From Charters Ann, “The Portable Beat Reader” Penguin Books, New York, 1992, pgs 10-43

By: Jack Kerouac

from ON THE ROAD

[PART ONE]

 

1

 

I first met Dean [Neal Cassady] not long after my wife and

split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t

bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with

the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything

was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part

of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I'd

often dreamed of going West to see the country, always

vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guu

for the road because he actually was born on the road, when

his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a

jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles. First reports of him came

to me through Chad King [Hal Chase], who'd shown me a few

letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was

tremendously interested in the letters because they so naďvely

and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and

all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one

point Carlo [Allen Ginsberg] and I talked about the letters

and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Mor-

iarty. This is all far back, when Dean was not the way he is

today, when he was a young jailkid shrouded in mystery. Then

news came that Dean was out of reform school and was coming

to New York for the first time; also there was talk that he had

just married a girl called Marylou.

      One day I was hanging around the campus and Chad and

Tim Gray told me Dean was staying in a cold-water pad in East 

Harlem, the Spanish Harlem. Dean had arrived the night before, 

the first time in New York, with his beautiful little sharp chick 

Marylou; they got off the Greyhound bus at SOth Street and cut 

around the corner looking for a place to eat and went right in 

Hector's, and since then Hector's cafeteria has always been a big 

symbol of New York for Dean. They spent money on beautiful 

big glazed cakes and creampuffs.

      All this time Dean was telling Marylou things like this: "Now,

darling, here we are in New York and although I haven't quite told

you everything that I was thinking about when we crossed Missouri

and especially at the point when we passed the Booneville reformatory

which reminded me of my jail problem, it is absolutely necessary now

to postpone all those leftover things concerning our personal lovethings

and at once begin thinking of specific worklife plans..." and so on in

the way that he had in those early days.

      I went to the cold-water flat with the boys, and Dean came to the 

door in his shorts. Marylou was jumping off the couch; Dean had 

dispatched the occupant of the apartment to the kitchen, probably to 

make coffee, while he proceeded with his loveproblems, for to him 

sex was the one and only holy and important thing in life, although 

he had to sweat and curse to make a living and so on. You saw that 

in the way he stood bobbing his head, always looking down, nodding, 

like a young boxer to instructions, to make you think he was listening 

to every word, throwing in a thousand "Yeses" and "That's rights." My 

first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry-trim, thin-hipped, 

blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent-a sideburned hero of the 

snowy West. In fact he'd just been working on a ranch, Ed Wall's in 

Colorado, before marrying Marylou and coming East. Marylou was a 

pretty blonde with immense ringlets of hair like a sea of golden tresses; 

she sat there on the edge of the couch with her hands hanging in her lap 

and her smoky blue country eyes fixed in a wide stare because she was 

in an evil gray New York pad that she'd heard about back West, and 

waiting like a long- bodied emaciated Modigliani surrealist woman in a

serious room. But, outside of being a sweet little girl, she was awfully 

dumb and capable of doing horrible things. That night we all drank beer 

and pulled wrists and talked till dawn, and in the

morning, while we sat around dumbly smoking butts from

ashtrays in the gray light of a gloomy day, Dean got up ner-

vously, paced around, thinking, and decided the thing to do

was to have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor. "In

other words we've got to get on the ball, darling, what I'm

saying, otherwise it'll be fluctuating and lack of true

knowledge or crystallization of our plans." Then I went away.

      During the following week he confided in Chad King that

he absolutely had to learn how to write from him; Chad said

I was a writer and he should come to me for advice. Meanwhile

Dean had gotten a job in a parking lot, had a fight with

Marylou in their Hoboken apartment-God knows why they went

there-and she was so mad and so down deep vindictive that

she reported to the police some false trumped-up hysterical

crazy charge, and Dean had to lam from Hoboken. So he had

no place to live. He came right out to Paterson, New Jersey,

where I was living with my aunt, and one night while I was

studying there was a knock on the door, and there was Dean,

bowing, shuffling obsequiously in the dark of the hall, and

saying, "Hel-lo, you remember me-Dean Moriarty? I've

come to ask you to show me how to write."

