The First Few Friends I Had

First Few Friends Cover005

The Pondering Pig is relieved to announce his long-sought collection of stories about being young in San Francisco during the maelstrom of the early 1960s – is finally done, published and available on Amazon.  Here’s the link:

The First Few Friends I Had

and here’s what I said about it:

Someone asked me who the first hippies were, those unknowns who kicked off the psychedelic era of the 1960s. Were they born-too-late beatniks who arrived at the party after everybody had gone home? Or were they something else? Something new?
I actually knew some of those first freaks. In fact, they were the first few friends I had.
This trip starts in Nineteenth Avenue Park, San Mateo, California, winter of 1958, muddy raw subdivision streets, brine shrimped salt flats stretching to the Bayshore Freeway and beyond to sorrowful tract houses of Norfolk Street. The ground I sprung from.
But we won’t tarry. We’ll hit the road through the vast Sonoran Desert on solitary two-lane highways spring of 1961 to adventures in Mexico, then on to steaming East Village summer to swirling fog over North Beach, broken hearted spring of 1962.
Along the way, we’ll stop at the corner of Seventh and Judah Street in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset to watch a girl named Solveig rush out our door with ‘Ban the Bomb’ placards banging against her shoulder. We’ll scene shift till midnight to watch Peter Weissinger swing over the stair rail into teens crashing our big peacenik party and whomping on them in peacenik joy. We’ll contemplate a ghostly Carmen O’Shaughnessy stride through the archway in badass logger boots, tawny lionhair in long braids, brassy confident smile and my handmade Mexican chaleco.
Snow is falling over Long Island, the first winter rains are pouring into the sewers of Lily Alley, San Francisco. Carmen has jumped off the bus in Barstow, hitched home across the desert and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.
Summer 1964 in the Langley Porter Psychiatric Day Care Center for Mind-Blown Proto-Hippies and Hysterical Teenagers, the passengers are unraveling hidden meanings within Sally Go Round the Roses by the Jaynettes. They hear the Bomb, the war, the police dogs attacking demonstrators, fire hoses of death, J Edgar Hoover vs the Commies, peyote, pot, fear, angst, and – hey everybody, it’s Mashed Potatoes Time.
Look, the sky has gone blue, the golden city beckons. It’s spring again. Let’s stroll down to the North Beach Arts Festival to find my friends. Come on, they want to meet you. The First Few Friends I Had.

It’s been getting great reviews so far – so I hope you have a chance to check it out soon.  PP


Ochity Bochity, Diggery-Doo


Look.  I’ve got important things to do. So I have asked my poet friend Beatitude Tutman to write something for the Pig.  Something really deep that no one can understand but makes them want to try so they can argue about it in the comments while I get some work done.

Tutman, as you may know, lives in a beach hut in Matzatlan on the Pacific coast of Mexico, trying to maintain a traditional beatnik life style while surrounded by drug lords shooting at each other.  He says he has to write really fast which is good because that’s how you get to the real Zen Tutman truth.  Here’s what he sent.

Ochity Bochity, Diggery Doo


Beatitude Tutman


In the frothy bubbling bowels

that bled so blithely when they

disemboweled  the basement

I found a secret signet

that secretes a certain substance —

and it certainly surprised me.


It warbled awful cheerily

and improbably began:

“Twee-dee, Twee-dee, Ti-twittery-tee

The bulk of the middle comes

after the ending.

The bulk of the ocean got sucked by

the sand.

I’ll tell you the rest before I’m embittered

I’ll tell you the rest before I begin.

You mustn’t relax or rely on the mountain

Or stop up the children by dreaming up rivers.

You must tell the truth or be bitten by raindrops,

You must eat the apple or box up your goods.

Twee-tee, Twee-tee, Twee tittery-tittery, box up

your apples or lap up the sand.”


The question of time bombs (not brought up till later),

inevitably darkens the humble remains.

The landscape did quiver, I felt up the lightning.

It felt like a desert laid out on the plain.

I questioned the meaning of all of this questioning,

I could hardly believe it had lasted so long.

I trembled and quibbled like Awful John Littleton

but wouldn’t relieve the recalcitrant throng.


“Beware of the mongoose, old brother, old beezer,

The twitch of his tail may erase your amends.”

He toddled off dripping like the old veterinarian

had addled his hardly incipient brain.

The hair on his head stood up brightly

like clover.

I begged him to cover his hideous stew.


The elephants gamboling like rainy-day women

could only incite him to riotous actions

like milkweed, like mosses, like elegant linen.

Like action, like unction, and pious remarks.

“Oh why”, said the carpet, “you tred like

an angel.

It bothers me mightily.”


I can’t help my silly self.

