BEAT AVENUE

Beat Avenue   (Eric Andersen)   [Albums: Beat Avenue]

 1.

It was high noon in the neighborhood
city fell in shock
the moment when it heard the news

the president had been shot

sun was shinin, nothing shakin
bay so big and blue
me stuck in phone booth
arm-full of wash
tryin to call my gal
across the bay
only to hear -- crackly metal voice say,
try again, sir, all circuits busy
what in the world was going on
I looked around
with a feelin strange and lost
it was haunted in the neighborhood
and gettin spooky fast
startled words became a flood
tongues gathered and soon began to flock
the moment when they heard the news
the president had been shot, shot, shot
me walkin in space whistlin in the dark
I didn’t have a clue
thinkin about a new song
ramblin down Beat Avenue
shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .

 2.

Under mighty blue sky canopy
who come runnin up the hill
but Billy’s cousin Joan
it was the wildest, goofiest thing
(yeah, we had a thing or two)
now she was ziggin, zaggin
middle of the street
comin towards me
arms flailin, horns were honkin
bigger ‘an life
a crazy sight
until she collapsed
on parked car
blond hair spillin
over the hood
she was sobbin, out of breath
lookin up to me
as if to speak
but no sound came
just tears
green-eyed liquid pain
runnin down her face
and low animal groan
comin from somewhere
deep inside her throat
they shot him, man, probably shot him dead
they shot him, man, probably shot him
dead  dead  dead
She gasped for angry words
pulled her off the car
dropped the wash
we started down the hill
talkin gray monotones
all the way to her place
climbed the stairs
switched on the TV
and there was Walter Cronkite
puttin on and takin off his horned-rims
and wipin back his tears
while tryin to utter the unspeakable
“at 1 pm Dallas time...
President Kennedy died
at Parkland Memorial Hospital”
in a ghostly instant
memory fused
wonderin what would happen next
while silence
blew up the room
where to go
what to do?
everybody glued
to the breakin flames
blowin ‘cross the tube
as bad news spread
mouth to mouth
ear to ear
blazin down Beat Avenue
shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .

 3.

Where was Jack
sweet slumber Jack
where was Jack tonight?
sweet, crazy
dumb-saint of the mind
our alter boy
in Northport darkened room
alone, deep in armchair
in front of flickerin blue tube
smellin indifference
in every mantra breath
Mama’s leftover casserole
waits cold on kitchen counter
while fingers make white knuckles
and crush empty beer can
tossin it into trash
Ti-Jean
you found the asphalt eye
and Buddha’s heart
on the road
you were born knowin
and blew as deep as you could blow
born to see
and make it new
you loved and honored life
until it
killed you
now as this day turns black and blue
still it’s me and still it’s you
movin to the dharma
looking down Beat Avenue
shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .

 4.

Where are you, precious Julie?
part-time barmaid, part-time artist model
and full-time kind
where are you tonight
thinkin you were my first
when you closed the bar
found me on the floor
huggin the toilet bowl
we sailed those foggy drunken hills
past tunnel lights and twirlin stars
up Russian Hills
and creaky stairs
to bungalow
candle flame and jasmine
you pulled the dress high over her head
threw the fishnet stockings
on the chair
study of black on black
then next
me now sunk low in tub
of warm fragrant waters
scented fingers memorizin
bones of my white body
spells of deep opium
kisses
gleams from your olive eyes
from loins of gold
I tasted the perfume
of your morphine flesh
hair of chestnut flames
made a tent that
tumbled down your breast
a Modigliani . . .
fallin free from the frame
my every boyish wish came true
a living odalisque
you proved again what
Georges Clemençeau once said
that the greatest sin there is,
is a soul
that lacks warmth
that wasn’t one of yours,
my love
while we drifted
on the drunken boat
sheltered from the blues
you holdin me
me holdin you
floatin soft and true
chasin my Van Gogh
driftin down Beat Avenue
shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .

