Ed Bowers: Tenderloin author

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When I first started going out to readings again at the Paradise Lounge and Brainwash in San Francisco Ed Bowers was the most noticeable presence that I encountered. With a delivery reminiscent of William S. Burroughs' spoken word performances and with a dry sardonic aura to match I wanted to pay attention to what Ed had to say. Doing so I found that Mr. Bowers was also an accomplished master of prose English, seemed to be well read and had been around a bit. His cynicism was beautiful and neither affected nor immature. His comfortable world-weariness was tempered however by a sense of mordant humor and low-key compassion. Ed Bowers had something to say and he could say it well. Older than many of the poets, writers and performers that haunt San Francisco's open mike culture, Ed observed the world around him wryly contributing his insights to The Central City Extra, a community newspaper that focuses on San Francisco's Tenderloin District. The Tenderloin has the distinction of being the  much maligned rough heart of San Francisco where poverty and struggle nestle in the shadow of Patrician Nob Hill and the buzz of the Financial District and Union Square.  As is usual with such places there is often more than meets the eye as Ed will point out. I talked to Ed Bowers in his mid-Market Street apartment.

JD: What do you do?

EB: I'm a writer. I write about what I know. Like what they all do if they're any good -- they write about what they know. How are you going to write about something you don't know? Just make it up?

JD: That's what they did with religion.

EB: [laughs] Well I studied that for twenty years actually. I gave up writing when I was 21 and I studied various forms of meditative practices and spiritual disciplines for twenty years -- over twenty years. It was very fruitful. I studied Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Kashmir Shivaism. These techniques are both physical and spiritual. In Mahayana Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism they have sutras and tantras. Tantras are psycho-experimental practices and sutras are sort of the game plan for this type of thing: the blue print and theory. I was involved mostly with tantra. I had actual psychic experiences with these methods.

JD: How did you get interested in these meditation techniques?

EB: Oh please stick with writing here. I'm not a guru. I got involved with it because I was always interested. When I was 16 I read this book on Yoga that said: "You are not your body or your mind." The life I had at that point was horrible and this point of view helped save my life.

JD: Where did you come from originally?

EB: Vernon, New York. I was bullied and tortured for nineteen years. My father was crazy and my mother was a very passive woman and everybody beat me up at school and just humiliated me for fucking nineteen years. It's a very mean place. You don't want to be different there because if you are you're… it's probably like a lot of places in America. I mean if there was one of me there's a million others. I don't know what those kids in Columbine went through but I can understand if they went through what I went through why they did what they did.

JD: How did you end up in San Francisco?

EB: My marriage broke up and I lost everything I had been working for over a period of eighteen years.

JD: What were you doing before you became a full-time writer?

EB: I was a security guard.

JD: You were telling me about some shrine you encountered on your job in one of the high-rises downtown. Which building was that?

EB: Five seventy-five Market.

JD: It was a shrine to the elephant headed Hindu god Ganesha.

EB: Oh I told you about all of that. The building is located on a power spot. I had all of these wonderful meditation experiences there -- not on drugs or anything like that -- everybody thinks you have to be on drugs to have a good meditation experience but basically you have the best meditation experiences without drugs. Meditation is a good thing. It doesn't make you a happy person or anything because you still have to come back here, to this shit hole, but the fact is I had a beautiful experience at 575 that was also very scary. They ended up closing down the space where I had this experience. It was an area in one of the top floors. They ripped the whole place up. They let me come up once after that and it was all sealed up. They had installed alarms after it had been renovated. I used to go up on my break. My breaks were long because the person who gave me my break was so tired from working two jobs that she would fall asleep and would call me back when she woke up. I didn't care. I went up there and there was a statue of Ganesha for two weeks in this spot. Beneath the statue of Ganesha was a coffee table with a magazine on it with a picture of Ebenezer Scrooge on the cover and the words "Greed is Good." There is such a thing as evil and people don't understand that. Evil is very powerful.

JD: Who were the people that put the statue there? The corporation?

EB: Yeah the Chevron people. They like to buy up art. They buy up power spots. They buy up everything as far as I'm concerned.

