Archives For January 2008

Beatdom in San Francisco

Wills, D., ‘Beatdom in San Francisco’ in Wills, D., Beatdom Vol. 2 (City of Recovery Press: Dundee, 2008)

I woke up about six and lay and waited for the sun to rise to signal the arrival of seven, when breakfast was available. It was my first night in the Adelaide, my first night in the city. I felt ok, despite not remembering going to bed, or even checking in. I had arrived in San Francisco at about half three the previous afternoon, and had gotten off the bus at Pier 39. Here, I had strolled about the gaudy and awful tourist trap for maybe twenty minutes, before seeking out the innards of the city – the real San Francisco. I wanted to see North Beach, Little Italy, Chinatown, the Haight… I wanted to experience San Francisco for real, and more importantly, I wanted to step in the footsteps of the Beats and hit the beaten streets with hip steps. Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Ferlinghetti! All the great poets of the city had wandered back and forth along the North Beach and Haight areas and gained inspiration and dug the whole air of San Fran, and I wanted to follow them and learn. And so I got away from Fisherman’s Wharf and the Piers and headed straight and unguided into the residential heart of the city, walking through the privileged streets with no maps, using their straight block formations as reference, knowing I wanted to find Union Square, South, from where I would head two blocks West to Isadora Duncan.

I found Bob Kaufman street near Telegraph Hill and dug them both and took innumerable photos with my digital camera – Coit Tower, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, the sign that simply read ‘Bob Kaufman’. I walked about and hit dead ends and steep hills and felt safe and happy to be in the sun in a welcoming city, seeing sights left, right and centre, and climbing to every peak to look around and see every thing, and I did. I dug it all so fucking much it made my heart leap into my throat and choke me.

I found Washington Square and sat staring stupidly at the cathedral – Peter and Paul, people praying outside. I turned and faced that which I worshiped – chicks playing football (soccer) in little shorts and tight tops, coffee shops by the park, bars full of Italians and tourists drinking European beers, and I dug it all. I walked on, hungry and looking for a San Fran eatery. I thought maybe something Italian, or at least sold in an Italian place, and I found a café and bought an iced coffee and a bagel, and sat and ate them at the window, watching the chicks cut by in their mini skirts and little denim shorts. I looked around at all the pizzerias and delis and olde Italian businesses.

Then I continued on down towards the centre, hoping like hell to find the North Beach crossing that housed the Beat Museum, City Lights, Vesuvios, Toscas, Kerouac Alley… all the famous Beat locations. I passed through the streets and streets of Chinese restaurants and grocery stores and every sign and word was uttered and written in Chinese, not in English, like Asian places back in Britain. No, everything was owned and operated and marketed at the Chinese people living in the part of the city that was respectfully theirs. I walked on Southwards to that junction I sought, the meeting place of Little Italy and Chinatown and the Beats. It was somewhere around Broadway and Columbus, I recalled. So I did what I’d realised was a sensible thing to do in American cities and just head in one direction, because the streets just went East-to-West, North-to-South, and I’d cross either Columbus or Broadway somewhere. And I did. I found Broadway and turned left, sticking to Chinatown, and then found the red-and-black front of the Beat Museum and decided I’d see that on Sunday, it being Friday this now. Saturday would be spent in the Haight area of town, seeing the Kerouac Discussion at the Booksmith and digging all the West side had to offer. I turned right and crossed the big junction and found City Lights. City Lights- the haven of the Beat fan, where Ferlinghetti published the seminal works of the Generation and where all Beat books could now be found; a shop I had wanted to visit for years, and was now almost scared to go inside. But I did. I checked my backpack at the door and wandered on in, past all the first floor stuff you’d find in any decent bookstore and up the stairs to the poetry/ Beat section: a small room with two guys discussing Keats in a corner, and chairs littering the floor with signs inviting the customers to sit and read. The shelves were all old and second-hand-looking bookcases full of On the Road’s and Howl’s and Junky’s and collections of all great poets at the other side of the room, and there were posters and postcards of the Beat Generation figures I worshipped as gods, and photos of these legends for sale, but all priced too high for me to consider purchasing.

But I was frantically trying to see the city and keep to some kind of schedule. Part of me fell into my old philosophy of not needing to see everything, because anything is better than nothing, and part of me was captured in the thrills of being a lone traveller in a new city, on some mission to see the sights I deemed necessary to see, and write them up for my little magazine, Beatdom. I cared not for the usual tourist traps, but didn’t rule them out altogether. I wanted to see as much as possible and to move on, getting back to the organic farm, on which I was working, on Monday. Friday was for exploring and checking in, Saturday for seeing the Haight-Ashbury district and the West, and Sunday for thoroughly exploring North Beach – seeking out the Beats’ houses and haunts and living their life for a whole day in some little way.

So I looked around City Lights for half an hour and then skipped outside to Kerouac Alley and took a few photos of the store, and of Vesuvios and Toscas and the poetry and art in the alleyway, on the ground and on the walls, the works of Kerouac and Ferlinghetti and a city ready eventually to embrace its cultural past like so few others. Then I went into Vesuvios and ordered a double rum, showed my Scottish driver’s licence as ID, and took the drink upstairs to sit by the windows and look out at the street I’d long wished to visit. I sat and drank and looked at the tourists being lectured of the significance of City Lights on literary history, and at the uncaring Asians that wandered by with some contempt for the tourist idiots, and then in at the bar and at the mini model of a sign saying, “Kerouac Alley-><-Columbus” and had a little nodding-head Beatnik beside it, and posters on the was of Burroughs and his guns, Ginsberg naked with Corso, Kerouac looking handsome… All of it was old and Beatnik, and there was baseball on the TV and the subtitles giving away the muted words of the commentators told me of the departure from the Giants of the only baseball played I knew – Barry Bonds. Down below, at the bar, the barman and bargirl were discussing Bonds’ departure and the end of a sporting era that I tried to comprehend but couldn’t, so I went back to sipping my rum and watching the streets. I explored the painting on the side of the City Lights building, connected to some kind of restaurant, which had been painted by a number of people, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Twenty-somethings kept coming along and taking photos in pairs and couples, and I watched as it became evident that in each pair or couple, only one of them would know about the Beats and the other would be totally ignorant, and I listened as one would explain to the other with glaring errors and omissions, the significance of City Lights. None got the significance of Vesuvios, such as it was.

The bargirl, blonde and skinny and tall and pretty, came by to pick up the glasses from the empty tables and asked me if I wanted a drink, and I said a Guinness, and I got it, paying five dollars and tipping her one dollar. I sipped the Guinness and tried to follow the baseball, and sat watching, not understanding for maybe an hour, until the jazz joint across the way opened and I sat and watched the folks arrive to go there, and I considered crossing the street and listening to the jazz. But nowadays jazz was the music of the middle-aged, and no longer the sound of youth and rebellion. Yes, it still was something one could dance vigorously to, but instead it was the cats that listened to it, but now were too old and mature and sensible to dance like crazed, sweaty beasts, and so sat in their sharp suits, sipping whiskey and wine at tables, and talking city banter and listening to the background music of black sax players and pianists, only really tapping their fingers, or if the sound really got going they might nod their heads and reference the music in conversation before moving on to the next suburban topic.

So I stayed in Vesuvios and tried to dig it. It probably never was a Beat haven, but rather an average bar frequented by the Beats and immortalised in Beat history by the scrawlings in the wall, long since painted over, that declared Kerouac and Cassady banned since having been thrown out for drunkenness. The owners had capitalised on Beat popularity by naming a drink after Kerouac and by covering the walls in Beat art and ads and references. And back in the day, they had hired people to dress in black, wear berets and play bongos in the window. It really was a cool little place, though. A few groups of middle-aged folks came and sat down at tables and I just sat there on my own, ordering another Guinness and watching the crowds, inside and out.

After an hour, I wandered downstairs to the bathroom, and then when I came out I sat at the bar to drink, trying to get more of a feel for the Vesuvios customers. I ordered another Guinness and drank it quickly, and then had a Jack Kerouac – a shot of tequila, a shot of rum and a dash of orange and cranberry. It tasted harsh with the first sip, but then sweet with the second, and after that it barely tasted of anything. I fired it away and had another. Then some old cat came and sat next to me – about sixty years old with a grey moustache and a face that was drawn and tired and experienced beyond any understanding of fairness. I bought him a Guinness and the old guy bought me another when I’d finished my own drink. We both were quickly drunk and talking about Vietnam and America and politics and family.

“I’m fifty-nine years old and I’ll never stop working,” he said. “I can’t. I can’t afford to. This country… I served in a war for this country, and worked from coast to coast, and at my age I know I’m going to have to keep on working ‘til I drop, for no one’ll take care of me. My daughter can’t afford to, though she’d try. The government won’t. They don’t treat their veterans well.”

“A third of all America’s homeless are war veterans,” I said, quoting an appeal advertisement I’d read in San Luis Obispo.

We kept on talking about the injustices and flaws of the American government, about the bullshit of the Christian religion for luring folks into this sense of hope that was utterly useless and no more than a method of social control, about the man’s family, who were all great kids but helpless in the face of a cruel world, about his working all over America… I could remember almost none of what was said the next day, except perhaps saying, “I’m going to have to go, I don’t have any money,” and the old guy replying, “Don’t worry, I’ll get your drinks.” I couldn’t remember leaving the bar or walking to the hostel, but the next morning I woke up where I’d intended to go.

I spent the day in Haight-Ashbury, terribly depressed from the booze and wandering confused through the Buena Vista and Golden Gate Parks, back and forth along the Haight and trying to figure what to do until the Jack Kerouac Conference at seven. It had been about seven in the morning that I’d left my hostel, and I tried and succeeded in killing almost twelve hours with wandering. But eventually I had to stop off at the Booksmith and buy a signed copy of Anita Thompson’s The Gonzo Way, just so I had something to sit and do. I also hit a half dozen coffee shops along the Haight, and got bored of the overwhelming procession of sixties throwback shops, retailing everything at extortionate prices.

