Tag: San Francisco

A weekend in San Francisco for Litquake

Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin

This weekend my wife and I flew up to San Francisco for Litquake, the literary festival/pub crawl where writers from all over the country come to share their work and join a community of scribes who usually only communicate over social media.  We stayed with Joe and Justine Clifford, and I read at their event Lip Service West, which tells real and gritty stories. I told a story about trying to find a way to convince a mental patient to willingly enter an ambulance in order to find  a higher level of care, but I think next time I read in a bar I’m going to tell the story of how I got in a fight with a little person in St. Petersburg, Florida, or how I almost got in a fight during a community theater presentation of Macbeth in South Beach. Of course, when you read in a bar, you have to expect anything, and I’ll tell that story a bit later.

Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin

This was my second reading in San Francisco, and the last time I drove up the coast I wrote about trying to rediscover the California Dream for the LA Weekly and then read at Lip Service in the Tenderloin. San Francisco has always been one of those cities I’ve felt at home in — a sort of Boston transposed to the West Coast. The landscapes are stunning, and there is just so much water everywhere. I was able to shoot some solid pictures, and the Cliffords took us to Telegraph in Berkley, where I was able to find some colorful moments. It was cool to hang out with Joe, who is the author of books like Junkie Love, Wake the Undertake, and the newly released Lamentation. Continue reading “A weekend in San Francisco for Litquake”

A Trip to San Francisco: Prison, Napa and more

On Friday, Heron and I flew into San Francisco to meet up with our family. I wanted to see San Francisco again. I haven’t been there since I read at Lip Service West, and it’s a city that reminds me so much of Boston…a place I once sort of called home. So below you will find  a documentation of that trip, and it’s my first attempt at writing in the BuzzFeed blog format.

Pumped to head to San Francisco tonight.

Our first stop in San Francisco was a walking tour in North Beach — the former stomping ground of one of my favorite writers…Jack Kerouac. We stopped at a bunch of Italian bakeries on the walking tour and ate pizza, linguini, homemade bread and macaroons and drank espresso. Our tour guide was Italian and grew up in North Beach. He told us the Italian flag is all over North Beach…but he said it’s hardly called Little Italy.

San Francisco 1

San Francisco 2

San Francisco 3

North Beach church


While I was in North Beach, I knew I had to stop at City Lights, but I wasn’t sure if we would have time. We had to meet Heron’s father at Pier 33 for a tour, and I led us off the trail to the bookstore. Of course, I ended up getting us lost and walking to Market Street, but that’s another story I will hear for the rest of my life…lol.

Then after North Beach…

I love all movies and books about prison — Shawshank, Green Mile, Oz, The Fixer. By examining prison life, it forces me to look at my freedom, and it causes me to wonder: With prison always looming in the background of our lives, can we ever be free?

Alcatraz 1

Alcatraz 2

What’s amazing about the tour is that they give you a pair of headphones and an audio version of a former guard walks you through the prison. It’s amazing to hear   stories of the prisoners. On certain summer nights, the prisoners ould hear the sounds of freedom — laughter, girls and music —  wafting over from the San Francisco Yacht Club. Freedom was so close and so far.

I also didn’t realize that Native Americans, after the prison closed in 1963 , took to The Rock to occupy and protest their rights to land.

Native Americans

We had a great time in San Francisco, but then on Sunday, we drove out to Napa Valley. I didn’t realize how close Napa was to the city, and the drive was stunning. We stopped for some cherries on the side of the road. On a recommendation, we visited  Mumm Napa for some champagne.

Napa 1

Then we stopped at St. Supery and played a little bocce ball.

Napa 3

Napa 4

In  the end, it was an amazing weekend. I picked up a book by Williams Gibson and Kenneth Rexroth, and I even got some writing in during the plane rides. The book is coming along. It’s nice to remember to be a part of the world, while I’m trying to create one in an office on a Mac computer. Let me know what you think of the new blog form. Your comments are always welcome. Photos were taken by my beautiful wife, Bianca Lapin.

