Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Friday, January 8, 2016


Lawrence Ferlinghetti is much in the news at the moment:  he’s 96 years old and has recently published his travel journals, and his letters to and from Allen Ginsberg. 
So I decided to read his 1958 poem “Autobiography.”  I’m not sure if it’s a very good poem but I like parts of it a lot.  It starts out really well:

I am leading a quiet life   
in Mike’s Place every day   
watching the champs
of the Dante Billiard Parlor   
and the French pinball addicts.   

But then it gets a bit too “poetic” for my tastes – there seems to have been a point in literary history when few Americans could write a poem without name-dropping Ezra Pound.  But the part of “autobiography” I like best, for obvious reasons, runs as follows.

I am leading a quiet life
outside of Mike’s Place every day   
watching the world walk by
in its curious shoes.
I once started out
to walk around the world
but ended up in Brooklyn.
That Bridge was too much for me.   

That’s nice isn’t it?  And funny too – and of course you could walk around the world and still end up in Brooklyn.  And obviously it begs the question of which side of the bridge was he when he found it too much.

I’ve walked in Brooklyn, and certainly walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, and I’ve also walked in the alley than runs behind Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookshop in San Francisco - Kerouac Alley.  Ferlinghetti worked hard to get the name changed.

And Ferlinghetti also has a street named after him, Via Ferlinghetti, less visited than
Kerouac Alley I’m sure, but now on the list of places I have to visit next time I’m in San Francisco.

Mr Ferlinghetti is a much photographed fellow, but the only picture I can find of him actually walking, is this one, where he’s with Jack Hirschman.

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