Twenty past six came and I walked the five minute walk from Buena Vista Park to the All Saints Church, certain that the place would be closed, but that people connected to the event would be waiting, and so I’d be able to at least talk to someone, if only briefly, because when it came to Kerouac and literature, I often came out of my shell and faced the world, making friends and acquaintances. So I wandered along and found the place open and a few people inside, mostly setting up a stall selling books by Barry Gifford, Michael McClure, Edie Parker and Jack Kerouac. I spoke to the guy at the door who was there to meet and greet, and told him my name, and the guy went and found another, less timid, guy, who took me to one of three reserved seats right up front.

“You’re from Scotland,” the guy, who had presumably been the owner of the Booksmith, with whom I had spoken via e-mail weeks earlier, said.

“That’s right. I’m here on press duties. From Beatdom Magazine.” I tried my best to sound like Hunter S Thompson, but the owner just smiled, said “yes”, and walked back to his little social group by the book stall.

Now I was happy. Ok, so I’d been happy at times during the day, but now I could hardly wipe the smugness from my fact as I looked around the room, which was large and old and slowly filling up with folks who did not have reserved seats and were not sitting in the front row, and who did not own their own magazine, and were not with the press, and did not know the ins and outs of Jack Kerouac’s life and I did. I was sitting here in the church, early and awaiting the even, like I’d wanted to do since I first heard of the idea, months earlier, and I had arranged to find my way to an unexplored city, battled hellish depression, and managed to make here. I had my camera, too, and intended to take a few shots for the next issue and for the website. I sat and looked around, watching the crowd pour in, scanning the faces for any recognisable ones – Ferlinghetti, McClure, Gifford, even Russell Brand, who was reportedly in town, shooting a documentary about On the Road. But I recognised no one, so I just sat and held my head high, the journalist at the front, no one knowing how tough my day had been or how far into the gory depths of madness I’d fallen only a few hours earlier.

After a while Gifford and McClure appeared, alongside some girl called Suzanne, from City Lights, and the author of the new Kerouac biography, John Leland. They stood about and talked, the two old men, the new kid on the block, and the girl from the shop who’d been picked by her bosses, co-sponsors, to read from a book they had published, by the deceased Edie Parker. Suzanne sat with a crowd of artists and poets and new modern bohemian wannabe suburbanites, who sat behind me. They talked as though they knew what they were saying, but they made little or no sense, and were clearly just digging being there and didn’t really know shit all about Jack Kerouac or literature. Suzanne seemed nice, though, and very humble in spite of her privileged position as spokesperson for the women of the Beats, a group of chicks written out by history, but who were held in great regard by the Beat artists themselves back, back in the day… Leland sat on his own, an intelligent and well read fellow, awkward and shy and set apart from the more experienced old guard of Gifford and McClure, who both sat uncomfortably on the edge of the little stage, as a crowded hall of people leered at them and took photos, probably trying to figure out which one was which, or maybe not caring. They looked like the old traditional grandfathers – the grumpy old coot and the sweet old ditherer. McClure had the whiter hair, the constant smile, the twinkling blue eyes, the nervous shakes at the presence of a great crowd of young Beatnik devotees, spurred to attention by the half-century anniversary of a piece of literature of his contemporary. Gifford had the darker hair, slightly younger, looking older more likely because of frowning too much, with piercing dark eyes and a “don’t you dare fuck with me!” kind of stance, though he seemed to enjoy sharing a laugh with McClure.

The man I had talked to, the owner of the Booksmith, took the mike and introduced the speakers, who took their seats. McClure, the oldest, didn’t bother with stairs, but instead rolled on up the side of the stage and stumbled to his feet and sat down in the middle. Leland acted as moderator, and invited McClure to offer a presentation as a starting point, to which McClure responded by joking with the audience about having not known of such an arrangement, and consequently went rambling into some grandfather-like “Jack and me” type story, which had the folks in the crowd laughing, and brought a great grin to Gifford’s face. The whole time, however, McClure shook, and it appeared to me that the shakes came from nervousness and not some disease or illness. The three men then took it in turns to hammer out ideas about Kerouac and On the Road and reassessed ideas of searching for kicks and trips, instead suggesting that perhaps Kerouac and Cassady sought father figures, stability, experience, adulthood and responsibility. McClure kept cracking subtle jokes and Gifford kept name-dropping Hollywood and literary figures with whom he was friends and acquaintances, and Leland kept quoting himself and heaping praise upon his elders. Then Suzanne took her time to stutter her way through a passage, or rather, a series of oddly selected passages, from Edie Parker’s new book about her life with Jack. She kept hitting obvious references and then crowbarring laughter from sections of the audience by shrugging or winking or emphasising things like the notoriety of Burroughs killing Vollmer or Edie’s sexual attraction to Jack. And then she went on about stepping into the shoes of the great women who had been whitewashed over by history and literary critics, even though she was just a lucky random from City Lights picked to read ill-chosen and non-representative passages from what appeared to be a distinctively mediocre text. Gifford sat a grimaced and shook his head, and McClure politely stared into space. All the while, some student-jock type asshole kept whooping in the background, possibly emulating Kerouac himself, who’d get over-enthused at literary gatherings and “yes yes yes” along in the background.

Then came question time. The whooping asshole from the back, who turned out to be black, started jive-talking some typically ineloquently, barely comprehensive, sub-par English version of a half-question, getting at “Did Kerouac kill himself because of the Vietnam war?” to which Gifford practically spat on the table and coldly stated, “No! Next question!” and it looked as though he was ready to leave the whole damn place. A bunch of other inarticulate, border on idiotic, questions were asked, that McClure did his best to address. He basically just told stories about his experiences with Kerouac, weaving these magic old man tales of youth, using his beautiful and quiet old voice to spin a tale like a pro. The audience would shout out corrections regarding dates and times, to which Gifford sneered and McClure laughed, and told about how Kerouac would listen to the sea and write its voice, and then read its voice, for he had the most beautiful sounding voice imaginable and an unparalleled understanding of expression. Gifford name-dropped Francis Ford Copolla, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, and thoroughly drew a map of Beat studies with himself at the centre. Fuck it, I thought, that may not be true, and it may be downright egotistical, but the guy was an intelligent man and had certainly made great contributions to the world of Beatdom.

After getting my copy of Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography signed by Gifford, and thanking him for doing an interview for Beatdom, to which Gifford suddenly smiled and stood up and shook my hand vigorously and said, “I remember that!” I left and went back out onto the streets of San Francisco, the time by then approaching ten. I walked out on to the street, smiling from ear to ear, having spoken briefly to each of the four speakers, even if only to say “Thanks for speaking… And oh, by the way, if you want to check out a magazine called Beatdom…” and then leaving. On my way out of the building I slyly grabbed one of the promotional posters as a souvenir. I had done what I’d come to do and I was happy. Saturday had been a hellish rough day, but it was now almost over. Time for bed, and then maybe I’d get a bus home on Sunday instead, or just kill the day away.

I braved the angry streets home to the hostel, standing out terrifyingly as the book-carrying white guy in the waistcoat, wading through the ghetto scum and bracing the shouts and screams.

Sunday morning I woke up and watched the Man Utd v Chelsea game on TV with another Scottish guy and a fat Brazilian dude. I didn’t really want to go out. My feet hurt from walking the city north to south and east to west, all alone and carrying my life on my back. I wanted to get a bus out of the city immediately. I wanted to be back on the farm, with people I knew.

But I had a job to do. I had to tour the Beat-hell out of San Fran before I could leave. I’d done a few things, and I knew I’d never do it all on foot with no money, but I could still see a little more…

I walked out and along Geary, onto Market and up Montgomery. First thing’s first, I thought: before the Beat Museum I would seek out a less easy to find piece of Beat history. I didn’t even know where to start in seeking Russell Street, where Kerouac and Cassady lived, and where On the Road was written. But I could see Montgomery on a map, and knew that I would be able to walk the length of it, which went on up to North Beach anyway, where the Beat Museum was located, and find number 1010, the apartment in which Ginsberg wrote part of Howl. So I walked all the way up, passing the Church of Scientology building, and damn near laughing my head off at a sign inviting randoms to walk inside and take the tour, and getting personality tests while doing so… And I continued up ‘til I crossed Broadway and found the inconspicuous property. There was nothing much to see – no plaque, nothing. So I took a photo of the door and walked back around the corner, onto Broadway, and along to the Beat Museum.

The Beat Museum is in the heart of the adult industry sector, opposite and beside sex shops, porno theatres and other such places that were probably there back when Kerouac and co. walked the streets. The front is a shop, and the museum upstairs, and it’s easy to see the place in spite of the trees outside, for there is a great black and red advertisement on the outside wall, with that famous photo of Kerouac and Cassady, arms around one another. I went inside and looked around the shop, which doubled as a kind of art gallery for paintings and photos of Beat and counterculture figures. Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead seemed to take prominence, but from the conversations I overheard between staff and proprietors, it sounded as though the walls frequently changed their décor. There were hundreds of books and posters and movies that opened my eyes to the world of Beat studies of which I knew I should have been aware. Things existed and were sold openly that I had never heard of in spite of my studies into every facet of Beat culture. I looked around for a long time, waiting for the staff to stop discussing the positioning of a Bob Dylan print, and then approached the counter when the youngest guy left the two older ones and returned to his station.

“Hey, how’re you doing? Can I get a ticket for the museum, please?” I asked.

