San Francisco, 1968-69
This unpublished text is about living in Diane di Prima’s quasi-communal house in Haight-Ashberry the winter after the Summer of Love. What makes it Chinese is that in those days we were throwing oracles from the “I Ching” to help us figure out our lives: a number of these oracles appear in the book and may seem to shape it.
I am convinced there is some value in this writing, although the prose is flat, a stylistic choice that reflects my state of mind too well. I had burned out in New York and fled. It was too much—too much confusion, too many conflicts of interest—to be reviewing plays and writing them and producing and directing them and doing lights for them all at the same time. I had been keeping up by popping pills and sniffing amphetamine, but speed turns mean, and the only way I could think to quit was by getting away, changing the circumstances, taking the pressure off. The book reflects my vague and wounded passivity. I had enough money saved to limp along for a few months. Diane supported the house (her four children plus half a dozen adults) by shutting herself up in the front room and knocking out pages of “Memoirs of a Beatnik,” a pornographic memoir commissioned by Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, who paid for chapters as she sent them in.
Diane and her husband Alan Marlowe were students of Shunruyu Suzuki, and a VW busload of us drove across town before dawn most days to sit zazen at the Zen Center. Otherwise nothing much happened. I was not working, not really doing anything. If there was theatre in San Francisco I never saw it. This document begins as my abandoned lover Johnny Dodd comes west to act in the movie Tom O’Horgan directed of “Futz,” with most of the original actors from La Mama, and I go down to Los Angeles to see him. I went back to San Francisco and built myself a clavichord. Diane and Alan broke up. The Living Theatre came through, its nonviolent pacifism painfully out of tune with the confrontational mood of the movement of the moment. In the spring I went back to New York with Johnny, free of speed, a little more Buddhist, otherwise none the wiser.