City Lights

Monday afternoon Ted and I drove to City Lights Bookstore. Beatnik Mecca, the source for everything beat. I walked into the store and there he was, the man himself, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the man who published Ginsberg’s “Howl”,  Kerouac’s “On The Road”, and dozens more beat doctrines. It was that easy. Now, I had to find a way to approach him without seeming like a silly young kid with a bad case of hero worship. There seemed to be a glow around the man, a peaceful aura of serenity and calm. And wisdom, much wisdom derived from living through many great experiences.

There were close to a dozen other people in the store browsing the shelves or inspecting books. What was wrong with these people? Were they aware that Lawrence Ferlinghetti was standing right there? Actually, it was kind of weird to see him putting away books on the shelves like a stock boy at Schwegman’s stacking cans of soup. I’m not really sure what I expected him to be doing. It was his bookstore and books don’t put themselves on the shelf. Still, I think I expected him to be holding court with budding new poets or lecturing on iambic pentameter.

I walked over to a shelf and scanned the titles and author names. There were so many books that I wanted to buy on the spot that I’d have needed another trailer to carry them all back home. I zeroed in on titles in the Pocket Poet Series, number one being “Pictures of the Gone World” by Ferlinghetti, which I grabbed. Then, number four for from Pocket Poets being “Howl” by Allan Ginsberg. Those were books that I definitely had to buy. As I was gazing at the stacks not knowing what to even try next when a voice behind me said, “Do you need any help finding what you are looking for?” I turned toward the voice and it was him, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

I stuttered something like, “There are so many. I want them all.”

He chuckled, “Yes, we are building quite a selection. What interests you most?”

I didn’t answer directly, instead stating the obvious, “You’re Lawrence Ferlinghetti.” I was star struck and it showed.

He chuckled again, “Yes, I know.”

“I was captivated by ‘Howl’ and I love your ‘Coney Island of the Mind’. I’m looking for more stuff like that.” Stuff, did I just say stuff? How mortifying is that?

“Have you read ‘On The Road’?” he asked.

‘Oh, of course, I loved it. I’m from New Orleans and could really identify with the settings as Kerouac described them.” There, that had a little more substance.

“Very good,” he said, “Have you read ‘Big Sur’? You’ll find it a good introduction to a few poet friends of mine.”

“Cool, where’s that?” Dumb question, it was in the K’s for Kerouac. He led me to the book and handed it to me.

“Anything else?”

“My girlfriend is into female writers. She wants to be a writer,” I said. How dumb was that. Why did I mention my girlfriend to a gay guy? Did it come from deep seated homophobia? No, that wasn’t it. If he had asked me to join him naked in the backroom I would have, a thought that came from another stereotype that all gays wanted to have sex with any other guy anytime and anywhere.

“Then, she will certainly enjoy Denise Levertov. She is a very strong woman, a good role model for your girlfriend,” Ferlinghetti said. “Also, I strongly recommend the work of one of my mentors, Kenneth Rexroth.” Wow, Lawrence Ferlinghetti had a mentor. It was an amazing thought to me, that this great writer actually drew inspiration from his elders as well.

“Thank you, sir,” I learned politeness from my military father and to this day call all guys sir. “I will do that. Thank you.”

“Just call out if you need more assistance,” he said, then went back to shelf stocking.

I felt higher than being stoned, tripping without acid. I had talked to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in person.

Ted had gone directly to Phillip Whalen. Ted was deep into Zen Buddhism. Whalen wrote extensively on the subject. Ted and I discussed the precepts of Buddhism as we drove back to our hippie haven. We determined that Buddhism was not really a religion since there were no deities and no wars had ever been fought in the name of Buddha. Our reasoning was flawless.

We introduced our concept to the flower children at hippie haven. It blew their minds. It was like we were prophets who had just introduced them to the truth of the universe. What startled me was how easily swayed these people were. They were ready to convert to Buddhism that very afternoon.

“But you see, Buddhism can’t replace your religion because it isn’t a religion, it seeks the explanation for all that the creator has made not who the creator is. Can you dig that?” Ted asked.

What I saw that day was that too much acid could really fuck up your mind so that you don’t know what the fuck is going on.


Tuesday was deemed Naked Day at the hippie haven; no clothes allowed. Anyone who came to the house had to shed all of their clothing at the door. The concept sounds a lot better than it works. I concluded that mystery played a large role in arousal. A body under a thin veil is far sexier than exposed skin, which explains why most sex occurs in subdued lighting or complete darkness. I didn’t really want to see most of these people naked, particularly the guys. Women’s bodies are beautiful sculptures, but guys have all that junk hanging off them. Plus, I was too slender to be naked. I had to run circles in a shower to get wet.

