Friday, 31 October 2008

31 October 2008

morning in an alley. Louanne would inherit the dance hall and become a madame and a power in the town. I would disappear to Montana never to be heard from again. At the last minute we threw in Lucien Carr---he would disappear from Pecos City and come back years later darkened by African suns with an African Queen for a wife and ten black children and a fortune in gold. Bill Burroughs would go mad one day and start shooting at the whole town from his window; they’d set the torch to his old house and everything would burn and Pecos City would be a charred ruins and a ghost town in the orange rocks. We looked around for a likely site. The sun was going down. I fell asleep dreaming the legend. Neal and Louanne parked the car near Van Horn and made love while I slept. I woke up just as we were rolling down the tremendous Rio Grande Valley through Clint and Ysleta to El Paso. Louanne jumped to the back seat, I jumped to the front seat, and we rolled along. To our left across the vast Rio Grande spaces were the Moorish reddish mounts of the Mexican border; soft dusk played on the peaks; beyond lay adobe houses, blue nights, shawls and guitar music---and mysteries, and the future of Neal and myself. Straight ahead lay the distant lights of El Paso sown in a tremendous valley so big that you could see several railroads puffing at the same time in every direction, as though it was the valley of the world. We descended into it. “Clint Texas!” said Neal. He had the radio on to the Clint station. Every fifteen minutes they played a record; the rest of the time it was all commercials about a correspondence high school course. “This program is beamed all over the West” cried Neal excitedly. “Man I used to listen to it day and night in reform school and prison. All of us used to write in. You get a high school diploma by mail, facsimile thereof, if you pass the test. All the young wranglers in the West I don’t care who at one time or another write in for this; it’s all they hear, you tune the radio in Sterling Colorado, Lusk Wyoming, I don’t care where, you get Clint Texas, Clint Texas. And the music is always cowboy hillbilly and Mexican, absolutely the worst program in the entire country and nobody can do anything about it. They have a tremendous beam, they’ve got the land hogtied.” We saw

Thursday, 30 October 2008

30 October 2008

Louanne took out coldcream and applied to us for kicks. Every now and then a big truck zoomed by: the driver in high cab caught a glimpse of a golden beauty sitting naked with two naked men: you could see them swerve a moment as they vanished out the rear window. Great sage plains, snowless now, rolled on. Soon we were in the orange-rocked Pecos canyon country. Blue distances opened up in the sky. We got out of the car to examine an old Indian ruin. Neal did so stark naked. Louanne and I put on our overcoats. We wandered among the old stones hooting and howling. Certain tourists caught sight of Neal naked in the plain but they could not believe their eyes and wobbled on. In the middle of the Pecos country we all began talking about what we would be if we were Old West characters. “Neal, you’d be an outlaw for sure” I said “but one of those crazy-kick-outlaws galloping across the plains and shooting up saloons.” “Louanne would be the dancing hall beauty. Bill Burroughs would live at end of town, a retired Confederate colonel, in a big house with all the shutters drawn and come out only once a year with his shotgun to meet his connection in a Chinese Alley. Al Hinkle would play cards all day and tell stories in a chair. Hunkey would live with the Chinamen; you’d see him cut under a streetlamp with an opium pipe and a queue.” “What about me?” I said. “You’d be the son of the local newspaper publisher. Every now and then you’d go mad and ride with the wildbuck gang for kicks. Allen Ginsberg---he’d be a scissors sharpener coming down from the mountains once a year with his wagon and he’d be predicting fires and fellows in from the border would make him dance with hotfoot bullets. Joan Adams…she’d live in the shuttered house, she’d be the only real lady in town but nobody’d ever see her.” We went on and on, scouring our rogues’ gallery. In later years Allen would come down from the mountain bearded and wouldn’t have scissors any more, just songs of catastrophe; and Burroughs would no longer come out of his house once a year; and Louanne would shoot old Neal as he staggered drunk from his shack; and Al Hinkle would outlive us all telling stories to youngsters in front of the Silver Dollar. Hunkey would be found dead one cold winter

29 October 2008

was the worst winter in Texas and Western history, January 1949, when cattle perished like flies in great blizzards and snow fell on San Francisco and LA. We were all miserable. We wished we were back in New Orleans with Al Hinkle who at that very moment was sitting on Mississippi levees talking to old men with white hair instead of looking for an apartment and a job, typical of him. Louanne was driving, Neal was sleeping. She drove with one hand on the wheel, and the other reaching back to me in the backseat. She cooed promises about San Francisco. I slavered miserably over it. At ten I took the wheel---Neal was out for hours---and drove several hundred dreary miles across the bushy snows and ragged sage hills. Cowboys went by in baseball caps and earmuffs, looking for cows. Comfortable little homes with chimneys smoking appeared along the road at intervals. I wished we could go in for buttermilk and beans in front of the fireplace. At Sonora I again helped myself to free bread and cheese while the proprietor chatted with a big rancher on the other side of the store. Neal Huzzahed when he heard it; he was hungry. We couldn’t spend a cent on food. “Yass, yass,” said Neal watching the ranchers loping up and down Sonora mainstreet, “everyone of them is a bloody millionaire, thousand head of cattle, workhands, buildings, money in the bank. If I lived around here I’d go be an idiot in the sagebrush, I’d jack off, I’d lick up the branches, I’d look for pretty cowgirls---hee hee hee hee! Damn! Bam!” He socked himself. “Yes! Right! Oh me!” We didn’t know what he was talking about any more. He took the wheel and drove the rest of the way across the state of Texas, about five hundred miles, clear to El Paso, arriving at dusk and not stopping except once when he took all his clothes off, near Ozona, and ran like a jackal through the sage yipping and leaping. Cars zoomed by and didn’t see him. He scurried back to the car and drove on. “Now Jack, now Louanne, I want both of you to take all your clothes off---now what’s the sense of clothes---and sun your bellies with me. Come on!” We were driving west into the sun; it fell in through the windshield. “Open your belly as we drive into it.” Louanne took her clothes off: I decided not to be a fuddy and did likewise. We sat in the front seat.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

28 October 2009

I do?” They were both asleep. I turned and crawled back through town. There wasn’t a soul in sight and not a single light. Suddenly a horseman in a raincoat appeared in my headlamps. It was the sheriff. He had a ten-gallon hat drooping in the torrent. “Which way to Austin?” He told me politely and I started off. Outside town I suddenly saw two headlamps flaring directly at me in the lashing rain. Woops, I thought I was on the wrong side of the road; I eased right and found myself rolling in the mud; I rolled back to the road. Still the headlamps came straight for me. At the last minute I realized the other driver was on the wrong side of the road and didn’t know it. I swerved at thirty into the mud; it was flat, no ditch, thank God. The offending car backed up in the downpour. Four sullen field workers snuck from their chores to brawl in drinking shacks, all white shirts and dirty brown arms, sat looking at me dumbly in the night. The driver was as drunk as the lot. He said “Which way t’Houston.” I pointed my thumb back. I was thunderstruck in the middle of the thought that they had done this on person just to ask directions, as a panhandler advances on you straight up the sidewalk to bar your way. They gazed ruefully at the floor of their car where empty bottles rolled and clanked away. I started the car; it was stuck in the mud a foot deep. I sighed in the Texas rainy wilderness. “Neal” I said “wake up.” “What?” “We’re stuck in the mud.” “What happened?” I told him. He swore up and down. We put on old shoes and sweaters and barged out of the car into the driving rain. I put my back on the rear fender and lifted and heaved; Neal stuck chains under the swishing wheels. In a minute we were bespotted with mud. We woke up Louanne to these horrors and made her gun the car while we pushed. The tormented Hudson heaved and heaved. We were in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly it jolted out and went skidding across the road. There weren’t any cars for miles. Louanne pulled it up just in time and we ran in. That was that---and the work had taken thirty minutes and we were soaked and miserable. I fell asleep all caked with mud; and in the morning when I woke up the mud was solidified and outside there was snow. We were near Fredericksburg Texas in the high plains. It