JD: Do you think they believe in power spots or Ganesha?

EB: I don't think it's a conscious thing. I don't think they know what the hell they're doing. I think they're drones.

JD: What about Bechtel [petro-chemical/construction firm that has been awarded a number of Middle-Eastern infrastructure contracts]? Do they have their building on a power spot down on Beale?

EB: I've never worked at Bechtel. The Bechtel people used to come into Chevron. They were assholes but they're all assholes.

JD: What kind of insight did you get on the corporate world working from an outsider, lowly position?

EB: Oh Ken Derr, the Chairman of the Board once gave us a memo. He said, in the memo, if he could fire everyone in the building and still make money he would. They don't care about anything but money obviously. These people are not Mother Theresa. They're junkies. They're addicted to money but they're very sensitive people. You have to be very careful around them. They think they own the world. Sort of like a Christian parable about the devil. They just think they own the world. Actually they do own the world.

JD: [laughs]

EB: They do! They own the world, man. Why do you think we're in Iraq? They own it.

JD: What attracts you to the writings of Louis Ferdinand Celine and William S. Burroughs?

EB: Well they reflect my mind-set and they're beautiful. Honest, deeply spiritual writers. Well Celine was a son-of-a-bitch. Celine was a motherfucker. He went crazy. He was a Nazi at the end there.

            Burroughs was a deeply spiritual writer. I wish people would read him because they just look at his reputation -- his fucked up life or something -- and become fascinated by that. I used to go to his readings: I went to one in North Beach, one at the Market Street Cinema before it became a porn place. He was a very controlled person. He was a very, very disciplined person and a deeply spiritual man with a lot of problems but people were attracted to his sensationalism like a rock star. "Oh he shot his wife by accident" or "he was a heroin addict." That is not important. In spite of these things, like Miles Davis, who was a real screw-up himself, he continued to write and perform and create on a very high level. That is the important thing. The rest is just absolute nonsense. A lot of people have messed up lives and don't do a damn thing for the world.

JD: Good point. Can you talk a little about your journalism and what you've observed in the life of the Tenderloin. You were telling me something about transsexual and transvestite hookers practicing Santeria.

EB: That was just a minor thing. I meet people in bars and I want to interview them. I'm not going to interview this particular person I was talking about. She got knocked on her ass by a friend of mine who was a prostitute. It's a long story. They're violent people sometimes. They just fuck up or something. They got all these hormones in them and everything and they're part man, part woman, they don't know what's going on. Women have enough problems. I'm reading this book called Sex, Time and Power. I'm trying to figure out what my ex-wife was going through and holy cow man! Talk about drugs! Women have drugs going through them like crazy. Menstrual problems, menopause problems, ovulation problems -- holy cow! They were born on acid. That's the way it goes. Just learn to deal with it I guess.

JD: How long have you been reading live?

EB: Well I came here and didn't know anybody. I moved to San Francisco from East Bay to this place here on Market the first night after the break up of my second marriage. I listened to all the screaming outside and decided that I couldn't stay here but now I love it more than any place I've ever lived in. So I adapted. Maybe like a Vietnam veteran or something. I talked to some guys who went to Vietnam and they just hated it the first time but then they asked to come back the second time and then the third time as they went back again they really wanted to stay there.

            But as I was saying I didn't know anybody. I was walking around the bars when I didn't know the bars around here and I bumped into Bambi Lake at a Polk Street bar that was friendly. It was a gay bar and I think they thought I was gay but I'm not. I bumped into Bambi Lake and she took me to the Paradise Lounge. I had written a book about Bambi Lake. I had written a novel because I had seen a picture of her in a newspaper in Oakland when I was living there and she had such a strange face. I thought she was a woman when I saw her face. She had been doing a reading in some porn theater or something. I thought she was a woman man!

