Tuesday, 30 September 2008

30 September 2008

tered at us. Since the Dakar Doldrums he had finally gone through a terrible period which he called the Holy Doldrums, or Harlem Doldrums, when he lived in Harlem in midsummer and at night woke up in his lonely room and heard “the great machine” descending from the sky; and when he walked on 125th street “under water” with all the other fish. It was a riot of crazy ideas that had come to occupy his brain. He made Louanne sit on his lap and commanded her to subside. He told Neal “Why don’t you just sit down and relax. Why do you jump around so much?” Neal ran around putting sugar in his coffee and saying “Yes! yes! yes!” At night Al Hinkle slept on the floor on cushions, Neal and Louanne pushed Allen out of bed and went to it, and Allen sat up in the kitchen over his kidney stew mumbling the predictions of the rock. I came in days and watched everything. Al Hinkle said to me “Last night I walked clear down to Times Square and just as I arrived I suddenly realized I was a ghost---it was my ghost walking on the sidewalk.” He said these things to me without comment, nodding his head emphatically. Ten hours later in the midst of someone else’s conversation Al would suddenly say “Yep, it was my ghost waling on the sidewalk.” Suddenly Neal leaned to me earnestly and said “Jack I have something to ask of you---very important to me---I wonder how you’ll take it---we’re buddies aren’t we?” “Sure are, Neal.” He almost blushed. Finally he came out with it: he wanted me to lay Louanne. I didn’t ask him why because I knew. He wanted to test something in himself and he wanted to see what Louanne was like with another man. We were sitting in Ross Bar on Eighth Avenue when he proposed the idea; we’d spent an hour walking Times Square looking for Hunkey. Ross Bar is the hoodlum bar of Times Square; it changes names every year. You walk in there and you don’t see a single girl, even in the booths, just a great mob of young men dressed in all varieties of hoodlum cloth---from red shirts to zoot suits: it is also the hustler’s bar, the boys who make a living among the sad old homos of the Eighth Avenue night. Neal walked in there with his eyes slitted to see every single face. There were wild Negro queers, sullen guys with guns, shiv-packing seamen, thin

Monday, 29 September 2008

29 September 2008

everybody and went home to rest. My mother said I was wasting my time hanging around with Neal and his gang. I knew that was bull too. Life is life, and kind id kind. What I wanted was to take one more magnificent trip to the west coast and get back in time for the spring semester in school. And what a trip it turned out to be! I only went along for the ride, and to see what else Neal was going to do, and finally, also, knowing Neal would go back to Carolyn in Frisco, I wanted to have an affair with Louanne, and I did. We got ready to cross the groaning continent again. I drew my G.I. check and gave Neal $18 to mail to his wife; she was waiting for him to come home and she was broke. What was on Louanne’s mind I don’t know. Al Hinkle as ever just followed. There were long funny days spent in Allen’s apartment before we left. He went around in his bathrobe and made semi-ironical speeches as follows: “Now I’m not trying to take your hincty sweets from you but it seems to me the time has come to decide what you are and what you’re going to do.” Allen was working as a cowboy for AP. “I want to know what all this sitting around the house all day is intended to mean. What all this talk is and what you propose to do. Neal, why did you leave Carolyn and pick up Louanne.” No answer---giggles. “Louanne, why are you traveling around the country like this and what are your womanly intentions concerning the shroud?” Same answer. “Al Hinkle, why did you abandon your new wife in Tucson and what are you doing here sitting on your big fat ass. Where’s your home? what’s your job?” Al Hinkle bowed his head in genuine befuddlement. “Jack---how comes it you’ve fallen on such sloppy days and what have you done with Pauline?” He adjusted his bathrobe and sat facing us all. “The days of wrath are yet to come. The balloon won’t sustain you much longer. And not only that but it’s an abstract balloon. You’ll all go flying to the west coast and come staggering back in search of your stone.” In these days Allen had developed a tone of voice which he hoped sounded like what he called The Voice of Rock; the whole idea was to stun people into the realization of the rock. “You pin dragon to your hats,” he warned us, “you’re up in the attic with the bats.” His mad eyes glit-

Sunday, 28 September 2008

28 September 2008

weekend. The place was deserted, we were the first customers, ten o’clock. Shearing came out, blind, led by the hand to his keyboard. He was a distinguished looking Englishman with a stiff white collar, slightly beefy, blond, with a delicate English summer’s night air about him that came out in the first rippling sweet number he played as the bass player leaned to him reverently and thrummed the beat. The drummer, Denzel Best, sat motionlessly except for his wrists snapping the brushes. And Shearing began to rock; a smile broke over his ecstatic face; he began to rock in the piano seat, back and forth, slowly at first, then the beat went up, he began rocking fast, his left foot jumped up with every beat, his neck began to rock crookedly, he brought his face down to the keys, he pushed his hair back, his combed hair dissolved, he began to sweat. The music picked up. The bassplayer hunched over and socked it in, faster and faster. It seemed faster and faster, that’s all. Shearing began to play his chords; they rolled out of the piano in great rich showers, you’d think the man wouldn’t have time to line them up. It rolled and rolled like the sea. Folks yelled for him to “Go!” Neal was sweating; the sweat poured down his collar. “There he is! That’s him! Old God! Old God Shearing! Yes! Yes! Yes!” And Shearing was conscious of the madman behind him, he could hear every one of Neal’s gasps and imprecations, he could sense it tho he couldn’t see.” That’s right!” Neal said. “Yes!” Shearing smiled; he rocked. Shearing rose from the piano dripping with sweat; these were his great days before he became cool and commercial. When he was gone Neal pointed to the empty piano seat. “God’s empty chair” he said. On the piano a horn sat; its golden shadow made a strange reflection along the desert caravan painted on the wall behind the drums. God was gone; it was the silence of his departure. It was a rainy night. It was the myth of the rainy night. Neal was popeyed with awe. This madness would lead nowhere. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I suddenly realized it was only the T that we were smoking, Neal had bought some in New York. It made me think that everything was about to arrive—the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever. I left

Saturday, 27 September 2008

27 September 2008

hasn’t stopped since. To the wild sounds of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing “The Hunt” Neal and I played catch with Louanne over the couch; she was no small doll either. Neal went around with no undershirt, just his pants, barefoot, till it was time to hit the car and fetch more people. Everything happened. We found the wild ecstatic Allen Anson and spent a night at his house in Long Island. Allen Anson lives in a nice house with his Aunt; when she dies the house is all his. Meanwhile she refuses to comply to any of his wishes and hates his friends. He brought this ragged gang of Neal, Louanne, Al and I and began a roaring party. The woman prowled upstairs; she threatened to call the police. “Oh shut up you old bag!” yelled Anson. I wondered how he could live with her like this. He had more books than I’ve ever seen in all my life…two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls, and such books as “The Explanation of the Apocalypse” in ten volumes. He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with the great rip down the back. He didn’t give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the NY waterfront with original 14th century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a great spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in great stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out he was so excited with life. Neal stood before him with head bowed repeating over and over again “Yes…yes…yes.” He took me into a corner. “That Allen Anson is the greatest most wonderful of all. That’s what I was trying to tell you…that’s what I want to be…I want to be like him. He’s never hung up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth, man he’s the end! You see, if you go like him all the time you’ll finally get it.” “Get what?” “IT! IT! I’ll tell you---now no time, we have no time now.” Neal rushed back to watch Allen Anson some more. George Shearing the great jazz pianist, Neal said, was exactly like Allen Anson. Neal and I went to see Shearing at Birdland in the midst of the long mad