Monday, 27 October 2008

27 October 2008

Hunkey! I look for him everywhere I go and I never find him. He used to get us so hungup in Texas here. We’d drive in with Bill for groceries and Hunkey’d disappear. We’d have to go looking for him in every shooting gallery in town.” We were entering Houston. “We had to look for him in this niggertown most of the time. Man, he’d be blasting with every mad cat he could find. One night we lost him and took a hotel room. We were supposed to bring ice back to Joan because her food was rotting. It took us two days to find Hunkey. I got hungup myself---I gunned shopping women in the afternoon, right here, downtown, supermarkets”---we flashed by in the empty night---“and found a real gone dumb girl who was out of her mind and just wandering trying to steal an orange. She was from Wyoming. I took her back to the room. Bill was drunk. Allen was writing poetry. Hunkey didn’t show up till midnight, at the jeep. We found him sleeping in the backseat; he said he took about five sleeping pills. Man if my memory could only work the way my mind works I could tell you every detail of the things we did---Ah! But we know time. Everything takes care of itself. I could close my eyes and this car would take care of itself.” In the empty Houston streets of four o’clock in the morning a motorcycle kid suddenly roared through all bespangled and bedecked with glittering buttons, visor, slick black jacket, a Texas poet of the night, girl gripped on his back like a papoose, hair flying, onward-going, singing “Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas- -and sometimes Kansas City---and sometimes old Antone, ah-haaa!” They pinpointed out of sight. “Wow! Dig that gone gal on his belt! Yes!” Neal tried to catch up with them. “Now wouldn’t it be fine if we could all get together and have a real going goofbang together with everybody sweet and fine and agreeable no hassels…Ah! But we know time.” He bent to it and pushed the car. Beyond Houston his energies great as they were gave out and I drove. Rain began to fall just as I took the wheel. Now we were on the great Texas plain and as Neal said “You drive and drive and you’re still in Texas tomorrow night.” The rain lashed down. I drove through a rickety little cow-town with a muddy mainstreet and found myself in a dead end. “Hey, what do

Sunday, 26 October 2008

26 October 2008

food. He pointed the car straight down the road. Somewhere near Starks we saw a great red glow in the sky ahead; we wondered what it was; in a moment we were passing it. It was a fire beyond the trees, there were many cars parked on the highway. It must have been some kind of fishfry and on the other hand it might have been anything. The country turned strange and dark near Deweyville. Suddenly we were in the swamps. “Man do you imagine what it would be like if we found a jazzjoint in these swamps, with great big black fellas moanin’ guitar blues and drinking snakejuice and makin’ signs at us?” “Yes!” There were mysteries around here. The car was going over a dirt road elevated off the swamps that dropped on both sides and drooped with vines. We passed an apparition; it was a colored man in a white shirt walking along with his arms upspread to the inky firmament. He must have been praying or calling down a curse. We zoomed right by; I looked out the the back window to see his white eyes. “Whoo” said Neal. “Lookout. We better not stop in this here country.” At one point we got stuck at a crossroads and stopped the car anyway. Neal turned off the headlamps. We were surrounded by a great forest of viney trees in which we could almost hear the slither of a million copperheads. The only thing we could see was the red ampere button on the Hudson dashboard. Louanne squealed with fright. We began laughing maniac laughs to scare her. We were scared too. We wanted to get out of this mansion of the snake, this mireful drooping dark and zoom on back to familiar American ground and cowtowns. There was a smell of oil and dead water in the air. This was a manuscript of the night we couldn’t read. An owl hooted. We took a chance on one of the dirt roads and pretty soon we were crossing the evil old Sabine river that is responsible for all these swamps. With amazement we saw great structures of light ahead of us. “Texas! It’s Texas! Beaumont oiltown!” Huge oil tanks and refineries loomed like cities in the oily fragrant air. “I’m glad we got out of there” said Louanne. “Let’s play some more mystery programs now.” We zoomed through Beaumont, over the Trinity River at Liberty and straight for Houston. Now Neal got talking about his Houston days in 1947. “Hunkey! that mad

Saturday, 25 October 2008

25 October 2008

cares and I didn’t. We wheeled through the sultry old light of Algiers, back on the ferry, back toward the muddy-splashed crabb’d old ships across the river, back on Canal, and out; on a two-lane hiway to Baton Rouge in purple darkness; swung west there, cross’t the Mississippi at a place called Port Allen and tore across the state of Louisiana in a matter of three hours. Port Allen---Poor Allen---where the river’s all rain and roses in a misty pinpoint darkness and where we swung around a circular drive in yellow foglight and suddenly saw the great black body below a bridge and crossed eternity again. What is the Mississippi River?---a washed clod in the rainy night, a soft plopping from drooping Missouri banks, a dissolving, a riding of the tide down the eternal waterbed, a contribution to brown foams, a voyaging past endless vales and trees and levees, down along, down along, by Memphis, Greenville, Eudora, Vicksburg, Natchez, Port Allen, and Port Orleans and Point of Deltas, by Potash, Venice and the Night’s Great Gulf, and out. So the stars shine warm in the Gulf of Mexico at night. From the soft and thunderous Carib comes electricity, and from the Continental Divide where rain and rivers are decided come swirls, and the little raindrop that in Dakota fell and gathered mud and roses rises resurrected from the sea and flies on back to go and bloom again in waving mells of the Mississippi’s bed, and lives again. So we Americans together tend as rain to the All-River of Togetherness to the sea, and out, and we don’t know where. With the radio on to a mystery program, and as I looked out the window and saw a sign that said USE COOPER’S PAINT and I said “Okay I will” we rolled across the hoodwink night of the great Louisiana plains---Lawtell, Eunice, Kinder and DeQuincey, western rickety towns becoming more bayou-like as we reached the Sabine. In old Opelousas I went into a grocery store to buy bread and cheese while Neal saw to the gas and oil. It was just a shack; I could hear the family eating supper in the back. I waited a minute; they went on talking. I took bread and cheese and slipped out the door. We had barely enough money to make Frisco. Meanwhile Neal took a carton of cigarettes from the gas station and we were stocked for the voyage---gas, oil, cigarettes and

24 October 2008

a moving boxcar: the backfoot first to leave the other foot for jumping off the ground when you hit. They showed me the refrigerator boxes, “reefers,” good for a ride on any winter night. “Remember what I told you about New Mexico to LA?” cried Neal. “This was the way I hung on.” We got back to the girls later and of course they were mad. Al and Helen had decided to get a room in New Orleans and stay there and work. This was ok with Bill who was getting sick and tired of the whole mob. The invitation, originally, was for me to come alone. In the front room where Neal and Louanne slept there was jam and coffee stains and empty benny tubes all over the floor; what’s more it was Bill’s workroom and he couldn’t get on with his shelves. Poor Joan was driven to distraction by the continual jumping and runningaround on the part of Neal. We were waiting for my next GI check to come through, my mother was forwarding it. Then we were off, the three of us, Neal, Louanne, me. When the check came I realized I hated to leave Bull’s wonderful house so suddenly but Neal was all energies and ready to go. In a sad red dusk we were finally seated in the car and Joan, Julie, Willie, Bill, Al and Helen stood around in the high grass smiling. It was goodbye. At the last moment Neal and Bill had a misunderstanding over money: Neal had wanted to borrow: Bill said it was out of the question. The feeling reached back to Texas days. Con-man Neal was antagonizing people away from him by degrees. He giggled maniacally and didn’t care; he rubbed his balls, stuck his finger in Louanne’s dress, slurped up her knee, frothed at the mouth and said “Darling you know and I know that everything is straight between us at last beyond the furthest abstract definition in metaphysical terms or any terms you want to specify or sweetly impose or harken back”---and so on, and zoom went the car and we were off again for California. What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their speck’s dispersing?---it’s the too-huge world vaulting us in, and it’s goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. We had all kinds of trouble getting to Frisco, and once there I got stuck and had to “stagger back East” as Allen predicted, but who

