that mutt sure could use
a little plastic raincoat
I think about the weather as I tighten the laces of my boots. I stand
a good chance of getting caught in the rain on my way to Bolinas. Turning
off the lights and locking the door, the grey of morning has failed to
ease much. Clots of mist snag on the surrounding pointy tree hillsides,
postcard perfect. The damp cold invigorating, I stride the three-quarters
of a mile into Monte Rio, briefcase in hand. I think out my itinerary:
a series of bus transfers to a point where I will have to hitch a ride
the rest of the way, about 25 miles. What if it rains? What if no one
stops to pick me up? What if I miss my connections? What am I doing?
time to spare
I cross the bridge
when I get to it
Waiting on the 9 AM bus, a neighbor offers
a ride to the next wide spot in the road. She's in a hurry, late for an
appointment. We speed around the curves and shoot down the straight-aways
following the swollen, muddy river. I tell her I'm on my way to Bolinas
because I've been invited to read my poems at the public library there.
She's reminded of her youth growing up in Marin County and how she used
to hang out in Bolinas because it was a hip place to be, to go get stoned
and party. "Ah, Bolinas!"
with mattress stuffing
I get a cup to go and head for the bus
stop in Guerneville, minutes
to spare. I've hardly taken a sip when some guy in a red
pickup calls me over and asks if I need a ride -- he's heading into Santa
Rosa which is where I connect with the bus heading down to San Rafael.
It's one of those offers you don't refuse. In the course of our conversation,
I mention my eventual destination. "Ah! Bolinas!" he says, "Going down
to buy some boo-boo, huh?" By which he means marijuana.
in Santa Rosa, I'm way ahead of my schedule so I have no choice but to
wait. The bus ride thirty or so miles to San Rafael is uneventful and
I divide my time between going over the works I plan to read that evening
and keeping an eye on the incoming storm over the western horizon. Disembarking,
I easily find the next bus that will transport me to the end of the line.
full color sycamore
down the block from
the old Mission
Thumb out I wait, having been here, standing
on some sandy shoulder,
many many times before, and when someone slows down and stops fifty yards
up the road, I grab my case and run to the waiting
car. Unsure of the way ahead, I take any ride offered which
can sometimes strand you in a place where no one cares to stop,
their speed too fast to even consider it. I end up walking a mile or so
to a spot where I can be easily seen and wide enough for someone to pull
off the road safely. It begins to rain. A shiny blue-grey Mercedes stops.
The driver guessed by the way I was dressed (levis & levi jacket &
brogans) I was headed for Bolinas. He goes right by Joanne Kyger's place.
Talk about luck!
Joanne offers to show me around, and besides
she has to go into
town to cash a check. Bolinas proper is a collection of homes
and shops fronting the Bolinas lagoon and the Pacific ocean, and resembling
a tiny New England fishing village. Above the town, on the mesa, there
are many more homes crowded together around muddy unpaved streets which
gives it the quaint ramshackled atmosphere of a psychedelic Dogpatch.
There's no doubt Bolinas is very picturesque. Joanne lovingly points out
every detail, even the fact that one whole side of the mesa is being eroded
by the constant action of the Pacific.
the sea is eating
up the land nothing
we can do about it
Joanne points out the butterfly trees and
then we're "downtown". I buy a six pack of beer and we go sit on the rip
rap at the end of Main Street, drink beer, make small talk, and watch
the waves wet the sand.
Downtown Bolinas is like a single street
movie set for "Tom Sawyer
Meets Tim Leary." It has a certain charm, one which its natives guard
possessively. Someone is always tearing down the roadsign
on Highway 1 pointing to Bolinas. It's as if they want to secede from
the mainland, physically as well as culturally. This, of course, makes
it even more intriguing to outsiders. Joanne points out the local landmarks:
Smiley's Bar, and across the street, Scowly's, and further down, Snarly's.
There's the library where I'll be reading tonight, the health food store,
the bakery, the post office. "I checked the mail earlier, but no harm
in checking it again," says Joanne.
everyone knows her
"Are you going
to India, Joanne?"
on the mesa
a lost world of mostly
older single women
Back at Joanne's, we sit around the kitchen
table sipping tea with a little of the creature in it. This is the first
really had a chance to sit down and talk with Joanne, some one I've known
in passing for almost twenty years. I remind her of the first time we
ever met. It was at a book party in San Francisco. I was a campus radical
literary magazine editor then -- shoulder-length hair, ratty patched levis,
cast-off Army jacket, I really looked the part. Joanne had come up to
me and asked if I was one of those new "revolutionary" poets. I'm certain
now that it was all in jest, but back then, being an ill-tempered young
upstart, I mumbled an angry reply and cut short any opportunity to make
doesn't recall the incident, but then why should she? She's Joanne Kyger,
after all, la belle dame sans merci, accomplished acknowledged poet on
more than one continent, confidante of Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen,
dowager of the local poetry minions, sponsor and patron of the literary
arts, representative of the Muse on this muddy spit of land, promoter
of esthetics, and so on. The list is quite long, and after a while, quite
boring. It's not like she's the Virgin Mary or anything like that. But
she has the presence and the posture and the stature of a great woman
whose approaching greyness is the badge of her wisdom. I comment on her
collection of little magazines. I collect them too, especially the ones
with my poems in them. "Do you save them because you think they'll be
worth a lot of money someday?" At least we share a common delusion.
jungle of entanglements
gentle tigress digresses
moon in mist
Has a reading at the Bolinas Library ever
started on time? It's
a rhetorical question voiced by one of the local party animals. They come
out of the woodwork and sometimes the bushes. This has been a long awaited
event. I can tell from the size of the crowd. But then Bolinas is a small
community so taking all that into consideration, it's standing room only.
Bill Berkson can't stay long. Joe Safdie and friends tough it out through
both sets. Bobbie Louise Hawkins, who had promised earlier, just couldn't
Everyone was waiting to show up at Joanne's
party afterwards, anyway. Now this is the real Bolinas, the kooky and
the kinky, the yuppie and the yippie, rubbing elbows and tushes, sharing
hors d'oeuvres and joints over glasses of white wine. Joanne has a lot
of great looking women friends! Suddenly this party has possibilities!
"Ah, Bolinas!" I raise my glass in salute.
Bobbie Louise shows up after a while with
a reporter from Rolling Stone who is in Bolinas interviewing people
for an article on the late Richard Brautigan. He records an interview
with Joanne in a quiet corner of her study.
While there's still a crowd, the music
of their mania is enough. After everyone goes home though, that's a different
story. Joanne only has one Ray Charles record, all the rest are poetry
the Bronx logic of
poetry on the phonograph
till late in the AM
Wake up early the next morning on the couch
in Joanne's livingroom,
a splitting headache and a taste in my mouth I'd like to disown. Best
thing to do is get ready to leave without waking Don or Joanne. Arranged
with Sara Shrom for a ride into Fairfax last night, but other details
are blurry. What time did she say she'd be here? Dressed, step outside
and take stock of morning.
the bare trees
speak of a chilly
glances off puddles
feet bus stop
I say my good-byes to the mystic, musty
isle of Bolinas. It was great while it lasted, but now I'm ready to go
back. My journey has had the characteristics of a mythic quest. I performed
almost every task the gods had asked of me, but I still have to endure
one final ordeal: ride public transportation with a hangover.
unlock the door
back home just in time to
turn on the lights