Beat poet and founder
of City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, 1919 -
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.
“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
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
“‘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.
* * *
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
* * *