Thursday, 23 October 2008

23 October 2008

but which will be very clear someday if scientists get on the ball. The bastards right now are only interested in seeing if they can blow up the world.” We told Joan about it. She snuffed. “It sounds silly to me.” She plied the broom around the kitchen. Bill went in the bathroom for his afternoon fix. Out on the road Neal and Al Hinkle were playing basketball with Julie’s ball and a bucket nailed on the lamppost. I joined in. Then we turned to feats of athletic prowess. Neal completely amazed me. He had Al and I hold a bar of iron up to our waists, and just standing there he popped right over it holding his heels. “Go ahead, raise it.” We kept raising it till it was chest-high. Still he jumped over it with ease. Then he tried the running broadjump and did at least 20 feet. Then I raced him down the road. I can do the hundred in 10:3. He passed me like the wind. As we ran I had a mad vision of Neal running through all of his life, his arms pumping, his brow sweating, his legs twinkling like Groucho Marx, yelling “Yes! Yes man, you sure can go!” But nobody could go as fast as him, and that’s the truth. Then Bill came out with a couple of knives and started showing us how to disarm a would-be shiver in a dark alley. I for my part showed him a very good trick, which is, falling on the ground in front of your adversary and gripping him with your ankles and flipping him over on his hands and grabbing his wrists in a full nelson. He said it was pretty good. He demonstrated jiu jitsu. Little Julie called her mother to the porch and said “Look at the silly men.” She was eight years old. She was such a cute sassy little thing Neal couldn’t take his eyes off her. “Wow. Wait till she grows up! Can you see her cuttin’ down Canal street with a hincty eye. Ah! Oh!” He hissed through his teeth. We spent a mad day in downtown New Orleans walking around with the Hinkles. Neal was out of his mind that day. When he saw the T&NO freight trains in the yard he wanted to show me everything at once. “You’ll be a brakeman ’fore I’m thru with you!” He and I and Al Hinkle ran across the tracks and hopped a freight; Louanne and Helen were waiting in the car. We rode the freight a halfmile into the piers waving at brakemen and firemen. They showed me the proper way to jump off

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

22 October 2008

around with Racing Forms. Bill and I had a beer, and casually Bill went over to the slot machine and threw a half-dollar piece in. The counter clicked “Jackpot”—“Jackpot”—Jackpot”---and the last Jackpot hung for just a moment and slipped off to “Cherry.” He had lost a hundred dollars or more just by a cunthair. “Damn!” yelled Bill. “They got these things adjusted. You could see it right then. I had the jackpot and the mechanism clicked it back. Well, what you gonna do.” We examined the Racing Form. I hadn’t played the horses in years and was bemused with all the new names. There was one horse called “Bigh Pop” that sent me into a temporary trance thinking of my father, who used to play the horses with me. I was just about to mention it to Bill when he said “Well I think I’ll try this Ebony Corsair here.” Then I finally said it: “Big Pop reminds me of my father.” He mused for just a second, his clear blue eyes fixed on mine hypnotically so that I couldn’t tell what he was thinking or where he was. Then he went over and bet on Ebony Corsair. Big Pop won and paid 50 to 1. “Damn!” said Bill. “I should have known better, I’ve had experience with this before. Oh when will we ever learn?” “What do you mean?” “Big Pop is what I mean. You had a vision, boy, a VISION. Only damn fools pay no attention to visions. How do you know your father, who was an old horseplayer, just didn’t momentarily communicate to you that Big Pop was going to win the race. The name brought the feeling up in you. That’s what I was thinking about when you mentioned it. My cousin in Missouri once bet on a horse that had a name that reminded him of his mother and it won and paid a big price. The same thing happened this afternoon.” He shook his head. “Ah, let’s go. This is the last time I’ll ever play the horses with you around, all these visions drive me to distraction.” In the car as we drove back to his old house he said “Mankind will someday realize that we are actually in contact with the dead and with the other world whatever it is; right now we could predict, if only we exerted enough mental will, what is going to happen within the next hundred years and be able to take steps to avoid all kinds of catastrophes. When a man dies he undergoes a mutation in his brain that we know nothing about now

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

21 October 2008

table picking at his food and throwing the bones to the cats. He had seven cats. “I love cats. I especially like the ones that squeal when I hold ’em over the bath tub.” He insisted on demonstrating but someone was in the bathroom. “Well,” he said, “we can’t do that now. Say, I have been having a fight with the neighbors next door.” He told us about the neighbors; they were a vast crew with sassy children who threw stones over the rickety fence at Julie and Willie and sometimes at Bill. He told them to cut it out; the old man rushed out and yelled something in Portuguese. Bill went in the house and came back with his shotgun. We scoured the yard for things to do. There was a tremendous fence Bill had been working on to separate him from the obnoxious neighbors; it would never be finished, the task was too much. He rocked it back and forth to show us how solid it was. Suddenly he grew tired and quiet and went in the house and disappeared in the bathroom for his morning fix, or mid-morning, pre-lunch. He came out glassy-eyed and calm, and sat down under his burning lamp. The sunlight poked feebly behind the drawn shade. “Say, why don’t you fellows try my accumulator in the front room. Put some juice in your bones. I always rush up and take off ninety miles an hour for the nearest whore house, hor hor hor!” This was his “laugh” laugh---when he wasn’t really laughing. “Say Jack after lunch let’s you and me go play the horses over to the bookie joint in Graetna.” He was magnificent. He took a nap after lunch in his chair, the air gun on his lap, and little Willie curled around his neck sleeping. It was a pretty sight, father and son, a father that would certainly never bore his son when it came to finding things to do and talk about. He woke up with a start and stared at me. It took him a minute to recognize who I was. “What are you going to the Coast for Jack? he asked, and went back to sleep for a moment. In the afternoon we went to Graetna, just Bill and me. We drove in his old Chevvy. Neal’s Hudson was low and sleek; Bill’s Chevvy was high and rattly. It was just like 1910. The bookie joint was located near the waterfront in a big chromium-leather bar that opened up in the back to a tremendous hall where entries and numbers were posted on the wall. Louisiana characters lounged

