We had a very special commitment scheduled for September 4th at WriterCon in Oklahoma City where we participated in an awards ceremony with the ruth weiss Foundation helping to present the “Maverick Spirit Awards.” Now in their second year, these poetry awards were established in ruth’s memory by Elisabeth Montgomery and Melody Miller, who made the documentary film ruth weiss: The Beat Goddess, and we were proud to be involved.
With so little time to make the drive, we flashed by Reno and then the Bonneville Salt Flats like we were Craig Breedlove in the Spirit of America in 1965, pushing 400-500-600 mph. The Mighty Beatmobile ran strong and true. After a brief stop at Naropa in Boulder we continued east, reaching the Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. You can’t run a museum about the Beat Generation without a deep understanding of what Dwight David Eisenhower and the Eisenhower administration meant to America in the 1940s, the 1950s, and beyond, and a good many of the exhibits they had in their museum matched up perfectly with our own: WWII, postwar America, the launch of Sputnik in 1957 (spawning the term Beatnik) and many more. So it seemed most appropriate that the Beat Museum on Wheels should visit Abilene, Kansas. We were excited to be there, and they certainly seemed happy to see us! Before we left we paid tribute to Ike and Mamie, who are buried on the grounds.
The highlight of Oklahoma though, was the new Bob Dylan Center. There we were greeted like long lost cousins. The Dylan Center just opened this past May and it is truly amazing! After meeting with the press and then some waiting dignitaries, we were given a personal tour by Steven Jenkins, the newly appointed Executive Director who himself is a very recent transplant from San Francisco.
Suffice it to say the Bob Dylan Center does the Beat Generation proud! As you enter the first exhibition hall, Dylan speaks on film about Kerouac’s influence on him in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Allen Ginsberg’s image is seen in numerous places, as are copies of HOWL, which is prominently displayed in various exhibits and available for purchase in the gift shop.