Several of Brautigan's books were published during the decade of the 1960s, including Trout Fishing in America
which catapulted him to international fame. He was invited to poetry readings around the country and during the Summer of Love, Brautigan was considered the one writer who best represented the sentiments of the countercultural movement centered in San Francisco. More information and resources about Brautigan, his life, and work during this decade are below.
Highlights: Daughter Ianthe born . . . The Octopus Frontier published
Brautigan and Virgina lived at 575 Pennsylvania Avenue (Polk County Directory
The Octopus Frontier
, a collection of twenty two poems, published.
Daughter Ianthe Elizabeth
born at University of Californina Hospital.
Artist friend Kenn Davis
drove Brautigan to University of California Hospital where she was born.
Ianthe's Birth Certificate notes 575 Pennsylvania, San Francisco, California, as the family address.
Brautigan, wife Virginia, and daughter, Ianthe. Photograph taken in their San Francisco apartment. Photographer unknown.
Saturday, 30 July 1960
Brautigan gave a poetry reading as part of "An Afternoon Dance Demonstration and an Evening of Dances" presented by the Anna Halprin Dancers' Workshop in Marin County. The event also included an art exhibit by Manuel Neri and Joan Brown, dancing by Anna Halprin, A. A. Leath, John Graham, and others, new musical works by Stanley Shaff and Douglas McEachern, and lighting by Pat Hickey. The artistic director was Jo Landor (The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant Garde
. David W. Bernstein, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008: 268).
The dance by Halprin, Leath, and Graham was entitled "The Flowerburger" and was drawn from the same titled section of Brautigan's The Galilee Hitch-Hiker
. More a performance piece than strictly dance, the dancers/performers moved about the stage while speaking words from Brautigan's poem, intermixing them, juxtaposing lines, creating new poetic prose. The group performed the dance around San Francisco, and around the country, for the next several years.
Monday, 8 August 1960
Brautigan gave a reading from The Octopus Frontier
at The Coffee Gallery (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach, on the same bill with Christopher Maclaine, a poet and filmmaker from Oklahoma (his four films: The End
, 1953; The Man Who Invented Gold
, 1957; Beat
, 1958; and Scotch Hop
This 2.5" x 2.5" black and white photograph, one of eight taken by a San Francisco Examiner
photographer identified only as "Edgren," was captioned as "Poet Richard Brautigan reading his 'The Octopus Frontier' to Gayle Griffin." Photograph from the collection of Gregory Miller. Used by permission.
The eight negatives were labeled as:
- Cops in back room talking to leftmanager Leo Riegler
- Crowd outside waiting to enter shop
- Poet Christopher McLaine
- Waitress (would not give name)
- Gayle Griffin listening to poetry
- Poet Richard Brautigan reading his "The Octopus Frontier" to Gayle Griffin
All eight original negatives were kept in the San Francisco Chronicle's
archive, in an envelope labeled "8-8-60." The envelope header reads "Beatniks—poetry reading; Leo Riegler, Christopher McLaine, Gayle Griffin, Richard Brautigan." The location is noted as "Grant Ave Coffe [sic] shop." The assignment caption: "Beat-nikles and poetry." Apparently, no prints from these negatives were ever published.
The movie "The Beach" (1995, 56' 40") recreates the atmosphere of San Francisco's North Beach district during the 1950s and early 1960s when The Coffee Gallery was one of the few venues where the rich mix of poetry, jazz, and art could be seen and heard.
"California Beat Era—The Beach" website
Wednesday, 21 December 1960
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading with Andrew Hoyem
, Allen Dienstag, and longshoreman poet William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed) at the Coffee Gallery (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach. Fritsch was the husband of poet Lenore Kandel
whose The Love Book
was tried on obscenity charges in 1967.
The handbill promoting the event was printed on 8.5" x 11" paper.
Highlights: Begins writing Trout Fishing in America
Brautigan's poem, "The Rain,"
published in Hearse: A Vehicle Used to Convey the Dead
. This was Brautigan's last appearance in Hearse
, and his last publication in similar small literary magazines for years. Brautigan, disenchanted with earning a living as a poet, was, based on the success of Lay the Marble Tea
and The Octopus Frontier
, his self-publishing venture as Carp Press, more interested to pursue writing short stories and novels.
Brautigan visited the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank of the San Francisco Medical Society where, for the final time, he sold a pint of his Type A blood to raise extra cash. He took his daughter, Ianthe, and wrote a poem "The Belle of the Blood Bank,
" which remains unpublished.
Friday, 17 March 1961
issued by Borregaard's Museum in San Francisco listed Brautigan, [Burgess] Jess Collins, Paul Alexander, Harry Jacobus, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer
, Helen Adam, and other poets and painters scheduled to appear there. The Borregaard Museum, two floors of a Victorian house at 1713 Buchanan Street converted into a gallery by Ebbe Borregaard, billed on the broadside as "the largest private galley in San Francisco," was a landmark of the Sixties avant-garde.
The 8:30 PM free reading was arranged by Jack Spicer
. Brautigan read selections from the evolving manuscript for Trout Fishing in Amercia
focusing on his boyhood in Eugene, Oregon, and forgotten poem entitled "Alas, In Carrion Umpire" (Hjortsberg
early June-August 1961
Brautigan, wife Virginia, and daughter Ianthe moved out of their apartment at 575 Pennsylvania, turning it, and their black cat, Jake, over to now former roommate Kenn Davis
The family camped, during Summer 1961, at Silver Lake, Stanley Basin, Little Redfish Lake, and Lake Josephus, all in Idaho. Brautigan continued writing Trout Fishing in America
This photograph by Virginia Alder Brautigan Aste, taken during the camping trip, shows Brautigan posing atop an abandoned truck.
Brautigan trout fishing in Idaho, during his 1961 camping trip with wife Virginia and daughter Ianthe. Photograph by Virginia Alder Brautigan Aste.
Back in San Francisco the Brautigan's rented an apartment at 488 Union Street, between Montgomery and Kearny Streets, above Yone's Bead Shop, next door to a laundromat, and two blocks from Washington Square Park. Brautigan returned to part-time work at Pacific Chemical Laboratories, 350 Clay Street, San Francisco, preparing doses of powdered barium (Hjorstberg
Highlights: Separates from wife, Virginia
Brautigan and daughter, Ianthe, in Washington Square Park, San Francisco, California. Photograph by Virginia Brautigan (Aste).
Brautigan finished writing the manuscript for Trout Fishing in America
Monday, 12 March 1962
Brautigan started a new novel, entitled The Island Cafe
. Subtitled Part of a Short History of Bad Movies in California
, the manuscript focused on what Brautigan eat for lunch each day at the Star and US Cafe, minute details he noticed there, and the film titles and show times at the Times Theater. After about three weeks, Brautigan abandoned the project, filing the manuscript in an envelope on the back of which he wrote "Never finished Novel."
Shortly after midnight, Christmas Eve, Brautigan and his wife, Virginia (Ginny) Dionne Alder
, separated after Virginia revealed she was having an affair and had fallen in love with Anthony (Tony) Frederic Aste
, Brautigan's friend. Brautigan and Virginia, remained separated for several years and were divorced 17 February 1970 in San Francisco, California.
Lewis Ellingham and Kevin Killian note, "Virginia—Ginny—Richard's girlfriend," they said, engaged in an affair with Aste, newly arrived from Salt Lake City, Utah, starting in the spring of 1962. They eloped and married (Ellingham and Killian
said the separation occurred a year later, in 1963, and was unclear about the reasons (Ianthe Brautigan
Ron Loewinsohn (poet and friend of Brautigan) said the friction began soon after Ianthe was born, when Virginia "was stuck at home with the kid and he'd [Brautigan] be out prowling with his buddies." As for the affair between Alder and Aste, Loewinsohn said Brautigan was in the habit of bringing people to the apartment for dinner and parties. "One of these guys [Tony Aste] eventually got it on with Ginny." Aste and Alder, and daughter Ianthe, left San Francisco for Salt Lake City. Brautigan was devastated and started drinking and taking pills (Peter Manso and Michael McClure
Keith Abbott was more direct:
Tired of being left with the baby, Virginia had an affair with one of Brautigan's friends [Aste] and moved with him to Salt Lake City. This devastated Richard (Abbott 45).
Early in 1963, Virginia, Aste, and Ianthe drove from San Francisco, California, to Salt Lake City, Utah. They returned to California in early October 1963 and rented an apartment on Bay Street, near Fisherman's Wharf. Later, the new family moved to Sonoma County's Valley of the Moon. Virginia and Tony eventually had three children: Ellen, Mara, and Jesse (born 1970-1971?). After separating from Aste, Alder moved to Hawaii, late in 1975, and pursued a career as a teacher and political activist on The Big Island.
Brautigan's reaction to Virginia's revelation of her affair with Aste was immediate. He packed some clothes, his notebooks, and the evolving manuscript for A Confederate General from Big Sur
and telephoned Ron Loewinshon, who agreed to provide temporary housing at his apartment at 1056 Fourteenth Street where he lived with his wife Joan Gatten. Loewinshon drove to Brautigan's apartment to pick up his friend. Brautigan slept on the couch, waking later in the morning.
Brautigan started a journal in a new spiral bound notebook entitled "The 20th Century Marriage in Flight" in which he recounted the events of the early morning, calling them "A Hell-of-Time." Brautigan named the characters in the recounting by the first letter of their first name. Ron Loewinshon was "R" and Virginia (Ginny) was "G." Later, Brautigan erased each reference to "G," replacing it with "Y."
Tuesday, 25 December 1962
Brautigan returned to his Union Street apartment to spend Christmas Day with his family, and to, as he wrote in his journal, "play at the man of the house for a little while longer." Then, "I go get drunk."
Following his separation from Virginia, Brautigan lived with Ron Loewinsohn and his wife, Joan, for about three months. While there, Brautigan used the back porch as a writing studio, working on the manuscript for A Confederate General from Big Sur
, keeping each chapter in a separate envelope.
According to Bill Morgan, Virginia's affair with Aste brought Brautigan and Jack Spicer together. Spicer and Brautigan spent a great deal of time together at Cho Cho Tempura Bar, 1020 Kearny, owned by Jimmy Sakata. Spicer had a crush on Aste and this odd love triangle was the subject of his poem "The Holy Grail" (Morgan. The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour
. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2003).
Years later, in 1984, Brautigan borrowed a Smith & Wesson .44 magnum handgun from Sakata and used it to commit suicide in his Bolinas, California, home.
Highlights: Publishes Change
Brautigan and Ron Loewinsohn
decided to publish a literary magazine. Brautigan suggested the name, Change
Wednesday, 1 May 1963
Brautigan and Loewinsohn published the first issue of their literary magazine Change
(Peter Manso and Michael McClure
65). Only one issue was ever published and it consisted of mimeogaphed sheets (8.5" x 11") with a photograph taken by Joan Gatten, Loewinshon's wife, of Loewinsohn and Brautigan on the front cover, dressed in black, looking like serious poets, standing in front of a billboard advertising "the fastest car on Earth." Featured first publication of Brautigan's short story "Coffee."
Brautigan moved out of Ron Loewinsohn's apartment and into one of his own at 1482 Washington Street. From here, faced with lack of income, Brautigan moved four times before the end of the year seeking less expensive housing. Brautigan's only income was from his part-time job at Pacific Chemical measuring out barium swallows.
Brautigan met Anna Savoca, an Italian woman from Brooklyn, and a student at San Francisco State University. Anna made no secret of her love for "Walter," then in Europe, but still Brautigan was infatuated. He courted Anna with poetry. Eight unpublished poems survive. The earliest was dated 5 June, entitled "Another Poem for Anna," suggests at least one earlier draft. Another poem written for Anna describes weighing out the ingredients for barium swallows at Pacific Chemical where Brautigan worked part-time.
Basically, Savoca amused herself with Brautigan. In early October she broke off the relationship. In response, Brautigan cut his wrists superficially, smeared his blood on the walls of her apartment, and waited for her return. She ended her relationship with Brautigan and moved to Virginia City, Nevada, to live with Clayton Lewis for a year before marrying Walter (Hjortsberg
Feedback from Anna Savoca Golfieri
I first met Richard in June 1963. I was maybe 24. I was an art student, very middle class, not at all a hippie. We met at a coffee shop, just down from City Lights Books. Richard was drunk, but we had a conversation about Mexico. He was interested to ask me questions once he learned that I had visited Mexico. I drew with my finger a map of Mexico on his knee.
Richard called me a couple of days later. He said, "I don't remember what you look like, but I remember talking about Mexico with you. I want to ask you out and talk with you more." He had not yet published Trout Fishing in America
, and was not famous. He was charming, however. Despite the fact that I was involved with Walter, who was then living in Europe, and told Richard so, he insisted on dating me. We met for coffee, took walks together, and sometimes went to dinner. I once took him to a Basque family-style restaurant where he stood out like a sore thumb. He enjoyed watching people at restaurants but seemed so uncomfortable there. I never took him to that restaurant again.
He would read me the poems he was writing at the time. I was a visual artists, so all I could tell him was whether or not I like what the words said. He seemed fine with that, like he just wanted to read his work to someone. He wrote a few poems for me, but never gave me copies of them.
His daughter, Ianthe, who was about five, was very protective of her father. Once, the three of us were riding a bus somewhere and I sat across the aisle from Richard. Ianthe kept looking at me like she did not like me or want me near her father. Once the three of us went on a camping trip in Yosemite Park. That was fun.
Richard's apartment was dark and uncomfortable. His window looked out on the wall of the next-door building, only a few inches away. He took me there once and I told him I would never visit again. My apartment was bright and sunny and I enjoyed it very much. Richard had a key and he would come over and stay. I went away for a weekend once but agreed to meet Richard at Cafe Trieste Sunday evening, after I returned to San Francisco. He was never late and when he did not arrive punctually at the cafe I began to worry. Ron Loewinshon was there and I asked him to come with me to my apartment. There was a part of Richard that was always depressed and he seemed to like to encourage that. I had a funny feeling that something was wrong.
Once inside my apartment my fear was realized when I saw drops of blood on the floor and walls. They led to the living room, which had big windows and was very sunny. I told Ron, "I'm not going in there. You have to go and see what's going on." He called me from the living room: "It's okay." Richard was in there. He was very drunk and had lightly slit his wrists, not enough to kill himself, but enough to leave blood everywhere.
Ron and I took him to San Francisco General Hospital. A couple of days after that I broke up with Richard. I had never known anyone who was an alcoholic and did not want to deal with anyone who was. I broke off with Richard. I said I wanted my apartment key back and that I could not see him again. He apologized and was nice enough, but two weeks later he was living with another girl.
Tuesday, 16 July 1963
Brautigan moved to apartment 3 at 1565 Washington Street.
Sunday, 1 September 1963
Brautigan moved to an apartment at 1327 Leavenworth Street. Here, he finished writing A Confederate General from Big Sur
. Brautigan gave Donald Merriam Allen
a copy of the manuscript, who sent it to Richard Seaver at Grove Press who quickly asked for a two month option.
Friday, 11 October 1963
Brautigan moved to room 3 in the Mitchel Art Hotel, 444 Columbus Avenue. A week later, lacking money, he could not pay the rent and his room was locked, with his books, papers, and two manuscripts inside. Brautigan stayed with Andy Cole in his apartment.
