For Part 1 of The Great Old Man Mystical Poet on the Mountain Please Click Here
For Poetic Notes on beatmeister Jack Kerouac Enjoy this link
To continue the adventures of The Great Old Man Mystical Poet, please read on:
Where the hell had that crack about me being "the old man on a mountain" come from? What had happened to my symbol of the Black Skylark, which I had promoted in poetry readings and made part of the name of my second poetry collection, Visions of Skylark Dressed in Black? And what, I wondered, would he think of the little quote I kept near my computer to motivate myself: "And in between these rocks and hard places I am making diamonds." Making diamonds, not sitting on my rump meditating on top of a mountain.
I cleared my throat and explained that forty-five is quite far from being old and actually a nice comfortable age to enjoy. I then pointed out that rather than living the life of the cloistered contemplative ascetic he imagined me to be, I happened to be something of a minor mystic who actually engaged life, and that meant working every night until 3 A.M. to meet the deadlines on my books then getting back up at 8 A.M. to meditate, administer Mom’s medicines, cook and serve meals, wash dishes, empty her chamber pot, and balance a dozen top priorities throughout the day and night without becoming overwhelmed by any single one of them. He found that impressive enough and said the Slickfire Poets would take the substitute if I got one but, if I didn’t, and my Mom was doing ok on Saturday night, would I consider trying to come out for a couple of hours after she had gone to bed and hang out with them long enough to judge their competition. As persistent as Mr. Renovation was, he was also humble, so I agreed to consider his request if my proposed substitute couldn’t make it.
My proposed substitute was none other than the illustrious Dr. Ja Jahannes, accomplished playwright, poet, composer, educator, minister, and all-around highly evolved human being. Which meant of course that he couldn’t fill in for me because he was too busy with his own agenda, in this instance participating in another event in North Carolina. So it then became a matter of whether or not Mom might go to bed no later than 10 P.M. on Saturday so I could secure her and the house before tipping out for an hour or two. In the meantime, the representative of the Slickfire Poets sent me humble emails and left me humble phone messages stating that everyone was excited that the Great Old Man Mystical Poet was coming down off his Mountain and blah blah blah, completely but humbly ignoring the conditions I had spelled out. What a cheeky mild-mannered little thug he turned out to be!
Well, Mom did in fact go to bed by 10 and I did respond to the Slickfire Poets final plea to come to the Metropole Cafe long enough to judge their competition. Because I had become sensitive to being characterized as the Great Old Man Mystical Poet On The Mountain, I decided not to dress in the African robes that the public was accustomed to seeing me wear and instead dressed in black slacks and black evening shirt with a cream-colored evening jacket. THEN put on my mystical ankh, cross, crystal, ring, and kufi cap. I took two aspirins to ward off an increasing headache and stuck the bottle in my pocket in the event I later found myself in spoken word agony.
Arriving at the cafe, I was surprised at the number of people attending the event. The Metropole used to be a bus terminal so was very spacious and one side of it was open completely to the warm night air. There were easily anywhere from 300-500 people present, most of them twenty-something, college and art students, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, European, Cross-dressers, Holy People, etc. I was one of three judges and knew one of the others, a counselor and also a writer, fairly well. I went to my esteemed colleague and fellow judge and asked him, with hurt plainly in my voice, if he knew there were people who called me the Great Old Man Mystical Poet On The Damn Mountain. He avoided answering me by laughing and embracing me. I couldn‘t tell if it was a man-don‘t-worry-about-it laugh or a you-big-dumb-ass-everybody-knew-that-but-you laugh. Wow–was it really like that? Oh well.
Turned out that quite a few people had read various stories about me and their prolonged applause when I was introduced actually scared me for a second or two. It seemed rather amazing that my personal life could have been so completely defined by the challenges of daily family responsibilities and literary work on the one hand while my public personae had, apparently, taken on a life independent of those challenges.
Anyway: there were a total of some sixteen performance poets. The humbly persistent Mr. Renovation, who was not so little at all but stood at least six-feet-five and possessed movie-star handsomeness, acted as moderator for the event. Most of the poets delivered–or spit, as they preferred to call it–the kind of spoken wordage common to coffee house gathering at the time (the Iraq war was nearly a year away and poets had not yet turned their piercing gaze and tongues to the more immediate horrors of war).
NEXT: Part 3, The Conclusion