Saturday, 29 November 2008

28 November 2008

for me to fetch Edie and make up my mind about her once and for all. Neal claimed he no longer needed Louanne tho he still loved her. We both agreed he would make out in New York and as it turned out he did and got married again: but more of that after 3,000 miles and many days and nights. We stashed our gear in a Greyhound bus locker for ten cents, Neal put on his pinstripe suit with a sports shirt, and we took off for Bill Tomson’s who was going to be our chauffeur for 2-day Frisco kicks. Bill Tomson agreed over the phone to do so. He arrived at the corner of Market and 3rd shortly thereafter and picked us up. Bill was now living in Frisco, working as a clerk and married to a pretty little blonde called Helena. Neal confided in me that her nose was too long---this was his big point of contention about her, for some strange reason---and her nose wasn’t too long at all. This must have reached back to the days when he stole Carolyn from Bill in the Denver hotel room. Bill Tomson is a thin dark handsome kid with a pinsharp face and combed hair that he keeps shoving back from the sides of his head. He has an extremely earnest approach and a big smile. But evidently his wife Helena had wrangled with him over the chuffering idea- -and determined to make a stand as the man of the house (they lived in a little room) he nevertheless stuck by his promise to us, but with consequences. His mental dilemma resolved itself in a bitter silence. He drove Neal and I all over Frisco at all hours of day and night and never said a word; all he did was go through red lights and make sharp turns on two wheels and this was telling us the shifts to which we’d put him. He was midway between the challenge of his new wife and the challenge of his old Denver poolhall gang leader. Neal was completely pleased and of course unperturbed by the driving. We paid absolutely no attention to Bill and sat in the back and yakked. The next thing was to go to Marin City to see if we could find Henri Cru. I noticed with some wonder that the old ship Adm. Freebee no longer stood in the bay; and then of course Henri was no longer in the second-to-last compartment of the shack in the canyon. A beautiful colored girl opened the door instead; Neal and I talked to her a great deal. Bill Tomson waited in the car reading Eugene Sue’s

27 November 2008

thing clicked in both our souls. In mine it was suddenly concern for a man who was years younger than I, five years, & whose fate was wound with mine across the passage of the shrouded years; in his it was a matter that I can only ascertain from what he did afterwards. He became extremely joyful and said everything was settled. “What was that look?” I asked. He was pained to hear me say that. He frowned. Rarely Neal frowned. We both felt perplexed and uncertain of something. We were standing on top of Russian Hill on a beautiful day in San Francisco; our shadows fell across the sidewalk. Out of the tenement next to Carolyn’s house filed eleven Greek men and women who instantly lined themselves up on the sunny pavement while another backed up across the narrow street and smiled at them over a camera. We gaped at these ancient people who were having a wedding party for one of their daughters probably the thousandth in an unbroken dark generation of smiling in the sun. They were well dressed, and they were strange. Neal and I might have been in Cyprus for all of that. Gulls flew overhead in the sparkling air. “Well” said Neal in a very shy and sweet voice “shall we go?” “Yes” I said “let’s go to Italy.” And so we picked up our bags, he the trunk with his one good arm and I the rest, and staggered to the cable-car stop; in a moment rolled down the hill with our legs dangling to the sidewalk from the jiggling shelf, two brokendown heroes of the western night and more to go. First thing, we went to a bar down on market street and decided everything---that we would stick together and be buddies till we die. Neal was very quiet and seemed a little subdued and preoccupied looking at the old bums in the saloon that reminded him of his father. “I think he’s in Denver…this time we must absolutely find him, he may be in County Jail, he may be around Larimer street again, but he’s to be found. Agreed?” Yes, it was agreed; we were going to do everything we’d never done and had been too silly to do in the past. Then we promised ourselves two days of kicks in San Francisco before starting off, and of course the agreement was to go by Travel Bureau in share-the-gas cars and save as much money as possible for what we were going to do across the land. We were also going to Detroit

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

26 November 2008

“Why did Carolyn throw you out? what are you going to do?” “Eh?” he said. “Eh? Eh?” We racked our brains for where to go and what to do. I had a fairly good career underway in NY and I realized it was up to me to help Neal. Poor, poor Neal---the Devil himself had never fallen further; in idiocy, with infected thumb, surrounded by the battered suitcases of his motherless feverish life across America and back numberless times, an undone bird, a broken turd, name your price and take your change. “Let’s walk to New York” he said “and as we do let’s take stock of everything along the way---yass.” I took out my money and counted it; I showed it to him. 2x “I have here” I said “the sum of eighty three dollars and change and if you come with me let’s go to New York---and after that let’s go to Italy.” “Italy?” he said. His eyes lit up. “Italy yass---how shall we get there, dear Jack?” I pondered this. “I’ll make some more money, I’ll get another thousand dollars. We’ll go dig all the crazy women in Rome, Paris, all those places; we’ll sit at sidewalk cafes; we’ll catch up with Burford White and Jeffries and live in whore houses. Why not go to Italy?” “Why yass” said Neal and then realized I was serious and looked at me out the corner of his eye for the first time, for I’d never committed myself before with regard to his burdensome existence, and that look was the look of a man weighing his chances at the last moment before the bet. There was triumph and insolence in his eyes, a devilish look, and he never took his eyes off mine for the longest time. I looked back at him and blushed. I said “What’s the matter?” I felt wretched when I asked it. He made no answer but continued looking at me with the same wary insolent side-eye. I tried to remember everything he’d done in his life and if there wasn’t something back there to make him suspicious of something now. Resolutely and firmly I repeated what I said- -“Come to NY with me, I’ve got the money.” I looked at him; my eyes were watering with embarrassment and tears. Still he stared at me. Now his eyes were blank and looking through me. It was probably the pivotal point of our friendship when he realized I had actually spent some hours thinking about him and he was trying to place that in his tremendously involved and tormented mental categories. Some-

25 November 2008

waves. Once again I saw his pitiful huge battered trunk with socks and dirty underwear sticking out: he bent over it throwing everything he could find in it. Then he got his suitcase. This suitcase was the beatest suitcase in the U.S.A. It consisted of paper with designs on it making it look like leather and suspicious-looking hinges of some kind pasted on. A great rip ran down the top: Neal lashed on a rope. Then he grabbed his seabag and threw things into that. I got my suitcase, stuffed it, and as Carolyn lay abed in the room saying “Liar! Liar! Liar! We leaped out of the house and struggled down the street to the nearest cable car---a mass of men and suitcases with that enormous bandaged thumb sticking up in the air. That thumb became the symbol of Neal’s final development. He no longer cared about anything (as before) but now he also cared about everything in principle, and that is to say, it was all the same to him and he belonged to the world and there was nothing he could do about it. He stopped me in the middle of the street. “Now man, I know you’re probably real bugged, you just got to town and we get thrown out the first day and you’re wondering what I’ve done to deserve this and so on---hee hee hee!---but look at me. Please Jack, look at me.” I looked at him. He was wearing a T-shirt, torn pants hanging down his belly, tattered shoes; he had not shaved, his hair was wild and bushy, his eyes bloodshot, and that tremendous bandaged thumb stood supported in midair at heart-level (he had to hold it up that way) and on his face was the goofiest grin I ever saw. He stumbled around in a circle and looked everywhere. “What do my eyeballs see? Ah---the blue sky. Long-fellows!” He swayed and blinked. He rubbed his eyes. “Together with windows---have you ever dug windows? Now let’s talk about windows. I have seen some really crazy windows that made faces at me and some of them had shades drawn and so they winked.” Out of his seabag he fished out a copy of Eugene Sur’s “Paris---” and adjusting the front of his T-shirt began reading on the streetcorner with a pedantic air. “Now really Jack let’s dig everything as we go along…” He forgot about that in an instant and looked around blankly. I was glad I had come, he needed me now.