Early in October, Brautigan's first wife, Virginia (Ginny) Dionne Alder
and their daughter, Ianthe, returned to San Francisco from Salt Lake City, Utah, where they had been living with Anthony (Tony) Frederic Aste
, Brautigan's friend. Alder and Brautigan separated 24 December 1962, when he learned of Virginia's affair with Aste. Brautigan wrote about the changes he saw in Ianthe in a series of unpublished stories. In one, "To Love a Child in California the Way Love Should Be,"
he writes about leaving her after a short visit.
The October-November issue of Evergreen Review
(October-November 1963:12-27) featured four chapters from Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America
: "The Hunchback Trout," "Room 208, Hotel Trout Fishing in America," "The Surgeon," and "The Cleveland Wrecking Yard."
Sunday, 1 December 1963
Brautigan moved to apartment C at 483 Frisco Street, which he sublet from friends away in Mexico. In addition to monthly rent, Brautigan cared for the owner's birds. The large foliage-filled aviary in the back of the apartment was the backdrop for a photograph by Erik Weber
used on the back cover of Brautigan's A Confederate General from Big Sur
Brautigan and Weber met 28 September 1963 at a birthday party for Weber's wife, Lois. Learning that Weber was a photographer, Brautigan mentioned the prospective publication of A Confederate General from Big Sur
and said he needed publicity and dust jacket photographs. Weber photographed Brautigan repeatedly, for both book publicity and story illustrations, until 1978 when, according to Weber, Brautigan ended their friendship.
Richard Seaver contacted Brautigan to say Grove Press, and specifically Barnet Lee "Barney" Rosset, Jr.
, had decided to publish A Confederate General from Big Sur
. He offered Brautigan a $1,000 dollar advance against royalty payments. Additionally, Seaver offered a $1,000 option for Trout Fishing in America
with a $1,000 advance payable within one month of publication of A Confederate General from Big Sur
. Seaver also offered an option on Brautigan's third novel (unnamed, but Brautigan was working on a manuscript he called Contemporary Life in California
; abandoned in April 1964, see below) with terms to be determined on delivery of the manuscript.
Highlights: A Confederate General from Big Sur published . . . Writes a fan letter to Ringo Starr, drummer of the music group The Beatles
Brautigan signed a publishing contract with Grove Press who planned to publish A Confederate General from Big Sur
in the fall and Trout Fishing in America
a year later.
The Beatles became the most popular music group in the world. Joanne Kyger
tells this story:
The Beatles are in the air. Richard Brautigan and I sit at Vesuvio and memorize their names and pictures—that's John, and that's Paul. We write a letter with Jack Spicer to Ringo Starr. (Kyger 196)
After completing only twenty-nine pages, just nine short chapters, Brautigan abandoned his work in progress Contemporary Life in California
Brautigan's story The Post Offices of Eastern Oregon
was first published in Kulchur
13 Spring 1964: 51-55.
Brautigan quit his part-time job at Pacific Chemical and relocated to Bolinas, California, a small town across the bay and northwest of San Francisco, home to a significant colony of artists and writers. He lived in rent-free in an unfinished house on Dogwood Street. Brautigan worked part-time for friend Bill Brown who owned and landscaping business. He worked on his novels and wrote letters to editors around the country seeking publishing opportunities for his work.
Brautigan's poem "September California"
was first published in Sum
(3) May 1964: 23.
Wednesday, 13 May 1964
According to the dedication included with the publication of the novel in 1968, Brautigan began writing In Watermelon Sugar
in a house in Bolinas, California on this day. The house, under construction, unfinished, was located on Dogwood Street (see above).
Brautigan purchased a home in Bolinas in 1970. Several times from 1966-1968, before he bought his own house, Brautigan visited and stayed with writer and friend Bill Brown and his family according to Brown's son, Tony.
Long before he moved to Bolinas, he would visit us at our home on the Mesa and if memory serves after all this time, he lived in our house for an extended period at least once. This would have been 1966-1968.
I was in high school at that time and our home was in Bolinas, California. Bill Brown [the writer, and friend to Brautigan] was my father and my sister Maggie is married to Jim Koller.
One my recollections/impressions of Richard is that while he wrote in what some of his critics called a random association loose sort of manner, he was very much a perfectionist when working on any task, including washing the dishes. Every fork tine was cleaned to perfection.
One of the strongest memories I have is of a dark and stormy night. He and I were watching Gunsmoke in a smallish room that was somewhat overheated.
Miss Kitty and Festus were struggling on foot across the desert, the buzzards circling above. Camera shots of the sun baking down and the shimmering sands.
Time went on for awhile this way.
Finally Richard yelled, "I can't take it anymore!!!" threw open the window and stuck his head outside.
When he closed the window and turned around, he was soaked from the rain, his moustache and hair drooping straight down from the soaking, glasses fogged. He got a huge smile on his face and said, "That was a mistake." We both started laughing.
He read at a party I threw for a bunch of my friends, which was a very kind thing to do for us.
I took a film class in my senior year of high school and was part of a small crew. We tried to make a short movie and Richard was in it at his home in San Francisco. I wish I knew what happened to that film.
I think out of all the writers and poets I have met over the years, Richard was and remains my favorite person out of that group. Possibly because we would do things like stay up late, sitting in the kitchen and inventing things that might be found living in the chest freezer.
Friday, 12 June 1964
Don Carpenter rented the Old Longshoreman's Hall, 400 North Point, near Fisherman's Wharf, for $75.00 and arranged a reading billed as "Freeway" for poets Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Lew Welch. His intent was to produce a successful, professional poetry reading, and Carpenter took care of all expenses and details. Reportedly, eight hundred people attended the event, the largest crowd ever for a poetry event in San Francisco. Perhaps one of them was Brautigan, who would have come from Bolinas.
the full text of Carpenter's essay about the Old Longshoreman's Hall poetry reading.
Carpenter's essay at The Don Carpenter Page website
Carpenter often said he considered Brautigan his best friend. Carpenter documents their first meeting in the early 1960s in his poignant memoir "My Brautigan: A Portrait from Memory"
. Carpenter wrote a review of Brautigan's novel, Trout Fishing in America
("A Book for Losers"
) and another for The Tokyo-Montana Express
("Brautigan Writing at His Peak"
Brautigan met Janice Meissner.
Brautigan moved back to San Francisco, taking up residence at 123 Beaver Street, where he shared a house with poets Philip Whalen and Lew Welch
. Brautigan had the front room of the house and enjoyed its marble fireplace and large, Victorian windows. Brautigan enjoyed living with other poets and captured the mood in an unfinished, unpublished fiction entitled "Moose, an American Pastoral." 123 Beaver Street became 321 Moose Street. Philip Whalen became "Charles." Lew Welch became "Sam." Brautigan mentioned his own work in this fiction, saying the novel (In Watermelon Sugar
) was very important to him.
Sunday, 19 July 1964
Brautigan finished the first draft of In Watermelon Sugar
, typing the dedication page.
Richard Seaver, from Grove Press, sent Brautigan an advance copy of A Confederate General from Big Sur
, along with a note that Grove had decided to delay release of the novel until January 1965 so that the book would not be lost in the Christmas season.
Brautigan left 123 Beaver Street, and moved in with Janice Meissner at her apartment (number 4) at 533 Divisadero Street.
During the national elections, Brautigan voted for Lyndon Johnson, thinking he would end the war in Vietnam. Instead, Johnson escalated the war. Brautigan felt betrayed and never voted again, refusing to take a political stance for the rest of his life.
Monday, 30 November 1964
Brautigan began capturing ideas for what he hoped would be a new novel with a working title of "The American Experience by Richard Brautigan." The opening chapter began, "The American experience is an operation illegal in this country: abortion. This is our story. There are thousands like us in America [. . .] in every state, in every city." This was the beginning of what became The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966
Brautigan composed and sent a Christmas card to his friends. At the top of the card he wrote a poem:
All the flowers
that Christmas bring
grow again . . .
grow again . . .
in the houses
where we live.
Below the poem Brautigan drew a house with smoke curving out of the chimney. Inside the house, he wrote "Merry Christmas." Above the chimney smoke he wrote the date, 1964. At the bottom of the page, he wrote his name, and that of Janice Meissner.
Highlights: A Confederate General from Big Sur released . . . Continues work on Trout Fishing in America
A Confederate General from Big Sur
was published by Grove Press. This was Brautigan's first published novel, although it was the second he wrote as an adult writer, after Trout Fishing in America
Friday, 22 January 1965
Grove Press sponsored a publication party and reading to celebrate the release of A Confederate General from Big Sur
. The 8:30 PM reading was held at the California Club, 1750 Clay Street, San Francisco. A reception followed, 10:00 PM-midnight, at the Tape Music Center, 321 Divisadero Street. The 4" x 9" invitations were printed on textured, deckle-edge stock and included small illustrations.
Sales for A Confederate General from Big Sur
were disappointing and Grove Press held off publishing Trout Fishing in America
. They rejected Brautigan's two remaining contracted novels, In Watermelon Sugar
and The Abortion
as Brautigan presented them and allowed their contract for Trout Fishing in America
to expire in July 1966. Grove Press did, however, keep A Confederate General from Big Sur
alive in small editions, which Brautigan resented.
no publishing contract, Brautigan once again faced poverty. He worked odd jobs, borrowed money from friends, and sold copies of Lay the Marble Tea
and The Octopus Frontier
on consignment at City Lights Books
. With no other economic skills, and no contact with society other than the San Franciso writing community, Brautigan focused on succeeding as a writer. San Francisco's psychedelic scene was just beginning and the increased media attention focused on LSD
, the hippies
and happenings in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury
neighborhood during the Summer of Love
(summer 1967) helped him realize this dream.
Brautigan noted as living at 544 Divisadero Street (Polk County Directory
Brautigan lived at 2830 California Street, just off Divisadero (Polk County Directory
), with Janice Meissner.
Brian Nation lived four blocks from Brautigan and Meissner on Californina Street. He spent time with each and made this photograph of Meissner.
In Detroit John Sinclair introduced me to Trout Fishing in America. Later that year I was in San Francisco. Dan McLeod introduced me to Joanne Kyger whom I later visited on occasion. I believe she was still married to—although separated from—Gary Snyder. At Joanne's apartment at 2921 Pine Street I met Ken Botto whose film I'd seen just days earlier. Botto shared an apartment at 2450 California Street with Jim O'Neill. Jim lived mostly with his girlfriend, so I moved in to his room. At Joanne's another time I met Richard Brautigan. The Presidio Branch of the San Francisco Public Library was just a few blocks away at 3150 Sacramento Street. I visited the library regularly for reading material and also because the librarian was yet another in a series of very beautiful women I secretly pined for. On one visit I was checking out Confederate General from Big Sur. She mentioned that she loved Brautigan's writing. Suddenly there was Brautigan. I introduced them. Another magical confluence of romance, ideas, and events. Brautigan invited me back to his place, also in the neighborhood, four blocks from Botto's at 2830 California Street. There I met his girlfriend whose name I can't recall but which might have been Janice. I fell in love with her in an instant. I was 21, utterly single, and falling in love all over the damn place. Janice, Richard, and I became friends. Now and then I'd go by their place and we'd play Monopoly. Monopoly became a significant, recurring game during that particular time in San Francisco. And later, of course, Brautigan became a significant and very popular author for a couple of decades. Janice visited me once in a while, with or without Richard. One day I told her she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen in my life and asked to photograph her. We crossed the street to an empty lot where she stood before a wall and I ran off about half a dozen shots. Later I discovered the film had stuck in the camera so that every photograph, plus others I took later, were all exposed on a single frame. I discovered this months later, back in Vancouver [British Columbia, Canada] when I managed to find a darkroom and it was too late to take more pictures of Janice. The negative was almost solid black in that spot but, determined to salvage even the ghostliest image of Janice, I exposed the photo paper for almost five minutes and this is all the evidence that remains of Janice.
Nation's "Beat the Devil" website
Tuesday, 9 March 1965
Brautigan participated in a reading at Tressider Lounge, Stanford University, Stanford, California.
Brautigan's poem "October 2, 1960"
first published in San Francisco Keeper's Voice
1(4) April 1965: 6.
Astrologer Gavin Arthur, grandson of former president Chester A. Arthur, predicted the destruction of the Northern California coast. Brautigan recruited photographer friend Erik Weber
and his wife Loie to drive he and Janice Meissner to visit Price Dunn, then living along the Carmel River. The tidal wave never materialized and the group spent the week together. Weber took a number of photographs of Brautigan and Dunn posing on or in front of chicken coops, buildings, and bouys.
Saturday, 3 July and Saturday, 10 July 1965: Buzz Gallery
Brautigan read the newly-completed manuscript of his novel In Watermelon Sugar
at the Buzz Gallery, 1711 Buchanan Street, San Francisco, California. He read the first half the evening of 3 July, the second half 10 July. In Watermelon Sugar
was not published until 1968.
Buzz Gallery was an artist commune founded 21 June 1964 by Paul Alexander, Bill Brodecky, and Larry Fagin. Planned to remain open only one year, Buzz Gallery closed following the show by Jack Boyce, 19-20 February 1966. During its short tenure, Buzz provided a gallery where young San Francisco artists could show their work.
Joanne Kyger, in her essay "I Remember Richard Brautigan," writes
I remember Richard reading his newly finished manuscript of In Watermelon Sugar in two parts over at Buzz Gallery on Buchanan Street, Saturday, July 3, and July 10. Tom Parkinson laughed in all the wrong places. The novel was dedicated to Don Allen, Michael McClure, and me. This was during the famous Berkeley Poetry Conference, July 12-24, 1965. It was a great fermenting stew of poets arriving. Richard was not a part of that. (Richard Brautigan: Essays on the Writings and Life. McFarland, 2006. 142.)
The Berkeley Poetry Conference featured Charles Olsen, John Weiners, Gary Snyder, Edward Dorn, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Spicer, and Warren and Ellen Tallman, among others.
Bill Brodecky Moore, a San Francisco artist and one of the original founders of Buzz Gallery, in a brief history of the gallery, also recalls Brautigan's reading.
Richard Brautigan also packed the place with his reading of In Watermelon Sugar. I complimented him effusively afterward, even though I thought the book less good and more stylized than Trout Fishing in America, which I had thought dry and too deliberately droll when he read it in a Mission District former church (at which [Jack] Spicer, who had been a close adviser, was present, proving that his geographic rules were spotty). [Spicer felt that members of the poetry scene in North Beach never went west of Van Ness or south of California Street].
Moore's full account in Buzz Gallery 1964-1965
, a monograph of the gallery published in Big Bridge
(Volume 3, Number 1), a webzine of poetry
The entire Buzz Gallery 1964-1965 monograph in Big Bridge webzine
Writer David Kherdian recalls drinking and playing pool with other unknown writers, including Brautigan, at Vesuvio, the bohemian bar facing the alley that separated Discovery Books and City Lights Books
. Perhaps, however, Kheridan is confusing Vesuvio, which by all accounts never had a pool table, with Mike's other local bar where writers and others gathered to drink, talk, and play pool. Kheridan was writing Six San Francisco Poets
(Fresno, CA: Giligia Press, 1969) and considered including Brautigan
in my book but disqualified him on the basis of his poems, that seemed to me minimal at best—but we had long, involved talks about [William] Saroyan, whose work he admired as much as I did. (Kherdian 269)
Kherdian expressed his feelings further in this poem, "Lately Richard Brautigan Isn't Enough," published in 1969:
comes in a jar
handsome enough to hold
pencils & letteropeners
and other nice things.
And I should mention
Croydom, too, his partner.
