Friday, September 27, 2013



Charles Henri Ford. Gin Beach, Montauk, NY. 1995. Photo by Indra Tamang

Today, September 27th, marks the 11th anniversary of Charles’s passing. A few days ago, while I sat opening mails in Apartment 103 at the Dakota, I thought about what I might say to pay tribute on this day. I had a visit that afternoon from a man named Tate Swindell who came to talk about his friend Ronnie Burk, who I also knew for quite a long time. Ronnie first came in about 1979 to meet Charles, and Charles introduced him to many other poets and artists. He was someone who Charles took a particular liking to. His surrealistic writing style and his collages appealed to Charles, and Ronnie was a frequent visitor to the Dakota whenever he was in New York. Mr. Swindell told me that he and his brother Todd have been collecting as much by and about Ronnie as possible in order to preserve and publish it. I showed him some photographs I took of Ronnie years ago in Montauk, probably around 1996 or 1997, and he recalled an interview with Charles that Ronnie had conducted, as well as a little film Ronnie made in Apartment 103, which is on youtube now. I will post it below, and you’ll see me flash in and out of it, too.

Ronnie died not long after Charles, in 2003, and I’m thinking that there is a paper fan that Ronnie made with Greta Garbo’s face on it in one of the boxes I’ve yet to go through. I told Mr. Swindell that I would keep a lookout for anything related to Ronnie in Charles’s papers, and mine too, and after he left I came across another paper fan, large-sized, that Ray Johnson once sent to Charles with the stamps affixed right to the wood.  Then my attention was caught by an article from an old issue of the Soho Weekly News, and I sat down to read it. (This is why cataloging everything takes so long.) The article, by Gregory Battcok, was about a tea Charles gave in the 1976 for Leonora Carrington right here in the same room. I remember the party well. All kinds of interesting people came and I was introduced as ‘Indra of Nepal.’ Mr. Edward Weisberger was kind enough to help me with serving the crowd. It was crowded, and I remember that Tennessee Williams didn’t want tea so I found him some vodka. 

It occurred to me, while sitting there at the table where Charles sat with so many visitors over the years, that people still want to come and sit and talk about him and about art and other artists, and I can’t think of a better tribute to him than this. But there is one other thing I did that afternoon that I think Charles might appreciate: I had his phone turned back on, with the same number that always went with Apartment 103 in the Dakota. Because after Ruth died in 2009, both her telephone line and Charles’s telephone line (which had been kept on after he passed) were allowed to lapse. I had heard lately that it is very difficult now to get a '212' number in New York City, but on the off chance that it had not been taken, I called the telephone company to ask about the number. As luck would have it, the number was still available. So I grabbed it, and as of this week, there is new life for the old number.

You won’t be forgotten, Charles, and the phone will keep on ringing.

Feb. 10, 1908 - Sept. 27 2002
Charles Henri Ford on Full Moon Party hosted at his House in Gyaneshowr, Kathmandu. Late 1970s. Photo by Indra Tamang

A Short Silent Film by Ronnie Burk at Apt 103, The Dakota.

-Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved. 

Monday, September 16, 2013



Few days after the surgery.  Photo by Zina Tamang

There’s a saying, “If the sky falls , we shall catch larks," but for me, when the sky suddenly fell on the night of May 3rd, I caught a prostate problem.  A lark would have been much nicer.  My mother was leaving for Nepal on the 6th, and she was worried about me. I felt a little sorry that she’d have one more thing to worry about on the airplane. 