24 November 2008

morning Carolyn threw the both of us out baggage and all, right out on the street. It began when we called Bill Tomson, old Denver Bill in the afternoon and had him come over for beer, while Neal who couldn’t work on account of his hand, minded the baby and did the dishes and the wash in the backyard but did a sloppy job of it in his excitement. Tomson agreed to drive us to Marin City to look for Henri Cru. (Neal never gave cute names to perfectly normal drab pursuits.) Carolyn came in from work at the dentist’s office and gave us all the sad and dirty look of a harassed woman’s life. I tried to show this woman that I had no mean intentions concerning her homelife by saying hello to her and talking as warmly as I could but she knew it was a con and maybe one I’d learned from Neal and only gave a brief smile. In the morning there was a terrible scene: she lay on the bed sobbing and writhing and in the midst of this I suddenly had the need to go to the bathroom and the only way I could get there was through her room. “Neal, Neal” I cried “where’s the nearest bar!” “Bar?” he said surprised; he was washing his hands in the kitchen sink downstairs. He thought I wanted to get drunk. I told him my dilemma and he said “Go right ahead, she does that all the time.” No, I couldn’t do that. I rushed out to look for a bar; I walked uphill and downhill in a vicinity of four blocks on Russian Hill and found nothing but Laundromats, cleaners, soda fountains, beauty parlors, habberdasherers and hardware. I rushed back to the crooked little house determined to save my soul. They were yelling at each other as I slipped through with a feeble smile and locked myself in the bathroom. A few moments later Carolyn was throwing Neal’s things on the livingroom floor and telling him to pack. To my amazement I saw a full length oil painting of Helen Hinkle over the sofa. I suddenly realized that all these women were spending months of loneliness and womanliness together chatting about the madness of the men. I heard Neal’s maniacal giggle across the house, together with the wails of his baby. The next thing I knew he was gliding around the house like Groucho Marx with his poor broken thumb wrapped in a huge white bandage sticking up like a beacon that stands motionless above the frenzy of the

Sunday, 23 November 2008

23 November 2008

told her to kill me. She held the gun in her hand the longest time. I asked her for a sweet dead pact. She didn’t want. I said one of us had to die. She said no. I beat my head on the wall. She talked me out of it.” “Then what happened?” “That was months ago---after you left. She finally married one of the sailors, dumb sonofabitch has promised to kill me if he finds me, if necessary I shall have to defend myself and kill him and I’ll go to San Quentin, ’cause Jack one more rap of ANY kind and I go to San Quentin for life---that’ll be the end of me. Bad hand and all.” He showed me his hand. I hadn’t noticed in the excitement that he had really suffered a terrible accident with his hand. “I hit Louanne on the brow on Feb. 26 at six o’clock in the evening the last time we met and the last time we decided everything. Now listen to this: my thumb only deflected off her brow and she didn’t even have a bruise and in fact laughed, but my end, my thumb got infected and a poorass doctor made a bad job of fixing it and finally I had a touch of gangrene in it and they had to amputate a cunthair tip off the end.” He unwrapped the bandages and showed me. The flesh, about half an inch, was missing under the nail. “It got from worse to worse. I had to support Carolyn and Cathy Ann and had to work as fast as I could at Goodyear tire company hauling big hundred pound tires from the floor to the top of the cars. I could only use my good hand but I kept banging the bad one. I broke it and they reset it and stuck a pin in it and it’s getting all infected and swoled again. All these heebyjeebies!” he laughed “and I’ve never felt better and finer and happier with the world and to see little lovely children playing I the sun and I am so glad to see you my fine gone wonderful Jack and I know, I KNOW everything will be allright.” He congratulated me on my thousand dollars, which was no more now. “We know life, now Jack, we’re growing older each of us little by little and are coming to know things. What you tell me about your family I understand well, I’ve always dug your feelings and now in fact you’re ready to hook up with a real great girl if you can only find her and cultivate her and make her mind your soul as I have tried so hard to do with these damned women of mine. Shit! shit! shit!” He yelled. And in the

22 November 2008

peeked down through her mail-shot which opened up on the bed. There he saw Louanne sprawled in the mornings with a boy. He trailed her around town. He wanted absolute proof that she was a whore. He loved her, he sweated over her. Finally he got hold of some bad s- - t, as it’s called in the trade, green uncured marijuana, quite by mistake, and smoked too much of it. “The first day” said Neal “I lay rigid as a board in bed and couldn’t move or say a word. I just looked straight up with my eyes open wide. I could hear buzzings in my head and saw all kinds of wonderful technicolor visions and felt wonderful. The second day everything came to me, EVERYTHING I’d ever done or known or read or heard or conjectured came back to me and rearranged itself in my mind in a brand new logical way. Yes, I said, yes, yes, yes. Not loud. Just yes, real quiet and because I could think of nothing else to say. These green tea visions lasted until the third day. I had understood everything by then, my whole life was decided, I knew I loved Louanne, I knew I had to find my father wherever he is and save him, I knew you were my buddy, I knew how Great Allen is. I knew a thousand things about everybody everywhere. Then the third day I began having a terrible series of waking nightmares and they were so absolutely horrible and grisly and green that I just lay there doubled up with my hands around my knees saying Oh, Oh, Ah, Oh…The neighbors heard me and sent for a doctor. Carolyn was away with the baby visiting her folks. The whole neighborhood was concerned. They came in and found me lying on the bed with my arms stretched out forever. Jack I ran to Louanne with some of that tea. And do you know that the same thing happened to that dumb little cunt---the same visions, the same logic, the same final decision about everything, the view of all truths in one painful lump leading to nightmares and pain. Then I knew I loved her so much I wanted to kill her. I ran home and beat my head on the wall. I ran to Al Hinkle, he’s back in Frisco with Helen, I asked him about a brakeman who has a gun, I went to the brakeman, I got the gun, I ran to Louanne, I looked down the mailslot, she was sleeping with a sailor, I came back in an hour, I barged in, she was alone---and I gave her the gun and