      "And where's Marylou?" I asked, and Dean said she'd ap-

parently whored a few dollars together and gone back to

Denver-"the whore!" So we went out to have a few beers

because we couldn't talk like we wanted to talk in front of my

aunt, who sat in the living room reading her paper. She took

one look at Dean and decided that he was a madman.

      In the bar I told Dean, "Hell, man, I know very well you

didn't come to me only to want to become a writer, and after

all what do I really know about it except you've got to stick

to it with the energy of a benny addict." And he said, "Yes,

of course, I know exactly what you mean and in fact all those

problems have occurred to me, but the thing that I want is the

realization of those factors that should one depend on Scho-

penhauer's dichotomy for any inwardly realized. .." and so

on in that way, things I understood not a bit and he himself

didn't. In those days he really didn't know what he was talking I

about; that is to say, he was a young jailkid all hung-up on

the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and

he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a

jumbled way, that he had heard from "real intellectuals?'-

although, mind you, he wasn't so naďve as that in all other

things, and it took him just a few months with Carlo Marx to

become completely in there with all the terms and jargon.

Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of mad-

ness, and I agreed that he could stay at my house till he found

a job and furthermore we agreed to go out West sometime.

That was the winter of 1947.

      One night when Dean ate supper at my house-he already

had the parking-lot job in New York-he leaned over my

shoulder as I typed rapidly away and said, "Come on man,

those girls won't wait, make it fast."

      I said, "Hold on just a minute, I'll be right with you soon

as I finish this chapter, " and it was one of the best chapters

in the book. Then I dressed and off we flew to New York to

meet some girls. As we rode in the bus in the weird phospho-

rescent void of the Lincoln Tunnel we leaned on each other

with fingers waving and yelled and talked excitedly, and I was

beginning to get the bug like Dean. He was simply a youth

tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man,

he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and

to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no at-

tention to him. He was conning me and 1 knew it (for room

and board and "how-to-write," etc.), and he knew I knew (this

has been the basis of our relationship), but I didn't care and

we got along fine-no pestering, no catering; we tiptoed

around each other like heartbreaking new friends. I began to

learn from him as much as he probably learned from me. As

far as my work was concerned he said, "Go ahead, everything

you do is great." He watched over my shoulder as I wrote

stories, yelling, "Yes! That's right! Wow! Man!" and "Phew!"

and wiped his face with his handkerchief. "Man, wow, there's

so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even

begin to get it all down and without modified restraints and

all hung-up on like. literary inhibitions and grammatical

fears...”

"That's right, man, now you're talking." And a kind of holy

lightning I saw flashing from his excitement and his visions,

which he described so torrentially that people in buses looked

around to see the "overexcited nut." In the West he'd spent

a third of his time in the poolhall, a third in jail, and a third

in the public library. They'd seen him rushing eagerly down

the winter streets, bareheaded, carrying books to the poolhall,

or climbing trees to get into the attics of buddies where he

spent days reading or hiding from the law.

We went to New York-I forget what the situation was,

two colored girls-there were no girls there; they were sup-

posed to meet him in a diner and didn't show up. We went to

his parking lot where he had a few things to do-change his

clothes in the shack in back and spruce up a bit in front of a

cracked mirror and so on, and then we took off. And that was

the night Dean met Carlo Marx. A tremendous thing happened

when Dean met Carlo Marx. Two keen minds that they are,

they took to each other at the drop of a hat. Two piercing

eyes glanced into two piercing eyes-the holy con-man with

the shining mind, and the sorrowful poetic con-man with the

dark mind that is Carlo Marx. From that moment on I saw

very little of Dean, and I was a little sorry too. Their energies

met head-on, I was a lout compared, I couldn't keep up with

them. The whole mad swirl of everything that was to come

began then; it would mix up all my friends and all I had left

of my family in a big dust cloud over the American Night.

