The streets of Denver are littered with the sounds of music. Unfortunately the lyrics typically include such phrases as “spare some change?”, and “homeless: please help”. Any regular of 16th Street Mall knows what I’m referring to. Every corner has some form of bum asking for money. Most people just walk up and ask you. Others try to at least earn it by assuming the form of a street act. As an aspiring writer and musician, I can appreciate a good street musician. 16th street Mall does have a few cool acts. There’s one man I like to call the “Alley Way Man“, who plays guitar in an alley just off the main walk of the mall. He’s doesn't have a tip jar, just a desire to play for the town and he is a phenomenal guitarist. What I can’t appreciate is people doing it as an excuse to legitify bumming money off the street. My least favorite being the homeless man near Tattered Cover who just plays “Hotel California” over, and over, and over again.
Today on my mall walk I had an unique experience.
I walked by Allan Andre, street poet. Stationed with a typewriter and a sign reading “Poetry Upon Request”, Allan was not your typical street act. I actually walked past him, eyeing his setup and sign, and felt my heart tug at me. Typically I don’t give these things the time of day, but the sight of him inflamed my inner writer. I realized I felt a sense of inspiration by what he was doing. I had to know more, so I turned around and introduced myself.
His pitch was simple. Allan will write custom poetry for you, the length depending on the amount of the donation. Reasonable, considering this is one of the few street acts here where you walk away with product. I gave him a dollar and just asked for a short poem of whatever his immediate inspiration was.
As he began, I mentioned Harlan Ellison.
Harlan Ellison is one of my favorite writers. He has published over 1,700 short stories, but who’s counting. He has won many legal battles for writer’s rights, the most famous being his out of court settlement with James Cameron over the Terminator story; which was borrowed from a Outer Limits episode Harlan had written. Ellison is notorious for writing exclusively on his typewriter, even after the coming of the personal computer.
I mentioned to Allan how the image of him on the street with a typewriter reminded me of when Harlan Ellison publicly wrote “Hitler Painted Roses” in front of a radio show audience.
Shortly after that conversation, Allan handed me his work.
“a few words for Harlan
I eventually returned to see what became of Alan’s fate. He was still there. In fact, he was writing another poem. I hope to see him again in my walks. It's maybe a bit silly, but seeing a fellow writer trying to earn a little money with his craft gives me a sense of camaraderie. The life of a writer nowadays is metaphorically the same; very few of us get to set the price. We just accept whatever donation we can get for our work. It doesn't have to be that way. You can sell your soul at the highest rates. Just look at the life of Harlan Ellison.