Friday, 26 September 2008

26 September 2008

to marry her and bring up her baby daughter and all if she divorced the mechanic; but there wasn’t even enough money to get a divorce and the whole thing was hopeless, besides of which Pauline would never understand me because I like too many things and get all confused and hungup running from one thing to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. The parties were enormous; there were at least a hundred people at Herb Benjamin’s basement apartment in the west nineties. People overflowed into the cellar compartments near the furnace. Something was going on in every corner, on every bed and couch, not an orgy, but just a New Year’s party with frantic screaming and wild radio music. There was even a Chinese girl. Neal ran like Groucho Marx from group to group digging everybody. Periodically we rushed out to the car to pick up more people. Lucien came. Lucien is the hero of my New York gang, as Neal is the chief hero of the Western. They immediately took a dislike for each other. Lucien’s girl suddenly socked Lucien on the jaw with a roundhouse right. He stood reeling. She carried him home. Some of our mad newspaper friends rushed in from the office with bottles. There was a tremendous and wonderful snowstorm going on outside. Al Hinkle made Pauline’s sister and disappeared with her; I forgot to say that Al Hinkle is a very smooth man with the women. He’s six foot four, mild, affable, agreeable, dumb and delightful. He helps women on with their coats. That’s the way to do things. At five o’clock in the morning we were all rushing through a backyard tenement and climbing in through a window of an apartment where a huge party was going on. At dawn we were back at Ed Stringham’s. People were drawing pictures and drinking stale beer. I slept with a girl called Rhoda---poor Rhoda---with all our clothes on, for no reason, just slept on the same couch. Great groups filed in from the old Columbia campus bar. Everything in life, all the faces of life, were piling into the same dank room. At John Holmes’ the party went on. John Holmes is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight. He began to learn “Yes!” to everything just like Neal at this time, and

Thursday, 25 September 2008

25 September 2008

for pure death; and because we’re all of us never in life again, he, rightly, would have nothing to do with it, and I agree with him now. We went looking for my New York gang of friends. I have a tremendous and interesting gang of friends in New York. New York is such a crazy town, the crazy flowers bloom there too. We went to Ed Stringham’s first…Ed Stringham is a sad handsome fellow, sweet, generous and amenable; only once in a while he suddenly has fits of depression and rushes off without saying a word to anyone. This night he was overjoyed. “Jack where did you find these absolutely wonderful people? I’ve never seen anyone like them.” “I found them in the West.” Neal was having his kicks: he put on a jazz record, grabbed Louanne, held her tight, and bounced against her with the beat of the music. She bounced right back. It was as simple as that, a real love dance. John Holmes came in with a huge gang. The New Year’s weekend began and lasted three days and three nights. Great gangs got in the Hudson and swerved in the snowy New York streets from party to party. I brought Pauline and her sister to the biggest party. When Pauline saw me with Neal and Louanne her face darkened…she sensed the madness they put in me. “I don’t like you when you’re with them.” “Ah it’s allright, it’s just kicks. We only live once. We’re having a good time.” “No, it’s sad and I don’t like it.” Then Louanne began making love to me; she said Neal was going to stay with Carolyn and she wanted me to go with her. “Come back to San Francisco with us. We’ll live together. I’ll be a good girl for you.” But I knew Neal loved Louanne, and I also knew Louanne was doing this to make Pauline jealous, and I wanted nothing of it. Still and all I licked my lips for the luscious blonde. Louanne and Pauline were a couple of firstclass beauties. When Pauline saw Louanne pushing me into the corners and giving me the word and forcing kisses on me she accepted Neal’s invitation to go out in the car; but they just talked and drank some of the Southern moonshine I left in the compartment. Everything was being mixed up and all was falling. I knew my affair with Pauline wouldn’t last much longer. She wanted me to be her way. She was married to a mechanic who treated her badly. I was willing

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

24 September 2008

no direction. He sat reminiscing that night in Chicago and the hot coffee cakes in the lonely room. The snow whirled outside. A big party was on hand in New York, we were all going. Neal packed his broken trunk, put it in the car, and we all took off for the big night. My mother was happy with the thought that my sister was moving in the following week; she sat with her paper and waited for the midnight New Year’s Eve broadcast from Time’s Square. We roared into New York swerving on ice. I was never scared when Neal drove; he could handle a car under any circumstances. The radio had been fixed and now he had wild bop to urge us along the night. I didn’t know where all this was leading, I didn’t care. Just about that time a strange thing began to haunt me. It was this: I had forgotten something. There was a decision I was about to make before Neal showed up and now it was driven clear out of my mind but still hung on the tip of my mind’s tongue. I kept snapping my finger trying to remember it. I even mentioned it. And I couldn’t even tell if it was a real decision or just a thought I had decided to make and forgot to do…haunted, flabbergasted, made sad. It had to do somewhat with the Shrouded Stranger. Allen Ginsberg and I once sat down together knee to knee in two chairs, facing, and I told him a dream I had about a strange Arabic figure that was pursuing me across the desert; that I tried to avoid; that finally overtook me just before I reached the Protective City. “Who is this?” said Allen. We pondered it. I proposed it was myself wearing a shroud. That wasn’t it. Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced- -tho we hate to admit it- -in death. But who wants to die? But more of this later. In the rush of events that took place I kept thinking about this in the back of my mind. I told Neal and he instantly recognized it as the mere simple longing

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

23 September 2008

a great silence like the inherent silence of the Apocalypse. But Neal knew this, he’d mentioned it many times. “I’ve pleaded and pleaded with Louanne for a peaceful sweet understanding of pure love between us forever with all the hassles thrown out---she understands---her mind is bent on something else---she’s after me---she won’t understand how much I love her---she’s knitting my doom.” “The truth of the matter is we don’t understand our women, we blame on them and it’s all our fault” I said. “But it isn’t as simple as that” warned Neal. “Peace will come suddenly, we won’t understand when it does, see man?” Doggedly, bleakly, he pushed the car through New Jersey; at dawn I drove across the Pulaski Skyway as he slept in the back. We arrived at Ozone Park at nine in the morning to find Louanne and Al Hinkle sitting around smoking butts from the ashtrays; they hadn’t eaten since Neal and I left. My mother paid for the groceries and cooked up a tremendous breakfast. Now it was time for the western threesome to find new living quarters in Manhattan proper. Allen had a pad on York Avenue; they were moving in in the evening. We slept all day, Neal and I, and woke up as a great snowstorm ushered in New Year’s Eve 1948. Al Hinkle was sitting in my easy chair telling about the previous New Year’s. “I was in Chicago. I was broke. I was sitting at the window of my hotel room on North Clark street and the most delicious smell rose to my nostrils from the bakery downstairs. I didn’t have a dime but I went down and talked to the girl. She gave me bread and coffee cakes free. I went back to my room and ate them. I stayed in my room all night. In Farmington Utah once, where I went to work with Ed Uhl, you know Ed Uhl the rancher’s son in Denver, I was in my bed and all of a sudden I saw my dead mother standing in the corner with light all around her. I said ‘Mother!’ She disappeared. I have visions all the time,” said Al Hinkle nodding his head. “What are you going to do about Helen?” “Oh we’ll see. When we get to New Orleans. Don’t you think so, huh?” He was starting to turn to me as well for advice; one Neal wasn’t enough for him. “What are you going to do with yourself Al?” I asked. “I don’t know” he said. “I just go along. I dig life.” He repeated it, following Neal’s line. He had

