17th September 2008
San Francisco Beats'n' Scuzz musings
by Mike Scott
Last year when The Waterboys played San Francisco we visited the City Lights bookshop, spiritual home and publisher of the Beat generation writers - Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti & co. I was delighted to note that the crossroads on which City Lights stands is a kind of Beats district, with the Beat Museum across the road and two bars with Beats associations and memorabilia on the same block.
But I was intrigued to note that the same crossroads also has several dodgy looking sex shops with no Beat connotations at all.
So the crossroads of Columbus and Broadway is both a Beats district and a Scuzz district - and this interests me. Why should soul-infused art and dumbed-down porn thrive so close to each other? I don't have the answer, but in my musings I came up with a number of possibilities, none of which I take any responsibility for whatsoever. They just floated into my head, honest.
1) The universe has conspired to place the Beats and the Scuzz together for balance - and in a universe of polarity, this is in the natural order of things
2) The universe has put Beat there to help transform and raise the vibration of Scuzz
3) Beat has a fatal flaw that lets in Scuzz
4) They aren't actually both thriving: Beat is dying out, while Scuzz is rising
5) Or Scuzz is dying out while Beat is rising
6) By some quirk of the universe art flourishes especially well in the loosened, degraded environment created by the presence of Scuzz
7) Beat and Scuzz have common denominators: transience, anti-establishment, the satisfaction of desires, so it is natural that they thrive in the same kinds of physical locations
8) The Beats were scuzzy
9) The universe is random - so what's the big deal?
10) The crossroads was inhabited in pre-Columbian times by two very different native tribes with radically differing outlooks and practices, corresponding roughly with Beats and Scuzz - and their energies imprinted themselves so strongly on this location that modern-day humans who resonate with their qualities are attracted here
11) Hey, there's room for everyone!
Maybe you can think of some more.