March 15, 2007
Have you met Miss Jones?
blares the car stereo of our navy blue Chrysler Sebring Touring convertible
as Miss Jones (myself) hops into the back.
WHERE DOES WILLIAM TELL TAKE HIS TRASH?
To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump and we’re OFF!
Route 1 South: Oregon, Washington, Canada at our backs; southern Cal and Baja Cal below. Should we stop at Harold and Laura’s in San Jose? No way San Jose! They’ll only slow us down! We’re going to Vegas, baby!
as Kerouac famously prodded Ginsberg at the 6 Gallery reading of “Howl.”
TALK ABOUT A GREAT FRIEND;
talk about Jon Crow in New York. I shot him a casual email: is it worth a wild hair weekend in New York to see Christo’s Gates? Five minutes later he was on the phone with flight times. In conversation not too much later in his exposed brick Brooklyn living room, this friend of 24 years discovers that my upcoming birthday in May 2005 is my 50th. Without missing a beat, he asks, “Do I need to make a trip to San Francisco?” I tell him I had in mind to either get someone to drive with me to Las Vegas (I don’t drive) or otherwise go by train to see the manuscript of Kerouac’s On the Road on display at the Rainbow branch of their Public Library. A real road trip is of course preferable, considering the mission. He warms to the idea; things fall into place and Oscar Gonzalez, our third musketeer, is able to come along. It would not have been complete-o without Oscarito! We’ve got a road trip going! What a guy, what a great birthday gift!
I’VE GOTTEN IT INTO MY HEAD
this trip needs a convertible and I troll for a Great Red Shark but come up with the Sebring Touring. After all it is Jack I am channeling, not Hunter. We break her in touring Golden Gate Park with the top down. It never looked better.
WE ZOOM OFF FROM MY PLACE
in the lower Haight and we’re out of town in no time flat. Pretty soon things turn hilly, and they’re still, in late April, lushly green. We get out at a viewpoint around Half Moon Bay and I wade through a sea of knee-high waving grasses, my fingertips brushing through them like water. In this unfamiliar setting I feel it snap—my tie to the workaday life. We could go anywhere, do anything with the next five days, and the freedom is wide as the horizon, even if, like the circuitous path of grasses, the road leads back to where it started.
IN THE CAR I STOP TO ADMIRE
the still life formed on my lap by my thighs in black jeans, my journal balanced on them, the shadow of my hand following my hand across the page, spirals and curlicues of ink flowing and becoming these words.We stop at Big Bear Diner in Gilroy, garlic capital of the world, but garlic is strangely absent from their menu. Just plain ol’ American cooking and its predictable condiments. Jon orders a blackberry shake, but it comes as a vanilla shake with berries at the bottom, which stop up the straw. The concoction goes back to the kitchen not once, but twice, for further blending, until Jon decides to cut his losses. But he does have the last word. “And by the way, those blackberries were blueberries.”
WE CRUISE INTO OUR FRESNO FLOPHOUSE
just in time to catch “Desperate Housewives” on the movie-size TV of the Edgewater Inn. Oscar and I are pooped—I think it was all the weather in my face all day—Jon wants to have a nightcap at the local tavern. I can’t believe I turn him down, at only 10:00 p.m., but he goes off by himself, and comes back to take a dip in the motel’s hot tub—the “cauldron of chlorine” that gave him an “anal colonic.” The air smells farmland sweet, like hay and honeysuckle. Jon’s sneaker bottoms are clogged with cottonwood puffs and they do indeed fly through the air like the first dustings of snow.
IN THE MORNING
we have dreadful motel room coffee on the patio outside our room, then blast off in the Sebring, Cannonball Adderly swingin’ along. “God’s landscaping!” Jon calls out. “God designs a better garden than anyone.” Neat little streets and houses, one of them bearing the sign “Proud to be an American,” and soon after a water tank painted with the stars and stripes, are followed by beautifully groomed orchards, in turn followed by lovely hills studded with trees. Everything’s green, wildflowers running riot. We are the happy Californians I love to see riding in their convertibles. The trees and hills double up as we climb the Sierras. We have the road to ourselves. We are touring, baby, in our Sebring Touring.
“LOOK WHERE WE ARE! WE’RE DANCING ON TOP OF THE WORLD!”
And indeed at a viewpoint that displays the curvature of the earth, Jon and Oscar and I are dancing to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” car doors ajar, motor running. “We all lose our charm in the end,” I sing, slapping my butt. This is a deathbed-caliber memory. Marilyn Monroe warbling over the valley, an occasional pick-up truck passing. We are urban ambassadors far, far from home.
