Tuesday 24 March 2009

24 March 2009

concert tickets, and the names Jack and Joan and Henri and Vicki, the girl, together with a series of sad jokes and some of his favorite sayings such as ‘You can’t teach the old maestro a new tune.’ So Neal couldn’t ride uptown with us and the only thing I could do was sit in the back of the Cadillac and wave at him. The bookie at the wheel also wanted nothing to do with Neal. Neal, ragged in a motheaten overcoat he brought specially for the freezing temperatures of the East, walked off alone and the last I saw of him he rounded the corner of 7th Ave., eyes on the street ahead, and bent to it again. Poor little Joan my wife to whom I’d told everything about Neal began almost to cry. “Oh we shouldn’t let him go like this. What’ll we do?” Old Neal’s gone I thought, and out loud I said “He’ll be all right.” And off we went to the sad and disinclined concert for which I had no stomach whatever and all the time I was thinking of Neal and how he got back on the train and rode over 3,000 miles over that awful land and never knew why he had come anyway, except to see me and my sweet wife. And he was gone. If I hadn’t been married I would have gone with him again. So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old brokendown river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the evening-star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the the prarie, which is just before the coming of of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks in the west and folds the last and final shore in, and nobody, just nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Neal Cassady, I even think of Old Neal Cassady the father we never found, I think of Neal Cassady, I think of Neal Cassady.

Monday 23 March 2009

23 March 2009

had no money for a truck and couldn’t go back with at all now. He simply had no idea why he had come, beyond the fact that he wanted to see me and my sweet wife and we agreed she was. With pregnant Diane he spent one night fighting and she threw him out. A letter came for him care of me and I deliberately opened it to see what was up. It was from Carolyn. “My heart broke when I saw you go across the tracks with your bag. I pray and pray you get back safe…I do want Jack and his new wife to come and live on the same street…I know you’ll make it but I can’yt help worrying---now that we’ve decided everything…Dear Neal, it’s the end of the first half of the century. Welcome with love and kisses to spend the other half with us. We all wait for you. (signed) Carolyn, Cathy and Little Jami.” So Neal’s life was settled with his most constant, most embittered and best-knowing wife Carolyn and I thanked God for him. The last time I saw him it was under strange and sad circumstances. Henri Cri had arrived in New York after having gone round the world several times in ships. I wanted him to meet and know Neal. They did meet but Neal couldn’t talk any more and said nothing, and Henri turned away. Henri had gotten tickets for the Duke Ellington concert at the Metropolitan Opera and insisted Joan and I come with him and his girl. Henri was fat and sad but still eager the eager and formal gentleman and he wanted to do things the right way as he emphasized. So he got his bookie to drive us to the concert in a Cadillac. It was a cold winter night. The Cadillac was parked and raedy to go. Neal stood outside the windows with his bags ready to go to Penn Station and on across the land. “Goodbye Neal” I said. “I sure wish I didn’t have to go to the concert.” “D’you think I can ride to 40th St. with you?” he whispered. “Want to be with you as much as possible, m’boy and besides it’s so durned cold in this here New Yawk…” I whispered to Henri. No, he wouldn’t have it, he liked me but he didn’t like my friends. I wasn’t going go start all over again ruining his planned evenings as I had done at Alfred’s in San Francisco in 1947 with Allan Temko. “Absolutely out of the question Jack!” Poor Henri, he had a special necktie made for this evening; on it was painted a replica of the

22 March 2009

yes.” And he stared with rocky sorrow into his hands. “Can’t talk no more…do you understand that it is…or might be…but listen!” We all listened. He was listening to sounds in the night. “Yes!” he whispered in awe. “But you see…no need to talk any more…and further.” “But why did you come so soon Neal?” “Ah,” he said looking at me for the first time “so soon, yes. We…we’ll know…that is I don’t know. I came on the railroad pass…cabooses…brakeman pass…played flute and wodden sweetpotato all the way.” He took out his new wooden flute. He played a few squeaky notes on it and jumped up and down in his stockinged feet. “See?” he said. “But of course Jack I can talk as soon as ever and have many things to say to you in fact I’ve been reading and reading all the way across the country and digging a great number of things I’ll never have TIME to tell you about and we STILL haven’t talked of Mexico and our parting there in fever…but no need to talk. Absolutely, now, yes?” “All right we won’t talk.” And he started telling the story of what he did in L.A. on the way over in every possible detail, how he visited a family, had dinner, talked to the father, the sons, the sisters (they were cousins)---what they looked like, what they ate, their furnishings, their thoughts, their interests, their very souls, and having concluded this he said “Ah, but you see what I wanted to REALLY tell you…much later…Arkansas, crossing on train…playing flute…playing cards with boys, my dirty deck…won money, wooden sweetpotato…Long awful trip five days and five nights just to SEE you Jack. “What about Carolyn?” “Gave permission of course…waiting for me…Carolyn and I all straight forever-and-ever…” “And Diane?” “ I…I…I want her to come back to Frisco with me live other side of town…don’t you think? Don’t know why I came.” Later he said in a sudden moment of gaping wonder “Well and yes, of course, I wanted to see your sweet wife and you…gone and done it, old man…glad of love…love you as ever.” He stayed in NY three days and hastily made plans to get back on the train with his railroad passes and again re-cross the groaning continent, five days and five nights in dusty coaches and hardbench cabooses and still he didn’t know why he had come, and of course we

