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The High Road


for William Harvey Ryan

“Bill Ryan, whose Contact magazine attracted international attention in the ‘60s, drove his car over a cliff nr. Stinson Beach and was found only last wkend. A longtime emphysema sufferer, he had just enough strength left to end it all . . . “

--Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 1986

Indestructible Bill Ryan, now destroyed.

“Who’s the best American poet today?

you asked. And when I said Lowell,

you were incredulous: “Jesus, Lowell!”


Supper on Stockton Street,

then off to Ginsburg’s Irish Pub.

Why on earth did we argue about

Dobermans and fire engines?

At some point Herb showed up.

The San Francisco Fault,

Esquire, then Swank . . .

Well, a good time was had

you drank your way down

“Hikers found the

flamboyant editor’s Cadillac

at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff

off Highway 1 . . . ”

The mind wanders:

I think for some reason

of Keats and Hunt

Sitting in the garden

in the Vale of Health,

writing sonnets. Getting drunk.


Note: The legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen died of inoperable lung cancer on February 1, 1997.

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