Anyone who has experienced an enlarged prostate knows how painful it is to not be unable to urinate. It was a sudden onset for me, and once the trouble started, I went through countless visits to the urologist and three times to the emergency room. My first ER visit was to Elmhurst Hospital where I went in a car service. Usually the emergency room means a long wait but a nurse helped me quickly, and I was very relieved thanks to a catheter bag. In the following days I saw a private urologist, who said I must wear the bag for about ten days. When it finally came out, I was okay for a couple of days but then the trouble returned. My second ER visit was to Mount Sinai Hospital in upper Manhattan, which I didn’t find any better than Elmhurst. In fact, Elmhurst was even a bit more efficient, so when it came time for the third ER visit, that’s where I went, back to Elmhurst.  By the time of my second visit to the ER, I was also constipated, and nothing helped relieve that until I tried regular old prune juice, which did help some. But the doctor told me later that constipation was related to my prostate problem.

Eventually, I started getting a little more used to wearing the annoying catheter bag, but I made fewer public appearances than I usually do, and only in loose trousers or athletic training wear. Then I had an examination called a cystoscopy, which needless to say was very unpleasant, and following that the doctor decided I would need surgery. The surgery itself is done in the same way as the cystoscopy exam: not with an incision but through the pee-hole. Sorry to have to say it, but that’s what it was.  Some people may find this unpleasant, and I certainly did too. 

Throughout all of this, because I was still able to walk and do normal things, I didn’t feel completely sick. But then, when so many people started coming to pay me visits, bringing fruit and juices and bouquets of flowers, I started thinking, "Oh, I guess I really must be sick!".

Before the surgery, Karin Gustafson arranged through colleagues for me to get a second opinion from another urology specialist in Flushing. He examined me, and he gave me the green light to go ahead and have the surgery. I had it at Elmhurst Hospital on June 24th.  We left home at 8:30 in the morning, and after endless visits to various nurses’ stations, they put me on a gurney with straps everywhere and wires and tubes, and my actual operation happened at about 1:00. I didn’t have to stay the night, but I didn’t get home until 9:00 or 10:00 that evening. The operation itself only took about an hour or so, but the anesthesiologist gave me a spinal epidural, which made me feel dead from the waist down. In my head I felt that I was moving my feet, but they were like stones. It took all afternoon for the effects to wear off. When we left the hospital I had no pain, because I was still numb, but a while after coming home, I started to feel it. 

Most people know that the prostate is the size of a walnut when it’s normal.  But when it gets enlarged to the size of a lemon, the urine gets blocked. Everyone has been telling me to drink lots of water. I try to drink more water than I used to, and lots of cranberry juice, too.

I decided to write this little piece and post it on my blog, not to publicize my health issues, but to offer awareness of this problem, to tell what I went through and finally—especially—to thank all concerned family members, friends far and near and the doctors and nurses at the hospital and clinics who healed me. My problem was no major thing like heart surgery or brain surgery, but by the same token, even a relatively small, non-life-threatening operation can feel like going through hell. 

Before I knew for sure what it was, naturally the possibility of cancer crossed my mind, and how if that were what it was I’d have to accept it. I thought of former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, for example, who went through prostate cancer and beat it. As it turned out, I was very fortunate and my problem was no fun, but it wasn’t cancer. And anyone wondering should know that I’m back to normal now. I’ll try to be vigilant in the future, and I would encourage all men, to have their prostate checkup regularly starting at age 50. And I encourage all the younger men to start drinking more water!  And above all, if you have any indications that something is not right, such as difficulty peeing, do not ignore it. Be brave and go to the doctor. 

Thank You.

Indra B. Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An Interview with me taken by Greek Journalist Michael Limnios

An Interview with me taken by Greek Journalist Michael Limnios

I was recently interviewed by a Greek Journalist Michael Limnios, who has worked with magazines such as "Living Blues", "Blues at the Foundation" (The Blues Foundation), "Music City" (Blues Society of Nashville) in USA, "O Globo" in Brasil and "Music Life", "Rock File (Pop & Rock)", "Voice", "Monthly Discography" in Greece. The journalist Michael Limnios, has started his career as a road manager at blues concerts in Greece with John Angelatos' Red Rooster, Megafon & Blues People Production in Europe and Asia. Also has been worked as DJ (Crazy Horse, An Club, Rodon, Blues Hall, House of Art, Blues People, Irish Bar) and journalist at travel magazines, daily newspapers and radio networks. At Blues Foundation’s magazine (Fall 2000), has written about the connection of Blues music with Greeks. His radio broadcasting (Blues: "The Rose of Music”), was the first daily show around Europe and it has been included in Living Blues magazine. His articles today are inspired from his journeys around the world and concern about the culture of local psychology.

