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Monday, June 30

Generation Gap

"Generation Gap"
Short fiction - Literary
by Rod Drake

It was April 1967. San Francisco was the bridge between movements.

Richard Brautigan sat on the grass in North Beach's Washington Square Park, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was nearly noon, and he liked it here, across town from Haight-Ashbury. It was getting too crowded in the Haight; everyone seemed to be migrating there now.

Two years ago he used to hand out his little poems there, to anyone who would take them. They were quirky, absurd little poems that Richard lovingly copied by hand on small slips of colored paper. He remembered two girls, runaways no doubt, who loved his funny short poems and followed him everywhere he went, or sat Indian-style against a storefront, his two-person fan club, when he distributed his poems to passersby on Haight Street.

He would have slept with them, but they were too young. And they would have slept with him willingly, but they settled for the grass he gave them from time to time. Then the girls started going to Kesey's Acid Tests, and he never saw them again.

Now Richard was the poet-in-residence at the California Institute of Technology. He had published some poetry and one novel. Neither was successful. A second novel was coming out this year. It was very surrealistic and strange, so he had little hope it would be popular; he called it Trout Fishing in America, but it had nothing to do with trout fishing.

His favorite place to write was still here in Washington Square, in front of the Benjamin Franklin statue. It was going be featured on the cover of his new novel and would be mentioned in the first chapter. North Beach was where he had first lived when he moved to San Francisco in 1956.

North Beach was home to the Beat Movement. City Lights Bookstore was just a few blocks from here, where Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure and the rest had hung out, creating a new literature for the beat generation. Across the street was the hungry i, where Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl used to perform comedy laced with beat commentary.

Richard finished his sandwich and went back to writing in a tattered little notebook. Children played at one edge of the park while old men sat and slept on the city benches as they had for generations. The smell of Italian food drifted up from the sidewalk cafes in North Beach. A long-haired young man threw a stick that his dog kept retrieving with enthusiasm.

A young couple approached him shyly. They were either from the Haight or were on their way there. Their outfits, wire-rim glasses and hair length were pure hippie style.

"Excuse me," asked the boy who looked like Jesus or Buffalo Bill, "but aren't you the hippie writer who wrote A Confederate General from Big Sur?" Richard’s photograph was on the back of the book; he hadn’t changed much since then.

Richard smiled wryly. "No," he answered, "I'm the beat author of that book."

Rod Drake would like to encourage readers to rediscovery Richard Brautigan’s literary works and experience the beat/hippie movement firsthand. Check out Rod's longer stories posted in Six Sentences, Flashes of Speculation, Flash Forward, MicroHorror and AcmeShorts.

1 reactions:

Kelly Parra said...

Good one, Rod!