I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was “Wow!”
I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was “Wow!”
toward Sequoia National Park and just like that we climb from 4,000 to 5,000 to 6,000 feet, and the temperature drops as quickly as the altitude rises. We pony up our ten bucks to enter the park, and become just tourists for a bit, have lunch, and crane our necks at the General Grant Tree (3rd largest in the world). I am unmistakably a city girl in the forest in my Salvadore Dali baseball jersey, sporty pocket square, red shoulder bag and chunky mah jhong bracelets. At one point I walk through a giant burned-out tree laid out like a tunnel and a chill goes through me when I feel in my bones the non-human life and death going on in this Park, so far removed from my cocoon of words and ideas
World’s largest vagina
BACK IN THE CUSHIONED SEATS
we drive through canyons of snow, striated just like tree rings with the history of recent snowfalls marked by dirt from the road. We’ve got the whole park to ourselves, hardly anybody either hiking the trails or driving the roads. Go in early May if you want to go; some snow, some fog, some sun, few people. The ones you do encounter, mostly Park employees, are happy, friendly and welcoming. We’re at 7000’ now and heading down, stopping to pay our respects to the largest living thing on earth (the General Sherman Sequoia)
and within minutes we’re below the snowline and the temperature mellows out a bit. We put the roof down to ooh and aah over the vistas of 11 peaks, taking hairpin curves on the way down down and down, now at 4,000’ and we’re back in wildflower country. Bundled in my alpaca muffler, turtleneck and wool jacket I can brave the back seat.
“Look at the hills, they’re like gardens, like someone landscaped them.”
“It’s the garden of Eden.”
“We’re driving through the Garden of Eden!”
“What road are we on?”
“The road to ruin.”
“It ends in Vegas.”
“From the beauty of nature to the ugliness of man.
We wave to an oncoming convertible. “You’re gonna get cold! Jon warns them.
WE’RE OUT OF THE PARK
driving 198 to Three Rivers to pee and gas up. But we get distracted by The Doll Nest, a private house and shop full of more nesting dolls than you’ve ever seen or need to see. I’m glad because I find an unusual Russian one with doors that open for Mother’s Day, and a small hear/see/speak no evil set of monkeys for myself. Jon collects conical Christmas dolls and leaves $200 behind on more of the same. The proprietress has never heard of Jack Kerouac and associates On the Road with Charles Kuralt. Emerging from that rarified atmosphere we get stuck behind some road work, and are temporarily stranded in an orange grove with a halo of bees buzzing around us—possibly the most fragrant place I’ve ever been, between Three Rivers and Exeter. Next would be the Tazo Building in Portland.
I CARRY KEROUAC’S HAIKU
with me when I travel. It’s good bite-size reading with no commitment required. You can read one, or a hundred, and watch the road at the same time. I pick out a random one
to enjoy as we speed along.
WE ARE ALL VERY SATISFIED
with our lives on this trip. I can’t imagine wanting anyone else’s right now, and usually don’t anyway. Sitting here with the wind in my face, paper and pen in my lap, great friends up front, God’s country around us, I couldn’t be happier. I was born to this. I pretend ol’ Jack Keruoac is cruising along with us in the 4th empty seat where we hold his place. He’d be keeping himself warm with the flask in his inside pocket. I’d have my hand on his knee.
AROUND THE VISALIA/LOVER’S LANE EXIT,
we return to freeway traffic. 99 South Los Angeles next exit. We’re in So Cal now—I spot a Cotton Belt box car—and the boys up front have had enough sun. I feel instantly interred by the black top going up, buried in darkness. At the moment I can’t imagine wanting to travel any way but by convertible. When you let that top down it’s like blowing the top of your head off, adding vistas of open space to your trip and your mind. Of course I also can’t understand why people most often fly if they can possibly cross open land to get somewhere. Don’t want to drive? Take the train. No time? Make some. It’s not a given that “today’s world” is too fast-paced and hectic to allow for such things. You have to buy into this stuff. If I’ve learned anything from Jack Kerouac it is the ease with which I can just get up and go. Of course I have arranged my life in this way, unencumbered by husbands and kids, careers and responsibilities.|
“YOU BEEN A MESSIN’
where you shouldna been a-messin’….” “HAH!” I yell into Jon’s ear along with Nancy Sinatra.
