No one cares about the Beats anymore and when we think of the Beats we probably don’t think of Diane Di Prima and that’s the catch. Dinners and Nightmares is dedicated
to my three pads & the
people who shared them with
me . . . .
and when the bebop slang hits with dudes and lovers called “cats” slipping among “pads” and “luncheonettes” and other places they “dig” its jive is comically trite. This text is a cultural artifact full of other familiar Beatific tropes like jazzy stutters and rambling metaphors related to hell and cyclical modes of epic, symbolic thought and references to out of date writers like Shelley and Nabokov. But what holds this text together and where it holds its appeal is not its stylistic grooves but its discussions of food.
This first section opens
The first I remember to tell of food
and with that we enter a retrospective telling of eating that begins with her first meal of peanut butter sandwiches and Lipton’s soup in her “own pad” shortly after dropping out of college and moving to LES sometime in the early 1950s. Memory is intimately inundated with food and eating and digestion and vice versa. “Pads” and she had many she was homeless for a while are associated with the meals she ate in them, or didn’t eat for all the
millions of red-haired whores and sloe-eyed junkies up all night waiting till you slept to steal your milk.
menstrual pudding, merely potatoes in tomato sauce and that’s all no spices even and no no meat
and shrimp and wild rice in a cream sauce and pernod and waters and martinis and people many people a “chic girl” who would visit and only eat
lambchops or steak and sometimes a boiled vegetable with a little butter and pepperidge farm whole wheat bread
and a winter of exclusively Oreos and beer and even though she concedes
OREOS MAKE U FAT
but she still likes Oreos but not potatoes
not mashed not homefries not even bakedidahowithbutter.
She remembers the big meals, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and the menus and shopping and especially the guests, one
Dick who whimsically married a bitch
Millicent the bitch who married Dick. She gave up dancing because acting was less work, wants an air-conditioner in their forty-a-month east side apartment, hates children and wants none. Had a successful miscarriage and several tantrums while in the hospital recovering from it
and better guests and better times and other meals for or with lost or old lovers and other guttural memories such as fighting with an old family friend over dinner and getting home and how she
vomited i remember right on the floor, sitting on the bed and crying, vomited.
Memory is a sense. Sensory experiences remain. Would she remember the winter without its Oreos, nor the fight without its vomit, nor rolling a dice to write a conceptual play while desperately waiting for her lover to bring clams over? It’s healthy it’s tasty this parameter and a weird one, addictive, comforting. Easy to crave texts defined by nothing but diet. Realistic, domestic, celebratory, communal, necessary. Memory and stories emerge out of a swath of senses not desperately picking at swatches of moments. Nothing is meticulous, chronology is a shitty recipe. What she ate and where begets the why, how, and usually some sixth textural sense in detail.