I am San Francisco
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I am San Francisco

 A.D. Winans
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 A.D. Winans
I am San Francisco
by A.D. Winans  FollowFollow
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In 1958 I returned to San Francisco after three years in the military, in Panama. I discovered the North Beach Beat era and made North Beach...read more my home away from home for over thirty years. I frequented Beat bars like Gino and Carlo's and The Place, and met Bob Kaufman at the Co-Existence Bagel Shop. Later I would become friends with poets like Jack Micheline and Harold Norse. I crossed-over in to the Hippie generation and met Richard Brautigan and many others. I hung around with small press publishers like Ben Hiatt and Kell Robertson, and published my own magazine, Second Coming, from 1972 through 1989. I organized the 1980 Poets and Music Festival honoring the poet Josephine Miles and Blues musician John Lee Hooker. I worked at a variety of jobs, including jobs with the San Francisco Art Commission and the U.S. Department of Education, Civil Rights Divsion. BOS press will soon release a 250 page book of my selected poems. You can find detailed information on me at my web site www.adwinans.mysite.com My only advise to poets and writers is "Walk the Walk" and not just "talk the talk."
More work by A.D. Winans:
I am San Francisco
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I was born premature at home
In San Francisco 
The family doctor told my mother
I would not survive 
But here I am approaching eighty-two
And still kicking

A reviewer dubbed me
The Frisco Kid
But I am San Francisco
My poems and my life
Are one and the same 
They can’t be separated

I was voted the biggest pop off
In my high school class
And worked hard 
To achieve this honor

I spent four years in the jungle
Hell of Panama
Saw first hand American imperialism
Lived through Joseph McCarthy
And the Communist witch hunt days

I returned home from the military
To discover the Beat Generation
Earned a degree from
San Francisco State College

I worked five-plus years 
For the post office
A brief stint as a civilian in the Navy
And retired as an “Equal Opportunity Specialist”
Investigating discrimination against minorities
Women and the disabled

I lived through Korea and Vietnam
Invasions of Granada and Panama
9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan
Nixon and Bush and the assassination of JKF
Martin Luther King Junior
And Robert Kennedy

I edited a literary journal 
Second Coming for l7 year

At the peak of my writing
I pasted over a hundred rejection slips
On my bedroom wall on Pierce Street
The same bedroom 
I was making love to a woman when
The radio station broke in with the news
That JFK that Kennedy had been assassinated 

I have been privileged to meet
John Lee Hooker, John Handy,
Janis Joplin, Queen Ida,
Jack Micheline, Bob Kaufman,
Charles Bukowski and other talented
Poets and writers

I never owned a home 
I never married 
I never had children

I have seen old San Francisco disintegrate
Slowly disappear like a sinkhole
Observed the waterfront rot in decay
The piers given over to tourists
And sunbathing sea lions

Gone the Haight Theater 
Where as a kid I paid a dime
To see two movies and a serial

The old Fox and Paramount Theaters
Just ghostly memories
The old Market Street porno house cinema
Boarded down
Crystal Palace market torn down
Replaced by a motel

Gone Mc Farland’s candy store
On Market Street
And Merrill’s Drug Store 
Gone Breen’s on Third Street
With the world’s best Martini


Gone I Magnin’s and the old
City of Paris
Where as a child I thrilled
At the sight of the giant Christmas Tree

And I’ll never forget The Emporium
Its indoor ice-skating rink
And a Santa Clause workshop
The roof top garden where
Rides included a Ferris wheel
A small roller coaster
And a train for children to ride

No more Black Hawk who booked
The best Jazz Musicians of the day
No more Jazz in the Fillmore

Gone the clinking of glasses
The waitress who always knew
When your glass was empty
The black female crooner
Who hit her notes like 
A midnight train passing through
Fargo, North Dakota

Gone the North Beach Beat hangouts:
“The Place The Co-existence Bagel Shop
And the old Coffee Gallery where 
Janice Joplin sang as an unknown

Gone the old Barbary Coast where
As a teenager I tried to sneak in 
A bar to catch a glimpse
Of one of the naked women dancers
Long before the topless and bottomless bars

Lenny Bruce and the old Purple Onion
Play Land at the beach
All fading memories
Gone the way of trolley car tokens
Fleer’s Double Bubble Gum
And the old Sutro baths

Third and Howard Street 
The epitome of Skid Row 
Given a face lift
The new skid row now between
Sixth and Seventh Streets
Home to drugs addicts and alcoholics
An open wound the city fathers ignore

Martini’s are for Seniors
Whiskey Sour just a memory
The Waterfront dives that served Seamen
And long shore men replaced by movie complexes
Malls and parking lots

The Mission once home of the Irish
Has gone Latino
North beach is moving from Italian
To Asian

The Greeks long ago moved to Burlingame
And no one knows what happened
To the American Indian 
And the bar they once frequented
On Valencia Street

And yet the city remains a magical 
Living breathing theater
Of eccentric characters
That go back to Emperor Norton

You can still get a reasonably priced drink
At the 3300 Club in the mission
Or if you can afford it 
Go to theTop of the Mark
For a $14 hot chocolate drink with
A shot of Stolly Vodka and Southern Comfort
And enjoy one of the most beautiful views
In the world

Or on a hot summer afternoon enjoy
An ice cream at Mitchell’s 
On San Jose Avenue where
My father took the family for a treat

You can still sun yourself 
At Washington Square Park
Watch young lovers lying on the grass
See old men feed the pigeons
Or walk the streets of Noe Valley
Once a blue-collar neighborhood
Now a Yuppie paradise

Watch young mothers 
With kids in strollers
Eye women joggers with
The smell of orange blossoms
In their hair

Admire a dog sitting outside
Martha’s Coffee Shop
Faithfully waiting with pleading eyes
For table scraps from its owner

I ‘m a Giants baseball fan 
And a lifetime 49ers football addict
My heart still bleeds over the loss 
Of Seal’s Stadium 
And the old time San Francisco Seals

I am the possessor of a PEN
Lifetime Achievement award
And a baseball trophy 
From Panama where
I played a decent outfield

I am the only word-slinger
In a family of blue-collar workers
I am a ghost lost in poetry books
Struggling to find the right words
To the right song

I am at war with my shadow 
Who shamelessly stalks me

I survived my apartment fire
To re-establish family ties

My niece, nephew, grand nephews 
And grand nieces share my blood
A mixture of white and Mexican roots

My father’s ghost walks my dreams
Stares out the window of my soul like
He stared out the living room window
The year of his death.
My mother sitting at the dinner table
Serving meat loaf and mashed potatoes
The air heavy as an anchor dragging
The ocean floor

I am not The Frisco Kid
I am San Francisco.

 

Also by A.D. Winans

4 comments

Discussion

  3 weeks ago
and a dose of self-pity to get you through a tough night
  3 weeks ago
I liked the stubborn integrity of a life well-lived, full of awareness
  3 weeks ago
I spent many years in the San Francisco bay area so it resonated with me. My reactions to this work are mostly positive, but at times it felt (to me) excessively maudlin. Nonetheless, we have a poignant word picture in the end and the photos add a lot.
  1 month ago
I found this to be a provocative journey- perhaps a beautiful case of psychogeography. I feel similar emotions about my hometown, New Orleans, and its incarnations. I also enjoyed the accompanying photographs. Thanks, A.D. and Red Fez for sharing.
 

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