Happy Birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (belated due to technical difficulties)

New Directions Publishing

I still remember the first time poetry made an impact on me. I was probably a high school freshman. I was reading Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Today (March 24, 2019), Mr Ferlinghetti turned 100. (If my mom were alive, she’d be a couple of months older than he…beyond that, I can’t think of anything they’d have in common.) He is not only a great poet, but runs one of the world’s great bookstores – City Lights, in San Francisco.

It was the day I learned of the power of language and the economy of words. The poem also became the climax of my best radio show: a 3.5 hour program called “Music and Poetry of San Francisco”. I showed up at the studio with a stack of books and records, a loose outline in mind. Each piece led to the next. I found the momentum building. Songs and poems started to choose themselves. The show ended with the Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” and Ferlinghetti’s “Tentative Description of a Dinner Given to Promote the Impeachment of President Eisenhower”. As usual, the show wasn’t recorded, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

tentative

Try as I might, I can’t manage to upload the poem in a legible manner. The link above will take you to the poem. As for the Airplane, I already linked to that song in https://halffastcyclingclub.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/

You can go back there to hear it again. To recreate that experience from 1977 or so, pull up the poem link, read, and fade from one to the other.

And I think we just had our last snow of the season; five months after our first snow of the season in this odd, split polar vortex year. I was in La Crosse, WI for the weekend. There was snow on the ground and on the roofs up there. As we entered Madison, flurries welcomed us home. Crocus poking up through the snow look like spring. Daffodils through the snow just look sad.

get outta town!

Most of my riding for fun is on back roads. When I lived in California I tended to ride up narrow, poorly-paved, switchback-laden roads that cars tended to avoid. At climbing speed, poor pavement wasn’t a big issue. I rode down well-paved highways with broad, sweeping turns.

Sanchez St
Dead end of Sanchez Street, one of the ways you can’t get to Cumberland Street.

In Santa Clara I could ride a very short distance from home and be climbing in the Santa Cruz mountains. I just tried to get a photo of one of those roads on Google Street View –  there are no photos available, so I guess they couldn’t get their car up or down it. The other images on this page are from Google Maps. In San Francisco I discovered urban riding. I lived at the top of a hill that was steep enough that, on three sides, the streets dead-ended in steep stairways (left). There was only one street that made it up the hill to my house. I didn’t ride my bike when I first moved there, thinking it was too steep.

Vermont St
Vermont Street, less famous than Lombard Street, but no straighter

One day I couldn’t take it anymore, so I rode to work. Coming back up that hill was fun and easier than anticipated, so I started riding a lot more. I found streets in the neighborhood where you had to park perpendicular to traffic (bottom) due to the steep grade. I discovered the not-so-famous second crookedest street in the world (right). I had to be on call for work some weekends, so didn’t want to leave town, but still wanted to ride my bike. I realized that I could ride the “49 mile Scenic Drive” (below) and get in a 50 mile bike ride without ever straying more than about 10 miles from work or home.

34d30235-c738-453c-bc92-63d2fc901e70_l
The 49 mile scenic drive

I later tried venturing farther afield on weekends, as I wasn’t getting many calls. I had a great ride out on Point Reyes before I found there was a paging dead area out there. Had I been paged I would have ridden blissfully unaware all day. (Since I headed this “get outta town” I thought I’d better put in a word about riding out of town. Really, I guess the point of this post is that you don’t have to get outta town to have a good time on a bike.)

Hill St
Hill Street, one of the steeper streets in the neighborhood

I’m not sure why I’m writing about San Francisco this week – maybe it’s because the temperature has been below zero for most of the last two weeks as I write this in early January. San Francisco, by comparison, is fairly warm this time of year. (Though not so much in the summer. You have probably heard the line misattributed to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” While there is no evidence Twain said it, and it was apparently initially a reference to Duluth, I can attest that it can get pretty cold in the summer in San Francisco. I made note of the date one evening when I went for a walk in the neighborhood. It was July 29. I was wearing my winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and was chilled to the bone. A cold ocean fog was blowing in and a wind tunnel had formed down my street. I knew what Twain, or someone, meant.)

P.S. Signs that it might actually be spring: the loons have headed north, replaced by coots;

terrace chairs
John Hart, Wisconsin State Journal

hyacinths, daffodils, and irises finally blooming, a dozen hammocks hanging behind Kronshage Hall; tables and chairs are back on the Union Terrace!