Monday, April 29th, 2013...12:37 pm

a.d. winans | i am san francisco

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A.D. Winans | Photo by Alexsey Dayen

I AM SAN FRANCISCO

I was born premature at home
In San Francisco
The family doctor told my mother
I would not survive
But here I am seventy-seven
And still kicking


A reviewer dubbed me
The Frisco Kid
But I am San Francisco
My poems and my life
Are one and the same
They can’t be separated


I was voted the biggest pop off
In my high school class
And worked hard
To achieve this honor


I spent four years in the jungle
Hell of Panama
Saw first hand American imperialism
Lived through Joseph McCarthy
And the Communist witch hunt days


I returned home from the military
To discover the Beat Generation
Earned a degree from
San Francisco State College


I worked five-plus years
For the post office
A brief stint as a civilian
In the Navy
And retired as an “Equal Opportunity Specialist”
Investigating discrimination against minorities
Women and the disabled


I lived through Korea and Vietnam
Invasions of Granada and Panama
9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan
Nixon and Bush
The assassinations of JFK
Martin Luther King, Jr
And Robert Kennedy

Winans – 2 – I Am San Francisco

I edited a literary journal
Second Coming for l7 year
At the peak of my writing
I pasted over a hundred rejection slips
On my bedroom wall
On Pierce Street
The same bedroom
I was making love
To a woman when the radio station
Broke in with the news that
JfK had been assassinated


I have been privileged to meet
John Lee Hooker, John Handy,
Janis Joplin, Queen Ida,
Jack Micheline, Bob Kaufman,
And other talented poets and musicians


I never owned a home
I never married
I never had children


I write and feel the pain
Of the dispossed the homeless
And the down and out


I have seen old San Francisco disintegrate
Slowly disappear like a sinkhole:
The old Rincon Annex post office
With its historic WPA mural art
Observed the waterfront rot with decay
The piers given over to tourists
And sunbathing sea lions


Gone the Haight Theater
In the old Haight Ashbury
Where as a kid
I paid a dime
To see two movies and a serial


The old Fox and Paramount Theaters
Just ghostly memories
The old Market Street porno house cinema
Boarded down
Crystal Palace market torn down
For a motel

Winans – 3 – I Am San Francisco

Mc Farland’s Fudge Shop
And Merrill’s Drug Store gone
The old Hoffbrau house gone
Breen’s on Third Street with
The world’s best Martini


My memory bank stored with memories
Of I Magnin’s Department Store
And the old City of Paris
Where as a child I thrilled
At the sight of the giant Christmas Tree
And I’ll never forget The Emporium
Its indoor ice-skating rink
And a Santa Clause workshop
The roof top garden where
Rides included a Ferris wheel
A small roller coaster
And a train for children to ride


No more Black Hawk who booked
The best Jazz Musicians of the day
No more Jazz in the Fillmore
Gone the clinking of glasses
The waitress who always knew
When your glass was empty
The black female crooner
Who hit her notes like
A midnight train passing through
Fargo, North Dakota
Be-bop rhythms dancing inside
My head


Gone the North Beach Beat hangouts:
“The Place The Co-existence Bagel Shop
And the old Coffee Gallery where
Janice Joplin sang as an unknown


The old Barbary Coast where
As a teenager I tried to sneak in
A bar to catch a glimpse
Of one of the naked women dancers
Long before the topless and bottomless bars


Lenny Bruce and the old Purple Onion
Play Land at the beach
All fading memories

Winans – 4 – I Am San Francisco

Gone the way of trolley car tokens
Fleer’s Double Bubble Gum
And the Sutro baths


Third and Howard Street
The epitome of Skid Row
Given a face lift
The new skid row now between
Sixth and Seventh Streets
Home to drugs and alcoholics
An open raw wound
The city fathers ignore


Martini’s are for Seniors
Whiskey Sour just a memory
The Waterfront dives that served
Seamen and long shoremen replaced
By new movie complexes
Malls and parking lots