Ochity Bochity, Diggery Doo.


Like Tinkerbell, Beatitude depends on the faith of children to maintain his tenuous lifestyle.  Let him know you believe or he might disappear.


photo credit:

Poem About A Dog Walking Around In The Rain

People are always saying pigs can’t write poetry. So, just to prove how wrong they are, here’s one my friend Beatitude Tutman sent me from Mexico. He said I could say it was mine, so I’m not cheating, okay? It’s about a dog walking around in the rain.

Waiting To Walk To Confession


The Pondering Pig

Think of the farty smell of boys in line

standing cowed, smallest to tallest

at two o’clock on the second floor in the empty hall.

waiting to walk to Confession.

Oh botheration, that’s not it all.  Where is that silly poem anyway?  Ah…

The Dog Who Trots Around Looking Mighty Pleased With Himself


The Pondering Pig

Piney winter nights,

the air is breaking, the barbed wire

strung red up the green road

is creaking.  the dog blows puffs,

he trots the frost

on crystal feet

down curling roads,

through raindust moons,

to the shiny house.

That first was one was by Beatritude Tutman.  The second one’s by me.

I would never ask someone to think about farty smells.

Photo by Patrushka Continue reading

Down At The Tiki Lounge

“A transfer, please”, he asked so nattily
that I, (bemused and nodding)
could scarcely bring reply.

He said,
“By gum, your customers are cool.” (By
that he meant his own svelte self, and
none of his rat-tailed neighbors, harboring their
hatreds on every handy stool.)

“Now look at him, now look at her,” he
pointed at his nestling neighbors, “think
what a difference a hob-nailed boot,
a flying foot,
a rooty-toot
would bring to those ruddy faces (faces? farces!)
But No! they’d rather flap,
and overlap
than wear the cap I recommend.

Dish-tailors all!
Well, leave them to their sorry fate,
no time to wait,
I’ll duplicate, not implicate.”

and fingering his green lapel,
a gesture that we knew too well,
he flapped his tail and left us
in a cloud of perfumed bells.

contributed by Beatitude Tutman

How The Beatles Saved The Great Wolf of Pudley

You know how legendary stories tend to gather around the names of famous real people? Here’s an interesting one I came across the other day...

How The Beatles Saved The Great Wolf of Pudley

One winter’s twilight John, Paul, George and Ringo were walking back from the village of Pudley to Liverpool when a large but scrawny wolf leaped out of the bushes beside the towpath.

“Eh ooup lads”, quoth the wolf, “would thee have so much as a bit ‘o black pud about thy persons?”

Ah, black pudding, jewel of the North. A luscious blend of rare spices, fat and pig’s blood all wrapped in a delicate intestine lining and fried to perfection!

“Sorry, mate,” says John, “We’re skint. Not a chip butty left in me overcoat pocket.”

Ah, chip butties, also jewels of the North. Great long rectangles of potato deep fried in the finest fat, then layered between thick slices of white bread and downed with large mugs of milky Yorkshire Blend Tea.

But they didn’t have any.

“What a shame,” sayest the wolf, “Then I’m afeared I must eat YOU!!!” And with a terrible leap the wolf launched himself toward the hapless moptops. He was about to land when suddenly John held up his hand and boldly sang in the words of their friends The Supremes:

“Stop! In the name of love!
Before you eat us up
Think it oh-woe-ver!”

And Paul and George added in querulous voice, “wooh-hoo”.

The wolf froze in mid-air, never an easy feat even for the healthiest of wolves, and with a puzzled grimace responded,”What’s to think about, Johnny me boy? I haven’t had a bite in days and my insides are caving in. Look at me! Naught but a shadow of my ferocious self.” Then he too burst into song to the tune of The Beatles’ favorite cover song, Please, Mr. Postman

“Please little Moptops, look and see
Is there a sandwich in your pocket for me?
I’ve been starving for such a long time
My stomach’s hurting and it’s really a crime!”

Ringo got out his drum kit and set up on the towpath while John answered the wolf in song and Paul plugged in his Hofner bass.”

“Hey, Wolfie, there’s a much better way
For a wolf to make his living today.
Come back to Pudley and we’ll have a nice cup
Rosie at the teashop will soon fix us up.”

They carried Wolfie back to Pudley
Introduced him around.
At first the people hid because the wolf was in town
But when they saw his aged snout without any teeth
They said, “You shouldn’t have to live way out on the heath!

“Mr. Wolfie, you can come live with us!
We will promise not to kick up a fuss,
You needn’t worry that you’ve not any wealth
We’ve got a dentist and a chemist on the National Health!