Monday, 20 October 2008

20 October 2008

compressed his lips together and made it come out from his belly, from way faraway, and doubled up to lean on his knees. He laughed a long time. “Hey Joan!” he yelled gleefully. “I was just telling Neal and Jack about my aunt in the Casbah!” “I heard you” she said across the lovely warm Gulf morning from the kitchen door. Great beautiful clouds floated overhead, valley clouds that made you feel the vastness of old tumbledown holy America from mouth to mouth and tip to tip. Go on. Bill was all pep and juices. “Say, did I ever tell you about Kell’s father. He was the funniest old man you ever saw in your life. He had paresis which eats away the forepart of your brain and you get so’s you’re not responsible for anything that comes into your mind. He had a house in Texas and had carpenters working 24 hours a day putting on new wings. He’d leap up in the middle of the night and say ‘I don’t want that goddamn wing; put it over there.’ The carpenters had to take everything down and start all over again. Come dawn you’d see them hammering away at the new wing. Then the old man’d get bored with that and say ‘Goddamn it I wanta go to Maine!’ and he’d get into his car and drive off a hundred miles an hour---great showers of chicken feathers followed his track for hundreds of miles. He’d stop his car in the middle of a Texan town just to get out and buy some whiskey. Traffic would honk all around him and he’d come rushing out of the store yelling ‘Shet your goddamn noith you bunth of bathats!’ he lisped; when you have paresis you lips., I mean you lisps. One night he came to my house in St. Louis and tooted the horn and said ‘come on out and let’s go to Texas to see Kells.’ He was going back from Maine. He claimed he bought a house in Long Island overlooking a jewish cemetery ‘cause he liked to see s’many dead Jews. Oh, he was horrible. I could tell you stories about him all day. Say, ain’t this a nice day?” And it sure was. The softest breezes blew in from the levees; it was worth the whole trip. We rushed into the house after Bill to go and measure the wall for a shelf. He showed us the dining table he built. It was made of wood six inches thick. “This is a table that’ll last a thousand years! said Bill leaning his long thin face at us maniacally. He banged on it. In the evenings he sat at this

Sunday, 19 October 2008

19 October 2008

Especially Unions!” But dark laughter would come again. It was there in the morning when I got up bright and early and found Bill and Neal in the backyard. Neal was wearing his gas station coveralls and helping Bill. Bill had found a great piece of thick rotten wood and was desperately yanking at little nails inbedded in it with a hammerhook. We stared at the nails, there were millions of them, they were like worms. “When I get all these nails out of this I’m going to build me a shelf that’ll last a THOUSAND YEARS!” said Bill, every bone shuddering with senile excitement. “Why Jack, do you realize the shelves they build these days crack under the weight of a clock after six months or generally collapse, same with houses, same with clothes. These bastards have invented plastics by which they could make houses that last FOREVER. And tires. Americans are killing themselves by the millions every year with defective rubber tires that get on the road and blow up. They could make tires that never blow up. Same with tooth powder. There’s a certain gum they’ve invented and they won’t show it to anybody that if you chew it as a kid you’ll never get a cavity for the rest of your born days. Same with clothes. They can make clothes that last forever. They prefer making cheap goods so everybody’ll have to go on working and punching timeclocks and organizing themselves in sullen unions and floundering around while the big grab goes on in Washington and Moscow.” He raised his big piece of rotten wood. “Don’t you think this’ll make a splendid shelf.” It was early in the morning, his energy was at its peak. The poor fellow took so much junk in his system he could only weather the vast proportion of his day in that chair with the lamp burning at noon. But in the morning he was magnificent. We began throwing knives at the target. He said he’d seen an Arab in Tunis who could stick a man’s eye from forty feet. This got him going on his Aunt who went to the Casbah in the Thirties. “She was with a party of tourists led by a guide. She had a diamond ring on her little finger. She leaned on a wall to rest a minute and an Arab rushed up and sliced off her little finger ring and all before she could let out a cry. She suddenly realized she had no little finger. Hi-hi-hi-hi-hi!” When he laughed he

18 October 2008

in the night; the same Negroes plied the shovel and sang. Old Big Slim Hubbard had once worked on the Algiers as a ferry deckhand; this made me think of Mississippi Gene too; and as the river poured down from mid-America by starlight I knew, I knew like mad that everything I had ever known and would ever know was One. Strange to say, too, that night we crossed the ferry with Bill Burroughs a girl committed suicide off the deck; either just before or just after us; we saw it in the paper the next day. The girl was from Ohio; she might as well have come floating down to New Orleans on a log, and saved her soul. We hit all the dull bars in the Latin Quarter with Bill and went back home at midnight. That night Louanne took everything in the books: she took tea, goofballs, benny, liquor and even asked Bill for a shot of M, which of course he didn’t give her. She was so saturated with elements of all kinds that she came to a standstill and stood goofy on the porch with me. It was a wonderful porch Bill had. It ran clear around the house. By moonlight, with the willows, it looked like an old Southern mansion that had seen better days. In the house Joan sat reading the wantads in the kitchen; Bill was in the bathroom taking a fix, clutching his old black necktie in his teeth for a tourniquette and jabbing with the needle into his scrawny arm with the thousand holes; Al Hinkle was sprawled out with Helen in the massive master bed that Bill and Joan never used; Neal was rolling tea; and Louanne and I imitated Southern aristocracy. “Why Miss Lou, you look lovely and most fetching tonight.” “Why thank you, Crawford, I sure do appreciate the nice things you say.” Doors kept opening around the crooked porch and members of our sad drama in the American night kept popping out to find out where everybody was. Finally I took a walk alone to the Levee. I wanted to sit on the muddy bank and dig the Mississipi River; instead of that I had to look at it with my nose against a wire fence. When you start separating the people from their rivers what have you got? “Bureacracy!” says Bill; he sits with Kafka on his lap, the lamp burns above him, he snuffs. His old house creaks. And the Montana log rolls by in the big black river of the night. “T’aint nothing but bureaucracy. And Unions!

17 October 2008

bars are insufferably dull.” I said “There must be some ideal bars in town.” “The ideal bar doesn’t exist in America. An ideal bar is something that’s gone beyond our ken. In 1910 a bar was a place where men went to meet during or after work and all there was was a long counter, brass rails, spittoon, player piano for music, a few mirrors and barrels of whisky at ten cents a shot together with barrels of beer at five cents a mug. Now all you get is chromium, drunken women, fags, hostile bartenders, anxious owners who hover around the door worried about their leather seats and the law; just a lot of screaming at the wrong time and deadly silence when a stranger walks in.” We argued about bars. “All right,” he said, “I’ll take you to New Orleans tonight and show you what I mean.” And he deliberately took us to the dullest bars. We left Joan with the children; supper was over; she was also reading the want ads of the New Orleans Times Picayune. I asked her if she was looking for a job; she only said it was the most interesting part of the paper. You could see her point---a strange woman. Bill rode into town with us and went right on talking. “Take it easy Neal, we’ll get there, I hope; hup, there’s the ferry, you don’t have to drive us clear into the river.” He held on. Neal had gotten worse since Texas, he confided in me. “He seems to be headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psychopathic irresponsibility and violence.” He looked at Neal out of the corner of his eye. “If you go to California with this madman you’ll never make it. Why don’t you stay in New Orleans with me. We’ll play the horses over to Graetna and relax in my yard. I’ve got a nice set of knives and I’m building a target. Some pretty juicy dolls downtown too, if that’s in your line these days.” He snuffed. We were on the ferry and Neal had leaped out to lean over the rail. I followed, but Bill sat on in the car snuffing. There was a mystic wraith of fog over the brown waters that night, together with dark driftwoods; and across the way New Orleans glowed orange bright, with a few dark ships at her hem, ghostly fogbound Cereno ships with Spanish balconies and ornamental poops, till you got up close and saw they were just old freighters from Sweden and Panama. The ferry-fires glowed