Carlo told him of Old Bull Lee [William Burroughs], Elmer

Hassel [Herbert Huncke], Jane [Joan Vollmer Burroughs]:

Lee in Texas growing weed, Hassel on Riker's Island, Jane

wandering on Times Square in a benzedrine hallucination, with

her baby girl in her arms and ending up in Bellevue. And Dean

told Carlo of unknown people in the West like Tommy Snark,

the clubfooted poolhall rotation shark and cardplayer and

queer saint. He told him of Roy Johnson, Big Ed Dunkel, his

boyhood buddies, his street buddies, his innumerable girls and

sex-parties and pornographic pictures, his heroes, heroines,

adventures. They rushed down the street together, digging

everything in the early way they had, which later became so

much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced

down the streets like dingledodies, ,and I shambled after as

I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, be-

cause the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who

are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of

everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say

a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yel-

low roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and

in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody

goes " Awww!" What did they call such young people in

Goethe's Germany? Wanting dearly to learn how to write like

Carlo, the first thing you know, Dean was attacking him with

a great amorous soul such as only a con-man can have. "Now,

Carlo, let me speak-here's what I'm saying..." I didn't see

them for about two weeks, during which time, they cemented

their relationship to fiendish allday-allnight-talk proportions.

Then came spring, the great time of traveling, and everybody

in the scattered gang was getting ready to take one trip or

another. I was busily at work on my novel and when I came

to the halfway mark, after a trip down South with my aunt

[mother Gabrielle Kerouac] to visit my brother Rocco [sister

Caroline], I got ready to travel West for the very first time.

Dean had already left. Carlo and I saw him off at the 34th

Street Greyhound station. Upstairs they had a place where

you could make pictures for a quarter. Carlo took off his glasses

and looked sinister. Dean made a profile shot and looked coyly

around. I took a straight picture that made me look like a

thirty-year-old Italian who'd kill anybody who said anything

against his mother. This picture Carlo and Dean neatly cut

down the middle with a razor and saved a half each in their

wallets. Dean was wearing a real Western business suit for his

big trip back to Denver; he'd finished his first fling in New

York. I say fling, but he only worked like a dog in parking

lots. The most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world, he

can back a car forty miles an hour into a tight squeeze and

stop at the wall, jump out, race among fenders, leap into

another car, circle it fifty miles an hour in a narrow space,

back swiftly into tight spot, hump, snap the car with the emer-

gency so that you see it bounce as he flies out; then clear to

the ticket shack, sprinting like a track star, hand a ticket, leap

into a newly arrived car before the owner's half out, leap

literally under him as he steps out, start the car with the door

flapping, and roar off to the next available spot, arc, pop in,

brake, out, run; working like that without pause eight hours

a night, evening rush hours and after-theater rush hours, in

greasy wino pants with a frayed fur-lined jacket and beat shoes

that flap. Now he'd bought a new suit to go back in; blue with

pencil stripes, vest and all-eleven dollars on Third Avenue,

with a watch and watch chain, and a portable typewriter with

which he was going to start writing in a Denver rooming house

as soon as he got a job there. We had a farewell meal of franks

and beans in a Seventh Avenue Riker's, and then Dean got

on the bus that said Chicago and roared off into the night.

There went our wrangler. I promised myself to go the same

way when spring really bloomed and opened up the land.

And this was really the way that my whole road experience

began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not

to tell.

 

 

Yes, and it wasn't only because I was a writer and needed new

experiences that I wanted to know Dean more, and because

my life hanging around the campus had reached the completion

of its cycle and was stultified, but because, somehow, in spite

of our difference in character, he reminded me of some long-

"lost brother; the sight of his suffering bony face with the long

sideburns and his straining muscular sweating neck made me

remember my boyhood in those dye-dumps and swim-holes

and riversides of Paterson and the Passaic. His dirty work-

clothes clung to him so gracefully, as though you couldn't buy

a better fit from a custom tailor but only earn it from the

Natural Tailor of Natural Joy, as Dean had, in his stresses.