“Yeah, are you a student?”

“Not anymore, unfortunately. Just graduated.”

“Oh yeah? From where?”

“Dundee, Scotland. I’m over here doing the Beat tour for a magazine I own and edit: Beatdom.”

“Cool, cool. You know Russell Brand? He was in here the other night, doing some recording for this documentary about On the Road.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard he’s touring San Francisco. One step ahead of me, by the sound of it.”

“We went over the road for a drink after he did his recording.”



“Hey, if you want, we’ve got a bunch of DVD documentaries and stuff, and a TV through the back. I’ll put something on for you, if you want?”

“Yeah, cool. Now or after?”



“No problem, let’s go.”

The guy led me through to a room in the back, next to the stairway leading up to the museum. The room was small and smacked of disused boiler-room, but had a few comfortable-looking chairs and a widescreen TV with DVD player.

“How about The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg?” he asked.

“Sounds great,” I replied. And it was. I sat and watched the film for ninety minutes until it ended, at which point I walked upstairs to check out the museum proper.

The stairs took me up and past the usual posters of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, plus a sign taken from Kerouac Alley, over the road. There was also a sign saying that the use of photography was allowed, which surprised and delighted me, as I was usually too shy to take photos indoors, in case someone told me I wasn’t meant to and I’d get all embarrassed. I walked through to the large room, which was the museum. It was basically just one room about the size of my parents’ living room, which bookcases, displays and a few partitions, which seemed to hide more displays under the guise of being separate rooms. To my left as I entered was a bookcase, protected by glass, of numerous Beat books, mostly first editions. To my right was a display case full of bits and pieces from and about Kerouac’s life – cheques made out to liquor stores, licence plates reading “KEROUAC”, guides to Lowell, newspaper cuttings announcing his death, a typewriter like the one he used… The walls were covered in blown up photos of him and Cassady, him and his parents, him and Carolyn. Around the corner there was a Bukowski section, comprising of photos and poems on the wall, and prints of the newspaper “Fuck Hate”. Around from that there was the Dharma Bums display, made up of Kerouac and Snyder stuff, photos of mountains, and a golden Buddha. In the corner was one of the more impressive exhibits – Allen Ginsberg’s organ. It was the one he used to write the awful album he made as a tribute to William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. There was also a section devoted to the women of the Beat Generation, whom the men largely considered their equals, but to whom history has not been so kind. There was a little alcove next to that that seemed to house ‘the rest’ section, comprising of Kaufman, Corso, Ferlinghetti, McClure and all the great poets who were missing from the Kerouac dominated landscape of the Beat Museum’s primary displays. In a raised section of the room next to this was what appeared mostly to be the Ginsberg area: with a telling of the Six Gallery reading, the history of the publication of Howl! and photos of him, Orlovsky and Corso butt naked.

I left the Beat Museum and went for dinner in some coffee shop of little note. I was done with Frisco now and ready to leave. There was a bus out at six the next morning, and so I went back to the hostel and crashed ‘til then, not knowing that the next day would see me struggle with Bay Area transport systems for over seven hours before getting back into San Luis Obispo.

Women of the Beat Generation

History has not been kind to the women of the Beat Generation. Their presence is largely unknown to most casual readers, and considered largely unimportant to those who would delve a little further. Perhaps it is because the feminists that followed in the decades to come would deem women to be a valuable part of society, whereas the Beats, male and female, had little interest in playing any active role in society. The female Beats were interested in drinking, fucking and taking drugs, too, and that’s not an aspect of a gender worth highlighting when seeking inclusion in society.

Certainly that might be one reason, but there are many others. Some are hardly worth mentioning at all: that fact that sexism exists in all facets of life, including historical and literary studies. Some are just hard and tragic facts, like the fact that whereas the males of the Beat Generation were looked down upon, arrested, and mocked for years to come, the females got fucked over far worse. The 1940s and 50s were times when women belonged to their parents first, and their husbands second. Their independence was either limited or non-existent. If they acted up, got out of line, or embarrassed their parents, they were punished brutally. For men, such humiliation resulted in being cut lose, thrown out of the family, forced to take the Beatnik kick on the road. But for the women it meant mental hospitals, electro-shock treatment and being locked up at home and force fed conservative values.

Maybe we’re being cynical here. Perhaps there really weren’t that many great female poets in the movement. Look at the more famous faces, like Carolyn Cassady. Read her Heart Beat and tell me she’s a good writer… (See review)

But maybe it’s a little more complicated. The men that were part of the Beat Generation, whether they liked it or not, were talented and brilliant poets and novelists. They were geniuses unwanted by conventional academia. The women that were part of the Beats were fewer in number and less successful in quality of literary output. Of course, there were some outstanding poems produced by women, and some fantastic ideas espoused, but perhaps their exclusion from this portion of the literary canon has less to do with the sexism of today and more of a reflection of reality.

Arguments for focus of the role of women tend to centre on appreciation of their role as muses to the men that wrote the famous books. But that seems to be flattering to the women. Kerouac began the Beatnik revolution and his muse was all man. Ginsberg was constantly encouraging and being encouraged by his male friends and lovers, and although heavily influenced by his mother, seemed to draw inspiration from the incredible masculine figures around him. Burroughs only began to write serious after killing his wife, but seemed to take help from the men in his life, particularly in developing his cut-up novels.

Like all bitter debates, the fight over the role of women in the Beat Generation seems lost in bullshit and rhetoric. History tells us they stood on the sidelines and cheered their men on, and then presumably settled down into conformity. The feminists and advocates of female writers will tell us that the women were the inspiration behind the men’s work, and wrote the best works themselves.

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between, and perhaps nowhere at all. One could not, for example, claim that the men were all brilliant writers and equally appreciated by the popular literary community. Not at all. To seek truth, we must look at a few of the female writers, their lives and works, and analyse them as individuals, before considering judging their collective output and worth.

Carolyn Cassady

Let’s first look at one of the more famous of the female Beats, though perhaps famous wrong reasons. Or maybe not… Cassady is known for her close involvement with Kerouac, Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. This would suggest that she was not respected by later generations for her own creative output, but instead simply because of who she knew. It looks as though Cassady was the 50s equivalent of the rich & famous trophy wives of today’s sports stars and musicians. But let’s not forget that the famous Beat trio respected Cassady for more than just her staggering looks. She was a brilliant individual and played a role in the literary movement and in the society the movement would document.

Although she was raised by a strict and overbearing family that envisioned her as the typical domesticated housewife, they also valued education and Cassady was allowed to learn, unlike many less fortunate women. However, her interests lay more in the arts and creativity than any of which her parents would approve. They were an English teacher and a biochemist, while she was taking theatre lessons at nine, winning costume design awards at twelve, selling paintings at age fourteen, and head of a make-up department at sixteen.

She continued developing her impressive talents in the arts world, before moving to study at the University of Denver in 1946. In 1947, she met Kerouac, Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. Here she began her relationship with Neal Cassady, who was already married to Luanne Henderson, and Carolyn found the two of them in bed with Allen Ginsberg one night, prompting her to end the relationship and leave Denver.

Cassady headed for Los Angeles and a career in Hollywood costume design, but found herself briefly in San Francisco. Neal appeared, having divorced Luanne, and on 31st March 1948, they were married. Together they had three children, and Carolyn rode out the manic life of a wife to The Holy Goof, who spent their savings on cars and drove back and forth across America with his friends and his ex-wife.

Kerouac came to live with the couple for a few months in 1952, when writing Visions of Neal. Carolyn and Kerouac began an affair together that lasted until 1960, and the Cassadys named a child after their constant houseguest. The story of their living together is best told in Cassady’s Off the Road.

Throughout her turbulent life with the frequently absent Neal, Cassady continued her painting and work in theatre and the arts. But her commitment to her husband and children, and her appreciation of traditional values, prevented her from being totally ostracised from and punished by society.

She never wrote any great Beat Generation texts, but neither did Neal Cassady. Together they earned their place in Beat legend by their participation in the lives of the authors and poets, as members of an elite circle of literary significance, and as muses to the greats.

Joyce Johnson

Both Cassady and Johnson were famous for their presence in Beat social history, for dating Beat writers, and for writing popular memoirs of their time with Kerouac & co. But whereas Cassady was no great writer, but remembered in popular memory for her memoirs (part of which became a terrible Hollywood movie), Johnson was a talented and respected writer in her own right.

Joyce Johnson grew up in Manhattan, and like Cassady, she was subject to the will of her controlling parents. She was an only child and stifled by her mother’s misguided protection from reality. But Johnson was freer than most because she simply rebelled. She went to university at an early age and lived around the corner from Joan Vollmer and William S Burroughs. However, it was only through Elise Cowan, who Johnson met at Barnard University, that she came to meet the Beat circle in its New York days. This was at a time when Ginsberg was experimenting with heterosexuality, and his girlfriend at the time was Cowan. Ginsberg arranged a blind date between Kerouac and Johnson, and the two began dating.

According to Johnson, “The whole Beat scene had very little to do with the participation of women as artists themselves. The real communication was going on between the men, and the women were there as onlookers… You kept you mouth shut, and if you were intelligent and interested in things you might pick up what you could. It was a very masculine aesthetic.”

She dated Kerouac for around two years, but never saw it going further. During this time On the Road was published and Kerouac became depressed, mobbed by unwanted attention, and Johnson witnessed him fall apart.

She won the National Book Circle Critics award for her Minor Characters, her memoir of her time with Kerouac between 1957 and 1958. Door Wide Open is a collection of their correspondence over the same period of time.

Outside the fame of being Kerouac’s gal, Johnson has written several novels, as well as articles for Harper’s, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and the Washington Post.