Thursday, 16 October 2008

16 October 2008

anything about ourselves he whipped out three sticks of tea and said to go ahead, supper'd be ready soon. "Ain't nothing better in the world to give you an appetite. I once ate a horrible lunchcart hamburg on tea and it seemed like the most delicious thing in the world. I just got back from Houston last week, went to see Kells about our cotton. I was sleeping in a motel one morning when all of a sudden I was blasted out of bed. This damned guy had just shot his wife in the room next to mine. Everybody stood around confused and the guy just got in his car and drove off, left the shotgun on the floor for the sheriff. They finally caught him in Houma drunk as a Lord. Man ain't safe going around this country any more without a gun." He pulled back his coat and showed us the rest of his arsenal. In New York he once had a machinegun under his bed. "I got something better than that now...a german sheintoth gas gun, look at this beauty, only got one shell. I could knock out a hundred men with this gun and have plenty of time to make a getaway. One thing wrong I only got one shell." "I hope I'm not around when you try it" said Joan from the kitchen. "How do YOU know it's a gas shell." Bill snuffed; he never paid any attention to her sallies but he heard them. His relation with his wife was one of the strangest; they talked till late at night: Bill liked to hold the floor, he went right on in his dreary monotonous voice, she tried to break in, and never could; at dawn he got tired and then Joan talked and he listened snuffing down his nose. She loved that man madly, but in a mental delirious way of some kind; there was never any mooching and mincing around, just talk and after all a very deep companionship that none of us would ever be able to fathom. Something curiously unsympathetic and cold between them was really a form of humour by which they communicated their own set of subtle vibrations. Love is all; Joan was never more than ten feet away from Bill and never missed a word he said, and he spoke in a very low voice too. Neal and I were yelling about a big night in New Orleans and wanted Bill to show us around. he threw a damper on this. "New Orleans is a very dull town. It's against the law to go to the colored section. The

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

15 October 2008

they were experimenting with narco-analysis and found that Bill had seven separate personalities each growing worse and worse on the way down till finally he was a raving idiot and had to be restrained with chains. The top personality was an English Lord, the bottom the idiot. Halfway he was an old Negro who stood in line waiting with everyone else and said "Some's bastards, some's ain't, that's the score." Bill had a sentimental streak about the old days in America, especially 1910 when you could get morphine in a drugstore without prescription and Chinamen smoked opium in their evening windows and the country was wild and brawling and free with abundance and any kind of freedom for everyone. His chief hate was Washington bureaucracy; second to that, Liberals; also cops. He spent all his time talking and teaching others. Joan sat at his feet, so did I, so did Neal; and so had Allen Ginsberg. We'd all learned from him. He was a gray, nondescript looking fellow you wouldn't notice on the street, unless you looked closer and saw his mad bony skull with its strange youthfulness and fire---a Kansas minister with exotic phenomenal fires and mysteries. He had studied medicine in Vienna, known Freud too; had studied anthropology, read everything; and now he was settling to his life's work, which was the study of things themselves in the streets of life and the night. He sat in his chair; Joan brought drinks, martinis. The shades by his chair were always drawn, day and night; it was his corner of the house. On his lap were the Mayan codices and an air gun which he occasionally raised to pop benzedrine tubes across the room. I kept rushing around putting up new ones. We all took shots. Meanwhile we talked. Bill was curious to know the reason for this trip. He peered at us and snuffed down his nose. "Now Neal, I want you to sit quiet a minute and tell me what you're doing crossing the country like this." Neal could only blush and say "Ah well, you know how it is." "Jack, what are you going to the Coast for?" "Only for a few days, I'm coming back to school." "What's the score with this Al Hinkle, what kind of character is he?" At that moment Al was making up to Helen in the bedroom; it didn't take him long. We didn't know what to tell Bill about Al Hinkle. Seeing that we didn't know

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

14 October 2008

Newark. In Paris he sat at cafe tables watching the sullen French faces go by. In Athens he looked out of his hotel window at what he called the ugliest people in the world. In Istanbul he threaded his way through crowds of Opium addicts and rug sellers, looking for the facts. In English hotels he read Spengler and the Marquis de Sade. In Chicago he planned to hold up a Turkish bath, hesitated just two minutes too long for a drink, and wound up with two dollars and had to make a run for it. He did all these things merely for the experience. He was a dawdler of the oldfashioned European school somewhat along the lines of Stefan Sweig, the young Thomas Mann, and Ivan Karamazov. Now the final study was the drug habit. He was now in New Orleans slipping along the streets with shady characters and haunting connection bars. There is a strange story about his Harvard days that illustartes something else about him: he had friends for cocktails in his well-appointed rooms one afternoon when suddenly his pet ferret rushed out and bit someone on the ankle; and as everybody hightailed out the door, probably screaming, as he knew many fags in those days, and still does, Bill leaped up and grabbed his shotgun, said "he smells that old rat again" and shot a hole in the wall big enough to shove fifty rats through. On the wall hung a picture of an ugly old Cape Cod house. His friends said "Why do you have that ugly thing hanging there? and Bill said "I like it because it's ugly." All his life was in that line. Once I knocked on his door in the 60th slums in New York and he opened it wearing a derby hat, a vest with nothing else under, and long thin striped sharpster pants; in his hands he had a cookpot, birdseed in the pot, and was trying to mash the seed to roll a cigarette with. He also experimented boiling codeine cough syrup down to a black mash---that didn't work too well. He spent long hours with Shakespeare, the 'Immortal Bard" he called him, on his lap. In New Orleans he had begun to spend long hours with the Mayan Codices on his lap and although he went on talking the book lay open all the time. I was young and I said once "What's going to happen to us when we die?" and he said "When you die you're just dead, that's all." He had a set of chains in his room that he said he used with his psychoanalyst;

Monday, 13 October 2008

13 October 2008

hair and said hello. She looked at him steadily. "Where have you been? Why did you do this to me?" And she gave Neal a dirty look; she knew the score. Neal paid absolutely no attention; what he wanted now was food; he asked Joan if there was anything. The confusion began right there. Poor Bill came home in his Texas Chevvy and found his house invaded by maniacs; but he greeted me with a nice warmth I hadn't seen in him for a long time. He had bought this house in New Orleans with some money he made growing cotton in the Rio Grande valley with an old Harvard schoolmate whose father, a mad paretic, had died and left a fortune. Bill himself only got $50 a week from his own family, which wasn't too bad except that he spent almost that much per week on a drug habit...morphine; and his wife was also expensive, gobbling up about ten dollars worth a week of benny tubes. Their foodbill was the lowest in the country; they never ate; the children never ate either. They had two wondertful children, Julie, eight years old and little Willie one year. Willie ran around stark naked in the yard, a little blond child of the rainbow who would someday jabber in the streets of Mexico City with Indian ragamuffins and hold his own. Bill called him "the Little Beast," after W.C. Fields. He came driving into the yard and unrolled hiomself from the car bone by bone, and came over wearily, wearing glasses, felt hat, shabby suit, long, lean, strange and laconic, saying "Why Jack, you finally got here; let's go in the house and have a drink." It would take all night to tell about Bill Burroughs; let's just say now, he was a teacher, and had every right to teach because he learned all the time; and the things he learned were the facts of life, not out of necessity but because he wanted to. He dragged his long thin body around the entire US and most of Europe and No. Africa in his time only to see what was going on; he married a German countess in Yugoslavia to get her away from the Nazis in the Thirties; there are pictures of him with big cocaine Berlin gangs with wild hair leaning on one another; there are other pictures of him in a Panama hat surveying the streets of Algiers in Morocco. He never saw the German countess again. He was an exterminator in Chicago, a bartender in New York, a summons server in