There is also something extremely unappetizing about naked people cooking the food you’re about to eat. I suggested an amendment to the naked day rule that required cooks to don a robe, at the very least. The amendment passed unanimously.

Late afternoon brought a girl named Willow to the house. She was tall, nearly six foot in height, and slender like me. Much to my surprise, she had come to the haven seeking me. The hippie drums had transmitted the myth of the Indian’s lovemaking powers around the neighborhood and Willow wanted to experience me firsthand.

We slipped away to an empty upstairs bedroom where we rapidly discovered that fatigue and overuse had turned my rod into a limp disappointment. Willow was the sexiest girl that I had encountered in a house of very sexy girls yet my ship remained in the harbor. The seamen were on liberty. Wanting to maintain my legacy I reverted to the techniques that Gloria taught me the preceding summer in New Orleans. Fortunately, the tongue is not dependant on blood flow to achieve and sustain rigidity.

Willow turned out to be a very loud girl. Her wails of pleasure were heard throughout the house, even over the music playing in the living room, thus enhancing my reputation with the flower girls. Her noise also revitalized my favourite toy to the point that I was able to give my tongue a much needed break.

Just when I thought that I could go no further, Willow whipped out tabs of LSD-25, the real deal made by a Berkeley chemistry student who claimed to have gotten the formula from Timothy Leary.

The LSD-25 took me on a totally different trip from the mescaline. Every molecule in my body hummed. All other functions and sensation flew beyond normal, skyrocketing to new galaxies of thought, tactile sensitivity, and nearly unendurable pleasure. We both got very loud I guess. Our volume was impossible to measure. Was it just that loud in our heads or did the sound escape the room, the house, the country, maybe even the planet arousing lovers in other worlds.

It was loud enough to attract Magnolia’s attention. She joined us at some point in the evening diverting my attention even further while I attempted to keep both girls involved and satisfied. A hippie dude eventually joined us. I was glad to have a relief pitcher at that point. Watching him in action with one girl – while at the same time the other attended to her own needs – excited my favourite toy once more so that I never sat in the dugout too long. At one point, hippie dude and I watched the Willow and Magnolia treat each other, which provided valuable training in positions and techniques that I had never imagined. I used the training to great effect in the intervening hours of intertwined involvement.

What had started out as a disastrous experience ultimately turned out to be the most turned on, tuned in moment of my heretofore relatively limited sex life.

Completely contrary to my experience, the girls were describing my cousin, Rock, as being great to look at, but an underachiever in the sack. He was said to be a little too prompt with his delivery, slow to recover, and even worse in the repeat performance area. Why? Because he didn’t take any drugs, man. His mind stayed too focused on the action causing overexcitement and premature Jack Nation, as the girls of the house euphemized.


On Wednesday, I hid out on a bench in a park a few blocks from the hippie haven. I was suffering deep depression, regret, and remorse for the life I had led since coming to San Francisco. I didn’t understand it at the time, but this was a natural hangover effect as the LSD-25 left my body. I drank an entire gallon of straight orange juice while reading on the park bench. I wanted nothing to do with women or sex that day. There was a major concert to be played the next day and I needed to regain my wits.

I missed Patty O’Leary. As much fun and sex as I was having, I missed my Wild Irish Patty. I regretted breaking up with her. What the fuck had I been thinking? It was the ultimatum that had caused my pride to rear up and react so harshly to the situation. I had much to apologize for when I returned to the Land Beyond Reality.

I went over conversations in my mind that I would have with Patty when next I saw her. I worked through each reaction that she may have to my heartfelt apologies, modified my responses, and honed my speech until I was certain that she would take me back. I needed to be sincerely contrite and beg her forgiveness.

Then, it occurred to me that I should write her a letter. I had sent her a few touron post cards from San Francisco, one each of Golden Gate, Coit Tower, and China Town. My notes were always brief and unapologetic. The letter I needed to write was the speech I had concocted in my head. I wrote and rewrote the letter for several hours, each time refining its message. I made it sound like I wasn’t enjoying myself, complained about the cold and fog, too many people, overwhelming stench of patchouli everywhere, and general complaints describing the most miserable time. Yeah, I know that it was all a huge lie, but there was no way the truth was going to help win her back.

I purchased postage at a corner drug store and mailed the letter that afternoon. The letter would surely reach her days before Dynasty returned home. For the return address I listed my home in Superior. Whatever her answer might be, I didn’t need to hear it before my return.