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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 22mar25012

Remembering the rain

San Francisco (artwork by Tom Killian)

SAN FRANCISCO … It’s been a delight to be back in the City of my birth, hanging out with my street poet friend, Kush. I’m with a film crew from the Czech Republic, thanks to the interest and generosity of Pam and John Lifton-Zoline. We are beginning to film a documentary with a very express purpose. We want to find a home for Kush’s incredible archive of videotaped poetry performances in the Bay Area over the last 40 years, plus a more than generous helping of rare books and literary artifacts. It’s an incredible collection. Weighty tomes and ephemeral broadsides, most signed by the authors – Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsburg, Michael McClure, Phil Whalen, Kenneth Rexroth, Diana DiPrima. And one-of-a-kind tapes of poetry readings, including the voices of long dead masters – Lew Welch, Bob Kaufman, Jack Kerouac, Lenore Kandel. It’s more extensive than any university archive. And precariously located in a second-floor flat in a seedy part of town, stacked floor to ceiling, the paint peeling from the fire-scorched walls … If any record of America’s literary past deserves preservation, this collection does. 
Kush in the Cloud House on Franklin St.

But Kush has refused to sell out his treasure for fortune or fame. He has a vision of a living museum of exhibits and installations that will make these seminal works come to life. And so far he hasn’t been able to connect with any group willing to make that happen … So, a few of the friends of Cloud House – as he calls his visionary endeavor – have been working to see if we can help that happen before disaster strikes and the collection is lost. The urgency is all the stronger hearing of what happened to psychedelic guru Terence McKenna’s books and papers – all lost in a fire in Santa Cruz just last year … So, I flew out to meet Austrian Alexander “Sascha” Stipsits and Bosian Ćazim Dervišević – intrepid filmmakers -- to see if we could coax a moving story out of Kush and his invaluable collection. Working with visionaries is no easy task. But it’s been a lovely wild ride. Participating in a “cultural occupy” demonstration in front of MOMA – San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Hanging out and doing film interviews in Vesuvio’s legendary bar in North Beach. Spending hours talking and looking through the apartment-turned-warehouse where Kush lives with him 90+-year-old mother and a collection that takes up all but a small path between bed, bathroom and kitchen … 
Filming a "Cultural Occupy" demo at the Yerba Buena Center downtown
There’s no room for visitors at Kush’s place and our budget is tight, so the filmmakers found a cheap hotel nearby and I’ve been couch-surfing. Which has really been a blessing. I’ve been able to connect with many old friends from different periods of my life – seminary buddies, old lovers, poetry colleagues and newer mushroom festival friends. And free of the automobile, I’ve been using public transit, which in San Francisco is marvelous. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) whisks one back and forth across the Bay and down to the Peninsula. MUNI (the City’s Municipal Railway) gets one conveniently from one neighborhood to another. And being a senior, I ride the Muni for a mere 75 cents (wonderful to finally take advantage of being an oldster). Plus, for a City, the downtown is very compact and walking from Chinatown to North Beach to Polk Gulch has been enjoyable and fascinating (just the energy and sights are invigorating) … 

Filming Kush on Corona Heights

Only one thing has marred the experience. The rain. Just our luck, it seems Pacific storms have been hitting the coast non-stop after a long dry spell, and it’s rained almost every day we’ve been here … As wonderful as the City is, as intriguing the culture and connections, the weather reminds me why I moved to Colorado and why it’s unlikely I would ever move back to the coast … I hope we can find Kush’s archive a home. I’m glad to be part of this endeavor, but I have to admit – I can’t wait to get back to the sunshine of Lone Cone and the Wilson Range.

Sunshine on the San Juans
SAN JUAN COUNTY … Following in our footsteps of limiting development in the fragile high country, Commissioner Pete McKay was able to convince his two conservative colleagues into adopting new land use regulations that limit cabin sizes to 750 square feet above 11,000 feet, with the possibility of an additional 250 sq. ft., if they can meet viewshed, materials, height and siting criteria. The new rule addresses the 3000 patented mining claims in the alpine area of their county that could be developed, although only about 1,100 are actually buildable, due to geology, avalanches and other hazards … However, a more ambitious limitation that would have downsized house sizes below 11,000 feet to 2000 square feet maximum snagged multiple objections, in spite of a unanimous endorsement by the county planning commission. Both Commissioners Ernie Kuhlman and Terry Rhoades weren’t comfortable with that regulation, and so it didn’t pass … But San Juan County’s new cabin size limitations in the high county, like our own San Miguel County regs, are a great start for preventing the other side of our alpine region from being heavily developed with outsize trophy homes.

Velocity Basin in San Juan County (Photo by Pete McKay)

POSTCARD POEMS … Here’s a delightful retro practice for those of you old enough to remember the correspond-dance of snail mail (as it’s now diminutively known in the Cyber Era). This week’s Talking Gourd is from a poet friend who sends me postcards with little poems on them. And, tag – it’s my turn to reply in kind.


Dear Wild

If only I, too, could get out into that
awesome wilderness more. Winter is
stealing my breath & making me small.
I need to heave off this backpack of
great sadness – it’s too big for snow.
But then, that too melts with little kiss
promises, & golden sun bits, & patches
of green light in my thick fur – it’s still
the time of cold waiting

-Galaxy Earth Dancer

Ophir's season of cold waiting (Kandee DeGraw photo)


  1. wow, Kush is amazing, and the archive sounds incredible!

  2. yep, kush is amazing and the archive invaluable...