A Tale of Two Cities

Photo: Omar Willey. CC-BY 4.0.



on a Saturday afternoon,
where I never go
because it’s always so damn crowded
and as it is I’m crammed between
the ATM machine & the restrooms.
Plus, I have to keep going outside
every 10 minutes to smoke,
which you never had to do in the day of
Bob Kaufman, Gregory Corso, and Jack Micheline,
because then you could
bloody well smoke anywhere,
even in surgery.
And it occurs to me that
back in 1982 when I lived here,
I coulda actually seen
those 3 guys, and maybe even
talked to them, or been insulted by ‘em
right before they asked me for 5 bucks.
But I was not a POET then,
and thought North Beach incredibly corny,
and to be frank, by then those guys
were nasty shuddering wet brain alcoholics
(fight me—I’ve seen the pictures &
read the memoirs.)
Mind you, some folks my age
did seek these geezers out
and chronicled their ravings,
and some of them even parlayed
their obsession into careers, becoming
respected editors and historians of
the San Francisco Renaissance.

Not me, I just sip my cappuccino grande
and sit ostentatiously writing this poem
(the only person in the joint doing this)
and ruminate on the blown chances
of yet another Golden Age
I lived thru but
didn’t appreciate.



the time in 2006 we had coffee
with Fred Dewey and Philomene Long
at a little place off Ocean Park & Main
(I had met them the year before.)
Philomene was very excited we had bought
“Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle” and gushed
“Those were IMPORTANT times”
and told of flying to Paris
to attend a conference on the Venice beats
and drinking a lot of red wine on the plane.
She asked me who my favorite poet was
and I said “Don Marquis.”
She didn’t know who he was.

The next year, we visited LA again.
I had Philomene’s address from the check
she had given me for my book in 2005
(an event I immortalized in my poem
“Her Poetry Lives on Bathroom Walls”)
so we stopped by her place
just off the Boardwalk.
I had prepared a package containing
“the lives and times of archy & mehitabel”
along with a Folksingers In Hell CD
and a poetry broadside.
The gate was locked and she didn’t answer the buzzer,
so I just wrote a note and
pushed our offering thru the grate
into the courtyard.

We found out later
she had died that weekend.

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