Dreaming of Babylon

In Detroit John Sinclair introduced me to Trout Fishing in America. Later that year I was in San Francisco. There Dan McLeod introduced me to Joanne Kyger and her partner Jack Boyce both of whom I later visited several times. I believe Joanne was still married to – although separated from – Gary Snyder. At the Kyger/Boyce apartment at 2921 Pine Street I met Ken Botto whose film I’d happened to see just days earlier. Botto shared an apartment at 2450 California Street with Jim O’Neill. Jim lived mostly with his girlfriend, so Botto rented me his room. At the Kyger-Boyce home I met Richard Brautigan.

The Presidio Branch of the San Francisco Public Library was just a few blocks away at 3150 Sacramento Street. I visited the library regularly for reading material and also because the librarian was yet another in a series of very beautiful women I secretly pined for. On one visit I was checking out Brautigan’s Confederate General from Big Sur. She mentioned that she loved Brautigan’s writing. Suddenly there he was! Brautigan! I introduced them. Another magical confluence of romance, ideas, and events.

Brautigan invited me back to his place, also in the neighbourhood, four blocks from Botto’s at 2830 California Street. There I met Janice. Forgetting the librarian I fell in love with her in an instant. I was 21, utterly single, and falling in love all over the damn place. Janice, Richard, and I became friends. Now and then I’d go by their place and we’d play Monopoly. Monopoly became a significant, recurring game during that particular time in San Francisco. And later, of course, Brautigan became a significant and popular author for a time.

Janice visited me once in a while, with or without Richard. One day I told her she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my life and asked to photograph her. We crossed the street to an empty lot where she stood before a wall and I ran off about half a dozen shots. Later I discovered the film had stuck in the camera so that every photograph, plus others I took later, were all exposed on a single frame. I discovered this months later, back in Vancouver when I managed to find a darkroom and it was too late to take more pictures of Janice. The negative was almost solid black in that spot but, determined to salvage even the ghostliest image of her, I exposed the photo paper for almost five minutes and this is all the evidence that remains. (See photo above.)

Jan 1965 RB and Janice Meissner 2830 California St Photo Erik Weber

January, 1965: Richard Brautigan and Janice Meissner in their apartment at 2830 California Street, San Francisco. Photograph © Erik Weber.

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5 Responses to “Dreaming of Babylon”

  1. Bumppo

    You r the 2nd American Man Ray

  2. David saxe

    One of your best pics Brian. Keep those mistakes coming. True

  3. marlowe

    Fabulous photo.

  4. Jamie

    Fantastic. I’m forever surprised. I’m at home listening to This American Life about Richard Brautigan’s Abortion and after searching to see if I can reread it as its been quite a while and I think I bet Brian Nation may have a copy. And for fuck sake you knew him. Get this published. I wish I could help get it done – your new years resolution

  5. Jamie

    And you met or knew John Sinclair. I’m not worthy of living down and around the corner

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