A Tribute by Teatro Vivo de Oaxaca, A.C.

Atrio of the Basilica of Santo Domingo

Oaxaca, Mexico, February 21, 2004




From "The Memoirs," by Bill Wolf, February, 2004:



             Then too, that’s when Lawrence Ferlinghetti came to town.

            I had read about him being in Mexico the year before, and he’d always gotten lots of write-ups in the papers, especially La Jornada, about his comments on the world situation and how fucked was George W. Bush and such.  I liked reading his comments and thinking Good for him!



            So I was taking note when they said he was coming to Oaxaca for some kind of conference of writers or such.  The local papers announced he would be presenting his new book of poetry, “Noches Mexicanos” at six o’clock Saturday afternoon in the Santo Domingo Cultural Center.



            I immediately called up Sergio and said, “Sergio, we should do something for Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who’s coming to town!”


            So, I explained that he was the last of the great “beats” from the fifties and that our street theater group in Seattle had done pieces of his in the old, anti-war hippie days, and they were always great, and shouldn’t we do some too?  Well, of course, he thought it was a great idea and so we got together with Ayax and a few others and started talking it up.  We wrote a nice letter to him, welcoming him to Oaxaca and such, and I ran around to get signatures of people I thought would like to be on the list, Cicely and her Historic Organs organization, Henry and Rosa from Amate Books, Mary Jane and the gallery, the theater, of course, and the Frente Común.  We made a little "Welcome" flier to hand out in the performance.


            I described the famous “routine” we had done, “Winding and Unwinding,” and Sergio and the guys began rehearsals.  We painted a big “Welcome Lawrence” banner, a few peace and love placards and started to get everybody excited.

            Saturday morning came, of course, and I walked into the hotel where he was staying, the Monte Albán (of all!), and asked for Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  He happened to be eating breakfast in the patio and I stepped up, respectfully, not wishing to seem too pushy.  I presented our nice letter, with the couple dozen signatures I had gathered and he looked very pleased.  We chatted briefly and I mentioned we would be doing a short welcome performance shortly before his book presentation at Santo Domingo at six o’clock.

            “Oh, it’s going to be at five,” he said.

            “Five o’clock?”

            “Yes, they had to change the time,” he told me, and we said goodbye.

            "That's just like that stupid I.O.C.," Sergio said when he heard about the time change, the State Cultural Institution which was presenting the conference, to change the hour at the last minute and, of course, let nobody know.

            So we called our friends and those we could and let them know about the time change and headed into the last rehearsals and getting ready.  I talked to Susan Kaufman who said, sure, I’d love to come.

            We were a pretty good little group who managed to show up about 4:30 and camped around a little corner of the big, impressive Basilica; the cultural center and regional museum is housed in the adjoining ex-convent, a recent remodeling the work of Francisco Toledo (of course).  The sun beat mercilessly down on the stones and no sort of crowd or audience was apparent anywhere nearby, but we pulled out our Welcome Lawrence banner and gave Susan, who was dressed in all-white spangles, the big white spangled peace sign.  The actors in their dark suits, now bound at the heads, began slowly turning and saying “Winding and unwinding, ...winding and unwinding,...”

            Soon a small group of the curious had wandered by and somebody said, “He’s coming, ...just a few blocks away, and coming this way.”



            The actors slowly twisted and turned, “...winding and unwinding ...” they called out over and over.

            Well, he came, of course, with a small group of followers, and I stepped up to greet him and I thanked him for coming.  He stared at the two guys and said, “That one of my Routines, you know.”

            “Yes, we know.  That’s why we did it,” I said.

            “What was that called?” he asked.

            “‘Winding and Unwinding’,” I answered proudly.

            “No.  That’s what they’re saying, but it was titled something else.”

            “Well, we always called it ‘Winding and Unwinding’,” and I mentioned that I had done it years ago as part of our hippie street theater.

            “Oh, really?  No, it had a different title.  I don’t remember what it was called.”

            “Well, I don’t feel so bad if you can’t remember either,” I joked with him.



            He looked very pleased.  He kept smiling and saying “Magnífico!  Magnífico!”  Then he put his hands in the air and began twisting and turning with the actors in the middle, finally drawing them to him and whispering in their ears.  Of course, the actors with their heads wrapped in bandages, had no idea what was going on and had to be told the whole thing later.



            Lawrence shook hands all around and told everybody how happy he was and grateful for the performance and everybody burst into applause.  Then he and his friends went inside and he made his presentation.  I loved his pink glasses. 



             Somebody had videotaped the whole thing and a bunch of pictures were took and everybody felt real good about having done it, of course.


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            I wrote him a letter afterwards and signed it “Your new friend,” and shortly we got a nice postcard back thanking again his new "friends."



            Sometime later, I noticed he had put a new mural on his City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, this time a replica of a Zapatista mural from Chiapas.  We felt good about that.



            That's the kind of guy he is.




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