And in his excited way of speaking I heard again the voices

of 'old companions and brothers under the bridge, among the

motorcycles, along the wash-lined neighborhood and drowsy

doorsteps of afternoon where boys played guitars while their

older brothers worked in the mills. All my other current friends

were '{intellectuals"-Chad the Nietzschean anthropologist,

Carlo Marx and his nutty surrealist low-voiced serious staring

talk, Old Bull Lee and his critical anti-everything drawl-or

else they were slinking criminals like Elmer Hassel, with that

hip sneer; Jane Lee the same, sprawled on the Oriental cover

of her couch, sniffing at the New Yorker. But Dean's intelli-

gence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, with-

out the tedious intellectualness. And his "criminality" was not

something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea-saying

overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an

ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-

coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). Besides, all my New

York friends were in the negative, nightmare position of put-

ting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or

psychoanalytical reasons, but Dean just raced in society, eager

for bread and love; he didn't care one way or the other, "so

long's I can get that lil ole gal with that lil sump in down there

tween her legs, boy ," and "so long's we can eat, son, y'ear

me? I'm hungry, I'm starving, let's eat right now!"-and off

we'd rush to eat, whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, "It is your

portion under the sun."

A western kinsman of the sun, Dean. Although my aunt

warned me that he would get me in trouble, I could hear a

new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young

age; and a little bit of trouble or even Dean's eventual rejection

of me as a buddy, putting me down, as he would later, on

starving sidewalks and sickbeds-what did it matter? I was a

young writer and I wanted to take off.

Somewhere along the line I knew 'there'd be girls, visions,

everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be

handed to me.

 

 

[PART THREE]

 

In no time at all we were back on the main highway and that

night I saw the entire state of Nebraska unroll before my eyes.

A hundred and ten miles an hour straight through, an arrow

road, sleeping towns, no traffic, and the Union Pacific stream-

liner falling behind us in the moonlight. I wasn't frightened at

all that night; it was perfectly legitimate to go 110 and talk

and have all the Nebraska towns-Ogallala, Gothenburg,

Kearney, Grand Island, Columbus-unreel with dreamlike

rapidity as we roared ahead and talked. It was a magnificent

car; it could hold the road like a boat holds on water. Gradual

curves were its singing ease. " Ah, man, what a dreamboat,"

sighed Dean. "Think if you and I had a car like this what we

could do. Do you know there's a road that goes down Mexico

and all the way to Panama?-and maybe all the way to the

bottom of South America where the Indians are seven feet

tall and eat cocaine on the mountainside? Yes! You and I,

Sal, we'd dig ,the whole world with a car like this because,

man, the road must eventually lead to, the whole world. Ain't

nowhere else it can go-right? Oh, and are we going to cut

around old Chi with this thing! Think of it, Sal, I've never

been to Chicago in all my life, never stopped."

"We'll come in there like gangsters in this Cadillac!"

"Yes! And girls! We can pick up girls, in fact, Sal, I've

decided to make extra-special fast time so we can have an

entire evening to cut around in this thing. Now you just relax

and I'll ball the jack all the way. "

"Well, how fast 'are you going now?"

"A steady one-ten I figure-you wouldn't notice it. We've

still got all Iowa in the daytime and then I'll make that old

Illinois in nothing flat." The boys [two passengers in the back-

seat] fell asleep and we talked and talked all night.