The Mission once home of the Irish
Has gone Latino
North beach is moving from Italian
To Asian
The Greeks long ago moved to Burlingame
And no one knows what happened
To the American Indian
And the bars they once frequented
On Valencia Street


And yet the city remains a magical
Living breathing theater
Of eccentric characters
That go back to Emperor Norton
And you can still get a reasonably priced drink
At the 3300 Club in the mission
Or if you can afford it
Go to theTop of the Mark
For a $13 hot chocolate drink with
A shot of Stolly Vodka and Southern Comfort
And enjoy one of
The most beautiful views
In the world
Or on a hot summer afternoon enjoy
An ice cream at Mitchell’s
On San Jose Avenue

Winans – 5 – I Am San Francisco

Where my father took the family
For a special treat
You can still sun yourself
At Washington Square Park
Watch young lovers
Laying on the grass
See old men feeding pigeons
Or walk the streets of Noe Valley
Once a blue-collar neighborhood
Now a Yuppie paradise
Watch young mothers
With kids in strollers
Eye women joggers with
The smell of orange blossoms
In their hair
Admire a dog sitting outside
Martha’s Coffee Shop
Faithfully waiting with pleading eyes
For table scraps from its owner


I ‘m a Giants baseball fan
And a lifetime 49ers football addict
My heart still bleeds over the loss
Of Seal’s Stadium
And the old time San Francisco Seals


I am the possessor
Of framed achievement awards
And a baseball trophy
From Panama where
I played a decent outfield


I am the only word-slinger
In a family of blue-collar workers
I am a ghost lost in poetry books
Struggling to find the right words
To the right song


I am at war with my shadow
Who shamelessly stalks me
I survived my apartment fire
To re-establish family ties


My niece, nephew, grand nephews
And grand nieces share my blood
A mixture of white and Mexican roots

Winans – 6 – I Am San Francisco

My father’s ghost walks my dreams
Stares out the window of my soul
Like he stared out the living room window
The year of his death.
My mother sitting at the dinner table
Serving meat loaf and mashed potatoes
The air heavy as an anchor dragging
The ocean floor


I am not The Frisco Kid
I am San Francisco.

Winans – 7 – I Am San Francisco

I have witnessed the waterfront decay
the ships disappear
the piers given over to tourists
and sunbathing sea lions


Gone the Haight Theater
in the old Haight Ashbury
where as a kid I paid a dime to see
two movies a serial and a newsreel


Gone the old Embassy Theater
on Market Street where
they spun the Wheel of Fortune
playing Ten-O-Win
with a busty female usherette shouting
“In the Balcony, 1-2-3-4 Silver Dollars”
her breasts bouncing in unison
with each coin that hit the tray


the old Fox and Paramount Theaters
now ghostly memories
the old Market Street porno house
boarded down
Mc Farland’s Fudge Shop
and Merrill’s Drug Store gone


Gone the old Hoffbrau house
on Market Street
Breen’s on Third Street
with the worlds best Martini


Gone I Magnum’s Department Store
and the old City of Paris
where as a child I thrilled
at the sight of the giant Christmas tree
and who can forget The Emporium
its indoor ice-skating rink
and a Santa Claus workshop
the roof top garden where
rides included a Ferris wheel
a small roller coaster
and a train for children to ride


Gone the North Beach Beat hangouts:
“The Place The Co-existence Bagel Shop
and the old Coffee Gallery where
Janice Joplin sang as an unknown
gone the old Barbary Coast where
as a teenager I tried to sneak into a bar
to catch a glimpse of a naked female dancer
long before Carol Doda
and topless and bottomless bars


Lenny Bruce and the old Purple Onion
fading memories like
Play Land at the beach
and the old burlesque house
in the Mission
gone the way of trolley car tokens
Fleer’s Double Bubble Gum
and the Sutro baths


Third and Howard Street
the old skid row given a face lift
the new skid row between
Sixth and Seventh Streets
home to drug dealers and alcoholics
an open festering wound
the city fathers ignore


Martini’s now an old people’s drink
Whiskey Sours just a memory
the Waterfront dives that served
Seamen and Long Shore men replaced
by new movie complexes and parking lots


The Mission once home of the Irish
has gone Latino
North Beach is moving
from Italian to Asian


The Greeks long ago moved to Burlingame
and no one knows what happened
to the American Indian
and the bar they frequented
on Valencia Street
and yet the city remains a magical
living breathing theater
of eccentric characters
that go back to Emperor Norton


You can still get a reasonably priced drink
at the 3300 Club in the Mission
or if you can afford it
go to the Top of the Mark
for a $13 hot chocolate drink with
a shot of Stolly Vodka and Southern Comfort
and enjoy one of the most beautiful views
in the world
or on a hot summer afternoon enjoy
an ice cream at Mitchell’s on San Jose Avenue
where my father took the family
for an after dinner treat


You can still sun yourself
at Washington Square Park
watch young lovers lying on the grass
old men feeding pigeons
or walk the streets of Noe Valley
once a blue-collar neighborhood
now a Yuppie paradise
see young mothers with kids in stroller’s
eye women joggers
admire a dog sitting outside
Martha’s Coffee Shop
faithfully waiting with pleading eyes
for table scraps from its owner


I’m a Giants baseball fan
and a lifetime 49ers football addict
my heart still bleeds over the loss
of Seal’s Stadium and the old time
San Francisco Seals


I am the possessor
of framed achievement awards
and a baseball trophy from Panama where
I played a decent outfield


I am the only word-slinger
in a working class family
I am a ghost lost
in poetry books struggling to find
the right words to a hit song
like my idol Hank Williams


I am at war with my shadow
who shamelessly stalks me
I survived my apartment fire
to reestablish family ties
long buried in quicksand


my niece my nephew my grand nephews
and grad niece share my blood
a mixture of white and Mexican roots


my father’s ghost walks my dreams
stares out the window of my soul
like he stared out the living room window
the year before his death.
my mother sitting at the dinner table
serving meat loaf and mashed potatoes
the air heavy as an anchor dragging
the ocean floor


I am San Francisco.

This book is available online at www.littleredtree.com | $19.95 | SAN FRANCISCO by A. D. Winans | ($4.00 shipping within the US. Overseas orders will be invoiced separately with additional shipping costs)

6 Comments

  • Thank you for sharing your San Francisco. Don’t stop.

  • WOW!!! Have been trying 2 live in THE city since ‘96 but realize I missed most of the best – thank u 4 the memories I’ll never know except thru u – I also love the ferry 2 Sausalito and hope 2 get 2 the top of the Mark – Thank u

  • Marsha Bellavance
    April 29th, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Thank u – places I’ll never c come alive thanks 2 u !!!

  • Hi A.D.,
    So good to see you here and to share so many of those memories. Seventy-seven, hey? You are a warrior, old friend! One of these days we need to get together and talk about Panama.

  • Jay Jeff Jones
    May 8th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Good stuff A.D., a poignant ramble through the years, so thanks for the memories from a long gone Frisco expat. Breen’s indeed; whatever did they do with that fabulous long bar?

  • Dennis A. Winans
    June 8th, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Hi Allan,

    So enjoyed the vivid memories of past experiences that you brought back, with all those special places and times that made San Francisco one of the most unique cities in world. I still remember women wearing hats, taking the 3rd street bus to Play Land, or Sutro’s on one token, free ice cream on the 6th floor at Roos Akins Dept. store, learning to swim at the “Plunge” in North Beach, Saturday matinee at the Bay View for 20 cents, and having a hamburger and milk shake at the Crystal Place between Mission and Market.

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