Partly sunny

Naked poets and Folie à deux

Those of a certain generation may recall Herb Caen, the erstwhile San Francisco Chronicle columnist who anchored the Macy’s ad next to his daily forays into what he called “three dot journalism.” I never met Caen but my mother, when a bank VP, retained his services as an on-call personality. This was during the rollicking ’90s when on-call celebrity earned a five-figure appearance fee to cameo at a company party. My, times have changed. The last time I profited at a party was when someone sent me on a beer run at the I-T holiday party, then promptly locked the doors.

Caen didn’t know how good he had it. No one did in the ‘90s. For example, this column earns me the same dough the Chron paid when I last filed for them a decade ago. Rates in this market had peaked. I’m not complaining. Given the state of the industry, it’s a small miracle and frankly, since words are free to anyone here in the U.S., my markup is criminal.

And since I’m in in a felonious mood, permit me to steal from Caen himself as I attempt a bit of three-dotism myself. It’s not an homage. It’s because ellipses are easier to type on a Chromebook than my beloved em dash – literally, three periods versus CTRL+SHIFT+U+2014 ...

Sonoma County’s own cartographer of the NorCal soul, Jonah Raskin, forever changed the local lit scene last week when he doffed his clothes whilst performing his poetry. The 71-year-old was cheered on during the BUMP Wine Cellars event. The striptease was, in part, inspired by Allen Ginsberg, about whose “Howl” Raskin wrote the brilliant history “American Scream.” I found a bit about the nude Beat in Michael Schumacher’s bio, “Dharma Lion,” that recounts Ginsberg showing down a heckler by showing him the goods.

“... Allen left the stage and approached him. He accused the man of wanting to do something brave in front of the audience and then challenged him to take off all his clothes. As he walked towards the drunk, Allen stripped off all of his clothing, hurling his pants and shirt at the now retreating heckler. ‘Stand naked before the people,’ Allen said. ‘The poet always stands naked before the world.’ Defeated, the man backed into another room.”

Raskin wasn’t challenging anyone — more like whipping them into a frenzy of adulation. In fact, before his briefs came off, a female fan inserted a dollar into the waistband thus making him the highest paid poet in Sonoma.

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