I PUT DOWN MY PEN
to have a puff of “gold lame,” our code name for schmoke, after the clutch purse where we keep it. I am loving this trip. Life is at its best when it surprises you. I can feel the air on my eyeballs. That’s how I gauge how stoned I am. A guy in the next car looks at me curiously. Perhaps he’s never seen anyone writing in a car before. Framed by my fin-shaped rear window, I wink and give him a thumb’s up. Around us are orange trees as far as the eye can see. We speculate on whether they could be Minute Maid or Tropicana groves.
THIS IS SURE ‘NOUGH KEROUAC COUNTRY.
Tehachapi/Mojave, East 58 is our exit. There’s a little development of houses standing right next to a junked cars lot. Just as Jon asks “Are you getting hungry?” I look over and there’s a truck driver stuffing a hamburger into his mouth as he drives. We decide to have dinner in Barstow. We pass through hills like a worn pool table, smooth as green felt with patches of dirt showing through. Tombstone rocks stud the undulating lines of the hills.Watch out—roadkill on the right.
I MAKE EYE CONTACT
via his side mirror, with a truck driver hauling piles of PVC tubing. It’s a Monday afternoon on the road in Freeway, USA. Unless I’m missing something, the Tehachapi “Business District” consists of a Chevron Station with a Food Mart, and the Cattleman’s Bar and Grille. And that’s it. Joshua trees make their appearance and we are in the Mojave. I see a sale sign in front of absolutely nothing, pointing at nothing whatsoever. Stretching all around us is a vast expanse, of nothing.
ROAD SIGNS BLAZE ORANGE
as we zip by them. Jon’s balding pate, closely cropped, turns orange too with the sunset behind us and…it’s gone. That’s the lure of the road right there…And…it’s gone.
DON’T FORM TOO MUCH ATTACHMENT
to any given moment, babe; enjoy it, and say goodbye, it’s gone. Just stay conscious of the others that perpetually follow. It’s always now. There’s no greater rush than living in the present. So much of the appeal of On the Road–and life on the road–lies in its latency—the lure of the unknown and the aura of possibility when you pursue it. That’s the trip. And the process, or the lifestyle, of pursuing it, of following the white line of the highway with your wheel.
YOU KNOW WHAT CONVERTIBLES DON’T HAVE?
Ceiling lights. So this is blind writing to the blue glow of twilight, a whiter shade of pale than the blackout conditions during the Empire Builder thunderstorm on the plains when I wrote by lightning flashes. Jack, darling, I’m channeling you. I overheard a Park Ranger telling some mother how he got into the Forest Service, that he’d been without direction in his life, just drifting around.
Yeah? … So?
My friend Pete’s dad, ol’ Doc Emerson (RIP) in Osakis, Minnesota, observed that in Mexico a man is first a man, then a doctor, or a laborer, or a chef, whereas in America what you do very much defines who you are. It’s never enough just to be, to experience. An eerie glow appears on the horizon, irradiating the sky with pink clouds. We all know what it is.
WHAM, BAM, VEGAS MA’AM!
I turn fifty in a Las Vegas convenience store that stinks of cigarette smoke. I stick my butt out at Jon and say, “This is what fifty looks like.” I’m not happy about it. My eyes are bloodshot, my tits stretching Salvador Dali’s face out like silly putty. We had not made hotel reservations and groggily drove around a bit unsure of where to stay.
FINALLY WE CONK OUT
in Room 310 of the non-de-script Carriage House and I have a completely unexpected start to my new decade—a good night’s sleep. I awake, for only the third time I can recollect in all my life, fully rested and refreshed. Once, in the 80’s, on flannel sheets, in a friend’s house in Seattle by Lake Washington, another in the 90’s, on someone’s couch one New Year’s Eve in El Cerrito. It’s a good omen for the start of my 50’s. By 1:11 pm, however, I am wasted on passion fruit mimosas from my birthday lunch at the Stratosphere.
This Space Needle-like revolving restaurant is not revolving today and it’s a good thing. It’s enough of a challenge to walk a straight line to the bathroom. From this height it is startling and bizarre to observe the green oasis man has created in the middle of desert.
WE MOVE TO THE STARDUST,
to a room looking out on palm tree tops, the hotel’s pools, and the new Wynn hotel, a copper swath of monolithic ego. Wynn spent what, $3 billion could it be, yet I spotted some Astroturf on the way in.
