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Oh, How I Wish I Had Been a Beatnik

Updated on November 6, 2012



Yeah, man

Somewhere toward the middle of the "raging," "rockin'" 50's, with the Bill Haley's, Carl Perkins, and Little Richard's, there popped-up a group of cool, laid-back, harmless people whom I admire. Actually, I have taken my admiration to the level of yearning due to the fact that "I" wish to God that I had been born a beatnik.

Yeah, man. A beatnik. I cannot think of any other social group that has been more misunderstood, underrated, or overlooked more than my friends, the beatniks. What a bummer. When we have true pioneers of poetry, music and lifestyles at our fingertips, we are not content. We want more. More evolution. More power. And more influence in the social consciousness of America. A waste, man, is what this is.

The beatnik, for all intents and purposes, originated in Greenwich Village, New York in those shady, dim-lit, smoke-filled coffee houses that only the brave of soul dare enter. "Best stay clear of those beatniks, Jimmy and Sue. They pose only Communistic-ideas to Free Americans everywhere," a gingerly-talking dad of the 50's would caution his curious, wide-eyed kids before they left home in the family Studebaker station wagon.

Yeah, man. Hang tight. Hang loose. No sweat, brother. We are glad to be just a small segment of this picture called life, man. Can ya' dig it? Ahhh, the sweet beatniks. A life form all to themselves, posing no harm or threat to our way of life, or to the staggering might of our military. "we just want a peaceful life, a set of bongo's, some "expresso," and our friends, man," and was that really too hard for us to handle? I think so. For we no longer see any beatniks around in 2012. An extinct race just like our friends the dinosaurs. Waste. Waste. Waste.

Do not be confused. There is a world of difference in a beatnik and a hippy. I don't even think that beatniks can be accused of being the "pioneers" of hippiedom, for if you closely-examine the hippies, you will find vast differences in clothing, jewelry, music and personal agenda's that you will not understand.

Whereas the poor beatniks, they were not hard to "pigeon hole." They were what they were. No more. No less. Asking nothing from us from their parallel position to the sidewalk where we traipsed to work each day. The poor, lonely beatniks were America's "first starving and depressed artists," who let their dark poetry and fragmented music do their talking for them.

Yeah, man. Dig it. The first real glimpse that "I" had of a beatnik was not in-person. Rats. It was on the fabled "Dobie Gillis Show," starring Dwayne Hickman, the "Joe Cool," college student of his day, the "swingin' 50's." The beatnik was played by the now-late Bob Denver, who's character was "Maynard G. Crebbs," a polished beatnik for social purposes. Crebbs was always shown in "clean" sweat shirts, white pants, and his trademark sandals, not sneakers.

You see, man, if you are going to be an all-out, full-blown, beatnik, you gots to dress for the part. Crebbs, although "spruced-up" for television, was not what we called an authentic beatnik. You see, he was in public way too much, when the real beatniks pretty much lived their lives to themselves, secluded from "the man," and all of his stressful rules and stupid doctrines.

Can you dig this? A "real" beatnik and I do mean "real" to the bone, beatnik wore only black clothing. From his (or her) sweat shirt to the hem of her dress or pants, black. All black, beret and all. And the male beatniks all wore goatee's as a sign of a soulful image with an expressive heart beating inside his lanky, thin body due to not eating regular meals because regular meals meant that the beatnik had to hold down a regular job and "that wasn't cool, man," as America was quick to label the beatnik nothing more than a pack of lazy bums begging for bread.

Man, you are now rappin' on about the hippies, not beatniks. Beatniks knew how to "make bread," by writing and selling their dark, soul-wrenching poetry to other beatniks in search of cool, peace, and total utopia while on earth. Yeah, man.

And if you were blessed to just be in attendance in one of their coffee houses, your ears were treated to "songs," by artists such as "Mongo J.," "Star Circle," and "Ben G.G.," who would strike the bongo's, then look over his RayBan's and say, " . . .the moon howls; the dogs sing; and I walk like a bush . . ." and strike his bongo's again and return to his seat in the club while his peers all snapped their fingers, their way of applauding his musical genius.

Some beatniks "did" have legal jobs such as serving coffee, I mean, "expresso," to their beatnik friends in the "way gone" coffee dens where most beatniks lived after dark. No one really knows where beatniks lived during daylight hours. That is not to suggest that beatniks were "prototype vampires," because beatniks were all about peace and love toward each other.