Monday, 22 September 2008

22 September 2008

the high-sign for a through-train. My mother retired to the back seat and went to sleep. In Washington at four A.M. Neal called Carolyn collect again in Frisco. Shortly after this as we pulled out of Washington a cruising car overtook us with siren going and we had a speeding ticket in spite of the fact that we were only going about thirty. It was the California license plate that did it. “You guys think you can rush through here as fast as you want just because you come from California?” said the cop. I went with Neal to the sergeant’s desk and we tried to explain to the police that we had no money. They said Neal would have to spend the night in jail if we didn’t round up the money. Of course my mother had it, fifteen dollars, she had twenty in all and it was going to be just fine. And in fact while we were arguing with the cops one of them went out to peek at my mother who sat wrapped in the back of the car. She saw him. “Don’t worry, I’m not a gunmoll…if you want to come in and search the car go right ahead…I’m going home with my son and this furniture isn’t stolen, it’s my daughter’s, she just had a baby and she’s coming to live with me.” This flabbergasted Sherlock and he went back in the station house. My mother had to pay the fine for Neal or we’d be stuck in Washington; I had no license. He promised to pay it back; and he actually did, exactly a year and a half later and to my mother’s pleased surprise. My mother---a respectable woman hung up in this sad world, and well she knew the world. She told us about the cop. “He was hiding behind the tree trying to see what I looked like. I told him…I told him to search the car if he wanted. I’ve nothing to be ashamed of.” She knew Neal had something to be ashamed of, and me too, by virtue of my being with Neal, and Neal and I accepted this sadly. My mother once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness. This is true. All over the world, in the jungles of Mexico, in backstreets of Shanghai, in New York cocktail bars, husbands are getting drunk while the women stay home with the babies of the everdarkening future. If these men stop the machine and come home---and get on their knees---and ask for forgiveness---and the women bless them---peace will suddenly descend on the earth with

Sunday, 21 September 2008

21 September 2008

about life’s troubles, how poor my family was, how much I wanted to help Pauline who was also poor and had a daughter. “Troubles, you see, is the generalization-word for what God exists in. The thing is not to get hung up. My head rings!” he cried clasping his head. He rushed out of the car like Groucho Marxto to get cigarettes---that furious ground-hugging walk with the coat tails flying, except he had no coat tails. “Since Denver, Jack a lot of things…Oh, the things…I’ve thought and thought. I used to be in reform school all the time, I was a young punk, asserting myself---stealing cars a psychological expression of my position, hincty to show. All my jail-problems are pretty straight now. As far as I know I shall never be in jail again. The rest is not my fault.” We passed a little kid who was throwing stones at the cars in the road. “Think of it” said Neal. “One day he’ll put a stone through a man’s windshield and the man will crash and die…all on account of that little kid. You see what I mean? God exists without qualms. As we roll along this way I am positive beyond no doubt that everything will be taken care of for us…that even you, as you drive, fearful of the wheel” (I hated to drive and drove carefully) “the thing will go along of itself and you won’t go off the road and I can sleep. Furthermore we know America, we’re at home; I can go anywhere in America and get what I want because it’s the same in every corner, I know the people, I know what they do. We give and take and go in the incredibly complicated sweetness zig-zagging every side.” There was nothing clear about the things he said, but what he meant to say was somehow made pure and clear. He used the word “pure” a great deal. I had never dreamed Neal would become a mystic. These were the first days of his mysticism which would lead to the strange ragged W.C.Fields saintliness of his later days. Even my mother listened to him with a curious half-ear as we roared back north to New York that same night with the furniture in the back. Now that my mother was in the car Neal settled down to talking about his worklife in San Francisco. He went over every single detail of what a brakeman has to do, demonstrating every time we passed railyards and even at one point jumping out of the car to show me how a brakeman makes

Saturday, 20 September 2008

20 September 2008

had my drumsticks; he suddenly began beating a tiny beat to go with the music box that we barely could hear. Everybody held their breath to listen. “Tick…tack…tick-tack.” Neal cupped a hand over his ear, his mouth hanged open, he said “Ah! Whee!” Allen watched the silly madness with slitted eyes. Finally he slapped his knee and said “I have an announcement to make.” “Yes? Yes?” “What is the meaning of this voyage to New York? What kind of sordid business are you on now? I mean, man, whither goest thou?” “Whither goest thou?” echoed Neal with his mouth open. We sat and didn’t know what to say; there was nothing more to talk about any more. The only thing to do was go. Neal leaped up and said we were ready to back to North Carolina. He took a shower, I cooked up a big platter of rice with all that was left in the house, Louanne sewed his socks and we were ready to go. Neal and Allen and I zoomed into New York. We promised to see him in thirty hours, in time for New Year’s Eve. It was night. We left Allen at Times Square and went back across the tunnel and into New Jersey. Taking turns at the wheel, Neal and I made North Carolina in ten hours. “Now this is the first time we’ve been alone and in a position to talk for years” said Neal. And he talked all night. As in a dream we were zooming back through sleeping Washington and back in the Virginia wilds, crossing the North Carolina line at daybreak, pulling up at my sister’s door at nine A.M. And all this time Neal was tremendously excited about everything he saw, everything he talked about, every detail of every moment that transpired. He was out of his mind with real belief. “And of course now no one can tell us that there is no God. We’ve passed through all forms. You remember Jack when I first came to New York and I wanted Hal Chase to teach me about Nietzsche. You see how long ago? Everything is fine, God exists, we know time. Everything since the Greeks has been predicted wrong. You can’t make it with geometry and geometrical systems of thinking. It’s all THIS!” He wrapped his finger in his fist; the car hugged the line straight and true. “And not only that but we both understand that I couldn’t have time to explain why I know and you know God exists.” At one point I moaned

Thursday, 18 September 2008

19 September 2008

talked on the phone. She wanted to know how Al was. She was all concerned about his happiness. “How did you get from Tucson to New Orleans?” I asked. She said she wired home for money and took a bus. She was determined to catch up with Al because she loved him. I went upstairs and told Big Al. He sat in the chair with a worried look. “Alright now,” said Neal suddenly waking up and leaping out of bed “what we must do is eat, at once, Louanne rustle around the kitchen see what there is, Jack you and I go downstairs and call Allen, Al you see what you can do straightening out the house.” I followed Neal bustling downstairs. The guy who ran the drugstore said “You just got another call…this one from San Francisco…for a guy called Neal Cassady. I said there wasn’t anybody by that name.” It was Carolyn calling Neal. The drugstore man, Sam, a tall calm friend of mine, looked at me and scratched his head. “Geez, what are you running, an international whorehouse?” Neal tittered maniacally. “I dig you man!” He leaped into the phonebooth and called Frisco collect. Then we called Allen at his home in New Jersey and told him to come in. Allen arrived two hours later. Meanwhile Neal and I got ready for our return trip alone to North Carolina to pick up the rest of the furniture and bring my mother back. Allen Ginsberg came, poetry under his arm, and sat in an easy chair watching us with beady eyes. For the first half hour he refused to say anything, or that is, he refused to commit himself. He had quieted down since the Denver Doldrum days; the Dakar Doldrums had done it. In Dakar, wearing a beard, he had wandered the backstreets with little children who led him to a witchdoctor who told him his fortune. He had snapshots of crazy streets with grass huts, the hip back-end of Dakar. He said he almost jumped off the ship like Hart Crane on the way back. It was the first time he was seeing Neal since they parted in Houston. Neal sat on the floor with a music box and listened with tremendous amazement at the little song it played… “A Fine Romance” - - “Little tinkling whirling doodlebells. Ah! Listen! We’ll all bend down together and look into the center of the music box till we learn about the secrets…tinklydoodlebell, whee.” Al Hinkle was also sitting on the floor; he

