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Literary Pilgrimage

Mom & Dad @ City Lights

My folks and I went on a literary pilgrimage of sorts. Our first destination was City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco's Italian-American district--- better known as "North Beach." North Beach was once a low-rent bohemian scene where Ginsburg, Burroughs, Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Gary Snyder, Ruth Weiss and other artists, musicians and free-spirits lived, wrote and played.

City Lights Bookstore was co-founded in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. This bookstore shared the same name with Ferlinghetti's pop-culture magazine City Lights. A few years later a publishing wing was formed. In 1956 City Lights published Ginsburg's Howl and Other Poems and gained notoriety from the obcenity trial which followed.

My Dad refers to the first time he heard a reading of Howl as a pivitol point in his existence. He's also a big Kerouac fan, but made a point of telling me several times, "These guys are assholes, I hope you know that. I used to like them but they're all just a bunch of cock-sucking assholes." Don't get me wrong, he's got no problem with guys sucking cock. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it's not that. Later he told me Kerouac's The Town and The City is his favorite.

city lights bk store1

A few years ago my Dad wrote these lines about Ginsberg: I heard Allen read (perform?) "Kaddish" in Kansas City back in the early 70s at the University of Missouri, the place was packed with neo-beats, long haired, tofu-sucking, kelp-eating, new-age hippie freaks; the type of people Jack Kerouac held in the highest disregard. The whole scene turned me off...

I could have browsed for days in City Lights Bookstore. I showed considerable restraint and acquired only a copy of Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding which was recommended to me by one of favorite ljers robin_rule and seconded by my Father. I also picked up an issue of "Cometbus." Maybe I'm a girl with low ambitions but I think you've done something pretty cool when City Lights sells copies of your zine.

These are the stairs leading to City Light's famous poetry room. Poetry books I was sorely tempted to acquire included Poems from Guantanamo, The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets and The Essential Neruda.


I like the way you can see my Dad's reflection in this window and then his legs seem to continue down into the next pic where he's standing in Kerouac alley.

city lights bk store 3

kerouac alley feet

We stayed at the Hotel Boheme where Kerouac used to rent a room. There were framed black & white photos of famous beatniks hanging artfully everywhere, even in the bathroom.

hotel boheme jazz



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2007 04:44 am (UTC)
Your dad is my new favorite person.
Oct. 10th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC)
Thanks. He's one of my favorite people, too.
Oct. 10th, 2007 05:17 am (UTC)
I loved his comments about the Beats (probably because I agree with him)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 10th, 2007 05:11 am (UTC)
That is awesome! Do you have a copy of his rendering of you?
Oct. 10th, 2007 12:59 pm (UTC)
oh wow. and here i thought serendipity books was amazing. i'll have to go there next week.
Oct. 10th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC)
It's not so much the size of the bookstore, but the selection they carry.
Oct. 10th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
Oct. 10th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
Ooh, City Lights! I've been there once. I could have stayed in there forever too :-)
Oct. 10th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a great time. I love the stairway photo with the fringed chandelier.
Oct. 11th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you had a good time. You needed a vaycay :)
More glad that you're back! I felt a little lost...you're part of my "support group" ;)
We must get together soon.
Oct. 23rd, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)
copy cat vacation
okay, I didn't travel with my parents (for a number of obvious to me reasons), but my hub and kids love to travel to SF, and last time we stayed at the Hotel Boheme and always always go to City Lights! (Did you eat pastries from the downstairs shop?) Love seeing the photos of both places - mini online vacation for me. But really, that favorite ljer is shy about promoting her own projects - did she mention that her publishing business 'rainy day women press' has a publication at City Lights? okay, I am promoting my own a bit here also - the book is Songs and Sonnets by Larry Beckett (my hubby).

p.s. how did you get such nice weather in sf?
Oct. 23rd, 2007 05:09 am (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
okay, I'm replying to my own post (didn't see how to edit it) - I meant to add how wonderful I think your photos are. I don't post many images in lj, but do more at flickr - do you post any photos there?

thanks for sharing.
Oct. 24th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
Thank you, and yes, I do have more photos on flickr (mostly ones that I have posted on lj or intend to post one lj). My flickr name is also createdestiny.
Oct. 26th, 2007 02:59 am (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
okay - I'm so dumb that I can't place in my head that 'createdestiny' that I ALREADY have bookmarked on flickr is the same as you. duhhhhh. I'll try to keep that in my memory banks.
Oct. 24th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
Oh, what a wonderful world. I think she's mentioned 'rainy day women press' but I didn't think to look for it there (DANG! Because I really want to read her work and your hubby's, too). Guess I'll just have to go back!

We didn't eat the pastries downstairs, instead we ate breakfast sandwiches across the street at Puchini's (sp?)
There's another thing I have to go back for. Yay!
Oct. 24th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
p.s. I don't know how we got the good weather, but it was a blessing.
Oct. 25th, 2007 08:14 pm (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
If you want, you can buy Songs and Sonnets on Amazon (search on Larry Beckett, not Songs and Sonnets and it will come right up), but another trip to City Lights would be oh so much more fun.
Oct. 25th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
Cool, I'll bookmark you over there also.
Oct. 25th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
Re: copy cat vacation
p.s. I love the rain, but when traveling, unless one is holed up in a wonderful cozy spot for the duration, clear weather is a plus.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )