Woodstock

Posted: November 20, 2018 in Poetry
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Whetting my whistle before the music

WOODSTOCK
By David Allen

Hard to believe it’s been almost 50 years since
the high-water mark of the Peace and Love movement —
the Woodstock Music and Art Festival.
I was 21, a year out of the Navy and rock radio stations
were hyping a three-day concert in upstate New York
I thought it’d be a fun camp-out,
something like a Central Park Love In.

I was wrong. It was the most bizarre weekend of my life.

We drove to the event in my friend Jim’s beat-up
old white-and-black Blatz beer van
which he sneaked onto the festival grounds.
With us were my younger siblings,
Kathy, 19, who called herself “Sunshine” back then
and Chuck, 17, known back on Long Island as
“Little Brother Charlton,” lead singer a garage band
called the Psychedelic Freight Train.
Jim and I camped out in the beer truck,
we didn’t see them again until Monday

My memories of the weekend are a haze
of music mixed with adventuring
to the far corners of Max Yasgur’s farm,
listening to tunes at the Hog Farm’s free stage,
skinny-dipping in the lake, hearing the freaked-out rants
of the brown-acid victims, tripping over the bodies of lovers
in mud-caked sleeping bags, wandering down a woodsy path
lined with makeshift booths where hippie trinkets and drugs were sold,
and piling into a semitrailer to get out of the rain.

That’s where my almost brush with fame comes in.
A dozen or so folks had made it to the trailer before us
and before too long the bottles of wine were being passed around.
As Joni Mitchell later sang, we were stardust, we were golden.
At some point, Jim started beating on an empty wine bottle with a stick
and some others joined in and broke into the now famous “Rain Chant.”

We had a sound crew in the trailer with us
and they caught our chant on tape.
It was used as the soundtrack for the scene of mud-caked people
under a cloudy sky sliding through the muck.
in the documentary film of the event.
The chant was simple: “Whoa-o, whoa, whoa, whoa,
peace, peace, peace, peace.”
My kazoo picks up on the chant —
one long buzz followed by four short buzzes.
Toward the end, the kazoo is clearer and louder
and leads straight into the intro to Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice.”

It’s a great segue, I salute the guy who mixed it.
But I never saw a nickel for helping Santana out.
On each anniversary of Woodstock, I play the album
and watch the movie and damn the fates.
I could’ve been a rock star. I could be traveling
with some of my favorite acts from that weekend,
maybe opening for The Who or Arlo Guthrie.
Instead, I’m a retired reporter, an unknown poet.

But what really makes me want to scratch my head bald
is that my sister, now a born-again evangelical, is in the movie.
During one of the film’s rain sequences, the screen splits.
one half shows the stage crew scampering to protect equipment
the other half shows the soaking-wet crowd
hunkering down to keep dry.
All except for one dancing blonde flower child,
her arms raised, welcoming the cooling shower.
That’s my sister. That scene riled me for years
Her picture became an icon for the event,
my kazoo virtuoso went unaccredited.
Bah!

But, maybe it will turn out okay as the 50th-anniversary approaches.
A documentary filmmaker read a news story I wrote
about my plight and wants to put me in his movie.
Hey, maybe I’ll get to play my kazoo again.

 

666521645Chuck and me in the crowd

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Is that a trail of blood leading down a hall in the haunted Royal Hotel ruins in Nakagusuku, Okinawa? Nah, it’s just a moldy old carpet. But spirits are said to still slink around the complex, which was left unfinished when workers mysteriously died during construction and the developer went insane.
DAVID ALLEN / S&S

Unfinished, abandoned buildings attest to island’s haunted nature

By DAVID ALLEN | STARS AND STRIPES
Published: October 30, 2005

The island of Okinawa is one scary place.

Okinawa is haunted. All you have to do is drive around and see buildings left unfinished because some spirit has made its presence known, or a house abandoned because some ghost scared its occupants. There are so many such spooky sights on Okinawa that both Kadena Air Base’s 18th Services Squadron and Marine Corps Community Services have special Halloween tours that sell out weeks in advance.

Want a good fright on Halloween night? There’s plenty to choose from.