They established it in 1797
(David Kherdian. The Sage (12) October 1969: 13)
Brautigan applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship. The abstract answers he provided on the application form probably did not help. For example, to the question of the purpose of his project, Brautigan replied, "I would like to write a novel dealing with the legend of America and its influence upon myself and these times. I would like to write another novel about the fiber and mythology of this country. The locale of the novel would be the Pacific Northwest." With regard to other grants and awards, Brautigan wrote, "I have never received any outside help in my writing." As to education, Brautigan replied, "I have no education that can be listed here. My 'education' has been obtained by other means." Brautigan offered no foreign language proficiency, "English is the only language I know." In response to a question about scientific/artistic organizations of which he belonged, Brautigan replied, "I have never been a member of any organization."
In his career statement, Brautigan was more expansive. "As a novelist I am deeply interested in achieving a maximum amount of effect using a minimum space, and I am also very interested in structure and language."
His application was not successful.
Saturday, 23 October 1965
Brautigan and Janice Meissner hosted a Halloween party at their shared apartment, 2830 California Street, San Francisco, which was attended by all the royalty of San Francisco counterculture. Michael and Joanna McClure attended, as did Joanne Kyger and Jack Boyce, John and Margot Doss, and Erik and Lois Weber. Elvin Bishop, then a drummer for the John Coltrane Quartet, was there. Don Allen stopped by, just back from his trip to New Mexico to visit with Robert Creeley. The surprise guests were The Fugs, a legendary, underground punk band from New York City, in town to play at Appeal I, a benefit concert for the Mime Troupe, held early November at the Calliope Warehouse (aka, "The Loft") at 924 Howard Street. Banjo player Sandy Bull and The Jefferson Airplane also performed, as did poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
The invitation, titled "You Are Invited to Become a Costume Party," was a computer punch card with the date and time ("Sat. Oct. 23 8:30 PM"), the address ("2830 Calif. St.), and the host names ("Richard Brautigan, Janice") handwritten by Brautigan.
Grove Press rejected Brautigan's novel In Watermelon Sugar
, but offered a $1,500 advance against future work, payable at $250.00 per month for six months starting January 1966.
Brautigan posed with Beat
poets and artists for a photograph by Larry Keenan in front of City Lights Books
in San Francisco. The photograph is called variously "The Last Gathering" or "Poets at the City Lights Bookstore." According to Keenan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
wanted to document the 1965 Beat scene in San Francisco in the spirit of early 20th Century photographs of Bohemian artists and writers in Paris. So, he gathered as many as possible in front of his bookstore and Keenan took the photograph titled "The Last Gathering of Beat Poets & Artists, City Lights Books." Brautigan is seen right of center, wearing a white hat. The original photograph was horizontal and showed the entire front of City Lights Books and a larger gathering of Beat poets and writers. The image shown here was cropped by Keenan from the original horizontal photograph and does not show all the Beats gathered.
An alternative photograph by Keenan. Those shown include, front row left to right: Robert LaVigne, Shigeyoshi (Shig) Murau
, Larry Fagin, Leland Meyezove (lying down), Lew Welch
, Peter Orlovsky. Second row: David Meltzer
, Michael McClure
, Allen Ginsberg, Daniel Langton, Steve (friend of Ginsberg), Richard Brautigan (wearing white hat), Gary Goodrow, Nemi Frost. Back row: Stella Levy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Another alternative photograph by Keenan. Brautigan is seen in the back, wearing the white hat.
Keenan's photograph was first published on the front cover of City Lights Journal
, issue 3 (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1966). Brautigan made no literary contribution to this issue. The photograph in its original format is rarely seen.
The photograph was republished several times after that. One example is the front cover of Huge Dreams: San Francisco and Beat Poems
by Michael McClure (New York: Penguin, 1999).
This book reprints two by McClure long out of print: The New Book
and A Book of Torture and Star
. These books are considered by some to represent the cornerstones of the Beat movement. Their poems certainly impart a sense of the rich texture and individuality that fueled the San Francisco Beat movement.
Another photograph of Brautigan by Larry Keenan. Taken at the same time as the photograph "The Last Gathering of the Beat Poets & Artists" (above).
Saturday, 18 December 1965
Brautigan attended the opening midnight performance of Michael McClure's
play, The Beard
James (Jim) Joseph Marshall (3 February 1936, Chicago, Illinois—24 March 2010, New York City, New York), noted photographer of many musicians and the chief photographer at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair (15-18 August 1969, Bethel, New York) photographed Brautigan in 1965 or 1966 on the streets of San Francisco, California, holding a bouquet of white carnations.
Jim Marshall Photography Official Website
Jim Marshall Photography LLC: The Official Blog
Brautigan sent a Christmas card to Donald Allen
. The card, certainly picked by Brautigan to raise questions, featured a picture of a near-naked, tattooed blond female seen from the rear, her legs wrapped in a Nazi flag. The tattoo read, "Property of Satan's Slaves." On the inside, Brautigan wrote "Merry California Christmas!" and signed "Richard and Janice" [Meissner].
Highlights: Summer of Love begins . . . Gets involved with the Diggers
Brautigan's stories "Revenge of the Lawn"
and "A Short History of Religion in California"
were first published in TriQuarterly
5 Winter 1966: 55-59, under the title "Two Stories by Richard Brautigan."
Brautigan's poem, "A Study in California Flowers,"
was first published in Coyote's Journal
5/6 1966: 81.
Brautigan lived at 2830 California Street (Polk County Directory
Brautigan sent five stories to Sue Green, who worked with a startup literary magazine in New York called Art Voices
. Green returned four, keeping one titled "Kitty Genovese-by-the-Sea," a story about aviator Charles Redgrave marooned on an island southwest of Hawaii. Redgrave writes a note for help, seals it in a bottle, which he casts into the ocean. A couple walking the beach in California find the bottle, but thinking it a hoax, disregard the plea for help. Art Voices
went out of business and the story was never published.
Saturday, 26 March 1966
Brautigan took a one-day trip to Tijuana, Mexico, a city known in 1966 for offering several clinics where one could undergo procedures for terminating unwanted pregnancies. Brautigan was researching ideas for a new novel with abortion as central to its plot. The working title was "The American Experience by Richard Brautigan." Brautigan began on this new novel in November 1965. The notes Brautigan recorded during his Tijuana trip were included in the novel which became known as The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966
Brautigan gave a poetry reading with Andrew Hoyem at The Coffee Gallery, (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach. A stylized handbill, printed in black ink on white stock, announced the reading.
Brautigan read "Revenge of the Lawn" and other examples of his work at the Rhymers Club, Wheeler Hall, University of California Berkeley. His story, "The Pretty Office"
was first published in the second issue of the club's mimeographed magazine, R.C. Lion
(2) 1966: 4-5.
Four days after his reading in Berkeley, Brautigan broke up with Janice Meissner, moved out of her 2830 California Street apartment and into one rented by Andrew Hoyem at 1652 Fell Street. Six weeks after moving in with Hoyem, Brautigan finished his first draft of The Abortion
Friday, 22 July 1966
Brautigan's contract with Grove Press for publication of Trout Fishing in America
Sunday, 31 July 1966
The option held by Grove Press to publish Brautigan's novel The Abortion
Brautigan's story "The Wild Birds of Heaven"
was first published in Parallel
1(3) July-August 1966: 10-12.
Wednesday, 24 August 1966
Brautigan terminated business relationships with Grove Press. He wrote to Barney Rossett, noting that "Grove's lack of interest in honoring the thirty-day decision paragraph in its December 3, 1965 letter to me has forced me to seek another publisher for my work."
Brautigan participted in Artists' Liberation Front (ALF)
Fair held in the Pan Handle of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. This image, taken from a film of the street fair
, shows Brautigan standing amid the swirling events.
Brautigan moved to 2546 Geary Street, next door to photographer Erik Weber
who arranged for Brautigan to take this new apartment. Brautigan lived there until 4 December 1974.
Brautigan's Geary Street apartment,
a typical turn-of-the-century, high-ceilinged, San Francisco apartment, was to the right at the top of the front stairs. The front door was wooden, ornately carved, with a small window against which Brautigan always kept small things taped. The front door opened to a hallway leading to the back of the apartment. Faded pink curtains and/or parachutes, hiding the peeling paint and falling ceiling plaster, were hung above the hallway. Along the walls Brautigan hung rock concert posters, mimeographed poems, and paste up for his book covers, and announcements for his poetry readings around San Francisco. Following the success of Trout Fishing in America
in 1967, Brautigan had a school of his trademark smiling trout painted on the length of the hallway floor (Keith Abbott
Doors opened from the hallway into the rooms of Brautigan's apartment. The front room contained a brass bed, always made and covered, for a period of time, with a buffalo hide. There was a fireplace in the room but it never worked. The built-in cabinet shelves were loaded with books and a collection of intriguing items: keys, rocks, feathers, and Hell's Angels mementos (Keith Abbott
16); a switchblade in the shape of a dragon, stuck open and wrapped in a rosary, a small Bible covered in mink fur, and a small piece of gold lame given by Janis Joplin
. A fishing pole sat in one corner. (Ianthe Brautigan
Another prominent feature of this room was a small stepladder, painted black and decorated with pink-pompoms hanging from each step by the artist Bruce Conner
15). This ladder ("collage" as Conner called it) is shown in photographs of Brautigan's Geary Street apartment by Erik Weber
. Apparently, this ladder was a gift from Conner to Brautigan.
In January 2011, a paint-stained and well-used wooden step ladder, attributed to Bruce and Jean Conner, circa 1967-1970, was offered for sale by Christie's as part of the estate of actor Dennis Hopper who died in 2010. The ladder was listed as gift from Brautigan, but no further details were provided. Since this ladder was not painted black, there would appear to be some doubt that this ladder was the original one given by Conner to Brautigan.
Photograph and description of this ladder at the artnet website
Further down the hallway was Brautigan's writing room. It contained a large, dark oak table used as a desk and some overflowing bookshelves. On the table, under a plastic cover, sat Brautigan's tan IBM Selectric electric typewriter. The window was covered with a torn blue bedspread (Ianthe Brautigan
The door to the bathroom had a frosted glass window. The bathroom walls were decorated with a Beatles poster and small leaflets. Above the toilet paper hung
a royalty statement from Grove Press stating that A Confederate General from Big Sur had sold 743 copies. What Richard thought about this was easy to guess from its position. (Keith Abbott 18)
At the back of the apartment was the small kitchen, its linoleum tile worn in places. A porcelain sink with an old-fashioned spigot sat under the window. A white refrigerator, usually sparsely stocked, stood in the corner. In another was the white gas stove. The cupboards contained chili, spaghetti, and sardines, easy to prepare one-can meals, and instant coffee. Furnishings included a round oak table and two chairs, the caning in their seats broken. The cookware was basic; the white tin dishes had pictures of fruit on them. Brautigan may have changed the wall decorations periodically. Keith Abbott said when he first met Brautigan, in March 1966, the only decoration was "a funky, butcher paper and crayon poster for Richard's first reading of Trout Fishing in America
was made by poet friend Michael McClure
I drew it by hand, Richard face-forward with his glasses, hat, and mustache. Across from that I drew his profile, then wrote DIGGER under one and POET under the other. Richard kept that poster up on the wall forever, along with other posters, and good notices. He loved it. Everything got very old on his walls. He'd hang new things but he'd never take anything away or down. The things about him comforted him and got cobwebby. It was like an old museum of himself. (Michael McClure 36-37)
The kitchen walls featured several interesting decorations like,
a pencil drawing of a bus with real Lincoln penny heads as passengers, a few small Fillmore Auditorium posters, and a picture of an ancient Colt pistol (Ianthe Brautigan 16)
The back porch was the repository for copies of the San Francisco Chronicle
. Brautigan read the paper daily and archived year's worth of back issues on the porch. A rickety staircase led from the porch to the backyard.
Brautigan's story "The Menu/1965"
was first published in Evergreen Review
(42) August 1966: 30-32, 86. It was collected in The Tokyo-Montana Express
Brautigan involved himself with the Diggers
, a group of civic anarchists active in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district 1966-1968 who tried to achieve social change through street theater, leaderless events, and services to the needy (Keith Abbott 35).
Allegedly, Brautigan attended the meeting of the Artists' Liberation Front
where the Diggers were formed (Barney Hoskyns
119). By most accounts, however, the Diggers evolved from the San Francisco Mime Troupe
, which was closely associated with the Artists' Liberation Front through their common founder, Ronnie G. Davis.
This photograph shows Brautigan, and Emmett Grogan
(left, wearing beads) attending a meeting. Grogan was one of the founders of the Diggers. Brautigan was, until he achieved his own fame as a writer, well-connected with the Diggers and Grogan. Brautigan's poem, "Death Is A Beautiful Car Parked Only"
was written for and dedicated to Grogan.
Brautigan admired the services Diggers provided to the needy, like free housing and food. The daily free food program was held in The Panhandle, an extension of Golden Gate State Park, where the Diggers provided donated or stolen produce, meat, and bread to hungry Haight-Ashbury
residents. Some of the food was picked up in a 1958 Dodge truck "provided by a rich lady friend of Richard Brautigan" (Gene Anthony
The logistics of procuring and transporting food included the need for dependable transportation. Emmett Grogan
, one of the founders of the Diggers
, also writes about Brautigan's help in securing a truck in his autobiography Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps
(Boston, Little, Brown, 1972; reprinted Rebel, 1999).
The Ford wagon finally up and died one day, and it looked like the yellow submarine [a VW bus] wasn't going to last much longer either, being driven sixteen to twenty hours a day. Emmett and a crew of Diggers were discussing the need for another vehicle, when in the front door walked Richard Brautigan, a tall, carrot-haired, thirty-five-year-old poet wearing grandpa glasses, a peacoat and a floppy, broad-brimmed, felt hat. He also sported a golden bristled moustache, which drooped over his upper lip like a nodding eyelash. Richard called his poems "Tidbits" and he wrote quite a few for the free handbills which were mimeographed and distributed by the Communication Company, a small organization set up by two office-staffers of Ramparts magazine. Their names were Claude [Hayward] and Chester [Anderson] and, turned on by the style of the Digger Papers, they effectively replaced the need for them by printing single-sheet newspapers which were handed out along Haight Street several times a day. The Communication Company was one of the best newspapers any community ever had.
Brautigan had some news himself that day—an item about a wealthy young woman named Flame who wanted to buy the Diggers something they could use, and needed.
"Would she go for a pickup truck?" someone asked.
"Sure," came the reply, and Butcher Brooks jumped to his feet, asking Richard to take him to her and telling everyone else that he would be back that evening with a pickup he has his eye on. And that evening, he did return, driving a '58 Chevy pickup in great condition with a brand new set of tires. Next to him on the front seat sat a stunning redhead with long full hair and skin the color of ivory. She was Flame all right and she soon became Brooks's old lady, living with him in another storefront on Webster Street in the Fillmore. (265-266)
Max Grogan's (son of Emmett) "1%free's photos" website
By some accounts, Brautigan was well-connected with the Diggers—his poem "Death Is A Beautiful Car Only"
was written for and dedicated to Emmett Grogan—and often participated in or supported their activities. Once he achieved his own fame and financial success, however, his association with the Diggers became more distant, a fact that some Diggers resented. Perhaps they thought Brautigan no longer needed their support after it had been provided without question for so long before his success. For Brautigan, it is likely that he felt Diggers would think badly of him for making money, or based on their "free" mentality, expect some percentage of his success.
