Let’s rename Foothills Park as a tribute to Al Young, of Palo Alto, the California poet laureate, who died last month

Let’s rename the park, for a Black man.
We’re all equal, not a sequel.
With 2020 hindsight, we’d repair the funk
All the other parks, they want the darks. 
We charge the poor to park the car,
but we don’t tax the man, and drive Tesla.
Poet laureate, poet laureate;
the epitome of literacy.
Life’s a brief candle, but he lit it.
He hit it, he didn’t sh** it. 
For his game, he’s like the Willie Mays or Willie Mac,
the Barry or the Bobby, meanings clearly or at bottom. 
We can’t change our past, but we can change our minds.
There’s more than 1s and 0s, there’s more than of’s and “ahvs”

A temple of listening. To see it glistening. 
Let’s rename the park. Let’s rename the park.
aeiou! aeiou! 
We want to mingle, to hit a single. 
Even our squirrels think the new rules are uncool. They’re not dullards.


This is a poem I wrote as a song parody to the tune of “don’t believe the hype” by Public Enemy and it also quotes from a poem by Al Young about the squirrels in Palo alto. I sent this to City Council and may have also spoken for the record at a public hearing through Zoom.

I just heard this morning that he had died last month. I had seen his son Michael Young a few weeks before that in San Francisco at City Lights . I will be reaching out to other activists and students of Al to see what is fitting memorial to him here. He had an office on the corner of Bryant Street and University, the Nevada Building, for many years.

If we don’t want to rename the park for him, what shall we do ?



Not that it’s critical, but this the original lyrics I am riffing on:

Caught you lookin’ for the same thing
It’s a new thing, check out this I bring
Uh Oh the roll below the level
‘Cause I’m livin’ low next to the bass, c’mon
Turn up the radio
They claim that I’m a criminal
By now I wonder how
Some people never know
The enemy could be their friend, guardian
I’m not a hooligan
I rock the party and
Clear all the madness, I’m not a racist
Preach to teach to all
‘Cause some they never had this
Number one, not born to run
About the gun
I wasn’t licensed to have one
The minute they see me, fear me
I’m the epitome, a public enemy
Used, abused without clues
I refused to blow a fuse
They even had it on the news
Don’t believe the hype –Yes
Was the start of my last jam
So here it is again, another def jam
But since I gave you all a little something
That we knew you lacked
They still consider me a new jack
All the critics you can hang ’em
I’ll hold the rope
But they hope to the pope
And pray it ain’t dope

The book of the new school rap game
Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane
Yes to them, but to me I’m a different kind
We’re brothers of the same mind, unblind
Caught in the middle and
Not surrenderin’
I don’t rhyme for the sake of of riddlin’
Some claim that I’m a smuggler
Some say I never heard of ‘ya
A rap burglar, false media
We don’t need it do we?
It’s fake that’s what it be to ‘ya, dig me?
Don’t believe the hype –Don’t believe the hype, its a sequel
As an equal, can I get this through to you
My 98’s boomin’ with a trunk of funk
All the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk
Comin’ from the school of hard knocks
Some perpetrate, they drink Clorox
Attack the black, ’cause I know they lack exact
The cold facts, and still they try to Xerox
Leader of the new school, uncool
Never played the fool, just made the rules
Remember there’s a need to get alarmed
Again I said I was a timebomb
In the daytime the radio’s scared of me
‘Cause I’m mad, plus I’m the enemy…
Their pens and pads I’ll snatch
‘Cause I’ve had it
I’m not an addict fiendin’ for static
I’ll see their tape recoreder and grab it
No, you can’t have it back silly rabbit

Some say I’m negative
But they’re not positive
But what I got to give
The media says this

And here is the Al Young poem I reference, about squirrels:

its actually recorded with a bassist named Dan Robbins —

Squirrels are skittering outside through the trees

Of my bedroom window

Laying it on the line of my consciousness brown and black flurrying and scurrying how can I not help loving them

Like an old Bopster loves licks

Laid down

Building up

The “ofs” and “ahvs” comment in my lyric references his speech at Berkeley a few years back about how the word “love” only has five rhymes whereas “amor” in Spanish is easier to rhyme — or in Portuguese – -he was talking about an English lyric to Jobim.

What got me started on this is that I saw a book in the window of Books Inc at Town and Country, an anthology of Black poets, by Kevin Young and I read the Al Young poem, about “Players” and then when I went online to find more info about the poem, I noticed Al’s obituary.

edit to add, the next day: this is actually my 3000 post and when I realized that fact I put on a replica Roberto Clemente jersey Clemente the baseball star and activist humanitarian who died in 1972 finishing his stellar career with exactly 3000 hits where is my blog has 3000 posts and maybe 1 million heads although a lot of them seem to be from weird countries and robots. I would Say the average article gets about 500 readers not all at once long tail etc.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
This entry was posted in Plato's Republic, words and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Let’s rename Foothills Park as a tribute to Al Young, of Palo Alto, the California poet laureate, who died last month

  1. Alan Soldofsky says:

    Mark, This is Alan Soldofsky. I am moved by your remembrance of Al Young. Can you let me know where you got that great picture of young Al Young from the 1960s? I’m writing a piece remembering Al for the AWP Writers Chronicle. Please reply to me on Facebook: @ADSoldofsky.

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