18 September 2008

derful things about your soul.” On my right sat Al Hinkle who had married a girl for gas fare. I felt I was defending my position. It was a sad night; it was also a merry night. In Philadelphia we went into a lunchcart and ate hamburgers with our last food dollar. The counterman- -it was three A.M.- -heard us talk about money and offered to give us the hamburgers free, plus more coffee, if we all pitched in and washed dishes in the back because the regular man hadn’t shown up. We jumped to it. Al Hinkle said he was an old pearldiver from way back and pitched his long arms into the dishes. Neal stood googing around with a towel, so did Louanne; finally they started necking among the pots and pans; they withdrew to a dark corner in the pantry. The counterman was satisfied as long as Al and I did the dishes. We finished them in fifteen minutes. When daybreak came we were zooming through New Jersey with the great cloud of Metropolitan NY rising before us in the snowy distance. Neal had a sweater wrapped around his ears to keep warm. He said we were a band of Arabs coming in to blow up New York. We swished through the Lincoln tunnel and came out on Times Square. “Oh damn I wish I could find Hunkey. Everybody look sharp, see if they can find him.” We all scoured the sidewalks. “Good old gone Hunkey…Oh you should have SEEN him in Texas.” So now Neal had come about four thousand miles from Frisco, via Arizona and up to Denver, inside four days with innumerable adventures sandwiched in and it was only the beginning. We went to my house in Ozone Park and slept. I was the first to wake up, late in the afternoon. Neal and Louanne were sleeping on my bed, Al and I on my mother’s bed. Neal’s battered unhinged trunk lay sprawled on the floor with socks sticking out. A phone call came for me from the drugstore downstairs. I ran down; it was from New Orleans. Bill Burroughs in his high whining voice was making a complaint. It seemed a girl called Helen Hinkle had just arrived at his house for a guy Al Hinkle. Bill had no idea who these people were. Helen Hinkle was a tenacious loser. I told Bill to reassure her that Hinkle was with Neal and I and that most likely we’d be picking her up in New Orleans on the way to the Coast. Then the girl herself

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

17 September 2008

bug’s name was Neal Cassady and I was off on another spurt around the road. We packed my sister’s boxes of clothes and dishes and a few chairs in back of the car and took off at dark, promising to be back in thirty hours. Thirty hours for a thousand miles North and South. But that’s the way Neal wanted it. It was a tough trip and none of us noticed it; the heater was not working and consequently the windshield developed fog and ice. Neal kept reaching out while driving seventy to wipe it with a rag and make a hole to see the road. In the spacious Hudson we had plenty room all four of us to sit up front. A blanket covered our laps. The radio was not working. It was a brand new car bought five days ago and already it was broken. There was only one instalment paid on it too. Off we went, north to Virginia, on 101, a straight two-lane highway without much traffic. And Neal talked, no one else talked. He gestured furiously, he leaned as far as me sometimes to make a point, sometimes he had no hands on the wheel and yet the car went as straight as an arrow, not for once deviating the slightest bit from the white line in the middle of the road that unwound kissing our left front tire. I didn’t realize this was going to be the case all the way to California before this new season was over. It was a completely meaningless set of circumstances that made Neal come and similarly I went off with him for no reason. In New York I had been attending school and romancing around with a girl called Pauline, a beautiful Italian honey-haired darling that I actually wanted to marry. All these years I was looking for the woman I wanted to marry. I couldn’t meet a girl without saying to myself, “What kind of wife would she make?” I told Neal and Louanne about Pauline. Loanne suddenly leaped to the situation. She wanted to know all about Pauline, she wanted to meet her. We zoomed through Richmond, Washington, Baltimore and up to Philadelphia on a winding country road and talked. “I want to marry a girl” I told them “so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old. This can’t go on all the time…all this franticness and jumping around. We’ve got to go someplace, find something.” “Ah now man” said Neal “I’ve been digging you for years about the HOME and marriage and all those fine won-

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

16 September 2008

he roared into downtown Rocky Mountain looking in every direction and seeing everything in an arc of 180 degrees around his eyeballs without moving his head. Bang, he found a parkingspace in no time and we were parked. He leaped out of the car. Furiously he hustled into the railroad station; we followed sheepishly. He bought cigarettes. He had become absolutely mad in his movements: he seemed to be doing everything at the same time. It was all a shaking of the head, up and down, sideways, jerky vigorous hands, quick walking, sitting, crossing of the legs, uncrossing, getting up, rubbing of the hands, rubbing his balls, hitching his pants, looking up and saying “Am” and sudden slitting of the eyes to see everywhere; and all the time he was poking me in the ribs and talking, talking. It was very cold in Rocky Mt.; they’d had an unseasonal snow. He stood in the long bleak Main Street that runs along the Seaboard Railroad clad in nothing but a T-shirt and low-hanging pants with the belt unbuckled, as though he was about to take them off. He came sticking his hand in to talk to Louanne; he backed away fluttering his hands before her. “Oh yes I know! I know YOU, I know YOU Darling!” His laugh was maniacal; it started low and ended high, exactly like the laugh of a radio maniac, only faster and more like a titter. A tittering maniac. Then he kept reverting to business like tones. There was no purpose in our coming downtown but he found purposes. He made us all hustle, Louanne for the lunch groceries, me for a paper to dig the weather report, Al for cigars. Neal loved to smoke cigars. He smoked one over the paper and talked. “Ah, our holy American slopjaws in Washington are planning fur-ther inconveniences---ah---hem!---aw---hup! hup!” and he leaped off and rushed to see a colored girl that just then passed outside the station. “Dig her” he said standing with limp finger pointed, fingering his genitalia with a goofy smile “that little gone black lovely. Ah! Hmm!” We got in the car and roared back to my sister’s house. I had been spending a quiet Christmas in the country, as I realized when we got back into the house and I saw the Christmas tree, the presents and smelled the roasting turkey, and listened to the talk of the relatives, but now the bug was on me again and the

