If you're going to San Francisco...

On this coming Tuesday, I head off to one of my favorite cities in the world: San Francisco. I lived there in the mid-70s. One of my daughters was born just a few blocks from Golden Gate Park in the Haight. And I finished my undergraduate work - and later my doctoral studies - there, too. Not only does the spirit of the city nourish a part of my heart - the beat/jazz/counter cultural part of me - but the weather, spirituality and ambiance of the town sets me at rest. It is a city with real soul.

In some ways, it is the Bob Dylan/Allen Ginsberg thing that I find most attractive. In many ways, I find their partnership/friendship one of my guides in the spiritual quest. Both men tried to find a way to live and express the freedom and creativity of jazz in both their art and personal lives. Sometimes the result was brilliant:

+ There is no finer and more precise description of the American experience for young people of soul in the 50s and 60s than Ginsberg's masterpiece: Howl.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz...

+ And Dylan pushed that wisdom and raw brilliance one step farther with his incredible electric fusion work of 65-67.

Together they embraced the experimentation of the jazz of John Coltrane and Miles Davis - bebop Gillespie and angry Mingus, too - with words and the rhythms of the city. (To be sure, they had incredible failures, too, but even their artistic horrors were writ large and filled with creative passion. They were not afraid to fall.)

And then they brought the best minds and musicians of their generation together for the Rolling Thunder Review - beats and hippies, rock and rollers and shamans - touring America with an alternative to the fear and hatred that was dominant. As tricksters and spiritual renegades, they asked us to live into our best selves - our compassionate selves - our cooperative selves. And they embodied this wisdom and vision in the very music they played: everyone backed everyone else up, they combined wooden and electric music with poetry and art and the whole "show" as an alternative universe for a moment in time.

My brother and his wife live in this glorious and odd city. In fact, they used to live in North Beach before it became gentrified and overly commercial. They would hang out at Vesuvius - the original Beat bar - or the Saloon -my favorite watering hole. On Sundays, they would head off to Coppola's wine bar and chat up the poets and artists of the area. They know the best bar tenders, the wildest visual artists and more and more the finest working poets, too.

My brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few months ago and is in treatment. All seems to be going well, but we miss one another dearly. We need to hang together - my Dylan to his Ginsberg - for our mutual healing. So we'll walk through the old neighborhoods and hang out in our favorite bars and coffee shops - we''ll see some of the jazz greats and some fine rock and soul players, too - and spend some time in City Lights Books. I love my brother - he belongs to San Francisco - it will be good to be in their embrace.


Sending prayers for abundant blessings with your brother and his family this weekend. May you travel safely to the shore of grace and communion. Much love, Janet Rhodes
RJ said…
Thanks so much, Janet. Great to hear from you.

Popular Posts