Brautigan's poems "The House," "My Nose is Growing Old,"
and "November 3,"
were published in O'er
(2) December 1966: 107-109. In addition, this issue also featured a full-page advertisement for The Galilee Hitch-Hiker
to be published by Oar, complete with made up blurbs promoting the book.
Brautigan participated in the Diggers
inspired "Death and Rebirth of the Haight" (aka "Death of Money") parade. Marchers carried a black coffin marked with dollar signs down Haight Street. When San Francisco police attempted to arrest Hells Angel member, Angel "Hairy Henry" Kot, for allowing Phyllis (Roz) Willner, 16 years old wearing a homemade Supergirl costume, to stand on the seat of his motorcycle as he drove down Haight Street, Kot resisted. Fellow Hells Angel Charles George "Chocolate George" Hendricks, Jr., who attempted to assist Kot, was also charged with resisting arrest. Both were taken to the nearby Park Street Station. A large crowd, including Brautigan, poet Michael McClure
, and another Hells Angel, Freewheelin' Frank (Frank Reynolds)
, marched to the Park Street police station in a spontaneous protest, shouting for the release of both men. The crowd passed the hat and collected bail money for both Henry and George who were released (Barney Hoskins
121 and Peter Coyote
96); Kot was detained for a parole violation. Gene Anthony captured a fine series of photographs of the event, including one of Brautigan standing in front of the police station (Gene Anthony
132-145). In 1989, Phyllis (Roz) Kot sent Henry's "colors," his Hells Angels vest, to the Smithsonian Institute, along with two photocopies of newspaper articles about the event, and a letter noting, "Hank as he was more commonly called . . . has since passed away and I felt you were the appropriate entity to receive this jacket."
"A Hells Angel Goes to the Smithsonian"
. Learn more, view photographs of Hairy Henry's colors, and some of Gene Anthongy's photographs at this webpage of the Chop Cult website.
Tuesday, 20 December 1966
Brautigan gave two poetry readings (9:00 and 11:00 PM) at The Coffee Gallery, (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach. Sharing the bill were William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), Allen Dienstag, and Andrew Hoyem.
Highlights: Poet in residence at California Institute of Technology . . . Involved with The Invisible Circus, a Digger event . . . Participates in the Bedrock One, a benefit for the Communication Company . . . Participates in several poetry readings . . . Trout Fishing in America published . . . All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace published
This photograph, by Ianthe Brautigan
, circa 1967, appeared on the front cover of Downstream from Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan
by Keith Abbott (1989).
Brautigan posed for several publicity photographs by Baron Wolman in San Francisco, in 1967. This photograph, showing Brautigan seated on the front bumper of an old truck, typewriter in his lap, was used to illustrate Lawrence Wright's memoir "The Life and Death of Richard Brautigan"
(445) 11 April 1985: 29, 31, 34, 36, 38, 40, 59, 61). This is a black and white version of the original color photograph.
Wolman took these additional photographs of Brautigan, apparently at the same time, but they were not used in Wright's memoir.
This photograph, also by Wolman, was used to illustrate Brautigan's short story, "1/3, 1/3, 1/3," first published in Ramparts
6(5) December 1967: 43-45. The story was collected in Revenge of the Lawn
, published in 1971.
Brautign reading at Gino & Carlo's bar in North Beach, San Francisco, California, circa 1967. Photograph by Mark Green. Handwritten notes on the reverse of the original photograph note the wall mural behind Brautigan painted by Stewart Johnson who was later stabbed to death in the bar. Mark L. Green (1932-2004) was a San Francisco photographer and writer. He organized a retrospective exhibition of underground arts entitled "The Rolling Renaissance, 1945-1968." This black and white photograph is part of the Mark Green Papers 1954-1991
, part of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Brautigan and Michael McClure
, 1967, in San Francisco. This image was taken at the same time that McClure and Brautigan appeared together in McClure's documentary film The Maze
Brautigan began a relationship with Michaela Blake-Grand, the former girlfriend of Andy Cole, with whom Brautigan shared an apartment October-December 1963 (see above). Known as "Mikey," Brautigan called Blake-Grand his muse. She appeared with Brautigan in the front cover photograph for Trout Fishing in America
and with Brautigan and daughter Ianthe
in the front cover photograph for Brautigan's first collection, Trout Fishing in America, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, In Watermelon Sugar
. Brautigan dedicated his poem "I've Never Had It Done So Gently Before"
to "M" (Michaela) and during his poet-in-residency at the California Institute of Technology (see below) wrote her other, unpublished, poems.
Wednesday, 4 January 1967
Brautigan participated with David Sandberg and Jeff Sheppard in a poetry reading at the I/Thou Coffee Shop, 1736 Haight Street.
Brautigan participated with Gary Snyder
, Lenore Kandel
, Lew Welch
, George Stanley, David Meltzer
, Ron Loewinshon, and William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed) in "The 1st San Francisco Poet's Benefit for the Diggers" held at Deno & Carlo, 728 Vallejo Street, at 8:00 pm. The event was conceived by Brautigan, who told owner Lou Marcelli he would arrange for Allen Ginsberg to headline the event. Brautigan drew the 8.5" x 11" mimeograph poster advertising the event including his stylized carp, flowers, and an all-seeing eye in a circle at the top, center, surrounded by the words "Free! We love you! Free! We love you!". Additionally, the event was advertised on page five of the January 1967 edition of the Oracle
and in a column written by Ralph Gleason for the San Francisco Chronicle
. Despite this minimal advertising, the event drew more than one hundred people. The Diggers
were a group of civic anarchists who tried to achieve social change through various planned but "leaderless" events.
Friday, 13 January 1967
Brautigan attended a party hosted by Andrew Hoyem
at his Fell Street apartment. Hoyem called his party "Meet My Television Set." Allegedly, Brautigan removed all his clothes save his bead necklaces and his hat.
Saturday, 14 January 1967
Although not invited to participate, Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
attended the Human Be-In
at the east end of the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park. The six-block area was filled with over twenty thousand people.
Sunday, 15 January 1967
Brautigan left San Francisco with Andrew Hoyem
who drove them to the California Institute of Technology campus in Los Angeles. Brautigan and Hoyem were to be poets-in-residence for the following ten days. Arriving at night, Brautigan and Hoyem were housed in the guest suite at Ricketts House on the Cal Tech campus where they enjoyed a late night party.
Monday, 16 January 1967
Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
gave a reading at Hoyem's alma mater, Pomona College, in nearby Claremont, California. Brautigan was paid $50.00. A cocktail reception at the home of Irish poet W. R. "Bertie" Rogers followed.
Brautigan and San Francisco poet Andrew Hoyem
stayed on the California Institute of Technology campus in Pasadena, California, during this ten-day period. They lived in the guest suite at Ricketts House. This was the first of Brautigan's teaching experiences
. The invitation came from John F. Crawford, instructor in the English Department who was working with Hoyem to publish a new translation of the Middle English poem Pearl
During his time at Cal Tech, Brautigan wrote the poem "At the California Institute of Technology"
, which was first published in the May 1967 issue of the school's literary magazine, Totem
. He also wrote "Fisherman's Lake" and "Mammal Fortress," two poems, both for Michaela Blake-Grand. Neither were ever collected or published. Additionally, he wrote Blake-Grand three times during his residency at Cal Tech.
Following the conclusion of their residency, Brautigan and Hoyem visited with physicist Richard Feynman whose work with quantum electrodynamics had won the Nobel Prize two years earlier. Additionally, they spent time in Hollywood where Brautigan wrote a poem (never published) entitled "Hollywood" in which he noted lonely men taking out the trash along a residential street overlooked by the famous Hollywood sign.
Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
, fresh from their poets-in-residency at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, arrived at the home of Jack and Vicki Shoemaker in Isla Vista, north of Santa Barbara. Shoemaker managed the Unicorn Book Shop, 905 Embarcadero del Norte, near the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus, and later co-founded North Point Press, Counterpoint, and Shoemaker & Hoard. Brautigan and Hoyem were to read that evening at the Unicorn Book Shop. When the Shoemaker's baby sitter, Althea Susan Morgan, a nineteen-year old student at UCSB, arrived, she and Brautigan were immediately attracted to each other. Following the reading, Brautigan persuaded Morgan to join him and others for a visit to the hot spring at Gaviota State Park. Thus began Brautigan's relationship with Morgan, which ended in June 1967.
Saturday, 28 January 1967
Brautigan, with Morgan, and Andrew Hoyem
attended a poet's party at the home of Jack and Vicki Shoemaker. Brautigan gave Morgan an inscribed copy of the 1966 Cranium Press reprint of The Galilee Hitchhiker
. Later, Morgan visited Brautigan in San Francisco, and Brautigan visited Morgan in Santa Barbara and exchanged a series of letters
Feedback from Susan Morgan
In 1967 I was a sophomore at UCSB [University of California-Santa Barbara]. I had a very laid-back job as a baby-sitter for a guy [Jack Shoemaker] who managed the Unicorn Book Shop in Isla Vista, an enclave next to UC Santa Barbara housing inhabited mainly by students. The Unicorn was just a few blocks from campus in Isla Vista. One night, mid-January after I had returned from Xmas break, Richard Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem and maybe Lew Welch were at Jack's house when I arrived to baby-sit. They were doing a reading that night at the Unicorn. We chatted a little.
After the reading the poets returned to see if I wanted to join them on a trip up to the Gaviota Hot Springs. We all headed up there in a VW MiniVan smoking weed and Richard played the finger cymbals and chanted. Richard did not smoke. It was a magical night with a full moon in the amazing hot pool in an opening in the woods with bats swooping over our heads. Andrew wrote a poem about it.
I had vaguely heard of Richard. I thought he was quirky and interesting. Physically he was none too attractive, but he was charming. I think I brought him home to my apartment with me that night and then he started writing me and inviting me to visit him in the City. He came down to Isla Vista again several more times. Once he came to meet with Basil Bunting, who was poet in residence at UCSB.
On one of my several visits to SF to see Richard he took me to a thrift shop off Fillmore near Union. I bought a lovely lavender satin dressing gown from the 1930's or '40's for $1.45 which I wore often. When he arranged for his neighbor Erik [Weber] to photograph the two of us that is what I was wearing. The photos (there is one of me alone too) were certainly not flattering of me. Richard liked to drink and at that time I was not a drinker at all. I had had a couple of glasses of wine the night before and was feeling horribly hung over. We had had dinner with, I think it was, Ron Loewenstein over in Berkeley. Even though Richard didn't drive we managed to get around lots of places. He was very restless and seemed to want to be constantly active and on the go. I was used to sitting around smoking dope and listening to music for hours on end, so it was always exciting to be with Richard. He introduced me to Michael McClure, took me to meet Free Wheelin' Frank (who wasn't home), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lenore Kandel.
Richard took me to Lyle Tuttle to get a tatto, which at the time was quite rare thing for a woman.
I was friends with him from early 1967 through about June when he was really getting famous and I felt he was getting too full of himself. He came down to Isla Vista and could not stop talking about all his glorious achievements. Previously he had been a humble, quirky, all too human character. I couldn't take the bragging and gave him the cold shoulder.
I saw him the next year at a poetry reading and we were cordial and exchanged another letter.
Then in 1968 or 1969, when I was living in Bolinas, I ran into Richard who was with a real estate agent one day. I greeted him warmly and he pretended not to recognize me. It was really bizarre and insulting. I don't know what that was about. But it changed my feelings about Richard and seemed a natural progression of the bloated ego he had exhibited in June of 1967.
Brautigan and Morgan visited each other frequently. While visiting Morgan in Santa Barbara, California, Brautigan wrote the poem "The Sitting Here, Standing Here Poem"
for Morgan, who recounts the poem's genesis.
Sunday, 29 January 1967
Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
returned to San Francisco.
Brautigan's novel A Confederate General from Big Sur
was translated and published in Italy.
Brautigan participated in The Invisible Circus
, "a 72-hour environmental community happening" held in The Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor in San Francisco. The event was planned by the Diggers
with the Artists' Liberation Front
in response to the earlier January 14 Human Be-In
. Brautigan participated in the planning for the event, arranged for Victor Moscoso to produce an event poster, and coordinated The John Dillinger Computer Complex.
On behalf of the Diggers, Brautigan
phoned Victor Moscoso and asked him to do a poster for the event. . . . Moscoso . . . selected a black-and-white picture from an art book on surrealism and painted the lettering above it in a single evening. (William Hjortsberg
The single sheet, 5" x 7" announcement was printed black and white, and signed by Moscoso.
One thousand copies of this 8.5" x 11" tri-colored handbill by Dave Hodges were printed and distributed, but advertising for the event was limited mostly to word of mouth.
Brautigan attended the organizational meeting, invited by Peter Coyote
who described the "poet and author" as
a tall, mustachioed wraith who wandered the Haight gravely peering at everything through round, frameless glasses. I'd asked him to join us, and now he stood owlishly at the rear of the room, swiveling his head as if he were seeking the sources of sound. (Peter Coyote 78)
, another founder of the Diggers
, described the planning process in his autobiography Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps
(Boston, Little, Brown, 1972; reprinted Rebel, 1999). Grogan said "poets Richard Brautigan and Lenore Kandel" and others who could organize a meaningful event were invited. The planning session was held in the basement of the Glide Memorial Church (281).
One idea that evolved from the planning session was to place the mimeograph machines, stencil cutters, and typewriters from the offices of the Communication Company
, run by Chester Hayward
(left in photograph) and Claude Anderson
(right in photograph) in a room of the Glide Memorial Church. The result would be an immediate and spontaneous printing effort to encourage attendees to publish whatever they liked. Brautigan was placed in charge of this endeavor. Perhaps his first action was to name it The John Dillinger Computer Complex, playing on its outlaw nature.
Claude Hayward remembers moving the equipment to the basement of the Glide Memorial Church, but can not remember who provided the truck.
Feedback from Claude Hayward
The Invisible Circus was one of the more inspired "happenings" in an era that was really happening. Richard certainly was involved in getting me to drag the equipment down to the church. I don't remember who had a vehicle, but I'm sure it was the first time we tried to move the operation. We set up down stairs in the building attached to Glide [Memorial United Methodist] Church. Some little cubicle and a card table. I just stood there and processed whatever came in; I remember there was something from Freewheelin' Frank. I actually didn't get to see a lot of the action, but I heard about it. Things got so outrageous that I believe the plug finally got pulled when word got back to the powers-that-be that a sexual act had been performed on the altar or something. We had the Gestetner, the Gestefax and an old IBM Executive, along with a case of paper and Inks and stencils. The room was a constant buzz, with people in and out in an unending stream.
Keith Abbott, in his memoir "Garfish, Chili Dogs, and the Human Torch: Memories of Richard Brautigan and San Francisco, 1966"
(Review of Contemporary Fiction
3(3) Fall 1983: 214-219) says the truck was his, and recounts how Brautigan recruited his help.
Since I had a truck, Richard enlisted me to help with the setting up of what he called THE JOHN DILLINGER COMPUTER COMPLEX.
This was the mimeo machines and typewriters and stencil cutters, etc., of the Communications Company. It was to be an outlaw media center. Anyone who wanted to print something could come in and do it. There were also readings scheduled for that night, and I was invited to read along with others.
There were no advertisements of this event, no tickets, no interviews or notice given. The word went out. And thousands showed up. The sheer volume sent the publishing center into breakdown. Machines ran until they broke. (219)
After the equipment was installed, a poster drawn on brown butcher paper, and featuring the John Dillinger name, a smoking gun, and gangster getaway cars was hung on the wall.