Monday, 15 September 2008

15 September 2008

has come for us to decide what we’re going to do for the next week. Crucial, crucial. Ahem!” He dodged a mule wagon; in it sat an old Negro plodding along. “Yes!” yelled Neal. “Yes! Dig him! Now consider his soul---stop awhile and consider,” and he slowed down the car for all of us to turn and look at the old jazzbo moaning along. “Oh yes, dig him sweet, now there’s thoughts in that mind that I would give my last arm to know; go climb in there and find out just what he’s poorass pondering about this year’s turnip greens and ham. Jack you don’t know it but I once lived with a farmer in Arkansas for a whole year, when I was eleven, I had awful chores, I had to skin a dead horse once, I haven’t been to Arkansas since Xmas 1943, exactly 6 years ago, when Ben Gowen and I were chased by a man with a gun who owned the gun we were trying to steal; I say all this to show you that of the South I can speak…I have known…I mean man I dig the south, I know it in and out---I’ve dug your letters to me about it. Oh yes, oh yes,” he said trailing off and stopping altogether, and suddenly jumping back to seventy and hunching over the wheel to go. He stared doggedly ahead. Louanne was smiling serenely. This was the new and complete Neal, grown to maturity. I could see that Louanne and Hinkle had been digging up these past several days with amazed love. I said to myself “My God he’s changed.” Fury spat out of his eyes when he told of things he hated; great glows of joy replaced this when he suddenly got happy; every muscle twitched to live and go. “Oh man we must absolutely find the time.. What has happened to Allen. We all get to see Allen darlings, first thing tomorrow. Now Louanne we’re getting some bread and meat to make lunch for New York. How much money do you have Jack? We’ll put everything in the back seat, Mrs. K’s furniture, and all of us will sit up front cuddly and close and tell stories as we zoom to New York. Louanne honeycunt you sit next to me, Jack next, then Al at the window, big Al to cut off drafts whereby he comes into using the robe this time…And then we’ll go off to sweet life cause now is the time and WE ALL KNOW THE TIME!” He rubbed his jaw furiously, he swung the car and passed three trucks,

14 September 2008

Louanne and Al Hinkle roared east along Colfax and out to the Kansas plains. Great snowstorms overtook them. In Missouri, at night, Neal had to drive with his scarf-wrapped head stuck out the window with snowglasses that made him look like a monk peering into the manuscripts of the snow because the windshield was covered with an inch of ice. He drove by the birth country of his forbears without a thought. In the morning the car skidded on an icy hill and flapped into a ditch. A farmer offered to help them out. They got all hung up when they picked up a hitch hiker who promised them a dollar if they let him ride to Memphis. In Memphis he went into his house, puttered around looking for the dollar, got drunk, and said he couldn’t find it. They resumed across Tennessee: the rods were busted from the accident. Neal had been driving ninety, now he had to stick to a steady seventy or the whole motor would go whirring down the mountainside. They crossed the Smoky Mountains in midwinter. When they arrived at my sister’s door they had not eaten for thirty hours---just candy and cheese Crax. They ate voraciously as Neal, sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph listening to a wild bop record I just bought called “The Hunt,” with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume. The Southern folk looked at one another and shook their heads in awe. “What kind of friends does Jack have anyway?” they said to my sister. She was stumped for an answer. Southerners don’t like madness the least bit, not Neal’s kind. He paid absolutely no attention to them. The madness of Neal had bloomed into a weird flower. I didn’t realize this till he and I and Louanne and Hinkle left the house for a brief spin in the Hudson, when for the first time we were alone could talk about anything we wanted. Neal grabbed the wheel, shifted to second, mused a minute rolling, suddenly seemed to decide something and shot the car full-jet down the road in a fury of decision. “Allright now Children,” he said rubbing his nose and bending down to feel the emergency and pulling cigarettes out of the compartment and swaying back and forth as he did these things and drove “the time

Sunday, 14 September 2008

13 September 2008

Al cajoled and pleaded; she wouldn’t go unless he married her. In a whirlwind few days Al Hinkle married Helen, with Neal rushing around to get the necessary papers, and a few days before Christmas they rolled out of San Francisco at seventy miles per, headed for LA and the snowless southern road. In LA they picked up a sailor in a Travel Bureau and took him along for fifteen dollars worth of gas. He was bound for Indiana. They also picked up a woman with her idiot daughter, for four dollars gas fare to Arizona, and zoomed off. Neal sat the idiot girl with him up front and dug her, as he said “All the way man! such a gone sweet little soul. Oh we talked , we talked, we talked of fires and the desert turning to a paradise and her parrot that swore in Spanish.” Dropping off these passengers they proceeded to Tucson. All along the way Helen Hinkle, Al’s new wife, kept complaining that she was tired and wanted to sleep in a motel. If this kept up they’d spend all her money long before North Carolina. Two nights she forced a stop and blew tens on motels! By the time they got to Tucson she was broke. Neal and Al gave the slip in a hotel lobby and resumed the voyage alone, with the sailor, and without a qualm. Al Hinkle was a tall unthinking fellow who was completely ready to do anything Neal asked him; and at this time Neal was too busy for scruples. He was roaring through Las Cruces New Mexico when he suddenly had an explosive yen to see his sweet firstwife Louanne again. She was up in Denver. He swung the car North, against the feeble protests of the sailor, and zoomed into Denver in the evening. He ran and found Louanne in a hotel. They had ten hours of wild lovemaking. Everything was decided again; they were going to stick. Louanne was the only girl Neal ever really loved. He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad. To soothe the sailor Neal fixed him up with a girl in a hotel room over the bar where the old poolhall gang always drank, at Glenarm and 14th. But the sailor refused the girl and in fact walked off in the night and they never saw him again; he evidently took a bus to Indiana. Neal,

12 September 2008

on the Southern Pacific railroad making four hundred dollars a month.” There was utter confusion in the following hour. In the first place, my Southern relatives had no idea what was going on, or who, or what Neal, Louanne and Al Hinkle were; they dumbly stared. My mother and my sister went in to the kitchen to consult. There were, in all, eleven people in the little southern house. Not only that but my sister had just decided to move from that house and half her furniture was gone; she and her husband and baby were coming to Ozone Park to live with us in the little apartment. When Neal heard this he at once offered his services with the Hudson. He and I would carry furniture to New York in two fast trips and bring my mother back the tail end of the second trip. This was going to save us a lot of money. It was agreed upon. My sister made a spread and the three battered travelers sat down to eat. Louanne had not slept since Denver; I thought she looked older and more beautiful now. Let me describe everything that had happened and why Louanne was with Neal. He had lived happily with Carolyn in San Francisco ever since that Fall in 1947; he got a job on the railroad and made a lot of money. He became the father of a cute little girl, Cathy Jo Ann Cassady. Then suddenly he blew his top and while walking down the street one day he saw a ’49 Hudson for sale and rushed to the bank for his entire roll. He bought the car on the spot. Al Hinkle was with him. Now they were broke. Neal calmed Carolyn’s fears and told her he’d be back in a month. “I’m going to New York and bring Jack back.” She wasn’t too pleased at this prospect. “But what is the purpose of all this? Why are you doing this to me?” “It’s nothing, it’s nothing darling---ah---hem---Jack has pleaded and begged with me to come and get him, it is absolutely necessary for me to---but we won’t go into all these explanations---and I’ll tell you why…no listen, I’ll tell you why.” And he told her why, and of course it made no sense. Big tall Al Hinkle also worked on the railroad with Neal. They had just been laid off during a strike. Al had just met a girl called Helen who was living in San Francisco on her savings. These two mindless cads decided to bring the girl along to the East and have her foot the bill.