It was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then sud-

denly continue with his soul-which I think is wrapped up in

a fast car, a coast to reach, and a woman at the end of the

road-calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened. "I

get like that every time in Denver now-1 can't make that

town any more. Gookly, gooky, Dean's a spooky. Zoom!" I

told him I had been over this Nebraska road before in '47. He

had too. "Sal, when I was working for the New Era Laundry

in Los Angeles, nineteen forty-four, falsifying my age, I made

a trip to Indianapolis Speedway for the express purpose of

seeing the Memorial Day classic hitch, hiking by day and steal-

ing cars by night to make time. Also I had a twenty-dollar

Buick back in LA, my first car, it couldn't pass the brake and

light inspection so I decided I needed an out-of-state license

to operate the car without arrest so went through here to get

the license. As I was hitchhiking through one of these very

towns, with the plates concealed under my coat, a nosy sheriff

who thought I was pretty young to be hitchhiking accosted me

on the main drag. He found the plates and threw me in the

two-cell jail with a county delinquent who should have been

in the home for the old since he couldn't feed himself (the

sheriff's wife fed him) and sat through the day drooling and

slobbering. After investigation, which included corny things

like a fatherly quiz, then an abrupt turnabout to frighten me

with threats, a comparison of my handwriting, et cetera, and

after I made the most magnificent speech of my life to get out

of it, concluding with the confession that I was lying about my

car-stealing past and was only looking for my paw who was a

farmhand hereabouts, he let me go. Of course I missed the

races. The following fall I did the same thing again to see the

Notre Dame-California game in South Bend, Indiana-trou-

ble none this time and, Sal, I had just the money for the ticket

and not an extra cent and didn't eat anything all up and back

except for what I could panhandle from all kinds of crazy cats

I met on the road and at the same time gun gals. Only guy in

the United States of America that ever went to so much trouble

to see a ballgame."

I asked him the circumstances of his being in LA in 1944.

"I was arrested in Arizona, the joint absolutely the worst joint

I've ever been in. I had to escape and pulled the greatest escape

in my life, speaking of escapes, you see, in a general way r In

the woods, you know, and crawling, and swamps-up around

that mountain country .Rubber hoses and the works and ac-

cidental so-called death facing me I had to cut out of those

woods along the ridge so as to keep away from trails and paths

and roads. Had to get rid of my joint clothes and sneaked the

neatest theft of a shirt and pants from a gas station outside

Flagstaff, arriving LA two days later clad as gas attendant and

walked to the first station I saw and got hired and got myself

a room and changed name (Lee Buliay) and spent an exciting

year in LA, including a whole gang of new friends and some

really great girls, that season ending when we were all driving

on Hollywood Boulevard one night and I told my buddy to

steer the car while I kissed my girl-I was at the wheel, see

-and he didn't hear me and we ran smack into a post but only

going twenty and I broke my nose. You've seen before my

nose-the crooked Grecian curve up here. After that I went

to Denver and met Marylou in a soda fountain that spring.

Oh, man, she was only fifteen and wearing jeans and just

waiting for someone to pick her up. Three days three nights

of talk in the Ace Hotel, third floor, southeast corner room,

holy memento room and sacred scene of my days-;-she was

so sweet then, so young, hmm, ahh! But hey, look down there

in the night thar, hup, hup, a buncha old bums by afire by

the rail, damn me." He almost slowed down. "You see, I

never know whether my father's there or not. " There were

some figures by the tracks, reeling in front of a woodfire. "I

never know whether to ask. He might be anywhere." We drove

on. Somewhere behind us or in front of us in the huge night

his father lay drunk under a bush, and no doubt about it-

spittle on his chin, water on his pants, molasses in his ears,

scabs on his nose, maybe blood in his hair and the moon shining

down on him.

I took Dean's arm. " Ah, man, we're sure going home now."

New York was going to be his permanent home for the first

time. He jiggled allover; he couldn't wait.

"And think, Sal, when we get to Pennsy we'll start hearing

that gone Eastern bop on the disk jockeys. Geeyah, roll, old

boat, roll!" The magnificent car made the wind roar; it made

the plains unfold like a roll of paper; it cast hot tar from itself

with deference-an imperial boat. I opened my eyes to a fan-

ning dawn; we were hurling up to it. Dean's rocky dogged face

as ever bent over the dashlight with a bony purpose of its own.

"What are you thinking, Pops?"