Grogan described the output of The John Dillinger Computer Complex in his autobiography Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps
Richard Brautigan, working with Claude [Hayward] and Chester [Anderson], had set up "The John Dillinger Computer Service." Using the machinery from the Communication Company, they printed Flash! bulletins and news items notifying everyone about what was going on where and how to get there and also telling them the news right after it happened. This was done by dispatching reporters all over the church to cover various events and report back to "Dillinger" headquarters to type their stories on stencils. With these stencils, several hundred releases were immediately mimeographed and distributed to the crowd. (283)
Although he admits not being there, Peter Coyote
provides an account of Brautigan's activities.
Richard Brautigan and Claude Hayward [co-founder, along with Chester Anderson, of the Communication Company] established a printing press in one room, and Richard wandered the floors, observing the madness, and then rushed back to print and distribute special handbills commenting on and alerting others to what he had observed, linking the participants in a prototypical World Wide Web. (Peter Coyote 79)
The events started at 8:00 PM, Friday evening, with live music, panel discussions, movies, and general free-form self-expression. By 10:00 PM, events were out of hand due to the thousands of people passing through the Church. Brautigan was scheduled to read poetry at midnight in the Church's Sanctuary, but crowd noise prevented him being heard. Around 4:00 AM Saturday, Church officials pulled the plug and worked to get everyone to leave. When Brautigan left, he took The John Dillinger Computer Complex poster to his Geary Street apartment and hung it on a wall.
The John Dillinger Computer Complex printed and distributed over seventy five communications during the event: poetry, overhead conversations, rumors, artwork, announcements, and I Ching
readings (Charles Perry
Brautigan's involvement in The Invisible Circus stemmed from his involvement with the Communication Company
, a community printing and publication business aligned with the Diggers
. The Communication Company published several of Brautigan's early poems in single sheet and broadside formats and one poetry collection, All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace
, all distributed freely on the streets of San Francisco. This calculated self-promotion brought Brautigan increased distribution of his writing, a larger audience, and heightened notoriety (Keith Abbott
36-38, 40 and Nicholas von Hoffman
Of Brautigan's involvement with the Diggers, Michael McClure
One of the things I liked most about Richard was that he was the real poet of the Diggers. He was often on Haight Street passing out papers from the Digger Communications [sic] Company. I liked that activism. Richard was doing it because he believed in it. (Michael McClure 39)
During one of Susan Morgan's visits with Brautigan in San Francisco, Erik Weber
photographed the couple in Brautigan's Geary Street apartment. The photograph was intended for use on the front cover of a possible future book.
Sunday, 5 March 1967
Brautigan participated in Bedrock One
, "a rockdance-environment happening benefit for the Communication Company
in honor of the c. i. a." The happening was held at California Hall, 625 Polk Street, San Francisco, a large building owned by the German-American Association. Brautigan and The Caped Crusaders provided the poetry.
The event was produced for the Communication Company by The Experimental Theatre Co-Op, L.A.M.F. and was noted as "first in a series directed by Chester Anderson."
The time was 8:00 PM to 2:00 AM; Admission was $2.50.
Brautigan's collection of poetry, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace
was first published by the Communication Company
in two different single-sheet formats, each intended for free distribution. Brautigan drew the idea of giving away his poetry from the Diggers
, whose public street theater practice of giving away things he admired.
Brautigan arranged for the photograph he wanted to include on the front cover of his anticipated novel, Trout Fishing in America
. He gathered Michaela Blake-Grand and Erik Weber
in Weber's kitchen where Brautigan posed leaning against the refrigerator and Clark sat on a small stool, built in the furniture workshop of Clayton Lewis, to one side. Unhappy with the pose, Weber suggested they move to Washington Square. Here, posed with the statue of Benjamin Franklin behind, Brautigan standing and Clark again seated on the stool, Weber took the photograph used on the front cover of Brautigan's best known novel, and defined an era.
Thursday, 16 March 1967
Brautigan attended a poetry reading by Gary Snyder at the Fillmore Auditorium. After walking to his apartment in the rain, Brautigan wrote the poem "Rainy Gary Snyder Poetry Reading Night"
, which was first published in The Poet's Eye: A Tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Books
. (Ed. Richard Ogar. Berkeley, CA: The Friends of the Bancroft Library, 1997. 61-63.)
Friday, 24 March 1967
During a visit by Susan Morgan to Brautigan in San Francisco Brautigan wrote and dedicated to her the poem "Albion Breakfast"
Brautigan's poems "The Beautiful Poem"
, "Flowers for Those You Love"
, and "Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4"
were first published by the Communication Company
. Each was published as a single-sheet intended for free distribution.
Gray Line Bus Company began offering "San Francisco Haight-Ashbury District 'Hippie Hop' Tours" which they advertised as "the only foreign tour within the continential limits of the United States." The "Hashberry," as Gray Line called it, was world famous, as were the street theater antics of the people, the hippies, who lived there. The "Hippie Hop" tours were designed to give tourists a look and feel of the place. Monday through Friday, two buses a day followed a two-hour tour route from downtown San Francisco hotels through the Haight-Ashbury
district. Tourists were given a "Glossary of Hippie Terms." By April, residents of Haight-Ashbury saw little interest in being subjects of such tours. Buses were met by Diggers
and others who turned broken mirrors on the tourists, turning back a reflection of the gawkers' curiosity. "Novelist Richard Brautigan ambled about the streets carrying a mirror that he held out before likely looking tourists, exclaiming, 'Know thyself!'" (Gene Anthony
27 [Anthony photographed Brautigan, mirror in hand, confronting tourists]). After five weeks, on Monday, 15 May, Gray Line cancelled "The Hippie Hop" tour, citing traffic congestion in the Haight-Ashbury area (Charles Perry
171, 178, 193).
Brautigan participated in a Diggers
poetry reading for the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor in San Francisco, California.
The Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, or Spring Mobe, or Angry Arts Week, was part of a nationwide protest against the war in Vietnam organized in November 1966 to sponsor antiwar demonstrations in the spring of 1967. Two mass demonstrations were planned: one in New York City, the other in San Francisco. On Saturday, 15 April 1967 more than 125,000 people marched against the war in New York. In San Francisco, 60,000 people demonstrated. Up until this time, the Spring Mobilization was the largest ever antiwar demonstration.
The letter-sized (28 x 22 cm) promotional poster for the event was printed in San Francisco by the Communication Company
. It was printed one side, black ink on tan/brown paper, and featured an image of a naked man carrying a sheep over his shoulder. The image was taken from a drawing by neo-impressionist painter Georges Seurat (1891-1959). Another Seurat drawing was used on Brautigan's broadside poem "The Beautiful Poem"
). Imprint on the poster reads: "Gestetnered by the Communication Company" (Reference to the Gestetner mimeograph machines used to print this and other Communication Company publications).
Participating poets listed on the promotional poster included: Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, Lenore Kandel
, Lew Welch
, Ed Bullins, Richard Brautigan, Andrew Hoyem
, Pamels [Pamela] Millward, James Koller, William (Bill) Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), Jeff Sheppard, Patrick Gleason, and Ron Loewinson.
Brautigan participated in the Joyful Alternative Peace Poet's Dance, 8:00 PM - 2:00 AM, at California Hall, 425 Polk Street, San Francisco, a large building owned by the German-American Association. This event was part of the lead up to the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam demonstration on 15 April 1967.
The Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, or Spring Mobe, or Angry Arts Week, was part of a nationwide protest against the war in Vietnam organized in November 1966 to sponsor antiwar demonstrations in the spring of 1967. Two mass demonstrations were planned: one in New York City, the other in San Francisco. On 15 April 1967 more than 125,000 people marched against the war in New York. In San Francisco, 60,000 people demonstrated. Up until this time, the Spring Mobilization was the largest ever antiwar demonstration.
The 13" x 19.5" promotional poster features a psychedelic illustration of a human head composed of the participant's names printed in blue ink, and a reproduction of book cover art by poet Kenneth Patchen on orange-red paper. The event is noted as "preperation" [sic] for the "giant march" scheduled for 15 April 1967.
The participants (in order of appearance on the poster) include Kenneth Patchen, Lew Welch
, Charles Upton, Lenore Kandel
(in absence), Robert Duncan, David Meltzer
, Tom Parkinson, George Stanley, James Broughton with Joel Anderson on harp, Jeff Sheppard, Richard Brautigan, County Joe and The Fish, and Serpent Prowler. A light show was also scheduled.
Friday, 14 April 1967
Brautigan planned and participated in a Diggers
-sponsored event in the Panhandle of Golden Gate State Park. Billed as a "Candle Opera," the event, conceived by Brautigan as a memorial to the death of an unknown person, was part of the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam.
A Communications Company promotional poster notes "candles, incense, and love" as part the event, along with music by Country Joe and The Fish, New Age, Mad River, All Night Apothecary, Morning Glory, Moebius, and other bands.
Hundreds of candles were distributed and Brautigan encouraged the audience to light and hold them aloft, thus forming a human candelabra. This was Brautigan's take on a Digger-style street theater event.
Wednesday, 19 April 1967
Brautigan invited to attend a Reception Honoring Bay Area Writers by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.
Brautigan participated in a Lenore Kandel
reading sponsored by the University of California-Davis English Graduate Students' Club. Kandel read from her Love Book
. Also featured, along with Brautigan, was longshoreman, poet, and Hells Angel, William (Bill) Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed). The reading was held at 8:00 PM in Room 194 of the New Chemistry Building on the university campus. A 10" x 13" poster advertising the event, by John Thompson, printed in medium green ink on light green stock, featured a bare-breasted woman with light beams shooting from her nipples.
Brautigan participated in a three-day Writer's Conference sponsored by San Francisco State University at Camp Loma Mar in Pascadero, north of Santa Cruz, California. Over fifty writers were invited to participate including Stephen Schneck, Herbert Gold, Don Carpenter
, James Broughton, Thomas Sanchez, George Hitchcock, Lester Cole, Lawrence Fixel, Lenore Kandel
, Janine Pommy Vega, William (Bill) Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), and Stan and Anne Rice.
Brautigan participated in Pacific Coast Free Thing in Santa Barbara, California, Saturday, 3 June 1967, on East Beach opposite the Bird Refuge, sponsored by Unicorn Books and The New Community. The poster by Chuck Miller, a noted poster artist of the period, announcing the event noted the "celebration" happening from dusk to dawn on Isla Vista Beach. Free food was provided. Poets included Charles Upton, [William] Bill Fritch, Lenore Kandel
, Lew Welch
, Jeff Sheppard, Andrew Hoyem
, and Brautigan. Entertainment was provided by Raw Violet Flying Circus, Alexander's Timeles Blues Band, Mad River, Phoenix, Underground Railroad, and The Group. Lights were provided by Aurora Clorialis. Miller's work appears in The Art of Rock
(Abbeville Press, 1999).
Brautigan, designated as the spokesman for the event, described the various events in an interview with the local newspaper. He also scouted the local supermarket dumpsters for usable fruit and vegetables—the "free food" part of the event. The Communication Company Gestetners were brought to print immediate, "on-the-spot" news about the event, as had been done at the earlier Invisible Circus
Feedback from Steve Hart
I found your website while searching the internet for mention of "The Pacific Coast Free Thing." Although there were no Google hits for the Free Thing, there were many for Richard Brautigan, which is how I found your interesting Chronology.
I attended the Free Thing, which took place on June 3, 1967 in Santa Barbara. I still have the Chuck Miller poster that was printed to promote it, which includes Brautigan's name as one of the attractions. I met him there and drank wine out of the bottle with him on the beach.
I had been staying in Berkeley for a few days with Rick Bockner, who was in the band Mad River. He was a high school friend. We both attended high school in St. Louis County, Missouri. We went into San Francisco to the Digger Store, got in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of other people, and headed for Santa Barbara. I know that Lenore Kandel was one of the other people in the truck, but I don't remember the names of the others. We made several stops along the way, including a visit to a couple living in a cabin north of Santa Barbara, and at the UCSB campus. My most vivid memory was the view to the west while traveling south through the Salinas Valley. It was my first time in California, and the valley was warm and lush. I really thought I had come to the promised land.
A columnist who wrote about city walking tours for the San Francisco Chronicle
visited "Hippie Hill," a small hill in Golden Gate State Park and a favorite spot to watch the gathering young people. Brautigan acted as her guide and asked her to point out the quiteness and color of the area (Charles Perry
Early this month Brautigan met Marcia Pacaud
of Montreal, Canada. Pacaud worked at Tides Bookstore in Sausalito, and was friends with Canadian poet, songwriter, and composer Leonard Cohen. Brautigan and Pacaud ended their relationship in the spring of 1968. After that they remained friends and correspondents.
On 12 July, Brautigan wrote two poems for Pacaud while staying at her Sausalito apartment, 15 Princess Lane (number 5): "A Place Where the Wind Doesn't Live"
and "The Planted Egg, the Harvested Bird."
In the end, Brautigan wrote several poems for Pacaud, including "The Shenevertakesherwatchoff Poem," "Map Shower," "I've Never Had It Done So Gently Before," "Your Necklace is Leaking," "I Live in the Twentieth Century," "Gee, You're So Beautiful That It's Starting to Rain," "The Garlic Meat Lady from,"
and "I Lie Here in a Strange Girl's Apartment."
At the end of July, Brautigan received a telephone call from William Jersey, president of Quest Productions, a small New York film company. Jersey agreed to pay Brautigan $1,000 for expanding an idea for a documentary film about San Francisco. Brautigan produced a fifteen-page treatment for a movie to be called Magicians of Light
. It was to be a movie about movie making in San Francisco and would feature many of the members of the hip community. The film was never made.
Sunday, 20 August 1967
Erik Weber and his wife Loie left San Francisco, bound for India. Prior to his departure, Weber took a photograph of Brautigan in the garden behind his Gerry Street apartment. The color photograph shows Brautigan, wearing a Navy peacoat and hat holding a yellow jonquil. Weber's photograph was used on the front cover of The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings
Needing a photographer, Brautigan turned to Edmund Shea
whom he had known for quite some time. Shea, a professional photographer, produced the photographs that appeared on the covers of several of Brautigan's books.
The release of Brautigan's novel, Trout Fishing in America
, planned for early 1967, was delayed until 31 October when the contracted typesetter refused the job. Instead, Zoe Brown, wife of Brautigan's friend, Bill Brown, typed the manuscript and prepared it for publication.
Members of the band Mad River moved from Berkeley to San Francisco, California, to an apartment on Oak Street, overlooking the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park. (They moved back to Berkeley in early 1968.) Brautigan, who knew the band, frequently visited their apartment. The band's second record album, "Paradise Bar and Grill," featured Brautigan reciting his poem, "Love's Not the Way to Treat a Friend."
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
published, first as a broadside then as a pamphlet of thirty-three poems by the Communication Company
. Brautigan "gave" this poem to the Diggers
. It was included in The Digger Papers
. LEARN more >>>
At the end of September, the first copies of Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America
were released. Trout Fishing in America
was the first of three Brautigan novels and one poetry collection published by Donald Merriam Allen
(1912-2004) and his nonprofit press, Four Seasons Foundation. Early, favorable reviews by Herb Cohen and Don Carpenter hailed Brautigan as a fresh new voice in American literature.
