A little Halloween ditty from Allen Ginsberg, Paul McCartney, and Philip Glass. First published in 1995, and recorded in 1996. Ginsberg died one year later.
‘The Ballad of the Skeletons”
The American political climate from which it arose bears a striking resemblance to the one we’re living in today. “I started it,” Ginsberg told Harvey Kubernik of The Los Angeles Times in 1996, “because of all that inflated bull about the family values, the ‘contract with America,’ Newt Gingrich and all the loudmouth stuff on talk radio, and Rush Limbaugh and all those other guys. It seemed obnoxious and stupid and kind of sub-contradictory, so I figured I’d write a poem to knock it out of the ring.”
🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻 🕸️🎃👻
H A P P Y
‘I have finally isolated the problem: that we were born at all. That we have bodies, and minds. Also, parents. Who made us go to school. Where a third of the children were absolute beasts, especially on the blacktop, when teachers weren’t looking. At about the time a grandparent or cat died, and we began to realize everything and everyone was going to die. Even Mom! Who was insane, who either had to be highly medicated, or who cleaned between the piano keys with Q-tips, or hated Dad, or adored Dad, who hated her.
This is all by five years old, before most children can even read, i.e. begin to learn about the full nightmare of life in one’s own bizarre family, let alone slums, Stalin, alcoholism, manic-depression, JFK, cancer, acne, and what eventually happens to most animals at the pound.
This advance is not available to most children until they are at least six years old.
Right? I mean, let’s put aside the fact that our hearts get broken–everyone’s hearts get badly broken here, trust me; shattered–and maybe we have children and they have awful problems, and their hearts get shattered, and you want to die, but eventually maybe they find a great husband, say, whom you adore, who, when the twins are ten, they divorce. Then your best women friends gets breast cancer. Plus your cat, who is the main reason you can even stand being here at all some days, is on his last legs.
So yeah, maybe we’re a bit more tense than the average bear.
Yeah, maybe we’ve shut down a little. Maybe at six years old (see above) we’ve developed armor, like very articulate, high-achieving armadillos. We’re obsessed with what other people think of us. Some of us drink or eat a little more than would be ideal. We know we are a little off balance, a little out of whack, because we binge on this or that, or starve, or have developed tiny, tiny control issues, and maybe struggle EVERY so often with judgment, hardly worth mentioning; or cannot turn the TV; and the cell phone is destroying our lives, our chance to be spiritually awake and present, and makes us hate the worst offenders. Plus, you know, the little death thing.
I promise, if I were in charge of more, if I were God’s West Coast representative, I would have a much better system. Ix-nay on eth-day, for instance. But I’m not.
So what is the plan? I’m so glad you asked, because while I have some heartbreaking and highly stressful things going on even as we speak, as everyone does, and it is Halloween, which I hate on every level, not just because I have eaten all the fugging Mounds, which I thought I could keep around because I don’t love them, I am in a dangerously good mood.
Why? Because I have community. I have several friends who are so On Beyond Zebra in terms of greatness and loyalty, that we will never be alone in our struggles and suffering guns craziness. Because I got a second chance at life. Because God has to love me-that’s His or Her job.
Because the day is young, and only I can wreck it. I’ve done my prayers, meditation and been to the Church of the New York Times. I am in my own home, where there are pets, autumn apples, unread books, clean sheets on the bed (!!!!!), not all that many more Mounds bars to shovel in. I get to go for an hour’s hike. And then, OMG, a hot shower. I get to put lotion of my beautifully, ripply, sturdy, work-horse thigh; the laying on of hands.
And then all of these sober people who love me more than life itself–and I them–are going to meet and roar with laughter, or cry, and listen intently to one another, and remember that most of our problems are mental–our minds are for entertainment purposes only. So we will change channels. We will turn off K-Fucked Radio, and be where our feet and hearts are, with each other, sticking together, sharing our water and gum. We remind each other to eat, that we get even worse when we don’t. Like Jesus telling his disciples, “You are all driving me a bit crazy here today, but there is a fish roast going on at the beach. So everyone go eat, share, savor; breathe. And we’ll meet back here later. Deal?”
Then I am going to flirt with every old lonely person I see. And I am going to walk with my dogs through the ‘Hood, even though Bodhi is old and aches, and I will pick up litter, even though there will be more tomorrow, because that is not my business. Love and service are my business. Walking the dogs is my business. Radical self-care is my business: hence the autumn apple as and clean sheets, and remembering to look up. Asking myself if I want to be right or kind is my business. Law of the American Jungle: Remain Calm, and Share Your Bananas. Period.
I have to get up tomorrow at 4:00 a.m. and fly to Alabama, but that is tomorrow. Not my problem. Just today. I have you, you have me. The friends, the changing leaves,the unread books. The dogs. The cat, who is perhaps the tiniest bit bitter, about the dogs. The Mounds, which are actually damn good. Our hearts. Cool water. Wow.’