says the man next to me with a slightly interrogative inflection, while we are both looking at a photo of Dylan taken by Alan Ginsberg at the show of Ginsberg’s photos at the Nat’l Gallery. He is a beefy guy with a crew cut, wearing chinos and a polo shirt. He looks like he’s maybe one of the thousands of police officers from around the country who are here for “Police Week.” Lots of police wives are taking a break from the demos and competitions to look at the impressionist and modern paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. Maybe he just got a little farther west than he had intended.
I smile at him in a way that I hope seems welcoming and open, yet does not actually convey agreement with his statement. I wonder how he felt about the photos ofd the Orlovsky brothers. I am at the exhibit on my lunch hour for the first of what will likely be a number of visits.
The Beats are an important part of my identity. My parents met in Greenwich Village in the late fifties — my mother dabbling as an artist, my father involved in peace activism, the places they frequented also frequented by the beats. My great Aunt H’s favorit book in those days allegedly was “On the Road.”
As a teenager, I relished and romanticized this part of my history. In so doing I read widely not only the writings of the Beats, but also what they were reading, which included the great Hindu and Buddhist texts. To want to discover the illumination of the Beats was to explore Eastern philosophy and mysticism and to meditate and practice yoga.
“No,” I thought to myself, “I’ve never connected the word ‘strange’ to Bob Dylan. Maybe when I get home I”ll play me some before I sit to meditate.”