Brautigan attended the Digger
event, Death of Hippie
, a candlelight funeral procession which began at sunrise on Buena Vista Hill, marched down Haight Street, with costumed pall bearers carrying a cardboard coffin containing various hippie paraphernalia. The street theatre was thought to signify the end of the "Summer of Love."
A broadside titled "Death of Hippie" published 6 October 1967 by the Communication Company
details the Diggers thinking.
Brautigan published "Boo, Forever,"
in Free City News
, an anthology of ten poems, each published as broadsides by the Diggers
and printed by the Communication Company.
The poem was published without title, and anonymously.
Thursday and Friday, 19 and 20 October 1967
Brautigan read his newly-published Trout Fishing in America
in its entirety at the Unicorn Book Shop, 905 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista, California. Two separate readings were offered. Brautigan read the first half of his novel on Thursday, 19 October and the second half on Friday, 20 October. The silk screen poster (24" x 18") by Chuck Miller, friend to Jack Shoemaker, owner of the Unicorn Book Shop, announcing the event printed an illustration of Brautigan and text in black on a blue background. Miller was a noted poster artist of the period. Miller's work appears in The Art of Rock
(Abbeville Press, 1999). The University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library website maintains a multimedia presentation of "Sixties Memorabilia"
including this poster and Brautigan's "San Francisco Public Library: A Publishing House."
Brautigan's short story, "1/3, 1/3, 1/3"
published in Ramparts
6(5) December 1967: 43-45.
The story included a photograph by Baron Wolman
of Brautigan, one of several he took in 1967 for publicity. Also included was a review by Stephen Schneck
of Trout Fishing in America
. Schneck participated on the Creative Arts Conference
program with Brautigan in August 1969.
The second issue (23 November 1967) of the newly launched Rolling Stone
magazine, included an endorsement for the Minimum Daily Requirement coffeehouse, 348 Columbus, at the intersection with Grant, written by Brautigan: "A nice place to eat where it's green and beautiful and open until three in the morning."
A second printing of three thousand copies of Brautigan's novel Trout Fishing in America
was ordered by Donald Allen
. This edition corrected the omission of Erik Weber's
photo credit for the first edition front cover, and included All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
to the list of Brautigan's books on the catalog page. Allen also announced his decision to have his Four Seasons Foundation publish Brautigan's next novel, In Watermelon Sugar
the following spring, along with a collection of Brautigan's poetry, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster
Highlights: In Watermelon Sugar published . . . The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster published . . . Please Plant This Book published . . . Awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Anthology Program grant
Two weeks before his birthday, 30 January, Brautigan wrote the poem "The Privacy of My Dreams Is Like Death"
which remains unpublished.
A photograph of McClure and Brautigan on Haight Street, San Francisco, 1968. Photograph taken by McClure's cousin, Rhyder McClure. This photograph was used on front cover of Transit
, Spring 2002, which featured "Richard Brautigan: A Memoir"
by John Thomas, as well as work by McClure.
Feedback from Ryder McClure
I took this photo of Richard and Michael [McClure]
in 1968 on Haight Street in SF. I'd been chatting with Richard when Michael (he's my cousin) pulled up on his chopper. This photo has been coming out of the underground over the last few years . . . and I thought you might like it.
I saw Michael last month—he did a reading here in NYC. I was packing a camera and commented, "Maybe this picture will be better than the one of you and Richard." He responded, "No one will ever take a better picture than that!"
Richard and I were friends in SF—we used to sit at Enricos and watch the world (mainly girls) go by. The only thing he ever said to me about writing has served me well for forty years: (because it was so long ago, this is a paraphrase) "If you're going to write, buy the best typewriter money can buy. It's something you're going to be spending a lot of time with, so make that part as easy on yourself as you can."
New York, New York
Photographer, writer, teacher
This photograph shows Brautigan at Muir Beach, California. Photograph by Dr. John Doss.
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor.
The event, called "Affirming the World Is the Thing," was designed to raise money for "A.F.T. strike fund" (American Federation of Teachers and "student strike fund" (San Fransisco State University).
The 13" x 19.5" silkscreened promotional poster featured heliotrope and olive green graphics and print on a heavy, cream-colored papers.
The twelve advertised poets included (in their order of appearance on the poster) John Logan, Joshua Bunce, Thom Gunn, Bill Anderson, Richard Brautigan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, Muriel Rukeyser, Denis Levertov, Michael McClure
, Kay Boyle, Robert Duncan, and Dennis Beall. Also present was Elizabeth Bishop, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and former Poet Laureate of the United States.
Brautigan read the following poems:
Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt
A Witch and a 6 Pack of Double Century Ale
Chosen by Beauty to Be a Handmaiden of the Stars
Critical Can Opener
She Sleeps This Very Evening in Greenbrook Castle
30 Cents, Two Transfers, Love
Lions Are Growing like Yellow Roses on the Wind
Mrs. Myrtle Tate, Movie Projectionist
In Her Sweetness Where She Folds My Wounds
Feasting and Drinking Went on Far into the Night (with false start; laughs and says "Cut," "Take Two," and then begins reading again)
The Net Wt. of Winter Is 6.75 Ozs.
Biographer Brett C. Miller provides the following account of Bishop's participation.
She read twice in San Francisco, once at the Museum of Modern Art and once at Glide Memorial, the so-called hippy church, in a benefit for striking teachers at San Francisco State University. Elizabeth said she did the reading out of curiosity rather than political commitment; she had never seen Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Richard Brautigan, Kay Boyle or any of the other famous San Francisco poets and wanted to know what they were like. She smoked a little marijuana at the reading and decided she liked Brautigan, but "in general, I'm afraid, I'm just a member of the eastern establishment of everyone here and definitely passé. I don't mind. I thought that Thom [Gunn]'s poems and mine were the best!—the rest were propaganda that takes me back to my college days and the WPA theatre and so on—propaganda, or reportage of all-too-familiar events." (Millier, Brett C. Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993. 412-413.)
When Bishop attended/participated in this reading she was living in San Francisco, 1559 Pacific Avenue, with Suzanne Bowen. Bishop lived in San Francisco from 1968 to 1970. (Millier, Brett C. Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It
. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993. 399-431.)
Xiaojing, Zhou. "The Oblique, The Indirect Approach": Elizabeth Bishop's "Rainy Season; Sub-Tropics." Chicago Review
40(4) Fall 1994: 75-92.
Reviews Elizabeth Bishop's prose poem "Rainy Season; Sub-Tropics" as the poet's response to the excesses of confessional poetry. Notes Millier's discussion of Bishop's two visits to San Francisco in 1968 (79).
Feedback from Ken Keiran
Thanks to eBay I've got a mono half track reel to reel recording from February 1968 at the Glide Memorial Auditorium in San Fransisco. It not only has Brautigan, but also Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other poets reading for a benefit for the American Federation of Teachers Strike Fund and The San Fransisco State and Student Bail Funds. Richard's portion is about 10 minutes long.
Thursday, 29 February 1968
Brautigan, together with the Rapid Reproduction Company, a commercial offset lithography business, released a broadside entitled "One Day Marriage Certificate."
The broadside was planned for the cartoonist Al Capp inspired Sadie Hawkins Day celebration planned this day in Golden Gate Park.
Please Plant This Book
published by Graham Mackintosh
. Given away free, this "book" was a folder containing eight seed packets, each containing seeds, with poems printed on the sides.
Friday, 1 March 1968
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading at the University Methodist Church, Isla Vista, California.
Brautigan allegedly on the guest list for a party honoring Charles Slack, a former Harvard University colleague of Timothy Leary, at Leary's house, 1230 Queens Road, in Berkeley, California. (Greenfield, Robert. Timothy Leary: A Biography
. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, 2006. 337)
Thursday, 9 May 1968
Brautigan gave two readings at Stanford University, Stanford, California (near Palo Alto). The first, scheduled that afternoon, was for undergraduate; the second, that evening, was for graduate students in the Advanced Fiction Writing class. A poster featuring a line drawing of Brautigan holding a fish in his lap, noting him as "the greatest American comic novelist in three decades" promoted the readings. At the graduate reading, Brautigan shared several stories, including "The Ghost Children of Tacoma," "Revenge of the Lawn,"
and a story then and still unpublished called "Key to the Frogs of South-Western Australia."
Brautigan wrote a short story "An Apartment on Telegraph Hill"
in which the narrator (a thinly disguised Brautigan himself) dreamed of having a girlfriend with a nice apartment on Telegraph Hill, in North Beach. The story remains unpublished.
Brautigan's story seems to come true when he met Valerie Estes
, who invited him to read his work at an art festival in Washington Square Park, planned by KQED radio in San Francisco. Brautigan did not participate in the festival, but he and Estes quickly began a relationship and Brautigan moved into her apartment on Kearny Street, in North Beach, on the slope of Telegraph Hill.
In my younger years I slightly knew Richard Brautigan, mainly because I worked as a clerk at the front cash register cockpit at City Lights Books. I also managed a small apartment building in North Beach (where Philip Lamantia lived, above me) and Valerie Estes lived next door to me. Valerie and Richard began "dating" some time in 1967. I once went with Richard and Valerie to Marin County's Mount Tamalpais (he loved the acacia trees in bloom—bright yellow) . . .
This photograph shows V. Vale working at City Lights Books, San Francisco, California, June 1974.
V. Vale (originally Vale Hamanaka) was the organ player for the first iteration of Blue Cheer, a San Francisco rock band of the era. Rock music legend notes that Hamanaka and Blue Cheer parted company when, after seeing Jimi Hendrix perform at the Monterey Pop Festival, band members Leigh Stephens, Dickie Peterson, and his brother, Jerry, decided to move the band toward a heavy power blues sound. Vale founded the magazine Search & Destroy
in 1977 with a $200.00 donation from Allen Ginsburg to document the then current punk music subculture. In 1980 he founded RE/Search Publications which has published a variety of magazines and books focusing on modern primatives and other underground topics. Vale currently works as editor and publisher for his RE/Search
imprint and frequently contributes to other publications.
The apartment building Vale describes was located at 1427 (now 1429) Kearny Street. Vale lived in the apartment building with his girlfriend of the time, Thea, an artist who made a couch in the shape of a giant pair of red lips. In addition to Lamantia, the building was also home to Nancy Peters of City Lights and other North Beach notables. The building is noted in The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour
(Bill Morgan. City Lights Books, 2003, 16).
Estes says she met Brautigan in the June 1968 (not 1967 as according to Vale) when she interviewed him as a potential participant in an arts program she was organizing. They became involved soon after. She and Brautigan lived together in her Kearny Street apartment off and on until they ended their relationship in 1970. Brautigan kept his Geary Street apartment throughout, and sometimes lived there.
Brautigan participated in "Rolling Renaissance: San Francisco Underground Art Celebration: 1945-1968." The celebration was held in San Francisco galleries, museums, theaters, and nightclubs and featured painting, sculpture, dance, films, poetry, music, drama, lectures, photography, environments, and memorabilia. Poetry readings were offered at Nourse Auditorium and Glide Church.
Participating poets included: Richard Brautigan, Robert Duncan, John Weiners, David Meltzer
, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, Kenneth Patchen, Allen Ginsberg, Lew Welch
, Michael McClure
, Philip Whalen, Joel Waldman, Allen Cohen
, Phyllis Whalen, Patrick Gleason, Kenneth Rexroth, Brother Antoninus [William Everson]
, Al Young, Laughing Water, Richard Krech, Hillary Fowler, John Simon, John Thompson, James Koller, Jack Thibeau, Sister Mary Norbet Korte, Phyllis Harris, and Daniel Moore.
Monday, 10 June 1968
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor, and Brautigan read poetry along with James Koller, Robert Dawson, Patrick Gleeson, Joel Waldman, Michael McClure, and Daniel Moore.
Brautigan participated in "San Francisco Poetry" at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor. The participants, in order as listed on the promotional poster, included Lenora Kandel, Michael McClure
, Philip Whalen, David Meltzer, William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), Richard Brautigan, Joanne Kyger
, Andrew Hoyem, Robert Dawson, Daniel Moore, Keith Abbott, James Keller, Kirby Doyle, dma, Patrick Gleeson, and Pamela Millward.
This "open-mic" event, along with four other programs, was recorded and broadcast on KPFA, San Francisco, California. In order as they were recorded were Brautigan (who read "Mouthes That Kissed in the Hot Ashes of Pompeii"), James Koller, Robert Dawson, Patrick Gleeson, Joel Waldman, Michael McLure, Jack Thibeau, Sister Mary Norbert Korte, Andrew Hoyem, The Unknown Buffalo Poet, Phyllis Harris, Phillip Whalen, John Weiners, "a poet unknown to us," Allen Cohen, "a close friend of Jack Gilbert; we do not know his name," "the next poet is unknown," David Meltzer, and Daniel Moore.
Brautigan received an invitation from William P. Wreden, a San Francisco rare book and manuscript dealer, to write an introduction for the diary of a cross-country journey by Joseph Francl to the California gold fields. Wreden planned to published in a limited edition the 114-year old manuscript. Brautigan's accepted the invitation, and his introduction "The Overland Journey of Joseph Francl and the Eternal Sleep of His Wife Antonia in Crete, Nebraska"
was included in The Overland Journey of Joseph Francl: The First Bohemian to Cross the Plains to the California Gold Fields
, published December 1968. The essay was collected and republished in The Tokyo-Montana Express
Brautigan received an invitation from Gordon Ray, president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, inviting him to apply for a Fellowship. Brautigan was nominated by Josephine Miles, professor of English at University of California Berkeley. Brautigan submitted his application in the fall 1968. He listed Miles, Kay Boyle, Herb Gold, and Stephen Schneck as his references. Brautigan completed and submitted the application for this, his second, application for the Guggenheim Fellowship. For his proposed project, Brautigan wrote, "I would like to finish a book of short stories." The summary of his education read, "I have no education that can be listed here." As for his career, Brautigan wrote, " . . . it doesn't seem like a career to me at all. It's just what I do with my life and what I choose to write about and what happens then." In conclusion, Brautigan noted his greatest satisfaction was "writing and putting together 5,000 copies of a book of poems printed on seed packets. The book is called Please Plant This Book
, and it was given away free. There are now thousands of gardens growing from this book, and that pleases me."
Brautigan received a $500 award under the Literary Anthology Program of the National Endowment for the Arts for his poem "It's Raining in Love."
The program was established in 1966 to provide greater exposure to works that originally appeared in small magazines. Robert Duncan and Anne Sexton were the final poetry judges this year, and selected Brautigan's poem as one of twenty-nine to receive awards.
The poem "It's Raining in Love," along with "Comets"
and "Nine Things"
was first published in Hollow Orange
4 1967: n. pg.
Brautigan appeared briefly in the Digger
Estes and Brautigan spent a week together in Kirkwood Meadows. Brautigan fished the trout streams while Estes read.
In August 1968, two months after meeting, Richard and I spent a week in what was then a High Sierra paradise on Highway 89 called Kirkwood Meadows. At the time, I was working for a North Beach friend, Barden Stevenot, who was developing the site to be the major ski resort it now is. Barden invited us to come for a week.
Kirkwood was a pristine meadow with very few structures except for the old tavern in which we stayed, which was also one of the last existing Pony Express way stations. The valley was said to have the highest density of wildflowers of any Sierra meadow. And it also had trout streams.
In the mornings, Richard and I would go off to fish. He worked the stream as I sat on a granite boulder and read. He taught me how to clean the fish—"just like a little envelope"—and, at night, we would fry them up for our group supper with Bart and his girlfriend of the time, Diana Bell Chickering. Richard was very good at cooking the fish, as well as his famed pasta sauce, but he refused to eat any. A trout never passed his lips.