Kadena Air Base has two creepy haunts. There’s a small house, number 2283, behind the Kadena USO that is now used for storage because few people could stand to live there. It is said it was built over an ancient burial ground and the souls of those once buried there can never find rest.

The house is smaller than the others in the area because one room was so cold that no one could sleep there and it was torn down. And, to add to the horror, an officer beat his wife to death inside the house sometime in the early 1970s.

Or was it a teenage girl stabbed to death by her stepfather? No one is sure anymore, and the tour guides like to tell both stories — and the one about the Samurai warrior who rides his steed through the living room.

One of the best guides to Okinawa’s haunted sites is “The Ghosts of Okinawa,” a book by Jayne A. Hitchcock, who lived on Okinawa from 1992 to 1995. It’s a Halloween bestseller at base bookstores.

Hitchcock was so taken with the stories of the spooky Kadena house that she held a séance there on Oct. 31, 1994. She claims she saw the ghosts of two children who talked about being afraid of a man on a horse.

The other chief haunted site on the air base is the golf course, where legend has it that 17 high school girls pressed into the service of the Japanese Imperial Army committed suicide when the Americans landed on nearby beaches on April 1, 1945. Some people have reported hearing wailing coming from the area late at night.

And don’t count the Marine bases out. Hitchcock’s book mentions her own personal spook, a sailor in a peacoat she called Mike who lounged around her Camp Foster home, playfully pitching pennies and guitar picks at unsuspecting guests and her husband. She never did find out why he was there.

Then there’s the samurai warrior who is said to trudge uphill toward Futenma Housing on Camp Foster from Stillwell Drive. He looks mean, but seemingly never pays attention to the cars that pass by.

Perhaps the best-known Okinawa haunt, though, is the skeletal remains of the Royal Hotel on the ruins of Nakagusuku Castle, near Camp Foster.

The story says a Naha businessman convinced villagers that he could attract tourists to the castle ruins by building a zoo next door. Admission fees were to go toward restoration of the 13th-century castle. Then came the 1975 Okinawa Memorial Exposition, and the greedy promoter expanded the plans to include a luxury hotel on the hillside.

Villagers warned him that the grounds were sacred, but he ignored them. Soon, the project, designed as an elaborate resort village with a casino and water park, began to take shape. The man poured millions of dollars into the project, but work was hampered when monks at the nearby Buddhist temple told him he was building too close to a cave inhabited by restless spirits.

Some of his workmen left when they heard the warnings, others abandoned the site only after several workmen died in mysterious construction accidents.

Setsuko Inafuku, a tour guide from Kadena Air Base, notes that the businessman went bankrupt, fell ill and later went insane. The haunting at the hotel was so severe that one of the monks decided to live for a while in one of the hotel’s unfinished rooms and built a small altar to appease the spirits.

Some people say the businessman went insane long before construction halted. The hotel is a maze of stairs that go nowhere and dead-end, graffiti-filled corridors leading to rooms where old mattresses, moldy tatami mats and broken pieces of furniture lie scattered about.

Today the site is a popular spot for teens playing “dare me” games on moonless nights and urban warriors stalking each other with pellet guns.

Small shrines set up to appease the spirits can be found throughout Okinawa. For example, near Kadena Air Base, there is an altar built alongside the Okinawa Expressway where it goes through a hill in the Chibana district of Okinawa City. When the national government designed the toll road that stretches from Naha to Nago, no one paid much attention to the “fairy” tales told about the hill, which had been used since ancient days as a place of prayer.

However, after several construction workers died after dynamiting a pass through the hill, the shrine was set up. According to a local historian, the accidents stopped soon thereafter.

There are many tales of ghosts hailing cabs to take them on their ghostly journeys. Shoji Endo, a former professor of Japanese literature at Okinawa International University, collected thousands of such tales before he retired recently.

One of his favorite stories was the tale of a woman holding a small baby who hailed a rickshaw one night in 1931 in Naha, the prefecture’s capital. The rickshaw man took her across the city. He dropped her off at a new home and waited patiently while she went inside, promising to return with his fee. After a few minutes he knocked on the door of the home and a man answered.