Leaving San Francisco

So I’m about to leave San Francisco, after reading at Lip Service West.  What an incredible experience, and I will be blogging about it soon.  I spent a lot of time in Berkeley, and I even saw the University of California, Berkeley, for the first time.  Last night, I read in the Tenderloin, and I ate at a great taco shop in the Mission.  Right now, I’m trying to decide if I should drive down the one on the way home and stop in Big Sur.  It’s always been a dream of mine, and, you know, I think I’m going to do it.

Heading out to San Francisco Tomorrow

So tomorrow, I’m taking to the road with nothing but my backpack and a prayer.  No, just kidding.  I’ll be driving up to San Francisco to meet with a fellow FIU alumni, Joe Clifford, and participate in the Lip Service West reading.  I hope to also meet with another writing buddy I know from a long time ago.  I can’t stress how important it is to know people in life who are successful at what you’re trying to do.  Mentors, people who have been through the shit.  Because honestly, writing is a tough journey; it’s filled with more ups and downs than motor cross races, and everyone’s path seems to be different, but it’s just amazing to hear the stories, to be encouraged to continue.

Well, it’s been a long time since I have had an adventure.  I used to think that everything had to been adventure or it wasn’t worth doing.  So, here I go, trying to rediscover that sense of wonder.  I’ll be giving updates throughout the weekend when I can.

Here’s a list of what I’m bringing:

  • Presents
  • Two pairs of boxers and some shirts.
  • A coat for the cold weather
  • A guitar?
  • A book on tape
  • My journal.
  • My laptop with the story I’ll be reading
  • A sense of adventure

Well, thanks to everyone for reading, and I hope you’ll check in on the story as it develops.  Oh yeah, exciting news coming out tomorrow in the literary world.

San Francisco or Bust — Reading at Lip Service West

Huntington Beach

This weekend, I’m leaving Long Beach and driving out of Southern California for the first time in months.  Honestly, the farthest I’ve been north of Los Angeles County was Woodland Hills.  Oh yeah, I went to Ventura once to visit a buddy.  So on Friday, I’m excited about driving north through California to San Francisco to read at Lip Service West.  Joe Clifford hosts the reading series, and he said there was a slot.  It’s a great event, and if you’re in San Francisco, then you should find out if it’s going on. So I jumped at the opportunity.  I read once at Lip Service in Miami, and I showed up as Sex Moses — a character I invented that was based on some of the guys I came to know in South Beach.

This won’t be my first time in San Francisco, however.  In November of 2008, Heron and I flew to San Francisco for Thanksgiving.  When I look back on that experience, I’m not sure why the hell we even did it — because I know our graduate school incomes couldn’t afford it — but I’m glad we did it anyway. Since I can remember, San Francisco has existed in my imagination as a place where the Renaissance is always happening; art is always being made; and Jack Kerouac’s ghost still wanders the streets.

I remember stopping at City Lights bookstores for the first time that trip.  I remember seeing the Golden Gate Bridge.  I remember getting lost in the woods with Heron on our bikes.

Then I remember something strange, and I’m not sure why it’s coming back to me now.  I was wandering around Nob Hill by myself.  It was cold, and it was raining.  I was staring at some of the Chagall prints in the windows of closed art galleries.  They were so beautiful — memories of a Russian small town.   And I was lost in the surrealism mixed with the sounds of the street behind me — trollies grinding, buses chugging, working man shoes clopping on sidewalks.

I turned around and a woman was staring at me.  She was older, and she was holding a bag in her hand.  In the bag, I could see an outline of an ukulele.

I smiled, not sure what else to do.  She smiled back.

“It’s cold out,” she said.  The woman was older.  Maybe around 55-years old.

“Probably around 40 degrees,” I said.

I looked back at the paintings in the window display, and I could see her image still there, in the glass, staring at me.  My breath was a cloud factory.

“Can I stay with you?” she asked, looking down at her bag.  “I can keep you warm.”

“I’m sorry.”

The rain was still coming down, and I went back to staring at the paintings.  I could see her walk away in the glass and then disappear into the crowd, and I wished that people could walk in and out of paintings, out of art and water colors, the way we walk in and out of each other’s lives.