Crystal and I got to San Francisco mid-day on Tuesday. Our hotel wasn't ready so we checked our bags with the bell captain and strolled Fisherman's Wharf for a spell, taking the time to sit outside in the sun and eat some excellent garlic peel-n-eat shrimp while listening to a guy playing guitar and singing just across the way from the restaurant. We got checked into our room a bit after 3 and got settled in. That first night was the beat poetry reading at Bob Weir's Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, and we decided the best way to get there was to rent a Town Car. It cost about the same as a taxi but was much more comfortable. Unfortunately, the driver had no idea where he was going and no GPS system, so I ended up directing him via my phone's navigation system.
The event at Sweetwater was organized by Gerry Nicosia and called "Beat Poetry Reading in Tribute to Jack Kerouac and 'On the Road.'" It featured a host of poets (accompanied by music) and speakers and ran solid from 8 to 11 PM. Here's a list of poets/speakers/musicians in order of appearance followed by some pictures.
-Gerald Nicosia (backed up by musicians Dana Alberts, guitar, and Phil Deal, sax etc., who also backed up others and did solo performances)
-Ramblin' Jack Elliott
|Gerry Nicosia reading, Dana Alberts on guitar|
|Gerry forgot his reading glasses and these are what someone loaned him|
|Joanna McClure backed up by Dana Alberts and Phil Deal|
|You know Al Hinkle as Big Ed Dunkel from On the Road|
|Another shot of the legendary Al Hinkle|
|Al told some great stories about Jack and Neal|
|Counterculture legend Wavy Gravy put on a great show|
Rambling Jack Elliott told some great stories in his inimitable style but we didn't get a picture because he went on a tirade about no picture-taking during his performance. He said he'd be glad to pose naked on a horse after the show. Jack performed an abbreviated version of a classic song that he wrote for Jack Kerouac. It's called "The 9-12 Greens," and you can hear it here.
|Jerry Kamstra - "The Frisco Kid" - reading from his self-titled book|
|Local poet Sharon Doubiago was outstanding|
|John King, local poet and Executive Editor of MillValleyLit.com, reading from the bar|
It was a great evening. One highlight for me was getting a chance to meet and talk with Al Hinkle and his daughter, Dawn. Our tables were right next to each other. You'll recall that I interviewed Al on The Daily Beat and that Dawn greatly facilitated that interview. Who knows when a cast of Beat Generation legends like this will get together in one spot again? It was truly a historical event.
After the event, we spent the night at Gerry Nicosia's house. In the morning, he graciously took us out to breakfast and then gave us a lift back into San Francisco. My son, Jason, and his fiancee, Adri, had arrived in the city that morning and so we went out to lunch and spent some time catching up. Unfortunately, I was sick for the entire week leading up to the trip and throughout, and it caught up to me on Wednesday so I spent the afternoon and evening in bed in the hotel room. Let me just say that being sick when you are away from home is no fun.
On Thursday I was feeling a little more chipper - thankfully - so we made our way to North Beach. Our first stop was The Beat Museum, where we met owner Jerry Cimino. If you're a Kerouac or Beat Generation fan, this is a must-see when you're in San Francisco. The amount of stuff Jerry has collected is truly amazing.
|Rick Dale in front of The Beat Museum|
|That's supposedly Jack's CPO jacket|
|A visit to The Beat Museum is not complete without some pictures in the '49 Hudson used in the movie|
|Jerry was nice enough to take a group photo: (L-R) Rick, Crystal, Adri, Jason|
|Rick and Crystal in the Hudson|
|Here's a view of the whole Hudson - it still has the road dust on it from the trip they took across the U.S.|
|The Hudson from the back|
After a couple of hours at The Beat Museum, we made our way to Vesuvio's for a drink. It's a place where Jack Kerouac and the Beats hung out.
|Rick looking toward City Lights and Vesuvio's|
|Rick and Jason under the Jack Kerouac street sign|
|Owner Janet took our picture at Vesuvio's (L-R): Rick, Crystal, Adri, Jason|
|Vesuvio's owner, Janet, recommended Francis Ford Coppola's restaurant, American Zoetrope and we had great pizza there|
After a late lunch at Coppola's place, we made our way back to the hotel and got ready for the panel presentation at the San Francisco Public Library that night. We took at cab to the library and got there around 5:20 PM. Emcee Gerry Nicosia graciously introduced me to the other panelists. I also got to meet an actual Merry Prankster, Julius Karpen, and got his phone number for a potential interview for the The Daily Beat.