When the rickshaw driver explained what had happened, the man sighed deeply and handed him his fare, explaining that the woman and baby were his wife and son, who had died some years before. Every now and then, he said, they caught a rickshaw from their old home to the man’s new abode.

Harvests

Posted: October 19, 2018 in Poetry
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HARVESTS
By David Allen

I’ve seen many harvests.
During my teen years, I harvested
baskets of Little Neck clams;
wading in harbor waters at low tide
on Long Island’s North Shore,
collecting treats to be steamed
at beach barbecues.

I stumbled across potato fields
as a child, collecting spuds days before
the migrant farmers were transported
to harvest the Long Island fields,
years before the farms gave way
to shopping malls and subdivisions.

Later, there were Virginia Autumns
breathing in the strong smells of tobacco
curing in barns, hung on beams and exposed
to smoke from hardwood fires.

In the Far East, I saw rice
reaped in rice paddies by
foot-powered threshing machines,
as I drove back mountain roads
to my day job harvesting news.

passing-farm-implements

These days I witness Hoosier harvests of corn,
dodging huge reaping machines
that menace my car as I drive
down narrow country roads.

It’s also where I reaped a bountiful
crop of love when I married
a Hoosier farm girl who taught me
how to spot soybean fields,
deem when corn is ripe to pick,
and that John Deere’s are the only real
Tractors for true Hoosiers.

She also helped me raise
a wondrous crop of kids.

But me, I’m not a farmer.
I’m just a poet who plants
words on pages to feed
a poem-hungry world.

Be sure to buy my books “The Story So Far” and “(more)” both available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/David-Allen/e/B00DT6TM7Y?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

Leaves Laughing

Posted: September 30, 2018 in Poetry
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Leaves

 

LEAVES LAUGHING
By David Allen

The leaves are laughing at me
They do this every fall
They know I don’t like raking
So on my lawn they sprawl
Regaling in their new colors
Yellows, reds, and browns
Crackling as October winds
Spread them all around.

But I know I will laugh last
I can outwait their glee
Their glory time’s not timeless
As they dance around the trees
Soon Winter snows will blanket
And cover them in the ground
And by the Spring a squishy mess
Is all that will be found.

 
Be sure to buy my books “The Story So Far” and “(more)” both available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/David-Allen/e/B00DT6TM7Y?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

My Main Squeeze

Posted: September 19, 2018 in Poetry
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MY MAIN SQUEEZE
By David Allen

Write about what I love?
This is what I love —
writing, sharing poetry
with fellow poets
suffering from the same disease;
the need to get it all out
to empty my soul,
pushing pen to paper,
scrawling the scenes,
burning  my eyes,
typing tenses onto a screen,
screaming for attention,
airing it for all those near to hear.

Listen up!
This is who I am.
Here’s my soul, take a look.
Read into it what you will,
it doesn’t matter to me.
I’m drifting away to some other shore,
riding waves of words.

This all started in grade school
copycatting Dr. Seuss
and moving on to
writing my own pop songs
sung on lonesome bike rides
delivering the news;
teen years spent trying
out the unrhymed rhythms of The Beats
and some strung out sot delivering
the meanings of roach motel nights;
poems to loves  on far-off shores
as I sailed the Caribbean sea;
anti-war chants and drug-induced rants;
lines filling cheap literary rags;
marginal thoughts in reporter’s notebooks;
words shared in Far Eastern watering holes.

Always reveling in the outsider
status being a poet brings.
We are different from other writers.
There’s no money in poetry,
it’s all about laying it all out,
comforting the miserable,
slapping around the comfortable.
These words,
these lines,
they’re who I am.
Poems are my main squeeze.

 

The Eat Write Cafe

Posted: September 13, 2018 in Poetry
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David Allen reads at The Eat Write Cafe

Twenty years ago I stepped into a basement bar on Okinawa and was transformed. I was there to write a story about an Open Mic night run by Americans connected to the large military presence on the island. I was the Okinawa News Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes. That night started my foray into public readings of my own work.

Thanks Amy and Michael!

