Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

NOTHING in life remains the same, even when you travel on a two-week vacation. When you return everything is different. My companions in the car, an iceblue ’66 Plymouth station wagon, were Norman Solomon who has been working diligently for the last 3 months on a book about the history of nuclear power, Killing Our Own, his friend Ada Sanchez, an anti-nuke national organizer and speaker on nuclear weapons and energy issues, and David, an 18-year-old mutual friend from a small town in Oregon. Both Norman and Ada were hired to speak on California campuses by the Progressive Foundation. David was getting his first chance to see fabled California. We stayed the first night near the Sea Lion Caves. It’s 1,000 feet wide and 125 feet high, stained green by lichens and algae. Hundreds of Steller Why Have My Friends Moved to California? I have always been intrigued by the notice above Vesuvio’s bar in San Francisco, “We’re itching to get away from Portland Oregon.” “Are you an Oregonian, or are you a frigging Californian?” I asked point blank. sea lions congregate on it, roaring, and socializing. The sound their mammalian voices operatacize is soulstirring. Was it below Port Orford? or near Gold Beach? The Oregon coast was sublime. Giant monolith rocks stuck up, rugged and sculptural, as the afternoon sun sent its slanting rays. Bleached driftwood logs sprawled. We danced around the tidal pools, sprinkled with maroon starfish and jelly-like green sea urchins. David and I raced on the sands. He won easily, and then we climbed a Cannon Beach-like monster of a rock. Inspired, he asked the first Zen koan of our travels, “Are we what we aren’t?” As we journied, 1 was trying to compare California with Oregon—ande also to recall “the era of the Beats.” We should have had a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with us. We didn’t. You know, we need to get with it, go for it, recapture some of that boyish exuberant enthusiasm for life that the Beatniks had back then. Before Kerouac boozed out, tubed out, what- ever, his Catholic Buddhistic angelic sentimental spirit was the sweetest thing America had going for it. I get a rush everytime I enter San Francisco. Despite the corporate hype, bullshit, the triangle of the Transamerica building, I still feel that feeling. I wanted to show my friends North Beach, Grant St., Chinatown, Vesuvio’s, City Lights Bookstore. 1 did. It was the 75th anniversary of the 1906 Great Earthquake that leveled S.F. We never felt a tremor. 1 was lucky to get a parking place nearby. Carny hawkers were urging tourists to enter live sex shows. As sleazy as ever. Good ol’ North Beach! It warmed my pocket. I have always been intrigued, the many times my eye has spied upon it, by the notice above Vesuvio’s bar. Across the alley from City Lights Bookstore. “We’re itching to get away from Portland, Oregon.” Quote, unquote. Is there any truth in that statement? This article will endeavor to answer that ringing question. Santa Cruz THE MAIN reason I came on this trip is to visit with “old friends” who’d left Oregon. One of my oldest and unforgettable ones—“a wild and crazy guy!”—is Marty Christensen, the brilliant poet, conversationalist, and beer-drinker. In what order? Lorna, his life’s companion—whom Marty has apostrophied in the poem “Lorna” as “a plum tree” and “a jade flute used only in the highest Mayan ceremonies,” etc.—is going to the university. Marty and Lorna look good. California living seems to be agreeing with them—they are sleek, tanned. And glad to see us. Marty and I always talk about poetry, and our plans to conquer the literary scene. He is looking forward to reading at Beyond Baroque next Sunday in L.A. BY WALT CURTIS 46 Clinton St. Quarterly Illustration by Johanna deVries