San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

A wellworn copy of ‘Coney Island’ propels N.Y. teen to Bay Area

- By Barbara Lane imaginatio­n” “where Beauty stands and waits with gravity to start her deathdefyi­ng leap And he a little charleycha­plin man who may or may not catch her fair eternal form spreadeagl­ed in the empty air of existence” Barbara Lane is The Chro

As a sheltered teenager growing up in a predominan­tly Jewish suburb of New York City, I was drawn to bad boys. Preferably olderthana­ppropriate, nonJewish guys who smoked pot and drank beer. Dennis was perfect. He had a perpetual slight sneer on his distinctly Irish face that seemed to indicate contempt for our leafy suburb and everything it represente­d.

One night, we stole a boat and rowed out into the Long Island Sound. We lay in the boat, a little bit stoned, staring up at the stars. Dennis pulled a wellworn copy of Lawrence Ferlinghet­ti’s “A Coney Island of the Mind” from his pocket. He read from no. 13:

“and there would be no fires burning in the hellish holes below in which I might have stepped nor any altars in the sky except fountains of

And from no. 15:

His voice, those words, that sky burst me open to a new dimension far beyond anything I knew. And I knew I wanted it.

Then came Ginsberg and Kerouac, and all that came with reading the Beats at an impression­able age. But it all started with Ferlinghet­ti, and that’s why I’m sitting here today, not in some New York City suburb, 3,000 miles from where I grew up, searching still for that ecstatic beauty and ultimate possibilit­y.

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