When we hoof up to Dashiell Hammett Street on the tour, I usually provide a thumbnail history of how it got named in honor of the author of The Maltese Falcon — alongside eleven other streets renamed in honor of various authors and artists. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Beat poet and founder of City Lights Bookstore, was the driving force behind the gesture.
If I’m running ahead of schedule, I’ll blurb a couple of the other streets. Harwood, a.k.a. “Speed Alley,” being named after Bob Kaufman is a favorite. And everyone enjoys the quick story of how Nobles alley off upper Grant was not named in honor of Richard Brautigan.
If you’ve taken the tour in the last few years, you’ve no doubt heard me say something like, “Roughly fifteen years ago, Ferlinghetti got this idea. . . .” But recently I realized that more years have been slipping past, so I’ve been saying, “About seventeen or eighteen years ago, Ferlinghetti got . . .”
Wow. Took me by surprise. I’ve mentioned before on this blog how I can’t keep track of 25 Year and 100 Year anniversaries, so add this one to the list to prove I haven’t been lying.
Somehow a bicycle parade got plugged into the festivities (hard to imagine many if any of the hard-drinking boozehounds the streets are named after pedaling around on bikes, but what the hell).
You can do that, or just check out the literary streets on your own using the bike map. Or if you’ve been around for awhile you could refer to the original City Lights chapbook Names of 12 San Francisco Streets Changed to Honor Authors & Artists — published in 1989 to commemorate the name changes from the fall before. That one includes a shot of me and Dashiell Hammett Street from a quarter century ago.
Time flies when you’re gumshoeing the mean streets. . . .
Or if you just want to do the official celebration and hear a series of five minute talks on the various writers and their streets, show up Sunday October 6 for a 2p.m. start in Jack Kerouac alley next to City Lights. Adjacent to numerous bars, by the way.