A Saturday Night

I was 17 years old when my girlfriend Sue Wallace asked me to go with her on a bus trip from Seattle to Spokane. She wanted to visit a friend of hers who had moved there, and her parents said she could take the Greyhound bus if I would go with her. The plan was to spend the weekend with her friend and then take the bus home again.

I don’t remember too much about the visit except what happened Saturday night. I can’t even remember the name of the people we stayed with, but I do remember Saturday night.

At 17 I was a naive and innocent teenager so when the girl told her parents we were going to a school dance, I thought we were. I remember her brother dropping us off in front of the school, and after he was out of sight, we got into a car with other teenagers and drove off into the woods. I was strictly an innocent bystander. The party in the woods was a kegger and there were a lot of people there drinking beer. What I remember that Saturday night is meeting a boy by the name of Larry Haas. I don’t remember what attracted me to him but I remember sitting on a log and him quoting poetry to me.

The poetry was by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I was very impressed with his knowledge of this poet and his poetry; he could recite all of the poems from the book called “A Coney Island of the Mind.”

When the evening came to an end, Larry asked me if he could drive me back to the house. I explained to him that we had to return to the school and I needed to be with the people who brought me. And I wouldn’t have gone with him anyway because he had been drinking.

The next morning when we woke up,  the parents of the girl we were staying with said she was sad to see that Larry Haas died last night when he drove his car off a winding road.

That is all I remember of the trip; I don’t even remember going home on the bus or how I felt when I got home. I never told anyone about that night, but I’ve never forgot it. I can’t remember why but it recently came to mind.

Today while browsing in a charity shop in Toledo, Oregon, I found a little book on the shelf, marked free.

The book was “A Coney Island of the Mind”  by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a poet, publisher and political iconoclast who inspired and nurtured generations of San Francisco artists and writers from City Lights, his famed bookstore, died on Monday at his home in San Francisco. He was 101.

The cause was interstitial lung disease, his daughter, Julie Sasser, said.

The spiritual godfather of the Beat movement, Mr. Ferlinghetti made his home base in the modest independent book haven now formally known as City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. A self-described “literary meeting place” founded in 1953 and located on the border of the city’s sometimes swank, sometimes seedy North Beach neighborhood, City Lights, on Columbus Avenue, soon became as much a part of the San Francisco scene as the Golden Gate Bridge or Fisherman’s Wharf. (The city’s board of supervisors designated it a historic landmark in 2001.)

While older and not a practitioner of their freewheeling personal style, Mr. Ferlinghetti befriended, published and championed many of the major Beat poets, among them Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Michael McClure, who died in May. His connection to their work was exemplified — and cemented — in 1956 with his publication of Ginsberg’s most famous poem, the ribald and revolutionary “Howl,” an act that led to Mr. Ferlinghetti’s arrest on charges of “willfully and lewdly” printing “indecent writings.”

In a significant First Amendment decision, he was acquitted, and “Howl” became one of the 20th century’s best-known poems. (The trial was the centerpiece of the 2010 film “Howl,” in which James Franco played Ginsberg and Andrew Rogers played Mr. Ferlinghetti.)


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