            I wrote the novel, which is lost now, and I turned her into a six foot six transvestite who had a multiple personality disorder which turns out was right on the mark. She took me to the Paradise Lounge and introduced me falsely as her boyfriend. I thought okay this is how you have to get it together in San Francisco as a writer. You have to get up and make a fool out of yourself. I didn't have that much to read out loud -- two quarters of a novel I'd written -- so I went home and wrote a bunch of poetry. I found the Paradise Lounge a very annoying place but then I got involved with Diamond Dave and he brought me to Brainwash and I was writing more and more and more, reading my poetry there and people liked it. It was a calmer place than the Paradise. Much more relaxing. I was intent on being a writer to save my life. Working eighteen years and living a lie you have to do something. I went back to writing after decades of giving it up.

JD: What do you take your inspiration from?

EB: Music: Coltrane, Mingus, Charlie Parker. Lots of jazz musicians. I became an expert on jazz by the time I was 17. The first time I got published was through John Sinclair in Work Magazine. I was in Vernon but I had all these connections with all these underground magazines because I was really getting into it. I was sending away for them and I got this Work Magazine. The piece I wrote was a very surrealistic story about how I thought marijuana should be legalized. That was a long, long time ago. There was a second piece but then Sinclair got popped for selling a joint to an undercover cop. After that I didn't get published anymore because his brother thought my stuff was too funky. You know Sinclair? The MC-5?

JD: The White Panther Party.

EB: Good.

JD: They just premiered a documentary about the MC-5 over at the Castro.

EB: Oh really?

JD: Yeah two thirty-something punk rockers from Detroit (maybe older than that I don't know) spent eight years getting this thing together. They can only release the film in San Francisco and one other place the last I heard because they couldn't afford to pay the royalties for the songs. Actually they were able to pay the royalties for featuring the songs in a film festival but not for wide-distribution.

EB: Oh man.

JD: They can't even release it in Detroit unless they've gotten around this situation since I first learned of it. The Sinclair arrest is in the film.

EB: Yeah but he was blowing shit up too you know. I mean he was blowing up draft induction places and they were scared of him. They knew he was going to kill somebody. You have to have some sense. I heard he's a lot more mature now but you can't just go around blowing up places thinking: "Well we just killed a security guard but who cares? It's all in the name of the Revolution." That's bullshit.

JD: Especially since you're a security guard.

EB: Especially since I'm a human being. You're not going to hurt anybody at the top by doing stuff like that.

JD: No.

EB: Believe me.

JD: What is your take on something like 9/11 -- that is skyscrapers as terrorist targets because your income is based in the towers?

EB: Not anymore it's not. [laughs]

JD: Well… I'm curious here.

EB: Well my take is my ex-wife called me up and said -- guess what? They just flew a plane into the Pentagon. I said "Well you know how much I like the Pentagon." Then she says "They just crashed a plane into one of the Twin Towers." Oh yeah? So I got this one television that doesn't work -- it belongs to my mother-in-law. My ex-wife promised that I would never get rid of it. I've got a painting in front of it that I got that somebody left in my hall -- nice painting -- but the other one gets very bad reception. Well I turned that thing on. I watched the second tower get banged into and it fell and I was wow! So then I went outside after an hour to see what the reaction was. Nobody gave a shit. [laughs] We were still here in San Francisco.

            I went to my favorite bar later and either everyone was blaming this event on the Jews or they were blaming it on the Arabs, but nobody cared except for one guy. This Afro-American young man was concerned until he went to call his mother in New York to see if she was all right and she was, so he was smiling and he didn't give a shit. Nobody cared. Who the fuck cares? People get killed all the time. In Somalia right now there're hundreds of thousands of children with swollen stomachs who are dying. I mean who gives a fuck? Americans are children. They're children. I mean come on! They already wiped out Africa with the slave trade. They buried Chinese people alive after they built the rail roads and now they're worried about this? Come on.

JD: You can't live your life if you're always worried about people dying.

EB: I know. That's right. You can't. The Twin Towers fall down boom, bang. They didn't get as upset by Timothy McVeigh blowing up the Federal Building. In fact a lot of people were sympathetic to him actually. Why? Because he was a white boy with blonde hair. It's horse shit. It's too bad what happened but there's always going to be psychos in the world who are going to try to do something and that's why they have people that try to keep them from doing it but sometimes things happen. I can go down the street and get stabbed. It happens all the time. It happened in the bar the other day and I wrote the story I gave to you about it. I turned it into something that's a metaphor for geo-political politics. When somebody's really drunk at the bar you have to be really careful of that person especially when his girlfriend leaves -- when she gets 86'ed out of the bar and leaves that person behind. When that happens everybody descends on him like he's not part of the human race -- and he's got a knife!

