From A Poet In Center City ('12)


Christopher Severin was in. I’d enlisted him. What I felt we needed was a square— four guys. Ricky Flint, who worked with John and I at B & N, was a half-obvious choice. He was a science guy (grad of U of Chicago) who was also into literature; good-looking, in the manner of the three of us (dark hair and eyes; like me, bearded); a wild drinker and libertine; and a penchant for head-butting, intellectual and otherwise. I knew instinctively he would be the most difficult of the other three to manage. He had some issues with U of Penn; with what I was writing; with how I was running things, even before we began to put shows together. But, importantly, John and Ricky hit it off like a house on fire; two kids in their early twenties (Ricky was twenty-three), solidly Center City, rabid for new (or, in Ricky’s case, any) experience; their circuit was tight. So tight, in fact, that often Christopher and I couldn’t get a word (or a drink) in edgewise. Ricky likes to spite us two old fogies by sticking to John— but not sexually. Ricky’s straightness was also tight. The tensest circuit in the square is Christopher-Ricky; they’re both hotheaded control freaks, and they don’t get on. Where Christopher is concerned, Ricky starts with shoot-down routines immediately. Just generally, what Ricky brings to the table is some light (vivid, educated intelligence) and a whole lot of darkness. The fire which animates him has a harsh, destructive edge.


I still remembered the Lunge event in Northern Liberties, my frisson, and Swinging London. One of my abiding Swinging London fixations had been the London Free School— a loose conglomeration of artists, musicians, and curators who staged multi-media events around London through the “Swinging” Sixties years. Even before I enlisted the other three, I decided to call our group the Philly Free School. Ricky, of course, had to argue the finer points of why it needs to be called this, even as John and Christopher didn’t resist. If we were going to use the Highwire Gallery as the dominant space, it was inescapable that Jim O’Rourke would be a dominant influence. Jim was an odd mix of East and West Coast attributes— he’d be the first to light a joint for you when you showed up to negotiate with him; he’d always deliver some kind of goods (hash brownies, nitrous tanks) to create a suitably debauched ambience for your events; but he could also get East Coast intense about money and logistics. His vibe was very unique, and people tended either to love him or hate him. Luckily for the Philly Free School, John and I in particular clicked with him instantly. In fact, the John-Adam circuit was as much about channeling the West Coast as it was about channeling 60s London. So the square, aided and abetted by Jim O’Rourke, began to plan events. And when we hit the streets, everybody stared.