21 November 2008

“I didn’t think you’d actually do it. You’ve finally come to me.” “Yep” I said “Everything fell apart in my family. How are things in yours?” “Not so good, not so good. But we’ve got a million things to talk about. Jack the time has FI-NALLY come for us to talk and get with it.” We agreed it was about time and went in. Now my arrival was somewhat like the arrival of the strange and most evil Angel in the home of the snow-white fleece, as Neal and I began talking excitedly in the kitchen downstairs and this brought forth sobs from upstairs. Everything I said to Neal was answered with a wild whispering shuddering “Yes!” Carolyn knew what was going to happen. Apparently Neal had been quiet a few months; now the angel had arrived and he was going mad again. “What’s the matter with her?” I whispered. He said “She’s getting worse and worse, man, she cries and makes tantrums, won’t let me out to see Slim Gaillard, gets mad every time I’m late, then when I stay home she won’t talk to me and says I’m an utter beast.” He ran upstairs to soothe her. I heard Carolyn yell “You’re a liar, you’re a liar, you’re a liar” I took the opportunity to examine the very wonderful house they had. It was a two-story crooked rickety wooden cottage in the middle of the tenements right on top of Russian Hill with a view of the Bay; it had four rooms, three upstairs and one immense sort of basement kitchen downstairs. The kitchen door opened onto a grassycourt where washlines were. In back of the kitchen was a storage room where Neal’s old shoes still were caked an inch thick with Texas mud from the night the Hudson got stuck at Hempstead near the Brazos River. Of course the Hudson was gone, Neal hadn’t been able to make further payments on it. He had no car at all now. Their second baby was accidentally coming. It was a horrible tragedy to hear Carolyn sobbing so. We couldn’t stand it and went out to buy beer and brought it back to the kitchen. Carolyn finally went to sleep or spent the night staring blankly at the dark. I had no idea what was really wrong except perhaps Neal had driven her mad after all. After my last leaving of Frisco he had gone crazy over Louanne again and spent months haunting her apartment on Divisadero where every night she had a different sailor in and he

20 November 2008

scheme and fired me without saying as much, as I made my feelings apparent and said I would never come back. Then I staggered to Larimer street with my eleven dollars and got drunk in Jiggs’ buffet bar across the street from the Windsor Hotel where Neal Cassady had lived with his father Old Neal Cassady in the depression Thirties. And as of yore I looked everywhere for the father of Neal Cassady. Nowhere to be found. Either you find someone who looks like your father in places like Montana, or you look for a friend’s father where he is no more, that’s what you do. Then in spite of myself, the morning disclosed a woman’s bare leg wrapped in silk stockings, and in that stocking was a hundred dollar bill, and she gave it to me and said “You’ve been talking of a trip to Frisco; that being the case take this and go and have your fun.” So all my problems were solved and I got a Travel Bureau car for eleven dollars gas-fare to Frisco and zoomed over the land to Neal. Two fellows were driving this car; they said they were pimps. Two other fellows were passengers with me. We sat tight and bent our minds to the goal. As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge sunburning clouds above the desert and they seemed to say to me “The day of wrath will come.” Ah well, alackaday, I was more interested in some old rotten covered wagons and pool tables sitting in the Nevada desert near a coca Cola stand and where there were huts with the weatherbeaten signs still flapping in the haunted shrouded desert wind, saying, “Rattlesnake Bill lived here” or “Brokenmouth Annie holed up for years.” Yes, zoom! In Salt Lake City the pimps checked up on their girls and we drove on. Before I knew it, once again I was seeing the fabled city of San Francisco stretched out on the Bay in the middle of the night. I ran immediately to Neal. He had a house on Russian Hill now. I was burning to know what was on his mind and what would happen now, for there was nothing behind me any more, all my bridges were gone and I didn’t give a damn about anything at all. I knocked on his door at two o’clock in the morning. He came to the door stark naked and it might have been President Truman knocking for all he cared. He received the world in the raw. “Jack!” he said with genuine awe.

19 November 2008

lars poorer. I never dreamed I’d have a thousand dollars anyway. It was all gone in a matter of weeks. I stood poised on the great western plain and I didn’t know what to do. I said to myself “Well I might as well go be mad again” and I made preparations to go get Neal in San Francisco and see what he was doing now. I tried honest ways to get the money together for the voyage to the Coast. One morning at three A.M. I got up and hitch hiked down from my house out of Alameda Boulevard Denver six miles into town; only thing is I didn’t get any rides and I just plainly hiked it. I arrived at the Denargo Fruit Wholesale Markets before daybreak, dogtired. This was the place I had almost worked in 1947 with Eddy my roadbuddy. I was hired immediately. There then began a day of labor that I shall never forget. I worked from 4 o’clock in the morning clear to six o’clock in the evening, and at the end of the day I was paid eleven dollars and some change. And the work was so hard that I quickly developed Charley Horses in my arms and almost had to scream to go on. Of course I was soft compared to the Japanese fellows who worked side by side with me; their muscles were attuned to this onerous business of dragging a fruit wagon loaded eight crates high and having to balance it and pull it with arms outstretched and if you make one mistake you ruin a whole load of fruit and do it on your own poor head. I cut around all day with these muscular Nisei and swore and swore. At one point we had to stick a gadget under the wheels of a great boxcar and advance it down the tracks at the rate of half-an-inch a yank on the lever---a hundred foot down the line. I myself unloaded a boxcar and a half of fruit-crates in the entire day, interrupted only by one trip to the Denver wholesale houses where I lugged watermelon crates over the icy floor of a boxcar into the blazing sun of an ice-splattered truck and developed a mean sneeze. It was okay with me once again I wanted to get to San Francisco and what for? In God’s name and under the stars what for? For joy, for kicks, for something burning in the night. The other fellows each loaded three boxcars apiece and I was half as fast, consequently the boss felt I was not a fit prospect for his profitable

18 November 2008

the ship by the ear. I played football among the warehouse crates. It was the end of another era. It was the second ship I had missed in two years, one on both coasts, the Korean ship and this Queen Mary Francebound ship, and the reason for this was because I was doomed for the road and the ragged investigation of my native country with the crazy Neal. After all that happened you wouldn’t believe it, but it was I that went and saved Neal in his hour of broken need within a matter of months. It was worth it, for thereafter Neal became great. BOOK THREE:- In the Spring of 1949 I suddenly came into a wonderful thousand dollar check from a New York company for the work I did. With this I tried to move my family---that is to say, my mother, sister, brother-in-law and their child---to a comfortable home in Denver. I myself traveled to Denver to get the house, taking great pains not to spend over a dollar for food all the way. In one day, hustling and sweating around the May-time mountain town, and with the invaluable assistance of Justin W. Brierly, I found the house, paid the first two months’ rent on it and sent them a wire in New York telling them to come in. I paid the moving bill, $350.00. But it all fell through. They didn’t like Denver and they didn’t like living in the country. My mother was the first to go back; then finally my sister and her husband went back. Here I made an attempt to settle down those I love in a more or less permanent homestead from which all human operations could be conducted to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. I believed in a good home, in sane and sound living, in good food, good times, work, faith and hope. I have always believed in these things. It was with some amazement that I realized I was one of the few people in the world who really believed in these things without going around making a dull middleclass philosophy out of it. I was suddenly left with nothing in my hands but a handful of crazy stars. For this I had abstained from taking a long-promised voyage to France to join the boys; for this I had put aside a number of secret desires of mine, such as rejoining my wife in Detroit, or suddenly marrying a wild Puerto Rican gal in New York and settling down to homelife in the tenements. Everything had happened and I was a thousand dol-

