Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Roaming Beatniks

While roaming a flea market the other weekend, I discovered these Holiday magazines from 1959 that offered some evocative imagery from that time era.  To my excitement, hiding in the October issue was an article about the beat night life written by Jack Kerouac, featuring photographs by Burt Glinn. I imagine the photographs being taken all in one Benzedrine-driven evening.  The Kerouac article is fascinating, as it is clearly written for a paycheck from this travel magazine, but nevertheless manages to maintain it's beatnik quality.  

It begins, "the beat night life of New York strangely has nothing to do with night clubs or spending money and yet it is a complete night life in the truest sense." It continues to describe street corners to find hookers and drugs by, places where you can get a plate of fried clams and fries for 65 cents, and haunts for experiencing spoken poetry, music and dancing.  The article laments that the jazz scene was going more commercial and that "jazz (was) killing itself there, because jazz belongs to open, joyful ten-cent beer joints, as in the beginning."  Overall, it is an historically captivating article and I wish I could share the whole thing.  

"Ten-cent cheese sandwiches, two liquor bars for the Apocalypse, oh yeah and great indifferent bartenders- and cops that stand in the back getting free meals- drunken saxophone players on the nod-lonely, dignified rag-pickers from Hudson Street supping soup without a word to anybody, with black fingers, woe. Twenty thousand customers a day- fifty thousand on rainy days- one hundred thousand on snowy days. Operation twenty-four hours a night. Privacy: Supreme under a glory red light full of conversation. Toulouse-Lautrec, with his deformity and cane, sketching in the corner. You can stay there for five minutes and gobble up your food, or else stay there for hours having insane philosophical conversation with your buddy and wondering about the people. 'Let's have a hot dog before we go to the movie!' and you get so high in there you never get to the movies, because it's better than a show about Doris Day on a holiday in the Caribbean." -Jack Kerouac on New York