11 September 2008

spent afternoons talking to my mother as she worked on a great ragrug wove of all the clothes in my family for years, which was now finished and spread on my bedroom floor as complex and as rich as the passage of time itself; and then left, two days before I arrived, crossing my path probably somewhere in Pennsylvania or Ohio, to go to San Francisco---of all places in this world---and hunt my missing footsteps there. He had his own life there; Carolyn had just gotten an apartment. It had never occurred to me to look her up while I was in Marin City. Now it was too late and I had also missed Neal. I never dreamed that first night at home I would see Neal again and that it would start all over again, the road, the whirlwind road, more than I ever in my wildest imaginings foresaw. BOOK TWO: It was a year and a half before I saw Neal again. I stayed home all that time, finished my book and began going to school on the G.I. Bill of Rights. At Christmas 1948 my mother and I went down to visit my sister in the South laden with presents. I had been writing to Neal and he said he was coming East again; and I told him if so he would find me in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, between Xmas and New Year. One day when all our Southern relatives were sitting around the parlor in Rocky Mount, gaunt men and women with the old southern soil in their eyes talking in low whining voices about the weather, the crops and the general weary recapitulation of who had a baby, who got a new house and so on, a mud-spattered ’49 Hudson drew up in front of the house on the dirt road. I had no idea who it was. A weary young fellow, muscular and ragged in a T-shirt, unshaven, red-eyed came to the porch and rang the bell. I opened the door and suddenly realized it was Neal. He had come all the way from San Francisco to my sister’s door in North Carolina, and in an amazingly short time because I had just written my last letter telling where I was. In the car I could see two figures sleeping. “I’ll be Gawd-damned! Neal! Who’s in the car?” “Hel-lo, hel-lo man, it’s Louanne. And Al Hinkle. We gotta have a place to wash up immediately, we’re dogtired.” “But how did you get here so fast.” “Ah man, that Hudson goes!” “Where did you get it?” “I bought it with my savings. I’ve been working as a brakeman

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

10 September 2008

of life. But the madman drove me home to New York. Suddenly I found myself on Times Square. I had traveled eight thousand miles around the American continent and I was back on Times Square; and right in the middle of a rush hour too, making me see with my innocent road eyes the absolute madness and fantastic hoorair of New York with its millions and millions hustling forever for a buck among themselves…grabbing, taking, giving, sighing, dying, just so they could be buried in those awful cemetery cities beyond Long Island City. The high towers of the land…the other end of the land…the place where Paper America is born. I stood in a subway doorway trying to get up enough nerve to pick up a beautiful long butt and everytime I stooped great crowds rushed by and obliterated it from my sight and finally it was crushed. I had no money to go home in the subway. Ozone Park is fifteen miles from Times Square. Can you picture me walking those last fifteen miles through Manhattan and Brooklyn? It was dusk. Where was Hunkey? I dug the Square for Hunkey; he wasn’t there, he was in Riker’s Island behind bars. Where Neal?- -where Bill? where everybody? Where life? I had my home to go to, my place to lay my head down and recoup the losses I had suffered, and figure the gain that I knew was in there somewhere too. I had to panhandle a dime for the subway. I finally hit a Greek minister who was standing around the corner. He gave me the dime with a nervous lookaway. I rushed immediately to the subway. When I got home I ate everything in the ice box. My mother got up and looked at me. “Poor little John” she said in French “you’re thin, you’re thin. Where have you been all this time?” I had on two shirts and two sweaters; my canvas bag had torn cottonfield pants and the tattered remnants of my huarache shoes in it. My mother and I decided to buy a new refrigerator with the money I had sent her from California; it was to be the first one in the family. She went to bed and late at night I couldn’t sleep and just smoked in bed. My half-finished manuscript was on the desk. It was October, home, and work again. The first cold winds rattled the windowpane and I had made it just in time. Neal had come to my house, slept several nights there waiting for me;

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

09 September 2008

blacktar roads that curve among the mournful rivers like Susquehanna, Monongahela, old Potomac and Monocacy. This experience thoroughly shattered me; that night in Harrisburg bore me the punishment of the damned, and ever since. I had to sleep in the railroad station on a bench; at dawn the ticketmasters threw me out. Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under his father’s roof, then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life. I stumbled haggardly out of the station; I had no more control. All I could see of the morning was a whiteness like the whiteness of the tomb. I was starving to death. All I had left in the form of calories were the last of the coughdrops I’d bought in Preston Nebraska months ago; these I sucked for their sugar. I didn’t know how to panhandle. I stumbled out of town with barely enough strength to reach the city limits. I knew I’d be arrested if I spent another night in Harrisburg. Cursed city! Bad morning! Where were the mornings of my boyhood vision? What’s a man going to do? Life is one irony after another, because the ride I then proceeded to get was the ride of a skinny haggard man who believed in controlled starvation for the sake of health. When I told him I was starving to death as we rolled east he said “Fine, fine, there’s nothing better for you. I myself haven’t eaten for three days. I’m going to live to be one hundred and fifty years old.” He was a ghost---a bag of bones---a floppy doll---a broken stick---a maniac. I could have gotten a ride with an affluent fat man who’d say “Let’s stop at this restaurant and have some porkchops and beans.” No, I had to get a ride that morning with a maniac who believed in controlled starvation for the sake of health. Somewhere in New Jersey he grew lenient and took out bread and butter sandwiches from the back of the car. They were hidden among his salesman samples. He was selling plumbing fixtures around Pennsylvania. I devoured the bread and butter. Suddenly I began to laugh. I was all alone in the car waiting for him as he made business calls in Allentown, N.J., and I laughed and laughed. Gad, I was sick and tired

Monday, 8 September 2008

08 September 2008

ericksburg Virginia. He walked right in the road in the teeth of advancing traffic and almost got hit several times. I plodded along in the ditch. Any minute I expected the poor little madman to go flying in the night dead. We never found that bridge. I left him at a railroad underpass and in the dark because I was so sweaty from the hike I changed shirts and put on two sweaters; a roadhouse illuminated my sad endeavors. A whole family came walking down the dark road and wondered what I was doing. Strangest thing of all a tenorman was blowing very fine blues in this Pennsylvania hick house; I listened and moaned. It began to rain harder. A man gave me a ride back to Harrisburg and told me I was on the wrong road. I suddenly saw the little man standing under a street lamp with his thumb stuck out---poor forlorn man, poor lost sometimes-boy now broken ghost of the penniless wilds. I told my driver the story and he stopped to tell the old man. “Look here fella, you’re on your way West not East.” “Heh?” said the little ghost. “Can’t tell me I don’t know my way around here. Been walking this country for years. I’m heading for Canady.” “But this ain’t the road to Canada, this is the road to Pittsburgh and Chicago.” The little man got disgusted with us and walked off. The last I saw of him was his bobbing little white bag dissolving in the darkness of the mournful Alleghenies. “Hey” I yelled. Was muttering to himself. He had no use for quitters like me. “I’m going right…straight…into..her!” he said about Canada; said he was going to ride a freight up there. “Lehigh Valley, Lackawanna, Erie, I ride ’em all.” I thought all the wilderness of America was in the West till the ghost of Susquehanna showed me different. No, there is a wilderness in the East, it’s the same Wilderness Ben Franklin plodded in the oxcart days when he was postmaster, when George Washington was a wildbuck Indian fighter, when Daniel Boone told stories by Pennsylvania lamps and promised to find the gap; when Bradford built his road and men whooped her up in log cabins. There were no great Arizona spaces for the little man, just the bushy wilderness of Eastern Pennsylvannia, Maryland and Virginia, the backrounds, the