Monday, 17 November 2008

17 November 2008

night, a hundred miles away, and I was lost. All I wanted and all Neal wanted and all anybody wanted was some kind of penetration into the heart of things where, like in a womb, we would curl up and sleep the ecstatic sleep that Burroughs was experiencing with a good big mainline shot of M. and advertising executives were experiencing with twelve Scotch & Sodas in Stouffers before they made the drunkard’s train to Westchester---but without hangovers. And I had many a romantic fancy then, and sighed at my star. The truth of the matter is, you die, all you do is die, and yet you live, yes you live, and that’s no Harvard lie. In Pennsylvannia I had to get off the bus and steal apples in a countrytown store or starve. I staggered back East in search of my stone, got home and ate everything in the icebox again, only now it was a refrigerator, fruit of my 1947 labors, and that in some measure was the progress of my life. Then came the big ship of the world: I went to school and met Mrs. Holmes in the lobby, John Holmes’ mother whom I’d just seen as I went through Tucson, and she said her son was seeing off some friends of mine on the Queen Mary. I didn’t have a nickel. I walked three miles to the pier and there were John Holmes, his wife and Ed Stringham standing around waiting to be admitted to the gangplank. We rushed onboard and found Ed White, Bob Burford and Frank Jeffries drinking whiskey in their stateroom with Allen Ginsberg who had brought it (together with his latest poems) and others. Not only that but Hal Chase was on the ship, and the ship was so big that we never saw him; and Lucien Carr was on the ship, but he was seeing another party of people off and didn’t even know we were there. Mad Burford dared me to stowaway and go to France with them. I accepted the dare, I was drunk. We held up the elevator and were told that Somerset Maugham, the famous writer, was fuming because of this. We saw Truman Capote, supported by two old ladies, staggering on the ship in tennis sneakers. Americans rushed pell-mell through narrow corridors drunk. It was the Great Ship of the World, it was too big, everybody was on it and everybody was looking for everyone else and couldn’t find. Pier 69. John Holmes’ wife insisted I would not stowaway and dragged me off

16 November 2008

I slept: the bus became frozen so that the passengers had to spend the night in a diner or freeze and nevertheless I slept unnoticed in the bus and felt perfect when I woke up, and slept straight through the repairs in a Fargo garage. In Butte Montana I got involved with drunken Indians; spent all night in a big wild saloon that was the answer to Bill Burroughs’ quest for the ideal bar; I made a few bets on the wall, got drunk; I saw an old card dealer who looked exactly like W.C.Fields and made me cry thinking of my father. There he was, fat with bulbous nose, wiping himself with a backpocket handkerchief, green visor, wheezing asthmatically in the Butte winter night games, till he finally packed off with his old dog to sleep another day. He was a blackjack dealer. I also saw a ninety year old man called Old John who played cards with slitted eyes and had been doing so they told me for the last seventy years in the Butte night. In Big Timber I saw a young cowboy who’d lost an arm in the war and sat with the old men in a winter afternoon inn looking with longing eyes at the boys loping by outside in the great Yellowstone snows. In Dakota I saw a rotary plow hit a brand new Ford and send it scattering in a million pieces over the plain, like sowing for the Spring. In Toledo Ohio I got off the bus and hitch hiked up to Detroit Michigan to see my first wife. She wasn’t there and her mother wouldn’t lend me two bucks to eat with. I sat fuming with rage on the floor of the Detroit Greyhound bus station men’s room. I sat among the bottles. Preachers approached me with stories of the Lord. I spent my last dime on a cheap meal in Detroit skid row. I called up my wife’s father’s new wife and she wouldn’t even see me. My whole wretched life swam before my weary eyes, and I realized no matter what you do it’s bound to be a waste of time in the end so you night as well go mad. All I wanted was to drown my soul in my wife’s soul and reach her through the tangle of shrouds which is flesh in bed. At the end of the American road is a man and a woman making love in a hotel room. That’s all I wanted. Her relatives were conspiring to keep us separated; not that they were wrong but they felt I was a bum and would only reopen old wounds in her heart. Actually she was in Lansing Michigan that

15 November 2008

over us and said “Yes!” and then he staggered out to the street to hit another saloon. Then there’s Connie Jordan, a madman who sings and flips his arms and ends up splashing sweat on everybody and kicking over the mike and screaming like a woman, and you see him late at night, exhausted, listening to wild jazz sessions at Jackson’s Hole with big round eyes and limp shoulders, a big gooky stare into space and a drink in front of him. I never saw such crazy musicians. Everybody in Frisco blew. It was the end of the continent, they didn’t give a damn. That summer I was to see much more of it until the very walls shuddered and cracked. Neal and I goofed around San Francisco in this manner until I got my next GI check and got ready to go back home. What I accomplished by coming to Frisco I don’t know. Carolyn wanted me to leave. Neal didn’t care one way or the other. I bought a loaf of bread and meats and made myself ten sandwiches to cross the country with again; they were all going to go rotten on me by the time I got to Dakota. The last night Neal went mad and found Louanne somewhere downtown and we got in the car and drove all over Richmond across the bay hitting Negro jazz shacks in the oil flats. Louanne went to sit down and a colored guy pulled the chair out from under her. The gals approached in the john with propositions. I was approached too. Neal was sweating around. It was the end, I wanted to get out. At dawn I got on my New York bus and said goodbye to Neal and Louanne. They wanted some of my sandwiches. I told them no. It was a sullen moment. We were all thinking we’d never see each again and we didn’t care. That was that. I started back all the way across this groaning continent with my ten sandwiches and a couple of dollars and got back to New York just in time to see Ed White, Bob Burford and Frank Jeffries off on the Queen Mary for France, never dreaming that the following year I would be with Neal and Jeffries both on the craziest trip of all. Moreover you would think a bus trip such as I took from Frisco to New York would be uneventful and I’d get home in one piece and could relax. Not so; in North Dakota the bus got stuck in a tremendous badlands blizzard that piled up the road ten feet high; the back machinery blew up and burned as

