Did Anyone Get Out of Here Alive?

Gosh, here it is my birthday again. Sixty-five!

I can’t believe it. Me? Eligible for Medicare? You’ve got to be kidding. I never thought I’d make it to thirty and here I’ve outlived Kerouac by eighteen years…

Must be the love of a good woman.

Anyway, last year on my birthday I put up the following list, in alphabetical order, of friends of my youth (I’ve added more detail this year). They’re all people I knew and loved but who were lost in the swirl of the hurricane. Most are still lost, but some were found last year. Maybe this year I’ll find some more…

Bess Farr, AKA Lisa Farr, AKA Lisa McFadden. Dear friend and troublemaker, we were friends throughout the Sixties. The last time I saw her, she dosed me with MDA at a party. I wasn’t mad at her – I was just fed up with the life I was leading. But I’ve always felt like I deserted her when she was in trouble. And I wish I hadn’t. You okay, Bess?

Bob Gill – brother beatnik, peyote brother and card carrying YPSL. In my mind’s eye, he’s up on the barricades somewhere waving his ancient rifle defiantly and the Nationalists are closing in.

Bob Kaffke – diabetic Communist who rode horseback through Mexico. News: Bob is gone. Died of pneumonia in 1983 on a houseboat in the San Francisco Bay. Leo Sadorf found this link put up by his son…

Bob Kuehn – Another of the SF State peace warriors. Ban the Bomb!

Danny Rifkin – so funny and creative. The first on our scene besides me to notice the Beatles were Something New. And he laughed at my poetry (that was good, not bad). News: Danny’s still out there hitting it. I found this article about him in the San Francisco Chronicle.

David Miller – Carpenter of Walrus and Carpenter. My singing partner and best friend till I betrayed him. Last time I talked to him he called to say good-bye. He was moving to Tennessee. Funny how I still miss him after all these years.

Don Auclaire – leader of our pack, the Dirty Peaceniks, 311 Judah Street, San Francisco.

Donna Conroy – Tom Conroy’s beautiful beat street wife from the Delaware horse country. Tom spent half his time fighting off the pimps who wanted to sign her up. Last time I saw here she was great with child.

Ed Ginsberg – comic peyote brother, photographer and a great heart. News: Someone told me this year he is living in Budapest.

Eva Bessie – Bess’ best friend, daughter of Hollywood Ten screenwriter Alvah Bessie. She was immortalized on two beautiful Fillmore posters done by her husband Wes. Still living in the Ozarks somewhere last I heard.

George “the Beast” Howell. A legend in his own time. A friend ran into him ten or fifteen years ago in the rugged mountains of Northern California up by the Oregon border. He was on a buying trip looking for high quality virgin wool. Something about Persian rugs. He’d picked it up living in Asia.

Joe Novakovich – Fingerless Joe himself. He had warped fingers due to a birth defect, yet became a masterful autoharp player and stalwart of the San Francisco folk scene.

Johnny Chance – Saintly drummer for The Final Solution and first guy on our scene to notice the Beach Boys were cool. Funnier and smarter than anyone, yet he dressed like a Catholic schoolboy. He joined the Moonies and I never saw no more.

Laurie Sarlat – with the Long Island accent, poet Allen Cohen’s consort and Wendy to this lost boy. She left town with a guy I didn’t know and I never saw her again. Allen told me years later she’d joined a cult.

Leslie Hipshmann AKA Leslie Van Gelder. Most beautiful and sweetest of the teenaged hangers-on at 311 Judah (funny, I was a teenager myself!). She split for New York and I never saw her again. Leslie, I still have the letters you wrote me from the East Village.

Margarita Bates AKA The Bitch. Unforgettable. News: An anonymous tipster wrote to tell me she is alive and where she is living. Thank you.

Melanie Kinkead AKA Lamie da Kink – as dear a girl as I ever knew. I wrote about her in Famous People I Never Knew #2: Janis Joplin. News: I am back in touch with Mel thanks to the blog and she is still just as funny, and still the best.

Michael Rachoff – Page Street friend of years but we lost touch in my wanderings.

Peter Kraemer – Virgina City filmmaker and leader of the Sopwith Camel – the first San Francisco band to hit the charts.

Peter Walters – my boyhood best friend who lived at 47th and Balboa. Peter didn’t care if I was sick in bed much of my childhood. He’d always come by and play games and make puzzles and draw battleships with me in bed and him sitting in a chair beside me. What a great kid!

Peter Weiss –tough kid from the Bronx who danced with Ann Halprin’s Dancer’s Workshop. Last time I saw Peter he and his girlfriend were heading for Japan.

Riley Turner – holy tennies street kid from Lowell High School. I wrote about him in Song For Riley  Tornfoot

Solveig Otvos, AKA Solveig Rimkeit, AKA Ruth Weissinger – the beautiful Latvian. Where are you, Solveig? I still hear you laugh in my dreams.

Tom Conroy – the North Beach street kid cartoonist who got me busted in Oakland. Tom dealt in Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon comic strips and could spot newspaper insulation in every blowndown ghetto redevelopment Victorian we broke and entered.

I know where too many of my early friends are today though – in the ground.
Here’s to you, Rodney Albin and Chet Helms and Allen Cohen and Wendy Norins and Tom Hobson and all the rest of you – friends forever.

I have a lifetime of stories to tell just about these guys. There they are through my window: young and sunburnt and storm-tossed – the best of the best, the San Francisco kiddos of the pre-invasion Sixties – my generation.


6 thoughts on “Did Anyone Get Out of Here Alive?

  1. Hi. I am Sam. Leo is my dad. It is your birthday and I wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Why do you call yourself The Pondering Pig?Sam Sadorf


  2. Happy Birthday!!Sorry if I’m late. Man, if you write a book, I’ll read it. What a cast of characters you have in your life. And don’t worry about those numbers attached to age…you think like a 29 year old. I picked that age for a reason. I think the early 20s we’re still figuring things out; Well, though, for me the thirties were amazing, I didn’t want to say you think like a thirty year old – I grew up knowing never to trust anyone older than that. So, there you go: You think like a 29-year-old.Michele (Aprilbaby)


  3. in reference to Solveig Otvos: It may be a coincidence, but my father’s father was sir-name RIMKEIT, from Latvia and my Aunt (maiden name Rimkeit) married a Weissinger. Woah, too much of a coincidence considering how small Latvia is.
    Contact me if you’ve found Ruth Weissinger, aka Solveid Rimkeit or know any other Weissingers or Rimkeits or Latvians. Also try to search for those names on http://www.123people.at
    It’s a relatively new search engine to search for people.


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