On the last day of the San Francisco Writers Conference, we took a literary tour of North Beach, the “Little Italy” neighborhood where baseball great Joe Dimaggio grew up and the “beat generation” of writers–Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and others–gathered.
It was one of those days when the sun warms your face and the magnolia blossoms stir your heart. We walked past outdoor cafes, bakeries, and salami shops. Along the way, our guide pointed out a bar, a church, a mural, an alley, told a story, and read a snippet of a poem to set flame to our literary souls. It was here that I was given a short-course on Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet laureate of San Francisco and owner of the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, City Lights Books.
“Dog” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
… And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit’s Tower
and past Congressman Doyle of the Unamerican Committee
He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower
but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a serious dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant …
“The Old Italians Dying” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
… You have seen them
every day in Washington Square San Francisco
the slow bell
tolls in the morning
in the Church of Peter & Paul
in the marzipan church on the plaza
toward ten in the morning the slow bell tolls
in the towers of Peter & Paul
and the old men who are still alive
sit sunning themselves in a row …
(Don’t you just love that “marzipan church”.)
“The Green Street Mortuary Marching Band”
 …where all the café sitters at
the sidewalk café tables
sit talking and laughing and
looking right through it
as if it happened every day in
little old wooden North Beach San Francisco
but at the same time feeling thrilled
by the stirring sound of the gallant marching band
as if it were celebrating life and
never heard of death …  –L. Ferlinghetti
I’ll wrap up the tour with one of the newest artistic additions to North Beach—Language of the Birds (2006-2008) by Brian Goggin with Dorka Keehn. This sculptural installation at the corner of Broadway, Grant, and Columbus streets is a flock of 23 books, flapping above the heads of pedestrians, while words and phrases from 90 authors of the neighborhood—Italian, Chinese, and English—drop to the sidewalk. Solar panels are mounted on Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore to illuminate the fluttering books at night.
There were books above us, words below us, and as one joker in the group said, “There’s even a dangling participle!” Laurie Lynch
Hearts Follow Hearts: Al Haring got the Brooke Shields magazine and sent a thank you, and this link to another Keith Haring and Brooke Shields heart …
Written on Slate: Every man’s memory is his private literature. –Aldous Huxley


2 thoughts on “Fleur-de-LiteraryTour

  1. Great atricle!

    My favorite lines were

    “although what he hears is very discouraging
    very depressing
    very absurd
    to a sad young dog like himself
    to a serious dog like himself”

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