14 November 2008

audience. Neal stands in the back saying “God! Yes!” and clasping his hands in prayer and sweating. “Jack, Slim knows time, he knows time.” Slim sits down at the piano and hits two notes, two c’s, then two more, then one, then two and suddenly the big burly bassplayer wakes up from a tea-reverie and realizes Slim is playing C-Jam Blues” and he slugs in his big forefinger on the string and the big booming beat begins and everybody starts rocking and Slim looks just as sad as ever, and they blow jazz for half an hour, and then Slim goes mad and grabs the bongos and plays tremendous rapid Cuban beats and yells crazy things in Spanish, in Arabic, in Peruvian dialect, in Mayan, in every language he knows and he knows innumerable languages. Finally the set is over; each set takes two hours. Slim Gaillard goes and stands against a post looking sadly over everybody’s head as people come and talk to him. A bourbon is slipped into his hand. “Bourbon-orooni---thank you orooni…” Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is. Neal once had a dream that he was having a baby and his belly was all bloated up blue as he lay on the grass of a California hospital. Under a tree, with a group of colored men, sat Slim Gaillard. Neal turned despairing eyes to him. Slim said “There you go-orooni.” Now Neal approached him, he approached his God, he thought Slim was God, he shuffled and bowed in front of him and asked him to join us. “Right-orooni” says Slim; he’ll join anybody but he won’t guarantee to be there with you in spirit. Neal got a table, bought drinks, and sat stiffly in front of Slim. Slim dreamed over his head. Not a word was spoken. Every time Slim said “orooni” Neal said “Yes!” I sat there with these two madmen. Nothing happened. To Slim Gaillard the whole world was just one big Orooni. That same night I dug Lampshade on Fillmore and Geary. Lampshade is a big colored guy who comes staggering into musical Frisco saloons with coat hat and scarf and jumps on the bandstand and starts singing: the veins pop in his forehead: he heaves back and blows a big foghorn blues out of every muscle in his soul. He yells at people while he’s singing. He drinks like a fish. His voice booms over everything. He grimaces, he writhes, he does everything. He came over to our table and leaned

13 November 2008

I wonder where he is. We used to get next to pretty young daughters and feel them up in the kitchen. This afternoon I had the gonest housewife in her little kitchen- -arm around her demonstrating. Ah! Hmm! Wow!” “Keep it up Neal,” I said, “maybe someday you’ll be mayor of San Francisco.” He had the whole cookpot spiel worked out; he practised on Carolyn and I in the evenings. One morning he stood naked looking at all San Francisco out the window as the sun came up. He looked like someday he’d be the pagan mayor of San Francisco. But his energies ran out. One rainy afternoon the salesman came around to find out what Neal was doing. Neal was sprawled on the couch. “Have you been trying to sell these?” “No” said Neal “I have another job coming up.” “Well, what are you going to do about all these samples?” “I don’t know.” In a dead silence the salesman gathered up his sad pots and left. I was sick and tired of everything and so was Neal. But one night we suddenly went mad together again; we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco niteclub. Slim Gaillard is a tall thin Negro with big sad eyes who’s always saying “Right-orooni” and “How ’bout a little bourbon-orooni.” In Frisco great eager crowds of semi-intellectuals sit at his feet and listen to him on piano, guitar and bongo drums. When he gets warmed up he takes off his shirt and undershirt and really goes. He does and says anything that comes into his head. He’ll sing “Cement Mixer, Put-ti Put-ti (which he wrote) and suddenly slow down the beat and brood over his bongos with fingertips barely tapping the skin as everybody leans forward breathlessly to hear; you think he’ll do this for a minute or so but he goes right on, for as long as an hour, making an imperceptible little noise, like Al Hinkle did, with the tip of his fingernails, getting smaller and smaller all the time till you can’t make hear it any more and sounds of traffic come in the open door. Then he slowly gets up and takes the mike and says very slowly, “Great-orooni…fine-orooni…oroonirooni…” He keeps this up for fifteen minutes, his voice getting softer and softer till you can’t hear. His great sad eyes scan the

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

12 November 2008

never returned and looked in to me- -to see my labouring humilities, my few scrubbed pennies---hungry to grab, quick to deprive, sullen, unloved, meanminded son of my flesh. Son! Son!” It made me think of the Big Pop vision in Gratna with Bill. And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach and which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the Angels dove off and flew into infinity. This was the state of my mind. I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t, and walked four miles and picked up ten long butts and took them back to my hotel room and poured their tobacco in my old pipe and lit up. That was the way Neal found me when he finally decided I was worth saving. He took me to Carolyn’s house. “Where’s Louanne man?” “The whore ran off.” Carolyn was a relief after Louanne; a wellbred polite young woman and she was aware of the fact that the eighteen dollars Neal had sent her was mine. I relaxed a few days in her house. From her livingroom window in the wooden tenement on Liberty Street you could see all of San Francisco burning green and red in the rainy night. Neal did the most ridiculous thing of his career the few days I was there. He got a job demonstrating a new kind of pressure cooker in the kitchens of homes. The salesman gave him piles of samples and pamphlets. The first day Neal was a hurricane of energy. I drove all over town with him as he made appointments. The idea was to get invited socially to a dinner party and then leap up and start demonstrating the pressure cooker. “Man” cried Neal excitedly “this is even crazier than the time I worked for Sinex. Sinex sold encyclopedias in Oakland. Nobody could turn him down. He made long speeches, he jumped up and down, he laughed, he cried. One time we broke into an Okie house where everybody was getting ready to go to a funeral. Sinex got down on his knees and prayed for the deliverance of the deceased soul. All the Okies started crying. He sold a complete set of encyclopedias. He was the maddest guy in the world.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

11 November 2008

was out of my mind with hunger and bitterness. One night Louanne disappeared with a niteclub owner. I was waiting for her by appointment in a doorway across the street, at Larkin and Geary, hungry, when she suddenly stepped out of the foyer of the fancy apt. house with her girlfriend, the niteclub owner and a greasy old man with a roll. Originally she’d just gone in to see her girlfriend. I saw what a whore she was. She was afraid to give me the sign though she saw me in that engaged doorway. She walked on little whore-feet and got in the Cadillac and off they went. Now I had nobody, nothing. I walked around picking butts from the street. I passed a fish n’chip joint on Market Street and suddenly the woman in there gave me a terrified look as I passed; she was the propietress; she apparently thought I was coming in there with a gun to holdup the joint. I walked on a few feet. It suddenly occurred to me this was my mother of a hundred and fifty years ago in England and that I was her footpad son returning from gaol to haunt her honest labours in the hashery. I stopped frozen with ecstasy on the sidewalk. I looked down Market Street. I didn’t know whether it was that or Canal Street in new Orleans: it led to watger, ambiguous universal water just like 42nd street New York leads to water, and you never know where you are. I thought of Al Hinkle’s ghost on Times Square. I was delirious. Iwanted to go back and leer at my strange Dickensian mother in the hash joint. I tingled all over from head to foot. It seemed I had a whole host of memories leading back to 1750 in England and that I was in San Francisco now only in another life and in another body. “No,” that woman seemed to say with that terrified glance “don’t come back and plague your honest hardworking mother. You are no longer like a son to me- - and like your father, my first husband ’ere this kindly Greek took pity on me” (the proprietor was a Greek with hairy arms) “you are no good, inclined to drunkenness and routs and final disgraceful robbery of the fruits of my ’umble labours in the hashery. Oh son! Did you not ever go on your knees and pray for deliverance for all your sins and scoundrel’s acts? Lost boy!- -depart! do not haunt my soul, I have done well forgetting you. Reopen no old wounds, be as if you had