Sunday, 7 September 2008

07 September 2008

Pittsburgh. I was wearier than I’d been for years and years. I had three hundred and sixty five miles yet to hitch hike to New York and a dime in my pocket. I walked five miles to get out of Pittsburgh and two rides, an apple truck and a big trailer truck, took me to Harrisburg in the soft Indian Summer rainy night. I cut right along. I wanted to get home. It was the night of the Ghost of the Susquehanna. I’d never dreamed I’d get so hung up. In the first place I didn’t know it but I was walking back to Pittsburgh on an older highway. Neither did the Ghost. The Ghost was a shriveled, little old man with a paper satchel who claimed he was heading for “Canady.” He walked very fast, commanding me to follow, and said there was a bridge up ahead we could cross. He was about sixty years old; talked incessantly of the meals he had, how much butter they gave him for pancakes, how many extra slices of bread, how the old men had called him from a porch of a charity home in Maryland and invited him to stay for the weekend, how he took a nice warm bath before he left; how he found a brand new hat by the side of the road in Virginia and that was it on its head; how he hit every Red Cross in town and showed them his veteran World War 1 credentials; how they treated him; how the Harrisburg Red Cross was not worthy of the name; how he managed in this hard world and sometimes sold neckties. But as far as I could see he was just a semi-respectable walking hobo of some kind who covered the entire Eastern Wilderness on foot hitting Red Cross offices and sometimes bumming on Main Street corners for a dime. We were bums together. We walked seven miles along the mournful Susquehanna. It is a terrifying river. It has bushy cliffs on both sides that lean like hairy ghosts over the unknown waters. Inky nights cover all. Sometimes from the railyards across the river rises a great red locomotive flare that illuminates the horrid cliffs. It was drizzling too. The little man said he had a fine belt in his satchel and we stopped for him to fish it out. “I got me a fine belt here somewheres---got it in Frederick Maryland. Damn, now did I leave that thing on the counter at Fredericksburg? “You mean Frederick.” “No, no Fredericksburg Virginia!” He was always talking about Frederick Maryland and Fred-

Saturday, 6 September 2008

06 September 2008

dry stretches leading to Mexican mountains in the south. Then we swung north to the Arizona mountains, Flagstaff, Clifftown. I had a book with me I stole from a Hollywood stall, “Le Grand Meulnes” of Alain-Fournier, but I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise and stretch in it mystified my longing. In inky night we crossed New Mexico immersed; at gray dawn it was Dalhart Texas; in the bleak Sunday afternoon we rode through one Oklahoma flat-town after another; at nightfall it was Kansas. The bus roared on. I was going home in October. In Wichita I got off the bus to hit the head. There was a young man in a loud Kansas herringbone suit saying so long to his Minister father. A minute later I saw an eye watching me from a hole in the johnbooth as I sat. A note was slipped through. “I offer you anything on this side if you will put it through.” I caught a glimpse of a loud Kansas herringbone suit through the hole. “No thanks” I said through the hole. What a sad Sunday night for the Kansas minister’s son; what Witchita doldrums. In a small Kansa town a clerk said to me “There’s nothing to do around here.” I looked down the end of the street at the infinite spaces beyond the last tumbleshack. We arrived in St.Louis at noon. I took a walk down by the Mississippi River and watched the logs that came floating from Montana in the North---grand odyssiac logs of our continental dream. Old steamboats with their scrollwork more so scrolled and withered by weathers sat in the mud inhabited by rats. Great clouds of afternoon overtopped the Mississippi Valley. The bus roared through Indiana cornfields that night; the moon illuminated the ghostly gathered husks; it was almost Halloween. I made the acquaintance of a girl and we necked all the way to Indianapolis. She was near sighted. When we got off to eat I had to lead her by the hand to the lunch counter. She bought my meals, my sandwiches were all gone; in exchange I told her long stories. She was coming from Washington State where she spent the summer picking apples. Her home was in an upstate New York Farm. She invited me to come there. We made a date to meet at a New York hotel anyway. She got off at Columbus Ohio and I slept all the way to

Friday, 5 September 2008

05 September 2008

Hollywood alone. First I bought a loaf of bread and salami and made myself ten sandwiches to cross the country with. I had a dollar left. I sat on the low cement wall in back of a Hollywood parking lot and made the sandwiches using a piece of flat wood I found on the ground and cleaned to spread the mustard. As I laboured at this absurd task great Kleig lights of a Hollywood premiere stabbed in the sky, that humming West Coast sky. All around me were the noises of the crazy gold coast city. And this was my Hollywood career- -this was my last night in Hollywood and I was spreading mustard on my lap in back of a parkinglot john. I forgot to mention that I didn’t have enough money for a bus ticket all the way to New York, only Pittsburgh. I figured to worry about that when I got to Pittsburgh. My sandwiches under one arm and canvas bag in the other I strolled around Hollywood a few hours. Whole families that had driven from the country in old jalopies went put-put-put across Sunset and vine with their eager faces searching everywhere for movie stars. All they saw was other families in other jaloppies doing the same thing. They came from Okie flats outside Bakersfield, San Diego, Fresno and San Berdoo; they read movie magazines; the little boys wanted to see Hopalong Cassidy conducting his great white horse across the traffic; the little girls wanted to see Lana Turner in a deep embrace with Robt. Taylor in front of Whelan’s; the mothers wanted to see Walter Pidgeon in tophat and tails bowing at them from the curb; the fathers---gaunt crazy jaloppy Americans---scented money in the air. They were ready to sell their daughters to the highest bidder. On the sidewalk characters swarmed. Everybody was looking at everybody else. It was the end of the continent, no more land. Somebody had tipped the American continent like a pinball machine and all the goofballs had come rolling to LA in the southwest corner. I cried for all of us. There was no end to the American sadness and the American madness. Someday we’ll all start laughing and roll on the ground when we realize how funny it’s been. Until then there is a lugubrious seriousness I love in all of this. At dawn my bus was zooming across the American desert---Indio, Blythe, Salome (where she danced); the great

