March 24, 2009

Another Open Letter

To Lawrence Ferlinghetti on his 90th birthday:

Dear Lawrence,

Yesterday was just another cold March day on the morning Metra commuter from Hyde Park into Chicago until looking down from my second-level seat I saw a man reading a book with a familiar logo at the base of the spine, a figure with outstretched arms. Tales of Ordinary Madness it was. Indeed.

When I am back in San Francisco -- where in grad school I learned by browsing in the basement of City Lights -- I always go in and make sure I buy a book, something like Shepard's Motel Chronicles -- and then take it up to Trieste so I get the first taste of it there. I am devoted to that ritual. But yesterday was the true measure of the gift you've given; a stray look and suddenly the most affirming recognition and I was back "home," and I certainly felt kinship with that stranger, and I have no doubt that such recognition happens over and over, over the whole world, each day.

Happy birthday.

Sincerest regards.