Today Kyle and I did something we hadn’t done on our whole trip together. TIt was a milestone, and it happened on the last day of our trip. I met Kyle in front of my hotel in The Tenderloin… and we actually spent the day exploring the city together. We were finally able to do what we intended all along.
Perhaps our arrival into San Fran and bunking down in separate places was the magical mental release between Kyle and I, but today we wanted to walk the city together. This wasn’t about having to be together, it was about wanting to be together. We didn’t have a plan either. No maps, no place we had to be—just me, Kyle, and the streets of San Francisco.
We walked to City Lights Bookstore, the west coast home of the Beatniks—the west coast home of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose A Coney Island of the Mind is by far some of the best poetry ever written. It’s one of the books that made me want to write (even though my poetry is god-awful!). Ferlinghetti was not in the bookstore, but Kyle and I still spent a good hour combing through the stacks. Kyle had just introduced me to John Fante, and we bought a few of his paperbacks. The place had everything—even a touch of rebellion in the face of the chains popping up over on Market Street. (I was lucky enough to encounter Ferlinghetti on a trip back to City Lights in 2007. I was walking upstairs; he was heading down. We both tripped as we were walking toward each other, and when we met in the middle of the staircase, Ferlinghetti put his hand on my arm and said to me, “The young poet and the old poet falling down the stairs.”)
After literary nirvana, we retired to Vesuvio’s across the way for booze and beer. Lots of booze and beer. We walked the streets taking everything in—the people, smells, the sounds, and the geography. We eventually found our way to Fisherman’s Wharf, and if not for the bellow of the sweet sea lions, I think I would’ve blown my brains out. This was the type of area Kyle and I kept trying to avoid, and no matter if we were in St. Louis, Las Vegas, or ‘Frisco, one thing we learned was that there was no way to avoid the box-store mentality of Joe Fuckwad, his stupid wife, and his two bratty kids with buck teeth and pointy heads.
Over dinner that night, Kyle told me he was heading north by bus. I had booked my tickets back to Philly on Amtrak the previous night. We hugged and agreed to keep in touch—and we did. Just not as frequently as we should have. The goodbye was bittersweet, but I was more than happy knowing I was heading home tomorrow.