupa, Philz or Peet’s. (edit to add, four hours later: YES I AM. Thanks, J.P. Coupal et al):
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy
judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose
blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers
are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!
Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long
streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories
dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose
smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch
whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch
whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream
Angels! Crazy in Moloch! C——– in
Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom
I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch
who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch!
Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs!
skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
industries! spectral nations! invincible mad
houses! granite c—-! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pave-
ments, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to
Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!
gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole
boatload of sensitive bulls—!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions!
gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs!
Ten years’ animal screams and suicides!
Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on
the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the
wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving!
carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street![ El Camino, Uni Ave or Mitchell Lane.!?]
This is my way of saying that Palo Alto has too many multi-millionaire commercial real estate developers trying to out-do each other, in puerile Terman-locker-room-showers kind-of-way, and too few council members, commissioners and staff willing to tell them our home, our community is not their sandbox.
By the way, I too, thirty years after Ginsberg, saw one of the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness. His name was J.N., he was Gunn’s valedictorian and a Harvard sophomore — who liked baseball and basketball and bad jokes about how a teenager could define “torque”, working in pairs, with our comely classmates, in Art Farmer’s AP physics class — and J.N. he jumped off a ten-story courthouse in New York City. He broke #7 and indirectly #6 of the Ten Commandments but proved definitively at least the #1 of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.
I know only slightly more Latin than Indian raga but here is Newton’s actual utterance:
Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare.
I guess if we did build a nine-story tower (with theatre, and three levels of hell I mean underground parking) at 27 University Avenue in Palo Alto or Stanford land ground-lease it would give our teenagers the choice between throwing themselves in front of trains and jumping off the top of a tower like my classmate and friend and co-religionist did. And save them the trip to New York. I am being crass but I do wonder if people smarter and better than me have put much thought into the question of whether the prevailing ethos of money (and MOLOCH) contributes to the apparent epidemic of adolescent ennui.
In Palo Alto we give lip service and 39 flavors and then some of mumbo jumbo to “youth collaborative” and “safety nets” but then SERVICE in every sense of the word, when each and every one of these big-shot/money-shot truly pornographic developers comes to the 7th floor with a tall phallic biggest-bestest-yet scheme.
edit to add, Aug. 7, 2012: I seemed to hear some things on KPFA today, Layna Berman show, about community health and the importance of children having free play and not just structured play, like for their teams, seems to fit in here, about Palo Alto values.