Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Coffee 'n Confusion Washington D.C. Beat Coffeehouse Late '50s and Early '60s

Click on the photo to enlarge it.
Coffee 'n Confusion Beat Coffee House Washington D.C.
Coffee 'n Confusion is written about in the book shown in the link above.

This was a famous Beat(0r Beatnik)coffee house in Washington D.C. in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
This is the first photograph of the place I have ever seen.
Two of the owners were Lester Blackiston and Bill Walker who I have written about before on this blog.

The story of how I met Lester Blackiston goes like this. In New Orleans we knew a guy named Wally and his wife. Wally worked at NASA. It was Wally that first told me about Lester Blackiston when Wally knew him in Richmond, Va.  They both hung out at the Village Cafe in the fan district of Richmond near the college which is now called VCU.
Wally and his wife were nice enough to let us watch one of the Mardi Gras parades of 1966 from their apartment balcony which was on Royal Street across from Pirates Alley.
I have a photo of a young man from Richmond, Va. I nicknamed "The Stranger" who came for that Mardi Gras and stood in the window with his guitar. I never saw him again after that.
Here is that photo of him from 1966. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

When we moved to Washington D.C. Jim Fuhrman and I decided to drive to Richmond in 1967 to meet Lester Blackiston. We found him working in a clothing store on Broad Street selling hip clothes to a black clientele. Lester was the real deal. He was a poet and lover of art in all its forms. He surrounded himself with musicians and artists of all types young and old.

Sometime in 1968 Lester and Bill Walker came to George Washington University along with other poets from the old Coffee 'n Confusion days to do a reunion poetry reading.
After the poetry reading during which Lester kept playing with an open knife at the lecturn we all went over to The One Step Down bar and jazz lounge on Pa. Ave nearby.
Lester had copies of his new book of poetry. We were seated at a table in the bar. I told Lester I would help him with distribution. He said "Distribution. Here is some distribution." And he proceeded to throw a large number of copies of his new poetry book backwards over his head toward the bar. He also told me he had left another stack of his new poetry books in the Men's Room.
Later we all went to our apartment on P St. near Dupont Circle. We had a party there and I remember Lester's wife did not like a bright light bulb and proceeded to break it.
Bill Walker was back in the kitchen working on a poem and did not want to be disturbed.
We also went over to The Admiral Benbow Bar on Conn. Ave. This place was run by a woman named Ellen and she later changed the name to Ellen's Irish pub.
When her lease ran out the building was torn down and replaced by a new building which housed The American Psychiatric Institute. The two places both served the same purpose.

At some point we all went back to P St. and went to sleep. Lester had found nothing alcoholic left to drink in our refrigerator so he drank the remaining pickle juice in a jar of pickles.
The next morning we all awoke. I found Bill Walker in the kitchen. He said he woke up in the middle of the night and saw everyone sleeping and thought we were all dead. He told me he thought he had killed everyone. And then he went back to sleep.

Here is a link to the two posts I have formerly written about Lester Blackiston, Bill Walker, and Coffee'n Confusion. Click on the link below and scroll all the way down to read the two posts.

The final bit of co incidence and it is a small world indeed about all this is the D.C. policeman named in the article above later was my boss at The Washington Plaza Hotel.  And I never knew of his connection to the bust at Coffee 'n Confusion until I read the article above.