Howl if you heart City Lights Bookstore. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this one is that we were scheduled to go to California two summers before we actually went. Christopher’s accidental fall off his Segway, requiring immediate surgery at Boston’s Children’s Hospital caused us to cancel our flights and reservations the night before we were to leave. So instead of strolling around San Francisco in early June of 2007, I was spending the night in his hospital room at Children’s. The plan had been to fly to California and drive back across country. We had looked for a Westphalia to buy while we were there but decided to just rent an SUV to drive back. In the end it didn’t really matter obviously as we cancelled the trip. So two summers later we decided to give it another try, only this time we’d just be there for 10 days – fly into San Francisco, spend a few days, and then take two days to drive down the coast – through the Big Sur area – to Los Angeles and spend some time with Rick’s son, Jason.
Our first full day in San Francisco we spent riding the trolleys, visiting Chinatown, Coit Tower, Vesuvios Bar and City Lights Bookstore, famous hangout of the beats. Rick left one of his books there, The Beat Handbook, 100 Days of Kerouactions. A reverse shoplifting or guerilla marketing kind of thing. A year later he was offered the opportunity to review Helen Weaver’s book about Kerouac for City Lights and he asked them if they’d carry it. They declined. But little did they know that they did in fact carry it for some period of time. Probably ended up in the trash but who knows, maybe some person bought it and City Lights sold it to them, not quite understanding their snafu with the inventory as he/she checked the book out.
It’s a cool little bookshop, more polished and sterile now I suspect than at the time Ferlinghetti first co-founded it and Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Cassady hung out there. I bought a couple poetry books, a t-shirt, and the bumper sticker. The reference to Howl was kind of a double entendre for us as just before we left Maine we’d volunteered with the Wolf Inquiry Project to go out into the woods in western Maine in the middle of the night and howl like a wolf and record any responses we got. And of course, the obvious reference to Ginsberg’s poem.
That had been my first, and so far only, trip to CA so I’m a little sad to no longer have a bumper sticker on my car in memory of the trip
Perhaps I’ll order one from their website for the new Forester though that’s not quite the same.