This interview took me back in a bunch of ways. First as a high school kid who read a lot, introspective, wanting desperately to be a poet. Second as a rock and roller. Third as a young man who wanted to see the world as it really was, infinite and introducing me to William Blake. Fourth, Apocalypse Now and fifth?
Well, after the birth of my first daughter I was 35 and realized I’d been not going about my life in the right way. I had been living a lie to myself and resolved to go back to school to learn how to be a serious writer. That first semester back filled me with wonder and inspiration. My composition teacher told the class that Michael McClure and Ray Manzarek were performing at Washington State University. I idolized Ray Manzarek. I also loved the Beat Poetry and how they were going to crash words and keyboards together and I couldn’t wait to hear it.
The day of the performance I ended up working 121 miles away in the woods. Usually I only worked 76 miles away in the woods.
I was a wildland firefighter and when there were no fires, I worked forestry work. I begged off early to drive home and shower and then drove to WSU. Because of the mountainous logging roads and the two lane highway, it took me four-hours. I admit I was a little nervous as I’d never been to WSU and in the days before Mapquest or Google maps or the internet in remote fire camps, I wasn’t sure where to go. But I was never afraid to stop, roll down the window and ask for directions, which I did.
My drive went smoothly. No traffic or too many deer to dodge and I found parking. My time was so good. I had made it a half an hour before show time. I went into the ticket area of the auditorium and as I went to open the door a guy said, “It’s closed. The doors closed five minutes ago.” My first response was, “I just drove 121 miles from the middle of the Idaho mountains to see someone who helped define my youth.” The kid (indeed kid) told me too bad. People lined the floors in there and it was all standing room only and if the fire marshall came it’d be trouble, but I could buy a book if I wanted and wait for the show to let out and see if I could get the book signed. It was not Manzarek’s book and besides, I wanted to see the performance. As a boy during my formative years growing up in remote deserts and mining camps I wanted to see bands like The Doors and because of my reading bent, wanted also to see poetry readings were musicians and poets free formed it on stage (I have since done this) and feel a part of an artistic and unmistakably cool event. Suffice it to say the mining camps and small schools (I graduated with 16 kids) was not the hub of poetic and music performances.
No worries it was what it was. But at the moment standing in front of closed auditorium doors, denied entrance, I thought: What pale thing to sit around to wait with the hordes of others lingering around just to say, I love your work and be gone. A blip. I bought a book of Zen inspired poems and went back to the mountains like a Chinese philosopher, hoping to find something I could not yet name. Rest in Peace, Ray Manzarek your doors are cleansed.