Other Writings

WHEN I WAS A KID, I LIKED TO SEE DEAD GUYS. Grand Forks, North Dakota, where I was born, was the land of the Lutherans. But there was also a Catholic church down the street, where they kept all the dead guys. You just got to keep an eye-out for a line outside the church, and then you just go stand in it. So long as you don’t act goofy, you’re congregation. Read More

ON THE ROAD WITH THE FREEEST MAN I NEVER KNEW. That’s what I called him, this guy I ran into a few years back when I was hitchhiking my way to the Big Apple. I’d been dropped off on the edge of the Mohave Desert in place called “Four Corners,” where two highways crossed. I was heading east. At the end of my previous ride, after having gotten my guitar and suitcase out of the trunk of a car, I was walking over to the far right hand corner of the intersection, the best place to hitch a ride, when I noticed that another hitchhiker had taken up that spot. That’s bad news because it means you’ve got competition. Now it is going to be much harder for drivers to decide whether to pick you up during that critical three or four seconds it takes to make up their minds—or to simply blast on bye, leaving you standing there with your thumb up in the air. Only the bravest of motorists picks up two adult males because only one of them can ride in the front seat where the driver can keep an eye on you so you don’t do something crazy like pulling out a knife and slitting his throat from behind, where he can’t keep an eye on you. With one of the hitchhikers riding in the back seat where the driver can’t see, that’s what most of them worry about. So it looked like I was in for a long wait.

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A Day on Sheer Folly:
August 5, 2000
Allison Harbor, Canada

I roll over. Speck of light. It’s 6:15 AM and today’s the day we cross Queen Charlotte Sound. I reach down and flip on the heater, and ease myself out of bed.
Allison Harbor is a fjord-like indentation on the British Columbia mainland opposite the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Yesterday we anchored here, having slowly worked our way up the inside passage. We are here aboard the Sheer Folly, our 42′ 1969 Monk trawler, three-hundred miles north of the U.S. Border on our shakedown cruise for next summer, when we plan to head on up the coast to Glacier Bay, in Alaska. Up until now, we’ve been cruising in the lee of Vancouver Island, but today we must leave it behind in order to cross the open waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. That’s fifty miles of open ocean to cross, to get to the once-again protected waters on the other side. So there is adventure in the air, this morning. And fog.  Read More

The Difference between Beatniks and Hippies:
© 2010 by William V. Raney
All rights Reserved

Dear Editor:

I enjoyed Jonah Raskin’s recent book article about Richard Brautigan and North Beach, and about the two San Francisco counter-cultures, “one of them was literate,” as Ferlinghetti put it, “the other didn’t care about books or reading and just wanted to listen to rock and roll and watch movies, stoned.”  As a former beatnik who lived in the heart of North Beach for ten years, from 1957 to 1967, I would like to try to dampen a too common misconception that has often led to mischaracterizations of what was going on in San Francisco during the 1960s.  Ferlinghetti’s words are probably accurate as far as they go, however the counter-culture that embraced his books and bookstore was the beatnik counter culture, not the hippie counter culture.  The beatniks were a North Beach phenomenon; the hippies came later, out in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Read more