Oh, sorry, man, I almost forgot about the "fake" beatnik seen in the anti-Vietnam War footage in the hit movie, "Forrest Gump," where Gump has to rescue his childhood gal pal, "Jennie," from this guy who is leading a protest group against our Federal Government for being in Vietnam. Oh, man, this guy "did" have a goatee. And even had the beatnik swagger, but when he lost his temper and struck "Jennie," that was a dead give-away that he was a "non-beatnik," a shame and disgrace to all true, Mother Earth-loving beatniks everywhere.

To help you learn about beatniks, God help us to see a resurgence of them again, you need to know their chatter and words they depend on to get themselves across to you. It's not a college course. Actually, learning the "beatnik slang," is kinda fun.

Beatniks are all prone to saying

Man, which is a term of respect to you if you are "rappin' on" with a beatnik.

Dig it, means do you understand what is going on? And do you approve of what is happening?

Way gone, stands for someone who has elevated themselves into a higher level of thinking or expression. Example: "man, can you dig, Moon Beastie? He just sits and raps with his eyes. He's a way gone cat, man," Now do you understand?

Cool, has transcended from the beatniks to today's youth on skateboard and living in malls in 2012. Cool is just what it means. Fine, dandy and "I" am for it.

Hassle, is just the opposite to cool. Hassle is a load of stress, confusion and nothing easy to cope with such as a steady job with a boss named "Bill" who actually expects his beatnik shipping clerk to do "some" work during his eight-hour shift.

Cop out, was originally used by the beatniks, and somehow the latter generation of beatniks who evolved into hippies, kept using this term to describe someone who has turned their backs on the causes of their group. "man, what a bummer. 'Sally Yellow Shoes,' just flew away and went to work for the post office. What a cop-out, man." See what I mean?

Now that you have the mastery of their lingo, take a look at the wardrobe of a true beatnik.

Sweat shirts in mostly drab colors that do not draw attention to the beatnik.

Sandals, the accepted, official footwear for all beatniks male and female. For a beatnik to wear a Florsheim dress shoe means one thing: They have sold out to "the man," or the governing body of government.

Goatees for men and hair mostly in bus for female beatniks.

RayBan sunglasses to be worn day and night. No self-respecting beatnik worth is bongo's will ever be seen without his RayBan's.

No wallets are ever found on beatniks. Just some loose change he has made selling a poem to someone who "thinks" the beatnik poet is someone famous.

And beatniks, if they ever resurface, will hopefully still listen to

Bob Dylan, who did have his start in Greenwich Village when his voice was not as twangy.

Lenny Bruce, the social commentator who's orations shook society at large with his bold, brazen take's on drugs, gays, and war.

Jazz saxophones, bongo drums and a little guitar, not much. A true, blue beatnik firmly believes that music is made in the soul, not on strings or horns.

Oh, long live the memories I have of beatniks. I do believe with all of my heart that "I" would have made a fantastic beatnik--sleeping 'til noon, then dressing in my black beret and all-black clothing to make my way to the local coffee house to sit all day and write poetry, drink "expresso" and pray that sometime that night hear the sound of my fellow beatniks' fingers snapping at some woeful poem that popped out of my head.

Yeah, man.




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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear picklesandrufus,

      Thank you for your always-kind and sweet comments. I wish I had met a few beatniks then I would have a better understanding of at least one forgotten-segment of our society.

      And hey, I DIG your input. You are one COOL CHICK!

    • picklesandrufus profile image


      6 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      I had almost forgotten about beatniks. Even though I didn't know a real beatnik, I always thought they were pretty cool. You put some good work into this hub and it was a very enjoyable it was a COOL read!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Sally's Trove,

      Nice to meet you. And thank you sincerely, for your kind and "far out" comments. I appreciate you taking time to read and comment on this one that I drew from my watching "The Dobie Gillis Show" with Bob Denver, and other "revolutionary" shows of that era.

      I invite you to follow me so I can keep up with you and we can share hub ideas and how to present them, and things.

      I would dearly love that.


    • Sally's Trove profile image


      6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a delightful read. Like you, I didn't quite fall into the age group to be able to declare myself a beatnik during the 50s, although one Halloween season, probably in the very early 60s I wore a beatnik costume consisting of black tights, a black dancer's leotard, and a black sweater-dress just long enough to pretend to decency. Accessories included a cigarette holder and a beret. I was soooooo impressed with myself. Ha!

      Your hub has brought back many memories and also prompted thoughts about the folk music scene of the 60s in New York, a wedge of time sandwiched between beatnik and hippie. Up and interesting!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear friend, That Grrl, you are a living inspiration to me. I just might look up my old pal, Kenneth "Wild Man" Stone, who works at our local Supercenter at night, and talk this over. What have we got to lose? Well, my wife, she might SAY she didnt mind, but when we returned six months later, no wife. You see what I am up against?????

