On this date in 1962, Long Beach Independent columnist Ralph Hinman Jr. recounted his search for a disappearing breed, the bearded beatniks, “devotees of Zen Buddhism and Jack (On The Road) Kerouac” who once dwell in cold-water pads in the seaside communities south of Long Beach.
After being told by a Seal Beach bartender that beatniks don’t hang around Seal Beach anymore and the corner espresso house* is only open nights since they left, Hinman ventured southward to four other establishments in Surfside and Sunset, but apparently all the beatniks have Ferlinghetti-ed out-of-town. (Sorry. Shameless, I know.)
Faced with the awful prospect of coming up with a new concept for his column, Hinman shifts his focus from writing about an encounter with beatniks to two burning questions. First, were beatniks “for real,” or were they “merely publicity-seeking phonies?” Second, if the beat generation movement was truly over, what would replace it?
Hinman conveniently drops by Seal Beach’s Ivory Tower Bookstore** and encounters three young Seal Beach intellectuals who supply a slew of quotable and column-filling answers.
“They were too lazy to shave… preferred to live in ‘pads’ because they didn’t have to clean them… and tried to live well without ever washing,” stated Beth Walker, 19, of 609 Beachcomber Dr., a Long Beach State College student. “Your Beats were nothing but thrill-seekers with no real values.”
“They often were only pseudo-intellectuals, and they only messed up things for the rest of us.” added Ron Tremaine, 22, of 1223 Ocean Ave., a Long Beach City College student.
Having dismissed the Beat Generation with pith and vinegar, they move on to Hinman’s second question.
“Always in history there have been ‘angry young men’ — who never disappear from the scenes,” said Walker. Hinman decides that Walker included herself and her friends in that category.
“Yes, you can have intellectuals in suburbia, but what is an intellectual?” said Gary Kemper, 20, of 112 3rd St., who would be enrolling at Long Beach State College in the fall, but had already mastered the smooth collegiate trick of answering a question with another question.
And what would be a good name for their generation?
“The ‘cool’ generation politically,” offers Kemper.
“The ‘terrified’ generation,” is Walker’s answer before hitting an atypical note of uncertainty. “Who knows? Perhaps ‘nowism’ — or some other ‘new” philosophy will replace beatniks. One thing is certain: there always will be seekers after truth — as they see it.”
I conclude today’s post with a deep and profound feeling of gratitude that there were no reporters or columnists around to write down the things I said in my late teens and early twenties.
* The Rouge et Noir perhaps?
** The Ivory Tower Bookstore was last visited here in “May 5th in Seal Beach History.”
– Michael Dobkins