Minggu, 21 Februari 2010

Still in San Francisco, and following on from Raoul's Café in Little Venice, here is the next in occasional pieces on my favourite cafés and bars. Vesuvio's bar on the corner of 255 Colombus Avenue and Jack Keroac Alley, sits next door to the famous City Lights Bookstore founded in 1953 by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the first all paperback bookstore and still the home of the Beat movement. Vesuvio's was established in 1948. In 1955 Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarity in 'On the Road' by Jack Keroac) stopped at Vesuvio's on his way to a poetry reading and at this point it became the official bar of choice for the Beat writers.


It was here that Jack Keroac once spent a long night in 1960 when he should have been on his way to Big Sur for a meeting with Henry Miller. Miller had written to Keroac saying he'd enjoyed reading The Dharma Bums and would like to meet the emerging writer. Keroac continued drinking and calling Miller on the hour saying he was delayed. They didn't meet that night.


The interior is warm and woody and welcoming. A long bar on the ground floor is overlooked by a gallery running around the first floor. The walls are covered in photographs and an impressive original art collection. Two friends and I managed to get a regular table on our visits at the far end of the bar, sitting beneath a portrait of Keroac himself. This is the very table, and I'd quite like to be there now:


Our visits to this great bar inspired this poem at the time:

Sidetracked by Keroac

In the dingy darkness
and dark dinginess of Vesuvio's
his ghost is omnipresent.

Would-be poets and writers
cloak themselves in the atmosphere,
connect with the fabric, the myth,
hoping something will rub off,
stain their imagination.

Libby brings another pitcher -
Where are you guys from?
They make small talk but only see
her bare arms and shoulders,
the way her breasts sit snug
in the skimpy red top.

Across the road the neon flickers -
Adult DVDs - love eggs in their nest.
The Tiffany lamps and the photos
lend a cosy ambience to the bar,
warm against the rivulets of rain
tracking down the windows.

Libby brings another pitcher -
she has a winsome smile.
Later, three would-be poets negotiate
the length of the bar, stagger
towards the exit, none the wiser.

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