The following is the copy of interview I had with Mr. Limnios which was posted on on July 17, 2013. 


Photographer Indra Tamang talks about Charles Henri Ford & Ruth Ford, Ira Cohen, Greece and Nepal

"When I take a good picture, it’s a very satisfying feeling and I feel that my efforts have paid off."
Indra B. Tamang: 
The Interconnectedness of culture
Indra Tamang was born in a mud huthouse in Nepal. The first person he met upon leaving was Man Ray. Indra is probably best known for his collaboration with Charles Henri Ford, but that's not all. He makes delicious tea and lets his big, pokerfaced tortoise swim in the bathtub.
Indra Tamang was given his first camera by Charles Henri Ford in the 1970s. He has since had many cameras and photographed everyone in New York. Studio 54 presented many opportunities and so did his travels. He takes photos and he writes little stories, often on the subject of food. As he says: "I am Indra. Just like you. Not like anyone of you. We are unique. We are ourselves. We are just the only one. I am just Indra."
"The best advice Charles gave me was when he would point out certain people and tell me I should photograph them, and I would." Photo: Matthews - AP
Indra Tamang came from a Nepali village that had a witch doctor but no electricity. In his 20s, he met an American poet who changed his life. For the past four decades, Tamang has lived in the iconic Dakota building in New York (on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in the Upper West Side of Manhattan) , and mingled with folks like Andy Warhol, Tennessee Williams and John Lennon.
Tamang's exhibition showed his photographs of people and places from Greece, Paris, New York, India and Nepal. The accompanying haikus, which were in French, offered both a philosophical and humorous commentary.
It was the early 1970s, and Charles hung out with a motley crew of characters from monks to scholars. Tamang's memories from that time are mostly about being happy with a new bicycle, bought for him to help get the household chores done. Nepal in the 1970s had its share of hippies, poets and artists—many of whom Charles befriended. 
When was your first desire to become involved in photography?
I had some interest prior to coming to America because I saw Ira Cohen’s work and that of Charles, but it was beyond my capability then. Soon after I came to New York Charles gave me a Kodak Instamatic camera, and I began taking photographs of people and of ‘readymade’ art on the street, such as graffiti and posters.
What do you learn about yourself from photography?
When I take a good picture, it’s a very satisfying feeling and I feel that my efforts have paid off.
Charles Henri Ford at a 'full-moon-day' party he hosted at his house in Gyaneshwar, Kathmandu, in 1979 - Photo © by Indra Tamang
Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
For me, life has been interesting from the beginning until now. Every day has something special and interesting in it. The most dramatic period would probably be the early 1970s because of all the completely new things I saw. When I left my country of Nepal, I went via Delhi to Athens and Crete, to Paris and finally to New York. Those early years were filled with meeting many interesting people and seeing countless interesting things, as well as learning my second language of English.
Tell me a few things about your meeting with Charles Henri Ford and how did that change your life?
I was working in a hotel in Kathmandu and Charles was a guest. I met him while serving him breakfast, and when he later moved into a house there he asked me to come and work for him, which I did. I happened to take a real interest in the things Charles was doing, and in the people who gravitated around him, and that was the start of a real education for me. Meeting Charles truly changed my life because had I not met him I would definitely not have ended up in New York or doing any of what I’ve done.
How do you describe Charles Henri Ford’s philosophy? What characterized his bohemian way of life?
I don’t recall him ever actually describing a personal philosophy, unless it is “Lose one, find two,” which is something he often said and it can be applied to many things, including his ‘bohemian’ way of life.
What do you miss most nowadays from Charles Henri Ford and what advice has he given to you?
I miss him not being here. As for advice, the best advice he gave me was when he would point out certain people and tell me I should photograph them, and I would. Thanks to that advice, often given, I now have a great archive of photographs of many interesting and well-known characters, many of whom are no longer with us.
"For me, life has been interesting from the beginning until now. Every day has something special and interesting in it."  Photo by Ang Kami Sherpa