This photograph by Michael Dorrow shows Brautigan and Valerie Estes at Kirkwood Meadows, Highway 89, California, August 1968.
(Photograph © Copyright 2006 by Micheal Dorrow. Used by permission.)
Monday, 5 August 1968
Brautigan applied for, and received, a California fishing license. His stated address was 2546 Geary Street, San Francisco, California.
recounts a story involving Brautigan, cats, Loren Sears, and Pat Ferraro.
I met one of my closest friends, Pat Ferrero, because of Richard and a cat. At the time (fall of 1968, I think), I had a young Siamese cat named Xenobia, after the Queen of Palmyra in what is now Syria. (I'm very fond of warrior women.) [Xenobia was given to me as a Christmas present in 1967 by my ex-husband, Bob Morrill, whom I left 1 September 1967.] Zenobia came into heat.
Richard was collaborating with an independent film maker, Loren Sears, who was working with KQED-TV in San Francisco on experimental visual projects. [See below.] Loren and his wife at the time, Pat Ferrero Sears (she's gone back to her maiden name), had a male Siamese cat named Brewster. Richard told me that Xenobia and Brewster would be a good pair, so we arranged a "date." Richard and I took Zenobia to Pat and Loren's flat in the Marina, on Fillmore just south of Union, for lunch for the homo sapiens and a "date" for the felines. (I don't know how we got there. I didn't have a car at the time, and Richard never drove. We usually took buses or hitchhiked.)
Richard and Loren, as is the wont of many males, went off to talk about important things, leaving Pat and me in the kitchen. (She had served us tasty tuna fish sandwiches.) Pat and I discovered each other and are still the closest of friends. (She has gone on to become an internationally-recognized documentary filmmaker.) Xenobia stayed for a few days. The date produced lovely kittens, and they mated a second time. (I sold the first litter and gave away the second. Once I got a call from the "mother" of one of the kittens, telling me how wonderful that cat had become.) And Richard and Loren went on to their respective paths.
Loren Sears, was Artist In Residence, The Experimental Project, 1967-1968 at KQED-TV, San Francisco. He was one of five artists paid to explore artistic aspects of television in KQED studios. This residency was funded through Rockefeller and National Endowment grants. Later, Sears directed several broadcast shows for KQED, 1968. He produced a museum-wide video installation as part of a performance for the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1969.
Western Connecticut State College maintains a "Loren Sears Biography" webpage.
Loren Sears Biography webpage
Brautigan wrote the poem "The First Lady of Purple"
which he dedicated to Valerie Estes
. The poem remains unpublished.
Brautigan was contacted by Barry Miles on behalf of Apple Records, asking if he were interested in working on a spoken word album. Brautigan responded that he was very interested and offered to provide a tape of himself reading his poem, "The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster."
The eventual outcome of this initial contact was the release of Brautigan's record album, Listening to Richard Brautigan
Tuesday, 19 November 1968
Brautigan's novels In Watermelon Sugar
and The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster
were published simultaneously by Four Seasons Foundation.
In Watermelon Sugar
was written four years earlier, between 13 May and 19 July 1964. Like Brautigan's earlier novels, and some that followed, this one featured an unnamed first person narrator who spoke in a colloquial voice not always conscious of being heard and a photograph of Brautigan on the front cover with a young woman. Another common theme was the sense of solitude and incapacity.
The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster
, was a collection of poetry, including material collected from earlier collections and new works.
Brautigan's story "What Are You Going to Do with 390 Photographs of Christmas Trees?"
was first published in Evergreen Review
61 December 1968: 24-26. The story was illustrated with photographs by Erik Weber.
Inspired by an obituary in a September 1968 edition the San Francisco Examiner
, Brautigan wrote the poem "Mrs. Myrtle Tate, Movie Projectionist"
which he self-published in an innovative publishing performance called The San Francisco Public Library: A Publishing House
5 December 1968: 2.
Saturday, 21 December 1968
Brautigan's stories "Crazy Old Women Are Riding the Buses of America Today," "Fame in California,"
and "A Need for Gardens"
were first published in Rolling Stone
(24) 21 December 1968: 24. The title "Fame in California" was changed to "Fame in Californina/1964" when it was collected in The Revenge of the Lawn
Jann Werner, editor of The Rolling Stone
, contacted Brautigan and asked him to contribute stories for publication. Despite the fact that his magazine generally sought free submissions from authors, Werner offered to pay Brautigan $35.00 per story.
On the recommendation of Stephen Schneck, Helen Brann, at the Sterling Lord agency, New York, contacted Brautigan and offered to act as his literary agent.
Brautigan was becoming famous and desirable to those wanting to spend time in his presence. Wendy Werris describes a brief affair with Brautigan in her memoir of her life in the book business, An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the World of Books
(New York: Carroll and Graff, 2006. 51-54).
Working for Rolling Stone/Straight Arrow Books in San Francisco, Werris met Brautigan at Enrico's in North Beach. Brautigan was disheveled and intoxicated. Despite this, she writes, "I was enchanted." (51)
the full text of the reference pertaining to Brautigan.
Feedback from Wendy Werris
I was 24 years old at the time, and had always been a big fan of Brautigan's work. I'd read all his books to that point, and was just overwhelmed when I met him. He had an umistakably powerful presence, regardless of his drunken state.
Highlights: First collected works published . . . Participates in poetry readings and conferences . . . Nineteen stories appeared in Rolling Stone magazine . . . Awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship
Brautigan was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship grant for the fiscal year 1969.
Saturday, 4 January 1969
Brautigan's stories "The Ghost Children of Tacoma"
were first published in Rolling Stone
(25) 4 January 1969: 30.
Thursday, 30 January 1969
Brautigan shared the same birthday with V. Vale, who lived in the same apartment building as Valerie Estes
. They all agreed on a shared birthday party, with guests free to wander between their apartments. Janis Joplin
, Bill Brown, Lew Welch, Emmett Grogan,
Dr. John Doss, and many others attended.
This photograph by John Doss shows Brautigan and Vale celebrating their mutual birthdays, Thursday, 30 January 1969, in the apartment of Valerie Estes, 1429 Kearny Street, San Francisco, California.
(Photograph © Copyright 2007 by John Doss. Used by permission.)
Feedback from V. Vale
Richard and I shared the same birthday party in the year 1969. Janis Joplin attended and got very drunk. Richard used to come to City Lights fairly often and tell me about the latest movie he'd seen, usually at a 99 cent theater on Market Street. I can only recall The Drowning Pool and, Where's Poppa? He liked them best.
Feedback from Valerie Estes
When I met Richard, I was living at what is now 1429 Kearny Street, Apartment 1. (At that time, it was 1427 Kearny Street. The numbering was changed when the building was remodeled around 1970.) Another tenant of the building was the former keyboardist of the Blue Cheer rock group, V. Vale, who now runs RE/search Publications in North Beach with his wife Marian Wallace. Although Vale's apartment address was on Genoa Place, the alley to the west which parallels Kearny Street, we all lived in the same building in effect since our back doors all emptied into the central air shaft and garbage chute.
Though years apart in age, Richard and Vale shared a birthday, January 30, so we decided to have a joint birthday party. Basically, it was an open house, with people coming in from both Kearny and Genoa and wandering between the two apartments. Folks who came included Janis Joplin and Emmett Grogan of the Diggers. As was often true, Janis was drunk and looking for more Southern Comfort, and Emmett was trying to score heavy-duty dope. (Neither Richard nor I were into dope, not even marijuana. Alcohol was our drug of choice.)
I'm not sure that a good time was had by all.
Barry Miles arrived in San Francisco for his first meeting with Brautigan regarding an album of spoken voice to be produced by Miles for Apple Records. Miles stayed at Brautigan's Geary Street apartment and coordinated the recording of what Brautigan called "the sounds of my life in San Francisco." The sounds of Brautigan undressing, bathing, talking on the telephone, shaving, and turning off a light switch were included on the Listening to Richard Brautigan
record album, released in 1970.
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading at the United Methodist Church, 892 Camio Del Sur, Isla Vista, California. The reading was sponsored by the Unicorn Book Shop, 905 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista, California, near the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus. Jack Shoemaker managed the Unicorn and co-founded North Point Press, Counterpoint, and Shoemaker & Hoard. Shoemaker invited Brautigan to participate in the Spring Renaissance Faire, 7-10 April.
Brautigan was invited to conduct a two-week prose workshop and give one reading at the Creative Arts Conference, to be sponsored by the United States International University (California Western), in San Diego, in August. His contract offered a $1,200.00 fee, lodging, and discounted meals in the university dining hall.
Brautigan's application for a Guggenheim Fellowship was denied. This was his second application for the award. The first was in 1965.
Saturday, 1 February 1969
Brautigan's story "A Short History of Oregon"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(26) 1 February 1969: 26.
Saturday, 15 February 1969
Brautigan's story "I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(27) 15 February 1969: 10.
Saturday, 1 March 1969
Brautigan's story "Holiday in Germany"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(28) 1 March 1969: 30.
Thursday, 6 March 1969
During an evening of drinking with poet Gary Snyder, Brautigan wrote the poem "Third Eye"
as an improvised Zen tribute to his friend.
Tuesday, 11 March 1969
Brautigan wrote to Barry Miles with his decision for the title of his forthcoming record album with Apple Records: Listening to Richard Brautigan
. Brautigan wanted two black and white photographs on the album cover: one of himself, the other of Valerie Estes
Wednesday, 12 March 1969
and Valerie Estes
traveled together to Albuquerque, New Mexico. From there, Brautigan and Estes traveled to Santa Fe where they stayed with Bunny Conlon and her brother, Al Eylar.
Thursday, 13 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes met Professor Charles G. Bell who ran the poetry reading program at the Santa Fe campus of St. John's College. Bell arranged for Brautigan to give a reading at St. John's the following Monday, 17 March.
In the meantime, Brautigan and Estes, driving Eylar's car, drove to the Los Alamos Research Laboratories. The visit inspired Brautigan's poem "The Sister Cities of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hiroshima, Japan."
Beyond Los Alamos, Brautigan and Estes visited Bandelier National Monument before driving to Grants, where Brautigan wanted to visit the radiation laboratory.
Friday, 14 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes visited Acoma Pueblo.
Saturday, 15 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes visited Chaco Canyon and Pueblo Bonito before arriving in Cuba, New Mexico, where they spent the night.
Brautigan's story "Forgiven"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(29) 15 March 1969: 25.
Sunday, 16 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes were invited to lunch with author William Eastlake and his guest, Lucia Berlin. After lunch, Brautigan and Estes drove to Taos, New Mexico, where Brautigan wrote the poem "All Girls Should Have a Poem"
and dedicated it to Estes.
Monday, 17 March 1969
Brautigan gave a reading at St. John's College, in Santa Fe.
Tuesday, 18 March 1969
Brautigan, Estes, and Conlon drove to Abiquiú, New Mexico, where Brautigan attempted to present Georgia O'Keeffe with a copy of his poetry collection Please Plant This Book
. At an adobe O'Keeffe maintained, Brautigan gave a copy of the book to a woman who answered his knock at the front door, not knowing whether or not the woman was O'Keefe.
Wednesday-Thursday, 19-20 March 1969
Conlon returned to her home in Washington, D.C. while Brautigan and Estes traveled to Placitas, New Mexico, where they visited with Robert Creeley
and his wife, writer Bobbie Louise Hawkins.
Friday, 21 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes returned to Albuquerque, and flew to Los Angeles. Brautigan met with George Osaki in the art department of Apple Records. Brautigan selected the photograph to appear on the record album cover and agreed to write a publicity release. Brautigan insisted on final approval of all details related to the production of the record album, Listening to Richard Brautigan
Saturday, 22 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes flew to New York, where they stayed at the Chelsea Hotel, popular with artists, musicians, and writers. They dined that evening with poets Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh, the founders and editors of Angel Hair
literary magazine from 1966-1969.
Sunday, 23 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes traveled by train to Washington, D.C., where they stayed with Bunny Conlon in her home. They all toured the Civil War battlefields around Washington, D. C.
Monday, 24 March 1969
Brautigan and Estes traveled by train to Boston, Massachusetts. They stayed with Ron Lewinsohn who had arranged a reading for Brautigan the following evening, March 25.
During the day, Brautigan and Estes visited Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, and Walden Pond. That evening, Brautigan delivered a reading at The Quincy Poetry Forum at Harvard University's Quincy House Dining Hall, 8:30 PM. Admission was $1.00.
The announcement for the reading was printed in black ink on a white, letter-sized piece of paper.
Brautigan's friend, poet Ron Loewinsohn, arranged the reading. Years later, Loewinsohn recalled the reading for Peter Manso and Michael McClure
who coauthored an article in the May 1985 issue of Vanity Fair
titled "Brautigan's Wake."
RON LOEWINSOHN: He read at Harvard, and I introduced him at Quincy House [The Quincy Poetry Forum, Quincy House Dining Room, 25 March 1969, 8:30 PM] where he gave a fine, straight reading—poems, stories, chatted a little. Six months, a year later he came back, but by then he was so big, so famous, that there must have been seven hundred people in Lowell Lecture Hall. After reading for about fifteen minutes in a disdainful, contemptuous tone, he just quit. People came up to him for his autograph, and he'd tell them, "Fuck off."
Brautigan's second reading at Harvard University was on Saturday, 22 November 1969. Jeffrey S. Golden attended the reading and had quite a different reaction than Loewinsohn. His review
appeared in the Wednesday, 26 November 1969 issue of the The Harvard Crimson
Wednesday, 26 March 1969
From Boston, Brautigan and Estes traveled back to New York, by morning train, and reestablished themselves at the Chelsea Hotel. That evening, Brautigan gave a reading at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery. The reading had been arranged by Anne Waldman while Brautigan was in New York a few days prior.
Thursday, 27 March 1969
Brautigan met with Helen Brann, his new literary agent, and his new publisher, Seymour Lawrence
, who had won the auction arranged by Brann to publish Brautigan's books. There was no formal contract between Brann and Brautigan until she started her own agency, the Helen Brann Agency, in December 1973. As a representative of the Sterling Lord agency, she negotiated with Lawrence to publish Brautigan's first collected work, the hardback omnibus edition of Trout Fishing in America, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, In Watermelon Sugar
. Brann asked for a $20,000 advance against royalties for Brautigan along with very generous royalties for sales of individual copies of his books. In the afternoon, Brautigan and Estes flew back to San Francisco, Brautigan's literary career apparently off to a tremendous start.
Saturday 5 April 1969
Brautigan's story "Elmira"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(30) 5 April 1969: 28.
Monday 7 April 1969
Apparently, a bad day for Brautigan, judging from his poem "April 7, 1969"
Wednesday 9 April 1969
As part of her birthday celebrations today, Brautigan wrote "Valerie's Birthday Poem"
for Valerie Estes
. The poem remains unpublished.
Thursday 10 April 1969
Brautigan began a book reading tour at Cañada College, near Redwood City, California, south of San Francisco. He spent the morning in Palo Alto with Ed McClanahan and Gurney Norman, both writers. Both were connected to Midpeninsula Free University, an experiment in alternative education near Stanford University. He gave permission for "All Girls Should Have a Poem"
to be published in the semi-annual catalog of course offerings.
Brautigan gave a reading in the Cañada College auditorium in the afternoon. After the reading, he was driven to the airport for a flight to Santa Barbara, where he was scheduled to close The First Annual Spring Rennaissance Faire with a reading.