To give him credit, though, it’s a fabulous looking building I stared at from our balcony as it changed with the light, especially through Jon’s “Vegas glasses,” a goofy yellow-tinted pair of shades that transform the world into nuclear sunrise. Gold lame? I ask him. We hang out on the balcony and get high. We’re not here to drug out and get wasted, just lightly toasted.
to find Las Vegas nothing but fun. It looks like a great big stage set. I’d expected something sleazier. And I am astonished by how clean the main drag is, putting San Francisco and its green machines utterly to shame. Everything looks perfectly groomed, but also somehow insubstantial, like it’s all made of gingerbread. I find myself knocking on building elements to see if they’re hollow. By the end of the night the strip is littered with the soft-porn come-on cards the long rows of Mexican men hand out, but they are gone by daylight. Maybe I like Vegas because I was prepared for it by Niagara Falls, Ontario, an arcade disguised as a neighborhood, which first appalled me; I’d expected a wilderness experience deep in a wood, but you can ooh and ah the falls right from the street. Then I lightened up and accepted it for what it is—a cash cow tourist destination for family outings and vacations.Las Vegas is the adult perfection of this tacky idea, centered around luxury and indulgence, making an entire lifestyle out of a playground. It’s a theme park, and the theme is excess. I’d been surprised when a British traveler crossing the States whom I met on a train trip named it her favorite American city. Now I could see why. It’s Bizarro World incorporated as a city.
WE TAKE A LENGHTY WALK
down the strip on the way to New York, New York to see Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity—the X-rated one, complete with obligatory drag queen master of ceremonies. Except for a couple of outstanding performances, it was a Vegas sham of sex, not true eroticism. Vegas in entire is a mirage, a patently false and inferior imitation of the real thing—but somehow in its hodgepodge of bizarre juxtapositions, the Statue of Liberty close by the Eiffel Tower, Venice and its canals down the street from the Sphinx, it is captivating, enchanting and magical.
Luckily I’m not the gambling type so I didn’t experience its desperate side, but it was still fun winning a few times at the slots and losing my winnings back to the slots. But, accustomed to smoke-free California, I choke on the strata of cigarette smoke hanging in the windowless casinos.
THE NEXT NIGHT
we head over to Bellagio for Cirque du Soileil’s “O,” the most extravagant live performance I’ve even seen, exactly what you’d expect in this over-the-top town. Then comes my favorite Vegas moment, our first experience of the amazing Bellagio fountains, and they happen to be dancing to “Viva Las Vegas.” Oscar and Jon and I all fall in love with the town then and there. It has won us over.
THE NEXT DAY
the raison d’etre of the trip is upon us. I am sitting on our balcony looking out at improbably lush greenery that looks nearly tropical. “Are you ready to go?” Jon asks me. I just want to put my eye makeup on, like I’m going out on a date. Like I care what he’ll think. Something happens to me in the car. I’m as nervous as a bride. The scroll is at the Rainbow Branch, about a 20-minute ride on I95 from the Stardust. We pass a lot of ugly American in-between stuff. Jack! I exclaim in anguish, where have they put you? But the Rainbow is a perfectly civilized structure, a desert beauty, and a worthy steward of the grail.
MY HEART SPEEDS UP
as I approach the Room. I pause at the Guest Book pedestal and for some reason avoid looking directly at the display for a minute. Across the years I gaze at four tender photos taken by Time’s Fred DeWitt in 1958. I was three years old. In one Jack is gazing sweetly up from a desk at the camera, with a kind of puppy innocence and good will in his eyes. I stare into these eyes as if he can detect my presence and there is nothing that need be said. I am hardly the only one making this pilgrimage. So far the guest book has been signed by people from OR, WA, CA, TX, AZ, UT, PA, OH, CO, GA, IL, NY, IN, NJ, MI, MD, MN, MA, NC, ID, KY, FL, WI, KA, AK, VA AND NV.
AN UNFORTUNATE ASPECT
of the exhibit is that in the oddly angled room is an Emergency Exit that had formerly led to a restroom, so people kept coming through looking for the bathroom and being redirected by the guard. Oh hey, it’s only the manuscript of On the Road you stumbled upon on your way to the john. Carry on! Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, had purchased this manuscript in 2002 for $2.34 million. I’m glad the right person got it and did the right thing with it. I say, worth every penny to preserve and display this for future generations.