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

04 September 2008

went straight to Vicki with an ounce of tea that she bought at once. They were broke. Neal drove Bill all around metropolitan New York in search of an apartment. Hunkey disappeared on Times Square and was finally arrested for carrying weed and given a stretch on Riker’s Island. The evening that Bill Burroughs finally found an apartment was the California afternoon that I left Selma. I was eager to find them and join them. I walked along the tracks in the long sad October light of the valley hoping for an SP freight to come along so I could join the grape-eating hoboes and read the funnies with them. It didn’t come. I got out on the highway and hitched a ride at once. It was the fastest whoopingest ride of my life. The driver was a fiddler for a famous California cowboy band. He had a brand new car and drove eighty mile an hour. “I don’t drink when I drive” he said and handed me a pint. I took a drink and offered him one. “What the hail” he said and drank. We made Selma to LA in the amazing time of four hours flat---about 250 miles. The valley unreeled before my eyes again. I had vibrated up and down the Hudson valley and now I was vibrating up and down the San Joaquin Valley on the other side of the world. It was strange. “Whoopee!” yelled the fiddler. “Say now lookee here, my bandleader had to fly to Oklahoma for his father’s funeral this morning and I got to lead the band tonight and we’re on the air for a half hour. Do you reckon I can get some Benzedrine someplace. I ain’t never said a word over the air.” I told him to buy an inhaler in any drugstore. He got drunk. “You reckon you could do the announcing for me. I’ll lend you a suit. You seem to talk a mite good English. What you say?” I was all for it---all the way from rickety Mexican trucks to announcing a radio show in 24 hours. Why else should I live? But he forgot about it and that was all right with me too. I asked him if he ever heard Dizzy Gillespie play trumpet. He slapped his thigh. “That cat is PLUMB frantic!” We dropped off Grapevine Pass. “Sunset Boulevard, ha-haaa!” he howled. He dropped me off right in front of Columbia Pictures studio in Hollywood; I was just in time to run in and pick up my rejected original. Then I bought my bus ticket to New York. The bus leaving at ten I had four hours to dig

03 September 2008

a witch.” Alistair was a gloomy farmer neighbour who sat on his fence all day. “The trouble with the world is,” he said, “there’s just too many J-e-e-e-e-e-ews” with his long beaked nose sniffing the air. He had a divining rod and walked around with it. When it tipped from his palm he claimed there was water below. “How does that divining rod work?” asked Bill. “It ain’t IT so much as me” said Alistair. He came over one day; just as he arrived it started to thunder. “Well I guess I brought the rain with me” he said gloomily. The gang sat around playing Billy Holliday records in the Texas bayou night. Hunkey predicted the end of the world would start in Texas. “There’s just too many chemical plants and chain gangs around here, I can feel it in the air, it’s all sinister.” Joan agreed. “The chain reaction will start here.” They talked about the Texas City explosion which they’d all heard one afternoon. All their heads nodded in confirmation of this apocalyptic event. “It won’t be long” said Joan. Bill snuffed down his nose and kept his secrets to himself. Hunkey---little dark Hunkey with the Oriental face---went out at night and picked rotten sticks in the bayou. There were fascinating varieties of disintergration to be found. He discovered new kinds of worms. Finally he said he began to find them in his skin. He spent hours at the mirror picking them out. Then the time came for all of them to move to New York. Bill suddenly got bored with the bayou. He had an income of fifty dollars a week from his family, he always had a big roll in his pocket. He sent Joan and the baby girl by train and he and Hunkey and Neal would drive up by jeep. Allen entered into a gloomy period which he called the “Bayou Doldrums.” Neal was tired of the terrible strain of talking and talking with Allen all the time; they began to wrangle. Allen went down to the Houston waterfront and suddenly found himself in the union hall signing on a ship for Dakar, West Africa. Two days later he shipped out. He returned to New York two months later wearing a bushy beard and the “Dakar Doldrums” under his arm. Neal drove Bill and Hunkey and a few household things in the jeep to New York. He didn’t stop once---Texas, Loisiana, Alabama, So. Carolina, No. Carolina, Virginia and on up. They arrived in Manhattan at dawn and

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

02 September 2008

around the house rubbing his hands together eagerly. When everybody got up and dressed Bill’s day was finished, all his energy had run out, the orgones had slipped out of the million orifices in his weaseled flanks and withered arms where he plied the morphine needle. Joan tried to find him. He was hiding in his room taking the first fix of the morning. He came out glassy-eyed and calm. Neal did all the driving; from the moment he met Bill he was his chauffeur. They had a jeep. They drove to crossroads stores and bought groceries and Benzedrine inhalers. Hunkey came along with them hoping they’d go as far as Houston so he could slip into the streets and mingle with the characters. He was tired of wearing a straw hat and carrying buckets of water for Joan. There’s a photo of him raking the marijuana garden with his immense strawhat; he looks like a coolie; the shack is in the background with washbuckets on the porch and little Julie shading her eyes to watch. There’s another photo of Joan simpering over a cookpot; her hair is long and unkempt; she’s high on benny and God knows what she’s saying as the camera is snapped… “Don’t point that nasty old thing at me.” Neal wrote me long letters on a crate telling me everything. He sat at Bill’s feet in the front room. Bill snuffed down his nose and told long stories. When the sun turned red Bill always whipped out a stick of homegrown tea for the general appetite. Everybody blasted as they ran hither and yon in the shack at various chores. Then Joan cooked a lovely supper. They sat over the remains---beady-eyed Allen brooding and saying “Hmm” in the big Texas night; eager Neal yelling “Yes! Yes!” to everything everybody said, sulky Hunkey in his purple pants fishing around old drawers for a roach, weary Joan turning her face away, and Bill---Uncle Bill they called him---sitting with his long legs crossed and fingering his shotgun. He suddenly leaped up and let go a doublebarrel blast out of the open window. A spavined old runaway horse ran across his line of fire. The buckshot ripped through a rotted Bayou trunk. “My Gawd!” cried Bill “I’ve shot a horse!” They all ran out; the horse was galloping into the swamps. “You mean that wormy old nasty old thing” scoffed Joan. “That’s not a horse.” “What is it if it ain’t a horse.” “Alistair says it’s

Monday, 1 September 2008

01 September 2008

swore and sat on the steps to wait. The ticketmaster got back and invited me in. The money was in, my mother had saved my lazy ass again. “Who’s going to win the World Series next year?” said the gaunt old ticketmaster. I suddenly realized it was Fall and that I was going back to New York. A great joy piled up to the top of me. I told him it would be Braves and Red Sox; it turned out to be Braves and Indians, World Series 1948. But now it was 1947, year of grace. In the great sere October I was leaving the San Joaquin valley; and in that moment things were happening in Texas that I must tell about now, to give richness to the circumstances that made Neal and I crisscross and miss each other in the land that Fall. Neal and Allen lived in Bill Burroughs’ bayou shack for a month. They slept on a cot, so did Hunkey; Bill and Joan had a bedroom with the baby girl Julie. The days were all the same: Bill got up first, went puttering in the yard where he was growing a marijuana garden and where he was constructing a Reichian orgone accumulator. This is an ordinary box big enough for a man to sit inside on a chair: a layer of wood a layer of metal and another layer of wood gathers in orgones from the atmosphere and holds captive long enough for the human body to absorb more than a usual share. According to Reich orgones are atmospheric vibratory atoms of the life-principle. People get cancer because they run out of orgones. Bil thought his orgone accumulator would be improved if the wood he used was as organic as possible: so he tied bushy bayou leaves and twigs to his mystical outhouse. It stood there in the hot flat yard, an exfoliate machine clustered and bedecked with maniacal contrivances. Bill slipped off his clothes and went in to sit and moon over his navel. He came out roaring for breakfast and sex. His long gaunt body struggled back to the shack, his shriveled and vulturous neck barely supporting the bony skull in which was stored all the accumulated knowledge of thirty-five years of crazy life. More of him later. “Joan” he said “you got breakfast ready? If you haven’t I’ll go catch me a catfish. Neal! Allen! You’re sleeping your lives away---young men like you. Get up, we got to drive to McAllen and get some groceries.” For about fifteen minutes he glowed and bustled