JD: You were telling me you were involved in some kind of outreach program where rich people get to learn what it's like to not have any money.

EB: Yeah that was the Faithful Fools thing. The Faithful Fools are a very creative organization. They have Bob Nielson doing acting classes for them. He makes movies about people in the Tenderloin and produces plays. All kinds of things like that. He's involved with the Sundance Film Festival. The Faithful Fools teach Zen meditation and they help people who come to them. All you have to do is show up there and they do what they can for you. They work seven days a week and they live there. They're deeply, deeply  spiritual people. The program you were asking about involves them showing people from the Unitarian Church on Cathedral Hill what it's like to be homeless so that they can get some understanding of this situation. The participants go out and walk around as if they were homeless. It works. I didn't need it because I'm a writer. I can get into people's minds. I can imagine what it's like to be homeless without having to go out into the streets but a lot of people can't do that. They have limited imaginations. Not everybody's a writer.

            I used to correct the essays of people when I lived in a dorm in Binghamton, New York. These were engineering students. They were brilliant at math but they couldn't write their way out of a paper bag. Some of those essays I could only get them B's on man. How can you fix something that's completely broken? [laughs]

            People have individual talents. Unfortunately writers aren't really respected in this society because everybody thinks anybody can write but that's not really true. Not everybody can.

JD: I agree with that. Not many people can make language musical. Could you tell me a little bit more about the Faithful Fools?

EB: Yeah. It's run by a Franciscan nun and a Unitarian minister: Sister Carmen and Kay Jorgensen who is the Unitarian minister. They were both sort of disenfranchised by their environments. Kay was disenfranchised with working at the Unitarian Church because she would always see these people who were homeless sleeping there and they had to move them. She saw this as a separation between those who were completely down and out and those who were supposedly spiritual and had money. They wanted to bring them together so they could have some sort of interface where they'd be communicating with each other, realize each other's humanity and be able to help each other. It's just not a question of the rich condescending to the poor while trying to help these poor bastards out, it's a question of both groups being able to help each other: very valuable idea. The liberal kind of thing is where you condescend to someone and try to get them into your cult. Instead, in this program, you have the groups merging. You end up understanding each other and try to help each other. You try to understand each other in any way possible.

JD: So you told me the affluent participants would show up and the Fools would take all their money from them, out of their pockets, and…

EB: Then the participants would walk around the streets in the Tenderloin.

JD: So what do you do then?

EB: You go to soup kitchens. You just hang around the streets and you meet people. If you hang out on these streets and you walk around and you stop you're going to meet somebody. You're going to see a lot of stuff out there that you've never seen before if you live in Pacific Heights or Russian Hill. It's a good eye-opener especially since a lot of the people who get involved are very young.

JD: How did you get involved in The Central City Extra?

EB: That was Diamond Dave Whitaker. He talked to Geoff Link and suggested I write for him. Then I met Geoff and we started and that was it. Two of the nicest guys I ever met in San Francisco.

JD: What gaps does The Central City Extra fill?

EB: It gives an accurate and clear picture of what the Tenderloin is like and in a positive way too. I don't interview anybody I don't like. I find this a beautiful neighborhood: a deeply human and beautiful neighborhood. People just look at the Tenderloin and think: "Oh this is garbage!" but it's not. This is a great place that's full of life -- and death. In American we've come to this place where you go and sit and watch in movies or on TV what you don't have enough nerve to go through in real life. I don't know what it is. The movies have sold people out. They used to have good movies. Movies were better in the old days. Well the movies in the seventies were good movies.

JD: I agree.