 5.

Before the Coffee Gallery
and Julie’s foggy rides
I played in North Beach
streets and doorways
playin for wine and coins
a skinny wide-eyed kid
to JC’s’ lonesome blues
with Gregory beatin shoebox time
JC blew the harp
JC Burris was his name
Sonny Terry’s Georgia nephew
with a big scar
runnin ‘cross his . . . neck
everyone saw that
he taught me how to kill a man
with just one hand around
the throat
Whoa, JC Burris
you blew for all
street was your stage
where you taught me the hand jive
we played for cash and jugs of wine
one night across the Golden Gate
you sang and cried
500 miles...  500 miles. . .
Lord, I’m 500 miles from my home
when I played my payin gig
you would stand outside and wait
we’d sometimes
sometimes split the take
then one night
after closin time
the Big Chill
you disappeared
maybe gone for good
got up and split one day
to where I never knew
you learn fast when things
just come and go
up and down Beat Avenue
shot  shot  shot  shot

 6.

So I headed for the Haight
for a poetry read that night
went up with my singin poet friend
David Meltzer and his wife, Tina,
David was a moonlight City Light book clerk
and was heard to say-
the mystery is the ordinary
and the ordinary
is the mystery
and there ain’t no such thing
as “coolsville”
climbed those creaky stairs
and sat in blackened room
dull light strung over little stage
Allen Ginsberg just returned
from Buddha’s jukebox
Calcutta and Saigon
he’d been diamond sutra’d
Banged and cocked
now he was on Columbus Ave.
swathed in smilin white
but tonight the air was sick and bruised
he was dressed in black
after poets recited stuff
Allen stood and read
all nerve and breath
olive-wreathed
paper in his hand
his words spit rage
he sang of dharma boomerangs
and karmic kickback
of open graves
and worms crawling out of
assholes
of dead presidents
in a haunted room of silhouettes
we were perched along the void
while McClure stood under
naked landing bulb
Ferlinghetti
deep in thought
fingers strokin chin
and restless Neal
stalkin his shadow
along the wall
we watched from the abyss
as hope burned into ashes
while Allens’s words gunned down
all sorrow in the room
the world caved in
the room breathed out
every word rang
hard and true
howlin down Beat Avenue
shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . . shot

 7.

Now the image of pink
and a burned-out star
pale in TV grays
a wave, a smile
an open car
Camelot’s skull got
shattered into pieces
then a tarmac
on a field called “Love”
we saw her standin there
a woman in the noonday Dallas sun
in blood-spattered pink suit
her face told it all
that a dream had died
and gone to shit
rainin ashes on our hearts
freezin winds just blew
blew the flames apart
shattered like the scattered leaves
blowin blood
blowin down Beat Avenue shot . . .
shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . . shot

 8.

It was in the midnight hour
drivin rag-tag through hills
to Ferlinghetti’s bastion
up steep steps
I look behind
and see the black bay below
surrounded by
gleaming jewels on black velvet
connected by
neckaces of sparkling bridges
everythin looked the same
and now nothin was the same
we all stumbled down
Victorian corridor
to back kitchen
Allen near Formica counter
stark naked by the sink
wearin only beard and
trademark horned-rims
oak table groaning with cheap jug wine
air is thick with weed
Allen sits next to me
on neighbor woman’s lap
we’re talking quietly
amongst ourselves
in somber tones
feel a little too good
on a night like this
Neal Cassady appears
standin in front of fridge
head bowed down
clutchin a shoe box
full of clean
Mexican weed
not a seed or stem in sight
standin taut-jawed
talkin to no one
not even himself
raw-boned
Juárez jailbird
in redline fever night
all knitted brow
smiling sweetly,
shy . . .
like a girl
Tina rolls a massive joint
from tissue thin Chinese newspaper
like a rocket
travelin hand to hand
smoke drifts over
cheap jug wine and cans
of Green Death Rainier ale
then I gotta pee
I go down hall to the toilet
when from behind the door
comes soft, desperate knockin
I zip up quick
standin in doorway
I see a naked holy man
holdin cereal bowl
full of wine and puke
I step aside
as he carefully pours
gut-freed vomit alms
in porcelain bowl
I see and smell
wretch and blood
soul-nausea and cheap
red wine
just the holy man and me
standin in the loo
waitin for the shoe to drop
as the ice just
grew and grew
shiverin down Beat avenue

 9.