Pacific Stars and Stripes
Tuesday, September 15, 1998

Bar gives Kadena muses a
              place to be heard

              Traveling poets tell your tales
              wherever you go.
              Don’t let them tell you no.
              Don’t think it’s better to
              hide with a pad of paper
              and ink on your hands
              than to share your souls
              with the world.
              Scream, pray, love, write
              and be true to the words.
              We are poets, we are
              a single voice of power.
              Scream out with me
              and be heard!
– Michael Monroe

               By DAVID ALLEN
              Stripes Okinawa Bureau Chief

              OKINAWA CITY, Japan — This is a definite departure from the normal nighttime entertainment on Okinawa’s infamous Gate 2 Street.
              

               In the snug basement bar called “Jack Nasty’s Neanderthal,”
              well known for its hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll every weekend
              night, a transformation takes place on the first Saturday of
              the month.

              You wouldn’t guess it at first. Just after dark, some of the
              street’s clubs begin to open. The bar girls with their high and
              tight skirts still linger on benches in the humid, subtropical
              night, trying to lure young American servicemen upstairs for a drink.

              It could be any street outside any gate of any military
              base in the world.

               But on this street outside Kadena Air Base’s Gate 2,
              something else is happening. There’s another kind of crowd
              descending into Jack’s. The place still smells a bit moldy, and
              the drinks are still a cheap 500 yen, but up there on the stage
              are people who have poured their souls onto a page.

              At 7:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month (and the third
              Saturday just down the street at “The Jet”), this cozy club
              becomes the “Eat Write Cafe Traveling Poets-Society.”
              They’re open-mike nights. Take your scrawled notes in
              abused notebooks, typewritten pages of untamed poetry,
              scraps of rhyme on restaurant napkins and bring them on
              down to the Eat Write. The crowd’s hungry for what you
              have to say.

              This is poet Amy Love’s dream and Michael Monroe’s
              newfound calling.

              “I had this vision 10 years ago when I was teaching on
              Guam,” said Love, a former English teacher at the University
              of Maryland. “I always felt divided between the academic
              world and something else. It took a while to realize what I
              wanted was to live poetry full time.”

              The readings began in the living room of her home in
              Yamauchi, but it wasn’t public enough. She needed to bring
              poetry to the people.

              “One midnight I was wandering around the neighborhood,
              and I came across a coffee shop called the Cafe Zen,” Love
              said. “We started there in April or May of ’97. But it was too
              small; we were discovering a lot of people on Okinawa were
              into poetry. They liked to write, read and listen, but there
              was no place to go with it.”

              It wasn’t until she sponsored a one-night-only poetry reading
              at the USO on Camp Schwab, however, that she realized
              just how large the audience was for poetry on Okinawa.

              “I went up on this stage and started to read to this captive
              audience of about 60 Marines who had been watching
              movies,” Love said. “The response was so overwhelming.
              They were listening; some of the guys ran out of the place
              and came back with poems in their hands, stuff they had
              been keeping quiet about. I gave them the mike. It was
              beautiful.

              “Poetry is not what you think – that’s my message,” she said.
              “So many of us got turned off from poetry in school. But the
              need to be heard, to be understood is within all of us. The
              muse is there. So, I started passing around fliers announcing
              the Eat Write Cafe. That’s when I changed my name to Amy
              Love, to make what I was doing totally distinct from my
              teaching. I didn’t want to rely on the students.”

              She’s also realized after 13 years that teaching was
              “complete insanity, trying to fit in where I didn’t belong.” She
              left her teaching post at the University of Maryland this
              spring.

              “It’s like what Ginsberg wrote in ‘Howl’,” the former Anne
              Tibbets said. “‘I saw the best minds of my generation
              destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked / dragging
              themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for a
              fix. . .'”

             The fix was poetry. “So many people have that creative side
              to them, but it’s stifled,” she said. “And they stuff it away
              deep inside them. After all, you can’t make any money at it.
              So, it’s on a low flame, burning you up inside. What the Eat
              Write does is provide an outlet.”

              Love decided to take poetry to where the troops are –
              Saturday nights on Gate 2 Street.