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EB: [laughs] But now we watch these special effects things and all this horror and then you want to go back to your house and fall asleep and everything has to be perfect. You just watched a movie where fifteen people got slaughtered and there's panic everywhere. Or you watch movies about people shooting up heroin or something and then you go back to your place and worry about the drug addict. I don't know what the hell… It's really addicting that kind of thing. It's like drugs. You can't have it both ways. If you're going to be addicted to these kinds of things you're going to have to pay the price. And it's almost like people just want to go to sleep after watching these movies. I don't blame them. They're working these meaningless jobs. I hope I don't get another job in my life. Christ! [laughs] I've never had a decent job in my life. Oh man I've seen some tragedies on these jobs. Security guards and janitors -- people like that -- they don't get any respect in this country.

JD: This country doesn't respect shit anymore. Well that's probably not true but there seems to be a tendency…

EB: They respect money. If you're smart enough to make money then you're smart. That's a specialized smart. I can't handle money but there are people who are absolute idiots that can handle money and they become millionaires. They're seen as being smart and they get a lot of respect. That's a fact.

JD: Do you think it's going to stay this way?

EB: I certainly hope it doesn't stay this way but if it does there's nothing I can do about it but continue writing and fighting. The aspect of a spiritual warrior is very dear to my heart. I don't live with hope. Hope is an illusion.

JD: Do you live with despair?

EB: No. Despair is a very melodramatic illusion. You don't need hope. You already have everything you need.

JD: Some of the people I spoke with talked about the earth and nature as a source of life and maybe even truth -- although I could maybe be reading into the second category -- you said that you don't like nature, that it's cruel. I found that difference entertaining.

EB: Yeah I was brought up in nature -- the country. I didn't have any friends so I just walked around the country all the time. I've seen all the country I need to see. I'm sorry but it's not very nice. Nature's not nice actually. It's very cruel. I wouldn't recommend sentimentalizing nature. It's pretty because you're a human being and you're looking out at it from the top of the food chain. You're looking down on it. The other critters out there are fighting for their lives. Lions are very beautiful but they kill their cubs, the cubs of the lioness from a previous mate and they rip a new asshole to the lion that wants to be an alpha lion and isn't. It's not very pleasant from a human perspective.

JD: I don't see how that's very different from human behavior.

EB: [laughs] Yeah well you have this little thing on top of your brain and that's what people should think with but don't. You have the limbic system that is one of the older parts of the brain, located down around the brain stem, and many people think with that instead. In evolution that's the lizard part of ourselves. The lizards care only about sex and eating each other or whatever they can get a hold of. When people smoke crack the limbic system is what gets stimulated. Alcohol, incidentally is what I use to get off with -- I don't know what it does beyond being a pain-killer. On the subject though there're all these different parts of the brain that come from evolution. There's this little tiny one up there that if people thought out of more maybe the world would be a better place, but unfortunately they don't. People also think with their hearts. If they put their hearts together with that top portion of the mind maybe things would be better but they don't -- the people in power certainly don't.

JD: How long were you in New Orleans for?

EB: Two years.

JD: Did you move here from there?

EB: No I moved here from New York. I got married the first time and then dropped out of college and ended up in New Orleans. I had a lot of problems. I was agoraphobic, paranoid -- I had a lot of problems that I hadn't dealt with. I gave up writing and dealt with those problems. I mean I had every mental case in the book when I was living there and needed to get out. New Orleans is an incredibly racist place and people will just get in your face when you're on the street and being agoraphobic that wasn't a nice environment.

            Another thing was I had no real friends there. The people I was introduced to were people who worked for banks and had white-collar jobs. They were nice people but they bored the hell out of me.

JD: You said you were pushing a hot dog cart down there.

EB: Yeah I did that. Got fired. Right after I got mugged actually.

JD: In the French Quarter?

EB: Yeah it was in the French Quarter. What a horrible job. We had these… everyday we'd line up and we'd wait for these gasoline heaters to heat up the hot dogs because most of the heaters we'd start out with were screwed up. The smart guys who had been there for a while, most of them knew where to go. The rest of us didn't so we'd get all these heaters and light them up under the hot dog thing and almost get immolated. They would blow up in our faces.

JD: So this was like a propane tank as opposed to canned heat?