10 November 2008

no money. Neal hadn’t mentioned money. “Where are we going to stay?” We wandered around carrying our bundles of rags in the narrow streets. Everybody looked like a broken-down movie extra, a withered starlet; -disenchanted stunt-men, midget auto racers, poignant California characters with their end-of-the-continent sadness, handsome decadent Casanovish men, puffy-eyed motel blondes, hustlers, pimps, whores, masseurs, bellhops, a lemon lot and how’s a man going to make a living with a gang like that. Nevertheless Louanne had been around these people- -this is O’Farrell and Powell and thereabouts---and a grayfaced hotel clerk let us have a room on credit. That was the first step. Then we had to eat, and didn’t do so till midnight when we found a niteclub singer in her hotel room who turned an iron upside down on a coathanger in the wastebasket and warmed up a can of pork & beans. I looked out the window at the winking neons; and said to myself “Where is Neal and why isn’t he concerned about our welfare?” I lost faith in him that year. It was our last meet, no more. I stayed in San Francisco a week and had the beatest time of my life. Louanne and I walked around for miles looking for food-money, we even visited some drunken seamen in a flophouse on Mission street that she knew; they offered us whiskey. In the hotel we lived together two days. I realized that now Neal was out of sight Louanne had no real interest in me; she was trying to reach Neal through me, his buddy. We had arguments in the hotel room. We also spent entire nights in bed and I told her my dreams. I told her about the big snake of the world that was coiled in the earth like a worm in an apple and would someday nudge up a hill to be thereafter known as Snake Hill and fold out upon the plain, fifty miles long and devouring as it went along. I told her this snake was Satan. “What’s going to happen?” she squealed, meanwhile she held me by the cock. “A saint called Dr. Sax will destroy it with secret herbs which he is at this very moment cooking up in his underground shack somewhere in America. It may also be disclosed that the Snake is just a husk of doves; when the Snake dies great clouds of seminal-gray doves will flutter out and bring tidings of peace around the world.” I

Sunday, 9 November 2008

09 November 2008

Alfred. We wished him luck and godspeed to Oregon. He said it was the best ride he ever had. It was: he ate royally, he was at a party in a ranch, he rode horseback, he heard stories, he felt pretty good about it; but looked awful forlorn when we put him down where we’d found him, on the side of the road with his thumb stuck out, and darkness coming. We had to make Frisco. The golden goal loomed ahead. Neal Louanne and I leaned forward in the front, all alone again, and zoomed. It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time. “There she blows!” yelled Neal. “Wow! Made it! Just enough gas! Give me water! No more land! We can’t go any further cause there ain’t no more land! Now Louanne darling you and Jack go immediately to a hotel and wait for me to contact you in the morning as soon as I have definite arrangements made with Carolyn and call up Funderbuck about my railroad watch and you and Jack buy the first thing hit town a paper for the wantads and…and…and..” and he drove into the Oakland Bay-Bridge and it carried us in. The downtown office buildings were just sparkling on their lights; it made you think of Sam Spade. The fog rolled in, the buoys went B-O in the bay. Market Street was a riot of crowds and sailors and girls; smells of hotdogs and food; noisy bars; screeching traffic; cable-cars---and all of it in soft delightful air that made us drunk when we staggered out of the car on O’Farrell street and sniffed and stretched. It was like getting onshore after a long voyage at sea; the sloppy street reeled under our feet; secret chop sueys from Frisco Chinatown floated in the air. We took all our things out of the car and piled them on the sidewalk. Suddenly Neal was saying goodbye. He was bursting to see Carolyn and find out what happened. Louanne and I stood dumbly in the street and watched him drive away. “You see what a bastard he is?” said Louanne. “Neal will leave you out in the cold any time it’s in his interest.” “I know” I said, and I looked back East and sighed. We had

Saturday, 8 November 2008

08 November 2008

those bum crates, in October 1947 and I tried to tell him. But he was too excited. “This is where Hinkle and I spent a whole morning drinking beer trying to make a real gone little waitress from Watsonville, no it was Tracy, yes Tracy and her name was Esmeralda O man something like that.” Louanne was planning what to do the moment she arrived in Frisco. Alfred said his aunt would give him plenty of money up in Tulare. The Okie directed us to his brother in the flats outside town. We pulled up at noon in front of a little rose-covered shack and the Okie went in and talked with some women. We waited fifteen minutes. “I’m beginning to think this guy has no more money than I have” said Neal. “We get more hung up! There’s probably nobody in the family that’ll give him a cent.” The Okie came out sheepishly and directed us to town. “Hotdamn, I wisht I could find my brother.” He made inquiries. He probably felt he was our prisoner. Finally we went to a big bread bakery and the Okie came out with his brother who was wearing coveralls and was apparently the truck mechanic inside. He talked with his brother a few minutes. We waited in the car. Okie was telling all his relatives his adventures and the loss of his guitar. But he got the money, and he gave it to us, and we were all set for Frisco. We thanked him and took off. Next stop was Tulare. Up the valley we roared. I lay in the back seat, exhausted, giving up completely, and sometime in the afternoon while I dozed the muddy Hudson zoomed by the tents outside Selma where I had lived and loved and worked in the spectral past. Neal was bent rigidly over the wheel pounding the rods up to his hometown: only a month ago he had come down this same with Al and Helen Hinkle bound for North Carolina. There I was in the backseat, accomplished. I was sleeping when we finally arrived in Tulare; I woke up to hear the insane details. “Jack wake up! Alfred found his aunt’s grocery store but do you know what happened, his aunt shot her husband and went to jail. The store’s closed down. We didn’t get a cent. Think of it! The things that happen, the trou-bles on all sides, the wonderful events…wheee!” Alfred was biting his fingernails. We were turning off the Oregon-road at Madera and there we made our farewell with little