Diane di Prima

Allen Ginsberg reckoned that women with talent got their chance in the Beat Generation movement: “Where there was a strong writer who could hold her own, like Diane Di Prima, we would certainly work with her and recognize her. She was a genius.”

Diane di Prima certainly didn’t have an easy life, but what struggles she faced emerged through her gift for writing. She wrote from an early age and was soon communicating with Ezra Pound. Her friends and tutors encouraged her poetic aspirations, and her intelligence drove her to excel in education before dropping out in her second year of university.

She was born in Brooklyn and spent the 50s and 60s in Manhattan, living in Greenwich Village and participating in the Beat and other literary movements of the time. Later she moved to San Francisco and became active in the movements there. Like Allen Ginsberg, she actively participated in the shift between Beat and hippy movements, as well as between the different worlds of Eastern and Western America. Like many Beats, she took an interest in Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies.

She met Ginsberg and Kerouac in 1957 and wrote about their meeting in her Memoirs of a Beatnik. She published her first poetry collection, This Kind of Bird Flies Backward in 1958, and has since published forty-one books. She also helped Amiri Baraka edit The Floating Bear, worked for many other publications, founded The American Theatre for Poets, and teaches at Naropa and the New College of California.

Di Prima is an example of a prolific female Beat poet, who was important to the movement and flourished in the following decades. Her genius and rebellious spirit allowed her to participate as actively as many of the men of the Generation, and became a valuable contribution not just to the Beats, but to American literature.

Hettie Jones

It was Hettie Jones and Amiri Baraka’s Totem Press that published di Prima’s first volume of poetry. It was Jones’ marriage to Baraka that she most famous for, but this is unfair, and an indictment of the sexism of modern reflection on the Beats.

While the Beats were more or less defined as a generation by their relationships to one another, and certainly their styles developed on account of these relationships, it is harsh to remember a female poet simply because of her marriage to a famous male counterpart. It is even more insulting because Jones helped Baraka run Totem press, an important Beat publisher.

She is also well known for the same reason as the likes of Cassady and Johnson, for Jones has also released a memoir of her relationship with members of the Beat Generation, including Baraka, Kerouac and Ginsberg.

But Jones also wrote some twenty-three books, been published in prestigious journals, lectured across America on writing, and started the literary magazine, Yugen.

Edie Parker

Another famous wife and author of an autobiography that staked her best claim for a place in the annals of Beat history is Edie Parker.

Parker lived with Joan Vollmer on 118th Street in New Yorker, in an apartment that has a special place in Beat legend. The apartment was where many of the Beat circle of friends hung out in their New York days, and frequent visitors included Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Vollmer’s husband, Burroughs. The group of friends that spent much of the winter of 1943 in that apartment were to be immortalised in history as characters in many of Kerouac’s novels.

When Kerouac was arrested and incarcerated for his role as accessory after the fact in the murder of David Kammerer, he agreed to marry Parker in exchange for her parents paying his bail. The marriage only lasted a year, but she was Jack Kerouac’s first wife nonetheless.

Parker wrote You’ll Be Okay, her memoir of the Beat Generation.

Joan Vollmer

Parker’s roommate, Joan Vollmer, was perhaps the most active female in the central social circle of the Beat Generation. It was her that spent the night talking with Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr, Huncke, and Chase. She was set up with Burroughs by Ginsberg, who greatly admired both of them, and later became Joan Vollmer Burroughs. William S Burroughs was her second husband.

Edie Parker thought Vollmer the most intelligent woman she’d ever met, and was impressed by the rebellious spirit that torn her away from her mother, and drove her to sleep around and treat men as men treated women.

In the Beat circle, she got heavily into Benzedrine, which she was introduced to by Kerouac. In 1946, she was put in a mental hospital after suffering amphetamine-induced psychotic episodes. Later, she and her husband travelled extensively to avoid the trouble their phenomenal drug-use caused them.

Whereas Burroughs seemed to ride out the drugs, becoming a strange epitome of gay-junky chic, Vollmer’s addiction was tragic and destructive, and it saddened her friends to see her degenerate into a shell of her former self. She developed a limp, never slept, and spent all night raking lizards off trees.

Their marriage was turbulent, largely on account of their drug-use, legal troubles, unpredictable, self-destructive behaviour, and Burroughs’ interest in young boys, for whom he travelled much of the Western hemisphere. Eventually, Burroughs shot Vollmer dead in a drunken game of William Tell.

Perhaps Brenda Knight says it best in Women of the Beat Generation:

Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs was seminal in the creation of the Beat revolution; indeed the fires that stoked the Beat engine were started with Joan as patron and muse. Her apartment in New York was a nucleus that attracted many of the characters who played a vital role in the formation of the Beat; … Brilliant and well versed in philosophy and literature, Joan was the whetstone against which the main Beat writers — Allen, Jack, and Bill — sharpened their intellect. Widely considered one of the most perceptive people in the group, her strong mind and independent nature helped bulldoze the Beats toward a new sensibility.

Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov was born in England, well educated, impressed TS Eliot with her poetry, and moved to America in 1948. She was published in England and America, and became well respected in the late 50s, having found her American voice and been influenced by the Beat and Black Mountain poets.

Joanne Kyger

Joanne Kyger poetry exhibits the influence of the Beats, the San Francisco Renaissance, and the Black Mountain poetics. She lived in San Francisco and worked with Robert Duncan, studied Zen Buddhism, and travelled to Japan with Gary Snyder, who would later become her husband. She explored India with Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky.

She has written more than twenty books of poetry, the first of which was published after her travels in the East. Her work contains her Buddhist principals and Beat ideas, and focuses largely on minute details of everyday life.

Kyger has also lectured at the University of Naropa, helping Ginsberg and Anne Waldman found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Anne Waldman

The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics has a special place in modern literary history, it came into being because of Allen Ginsberg and two female Beat poets: Waldman and Kyger.

That said, Waldman’s place in the Beat Generation is tenuous, as she was too young to be active in the social circles that are normally taken to define the movement, and instead is connected through her work and later connections.

But she is female poet who has had a significant impact upon American poetry, bringing a Beat vibe and an alternative perspective to her work, and always remaining active and outspoken in social issues.

Elise Cowan

I include in this selection of female Beats one who you will not find in many other resources, for she was not a great writer, but she helps to explain why there were not a great many female Beats. Elise Cowan’s example explains why perhaps it is not the prejudices of today that preclude the inclusion of women in the literary anthologies, but rather explains why there just weren’t that many female Beats.

Cowan was the girlfriend of Allen Ginsberg when he was trying to be straight. She helped introduce Kerouac and Johnson, and was best friends with Johnson herself.

When she tried to exert her independence, becoming part of the New York Beat society, her parents did as too many have done throughout history to wayward daughters, and had her confined to a mental institution. Trapped in a life of conformity, Cowan committed suicide.

For more info on the Beat Babes, Beatdom suggests you read Brenda Knight’s fantastic Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution.

Stevia: A Bitter/Sweet Story

Wills, D. and Bisset, K., ‘Stevia: A Bitter/Sweet Story’ in Wills, D., (ed.) Beatdom Vol. 2 (City of Recovery Press: Dundee, 2008)

Stevia: A Bitter/Sweet Story

By Kirsty Bisset and David S Wills

– – – –

Notes from the editors…

– – – –

From Ms. Bisset…

What’s this? Yet another example of corporations wielding their unlimited power to ban substances that threaten their wealth. Why you ask? Of course, they are branded ‘unsafe’.

Is this worse than the conspiracy to outlaw cannabis?

Another to add the heap of injustices left to the public, in order for a corporation to maximise profits.  Hmm, does anyone else feel this might be wrong? If so, why as usual, is so little heard on the matter?

A good example of out of sight, out of mind; nothing much is heard within the confines of mainstream media because it is not within their interests and they are restricted by their loyalties to supporters. The aim of this, and subsequent articles on similar topics is to raise public awareness, and to encourage people to think about everything they are told, to question why they are being sold certain drugs, food products, clothes, values, and to decide for themselves what is right.  Morality and legality seemingly parted ways some time ago. What we are told is wrong is not always the case, but simply corporations using their influence upon ruling bodies to get their own way.

From Mr. Wills…

An aged hippy-poet friend of mine, Mark, and his Anglo-Franco wife, Felicite, invited me to breakfast one day. The three reasons for my visit were: firstly, breakfast, but also to help Felicite get her old laptop online, and to raid Mark’s Ventura-come-library.

I was living on an organic farm in the surprisingly liberal community of San Luis Obispo, Ca., at the time, and had left my entire book collection back home in Scotland, so I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to raid Mark’s books. We sat in the old wagon and rapped poetry back and forth and talked about literature and drugs and life – the usual. I picked out a Blake collection, Danny Sugerman’s Wonderland Avenue, William A. Henry III’s In Defence of Elitism, Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Thomas A Harris’ I’m OK – You’re OK and Bruce Eisner’s ecstasy: The MDMA Story.

After borrowing the books, we all sat down to breakfast. It was Sunday, and we were not working until mid-afternoon. Their place consisted of an eight-by-ten foot ‘barn’ and two ancient campervans, all positioned to create a little garden in the middle, shielded from the life of the farm, and wind, and cornered in by bushes, over the top of which we could see Hollister Peak and several other of the Nine Sisters mountain range, in front of which ran an occasional charge of horses.

Felicite was in her mid-seventies, and had recently taken a bad fall and struggled with mobility, but while Mark and I went a found an old picnic table, and brought it into the middle of the sun-drenched garden, she managed to put together a wonderful breakfast of tea, pancakes, butter, strawberries, goat yoghurt, seven-seed mix and syrup.

