(Note: mute if music soundtrack of Bob Seger’s “Kathmandu” attached proves distracting.)
In the late 1960s it was still comparatively easy to travel on foot, or in vans or buses, overland from Europe through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and the area of Kashmir to reach India, Pakistan, and the Himalayas. A major branch of the “Hippie Trail” as it was known led directly to Kathmandu, the capital of the kingdom of Nepal. Bohemians, counterculture members, would-be adventurers, and backpacking travelers all found the small city especially welcoming, during the 1970s.
Ira Cohen describes what he found in his “The Great Rice Paper Adventure:”
By the mid-70s the poetry scene was thriving. The Spiritcatcher Bookstore became a meeting place where weekly readings took place, everyone bringing their newest poems to read and perform with musicians joining in on drums, sitar, flute, and violin. Charles Henri Ford, arriving from New York, set up house in Nepal.
It was at this time, actually in 1974, that I brought out the first Bardo Matrix Starstreams Poetry Book with the help of John Chick who was always printing little Indo-Surrealist rice paper flyers for his club, the Rose Mushroom, located at the end of Jhoccen Tole, known more popularly as “Freak Street.” When Alan Zion, whose Paris pad was famous for years as a meeting place for travelers pulled up stakes and arrived in Kathmandu, he handed me a manuscript of Gregory Corso‘s Way Out, A Poem in Discord, which Gregory had left behind in the early 50s. Man gave me the poem, which came out to ten typeset pages, more play than poem, and we performed it for the first and only time, giving a World Premiere at the Yak & Yeti Crystal Ballroom on October 11, 1974, with me as Ratface, Lie and Law, Bill Barker as Sweetface and Truth, Angus as Ballpoint Sam. There was a packed house made up of hippies, embassy officials, narcs, Russian emigres, swamis, straight tourists, you name it.