“A sad park of Autumn, late Saturday afternoon — leaves by now so dry they make a general rattle and a little girl in a green knit cap is squashing leaves by the wire fence and then trying to climb over them — also mothers in the waning light, sitting their kiddies in swing seats of gray iron and pushing them with grave and dutiful playfulness”
This excerpt from Jack Kerouac’s Vision of Cody always brings to mind for me the early days of autumn, strolling the streets of the village by Tompkins Square Park as the leaves change on a brisk fall day. Just like Greenwich Village before it, this neighborhood played a big part in the history of the Beats and everyone in their orbit: Allen Ginsberg lived at 206 East 7th Street from 1952 to 1953 and at 437 East 12th Street from the 1970s to the 90s – both served as literary salons in their respective times. The 1959 short film Pull My Daisy, an experiment in spontaneous yet carefully constructed filmmaking, was shot in the East Village loft studio of painter Alfred Leslie and starred almost everyone who were beginning to make their mark in Beat literature and jazz.
The fascinating film below is a five minute chronicle of the mad ones “goofing” around 3rd Avenue in 1959 — In addition to the usual suspects there’s Lucien Carr, his wife Francesca and artist Mary Frank, then married to photographer Robert Frank who may have been shooting the whole thing. The fact that it’s completely silent only adds to its mystery — what topic is driving Kerouac to a verbal standoff? What’s up with the random guy with a baby carriage? And speaking of babies, is it really a good idea to rock one with a lit cigarette hanging over their head? I’m not sure of the literary relevance of the Harmony Bar & Restaurant but this little slice of life is pretty cool.
What: Harmony Bar & Restaurant (no longer there)
Who: Allen Ginsberg, Francesca Carr, Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr and Mary Frank
Where: East 9th Street & 3rd Avenue