FINALLY, I WAS READY TO TAKE IT IN
I had thought the whole thing would be unfurled but I could see that would not be practicable. About 30 feet were exposed, in a glass case, with the remainder of the roll wrapped around a glass spindle. With its Braille-like reverse typing it looked like yellowed old tape that has lost its stick. The case contains the artifact of everything that’s important to me. This document is Jack. It is the intersection between his world and mine. It wears his fingerprints, his DNA; the ink and paper bear the impact of his fingers on the keys. It’s as close to him as I will ever get. I tell Jon to go to breakfast with Oscar. I need about an hour in here. I sit down with the guestbook and read through the comments:
Never in my life will I feel as complete as I do today—seeing the one and only true reason for my becoming a writer—thank you.
Great scroll laid out like a corpse in its coffin.
Dignified—let the text speak.
I’m honored to see this.
Beauty comes in such interesting ways.
So much authentic life in such a little room.
3/25/05 Ed “Wall” Uhl (see Chapter #8)
4/6/05 Jeanne (Wall) Uhl – I made the ice cream
You can feel Jack’s presence alive in this manuscript!
Oh how you moved me, from the first words until the last.
Made me want to hitchhike everywhere and I did!
This one brings tears to my eyes:
My son is named after Jack.
And my favorite:
Poor lonely beatific beautiful Jack.
Finally I myself add:
At last we meet, soul mate.
JON AND OSCAR
come back from breakfast and I leave the exhibit rejuvenated in spirit, like something definitive has been confirmed and settled. We decide to visit Hoover Dam while we’re in the neighborhood. I get my pants and huaraches wet wading in Lake Mead. An officer waves us through a police checkpoint, barely glancing at us or the RV behind us. There was better security, several levels thereof, back at the Stratosphere. With the afterglow of Jack’s aura clinging to me, I am curiously underwhelmed by the dam. Oh, so what—look what Jack did!
LEAVING LAS VEGAS
We awake early and breakfast at the Wynn. Everything is just so, and we look like Dharma bums. It’s time to head out. Right about now I’d be checking in at the office. Instead I’m staring at a plaster gorilla outside Circus Circus waiting for the light to change. Thursday is all about driving. Jon and Oscar drive and drive, and I have some kind of bug that keeps me sleepy and vaguely carsick, prone on the back seat with my face to the vinyl. At one point, finally, about to ask Oscar to pull over, I barf into my cupped palms a handful of the Denny’s cheddar broccoli soup I knew I shouldn’t have eaten.
January 15th, 2006Not-so-fresh off a weekend flight from Portland, Oregon—PDX to SFO to BART to Civic Center to Grove St. to the San Francisco Library to the Mrs. and Mrs. George F. Jewett, Jr. Exhibit Gallery, where I am not so shy this time—I walk right up to Jack, splayed once again in his glass coffin, eye-crossing type rolling rolling rolling like the plains, and challenge him to intimidate me again. He can’t do it. Our first shy encounter is history. Then right up to me walks Delfin Vigil of the Chronicle, whom I’d overheard interviewing visitors, and asks me what I’m doing there. “I’m writing an article,” I say, “and if you talk to me you’ll be in it.” I tell him I started my pilgrimage at the Las Vegas branch and that this exhibit is far superior, and, quips Delfin (Delfin as he tells me, handing me his card), “it’s not in Las Vegas.” “But I didn’t have to take a road trip to get here because I live in San Francisco. It’s all about the road, and it’s all about writing—and what is more about writing and the road than Jack?” Here I am feeding this other guy this splendid line and using it myself, as he did not, in his subsequent piece. Delfin tells me the curator had to unveil the roll for an inspector who thought it to be a religious scroll. As indeed it is, indeed it is.
AS I MOVE AROUND
the exhibit, reading quotes, looking at pictures, I feel the inkling of that familiar itchy sensation, a rising pulse rate, a burst of impatience, and I have to run to the adjacent “gift of Robert and Carole McNeali café” to tear my PowerBook out of my bag and dive right in because the hunger is upon me, the hyperventilating desperation, almost an hysteria I am powerless to resist, that if I don’t write this down this minute I will bust! Writing of the suffering of love on the plane, I was. Fuck the suffering of love! What is one person who does or does not love you, when all the world in its grime and glory and misery and splendor and struggle and ecstasy is there, itching at your fingertips to bust out of your soul onto paper! If you don’t have love, you yet have life, pulsing in your palms like the heartbeat of a young bird. It’s either that or my second latte. My heart is racing.
THAT’S WHY I AM HERE,
Delfin, that’s what calls me to Jack, my muse, my dream lover, my soul mate. We were cut from the same cloth. A reader of mine told me I should find a muse “more ‘alive’ and insightful with reflection and careful instruction like Carlos Fuentes.” No, give me a flawed and tragically human man who lived his life till he couldn’t live it no mo’, spilling his guts onto the page at every turn, spilling his guts out for real at the end.
