Friday, January 16, 2009

Evidence that I knew Bob Putnam when there were no cool people in this town

Dana Putnam - the daughter of Bob Putnam, of The Way Out Club fame - posted this image up on her MySpace page recently, and boy am I happy to have this as evidence.

That's her dad on the left, looking a little like Charles Manson when the Family was happy, me in the middle, looking young in the way Jeff Tweedy looks young in Uncle Tupelo images of that era (about 1988 or so, is my guess), and Sean Hilditch on the right. Sean is a lad from Shakespeare's birthplace (really) who came to Wash. U. as an exchange student and became my best friend while he was here.

Together, the three of us formed a little imaginary production company called Single Point of Light. We did benefit poetry readings with musicians and activists. Got on NPR once when we did something around the Tiananmen Square massacre. This group later evolved into the poetry events that Bob produced with Sherri Lucas (soon Sherri Lucas-Putnam), which then evolved into The Way Out Club when Bob and Sherri got tired of raising a crowd for somebody else and decided to start their own venue.

Bob became something of a rock star during the six years I lived in New York. Him and Fred Friction. Seems like when I left town about ten years ago, they were the same inspired but obscure dudes I had always known. And then subcultures in St. Louis began to blossom and produce their own microrock stars, and suddenly I would come home to visit and find myself in a bar owned by someone I had been friends with for fifteen years and there would be some young fellow with adventurous facial hair there trying to compete with me like they knew my old friend better than I did and were determined to prove it.

I used to go home early a lot from Frederick's Music Lounge or The Way Out Club, feeling like some kind of Rip Van Winkle of the hipsters. It was a weird feeling.

Now, I finally have some evidence! Look! When there were almost no cool people in all of St. Louis, I knew Bob Putnam! And man, was he cool. He mixed paint at a Chrysler plant and owned a used book store on the Loop, when the Loop was still gritty and scary. A dyslexic guy, who owned a bookstore. Read all those amazing books backwards.

Took in strays like me. I had gone AWOL from the Navy (literally) and was running around with a guy from Shakespeare's village (really), trying to escape from graduate school - which I did. Single Point of Light became The Way Out Club for Bob. For me, it became Enormous Richard and the open road.

Giants walked the earth in those days. And they wore really loud clothing!


Dana Duffy said...

LOL! I still have my Single Point of Light t-shirt!
When I was a teenager, I hated hearing "Your Bob Putnam's daughter?!?" My pop never really understood until people started coming to the Way Out asking, "Your Dana's dad?!?"
We had good times back in the day.

Confluence City said...

Single Point of Light t-shirt? I have to see this artifact!

Zed Naught said...

Not that I wasn't having a blast walking the alleys of Benton Park and working the stock room of Waldenbooks back then, but I sure do wish I knew you two back then...and my word verification for this comment is "diction".

XMariaGuadalupe said...

I was grateful to be invited to help promo the East meets West Single Point of Light event where I first met soulful Eugene B. Redmond (soon joining his writers' club in East St. Louis). Through Bob Putnam I also helped organize the largest outdoor poetry reading ever (that is he gave me the tools and his faith in me). I just kept meeting the most fantastic people just from volunteering with him, from Jim Carroll to Robbie Montgomery, Sherri Lucas, Chris King and Janiece Henry of Cummel's Cafe and Deborah Stoddard, the mad hatter. Meeting each of these friends led to an even grander tapestry woven vividly with St. Louis madness and wonder, and I'm still plummeting down the rabbit hole.