              It took a bar owner with the poetic one word name,
              Katchan, to make it a reality. Katchan, who, with long black
              hair and chest-length bushy beard, looks imposing until he
              breaks into a toothy grin, immediately warmed to the idea of
              turning his club, Jack Nasty’s, into a once-a-month Eat Write
              Cafe.

              “I told Amy I like poetry,” Katchan, an Okinawan, said. “I
              have my own band, the Katsen Band, that plays here every
              weekend night after 10. Poetry, music, it all comes from the
              same place – the heart.”

              The nights at Nasty’s can be raw. Anything goes on the stage
              illuminated only by a green neon light, the blue flicker of
              empty TV screens and a few dim lamps. The walls are
              plastered with one-dollar bills signed by long-gone GIs; a
              pair of manikin legs and a wooden wagon wheel stick out
              from a loft above the stage.

              On any night, the poetry ranges from the sophomoric rhymes
              of a young woman longing for love, to angry outlashes at the
              world that may bring to mind the early works of Allen
              Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac. The poets, many of them new to
              the art, are experimenting with style, substance, syntax and
              varying degrees of solemnity.

              These are unleashed feelings, sometimes laced with humor,
              just to break the mood.

              “It doesn’t matter how polished the person is,” Love said.
              “Letting people have their voice is more important than
              cutting somebody off.”

              The readings on Gate 2 Street began last January and show
              no signs of stopping. On a recent night, about 30 people
              listened to a variety of poems.

              A Special Forces trooper with bulging biceps and
              short-cropped hair gave the mike over to a woman wearing
              argyle socks and a thigh-length pleated plaid skirt.

              Michael Monroe, who serves as a Marine during the day
              under a different name, is the master of ceremonies. He took
              over after Love left for the States earlier this month. She
              plans to travel the United States with her 5-year-old
              daughter, Ginger, tramping and setting up other Eat Write
              Cafes as she goes.

              “The plan is to get a small camper so we can live in it and
              drive around,” she said a few weeks before she departed.
              “It’s kind of scary to give up a good job and all, but poetry is
              my life now. I’ve got to live it.

              “We have to take poetry to the people, renew the oral
              tradition,” Love said. “We’re going to the small cities, towns,
              places where the rebirth of poetry is not already happening.”

              Love said she’d like to come back to Okinawa some day,
              maybe open a club of her own with open mike every night.

              Meanwhile, Monroe carries the torch.

              “I’d been writing in the closet until Amy came along and
              brought me out,” Monroe said. “I didn’t know there was
              something like this out there. It was an awakening.”

              Monroe, a Marine sergeant and a native of Brooklyn, is a
              natural MC. Instead of calling for the poets according to
              their place on the sign-up sheet, he weaves a pattern,
              knowing that the stage-struck Marine with the machine-gun
              patter is the perfect follow for the intensely shy young airman
              from Kadena Air Base, who just bared her soul for the first
              time on any stage.

              “You’re liable to hear anything – from 18th-century romantic
              ideals to the poetry of the Beats, to some very modern and
              intense surrealism,” Monroe said. “I love to mix it up.

              “I found I was a natural up there,” he said. “I knew if Amy
              ever left, I’d have to step into the vacuum to keep it going.”

              Midway through the nights at Jack Nasty’s, young
              servicemen come down the steep stairs looking for a few
              cold beers and a bar girl or two to sit on their laps. Most
              peer around the corner of the stairs, see the poets on stage
              and realize it’s not their scene.

              But a few descend, discovering something new.

              “That’s what I love about this,” Monroe said. “Having so
              many people from so many diverse backgrounds come in
              and listen and read – it makes my mouth water. I love being
              there, seeing the response on people’s faces. Seeing them get
              Seeing them get it. It’s all about being up there and being heard.”

              Poets need to be heard.”

My Navigator

Posted: September 4, 2018 in Poetry
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MY NAVIGATOR
By David Allen

It’s been 30 years
and I have only now realized my love, my wife,
is more than my muse and soulmate.
She is also my navigator.