Friday, 7 November 2008

07 November 2008

town of Mojave which was the entry way to the great Tehatchapi pass. Mojave is in the valley formed by the desert plateau descending to the west with the high Sierras straight ahead north; the whole place a bewildering view of the ends of the world, with railroads toiling in all directions in the vastness and sending up smoke-signals like nation to nation. The Okie woke up and told funny stories, sweet little Alfred sat smiling. Okie told us he knew a man who forgave his wife for shooting him and got her out of jail, only to be shot for a second time. We were passing a women’s prison when he told it. Up ahead we saw the Tehatchapi Pass starting up. Neal took the wheel and carried us clear to the top of the world. We passed a great shroudy cement factory in the canyon. Then we started down. Neal cut off the gas, threw in the clutch and negotiated every hairpin turn and passed cars and did everything in the books without the benefit of acceleration. I held on tight. Sometimes the road went up again briefly: he merely passed cars without a sound. He knew every rhythm and every kick of a first class pass. When it was time to U-turn left around a low stonewall that overlooked the bottom of the world he just leaned far to the right making Louanne and me lean with him and negotiated thus. In this way we floated down to the San Joaquin valley. It lay spread a mile below, virtually the floor of California, green and wondrous from our aerial shelf. We made thirty miles without using gas. It was very cold in the Valley that winter. Suddenly we were all excited. Neal wanted to tell me everything he knew about Bakersfield as we reached the city limits. He showed me rooming-houses where he stayed, watertanks where he jumped off the train for grapes, Chinese restaurants where he ate, parkbenches where he met girls and certain places where he’d done nothing but just sit and wait around. “Man I spent hours on that very chair in front of that drugstore!” he remembered all…every pinochle game, every woman, every sad night. And suddenly we were passing the place in the railyards where Bea and I sat under the moon drinking wine, on

06 November 2008

empty when he reached me. We heard roaring bop music and cries from the house. “What are you doing here?” I thought, looking up at the beautiful Arizona stars. John came running out of the house and leaped on the horse, dug his heels in, whacked with his hand and galloped lickety-split into the darkness. He was blowing off steam. The horse had to stand all the punishment of our madness. It was just an old horse and could hardly run. Finally John passed out and we woke up Alfred and got in the car and drove back to Harrington’s house. There was a brief goodbye. “It certainly was pleasant” said Harrington looking away. Beyond some trees across the sand a great neon sign of a roadhouse glowed red. Harrington always went there for a beer when he was tired of writing. He was very lonely, he wanted to get back to New York. It was sad to see his tall figure receding in the dark as we drove away, just as the other figures in New York and New Orleans: they stand uncertainly underneath immense skies and everything about them is drowned. Where go? what do? what for? - - sleep. But this foolish gang was bending onwards. Outside Tucson we saw another hitch hiker in the dark road. This was an Okie from Bakersfield California who put down his story: “Hot damn, I left Bakersfield with the Travel Bureau car and left my gui-tar in the trunk of another one and they never showed up..gui-tar and cowboy duds, you see I’m a moo-sician, I was headed for Arizona to play with Johnny Mackaw’s Sagebrush Boys. Well hell, here I am in Arizona broke and m’gui-tar’s been stoled. You boys drive me back to Bakersfield and I’ll get the money from my brother. How much do you want?” We wanted just enough gas to make Frisco from Bakersfield, about three dollars. Now we were five in the car. Off we went. I began recognizing towns in Arizona I’d passed in 1947---Wickenberg, Salome, Quartzsite. In the Mojave desert I drove the car for an hour in a tremendous crosswind that threw shrouds of sand across the headlamps and bucked the car from side to side. Then we started climbing. Our plan was to avoid LA traffic and just make it to San Bernardino and Tehatchapi Pass. In the middle of the night we overtopped the lights of Palm Springs from a mountain road. At dawn, in snowy passes, we labored towards the

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

05 November 2008

bowed in the sand and talked to her. Now there were seven visitors going both ways roaming around the yard. H.’s little boy Steve darted among us on his bicycle. We all drove to a crossroads liquor store where Harrington cashed a check for five dollars and handed me the money. Then he said we might as well visit his friend who had a ranch in the canyon, John by name. We drove up and piled into the guy’s house. John was a big gigolo with a beard married to the girl who owned the ranch. They had an immense picture window in the living room that looked out over the mesquite valley. They had bop records, everything to drink, a maid, two children who came home from school on horseback and every conceivable comfort. An immense party took place. It started in the afternoon and ended at midnight. Once I looked out the picture window and saw Alan Harrington galloping by on a horse with a shot of whisky in his hand. Neil did tremendous feverish things with big handsome bearded John: he took him out for a ride in the Hudson and apparently demonstrated his soul by driving a hundred miles an hour, then by weaving languidly in the traffic, then by barely missing posts and cactus, so when they came back John gripped my arm and said “Are you going all the way to the Coast with that crazy cat? If I were you I wouldn’t try it. That cat is really crazy.” He and Neal were both sweating with excitement. There were new dents on the car. The maid was preparing a big ranch dinner for us in the kitchen. Neal tried to make her, then he tried to make John’s wife. John tried to make Louanne. Poor little Alfred fell asleep exhausted on the livingroom rug; he was a long ways from Alabama and a long ways from Oregon and suddenly thrown into a frantic ranch party in the mountains of the night. When Neal vanished with the pretty wife and John went upstairs with Louanne I was beginning to get scared things would explode before we had time to eat, so I ladeled out some chili with the maid’s permission and ate standing up. I began to hear arguments and crashing glass upstairs. John’s wife was throwing things at him. I went out and rode the old horse a half-mile down the valley and back. Harrington came running and leaping over the mesquite with a shotglass in his hand for me. It was almost

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

04 November 2008

They try to make headline arrests, they think every car going by is some big Chicago gang. They ain’t got nothing else to do.” We drove on to Tucson. Tucson is situated in beautiful mesquite riverbed country overlooked by the snowy Catalina range. The city is one big construction job; the people transient, wild, ambitious, busy, gay; washlines, trailers; bustling downtown streets with banners; altogether very Californian. Fort Lowell Road, out where H. lived, wound along lovely riverbed trees in the flat desert. We passed innumerable Mexican shacks in the shady sand till a few adobe houses appeared and the rural PO box with Alan Harrington’s name shining like the promised land on it. We saw Harrington himself brooding in the yard. The poor fellow never dreamed what was bowling down on him. He was a writer, he had come to Arizona to work on his book in peace. He was a tall gangly shy satirist who mumbled to you with his head turned away and always said funny things. His wife and baby were with him in the adobe house, a small one that his Indian stepfather had built. His mother lived across the yard in her own house. She was an excited American woman who loved pottery, beads and books. Harrington had heard of Neal through letters from New York. We came down on him like a cloud, everyone of us hungry, even Alfred the crippled hitchhiker. Harrington was wearing an old Harvard sweater and smoking a pipe in the keen desert air. His mother came out and invited us into her kitchen to eat. We cooked noodles in a great pot. I wanted to meet Harrington’s wild Indian stepfather; he was nowhere around, he got drunk for days on end and howled in the desert like a coyote till the cops threw him in jail. Harrington’s six Indian cousins were also in jail at the time. Neal kept saying “Oh do I dig her!” about H.’s mother. She showed us her favorite rugs and chattered with us like a child. The Harringtons were from Boston. “Who is that fellow with the embryonic hand?” asked H. looking away. “Is that Al Dinkle?” “No, no, we left him in New Orleans.” “Why are you all going to the coast?” “I don’t know.” To add to the confusion John Holmes’ mother suddenly appeared in the yard: she was driving East with friends and had stopped by to see Mrs. H. Neal shuffled and

