San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
A wellworn copy of ‘Coney Island’ propels N.Y. teen to Bay Area
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.