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Indybay Feature
Remembering Jack Hirschman
by Michael Steinberg
Monday Aug 23rd, 2021 11:46 PM
The recent death of poet and activist Jack Hirschman as recalled by another writer and activist.
San Francisco, August 23, 2021-I was delivering some of my books I Work the Tenderloin last Sunday to City Lights Book Store when I learned that Jack Hirshman had died earlier that day at his home in North Beach.

I was in the poetry room upstairs when I got the news.

Immediately a flood of memories came coursing through my mind.

I first met Jack through my involvement in the group Homes Not Jails, which started taking over abandoned buildings with homeless people in the early 1990s in San Francisco.

In one such action, at a building we called Red Balloon both of us and a dozen others were arrested and charged with felony conspiracy to trespass and held for three days at the top floor of the county jail at 850 Bryant Street. Subsequently all charges were dropped.

Some years later I wrote a book called Homes Not Jails! that recounted these experiences.

In this story I called Jack Pete the Beat poet.

The following passage describes that character in the holding cell of the lockup:

One wall had glass and wire windows. On the other side was the booking room, next stop the other way to a bonafide cell. I spotted a clock on the wall. It was already after one a.m.

Pete the Beat wordsmith started doing a pantomime of Nolan Ryan (famous baseball pitcher) letting loose fireballs to pass the time and liven up dead tank some.

A green meanie (sheriff) stuck his head in to tell him to knock it off because no violent gestures were allowed.

"But it's the National Pastime!" Pete protested. "Besides, this whole process is the ritualization of state violence."

"Don't get smart. Just go sit down with others."

"You're telling me to get dumb? I've read with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs!"

Pete shrugged and sat down next to a black guy who he engaged in a conversation about the essential rottenness of the system and the epochal brilliance of Iceberg Slim.
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