The beat generation was raised at a bookstore, just a stone’s throw from Wingtip, on a jagged block of Columbus Avenue, nestled between San Francisco’s North Beach and Chinatown districts. City Lights Bookstore was opened in 1953, the brainchild of Peter D. Martin, but it was co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti who turned it into a place where poets could read and publish works that weren’t necessarily “fit to print,” in the established sense.
Ferlinghetti’s name became synonymous with free speech in 1956 when he published a diminutive book of poems with a four-letter word emblazoned on the cover in stately Albertus type: “Howl.”
The contents of Allen Ginsberg’s monumental poem raised the ire of morality police and both Ferlinghetti and store manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested for disseminating “obscene” material. The case was taken to the California State Superior Court and tried under Judge Clayton Horn, where, thankfully, reason prevailed. Judge Horn’s decision reads,
in part, “There are a number of words used in “Howl” that are presently considered coarse and vulgar in some circles of the community; in other circles such words are in everyday use. […] Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemism?”
City Lights was granted landmark status in 2001. The adjacent Adler Alley, once a seedy shortcut, (and the only thing that stood between the poets and their favorite haunt, Vesuvio Cafe), is now a paved-over pedestrian walkway called Jack Kerouac Alley, with colorful walls and bronze placards of poetry set into the ground. City Lights continues to publish new works and serve as a Mecca for San Francisco literary adherents and tourists alike.
Special Thanks to Scott and Andy at City Lights Bookstore for their kind assistance in helping us shoot this series of photos.
We recently visited City Lights Bookstore and Jack Kerouac Alley to test out our EyeBobs reading glasses. [TOP: Wingtip Master Barber Joe Roberts wears Board Stiff reading glasses in green spotted tortoise; ABOVE-LEFT: Mr. Roberts wears Peckerhead reading glasses. All reading glasses pictured are $79.]
Wingtip Bespoke Assistant Timothy Niven wears Dot-Com reading glasses in tortoise / blue
Mr. Roberts wears Peckerhead reading glasses
Mr. Niven wears Total Wit reading glasses in clear
Mr. Roberts wears Board Stiff reading glasses in green spotted tortoise