EB: Yeah it was gasoline. By the time you got through putting the gasoline in the heater the stuff would be all over your hands. So you're going out there and serving people a hot dog with gasoline all over it.

            There would be these little black kids who'd come up and ask me to store their material under my wagon so I'd let them and then they'd leave. They worked for this white guy who was in the business of having them steal bicycles. They'd do these stupid little tap dances for tourists and stuff. It's a mean city. Very racist. I finally got mugged. I went down the alley where we went to get supplies, because I ran out of stuff, and I got mugged. I found my boss in the bar -- six sheets to the wind -- he was pissed at me because I got mugged and I had all this change in my pocket so he just fired me. Later one of these hot dog managers got shot gunned to death in the warehouse. There are a lot of not very nice people down there.

JD: All the evil in America flows down the Mississippi and collects beneath Lake Porchartrain.

EB: [laughs]Yeah I used to go down to the Mississippi around three in the morning just to watch it. Some guy started chopping off people's heads there so I stopped going.

JD: There's a lot of weird magic down there.

EB: Yeah, voodoo stores and what have you.

JD: I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about all the diverse cultures that converge and conflict there: Carribean, Southern US, Portugese, French, Spanish, African, Indian, freaks, voodoo.

EB: I could handle it all now but then my nerves were shot. I'd probably like it actually. I moved out of New Orleans though when I had enough. I moved to Buffalo. From Buffalo I moved to Binghamton, New York to finish my last year of college. I moved from there to Berkeley where I stayed for a few months until I broke up with my wife. I moved to Oakland and then San Francisco in the early eighties. I lived at Haight and Central for a while and had some fun there. About that time I met my second wife and we moved back to Oakland, to her place. Then I found out my first wife's husband was a child molester and he had gone to jail so I had to move to Stockton to help out with my son. The child molester used to fly the American flag everyday at his house and had a picture of Ronald Reagan on his refrigerator. He was a piece of shit [laughs].

JD: That sounds like Stockton.

EB: Oh Stockton is terrible. Stockton is the armpit of this state. Totally violent place. There were so many crazy motherfuckers in Stockton you wouldn't believe it.

JD: I would believe it. I had a guy with a muscle shirt and a swastika tattoo get in my cab the other day and say "I'm from Stockton man, where can I get some speed around here?"

EB: Exactly! [laughs] Oh speed is big in Stockton. My son used to hang out with a speed dealer there. The dealer knew how to cook the stuff. He was a cool guy -- a black guy in his fifties. There's a lot of speed in Stockton, a lot of violence. A lot of upper-middle class people too. That creates this weird contradiction. It was sort of like that movie by what's his name -- Blue Velvet.

JD: David Lynch.

EB: Yeah. [laughs] It's a lot like Blue Velvet.

JD: Most of the Central Valley, if not much of small town America, from Redding to Bakersfield, is like Blue Velvet. I grew up there.

EB: From Stockton we moved back to Oakland and had nothing but economic problems. You can't live a simple life in this country. Economics breaks up people. I wanted to be a writer and she needed her dogs -- four Great Danes. Mental illness breaks up people in this country too. My wife has finally admitted that she's bipolar. She's probably not all there but she's going to deal with it as best she can -- being herself. She doesn't want to get on medication or anything like that so… I finally came back to San Francisco in 2000.

JD: What's the theme of the book you're working on?

EB: Oh it's me as the narrator then I've got this other stuff in there as well. Part of it is "A Child's Story" which is a pseudo-memoir kind of thing. Then I've got this serial killer which is based on the Soul Catcher who was running around Hunter's Point a few years ago killing people for hire because he thought he could put their souls inside of himself. Then there's a guy  who used to play football in high school as a second stringer. This character was based on a friend of mine who was an alcoholic who drank himself to death. The character in my novel falls in love with black women because he went to a whore house when he was 16 years old and the person he had sex with was this black prostitute. Black women, however, wouldn't have anything to do with him. He fell in love with Chinese women because of pornography but Chinese women wouldn't have anything to do with him either so he decides to become a Chinese woman -- this Chinese man who becomes a transvestite. He hooks up with this serial killer and they have an affair [laughs]… I know this sounds strange but…

JD: No stranger than Salmon Rushdie's Satanic Verses.