Monday, 3 November 2008

03 November 2008

son Arizona. Immediately Neal said it was all settled and we were going to Tucson. And we did. Passing Les Cruces New Mexico in the night, the same Las Cruces that had been Neal’s pivot on the way east, we arrived in Arizona at dawn and I woke up from a deep sleep to find everybody sleeping like lambs and the car parked God knows where because I couldn’t see out the steamy windows. I got out of the car. We were parked in the mountains: There was a heaven of sunrise, cool purple airs, red mountainsides, emerald pastures in valleys, dew, and transmuting clouds of gold; on the ground gopher holes, cactus, mesquite. It was time for me to drive on. I pushed Neal and the kid over and went down the mountain with the clutch in and the motor off to save gas. In this manner I rolled into Benson Arizona. It occurred to me that I had a pocket watch someone had just given me in New York for a birthday present. At the filling station I asked the man if he knew a pawnshop in Benson. It was right next door to the station. I knocked, someone got out of bed, and in a minute I had a dollar for the watch. It went into the tank. Now we had enough gas for Tucson. But suddenly a big pistolpacking trooper appeared just as I was ready to pull out and asked to see my driver’s license. “The fellow in the backseat has the license,” I said. Neal and Louanne were sleeping together under the blanket. The cop told Neal to come out. Suddenly he whipped out his gun and yelled “keep your hands up!” “Officer,” I heard Neal say in the most unctuous and ridiculous tones, “officah, I was only buttoning my flah.” Even the cop almost smiled. Neal came out, muddy, ragged, T-shirted, rubbing his belly, cursing, looking everywhere for his license and his car papers. The cop rummaged thru our back trunk. All the papers were square. “Only checking up” he said with a broad smile. “You can go on now. Benson ain’t a bad town actually, you might enjoy it if you had breakfast here.” “Yes yes yes” said Neal paying absolutely no attention to him and drove off. We all sighed with relief. The police are suspicious when gangs of youngsters come by in new cars without a cent in their pockets and have to pawn watches. “Oh they’re always interfering” said Neal “but he was a much better cop than that rat in Virginia.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

02 November 2008

him, and dodged a truck and bounced over the city limits. Across the river were the jewel lights of Juarez. Louanne was watching Neal as she had watched him clear across the country and back. Out of the corner of her eye---with a sullen sad air, as though she wanted to cut off his head and hide it in her closet, an envious and rueful love that she knew would never bear fruit because he was too mad. Neal was convinced Louanne was a whore; he confided in me that she was a pathological liar. But when she watched him like this it was love, too; and when Neal noticed he always turned with his false flirtatious smile where a moment ago he was only dreaming in his eternity. Then Louanne and I both laughed---and Neal gave no sign of discomfiture, just a goofy glad grin that said to us “Ain’t we getting our kicks ANYWAY?” And that was it. Outside El Paso, in the darkness, we saw a small huddled figure with thumb stuck out. It was our promised hitchhiker. We pulled up and backed to his side. “How much money you got kid?” The kid had no money; he was about seventeen, pale, strange, with one undeveloped crippled hand and no suitcase. “Ain’t he sweet” said Neal turning to me with a serious awe. “Come on in fella, we’ll take you out---“ The kid saw his advantage. He said he had an Aunt in Tulare California who owned a grocery store and as soon as we got there he’d have some money for us. Neal rolled on the floor laughing, it was so much like the kid in Carolina. “Yes! yes!” he yelled. “We’ve all got aunts, well let’s go, let’s see the aunts and the uncles and the grocery stores all the way along the road and get our kicks.” And we had a new passenger, and a fine little guy he turned out to be, too. He didn’t say a word, he listened to us. After a minute of Neal’s talk he was probably convinced he had joined a car of madmen. He said he was hitching from Alabama to Oregon, where his home was. We asked him what he was doing in Alabama. “I went to visit my Uncle, he said he’d have a job for me in a lumber mill. The job fell through so I’m coming back home.” “Goin’ home,” said Neal, “goin’ home, yes I know, we’ll take you home, far as Frisco anyhow.” But we didn’t have any money. Then it occurred to me I could borrow five dollars from my old friend Alan Harrington in Tuc-

Saturday, 1 November 2008

01 November 2008

the high antenna beyond the shacks of Clint. “Oh man the things I could tell you!” cried Neal almost weeping. Eyes bent on Frisco and the Coast we came into El Paso Texas as it got dark, broke. We absolutely had to get some money for further gas or we’d never make it. We tried everything. We buzzed the Travel Bureau but no one was going west that night. The Travel Bureau is where you go for share-the-gas rides, legal in the West. Shifty characters wait with battered suitcases. We went to the Greyhound bus station to try to persuade anybody from taking a bus for the coast and giving us the money instead. We were too bashful to approach anyone. We wandered around sadly. It was cold outside. A college boy was sweating at the sight of luscious Louanne and trying to look unconcerned. Neal and I consulted the matter but decided we weren’t pimps. Suddenly a crazy dumb young kid fresh out of reform school attached himself to us, and he and Neal rushed out for a beer. “Come on man, let’s go mash somebody on the head and get his money.” “I dig you man!” yelled Neal. They rushed off. For a moment I was worried; but Neal only wanted to dig the streets of El Paso with the kid and get his kicks. They straggled off. Louanne and I waited in the car. She put her arms around me and made love. I said “Dammit Louanne wait till we get to Frsico.” “I don’t care. Neal’s going to leave me anyway.” When are you going back to Denver?” “I don’t know. I don’t care what I’m doing. Can I go back East with you?” “We’ll have to get some money in Frisco.” “I know where you can get a job in a lunchcart behind the counter and I’ll be the waitress. I know a hotel where we can stay on credit. We’ll stick together. Gee, I’m sad.” “What are you sad about kid?” “I’m sad about everything. Oh damn, I wish Neal wasn’t so crazy now.” Neal came twinkling back giggling in the streets and jumped in the car. “What a crazy cat that was, whoo! Did I dig him! I used to know thousands of guys like that, they’re all the same, their minds work in uniform clockwork, no time, no time---“ And he shot up the car, hunched over the wheel, and roared out of El Paso. “We’ll just have to pick up hitch hikers. I’m positive we’ll find some. Hup! hup! here we go. Lookout!” he yelled at a motorist, and swung around