Saturday 21 March 2009

21 March 2009

Laredo border in Dilley, Texas, I was standing on the hot road underneath an arclamp with the summermoths smashing into it when heard the sound of footsteps from the darkness beyond and lo, a tall old man with flowing white hair came clomping by with a pack on his back, and when he saw me as he passed, he said “Go moan for man” and clomped on back to his dark. Did this mean that I should at last go on my pilgrimage on foot on the dark roads around America? I struggled and hurried to NY, and one night I was standing in a dark street in Manhattan and called up to the window of a loft where I thought my friends were having a party. But a pretty girl stuck her head out of the window and said “Yes? Who is it?” “Jack Kerouac” I said, and heard my name resound in the sad and empty street. “Come on up” she called “I’m making hot chocolate.” So I went up and there she was, the girl with the pure and innocent dear eyes that I had always searched for and for so long. That night I asked her to marry me and she accepted and agreed. Five days later we were married. Then in the winter we planned to migrate to San Francisco bringing all our beat furnitures and broken belongings with us in a jaloppy truck. I wrote to Neal and told him what I had done. He wrote back a huge letter 18,000 words long and said he was coming to get me and personally select the old truck himself and drive us home. We had six weeks to save up the money for the truck so we began working and counting every cent. And suddenly Neal arrived anyway, five and a half weeks in advance, and nobody had any money to go through with the plan. I was taking a walk and came back to my wife to tell her what I thought about during my walk. She stood in the dark parlor with a strange smile. I told her a number of things and suddenly I noticed the hush in the room and looked around and saw a battered book on the television set. I knew it was Neal’s book. As in a dream I saw him tiptoe in from the dark kitchen in his stockinged feet. He couldn’t talk anymore. He hopped and laughed, he stuttered and fluttered his hands and said “Ah---ah---you must listen to hear.” We listened. But he forgot what he wanted to say. “Really listen---ahem…look dear Jack…sweet Joan…I’ve come…I’m gone…but wait---Ah

Friday 20 March 2009

20 March 2009

tried to find Bill Burroughs too, and learned that he had just left for South America with his family, so Bill Burroughs had finally sunk from our sight and was gone. Then I got fever and became delirious and unconscious. I looked up out of the dark swirl of my mind and I knew I was on a bed eight thousand feet above sea level, on a roof of the world, and I knew that I had lived a whole life and many others in the poor atomistic husk of my flesh, and I had all the dreams. And I saw Neal bending over the kitchen table. It was several nights later and he was leaving Mexico City. “What you doing man?” I moaned. “Poor Jack, poor Jack you’re sick. Frank’ll take care of you. Now listen if you can in your sickness---I got my divorce from Carolyn down here and I’m driving back to Diane in NY if the car holds out.” “All that again?” I cried. “All that again, good buddy. Gotta get back to my life. Wish I could stay with you. Pray I can come back.” I grabbed the cramps in my belly and groaned. When I looked up again Neal was standing with his old broken trunk and looking down at me. I didn’t know who he was anymore, and he knew this, and sympathized, and pulled the blanket over my shoulders. “Yes, yes, yes, I’ve got to go now.” And he was gone. Twelve hours later in my sorrowful fever I finally came to understand that he was gone. By this time he was driving back alone through those banana mountains, this time at night, black night, secret night, holy night. BOOK FIVE:- A week later the Korean War began. Neal drove from Mexico City and saw Gregor again in Victoria and pushed that old car all the way to Lake Charles La. before the rear-end finally dropped on the road as he always knew it would and he wired Diane for $32 airplane fare and flew the rest of the way. Arriving in NY with the divorce papers in his hand he and Diane immediately went to Newark and got married; and that night, telling her everything was all right and not to worry, and making logics where there was nothing but inestimable sorrowful sweats, he jumped on a bus and roared off agin across the awful continent to San Francisco to rejoin Carolyn and the two baby girls. So now he was thrice-married, twice-divorced, and living with his second wife. In the Fall I myself started back from Mexico City and one night just over

Thursday 19 March 2009

19 March 2009

An ambulance came balling through. American ambulances dart and weave through traffic with siren blowing; the great worldwide fellaheen Indian ambulances merely come through at eighty miles an hour in the city streets and everybody has to get out of the way, and it does not pause for an instant or any circumstance and flies straight through there. We saw it reeling out of sight.The drivers were Indians. People, even old ladies ran for buses that never stopped. Young Mexico City businessmen made bets and ran by squads for buses and barely jumped them. The busdrivers were barefoot and sat low and squat in T-shirts at the low enormous wheel. Ikons burned over them. The lights in the buses were brown and greenish and dark faces were lined on wooden benches. Downtown Mexico City thousands of hipsters in floppy strawhats and longlapeled jackets over barechests padded along the main drag, some of them selling crucifixes and weed in the alleys, some of them knealing in the beat chapels next to Mexican burlesque shows in sheds. Some alleys were rubble, with open sewers, little doors that led to closet-size bars stuck in dobe walls. You had to jump over a ditch to get your drink. You came out of the bar with your back to the wall and edged back to the street. They served coffee mixed with rum and nutmeg. Mambo blared from everywhere. Hundreds of whores lined themselves along the fronts of dark and narrow streets and their sorrowful eyes gleamed at us in the night. We wandered in a frenzy and a dream. We ate beautiful steaks for 48 cents in strange tiled Mexican cafeterias with marimba musicians and wandering guitars. Nothing stopped; the streets were alive all night. Beggars slept wrapped in advertising posters. Whole families sat on the sidewalk playing little flutes and chuckling in the night. Their bare feet stuck out. On corners old women cut up the boiled heads of cows and served it on newspaper. This was the great and final city that we knew we would find at the end of the road. Neal walked through with his arms hanging zombie-like at his sides, his mouth open, his eyes gleaming, and conducted a ragged and holy tour that lasted till dawn in a field with a boy in a strawhat who laughed and chatted with us and wanted to play catch, for nothing ever ended. We

Wednesday 18 March 2009

18 March 2009

stopped for pisscall I got out and walked across a field to the big trees and sat awhile thinking on the plain. Frank and Neal sat in the car gesticulating. Poor fellows, their flesh mingled with mine had been carried now a total of nineteen hundred miles from the afternoon yards of Denver to these vast and Biblical areas of the world and now were about to reach the end of the road and though I didn’t know it I was about to reach the end of my road with Neal. And my road with Neal had been considerably longer than nineteen hundred miles. “Shall we change our insect T-shirts?” “Naw, let’s wear them into town, hell’s bells.” And we drove into Mexico City. A brief mountain pass took us suddenly to a height from which we saw all of Mexico City stretched out in its volcanic crater below and spewing city smokes and early dusklights. Down to it we zoomed, down Insurgentes boulevard, straight to the town at Reforma. Kids played soccer in enormous sad fields and threw up dust. Taxi drivers overtook us and wanted to know if we wanted girls. No, we didn’t want girls now. Long ragged dobe slums stretched out on the plain; we saw lonely figures in the dimming alleys. Soon night would come. Then the city roared in and we were passing crowded cafes and theaters and many lights. Newsboys yelled at us. Mechanics slouched by barefoot with a wrench and a rag. Mad barefoot Indian drivers cut across us and surrounded us and tooted and made frantic traffic. The noise was incredible. No mufflers are used on Mexican cars. Horns are batted with glee continual. “Whee!” yelled Neal. “Lookout!” he staggered the car through the traffic
and played with everybody. He drove like an Indian. He got on a a circular drive on Reforma Boulevard and rolled around it with its eight spokes shooting cars at us from all directions, left, right, dead ahead, and yelled and jumped with joy. “This is traffic I’ve always dreamed of! Everybody GOES!” An ambulance came balling through. American ambulances dart and weave through traffic with siren blowing; the great worldwide fellaheen Indian ambulances merely come through at eighty miles an hour in the city streets and everybody has to get our of the way, and it does not pause for an instant