EB: Is he still under house arrest or something?

JD: I don't think so. I don't think fundamentalist Islam is quite what it was two years ago.

EB: I don't think so.

JD: But I don't run in those circles. So you're living on unemployment right now?

EB: Yeah. I've gotten more work done since I've gone on unemployment. I know that sounds weird but I'm doing all kinds of things. I'm publishing things for Central City. I've got this novel which is about 340 pages now. I've got these interviews. I write more deeply. Work more. More productive over all. I just wish they'd pay me to stay away because I'm really not that useful in society. It's just a waste of space having me stand there. The last job I had was brutal. A friend of mine had a nervous breakdown in front of all these people. It's brutal working for Boston Properties at the Embarcadero. When you see those security guards at the Embarcadero know one thing -- they're all in pain. Their feet hurt. When they get home they can hardly walk. Boy oh boy. They're working for pieces of shit.

The guy in charge of the security used to a top ranking police officer in San Francisco. The cops here are all under a great deal of stress so I don't want to put them down. Being a cop is a very special job. The cops did a good job at the bar I was in the other day. They picked this guy up who was really dangerous and let him go once he calmed down. Everybody shits on cops but basically it's a blue-collar job and the funny thing is San Francisco used to be a blue-collar town. If Gavin Newsom or somebody like that gets in they'll run everybody out. I'll be living in Oakland or Hayward and commuting here to do jobs for the rich. I'm not putting down any cop or anybody who risks their lives out there. That's an absolute cliché. That's hippy bullshit.


JD: Have you ever thought of being a librarian?

EB: Librarian: boring. It's just boring. You have to get up when people want you to get up. I could care less. No. It's just not exciting enough for an adrenaline freak like me. I like things that are edgy. I thought about being a member of a violent crime/homicide clean-up crew. After all I've been through I could handle that very well. Head goes here, arm goes there.

JD: You have to handle a lot of toxic substances and wear a lot of gear.

EB: Probably a pain in the ass right. All I want to do is be a writer.

JD: Could you elaborate on your idea of compassion.

EB: My idea of compassion focuses on my writing. When I'm writing I'm not always writing from my point-of-view. For instance, I've seen people reading their poems at Brainwash and many of them are basically sermons. When I'm writing I'm providing someone else's point of view as opposed to my own. What my point-of-view is I don't know. I'm just empathizing with someone else's mindset and including myself in someone's mind. When you're writing you're putting yourself into somebody else but they are not you. When you finish writing about them you get the hell out. It's like making love. When you enter someone's body or something -- a woman's body or something -- you explore all the different aspects of the mind and body of her but you don't stay there forever otherwise you will both get sick. Even if you were born into that body you can't stay there longer than nine months otherwise you will die.

            That's what I do. I do as much good as I can to express somebody else's perceptions so they aren't alone -- somebody else shares their mindset and there's a connection there through the act of writing. That's very compassionate. That's how writers and musicians build shared experiences and give them to others. 

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And Now For Some Jazz Played For You In The Morgue Ten Minutes Before A Disgruntled Employee Puts A Tag On Your Toe
An Essay Written While Listening To Charles Mingus Live At Antibes

By Ed Bowers

Where is my generation?
Allen Ginsberg's went bloop bam zip,
But my generation is a question mark.
I knew them well but they rejected me.

Is my generation hiding from me now?
Are they like the Ma Barker gang?

I should know.
I grew up with the larcenous bastards.

And they damn near killed me.

I never got along with my generation.
We didn't resonate.
We didn't hit it off.
From my earliest memories
I liked people older or younger than me.
The ones my age I perceived as
Monsters from Outer Space.
There was something weird about them
As though
Were older
Than decay
And lacked

My generation
Was born
From parents
Forced to eat
20th century
Out of
Millions of years
Of unwritten atrocities.

The effects of this
Hit them
Like a rock
On a head,
Or an atom bomb.