|Rick with Julius Karpen, one of the Merry Pranksters|
|That's Gerry Nicosia to my left, Peter Coyote and Joanna McClure to my right|
I got a chance to talk with Peter Coyote before the show. He has some Maine connections and we shared some common experiences regarding our parents. Peter struck a dashing figure, dressed in black and sporting a fedora. Someone commented about his hat and he said whenever he sees someone his age wearing a baseball cap he wants to reach out and "bitchslap" them. I was taken with Peter's approachability, and his comments during the panel were right on. I talked briefly with Dennis McNally as well, and it turns out he went to high school in Dexter, Maine! It was also great to finally meet in person my Facebook friend, Brad Parker, who turned out to be every bit the gentleman and scholar I imagined.
The event itself kicked off at 6:00 PM with a showing of 4 clips from the upcoming On the Road movie, whose release date was supposedly the next day but was moved until after the Oscars. Gerry Nicosia emceed the panel presentation, and each panelist spoke for about 10 minutes on his or her perspective about Jack Kerouac, On the Road, and the movie. The panel featured Kerouac and Grateful Dead biographer Dennis McNally, actor Peter Coyote, poet Joanna McClure (she was at the Six Gallery reading in 1955), Kerouac biographer and Lowell native Brad Parker, and yours truly. From all reports, I held my own. The library director said there were about 275 people in attendance.
|(L-R): Dennis McNally, Peter Coyote, Joanna McClure, Gerry Nicosia, Brad Parker, Rick Dale|
After the event, the library orchestrated a brief booksigning for those of us with books. I signed 4 or 5 copies of my book for people and met some interesting characters. Sharon Doubiago, who had read her poetry at Sweetwater on Tuesday, came up after the show and gave me a copy of a Maine story she'd been working on.
|Rick Dale signing copies of The Beat Handbook|
Outside after the show I met Diamond Dave Whitaker, who must be met in person to be appreciated but you can click here for more information.
|Rick with Diamond Dave Whitaker outside the San Francisco Public Library|
After the event, we made our way back to North Beach for dinner. Gerry Nicosia recommended the U.S. Original Restaurant (Italian). We had a group of eight and got a perfect table in the front of the restaurant. The waiter took our picture and because of the mural behind us it not only looks like we're eating outside by the water but that Jan Kerouac is sitting between Gerry Nicosia and me. I sat across from Gerry and Brad Parker and of course we yakked the whole time about things Kerouac. The food was excellent and reasonably priced.
|(L-R): Adri, Crystal's friend Penney, Brad Parker, Gerry Nicosia, Rick Dale, Crystal, Penney's daughter Allie, Jason|
On Friday we had a great breakfast at The Hollywood Cafe in Fisherman's Wharf, and then we braved the bus system and made our way - with a transfer! - to Haight-Ashbury. The women found a shoestore right off the bat and Jason and I stood outside. There were two homeless-looking characters sitting on the sidewalk next to us, and a couple approached them and started talking about selling them a broken-down car that was in a nearby parking lot. A police car pulled up. The officer got out and basically rousted the four of them, two for sitting on the sidewalk (a no-no, apparently) and two of them for being in some kind of confrontation earlier in the day. It was better than an episode of Cops.
A highlight in the Haight was our lunch at Cha Cha Cha, where we had delightful black beans and rice, Cajun shrimp, fried new potatoes with chili pasilla aioli, quesadillas, and a portobello sandwich.
Later on Friday we had a couple of drinks at an Irish bar, Fiddler's Green, and then ate dinner at Joe's Crab Shack. Good food, but it was freezing in there (we sat near the windows - bad idea). After dinner it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for an early flight.
We had reserved a Town Car to take us to the airport Saturday morning at 6:30 but it was 10 minutes late so we decided on a taxi instead. It turns out you can negotiate the taxi fee to the airport (we got the guy down to $45, less than the $50 for the Town Car). The trip home was smooth and we drove into our driveway in Maine around 9:30 PM, making for a long day.
All in all, except for being under the weather, it was an amazing trip. If you get a chance to visit San Francisco, take it. I love that city, and that's regardless of its Kerouac connections.