Like our car rides in the country,
where she sits next to me,
her hands holding tight to the fear post
as I sometimes stray too far to the curb,
or forget to stop at a light,
she settles in as I maneuver
the twists and turns of our life.

She endures the plot twists
and miscues, giving directions
that help me to somehow
stay on course for the future we both
deserve – as many more loving years
together as we wish.

She helps set the course,
proving love does exist for those
whose chosen path is
endless love.

Ring? Ring?

Posted: July 24, 2018 in Poetry
Tags: , , ,

07work5

Ring? Ring?
By David Allen

I don’t know why they keep calling me
I never buy anything by phone
But several times a day
Bored, poorly paid salesmen call
Offering to sell me something
They swear I need
Only, I don’t.

Blocking their numbers don’t work
They have a system of not just randomly calling people
But also of hiding the numbers they are calling from
Someone must know I never buy anything
They must keep records
I don’t understand why they call.

But I don’t angrily hang up
Or yell, or curse them to hell
The poor guys (or gals) at the other end
Are just doing their job
It’s not personal.

So, I answer the call from U.S. Pharmacy
“You’re selling pharmaceuticals to improve
My love life?” I say. “Sorry, I can assure you
There’s no problem down there
Believe me. Love? I’m always up for it”

Another caller says he’s from a Medicare
Approved provider of back braces
No thanks!” I exclaim. “I’d love to talk,
But I need to get ready for my marathon”
A Wall Street bank phone-banker asks
How much equity I have in my home.

He can arrange an assessment.
“Great, but can you come in a few weeks?
I have some guys in the basement now
Getting rid of mold and a termite control guy
Is scheduled for next week,” I say
“Maybe he could come after they
Reinforce my home’s foundation?”
Sometimes it’s not until I mention the police raid
On the crack house across the street that
They end their call.

I don’t know why they keep calling
I never buy anything
Or… maybe they have another purpose
Maybe they’re lonely and need a break from
The clicks and curses that fill their bored days
Maybe my name’s on a list that says
“For a laugh call …”

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FOR YOU SCAREDYCATS
By David Allen

It’s Friday the 13th
So what?
“What, me worry?”
Has been my life’s theme
Ever since my Aunt Jessie
Gave me an issue of Mad Magazine
Back when I was still in grade school.
So, superstitious? Me?
Bah! In the “Step on a Crack” game
I stepped on every one
And my mother was backache free
Into her 70s.

(Now , it’s true she had a pain in the neck –
Me! Ever since I learned to walk.
And many others have dubbed me
That in the long decades since.)

So, superstitious?
Give me a ladder to walk under
And a black cat’s path to cross.
Why, I’d volunteer to be third
On a match if I smoked.
Phooey on all you superstitious fools!
If I lived in an apartment tower
I’d pick the 13th floor.
Hell, the house I live in now
Is the last on the left on a dead end street,
Where the sidewalk ends,
With dark, thick woods out back.
The perfect place for a horror story.

 

 

NEwsroom

Petersburg, Va. Progress-Index newsroom 1978
 

NOW IT’S PERSONAL
By David Allen

Okay, now it’s personal.
Five journalists were shot dead
Today in a Maryland newsroom
By a maniac upset about a years-old story
That named him a harasser, a serial nut job.
He shot his way through a glass door
And unloaded his shotgun
At people dodging for cover.

Years ago, that could have been me.
For almost four decades I covered the news,
I was threatened many times
By people upset by the truths
My stories uncovered.
Once, I received a note,
Cut-out letters pasted on
An ink-stained piece of paper.
My name was at the top
Of a list of editors and the city mayor,
Declaring, “Death to you.
Death to your families.”
I laughed and photocopied
The note before calling the police.
I reveled at being named first.

I’m not sure I’d laugh today
Violence in this country is rampant
Madmen act out their threats with guns.
I cry for those killed today
And seethe with anger.

But then I remember
Advice I once saw written
On a Japanese tee shirt:
“Don’t let the teardrops
Rust your shining heart.”

I’ll try
But it’s getting damn hard.

*NOTE: The threat I received was at the Fort Wayne, IN, News-Sentinel, but I don’t have a photo of that newsroom.