FROM THE VIDEO INSTALLATION,
Jack Atonelli’s 1985 documentary, “Kerouac King of the Beats,” containing dramatizations of Jack’s life and fiction, I learn that Jack was discharged from the Navy as paranoid schizophrenic (!), arrested as accessory to a murder (of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr), and married to Edie Parker in exchange for bailing him out of jail. I’m thinking, I’m no Kerouac scholar, I should become more informed. But you know what, he’s dead. He has said his piece. Instead of investigating every detail of his life my greatest homage to Jack is to just keep traveling down the road and writing about it.
SITTING IN FRONT OF THE VIDEO MONITOR,
I plan the next chapter of my chase. Of the upcoming stops of the On the Road tour, I am most interested in Chicago, Denver, Santa Fe, and the ultimate: a cross-county train pilgrimage to the Lowell, Massaschusetts installation, and a visit to Jack’s grave. I’ll cap the whole thing off with Christmas at the New York Public Library.
IN SAN FRANCISCO
Jack is not an oddity stumbled upon on the way to the bathroom. This taped-up roll of cracked yellow paper belongs here. But it shouldn’t live here. On the Road should stay on the road, traveling to meet its audience, stopping somewhere to stay a while, moving on from there. But it would be nice, like Sal Paradise’s aunt’s house, if the scroll could call San Francisco the home it comes back to when it needs a rest.
I ATTEND THE OPENING CEREMONY
of the exhibit on January 21st in the Koret Auditorium. I preferred the intimacy of the Las Vegas exhibit because here in the most obvious city the pilgrims will hie to, there are too many star-struck seekers of the grail impinging on the privacy of my affair with Jack—an affair who knows how many indulge in at once. I write these words as I wait for Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia to speak. The cognoscenti are here—those who were here and knew him—and I feel like Lawrence Ferlinghetti felt at the 6 Gallery reading of “Howl”—left out. I’m in the audience, an observer, not a participant. I’m thinking it should be my 1968 Vintage Compass edition that’s in the glass case—mine is far more beat up! But you know what—it’s like any reader with any writer—when they’re alone together, the connection is pure, direct, heart to heart. He wrote, I read. That’s the consummation right there, the perfect symbiosis.
AND JUST SO YOU KNOW
I harbor no illusions, by the way, about Jack Kerouac. At 50 I’ve already outlived him by 3 years. He died an utterly stupid death by drinking (“massive abdominal hemorrhage”) at age 47. I was 14 at the time, and had seen him looking bloated and out of it on some TV show. In fact my friend Saand had watched an obnoxious, cursing, yelling drunk get thrown out of a brightly lit coffee shop at Harrah’s in Reno, and was later told, “That was Jack Kerouac.” I’d heard of him first because when I was a kid Mad Magazine used to throw his name around, randomly, like some message in code. In my high school grammar book, I had underlined a reference to “the world beyond school” and Kerouac took on a mysterious hip, adult aura as the icon of that much-to-be-envied “outside world” that took place beyond the sphere of my family’s influence.
I DON’T KNOW
if I would have enjoyed his company; certainly the whorehouse party in Mexico at the end of On the Road is as unattractive a description of men’s behavior as I have run across. And I don’t know if his peripatetic lifestyle would have appealed to me much if he hadn’t had the talent to write about it. And Neil Cassady—videotapes I’ve seen of him lurching around bare-chested like some kind of spastic madman, running at the mouth like a doddering fool—I probably would have thrown him out of my house (most likely after sleeping with him).
AT WORST I AM GUILTY
of the same harmless fantasy as Joyce Johnson, who lived with Jack for a couple of months: “For a while I thought I could save Jack Kerouac through loving him. But no one could.” I have a feeling I would have loved him and also left him. He was one of the ones who just can’t hack it, can’t handle their sensitivity, their talent and their fame, like Spaulding Gray, or Sylvia Plath, or Virginia Woolf. He used a bottle to kill himself. He was one of his own, after all, one of those he famously characterized as “the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding with like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”
WE NEED THAT TYPE NOW.
We need people who are mad to stay human, mad to fight back, mad to live and love and write about it! It all comes down to the hunger for life, to keep moving, to spread the word, by mouth, by newspaper, by internet, by God! We are here to live! Live and love and die of it if we have to.
The author’s Stardust adventure mementos
Fast or slow?
Now you've met Miss Jones
copyright Alexandra Jones 2007