Brautigan participated in the Spring Renaissance Faire
, Isla Vista, Goleta, California. The "faire" ran from Monday, 7 April-Thursday, 10 April 1969. Brautigan's reading was scheduled for 8:00 pm, Thursday, April 10 in the University Methodist Church, 892 Camio Del Sur, and was the faire's concluding event. Other San Francisco poets participating in the "faire" were Lew Welch, David Meltzer
, Jack Shoemaker, Gary Snyder, and Brother Antoninus
[William Everson]. The handbill announcing the schedule of events and participants was printed in black ink on purple stock.
Friday, 11 April 1969
Brautigan gave a short reading (and was paid $100) at Santa Barbara City College.
Feedback from Jim Brown
I did not "discover" Richard Brautigan until 1967 or 1968. At the time, I was a student at Humboldt State looking through a box of books at a yard sale near campus. As an avid fisherman, the title Trout Fishing in America caught my eye and the 35 cent price was manageable.
That night, I began reading through it and was floored by his writing, particularly his use of the metaphor. From that point on, I began introducing Brautigan to everyone I knew, conducting my wine/weed readings of his work in my apartment, at parties, in parks, on beaches and in tents. Eventually, the binding on that first edition copy failed and the only way I could keep it together was with a rubber band around it and inside of a plastic bag.
After the school year, I returned home to San Diego where I finished college at San Diego State. Among those I'd introduced to Brautigan was a girl I'd dated and who had gone to college at UCSB [University of California Santa Barbara]. She called to tell me that Brautigan was going to be giving a reading at Santa Barbara City College and invited me to join her, which I did. The reading was in a classroom and I was surprised that there were only 15-20 people on hand. Brautigan arrived with files and papers in one hand and a large brown paper grocery bag cradled in his other arm. After setting them down, he introduced himself, thanked us for coming and began to read from what he described as a combination of published as well as unpublished material.
After about five minutes, he stopped reading and looked up at an overhead ventilation vent that creaked through his reading and asked. "Does anyone know how to turn that fucking thing off?" When it was clear that no one did and that the flipping of the switches on the wall near the door controlled only the lights, he asked if anyone minded if we moved from the classroom to an adjacent outdoor courtyard, which we did, and sat in a circle as he suggested.
After reading a few pages in the dimly lit but pleasant setting, he paused again, reached for the brown paper bag and removed a one gallon jug of red wine that was not Red Mountain, the preferred student beverage of the time. Seems to me the wine was a Cribari zinfandel. He asked that we tighten the circle a bit for easier passing and sharing of the wine, which we did. By this time a few of those who I suspect were present as a class assignment had departed, leaving a core of 10-12 of us sitting, listening and sharing that jug of wine with him.
I would guess that all told, we were there for about two hours and he came across as very kind and charming. When it was over, he stood up, smiled and walked off into the Santa Barbara night.
Sometime later (August of 1969 thanks to your chronology) I heard that Brautigan was involved in a workshop at United States International University (where I later taught), which was then located on the old Cal Western (now Point Loma Nazarene) campus on Point Loma, which overlooked San Diego Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Desperate to meet my idol, I drove to the campus and managed only to find that an office he was using temporarily was vacant.
I left a long note of praise, including my phone number and an invitation to take him to Pauma Creek on Palomar Mountain, a genuine "telephone booth" stream with wild trout in a setting few would believe existed in Southern California. Much to my pleasure, the phone at our house rang and Brautigan left a message with my mother that he would be available to visit the stream the next day if I could pick him up at the time and place he indicated. I arrived at the spot early that morning and waited . . . and waited. Brautigan never appeared or called again.
Many years later I told this story and of my disappointment to someone who had been involved with the workshop at that time and was told that Brautigan had discovered a couple of bars he favored in the nearby Peoples Republic of Ocean Beach and had most likely found an arrangement preferable to a long early morning ride up a dusty truck trail followed by a steep hike into a canyon stream.
I continued to follow his career as closely as possible and some years later, I was camping and Steelhead fishing in the Seiad Valley of the Klamath River. I knew this was Brautigan country and by the light of my hissing Coleman Lantern made a point of reading Trout Fishing in America cover to cover for the umpteenth time, and took the time to find Tom Martin Creek.
On my way out of the area and just beginning the trip home, I stopped at an isolated roadside store and paused at the newspaper rack long enough to see a front page headline and story reporting that Richard Brautigan was dead. In disbelief, I paid for a copy (don't know if it was the Chronicle or Examiner, but I still have it in a box somewhere) returned to my van to read it and sobbed.
I had understood that Brautigan had alienated many of his friends, with most blaming his alcoholism. For a time, I irrationally felt guilt that if we had just connected during his visit to San Diego, that I could have been the kind of friend who would have made for a different ending.
Saturday, 19 April 1969
Brautigan's story "The View from the Dog Tower"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(31) 19 April 1969: 8.
Tuesday, 13 May 1969
Brautigan flew from San Francisco to Durham, North Carolina, where he gave a reading a Duke University. On the trip he composed the poems "Donner Party," "Flight Handbook," "Late Starting Dawn,"
all collected in Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt
, and "Fake Protien [sic],"
and "Tongue Cemetary [sic],"
both of which remain unpublished (William Hjortsberg
Friday, 16 May 1969
Brautigan traveled from Durham, North Carolina, to Chicago, Illinois, where he was scheduled to deliver a reading the following day.
Saturday, 17 May 1969
Brautigan's story "A Complete Movie of Germany and Japan"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(33) 17 May 1969: 12. The title was changed to "A Complete History of Germany and Japan" when the story was collected in The Revenge of the Lawn
Brautigan participated in a 3:00 p. m. "Prose and Poetry Reading" in Quantrell Auditorium at The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. The letter-sized green cardstock promotional poster announcing the event was illustrated by Scott Stampton. It was titled "To insure domestic tranquility." Brautigan was cited as an "Experimental Prose Writer and Poet." The illustrated letter-sized sheet was printed on one side, black ink on green cardstock. The event was sponsored by FOTA, Zahbel Fund of the English Department, Chicago Review, and the Roy Gutmann Memorial Fund.
Thursday, 29 May 1969
Brautigan participated in the First Commencement Exercises at The Urban School of San Francisco, 2938 Washington Street. The event, held "On the hill, Alta Plaza Park Jackson between Steiner and Scott streets" honored the school's first seventeen graduates. Brautigan, noted as a "poet-author," delivered a reading as the second item on the program. Following the program there were refreshments and touch football.
Saturday, 31 May 1969
Brautigan's story "A Long Time Ago People Decided to Live in America"
was published in Rolling Stone
(34) 31 May 1969: 37.
Monday, 2 June 1969
Brautigan participated in a Poetry Reading Benefit for People's Park at California Hall, 425 Polk Street, San Francisco, a large building owned by the German-American Association, two blocks from the Civic Center.
Saturday, 28 June 1969
Brautigan's story "A Short Story about Contemporary Life in California"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(36) 28 June 1969: 38.
Sunday, 20 July 1969
Watching the Apollo 11 moon landing with Valerie Estes
and friends Fritzi and Michael Drooth, at their apartment, Brautigan was impressed by the television image of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin footprints in the lunar dust, the first ever on the moon's surface. He wrote the draft of the poem "Jules Verne Zucchini"
in response, contrasting the lunar mission with starvation on Earth.
Brautigan participated, with Lew Welch, in a reading of their work at the San Quentin prison. In a letter to Terence Cuddy, a prisoner, dated Monday, 1 September 1969, Welch wrote: "Richard and I both feel it was one of the warmest and [most] intelligent audiences we've ever had" (Welch
Saturday, 9 August 1969
Brautigan's story "The Memory of a Girl"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(39) 9 August 1969: 37.
Brautigan was hired to direct classes in creative writing during the twelve-day Creative Arts Conference sponsored by United States International University, San Diego, California. Prior to 1968 United States International University was known as California Western. The 8.5" x 12" poster/handbill advertising the conference featured a photograph by Edmund Shea of Brautigan. Brautigan was paid a $1,200 speaker's fee, and given the use of a suite without a kitchen on campus. Meals were available on campus at a 20 percent discount.
The Conference was a twelve-day series of lectures by ten artists and writers including Don Carpenter, Stephen Schneck, Michael McClure, Robert Creeley,
Ed Dorn; filmmakers James Blue, Mike Ahnemann, Denis Sanders, and Jim Morrison of The Doors, scheduled to screen Feast of Friends
. Brautigan's scheduled appearance was 22 August 1969. Brautigan did not read his work or talk. Instead, he stood at the back of hall, operating a projector containing slides of punctuation marks prepared at Brautigan's request by Edmund Shea. This was one of Brautigan's several teaching or conference experiences
While at the conference, Brautigan met and befriended Roxy and Judy Gordon. He visited the Gordons in Austin, Texas, in August 1970. Brautigan's poem "Autobiography (Polish It like a Piece of Silver),"
collected in Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork
, contains a reference to Judy Gordon and Byrds, a town in central Texas, near Brownwood. Two poems, "A Study in Roads"
and "Stone (real"
, both collected in June 30th, June 30th
, contain references to Bee Caves, Texas, a small town twelve miles west of Austin. Brautigan may have visited Bee Caves with the Gordons. Brautigan dedicated his novel Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt
to Roxy and Judy Gordon. Roxy Gordon, in turn, dedicated his book, Some Things I Did
(Austin, Texas: The Encino Press, 1971) to Brautigan.
Saturday, 6 September 1969
Brautigan's story "Women When They Put Their Clothes On in the Morning"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(41) 6 September 1969: 30.
Saturday, 20 September 1969
Brautigan's story "Pale Marble Movie"
was first published in Rolling Stone
(42) 20 September 1969: 25.
Friday-Sunday, 10-12 October 1969
Brautigan was a participating author at the College of Marin Writers' Conference, held at the College of Marin, Marin, California. The College of Marin was a small liberal arts college north of San Francisco. Also scheduled were Kay Boyle, Josephine L. Miles, Herbert Wilner, Jessamyn West, William Dickey, William Stafford, and Carolyn Kizer. Brautigan conducted a seminar, "On Writing," Saturday morning. That evening, at 8:00 PM, he read his work with Stafford and Miles. The program for the event was a letter-sized sheet sheet of green paper, folded in thirds, printed on both sides in green and white ink.
(Photograph by William Stafford. © William Stafford Archives, Lewis & Clark College Special Collections, Portland, Oregon)
Brautigan called actor Rip Torn in New York, and invited him on a fishing trip with himself and Price Dunn to Deer Creek in Big Sur, California. Brautigan knew Dorn from an earlier meeting in San Francisco and a fishing trip they took together to Stinson Beach, California. Dorn, his wife, the actress Geraldine Page, and their three children flew to San Francisco. Geraldine and the children stayed behind while Brautigan, Dunn, and Torn went fishing. This fishing trip, full of drinking and bravado, was one of several shared by Brautigan and Torn, who wrote a memoir entitled, "Blunder Brothers: A Memoir"
published in Seasons of the Angler
. Ed. David Seybold. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988. 127-139.
Friday, 31 October 1969
Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, In Watermelon Sugar
was released by Delacorte Press. Brautigan was in Boston to help promote/celebrate the release of his first, and only, collected work.
An used photograph from the publicity shoot by Edmund Shea.
Another unused photograph from the publicity shoot by Edmund Shea.
While in Boston, Brautigan visited the Trout Fishing in America School, an experimental school spread among eight storefronts in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded by Peter Miller, a student in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Trout Fishing in America School offered courses in English, math, science, criminology, theories of revolution, motorcycle repair, and more. Tuition was $10.00 per month. Students could earn a high school diploma in learning environments far different from formal academic programs.
Saturday, 1 November 1969
Brautigan participated in a parade for the Trout Fishing in America School. Students, teachers, parents, and Brautigan, walked along Massachusetts Avenue, through Central and Harvard Squares, to Cambridge Commons.
In the time before his reading at Harvard University, scheduled for 22 November, Brautigan, Miller, and John Stickney, a reporter for Life
magazine and a volunteer teacher of journalism at the Trout Fishing in America School, visited Walden Pond. Stickney was interested in writing an article for Life
and wanted to collect material while he waited for approval.
Brautigan gave a poetry reading in Lowell Lecture Hall, Harvard University. John Stickney included a description of this Harvard reading in his essay "Gentle Poet of the Young: A Cult Grows around Richard Brautigan."
Peter Miller and several students from the Trout Fishing in America School attended the reading, along with students from Harvard. After a short reading of his work, Brautigan invited the audience to share their own readings. Photograph from the collection of Gregory Miller. Used by permission.
Jeffrey S. Golden was present at Brautigan's reading and wrote a review for the The Harvard Crimson
titled "Richard Brautigan On Saturday Night" (The Crimson Review
26 November 1969: ***?***).
the full text this review.
Golden's review at The Harvard Crimson website
Thanksgiving, November 1969
Brautigan spent the holiday with Robert Creeley and his wife, Bobbie Hawkins, at their home in Eden, New York, about fifteen miles south of Buffalo, where he was scheduled for a reading at SUNY Buffalo.
The reading was an interesting multimedia performance for Brautigan. Instead of speaking directly to the audience, Brautigan played the tape recordings produced for his upcoming record album, Listening to Richard Brautigan
while he, in the auditorium projection booth, projected the slides of punctuation marks prepared for him by Edmund Shea. John Barth, faculty at SUNY—Buffalo, introduced Brautigan and later provided an account of Brautigan's "grand declaration."
The author of Trout Fishing in America, The Revenge of the Lawn, and In Watermelon Sugar was at the peak of his literary fame then, a hippie icon warmly received on a campus that prided itself, in those years of antiwar sit-ins and teargassing riot police, on being "the Berkeley of the East." It was a time, too, when Marshall McLuhan, across the Niagara River in Toronto, was warning us "print-oriented bastards" that our medium was moribund in the Electronic Global Village. In that spirit, after my introduction, Brautigan said hello to the packed hall, pushed the Play button on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder beside the lectern, and disappeared into the auditorium's projection booth, from where—as we all sat for a very long three-quarters of an hour listening to our guest's recorded reading—the invisible author projected slides of giant punctuation marks: five or ten minutes each of a comma, a semicolon, a period, entirely without bearing on the taped recitation. Had it been anybody but Brautigan, that audience would never have sat still for it—but still we sat, until, when the eye-glazing hour was done at last, the shaggy, beaming author reappeared from the projection booth, gestured grandly toward the tape machine, and declared, "There you have it, folks: the twentieth century!" Whereat one of my seriously avant-garde graduate students sitting nearby turned to me and muttered, "Yup: about 1913." (20)
(Barth, John. "'All Treees are Oak Trees...': Introductions to Literature." Poets & Writers January/February 2004: 19-26.)
Monday, 1 December 1969
Brautigan returned to San Francisco from Boston.
Saturday, 6 December 1969
Brautigan and Valerie Estes
, with Lew Welch and Magda Cregg, attended the Rolling Stones free concert at the Altamont Speedway, east of San Francisco. During the concert 18-year old Meredith Hunter was killed by members of the San Francisco and Oakland Hell's Angels
Motorcycle Club, hired, for one hundred cases of beer, to provide security during the concert. Brautigan and Estes were backstage.
Saturday, 13 December 1969
Brautigan's stories "A High Building in Singapore"
and "Ernest Hemingway's Typist"
were first published in Rolling Stone
(48) 13 December 1969: 40.