The days wore thin
white December days
mist froze to my face
like tears
just walkin to keep warm and kill time
wanderin Telegraph, San Pablo
Berkeley avenues
into Oakland wasteland
past thrift shop desolation
abandoned railroad tracks
overgrown docks
seein shaky hands warming
over flames in oil drums
Oooooh, it’s cold
beneath long Calvary
strings of power lines
above storefront churches
salvation army dreams
walkin to the strains
of Lightnin’s blues
ah, to go back
far from the fog and misery
yeah, I left my home
a diamond fire
burnin in my head
saddled on the hobo steed
to ride the blazin
blazin rainbow rails
to a paradise
with a terrible urge and longin
to go back to someplace warm
a place like home
safe from jungle wars
a place like New York City
fly down like an angel
over buildings and bones
and try ‘n change the world
before it started changin me
changin me
so I turn to face the rails
collar to the wind
see the lonesome road
goodbye Julie
goodbye fog
City Lights, Vesuvio’s
Hot dog palace
Market Street
gonna cross that bridge of sighs
so if ya hear me singin
Lightnin’s Rocky Mountain Blues
if ya’ hear me singin
Lightnin’s Rocky Mountain Blues
know I’m back out on the road again
farewell…
Beat Avenue
farewell, Beat Avenue
farewell, Beat Avenue
farewell, Beat Avenue
farewell . . .

shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .
    shot . . .  shot . . .  shot . . .

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Blue Rockin Chair    (Eric Andersen)   [Albums: Beat Avenue]

Goin down to the henhouse
down to where my chickens lay
see if the eggs are hatchin
that’s what the rooster say

Went out to my stable
to find my pony there
she left me for the station
I couldn’t find her anywhere

Goin back into the kitchen
Check on my jelly roll
   (I smell somethin cookin . . .)
I said, if you’re bakin any doughnuts, baby,
Oh, don’t let them holes get cold

Hey mama, now look at this
Who’s on the levee doin the double twist
Come on in, you’re gettin dirty now
You’re tryin to be a bad girl but you don’t know how
Wild women they don’t worry
Wild women know what to do
Wild women they don’t worry
Ah, wild women don’t get the blues

(Now boys, listen to this)
Can always tell your woman’s
got a new man on the scene
now, your meals ain’t never regular
and your house ain’t never clean

(Now, listen to me…)
You always know your mama
when she holdin someone tight
she don’t pick up her mobile
she don’t come home at night

I’m leavin you, pretty baby
let’s shake hand in hand
gonna find me another woman
Oh, better find another man

Hey baby, look at this
Out on the levee doin the double twist
Come on in, you’re gettin dirty now
You’re trying to be a bad girl but you don’t know how
Wild women they don’t worry
Whoa, they know what to do
Wild women they don’t worry
Oh, wild women don’t get the blues

Don’t the night feel lost and lonesome
when that lonely whistle blows
don’t that road look rough and rocky
Oh, when you’re lost out in the cold

Now I’m lookin for a woman
who’s lookin for a low-down man
ain’t nobody in this town
can get more low-down than I can

Sittin in my blue chair
rockin on the porch
Whoa, my eyes keep lookin southward
but my mind keeps lookin north

Come on, walk with me awhile

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All songs by Eric Andersen.
© Wind and Sand Music

Return to the Eric Andersen Page.
Last revised: Jan 2007.