Sunday, 12 October 2008

12 October 2008

him to take off on wings. I heard his mad laugh all over the boat---“Hee hee hee hee he!” Louanne was with him. He covered everything in a jiffy, came back with the full story, jumped in the car just as everybody was tooting to go and we slipped off passing two or three cars in a narrow space and found ourselves darting through Algiers. “Where? where?” Neal was yelling. We decided first to clean up at a gas station and inquire for Bill’s whereabouts. Little children were playing in the drowsy river afternoon; girls were going by with bandanas and cotton blouses and bare legs. Neal ran up the street to see everything. He looked around; he nodded; he rubbed his belly. Big Al sat back in the car with his hat over his eyes, smiling at Neal. Then we went to Bill Burroughs house outside town near the river levee. It was a road that ran across a swampy field. The house was a dilapidated old heap with sagging porches running around and weeping willows in the yard; the grass was a yard high, old fences leaned, old barns collapsed. There was no one in sight. We pulled right into the yard and saw washtubs on the back porch. I got out and went to the screendoor. Joan Adams was standing in it with her eyes cupped towards the sun. “Joan” I said. “It’s me. It’s us.” She knew that. “Yes I know. Bill isn’t here now. Isn’t that a fire or something over there.” We both looked towards the sun. “You mean the sun?” “Of course I don’t mean the sun---I heard sirens that way. Don’t you see a peculiar glow.” It was towards New Orleans; the clouds were strange. “I don’t see anything” I said. Joan snuffed down her nose. “Same old Kerouac.” That was the way we greeted each other after four years; Joan used to live with my wife and I in New York. “And is Helen Hinkle here?” I asked. She was still looking for her fire; in those days she ate three tubes of Benzedrine paper a day. Her face, once plump and Germanic and pretty, had become stony and red and gaunt. She had caught polio in New Orleans and limped a little. Sheepishly Neal and the gang came out of her stately retirement in the back of the house to meet her tormentor. Helen was a Greek girl from Fresno. She was pale and looked like tears all over. Big Al pas’t his hand through his

11 October 2008

her. We were suddenly driving along the blue waters of the Gulf for the fair and at the same time a momentous mad thing began on the radio: it was the Chicken Jazz n’Gumbo disc jockey show from New Orleans, all mad jazz records, colored records, with the disc jockey saying don’t worry ’bout NOTHING!” We saw New Orleans in the night ahead of us with joy. Neal runned his hands over the wheel. “Now we’re going to get our kicks!” At dusk we were coming into the humming streets of New Orleans. “Oh smell the people!” yelled Neal with his face out the window sniffing. “Ah! God! Life!” He swung around a trolley. “Yes!” He darted the car into the traffic of Canal Street. “Wheee!” He staggered the car and looked in every direction for girls. “Look at her!” The air was so sweet in New Orleans it seemed to come in soft bandanas; and you could smell the river, and really smell the people, and muds, and molasses and every kind of tropical exfoliation with your nose suddenly removed from the dry-ices of a northern winter. We bounced in our seats. “And dig her!” yelled Neal pointing at another woman. “Oh I love, love, love women! I think women are wonderful! I live women!” He spat out the window; he groaned; he clutched his head. Great beads of sweat fell from his forehead from pure excitement and exhaustion. We bounced the car up on the Algiers ferry and found ourselves crossing the Mississippi river by boat. “Now we must all get out and dig the river and the people and smell the world” said Neal bustling with his sunglasses and cigarettes and leaping out of the car like a jackinthebox. We followed. On rails we leaned and looked at the great brown father of waters rolling down from mid-America like the torrent of broken souls---bearing Montana logs and Dakota muds and Iowa-vales and every cundrum clear to Three Forks where the secret began in ice. Smoky New Orleans receded on one side; old sleepy Algiers with its warped woodsides bumped us on the other. Negroes were working in the hot afternoon stoking the ferry furnaces that burned red and made our tires smell. Neal dug them hopping up and down in the heat. He rushed around the deck and upstairs with his baggy pants hanging halfway down his belly. Suddenly I saw him eagering on the flying bridge. I expected

10 October 2008

coastal plain and Mobile; up ahead were great soaring clouds of the Gulf of Mexico. It was only fifteen hours since we’d said goodbye to everybody in the dirty snows of the North. We stopped at a filling station and there Neal and Louanne played piggyback around the tanks and Hinkle went inside and stole three packets of cigarettes without trying. We were fresh out. Rolling into Mobile over the long tidal highway we all took our winter clothes off and enjoyed the Southern temperature. This was when Neal started telling his life story and when, beyond Mobile, he came upon an obstruction of wrangling cars at a crossroads and instead of slipping around just balled right through the driveway of the gas station and went right on without relaxing his steady continental seventy. We left gaping faces behind us. He went right on with his tale. “I tell you it’s true, I started at nine, with a girl called Milly Mayfair in back of Rod’s Garage on Grant street- -same street Allen lived on in Denver. That’s when my father was still barbering a bit. I remember my aunt yelling out the window ‘What are you doing down there in back of the garage?’ Oh honey Louanne if I’d only known you then! Wow! How sweet you must have been at nine.” He tittered maniacally; he stuck his finger in her mouth and licked it; he took her hand and rubbed it over himself. She just sat there smiling serenely. Big long Al Hinkle just sat looking out the window talking to himself. “Yes sir, I thought I was a ghost that night on Times Square.” He was also wondering what Helen Hinkle would say to him in New Orleans. Neal went on: “One time I rode a freight from New Mexico clear to LA---I was eleven years old, I’d lost my father in a freight, we were all in a hobo jungle, I was with a man called Big Red, my father was out drunk in a boxcar---it started to roll- - Big Red and I missed it----I didn’t see my father for months. I rode the wrong freight to California. All the way, thirty five hours, I hung on with one hand from the rail and under my other arm I clutched a loaf of bread. This is no story---this is true. When I got to LA I was so starved for milk and cream that I got a job in a dairy and the first thing I did I drank two quarts of heavy cream and puked.” “Poor Neal” said Louanne and she kissed him. He stared ahead proudly. He loved

Thursday, 9 October 2008

09 October 2008

buck off her.” “Right! Fine! Let’s go!” We were in Dunn in an hour, at dusk. We drove to where the kid said his aunt had the grocery store. It was a sad little street that dead-ended at a factory wall. There was a grocery store but there was no aunt. We wondered what the kid was talking about. We asked him how far he was going; he didn’t know. It was a big hoax; once upon a time, in some lost backalley adventure, he had seen the grocery store in Dunn, N.C., and it was the first story that popped into his disordered feverish mind. We bought him a hotdog but Neal said we couldn’t bring him along because we needed room to sleep and room for hitch hikers who could buy a little gas. This was sad but true. We left him in Dunn at nightfall. This wasn’t the only young kid with an aunt owning a grocery store that we were going to find this trip; there was another haunting our track two thousand miles along the road. I drove through South Carolina and all the way beyond Macon Georgia as Neal, Louanne and Al slept. All alone in the night I had my own thoughts and held the car to the white line in the holy road. What was I doing? Where was I going? I’d soon find out. I got dogtired beyond Macon and woke up Neal to resume. We got out of the car for air and suddenly both of us were stoned with joy to realize that in the darkness all around us was fragrant green grass and the smell of fresh manure and warm waters. “We’re in the South! We’ve left the winter!” Faint daybreak illuminated green shoots by the side of the road. I took a deep breath; a locomotive howled across the darkness, Mobile bound. So were we. I took off my shirt and exulted. Ten miles down the road Neal drove into a filling station with the motor off, noticed that the attendant was asleep at the desk, jumped out, quietly filled the gastank, saw to it the bell didn’t ring, and rolled off like an Arab with a five-dollar tankful of gas for our pilgrimage. Otherwise we would never have made it to New Orleans and Bill Burroughs’ rickety old house in the Algiers swamps. I slept and woke up to the crazy exultant sounds of music and Neal and Louanne talking and the great green land rolling by. “Where are we?” “Just pas’t the tip of Florida, man, Flomaton it’s called.” Florida! We were rolling down to the