      Love you for being so good to me in comments.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 

      6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I did get to be the vagabond bohemian a few times. My birthday is in the winter, just at the Christmas rush. So I would save up money and, in January/ February I would take a trip across Canada on the Greyhound bus, by myself. I lived on whatever money I had. Luckily I had my Aunt Emma in British Columbia and she didn't mind if I stayed a week or so with her before I went back to Ontario. I stayed in youth hostels, met a lot of other travellers. I managed to make that trip three or four different times. You should still get out there too. Take a trip and stay with friends along the way. Find cheap hotels, youth hostels or sleep in a van. Watch for restaurants where lots of seniors are eating. They aren't always the best quality, but they will be cheap enough. Lots of big and small adventures once you push yourself out here.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Me too, That Grrl.

      A buddy and I in 1971, planned to hitch-hike to California from where we live in Alabama. We wanted to do this before we grew up and became part of real life; to have something we could tell our wives and children, and we just let life seep in and squashed that dream.

      Ive regretted it since. So my point is to you, my new friend, "never let your dreams DIE. Go for it. It it doesnt hurt you or someone you love, and will not subtract from YOUR own soul. . .do it. Please do it."

      Thanks for your sweet words.

      Happy Thanksgiving.

      Your Friend, Kenneth

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 

      6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I want to be a bohemian or a vagabond bohemian. I'm sure I would have too if it weren't for having asthma as a kid and being limited in my adventures by being able to breathe easily. I still do adventuring and live an artsy life in the margins.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Susan,

      Thanks for your "neat" comments. Yeah, I can dig those thoughts. Say, hip chick, like, wowsville for the votes too.

      (I am snapping my fingers at YOUR comments and votes).

      Yeah, hip chick.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear catgypsy,

      "thanks," and "DITTO."

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Dearest Kenneth,

      That is not to suggest that beatniks were "prototype vampires," because beatniks were all about peace and love toward each other. ROFL

      Cool hub! Yeah Man! I really dig it!

      Have a great week my friend :)

      Voted up up and away

    • catgypsy profile image


      6 years ago from the South

      Hahaha...I'll be with the coolest cat in NY!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Teaches,

      "Maynard rocks!" No hub about beatniks would be complete without Maynard. Thank you sincerely for liking the hub and Maynard too.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear catgypsy,

      Thank you for the vote of confidence. Hey, on our trip to New York, I might wear RayBan's, a black beret, grow a goatee and carry some bongo's. That image might get us free food in the Village. Do you agree?

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, man, Curiad,

      "yes." " I dig the moon and expresso, but my howlin' does need some tuning up, dig?"

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Yes, a beatnik CANNOT be all he or she can be when they are so uptight. A loose, relaxed attitude is the foundation for solid, secure, creative thoughts and phrases. Come to think of it, I can use your advice too. Thanks.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Niteriter (love that name),

      You are perfectly-correct. Searching for (a) or (the) truth by any soul or group is very contentious and laborious. Beatniks however did do their best to be open to all sorts of thoughts and brain patterns. I miss them a lot, for when I was of age, hippies never appealed to me because they mainly loved to falsify their expression by drugs, and that to me, is unnatural. Give me a beatnik with some expressio any day. And if you are not following me, I cordially invite YOU to do that so I can keep up with you and share hub ideas with you. Is this a deal?

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I was wondering if Maynard would be mentioned. He's the best beatnik image I have every seen. Always loved how he hated "work". Those were the days when "cool" was a relaxed way of life -- nothing harmful. Thanks for the look at the past.

    • catgypsy profile image


      6 years ago from the South

      It's never too late Kenneth!

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 

      6 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Cool man, The wolf howls at the moon outside as I sit and contemplate my espresso. Can you dig it man?


    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      6 years ago from North-East UK

      I don't think we had beatniks over here Kenneth; they would have had to lose the old 'stiff upper lip' and that just would not do. This hub has made me go to see if I can find any British beatniks but I bet they all went to the USA and joined that vibe! I love your bongo playing guy who 'walk like a bush'. I enjoyed this hub very much; you kind of want to be able to take the micky out of the pretentiousness but they really believed this stuff and were ahead of their time really.

    • Niteriter profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      I enjoyed reading this piece, Kenneth; it brought me back to the years when my generation possessed an absolute certainty that WE grasped a truth that had escaped all preceding humanity! Looking back now from a more experienced perspective, our "truth" seems to have contained a few weaknesses that were not visible in the halcyon days.

      Good work!


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