The Great Depression.
Utopian Ideals.
World War Two.

Afterwards the dividing line
Between good and evil
Became nothing personal
Under a mushroom cloud
That was supposed to
End war.

In the beginning is the end,
As T.S. Eliot
Or somebody else once said.

But my generation?
I couldn't stand the bastards.
I thought they were crazy.

Do you have any idea
What it's like to be
Surrounded by a generation
Of congenital idiots
Sired from shell shocked
War veterans?

But karma doesn't quit.
It's a convoluting snake
From inside out.

Without respect for race,
Creed, or religion,
Country or love or hate,
Karma does its job.

It may take two thousand years
But karma is always on time.

Of course I'm talking to
Myself now,
Because my generation
And the ones who
Cooperated with them
Are in church,
Sex, power, money,
Or the drug induced
Mythological facsimile
Of all the above.

But it's refined
And extremely civilized
The way my generation
Taught yours
How to screw themselves.

I have to admire
My generation
For that.

Most of my peers
Were smarter than me
And all I knew how to do
Was read.

They called me a book worm.

And I read my generation
Like a book.

My generation didn't care about Vietnam.
They were just afraid to die.

I know Vietnam war veterans
Who are older than me.

My generation spit on them.

Now I see them next door
To my room hanging around
Swords to Plowshares
Half-drunk and dazed,
Lining up for A.A. meetings.

My generation didn't care
About war or racism.
They only wanted to have sex
To the rhythms of the
Glamorous black music
Their ancestors stole from slaves,
And think themselves liberal.

Now they get black men,
Who when in high school
wanted to be marine biologists,
Turned out to sell crack.

My generation
Were oxymorons
Who on L.S.D.
Experienced the
Death they feared
Then medicated themselves
On heroin or speed
Or got jobs in
Corporations and
Hired accountants to
Watch their books.

I realize now
That I never had
A friend my own age.
They were always
Younger or older
Than me.

In 1968
The only reason
I grew my hair long
Was so that people
Of my generation
Would talk to me
And give me drugs
And I could
Get so stoned that
I could pretend
They didn't exist.

Now this generation
Is the same as
My generation.

It is nothing but a pose,
A transvestite pretending
To be a woman
In a glamour magazine.

At the end of his life,
Castrated with depression,
Andy Warhol,
Whose actors later o.d.'d,
Or went into business,
Or died on the street,
Or crawled into a hole,
Understood my generation.

That's why he never smiled.

Valerie Solanis
Died in
My neighborhood,
The San Francisco

She was death
And Warhol knew her.
She shot him.

Valerie Solanis
Was me when I was
Fifteen years old,
My wrists
Chained in handcuffs
While my generation
Laughed because
I was thin,
Unfit to live,
And they were infuriated that
I was not homosexual,
But appeared like one,
And that I would never love them,
And that our
Marriage was over.

The only way I would
Ever care if those bastards
Lived or died
Is if they put on a dress,
Wore makeup,
And let me slap their asses.

But they'd better look good
When I do it.

Then I could put them in
A Warhol movie.

The ultimate revenge is to
Articulate your rage before
The invisible judge
Of your soul exposing itself
To an audience.

O.K. cut to this.

The only reason you bitches
In the audience don't kick
The shit out of me is because
I'm a man.

If you say the magic word,
Then you better
Give birth to
Something that is

Failing that,

Fuck you.

Message to all Cat People.

This world is filled
With narcissitic idiots.

So let's help them die
By fucking and sucking
And draining
Their dreams.

Buses to nowhere,

I evoke you.

I am universal.

I am man and woman.

I am an

I am Walt Whitman
With brain damage.

I am The Whisperer.

I am not me.

Me is a word
Defined by others.

The word is nothing.

I never had a beginning
Or an end.
I am not a name.

I am I.

Not you.

Not me.

Not anything
Thought or killed
Or loved
Or ruined
Or forgotten.

I am beyond history.

I have no generation.

The lost generation?


That's me.

But you
Domesticated animals
Who don't want
Your cages rattled

Are me too.

Once i may have
Loved you
But that was long ago.

So have a nice day.