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

08 October 2008

my ribs. “I told you it was kicks. Everybody’s kicks, man!” We carried Diamond all the way to Rocky Mt North Carolina. My sister was no longer there, she had just moved to Ozone Park with my mother before I left. Here we were back on the long bleak street with the rail-road track running down the middle and the sad sullen Southerners loping in front of hardware stores and Five and Tens. Diamond said “I see you people need a little money to continue your journey. You wait for me and I’ll go hustle up a few dollars at a Jewish home and I’ll go along with you as far as Alabama.” Neal was all for it. Suddenly I remembered that Alan Temko had relatives in Rocky Mt., Jewish relatives, jewellers in the town. I told Diamond to find and hit the Temko jewelery store. His eyes lit up. He rushed off. Neal was all beside himself with happiness; he and I rushed off to buy bread and cheese spread for a lunch in the car. Louanne and Al waited in the car. We spent two hours in Rocky Mt. waiting for Herbert Diamond to show up; he was hustling for his bread somewhere in town but we couldn’t see him. The sun began to grow red and late. It occurred to us Diamond would never show up. “What happened to him? Maybe Temko’s relatives took him in; maybe he’s sitting there right in front of the fireplace right now telling about his adventures with crazy people in the Hudsons.” We remembered the time Temko had thrown us out of the party in Denver, the night of the nurses and the night I’d lost my key. We rolled all over the car laughing. Diamond never showed up so we roared out of Rocky Mt---“Now you see Jack, God does exist, because we keep getting hungup with this town, no matter what we try to do, and you’ll notice the strange biblical name of it, and that strange biblical character who made us stop here once more, and all things tied together all over like rain connecting everybody the world over by chain touch…” Neal rattled on like this; he was overjoyed and exuberant. He and I suddenly saw the whole country like an oyster for us to open; and the pearl was there, the pearl was there. Off we roared South. We picked up another hitch hiker. This was a sad young kid who said he had an aunt who owned a grocery store in Dunn, No. Carolina, right outside Fayetteville. “When we get there I can bum a

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

07 October 2008

confused. We had to give them the money; most of it was in my pocket. When they saw where it came from they gave me dirty looks. All we wanted to do was go. “Another speeding ticket in Virginia and you lose your car” said the mean cop as a parting volley. Neal was red in the face. We drove off silently. It was just like an invitation to steal to take all our trip-money away. They knew we were broke and had no relatives on the road or relatives to wire for money or anything. The American police are involved in psychological warfare against those Americans who don’t frighten them with imposing papers and threats. There’s no defense. Poor people have to expect to have their lives interfered with ad infinitum by these neurotic busybodies. It’s a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to enquire about everything, and can make crimes if the crimes don’t exist to their satisfaction. Neal was so mad he wanted to come back to Virginia and shoot the cop as soon as he had a gun. “Pennsylvania!” he scoffed. “I wish I knew what that charge was! Vag, probably; take all my money and charge me vag. Those guys have it so damned easy. They’ll out and shoot you if you complain, too.” There was nothing to do but get happy with ourselves again and forget about it. When we got through Richmond we began forgetting about it and soon everything was OK. In the Virginia wilderness suddenly we saw a man walking on the road. Neal zoomed to a stop. I looked back and aid he was only a bum and probably didn’t have cent. “We’ll just pick him up for kicks!” laughed Neal. The man was a ragged bespectacled mad type walking along reading a paperbacked muddy book he’d found in a culvert by the road. He got in the car and went right on reading; he was incredibly filthy and covered with scabs. He said his name was Herbert Diamond and that he walked all over the USA knocking and sometimes kicking at Jewish doors and demanding money. “Give me money to eat. I am Jew.” He said it worked very well and that it was coming to him. We asked him what he was reading. He didn’t know. He didn’t bother to look at the title page. He was only looking at the words, as tho he had found the real Torah where it belonged, in the Wilderness. “See? see? see?” cackled Neal

Monday, 6 October 2008

06 October 2008

restaurant and if the restaurant is closed that’s your tough shit. That was all right; we found a lunch cart. Hinkle immediately jammed coffee cakes in his jacket; he was a compulsive thief. I could see it was going to be some trip. We ate and paid half of what we ate. In the scraggly Virginia dawn poor Rhoda, head bowed, huddled in her coat, not wanted for Cal, made her way back to a crossroads bus stop on foot. That was the last of Rhoda. Neal went to sleep in the back seat and Hinkle drove. We gave him specific instructions to take it easy. No sooner were we snoring that he gunned the car up to eighty, bad rods and all, and not only that but he made a triple pass at a spot where a cop was arguing with a motorist---he was in the fourth lane of a four-lane hiway, going the wrong way. Naturally the cop took after us with his siren whining. We were stopped. He told us to follow him to the station house. There was a mean cop in there who took an immediate dislike for Neal; he could smell jail all over him. He sent his cohort outdoors to question Louanne and I privately. They wanted to know how old Louanne was, they were trying to whip up a Mann Act idea. But she had her marriage license. Then they took me aside alone and wanted to know who was sleeping with Louanne. “Her husband” I said quite simply. They were curious. Something was fishy. They tried some amateur Sherlocking by asking the same question twice expecting us to make a slip. I said “Those two fellows are going back to work on the railroad in California, this is the short one’s wife, and I’m a friend on a two week vacation from college.” The cop smiled and said “Yeah? Is this really your own wallet?” Finally the mean one inside fined Neal twenty five dollars. We told them we only had forty to go all the way to the Coast; they said that made no difference to them. When Neal protested the mean cop threatened to take him back to Pennsylvania and slap a special charge on him. “What charge.” “Never mind what charge? Don’t worry bout that wise guy.” We had to give them forty. Then Al Hinkle, who was the culprit, offered to go to jail so we could resume our journey. Neal considered it. The cop was infuriated; he said “If you let your buddy go to jail I’m taking you back to Pennsylvania right now. You hear that?” It was all

Sunday, 5 October 2008

05 October 2008

back to Philly and got on route one and arrived in Baltimore in an hour and a half. Neal insisted I drive thru Baltimore for traffic practice; that was allright except he and Louanne insisted on steering while they kissed and fooled around. It was crazy; the radio was on fullblast. Neal beat drums on the dashboard till a great sag developed in it. The poor Hudson---the slowboat to China---was receiving her beating. “Oh man what kicks!” yelled Neal. “Now Louanne, listen really honey, you know that I’m capable of doing everything at the same time and I have unlimited energy…now in San Francisco we must go on living together…I know just the place for you…at the end of the SP day run, San Luis Obispo, I’ll be home every night…I’ll be back at Carolyn’s every morning…We can work it, we’ve done it before.” It was alright with Louanne, she was really out for Carolyn’s scalp. The understanding had been that Louanne would switch to me in Frisco but I now began to see they were going to stick and I was going to be left alone on my ass at the other end of the continent. But why think about that when all the golden land’s ahead of you and all kind of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see. We arrived in Washington at dawn. It was the day of Harry Truman’s inauguration for his second term in the presidency. Great displays of war might were lined along Pennsylvania Avenue as we rolled by in our battered boat. There were B-29s, PT boats, artillery, all kinds of war materiel laid out in the snowy grass; the last thing was a regular small ordinary lifeboat that looked pitiful and foolish. Neal slowed down to look at it. He kept shaking his head in awe. “What are these people up to? Our holy American slopjaws…Harry’s sleeping somewhere in this town…Good old Harry…Man from Missouri, as I am…That must be his own boat.” We suddenly found ourselves trapped in a circular drive from which there was no exit. We had to go to the end of it. We huzzahed; there was a restaurant and we were hungry. But the restaurant was closed. We had to run back over the same no-exit circular drive till we found the human hiway again. I’ve never seen that strange thing since; it’s in Virginia just off a Washington bridge; there’s no way out but to patronize the