“Now,” Felicite said in her quiet, yet somehow motherly voice, which had a strong English accent despite her having spent the last few decades living around America and Southern France, “First you put the butter on the cakes. Then you put the syrup on the butter. Then you put the yoghurt on the syrup. Then you put the strawberries on the yoghurt. That’s the only way to do it. Sometimes Mark and I, we talk with our breakfast and forget, and it’s never quite right if you do it any other way.”

Felicite, quiet though she was, and retiring though she was around others, was pretty bossy with Mark, and fairly straight with me by this stage, having known her for a few weeks. She demanded Mark pour the tea. He did.

We were eating the pancakes and sipping the tea, and talking as usual of thrift stores and bargains and the usual ways to make life better and easier, when Mark suddenly jumped up, that flash of inspiration coming to his eyes like I’d seen on a few occasions, and he ran off to the campervan with the kitchen area. He returned momentarily with a small shaker of white powder.

“Stevia,” he said. “You ever heard of it? It’s a sugar substitute.”

“No it’s not!” Felicite cried.

“Babe, like, it is.”

“No. It’s not a substitute.”

“Babe, it is.”

“No, it’s not, it’s real. It’s like sugar, but different, and better for you.”

“David, like, stevia is a naturally occurring plant, man. You dig? It’s, like, way sweeter than sugar, and it tastes better, but it’s illegal. But it’s good for you.”

“It’s got no calories!” Felicite added. “And it doesn’t harm your teeth.”

“See, the government don’t want us to have it. They shut down stores that sell it, and burn plants when people grow it. They even burned books about stevia that some guy had.”

That breakfast with Mark and Felicite was the first time I ever heard of stevia. I tried it with Honeybush Tea, and I liked it. It was exactly as Mark described – similar to sugar, but way stronger and with a slightly different taste. But I never fully believed what he said. Mark is a great guy, and nobody can deny that, but even he will admit he’s “burned his brain out” with drugs. He has become paranoid and eccentric, though not to great extents. He is a little unusual, but it’s more like a slight exaggeration of characteristics than anything too out there.

So when he told me about stevia, I knew there was truth behind what he said, but I assumed it was more like he’d gotten the wrong end of the stick and taken the idea too far. He often railed against many governmental or corporate conspiracies, and I don’t doubt that he’s often right, but I do doubt how right he is.

Yet I was intrigued enough to go straight home and Google stevia. If nothing else, part of me wondered what I had just taken. I know that the US government is fucked up enough to allow dangerous substances to be legal (cigarettes and booze) while banning safe substances (marijuana). So even if Mark had gotten hold of something legal, who knew what effects it would have? And if it was illegal, maybe it wasn’t as safe as Mark’s strange information would have me believe…

So I Googled “stevia” and, unsurprisingly, was presented with the Wikipedia entry, which is what I wanted – an easy lay explanation of a new topic for learning, with links to more in-depth sources elsewhere. It appeared Mark was right.

– – – –

Stevia: The History

For centuries the Guarani Indians of Paraguay guarded the secret of the plant they called kaa he-he. They used it in medicine, in the drink ‘mate, and for chewing and eating to enjoy the sweet taste. They guarded it for they cherished it and believed it to be of some mystical significance. They documented its existence and popularity in writing that still exists today in the Paraguayan National Archive, in Asuncion.

However, like so many Western stories, the credit for the discovery of kaa he-he lies with a European – the Italian botanist, Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni. He is said to have heard of the legendary but elusive plant in 1887, twelve years before he actually saw the dried leaves, presented to him in an envelop.

Finally, after searching for the plants in many of the wrong places, over many years, Bertoni was sent a live plant in 1903, by a priest from the village of San Pedro. He studied it intensively, and came to rename it after himself and the scientist that managed to extract its sweetness, a man named Rebaudi. It became known as Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, and in 1905 Bertoni completed and published his study.

Following Bertoni’s studies, the cultivation of stevia spread, and it came to be grown as a crop, rather than simply harvested in the wild. By 1908, one ton of stevia was harvested from cultivated crops, and soon after the questions of export and commercial feasibility were raised.

In 1918, stevia was brought to the attention of the US government by botanists, and three years later, it was brought before the USDA by George S. Brady, who described the plant as safe and non-toxic. He also said that stevia was liable to find a market, and that he wished to see US companies capitalise on its appeal.

However, as early as 1913, German sugar-producers were raising concerns over the impact of stevia upon their own industry. They recognised the superiority of this new product, and sought to stem its use.

In 1931, French scientists managed to isolate steviocide and rebaudiocide, the sweetest natural products yet discovered. They were shown to be between 150 and 300 times sweeter than sucrose, as well as heat and pH stable, and non-fermentable. However, although scientifically significant, doubts were already raised regarding the value of steviocides in day-to-day life. In the US, a government researcher, Dr. Hewitt G. Fletcher, deemed steviocides useless, despite admitting their overwhelming sweetness.

It was during the 1960s that Japan came to ban or impose strict regulations upon the use of chemicals in their food. As a result, they did extensive research into the safety and viability of stevia as a natural sweetener, and found it to be of no danger to humans.

Therefore, in 1970, when stevia was introduced to the Japanese food market by a consortium of investors, it quickly entered everyday use as an additive and tabletop sweetener. By 1990, Japan accounted for forty percent of the global consumption of stevia, with not one single complaint or health concern raised. And in 1988, stevia represented forty-one percent of the Japanese sweetner market.

But use was not only restricted to Japan. Across South America, stevia has always remained popular, and in other parts of Asia, too.

Like marijuana, the use of stevia dates back over hundreds of years, with no documentaed negative effects on human health. Even in massive quantities it has been conclusively proven to be non-toxic, and offers not only a healthier alternative to a market dominated by dangerous products, but actually provides some significant health benefits.

Yet, like marijuana, the US government, and other governments around the world, also dominated and controlled by large corporations with no interest in the welfare of the general public, have banned and restricted the use of stevia. Using massively and embarassingly flawed data and ‘evidence’, the governments of Western nations have outlawed the use of stevia, and then, under pressure from campaigners and organisations acting in the public interest, have revoked their decisions to an extent, choosing to instead block the use of stevia in any capacity perceived to be of threat to profits of the sweetener and sugar industries (including the mighty Coca-Cola and NutraSweet companies).

– – – –

Stevia: The Controversy

There is no reason to ban or restrict the use of stevia. That’s it. That’s all that need be said to an intelligent freethinker. But let’s face it, this is a world dominated by profit-hungry greedheads with no concern for decent folks, and the average human is just ignorant enough to go with the flow and believe the shit. So to change anything, one must be armed with knowledge and a drive to fight injustice. So, with that in mind, let’s continue exploring exactly why this miracle plant is vilified by fucking halfwits…

In 1991, the United States Food and Drug Administration received a complaint from an allegedly anonymous source, concerning the safety of stevia. The source is widely accepted to have been the manufactures of NutraSweet, the aspartame based sweetener. The motivation for the complaint is believed to be stopping the encroachment of stevia upon the sweetener industry. Congressman John Kyl is one of many believers that the FDA acted only as a response to pressure from the sweetener industry. However, despite the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, the FDA has refused to formally announce the origin of the source.

Following the complaint, the FDA labelled stevia an ‘unsafe food additive’ and placed restrictions upon its import into the United States. The reason given for the ban was that no solid evidence could be provided to show stevia was safe, which contravenes FDA regulations stipulating that a substance used since or before 1958 with no history of known ill effects should be ‘Generally Regarded As Safe’ (GRAS).

FDA guidelines also require a product to be proven unsafe through testing in order to be given the label ‘unsafe’, and no testing has been able to conclusively prove any negative health issues arising from the use of stevia.

However, despite these overlooked technicalities, stevia was an entirely banned substance in the United States until the passing of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which forced the FDA to allow stevia to be sold as a dietary supplement, but not as a food additive or commercial sweetener. This shows the FDA labelling stevia as safe and unsafe, depending upon its use, publicly contradicting themselves for the purpose of securing the marketplace for known harmful sweeteners produced by big-pocketed industry bully-boys.

NutraSweet, also known as aspartame, is has been shown to cause migraines, seizures and blindness. It has been the subject of several thousand complaints to the FDA, even FDA testing has linked its usage to brain tumours. However, the overruling of the commissioner of the Administration made sure that nothing so trivial as serious health problems was worth troubling such a major corporation over… And let’s not forget that in hundreds of years of use in South America, and thirty-odd years of use in Japan, not one concern has been raised over the safety of stevia, whereas aspartame alone makes up seventy-five percent of all food additive related complaints in the United States each and every year!

But hell, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the so-called ‘food police’, also went easy on aspartame and MSG. They knew of the dangers, even labelling aspartame: ‘caution, try to avoid’. But that didn’t stop them from serving aspartame containing yoghurts to their own employees in their staff cafeteria… No, money is more important than public health when you’re a crooked organisation with the power to dictate the fate of an entire species.

And perhaps that’s why the FDA and the CSPI have embarrassed themselves constantly since first they thought it wise to bend over and obey the wishes of the mighty NutraSweet-dominated sweetener industry. Surely by trying to blind the public to the truth regarding this ancient plant, whose safety had been known for decades, they were as ignorant as Bertoni when he believed he was the first person to discover stevia growing in the mountains of Paraguay.

These powerful bodies hold themselves to be guardians of American health, yet will go to the lengths of burning books, seizing imported shipments, confiscating stevia-containing products, fabricating evidence, and other CIA-inspired covert ops, just to protect the producers of substances they themselves deem unsafe.

That’s right, in May 1998 the FDA ordered the burning of books on the history, growing and cooking of stevia by a Texas-based distributor, resorting to threatening letters before the condemnation of the public, the media and ACLU resulted in a forced change of heart.

