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“We walk and wander absently/astounded constantly/by the mad spectacle of existence,” writes Lawrence Ferlinghetti, orbiting satellite of Beatitude and wide-eyed tourist of the highest order. And so it was for me (though Sputnik I ain’t), during my pilgrimage to San Francisco in the spring of 96. I bombed legendary hills from the annals of skateboarding, visited punk-rock meccas, dined on dim sum, hocked a loogie off the Golden Gate, and even ate a Cherry Garcia cone at a makeshift shrine in front of the Haight-Ashbury Ben & Jerry’s. Still, when the Beat blood coursing through my indie-bookstore-fetishist veins coaxed me to City Lights Bookstore, even the magic of San Francisco in March hadn’t prepared me for bumping into the man himself. But there he was, shelving books published under his guidance (Bowles, Bukowski, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, O’Hara) in the second-floor poetry section while softly whistling Nirvana’s “All Apologies,” of all things, from behind his beard. And I, dumbfounded, a copy of These Are My Rivers in my hand, was caught staring like a deer in the headlights. Ferlinghetti’s literary lights now span nearly 45 years, from Pictures of the Gone World (1955) to A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997). An excellent new Rykodisc recording of him reading from A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), with jazz accompaniment by Morphine’s Dana Colley, confirms his claim that his poems work best as “spontaneously spoken oral messages.” Hear the poet tra-la tra-la from his own work at 8 p.m. Monday, March 13, at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Elizabethan Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $10. (202) 544-7077. (Colin Bane)