04 October 2008

then some. Louanne and Neal and I sat in front and had the warmest talk about the goodness and joy of life. Neal suddenly became tender. “Now dammit, look here all of you, we all must admit that everything is fine and there’s no need in the world to worry, and in fact we should realize what it would mean to us to UNDERSTAND that we’re not REALLy worried about ANYTHING. Am I right?” We all agreed. “Here we go, we’re all together…what did we do in New York…let’s forgive.” We all had our spats back there. “That’s behind us, merely by miles and inclinations. Now we’re heading down to New Orleans to dig old Bill Burroughs and ain’t that going to be kicks and listen will you to this old tenorman blow his top”---he shot up the radio volume till the car shuddered---“and listen to him tell the story and put down true relaxation and knowledge.” We all jumped to the music and agreed. The purity of the road. The white line in the middle of the hiway unrolled and hugged our left front tire as if glued to our groove. Neal hunched his muscular neck, T-shirted in the winter night, and blasted the car along. In no time we were at the approaches of Philadelphia. Ironically we were going over the same road to North Carolina for the third time; it was our route. I kept wondering what it was I had forgotten to do back in New York; it unrolled behind me more and more and I forgot more and more what it was. I brought it up. Everybody tried to guess what I had forgotten. It was no use. We had forty dollars to go all the way. All we had to do was pick up hitch hikers and bum quarters off them for gas, as soon as we got rid of Rhoda. Rhoda began saying she wanted to come to New Orleans; with Al Hinkle’s wife already waiting there for him that was a fine idea. Neal said nothing; he knew in his own mind he was going to throw her out in Washington. In Philadelphia we lost route One and suddenly found ourselves groping down a narrow little tar road in the woods. “We’ve suddenly come into fairytale route-one in the mother hubbard woods. Dig it…gingerbread houses ahead…” We had no idea where we were. Neal was pleased to go on with the fairytale awhile; finally the road came to a dead end in a swamp. “The end of the road?” I said, kidding. He wheeled the car around and we roared

Friday, 3 October 2008

03 October 2008

We assured Bill with whoops and cries over the phone---there was Neal, Louanne, Allen, Hinkle, me, John Holmes, his wife Marian, Ed Stringham, God knows who else, all yelling and drinking beer over the phone at befuddled Burroughs who above all things hated confusion. “Well” he said “maybe you’ll make better sense when you get down here.” I said goodbye to my mother and promised to be back in two weeks and took off for California again. You always expect some kind of magic at the end of the road. Strangely enough Neal and I were going to find it, alone, before we finished with it. The New York kids stood around the car on York Avenue and waved goodbye. Rhoda was there; also Geo. Wickstrom and Les Connors and someone else, the remnants of the big New Year’s weekend that was never to be surpassed. “That’s right, that’s right” Neal kept saying and all the time he was only concerned with locking the trunk and putting the proper things in the compartment and sweeping the floor and getting all ready for the purity of the road again…the purity of moving and getting somewhere, no matter where, and as fast as possible and with as much excitement and digging of all things as possible. We roared off---at the last minute Rhoda decided to ride down to Washington with us and come back by bus. She was in love with Big Al by now and they sat in the backseat necking as once again Neal pushed the Hudson thru the Lincoln Tunnel –and we were in New Jersey. It was drizzling and mysterious at the beginning of our voyage. I could see that it was all going to be one big saga of the mist. “Whooee!” yelled Neal. “Here we go!” And he hunched over the wheel and gunned her; he was back in his element, everybody could see that. We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move. And we moved! We flashed past the mysterious white signs in the night somewhere in New Jersey that say SOUTH (with an arrow) and WEST (with an arrow) and took the south one. New Orleans! It burned in our brains. From the dirty snows of “frosty fagtown New York” as Neal called it, all the way to the greeneries and river smells of old New Orleans as the washed-out bottom of America; then west,

Thursday, 2 October 2008

02 October 2008

who’s spent five years in jail can go to such maniacal helpless extremes; beseeching at the very portals of the womb with a completely physical realization of the sources of life-bliss; trying to get back in there once and for all, while living, and adding to it the living sexual frenzy and rhythm. This is the result of years looking at dirty pictures behind bars; looking at the legs of women in magazines; evaluating the hardness of steel halls and the softness of the woman who is not there. Jail is where you promise yourself the right to live. Neal had never seen his mother’s face. Every new girl, every new wife, every new child was an addition to his cheap impoverishment. Where was his father---old bum Neal Cassady the Barber, riding freights, working as a scullion in railroad cookshacks, stumbling, down-crashing in wino alley nights, expiring on coal piles, dropping his yellowed teeth one by one in the gutters of the West. Neal had every right to die the sweet deaths of complete love of his Louanne. Her own father was a cop in L.A. who had many an incestuous hint. She showed me a picture; a little mustache, slick hair, cruel eyes, polished belt and gun. I didn’t want to interfere, I just wanted to follow. Allen came back at dawn and put on his bathrobe. He wasn’t sleeping any more these days. “Ech!” he screamed. He was going out of his mind from the confusion of the jam on the floor, pants, dresses thrown hither, cigarette butts, dirty dishes, open books---it was a great forum we were having. Every day the world groaned to turn and we were making our appalling studies of the night. Louanne was black and blue from a fight with Neal about something: his face was scratched. It was time to go. We drove to my house, a whole gang of ten, to get my bag and call Bill Burroughs in New Orleans from the phone in the bar where Neal and I had our fist talk years ago when he came to my door to learn to write. We heard Bill’s whining voice eighteen hundred miles away. “Say what do you boys expect me to do with this Helen Hinkle? She’s been here two weeks now hiding in her room and refusing to talk to either Joan or me. Have you got this character Al Hinkle with you? For krissakes bring him down and get rid of her. She’s sleeping in our best bedroom and’s run clear out of money. This ain’t a hotel.”

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

01 October 2008

non-committal junkies, and an occasional well-dressed middleaged detective posing as a bookie and hanging around half for interest and half for duty. It was the typical place for Neal to put down his request. All kinds of evil plans are hatched in Ross Bar---you can sense it in the air---and all kinds of mad sexual routines are initiated to go with it. The safecracker not only proposes a certain loft on Fourteenth Street to the hoodlum but that they sleep together. Kinsey spent a lot of time in Ross Bar interviewing some of the boys; I was there the night his assistant came, in 1945. Hunkey and Allen were interviewed. Neal and I drove back to York Avenue and found Louanne in bed. Hinkle was roaming his ghost around New York. Neal told her what we had decided. She said she was pleased. I wasn’t so sure myself. I had to prove I’d go through with it. The bed was the bed my father had died in---I had given it to Allen a week before, Neal and I had driven it in from the Island. My father had been a big man and the bed sagged in the middle. Louanne lay there, with Neal and I on both sides of her poised on the upjutting mattress-ends, not knowing what to say. I said “Ah hell I can’t do this.” “Go on man, you promised!” said Neal. “What about Louanne?” I said. “Come on Louanne, what do you think?” “Go ahead” she said. She grabbed me and I tried to forget Neal was there. Every time I realized he was lying there, stiff as a board and listening for every sound in the dark I couldn’t make it. I kept rolling off. It was horrible. “We must all relax” said Neal. “I’m afraid I can’t make it. Why don’t you go in the kitchen for a minute?” Neal did so. Still my heart wasn’t in it. Louanne was a lovely woman to have wrapped around you; she was warm and she was ready; and extremely languid. I whispered we would try it again in San Francisco when things were right. It was 3 children of the earth trying to decide something in the night and having all the weight of past centuries ballooning in the dark before them. There was a strange quiet in the apartment. I went and tapped Neal and told him to go to Louanne; and I retired on the couch. I heard them frantically rocking the bed back and forth: to my amazement I realized Neal was, shall we say, devouring her, and this was the usual routine with them. Only a guy