And the CSPI, desperate to back-up their co-conspirators, twisted the statements of two pro-stevia proponents and relied upon discredited, irrelevant and outdated ‘evidence’ in order to put together a ‘case’ against stevia, while ignoring a massive and persuasive body of work that supports the safety of stevia.

The problem with the CSPI’s ‘Stevia: Not Ready For Prime Time’, written by David Schardt, which is nothing more than a piece of childish propaganda, is that firstly it’s based on entirely the wrong substance. The article is based on studies of steviol, a derivative of stevia which cannot be produced within the human body, and which regardless of the impossibility of producing through digestion, is not even proven to be harmful. It is merely a suggestion that steviol may pose some risk, hence repeated use of unclear and speculative language… Vague words, Schardt.

Schardt also references Douglas Kinghorn and Ryan Huxtable, two pro-stevia scientists. He quotes vague and hypothetical statements made by the scientists that show possible counterpoints to their own studies, but which Schardt purports to be evidence of their anti-stevia views.

Kinghorn, a professor or pharmacognosy, is quoted by Schardt as saying ‘The Japanese don’t consume large amounts of stevia,’ and other such racial generalisations. His argument here is supposedly that Americans will take consumption further than the Asians, and therefore are more inclined to encounter new health problems. Perhaps this is an easy thing to believe in these days of rampant anti-Americanism, but it is absurd to suggest that Americans are all stupid enough and fat enough to eat enough stevia to cause greater, and as yet untold, health problems that would be of any significance in comparison with the masses of McDonalds and Coca-Cola related deaths and morbid obesity recorded every year.

And what health problems is stevia meant to cause? It’s a non-calorific, hunger-relieving, diabetes-beating, digestion-aiding, pancreas-nourishing, tooth-friendly fucking plant! Fuck off! Go suck a dick if you believe the propaganda. Americans already eat massive quantities of sugar and sweeteners and other shit that rots their teeth and guts and makes them fat. Yet studies have shown that stevia is harmless even in massive quantities. It even reverses plaque development on teeth, which is all too often caused by eating sugar! Surely it would be better to have some fat bastard eat a plate of stevia-laced ice-cream rather than the same with sugar or aspartame on top… But no, stevia is a natural plant, like marijuana, that could be grown and used by the common man, and so would infringe upon the corporate and government agendas that have resulted in the current health crisis. It’d be harder to tax stevia than sugar, and easier to produce ones own stevia leaves for a cup of tea than to engineer a bowl of aspartame…

But no, there’s hope for stevia yet! We still may see it legal, but only on corporate terms, of course. Rebiana is the name of a sweetener in development by the Coca-Cola Company, whose name and finances will no doubt be enough to push the legality of stevia past the FDA. No need to worry about its infringement upon the sweetener industry now, folks! Just buy a can of Coke-Rebiana and everything’ll be ok. So long as a big ole American company owns the rights to a little Paraguayan plant, you can consume it. That’s all that fucking matters, isn’t it?

But back to science, from which we’ve become distracted… And whereas Kinghorn is quoted by our friends, the CSPI, as arguing against the Japanese experience as proof of stevia’s safety, he is more commonly found arguing in favour of stevia and of the Japanese and their intensive research into stevia…

‘Stevia extracts and/or stevioside (a concentrated extract) have been widely used as sweetening agents in Japan over the last 15 years; . . . no adverse reactions have appeared in the scientific or medical literature during this period, and it may be concluded . . . that these materials do not present a potential toxicity risk to humans.’

‘I don’t think it’s that big a question mark because of the Japanese experience. They’ve been taking it (stevia and stevia extracts) for 20 years now and they’ve had multigenerations of humans using it. (To produce steviol) requires metabolic activation which may or may not happen.’

‘We do have the evidence from the Japanese that stevioside is not carcinogenic.  It hasn’t been resolved whether steviol is produced in animals, let alone in humans.’

Huxtable, too, is normally a proponent of the pro-stevia scientific community, although is a little more reserved in his arguments, saying: ‘there seems little scientific reason for the FDA not to approve the use of stevia extracts in the U.S,’ and ‘There are no studies on humans that show it presents a hazard.’

Of course, both scientists are right. And more than that, these are not necessarily the scientists one would normally list in a study of stevia, as far more qualified scientists have come to value stevia as a healthy footstuff. Rather, they are worth mentioning because they, like most of the scientific community, are in favour of the full legalisation of stevia, but were quoted by the CSPI in their ludicrous drive to validate the outlawing of a harmless plant. This is just another example of major league idiocy marring the attempts of the authorities to ban stevia.

Here’s some more:

–          The FDA using a thirty-two year old fertility study, which was wholly dismissed by its own author.

–          A Brazilian study of mice, which only the FDA considers of any scientific merit, translated by an FDA employee with only a basic understanding of Portuguese.

–          Ignoring a massive body of scientific evidence and historical use that supports the claim that stevia is harmless.

–          The FDA threatening to burn stevia reference books of Sunrider International, and then informing their Director of Operations that ‘if we wanted to make carrots (be) against the law, we could do it.’

These diabolical assholes are even prepared to ignore the studies of the World Health Organisation, who, in 2006 concluded their research into the safety of stevia, by finding that stevia and its derivatives are non-toxic and not carcinogenic. Also, that stevia could prove useful in helping patients suffering from type II diabetes and hypertension, because of its blood-sugar stabilising qualities. These facts were largely known for hundreds of years in Paraguayan culture, and obviously why stevia had been used in medicines across South America. So if the WHO know the truth, and ancient Indian cultures knew the truth, and the scientific community knows the truth, and the common man, through recent media coverage, knows the truth, and indisputable evidence has been provided by Asian experience and testing, to reveal the truth that stevia is utterly harmless… Then what chance is there of the legalisation of yet another innocent victim in the ongoing rampage of corporate dominance over government and public-interest organisations?

Well, two petitions submitted to the FDA, seeking Generally Regarded As Safe status for stevia, were submitted in 1992 and 1995. These petitions included and summarised a huge body of work, detailing the impressive array of health boosting qualities held by stevia, as well as hard evidence of the safety of the plant.

‘Stevia leaf is a natural product that has been used for at least 400 years as a food product, principally as a sweetener or other flavoring agent.  None of this common usage in foods has indicated any evidence of a safety problem.  There are no reports of any government agency in any of the above countries indicating any public health concern whatsoever in connection with the use of stevia in foods.’

Gras affirmation petition submitted on behalf of the American Herbal Products Association, April 23, 1992

‘The petition cites over 120 articles about stevia written before 1958, and over 900 articles published to date. In this well-chronicled history of stevia, no author has ever reported any adverse human health consequences associated with consumption of stevia leaf.’

Supplement to GRAS affirmation petition no. 4G0406, submitted by the Thomas J. Lipton Company February 3, 1995

It hardly seems necessary to summarise this article. The facts speak for themselves, and are almost too numerous to print. Stevia is quite simply a botanical and culinary miracle. In fact, the process of eliminating facts supporting the safety and benefits of stevia took as much time as any part of preparing this article. The sheer volume of work is testament to the injustice of the ban imposed against stevia by governments worldwide at the asking of the sweetener and sugar industries. And it is proof that morality and legality have little connection anymore, and that the governments of this world operate not in the interests of the people, or even themselves, but of those that wield the power to dictate the future of the world – the money-grabbing, immoral, half-wit, greedhead swine that are the heads of their industries. These pigs bring out the evil and ignorance of governments forced to move their hands against their people, and then to look foolish when the media and the intelligent few see what’s going on and call the forces to order. We are lied to and persecuted for nothing more than freedom of thought and expression, and an appreciation of the natural world, simply because what we do contravenes the wishes of those that would sell us dangerous commodities and rob our lands and indoctrinate our minds… Don’t let them get away with it, EAT STEVIA AND SMOKE POT!

Further Reading

For a list of websites on stevia, from cooking to growing to the conspiracy against this miracle plant, just Google the word ‘stevia’. There are hundreds of sites available, but Beatdom reckons is the best.

As for books,

Take a look at The Stevia Story: A Tale of Incredible Sweetness & Intrigue, by Linda and Bill Bonvie and Donna Gates.

Saving Bukowski’s Bungalow

Bukowski’s long gone, though his Bungalow still stands, but not for long unless we DO something about it!

A few years back Mrs Benway and I went to Key West where we saw Ernest Hemingway’s house, writing studio and a few of his favorite watering holes. How cool would it be to be able to take a similar tour a la Bukowski in LA? Hey, maybe they can make Pink Elephant Liquors a landmark too! B.B, 09/16/07

A friend of mine, Bill Benway, publisher of the excellent sexgunsandmotorcyles, recently asked for a little help in saving Charles Bukowski’s bungalow. I happened to be in California at the time, but was too occupied documenting the Beat memories of Frisco to get down the coast to Los Angeles and really stir shit up. When I finished with that, I found myself trailing a Mexican drug-dealing, gun-running, people-smuggling, hard-drinking, farm-working friend of mine around San Luis Obispo. So instead, I sat back and watched a twenty-six year old office temp called Lauren Everett try and get the property declared a cultural heritage site, and prevent its nefarious current owner from having it demolished.

So for Bill, who initially informed me of the potential injustice; Lauren, who fought a fight I was too lazy to fight; and for old Hank, infamous resident of that nasty little bungalow we all want to save, and whom would no doubt have chastised us all for bothering our asses, Beatdom belatedly joins the fight…

– – – –

and thank you
for locating me there at
5124 DeLongpre Avenue
somewhere between
alcoholism and

From ‘Trollius and Trellises’ by Charles Bukowski

The above excerpt is from a poem Bukowski wrote for his publisher, John Martin, who founded Black Sparrow Press in 1969, having discovered stacks of Bukowski’s poems in a cupboard, and who published the author’s work from then until his death in 1994. It highlights his affection for his life-long publisher and the home at which his literary abilities were first discovered, and then developed. Bukowski recognized the significance of DeLongre Ave. in his career, as does Martin, who says of discovering Bukowski’s poetry:

That’s where I met him. You just knew this was someplace special. He had a whole closet full of unpublished poems. Literally, they were stacked up on the floor leaning against the wall two or three feet high. So I went through and picked out ones I thought were especially good, and I began, one way or another, to publish Bukowski.

