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Gandharva, Beaver Krause

Warner Bros. Records, 1971

Track Listing: 1. Soft / White, 2. Saga of the Blue Beaver, 3. Nine Moons in Alaska, 4. Walkin’, 5. Walkin’ by the River, 6. Gandharva, 7. By Your Grace, 8. Good Places, 9. Short Film for David, 10. Bright Shadows

With apologies to Jack and Paul … In another lifetime I used to travel to San Francisco regularly, and I love San Francisco so I was excited to be working on a project there again. I check into the hip boutique hotel across from the Chinatown gate and it all looks vaguely familiar as I take the elevator and walk down the hall to my room, but the first thing that I notice upon entering the room is the wallpaper on all four walls above the wainscoting is type without any paragraphs or much punctuation. The word Dean pops out at me from the sea of words while I stare at the wall and I immediately know it’s from On the Road. I can’t believe it, I’m on the road (in the business sense) in San Francisco and I’m surrounded by four walls of Kerouac. It gets better: I then find a copy of On the Road on the night stand. It gets even better: there’s also a copy of Howl by Allen Ginsberg. The beat poet once came to my college to speak and read his poetry. My friend Paul and I went to see him and braved the gauntlet of the illegal undercover police Red Squad that were there to save society from that pinko commie beatnik rabble-rousing homosexual who was challenging the establishment during the late ’60s. Paul was somewhat of a rabble-rouser himself and his favorite book was of course On the Road and all of our paths would cross again a few years later on a hot August night during the 1968 Democratic Convention when Ginsberg led us in a peaceful demonstration in Lincoln Park chanting Om until he was hoarse as the Chicago police clubbed and gassed their way through the crowd and into the streets of the nearby neighborhood, Old Town, where everyone, demonstrators and unsuspecting citizens alike were subjected to the police orgy of fury. I read through Howl before I went to sleep wondering why was I receiving all these messages from the past. It was then that I realized that this was the same hotel albeit very much pre-hipster days, where Paul and I had shared a room more than 20 years before during another business trip when we were idealistic environmentalists out to save the world, a trip where Paul woke me from a dead sleep with his incredibly loud snoring. I tried calling out to him and I tried prodding him but nothing would wake him or stop the roar of the snore until eventually I desperately tried to smother him to make him stop so I could get some sleep. But this time I was alone and when I checked in I had mentioned to the manager that I saw Grace Cathedral on a map of San Francisco that he had given me and the next day when I returned to my room he had left me a personal handwritten note about how to get to the cathedral. The reason I even mentioned it was that I immediately thought of an album Paul had turned me on to called Gandharva that was recorded in the cathedral over 40 years ago. I had such great memories of listening to it with my beautiful Japanese soul mate while we drifted off to sleep so long ago that I felt compelled to see and experience the space. I had not listened to the album in almost 40 years but the seven-second sound decay time in the great cathedral made some very ethereal and haunting music that has stayed with me. So the next day when the meeting at the architect’s office ended early I quickly decided to check out the cathedral. I had been warned that it was at the top of Nob Hill, but it was only ten blocks away. I haven’t been running as much as I used to but I’m still in good shape; it’s only a little over a mile away I thought, but the mile is almost straight up. I was stopping at every cross street praying for red lights so I could catch my breath and when I finally stepped inside the great building I had to catch my breath yet again. The gothic vaults are 90 feet above you and the main room is over 150 feet long and the giant pipe organ was being played when I entered the church, the very same instrument Paul Beaver played on the recording. His partner Bernard Krause said that they used the whole space as another instrument and the long echo makes Gerry Mulligan’s sax sound mystical. By the way, Gandharva means the celestial musician. I had enough mysticism for one day so I didn’t walk the labyrinth as I left the church and besides I didn’t want to disturb the two Chinese tourists walking it. I started back to the hotel, thankfully downhill all the way. I stopped to read a plaque near a bar in an alley where Kerouac used to hang out and made it back to the hotel for a pre-dinner drink. Did I mention I love San Francisco?