“If you’ll cool it, Mr. Wolfie, not eat any more kids,
We’ll buy you lots of hair gel, help you screw off the lids.
You’ll look like Johnny Rocker when you fall by our pub.
We’ll stand you to a pint but keep your mitts off my pug!

“We’ll get you on the short list for a nice council flat
Where you can watch the telly then lay down for your nap.
There’ll be sausage rolls at midnight,
There’ll be pork pies for tea
And every holiday we’ll send you down to the sea!”

Mr Wolfie!”

Their little song ended. The Great Wolf looked at the crowd with tears in his old rheumy eyes and sang back to the townspeople to the tune of the Beatles’ It’s The Word Love

“In the beginning, I misunderstood
But now I’ve got it, the word is good!

Because you blokes have set me free
I’ll guard your town
No evil men shall cross your gate
Your gift of love destroyed my hate.
It’s so fine
It’s sunshine.
It’s the word….love.”

Exit the townspeople dancing with Wolfie as the Beatles pack up the gear and start walking home to Liverpool once more. Who will they meet this time?

With apologies to Ugolino Brunforte.

Wendy’s Garden

I’m not sure poetry and blogging mix. I know when I’m reading other people’s blogs they have about fifteen seconds to grab me. Hey, I’m a busy man. You’ve got to rivet me to my chair or I’ll be running off to see what Aprilbaby said today.

But poetry doesn’t work that way. Oh, I know – there’s the occasional Milk of the Bayou, a poem that smacks you in the face like a cold fish (think Sylvester the Cat here) and there you are, transported into a Roadrunner cartoon when you meant to spend quality time catching up on the G8 conference.

But regular poetry works slower. She’s shy. You’ve got to court her. You’ve got to print out that poem and take it into the garden and sit under a tree with a glass of lemonade and all the time in the world. Let the words trickle down like beads of moisture on your lemonade glass until they start to mean something.

Well, who has time for that? Might not hurt to try, though.

Hey, stay with me another twenty seconds already. I rummaged around and found Allen Cohen’s memorial poem for Wendy Norins, the girl who was the inspiration for Sylvie Potemkin in my novel-in-progress, The Syndicate of Eternal Friendship….

I got a funny feeling this morning, finding it in my back files and looking back towards the San Francisco of my youth – those years that created me. Am I the only one of my time and place left with memory intact? Why am I still here when so many who shared that youth have gone down to Davy Jones’ Locker? There must be others left – but where are they? I want to call Allen Cohen to talk about 1736 Page and after — but he’s nowhere to be found. He’s down waiting for the Ferryman.

Sometimes I feel like I’m marooned on a distant planet somewhere at the edge of the Milky Way – sending out little digital signals. Is anybody there? Is there anybody else out there? Oh well, guess I’d better go build up the fire…

Elegy for Wendy Norins, August 26, 1994
by Allen Cohen

It is the hot night of our lives.
Our bodies limp in their misuse.
Our souls though, that inner body,
statelier than mansions, gardens
lush and orderly with serene ponds
and tropical thickets.

Many beings and so much bitterness and beauty
inhabit our labyrinthine souls.
We have tended and grown each plant.
Nurtured each being that has entered there.
There are many secret places
that no one has yet seen,
some we have yet to explore.
Everyday we are adding
gorgeous flowering plants
and making new paths
and silent spaces.

And I think of you dear heart
and your wondrous pained soul.
How it ached and yet made room
for so many to find nourishment there!
In my memory I see you at 16 or 17
with an unearthly beauty, as if there
were four or five angels within you,
each pulling and lifting you
in a different direction
with each awkward breathless step.
It was a deep and mournful joyousness
that lived within you, strange
(I don’t think I romanticize here)
how every man wanted you
in order to heal their broken souls.

And you were a hippie maiden of the wind
until you finally settled in your body
and it began to corrupt your innocence
and the pain and the escape from pain
drove the angels of youth out
leaving you alone and empty.
Your destiny to reinvent your soul
To climb the ladder of light again
to let the air and rain
water the growing Eden within you.
With each act and thought
a deep compassion grew.
When such beauty born
and beauty reborn
departs our shattered world,
a vast mysterious crater
is created in the mind.
We look down into it
remembering you, looking
for the gardens of you,
stretching to reach across
the mystery of your departure.

Photos by Patrushka, except the fish.

Me and Carmen O’Shaughnessy

Pondering Chicken here. The Pig’s off somewhere writing and he said I should put up something he wrote. Found this in the Pig’s wastebasket. Sometimes I think he’s a pretty good poet, then I find a poem like this. Meads? Withereth? Weirdest damn pig I ever met…

Anyway, he should be back soon. I hope.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said –
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! –
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Painting credit: John William Waterhouse
(And the poem’s really by John Keats)