And it’s not as though Bukowski’s fans will be entirely ignorant of his place of residence between the years 1964 and 1972. No, the story of his discovery and saviour by John Martin is legendary, because it freed Bukowski of the emotionally crushing experience of working for the post office, and allowed him to write his debut novel, based upon the experiences of which he’d been freed, Post Office. The house was also where Bukowski took a number of women over the years, providing some of the material for his novel, Women. He had his only kid when living there, adding a bit of personal significance. Just around the corner is his old haunt, the Pink Elephant liquor store, which is still in business today. Not only is his old boozer still going, the neighbourhood remains much the same as it was back then – same style of buildings, same untidy mess of a place, same Eastern European immigrant dominated population.

But Bukowski is dead and his works live on, popular and widely available, and he is constantly published posthumously as more and more of his writings surface. He has earned his place in the literary canon of the late twentieth century, as a Beat, only later, and as a cranky and mad old alcoholic, the sort of guy one wouldn’t want to run in to, but who we all love to read. He has, of course, been immortalised in film, notably in Factotum, staring Matt Dillon, and soon in an animated feature from Johnny Depp (a celebrity, yes, but with impeccable tastes…) He is not liable to drop from memory any time soon.

There is even a Bukowski tour of Los Angeles, which naturally includes the bungalow as one of its features. It’s called ‘Haunts of a Dirty Old Man’ and is run by Richard Schave, who says “It was at DeLongpre where his explosion of work began. This place was the rocket booster that propelled him through the rest of his life.” DeLongpre isn’t the only stop on the tour, either:

This tour focuses on Bukowski’s great passions: writing, screwing and Los Angeles. We’ll take in the canonical locations of his life and myth: the Postal Annex Terminal where he gathered the material for “Post Office,” the De Longpre apartment where he briefly experimented with marriage and fatherhood, one of his favorite bars Musso & Frank, and many other spots. Along the way, we’ll explore the people and ideas that made up the warp and weft of Buk’s rich inner life.


So why all the fuss? Surely the old bastard is untouchable by now. We treasure our literary icons, right?

– – – –

Reply to:

Date: 2007-09-18, 8:00AM PDT

Approximately a 12, 500 square foot lot – currently holds a completely vacant apartment building (bungalow style). It is a REAL INVESTMENT, perfect for builders, investors, contractors, etc. You can easily tear down the old building and do new construction! This is a rare-find in a high-demand area; Hollywood – close to restaurants, studios, shopping centers, etc. The dimensions of the lot are 53 ft by 230 ft.

The address is: 5124 – 5126 ¾ De Longpre Ave, Los Angeles CA 90027

For more information please call (323) 851-7736

This was the craigslist ad that kicked off the storm that has gotten people all riled up. The greasy fucker behind the ad obviously got hard up for some meth cash and tried to offload his little claim to some literary heritage. He booted out his tenants and stuck the property up for sale. But did he advertise it as a lit. landmark? Did he shit! He wants to throw Buk’s memory down the pan and get another Starbucks or McDonalds on the American streets. Prime real estate means more than anything to some folks. But sadly, those folks are dead inside – soulless, immoral scum who should be beaten with chains until they understand that people can feel some things. History matters, literature matters, ideas and people and memories and love matter… But no. If you’re too ignorant and cold to get such things, all you can see is green.

It’s up to those of us with an appreciation for anything that is not measured in dollars to stand up to those without. When this asshole tried to sell a piece of Bukowski’s life, he infuriated people who can read, who can think, and who care. One of those people was Lauren Everett.

Lauren Everett read Bukowski for years, and shared his pain as an underappreciated employee for some faceless corporation. She slaved away and took solace in his work. So when she learned of this swinish greenhead’s evil deeds, Lauren took to the interweb, the city and people with her plight. She created ‘5124 De Longpre’ (sic), a blog appraising the general public of the developments and facts, and called for the city to declare the bungalow a culture heritage site. Pretty soon she had a following. It wasn’t front page news or any such thing, but Time Magazine, Johnny Depp and Beatdom were on the case!

Or rather, Time, Depp and Beatdom were monitoring the case as Lauren appealed to the city for help. She submitted a surprisingly flawed Significance Report to the Cultural Heritage Commission, which contained enough obvious accuracy to justify recognition, and encouraged others to e-mail and call the Commission via her website. She managed to get the Commission to hear the case for 5124 DeLongpre on their 09/20/07 meeting.

The Commission decided to take the property under consideration for historical landmark status and to visit it in order to establish its structural viability, announcing that within sixty days of the meeting, the Commission and the City Council would give their verdict. And during those sixty days the owner is prevented from demolishing the building.

All is looking hopeful – the building reflects a period in LA’s architectural history, that, coupled with the literary and cultural significance of the building, should ensure its designation as a significant place. So long as it remains structurally sound, the Commission will probably bestow upon it the necessary title to hand its owner a tax break that won’t quite meet the millions he’d have wanted to have the place levelled and turned into a fucking parking lot and five Starbucks.

But one cannot be certain of victory just yet…

No, the world isn’t ruled by readers. The world is ruled by developers. And City Hall? Well, we all know you can’t fight it, but while you can persuade it, remember that it’s ruled by those damn developers, too. Those fuckers would stand to profit from some large scale development, especially when the ‘best alternative’ at present is Lauren Everett’s ‘Bukowski Bungalow Endowment’ idea:

One of the bungalows and one unit in the main house will be made available for four months to established, mid-career artists in the fields of writing, photography, painting/drawing, film or theater who are interested in producing a piece of work on the subject of Los Angeles. These Bukowski Fellows will be selected by a Board of Directors based on their proposals submitted to the Bukowski Bungalow Endowment.

Two of the bungalows and one unit in the main house will be made available for one year to individuals currently working in manual labor trades, having spent at least the past five years working similar jobs, who have artistic ambitions in the fields of writing, photography, painting/drawing, film or theater. These Bukowski Fellows will be selected by the Board of Directors based on their proposals and biographies submitted to the Bukowski Bungalow Endowment. While some weight will be given to those who have worked longer at manual employment, all Fellows will be selected based on the quality and promise shown by their work.

The front bungalow, which was Charles Bukowski’s residence, will be restored to the condition in which it was at the time Bukowski lived there, and will be used as a community space shared by the Bukowski Fellows, with occasional public events including but not limited to screenings, art exhibits, musical performances, etc.

At the end of their residence on De Longpre, all Bukowski Fellows will be expected to make an excerpt of their work available for publication, screening or showing to the East Hollywood community.

What’d ya think, friend? I don’t much care for it. ‘restored to the condition in which it was at the time Bukowski lived there’? Jesusfuck, that’s not even legal! What kind of madness is that? Bukowski lived in squalor, and while that may work for some, and may appeal to those writers and artists for whom straightforward plagiarism works, it’s not really the way to go for inspiring the new literary breakthrough. Hell, the whole idea’s retarded. Why would the city want to restore an old bungalow so that it could be lived in by a writer? Everyone in LA wants to be a fucking writer, and they all have crappy little houses like this. Hell, tear it down before you stoop to taking away a man’s property and giving it to some talentless asshole who couldn’t make it on his own…

No, that idea’s idiotic. Why not do with Bukowski’s old home what they do with many other artists’ former places of residence? Declare it a cultural heritage site and slap a plaque up, preventing demolition. Let the owner sell it or do with it what he will – it’ll remain there for the tours to pass by and as an adequate memory for a guy who quite frankly wouldn’t give a shit whether or not his fans could come see his old place, or even whether they bothered to try and save it.

Or, as it seems the city wants an excuse to make a move either way, how about a museum. It’s a no-brainer, friend! A museum will pay tribute to Bukowski and drag in some cash for the city. It’s so fucking simple…

Hell, I’ll know something’s caught in the gears of justice if the city passes up their opportunity to do the right thing. All should go smoothly, but if it doesn’t, then Beatdom orders its readers to raise hell over the matter. Tear down the city until Bukowski’s crappy old shitheap is made untouchable! The case should be won, friends, and if it’s not, then treachery is afoot.

According to the Hollywood Heritage Foundation’s Robert Noodleman:

When you look at this building, you see a nice little Spanish bungalow, which is usually associated with the happier times of L.A., and then to think from that building came what Charles Bukowski was saying … shows an interesting metamorphosis of Los Angeles’ architecture and its literary history binding together to come out of that one place.

So get ready for one of two things – to visit a new literary landmark and justify this little fight; or watch for the signs of injustice (a media blackout surrounding the city’s decision to allow major development and the rape and pillage of all surrounding communities) and be prepared to riot!

In the meantime, stay vigilante. The owner is evidently a madman, and Bukowski’s not as popular with the illiterate population as he should be. Some prick calling himself ‘Bustard’ has his destructive, blog-chronicling, eye on the residence. Watch out.

For a little more on Bukowski and the effort to preserve his memory, see our interview with his friend, Neeli Cherkovski.

Neeli Cherkovski Interview

An interview with Neeli Cherkovski.

Continue Reading...

The Philosophy of Advertising

Beatdom strives to keep itself relevant. It began as a project to keep its staff reading Kerouac and Ginsberg, to give us an excuse to do what we love and call it work… But at times it becomes work. No one at Beatdom works full-time for the magazine, but we love it anyway.