Which memory from Charles Henri Ford makes you smile?
When Charles was in a hospital rehab center in 2002, he would take out his dentures when his dinner was served, and leave them on the tray while he ate. One day when the aid took the tray away she unknowingly threw away his dentures. He realized later that they were missing. Allan Frame and I spent hours searching through the vast piles of garbage in the hospital basement until we finally found them, which was miraculous.
How important was music in his life?
I think jazz and the blues were what he most enjoyed listening to, but he also liked other kinds of music too. In Nepal and Greece we’d listen to music on Voice of America through the shortwave radio, and at certain hours they would play jazz and blues, and I remember that he liked Blondie and Patti Smith, too, and lots of others.
Are there any memories of Andy Warhol, John Lennon and Patti Smith which you’d like to share with us?
I met all of them, and I have fond memories of all of them. I didn’t know them intimately, but I’d see them at events and openings. I saw more of Andy than the other two, and he was one of the very first people Charles took me to meet in 1974 at the Factory. I also met Taylor Mead there on another visit just before Christmas.
Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory of William Burroughs, Ira Cohen and Allen Ginsberg?
Once William came to lunch at the Dakota. I made lunch, and later we found out that he didn’t like the lunch I made. And we didn’t serve him vodka, we served him beer. Apparently, he wrote an unfavorable review of my lunch in his diary. As for Ira, I remember walking through the San Maria gorge with him, and when we reached the town on the other side, a dog took a disliking to Ira or perhaps the floppy clothes he was wearing, and showed Ira all of his teeth. About Allen Ginsberg, the most vivid memory would be his prickly beard whenever he gave me a hug at an art opening.
Tamang practising kicks with the sandbag at Charles' house in Hania, Crete, Greece, in the 1980s - © by Indra Tamang
What are some of the most memorable tales from your stay in Greek island of Crete?
Going fishing with the native children, learning Greek and swimming. I learned to swim in Crete. It was almost like a second home. I liked everything except the immigration.
What about the long drive from Istanbul to Kathmandu via Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India?
It took three weeks to reach Kathmandu from Istanbul, Martin Miles, Charles and I. Martin, who owned the Volkswagen van, was the driver. We stayed in little hotels along the way and I was so young I didn’t know much about the world. If I had known more, I would have taken tons of photos on that trip, but I don’t have a single shot from it.
What is the line that connects the legacy of Charles Henri Ford with the Beats to 60s generation and beyond?
I would say that connection has more to do with the time in which Charles lived than with anything he did.
How important was the role of Nepali culture in the case of literature, art and music in “Outlaw” community?
They adopted it completely and went along with the local culture, so it found it’s way into their work. First they blended with the local people and then they used local things for their work, such as rice paper and woodblocks, for poems and posters and books. Ira created his Bardo Matrix publishing empire at the time. I think Ira was the one who ‘went native’ the most. Charles too, but in a different way. I do think the expats smoked a lot more weed than the locals did.
Charles Henri Ford, Indra B Tamang and Ruth Ford at Ruth's apartment in the Dakota building in 1976 - © by Indra Tamang
You have come to know great personalities. Which meeting was the biggest experience for you?
Charles and his sister Ruth.
What from your memories and things (books, records, photos etc.) you would put in a "time capsule"?
The book Lowlife in High Heels by Holly Woodlawn, “Call Me” by Blondie, “I will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong records, one of Charles’s poem posters and my photo of Andy Warhol with Brooke Shields taken at Studio 54. 
Hermitage: Indra Tamang's blog
Hermitage is about everything that revolves around my daily life
"I think jazz and the blues were what he most enjoyed listening to, but he also liked other kinds of music too. In Nepal and Greece we’d listen to music on Voice of America through the shortwave radio, and at certain hours they would play jazz and blues, and I remember that he liked Blondie and Patti Smith, too, and lots of others." Photo by Lab K. Budhamagar


Please click the link to go to The Original Interview.

-Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved. 

Farewell To Taylor Mead

Farewell To Taylor Mead

Taylor Mead having fun at a party. Photo by Indra Tamang
When Taylor Mead passed away at 88 years of age recently, I thought about how he was one of the first characters I met shortly I after I arrived in New York in 1974. It was at a Christmas party at Andy’s Factory on Union Square where I met him, and I saw him regularly for many years after. Mostly, I would run into Taylor at openings and events, and quite a number of times I listened to him read his poems, accompanied by the little transistor radio he always had with him. He often read at St. Marks Church. Taylor was always easy to get along with, and I remember Penny Arcade bringing him up to the Dakota to visit. If memory serves, I think Quentin Crisp was with them that day. As with all visits to the Dakota, their coming meant tea, which I served at the table where they sat and talked with Charles. Not long ago, while going through a box of Charles’s papers, I came across this little typed interview, undated, which Taylor Mead had conducted. I would imagine they did it sitting at the same table in the Dakota where tea was always served, there by the window with the view of the park. It’s a little curio of an interview, and I am posting it here as a small tribute to the two of them; Taylor Mead and Charles Henri Ford, both of whom lived long lives according to their own rules, and who are both no doubt missed by many.
Taylor Mead enjoying party with ladies. Photo by Indra Tamang

Charles Henri Ford Interviewed by Taylor Mead

Taylor Mead: In all your travels, what country most honored one’s right to love whomever you pleased?

Charles Henri Ford: Historically and artistically Greece has gone on record in favor of love beyond gender.

TM: Is the Dakota full of ghosts?

CHF: In the Dakota ghosts may stand by invisible at noon but I’ve never seen any at night.

TM: Have you had any epiphanies?

CHF: No epiphanies and I don’t expect any since I am a Buddhist.

TM: What are some of the most “beautiful” views in the world?

CHF: When you say “beautiful views” the Grand Canyon is, for me, vast enough to fill the plural.

TM: What is your most satisfying achievement?

CHF: At an early age I aspired to generate poetry. Now I have the satisfaction of being the daddy of my favorite haiku.

TM: How do famous people differ from others?

CHF: Taylor, you once said of yourself that you’re famous to people who know you, like, everybody’s beautiful, in their own way.

TM: Of all the places you could live or have lived, why did you generally choose NYC?

CHF: Born in Mississippi, raised in Tennessee, I love New York’s peaches. So I shake its tree.

TM: Where did you grow up?

CHF: I grew up wherever my father had a hotel—in Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana...

TM: When did you know Art and the world of Art was for you?

CHF: Well I started practicing Art early in grammar school. It happened like this: I was doing drawings of my classmates in a composition book. The teacher saw what I was up to and took the composition book out of my hands. She held it up, page by page, for my fellow students to ridicule, but they enjoyed the exhibition, laughing at what looked like funny valentines. I’m sorry not to have kept the cahier; it would now be in my archive at the University of Texas.

TM: What was your first experience of love and, or, sex?

CHF: The first hard on that I remember is the one I had on top of my Nurse—at age four.

TM: Did you have a happy childhood?

CHF: I not only had a happy childhood, I must have been a happy baby. My mother wrote on my baby card, I laughed when five days old!

TM: You must have been happy to find yourself on planet earth. CHF: Yes, I guess so.

(December 31, 1924 – May 8, 2013)

-Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved.