Denton, Texas, Winter 1964: Living in my one-room cool apartment at 1308 1/2 West Hickory, across from the English Building, somewhere, somehow I came across a book of photographs about San Francisco.
Taken in the Beatnik heyday, late 50’s, the photos show Chinese children playing hide-and-seek up and down the narrow, hilly streets, show the intellectuals drinking espresso in stark coffeehouses, show women dressed as models shopping grandly, and much more.
Lefevre and I had visited San Francisco while returning from the Seattle World’s Fair in Summer two years ago when I graduated high school. My senior year in study hall, I’d read about the fair in Life Magazine. Then, in San Francisco, I’d become enamored of the beautiful Victorians, the views, the exotic sights of Chinatown and Little Italy, oops I mean North Beach. So this photograph book reminds me of the strangeness and the beauty.
And, oddly, one of the photographs shows my apartment, where I will live ten years from now.
Ten years from now, I’ll be rooming with Pat Q. the photographer off Clement street. As his marriage grows near, one day he will tell me that I’ll need to find another place to live. When I complain, he will say, “It was always there.”
He will be meaning that it was always obvious that someday he’d marry Andrea and that I’d have to go. So accept this I will, and I’ll begin to search the paper for apartments. This will be in the days of writing my novel of Texas, when I am beginning to study the Tarot.
I took up the Tarot when living in an eyrie room atop Mrs. Douglas’s house in view of the ocean. I meant it to provide a way to generate plots for stories and novels. I found much more. When living with Pat Q., I started studying magic and Tarot. I became disgusted one day, and said, “If there is anything to this Tarot, then let the next card be the Page of Cups!” I cut the cards.
Yup. Page of Cup.
Whooah! So, given my mystical frame of mind, perhaps it’s not surprising that one day, I say, “I’m going out right now and find my apartment!” I walk from the house, and catch the first bus I find, which takes me to North Beach. From the bus I walk up Grant street, and there, on a window above the Hawaiian Bar on the corner, the red and white sign says, “Apartment for Rent.”
Quickly, I ran back down the hill to City Lights Bookstore, where I grabbed a copy of the I Ching, and picked a page at random. “Supreme Success!” is the name of the Hexigram.
I rented the apartment immediately, from the lady manager of the Hawaiian Bar, and moved in. The apartment was a vast success in one way, because my neighbor was giving up his kitty whom he called Gish. He said he had two cats and only needed one, and he was taking Gish to the Humane Society.
At the time, I believed they killed the cats there. Later I discovered that most cats at the San Francisco Humane Society get placed with new homes, but at the time I thought it was a death sentence. I’d not had a cat because I thought life in an apartment wasn’t much compared to wandering free.
But I figured life in an apartment would be better than being killed, so I took young Gish and named her Rosie the Cat, and we spent the rest of her life together, but that’s another story.
As regards living in the apartment, Rosie liked it because there was a mouse to chase, and cockroaches to eat. There was also plenty of late-night Hawaiian music from the apartment, and a number of other unique features. In fact, thinky back, it was The Apartment From Hell.
But getting back to this photograph book in my college years. In this one photograph are shown a bunch of bums drinking wine, standing around the street sign for Grant and Green. In the upper left you see the bay window of the apartment on the next floor.
This was to be my window. From that window, had I been there for the photo, I could have leaned out and, with a yardstick, smacked the bums on the head.
Too bad I wasn’t there, until ten years later.
Though oddly, when I arrived ten years later, the bums were still there.