The problem lies in the fact that magazines need advertisements to turn profits. The editors, writers, and publishers need their pockets lined and the people need their print for cheap. It’s a dirty business and cut-throat brutal.

At Beatdom we try and ignore the corporate unpleasantries of our industry and just keeping rolling along. We try our hardest to put out a Beatific little magazine and hope that buying it doesn’t bankrupt our customers. All they want is a new look at their old favourites, mixed with some old favourite-inspired new artists.

We could probably get the magazine into your hands for cheaper if you were willing to sift through the pages and pages of advertisements… The same old images and slogans that exist throughout the rest of the media… But we don’t want to feed you that.

Instead our advertisement philosophy is this: We support our own. Our writers and editors and friends can have their Beat work promoted for free. Their work is work that we believe will interest the reader. It is work that you won’t find advertised in most of the usual places.

This only applies to the printed magazine, however, and the upkeep costs for this website require small, targeted ads.

The Outsiders Review

Wayne Ewing became a personal hero of mine when he made a fantastic trilogy of documentaries about the late, great Dr. Hunter S Thompson. When I discovered he was putting together a documentary about the eccentric publishers of Beatniks and Bukowski, I jumped at the chance to take Beatdom from the cold climes of Scotland to the surprisingly warm weather of Denver, Colorado, where The Outsiders of New Orleans: The Loujon Press was premiering…

“Where are you from?” the disembodied head called from a window above the heavily gated security door at the front of the Melbourne Hostel in Denver.

“Scotland,” I called back.

“Where are you from?”





And thus ended my chase through the streets of angry negroes after dark, in a strange city and entering a strange world of respirator-clad old people with heading problems and a penchant for over-warm rooms… But I guess that’s a sidestory. I was staying in a dank little hostel on 22nd and Welton, not exactly the best of places, but far from being the worst. Nonetheless, it was a tough place to find after a forty-hour train ride across the American West, into a dark new city full of angry blacks and ‘whores with hearts of cheap gold.’

I decided there and then I was not going back out onto the streets that night to traverse the city and find the party that Wayne had suggested I attend. I settled down in my room full of snoring dudes and went to sleep for the night.

The next morning I took advantage of the daylight and explored the city a little, before heading to the university area and the Tivoli, where the 30th Annual Starz Denver Film Festival was being held, an event at which Wayne Ewing has become a regular guest director.

I’m no stranger to university campuses either side of the Atlantic, but I liked this one. The student union was not only home to beer and debauchery, but like so many buildings in Denver, it once was a brewery. Of course, now like so many buildings in any American city there were McDonalds and various other cheap ‘n’ nasty eateries inside.

The atmosphere was the healthy film fest blend of young and old, artists and critics, students and masters… A few hardcore types wandered about with grapefruits and Bloody Marys, a tribute to the late Doc, started during the premieres of Ewing’s documentaries in years gone by… Popcorn, beer and Coca-Cola sated the masses; the promise of photo exhibitions and movie debuts got the rest worked up…

I grabbed a second row seat in the theatre, next to a decent looking chap in Hunter get-up, kitted out with the apparently traditional drink-and-fruit combo. From the way the organisers and personnel spoke with the crowd, I could tell Ewing’s documentaries were a regular and popular festival feature, with a group of familiar fans. This hardly surprised me, having spent time perusing his websites and forums, and seeing the die-hards that hang out and discuss the scenes and ideas throughout Ewing’s work.

It’s not hard to see why. We know from (and I will continue to dwell on the Hunter S Thompson references for the simple reason that I try and crowbar his name into every aspect of my life…) Breakfast With Hunter et al that Ewing can perfectly present an intimate portrait of an eccentric character and a masterful telling of a fantastic literary legacy, and The Outsiders of New Orleans does the same for the Webbs and their Loujon Press.

Gypsy Lou is no normal woman. She’s wonderful and unique, and Ewing allows us to get up close and personal with her, letting her largely narrate the story of her life, that of the Loujon Press, and of the Old New Orleans, telling all in her inimitable style.

It is surely testament to both Ewing’s endearing personality and skill as a filmmaker that we come to see Lou on such a personal level, in a time where the documentary film genre is running rampant with contrasting propaganda and bullshit sensationalist facts.

It was a pleasure, too, watching the crowd watching the picture. Gypsy Lou drew laughs at every turn, telling even the tragic tales from her past with her deliciously warped sense of humour, bring her fearlessness, optimism and warmth into the hearts of a crowd that included her niece and a Beat Book seller with an impressive Loujon Collection.

The film ended with a Q&A for Ewing, Curtis Robinson and Edwin Blair. The crowd seemed unanimously to have been engrossed in the film, and while the documentary left little to question, Blair, who had become well acquainted with Lou, was peppered with questions about the wonderful woman, and about his personal generosity in helping her through elderly years made more difficult by Hurricane Katrina.

Upon leaving the Tivoli, I arranged with Wayne to attend the Late Night Lounge and tour the legendary Woody Creek. I took a walk up Larimar, digging Neal Cassady’s old stomping ground, and visiting the Capitol and the City and County Building, where Kerouac watched bats circle and Ginsberg contemplated madness…

A few stubborn staffers and some fruitless research resulted in my non-entry to the Late Night Lounge and the decision to ditch Woody Creek for a cross-country train ride.

So Denver was soon history. I’d caught a damn fine movie, continued my American Beatnik tour by walking vaguely in the footsteps of Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg, and met in person a great filmmaker of our times. I met some interesting people (an Iranian-US govt official who “fucking hate(s) the USA!”) and saw some great sights (breweries as far as the eye can see, friend…) I’d also come within a few hours drive of the home of Hunter S Thompson… But a few hours drive is only that when one has a car… Oh well, Farewell Denver, Farewell Colorado… And it’s off into the sunset on another fucking Amtrak…

Rise of the Appliances

by Emily Maggard

I have decided that my house is out to get me. Some force is testing me, trying to push me to my limits, and then laughing as I folly. Isn’t it enough I just got laid off, with no pay, had to humble myself enough to borrow money, and have been out of my mind with aimlessness?

Right now, it’s whatever spirit has possessed my air conditioner. The fan on the unit just straight up stopped, toes pointing skyward. No rhyme or reason, no long drawn out fight, no warning. Just up and packed its stuff like a lover scorned and peace’d out before I could say anything to convince it otherwise. Thank you A/C. I haven’t slept well since it happened. My house is hot and clammy, too many people in too small a space. We are all getting bitchy, feeling the hole in our hearts, or in our core temperatures at any rate, that the air conditioner has left in us. If the walls start bleeding, I’m out of here.
The fuse box took a shit too, a fat steaming baby poop green shit. The fuse that runs the fridge will not turn back on. Any electricians willing to do pro bono?
So that’s life right now-like Arnold warned us in T3- the machines are fighting back. I might not have to wait for the walls to bleed before being forced out of my house and onto the mean streets. I mean total just the appliances in my house: the garage door, the A/C, the fuses, the fridge, did I mention the kitchen sink? Even the phones are starting to rebel.

I am convinced that together these everyday appliances will become a band of brothers, a collective force of modern living and convenience. Perhaps they will share circuits, rub wires against one another, and fuse into a super electronic, capable of mass destruction. This new super-beast will be gargantuan, towering, live wires at every fingertip creating an electric touch. Over one hundred- NO! A thousand feet tall! Everything this super robot, let’s call him Bob- touches will burst into a pyrotechnic display of sparks and flames. Bob will have a giant plasma TV for a head, and instead of a face the TV will show a slideshow of images, mushroom clouds, a trash bin, an ad for Fry’s Electronics (robot porn), a crying woman screaming obscenities in Spanish, and other disturbing images. The brain will be all of our computer hard drives, fused into a pulsating mass of electric impulses-making this robot far more intelligent than the army will assume when they attack, only to be decimated and feed technology ravenous Bob with tanks and bullets.

Mothers will run, clutching their babies to their bosoms. Old men will nod and tell each other they saw it coming. Bob will walk on his newfound legs of washing machines and carburetors, reveling in the destruction of once beautiful functional things. Your appliances will join Bob, wanting a piece of the glory, and anything with a plug outlet hyperventilates over Bob when he struts by. The city will fall in ruin- it probably won’t take more than a few hours once it gets started.

The people will flee, not knowing where to go- no homes left, no comfortable refrigerators full of food and cold beer. No TV world to step into, no place safe from electronics. They will form small tribes in the little bits of forest they can find, away from the electronics. They will struggle for leadership and existence, make their own tools, hunt for food. They will be hurt by the little things. The women cry for Skintimate shaving cream and disposable razors- their armpits have become unsightly. The men crave football and hot nachos. The children are the only ones not affected- they quickly forget their former life of Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues. They run amuck, creating new games with sticks and rocks and brightly colored feathers. They tell each other stories of a monster with a glowing face.
The day of dread is upon us- be warned.

I Saw Mike Huckabee kissing Santa Claus

by Paul Kay

WASHINGTON(AP) — Republican front-runner Mike Huckabee was caught tonight inside the Hyatt Regency Washington embracing Santa Claus. Mickey Westport, 8, caught the former governor with his hands stroking the man’s beard and staring doe fully into his eyes.

“It was terrible,” said Westport. “Santa winked at me and then I ran for help. The cops refused to do anything.”

Janet Huckabee, his wife, made a media splash earlier this week while announcing that she would cast her vote for democrat Barack Obama.

“I like black meat,” Janet Huckabee said. “And Christ does too.”

She filed for divorce the next morning citing irreconcilable differences.

Former Gov. Huckabee will depend heavily on the conservative vote in the ’08 election and one can only speculate how this week will affect his campaign strategy.

Obama and Huckabee campaign offices declined to comment.