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4-01-06 - A Report on this year's Saint Stupid's Day Parade put on yearly on April Fools' Day in San Francisco by the First Church of the Last Laugh.
This year since April 1st was held on a weekend, there was the abbreviated weekend parade which skips a lot of the biz section. I got into town a little late. Periodically called Herb Gold (who couldn't make it) to give him reports. I parked near where I assumed the parade would end - at Washington Square - and thought I'd be walking a long way to meet all the crazily dressed fellow stupid people but could see a crowd of people and police a few blocks up so I called Herb and told him that. He still wasn't sure if he could make it or not. Then I called him back and said it was a false alarm - a big Chinese funeral. He said oh yeah some important Chinese SF citizen died. But then after all those cars passed there were still all those people and I was closer and could see colorful outfits, people on stilts, clown outfits, nutty costumes. I never dress stupid because I'm stupid enough already. Called Herb back and said there was the real thing right behind the false alarm. I followed them into a large asphalt playground called Joe DiMaggio Playground. He used to live in SF. The parade came here because all the rain, the ceaseless in Seattle type rain, had made the grassy grounds of Washington Square unappealing and we'd mess it up as well - too mushy.
There was a great band - I wish I knew what their name was. They played great stupid music like Hang On Sloopy. Wavy Gravy was in good form and was unusually articulate I thought. I'd introduced him to my son Clay at the big anti Iraq invasion demonstration in SF a few years ago and he seemed more fit a few days ago. His 70th birthday bash is coming up in Berkeley. Check out him, his birthday bash, and his worthy foundation to fight blindness, SEVA.
Ran into Sue Roberts dressed goofy funny and Eric Davis dressed like the Pope? or some priest in white as I remember it. He has a book coming out soon that I'll mention when it does and his buddy Jennifer with a fuzzy blue thing around her neck. Where did I put his card? Had her info on it too. Oh well - it's around here somewhere.
Bishop Joey, who puts on these Saint Stupid's Day parades, announced that after some more music there would be a two minute talent show. By this, I learned, that the whole talent show will not be limited to two minutes, but will consist of two minute acts. Anyone who had anything in mind was welcome to contribute - just remember, it should be stupid. After conferring with Eric and Jennifer, I decided to present the poetry of the sea gulls. I went up to the front and talked to a lady selling Saint Stupid T-shirts. I wanted to buy one too but could not afford it. That reminds me. I want to write something on poverty experiences. My son Kelly suggests I call it Zen Bum. Gee - it sounds familiar - reminds me of something. The t-shirt lady said to talk to Bishop Joey.
Bishop Joey came over. I introduced myself and told him that I featured Saint Stupid's Day and the Church of the Last Laugh on my web site and would give them another plug soon - this is it. I didn't mention that it's near impossible to find anything on the site - unless you happen to be at the right place at the right time like right now. I also told Bishop Joey that I wanted to enter the Two Minute Talent Show - there, it looks better properly capitalized. I told him my submission would be the poetry of the seagulls and assured him that it was stupid. He said I'd be first.
I stood by the edge of the - no stage, just the edge of the area where the mike (which can also be spelled mic) was. The band played on - Wooley Bulley I believe. I was next but I did not have stage fright. I knew my material well. It's a story I like to tell. And it's short. And it's stupid.
I surveyed the crowd - a few hundred weirdly dressed people - a lot of old hippies and lefties and some younger folk and some who just like zany stuff and who aren't hip or left in particular. The band stopped and Bishop Joey nodded me on. I approached the mike un-introduced and asked where could I pee. Someone pointed to two chemical toilets on the other side of the asphalt playground. Good. That aside, after bowing and saying "Homage to Saint Stupid," I said that I was going to present the poetry of the seagulls which I said that others could quickly learn and which I suggested could join other permanent expressions of the Saint Stupid's Day Parade. But first, a little background all of which I got from reading a profile on Gould in the New Yorker in 1964.
There was a Bohemian, a poet of sorts, named Joe Gould who lived in Greenwich Village in the thirties and forties as I remember - and put that at the end of everything I say about Gould. He claimed he was the only person in the world who had written a book taller than he was. He wasn't very tall. It was what he called the Oral History and consisted of conversations he'd overheard while hanging out in parks in Greenwich Village. None of it survived. It's said he gave it all away bit by bit to landlords and ladies to hold till he could afford to pay them back rent.
EE Cummings submitted Gould's name for admission to an exclusive poetry society that included well-known poets like Cummings and William Carlos Williams. They needed a poem of Gould's in order to consider him for membership. The poem Gould submitted was:
In the winter I'm a Buddhist.
Gould was told that it wasn't a serious enough poem. He responded that the rest of them were into frivolous subjects like life, death, and love. He was accepted - due principally to his friendship with Cummings.
At the first meeting that Gould attended, as a new member, he had to give a reading of his poetry. He stood before the other members and said that he was going to present them with the poetry of the seagulls. Thereupon he proceeded to flap his arms and squawk till he was dragged off.
And I kept flapping my arms and squawking until, by prior arrangement, Wavy Gravy came and lead me away. By then the crowd had joined in with the flapping and squawking.
All that went by quickly - I got through the Joe Gould background quickly, mainly emphasizing the two line poem which I have often quoted. For instance, I have at times in the course of promoting a book, been interviewed, and in the interview asked what type of Buddhist I am. Or, at times people have asked me, outside of the formal structure of an interview, what kind of Buddhist am I? What always occurs to me to answer is that I am a Joe Gould Buddhist. Then when I'm asked what that is I say he was a Greenwich Village Bohemian who wrote the poem which has no name as far as I know and which needs none for reciting it takes up very little time:
In the winter I'm a Buddhist.
Maybe one reason why I remember this poem so well, why I instinctively return to it over and over, is that it is one of the first things Buddhist that I ever encountered. Maybe I am bonded to it in a sense, like little duck babies to their mother or to a scientist, whichever they see first.
I asked Eric why he didn't come drag me off as we'd agreed and he said that he was waiting for it to get more irritating, more uncomfortable. He said that his favorite type of humor was not slapstick but unease or possibly he said dis-ease. Or maybe that was a comedian I heard on the comedy channel of my XM radio. I said I'd asked Bishop Joey to drag me off as a backup and Joey had given the job to Wavy Gravy. Eric said that when he saw Wavy Gravy moving my way to drag me off he felt that the task had gone beyond his station so to speak, that the act had, in a word, transcended itself. I deferred to his judgment.
I just looked up Joe Gould on the Internet and found that Jim Mitchell wrote that piece for esquire and never wrote anything again and it came out as a book called Joe Gould's Secret and then as a movie in 2000 directed by Stanley Tucci who plays Mitchell as well and staring Ian Holm, one of my favorite actors, as Joe Gould. On the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) it lists under Quote from the movie:
In the winter, I'm a Buddhist; in the summer, I'm a nudist!
It also calls him "Professor Seagull." I never heard of that movie. Looks like people liked it. I can't wait to see it.
And next year I hope Herb Gold joins me again for this event which he turned me on to in the nineties.
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