"Ah-ha, ah-ha, same old thing, y'know-gurls gurls gurls."

I went to sleep and woke up to the dry, hot atmosphere of

July Sunday morning in Iowa, and still Dean was driving and

driving and had not slackened his speed; he took the curvy

corndales of Iowa at a minimum of eighty and the straightaway

110 as usual, unless both-ways traffic forced him to fall in line

at a crawling and miserable sixty. When there was a chance

he shot ahead and passed cars by the half-dozen and left them

behind in a cloud of dust. A mad guy in a brandnew Buick

saw all this on the road and decided to race us. When Dean

was just about to pass a passel the guy shot by us without

warning and howled and tooted his horn and flashed the tail

lights for challenge. We took off after him like a big bird.

"Now wait," laughed Dean, "I'm going to tease that sonof-

abitch for a dozen miles or so. Watch." He let the Buick go

way ahead and then accelerated and caught up with it most

impolitely. Mad Buick went out of his mind; he gunned up to

a hundred. We had a chance to see who he was. He seemed

to be some kind of Chicago hipster traveling with a woman

old enough to be-and probably actually was-'--his mother.

God knows if she was complaining, but he raced. His hair was

dark and wild, an Italian from old Chi; he wore a sports shirt.

Maybe there was an idea in his mind that we were a new gang

from LA invading Chicago, maybe some of Mickey Cohen's

men, because the limousine looked every bit the part and the

license plates were California. Mainly it was just road kicks.

He took terrible chances to stay ahead of us; he passed cars

on curves and barely got back in line as a truck wobbled into

view and loomed up huge. Eighty miles of Iowa we unreeled

in this fashion, and the race was so interesting that I had no

opportunity to be frightened. Then the mad guy gave up,

pulled up at a gas station, probably on orders from the old

lady, and as we roared by he waved gleefully. On we sped,

Dean barechested, I with my feet on the dashboard, and the

college boys sleeping in the back, We stopped to eat breakfast

at a diner run by a whit~-haired lady who gave us extra-large

portions of potatoes as church-bells rang in the nearby town.

Then off again.

"Dean, don't drive so fast in the daytime."

"Don't worry, man, I know what I'm doing." I began to

flinch. Dean came up on lines of cars like the Angel of Terror.

He almost rammed them along as he looked for an opening.

He teased their bumpers, he eased and pushed and craned

around to see the curve, then the huge car leaped to his touch

and passed, and always by a hair we made it back to our side

as other lines filed by in the opposite direction and I shuddered.

I couldn't take it any more. It is only seldom that you find a

long Nebraskan straightaway in Iowa, and when we finally hit

one Dean made his usual 110 and I saw flashing by outside

several scenes that I remembered from 1947-a long stretch

where Eddie and' I had been stranded two hours. All that old

road of the past unreeling dizzily as if the cup of life had been

overturned and everything gone mad. My eyes ached in night-

mare day.

"Ah hell, Dean, I'm going in the back seat, I can't stand it

any more, I can't look."

"Hee-hee-hee!" tittered Dean and he passed a car on a

narrow bridge and swerved in dust and roared on. I jumped

in the back seat and curled up to sleep. One of the boys jumped

in front for the fun. Great horrors that we were going to crash

this very morning took hold of me and I got down on the floor

and closed my eyes and tried to go to sleep. As a seaman I

used to think of the waves rushing beneath the shell of the

ship and the bottomless deeps thereunder-now I could feel

the road some twenty inches beneath me, unfurling and flying

and hissing at incredible speeds across the groaning continent

with that mad Ahab at the wheel. When I closed my eyes all

I could see was the road unwinding into me. When I opened

them I saw flashing shadows of trees vibrating on the floor of

the car. There was no escaping it. I resigned myself to all. And

still Dean drove, he had no thought of sleeping till we got to

Chicago. In the afternoon we crossed old Des Moines again.

Here of course we got snarled in traffic and had to go slow

and I got back in the front seat. A strange pathetic accident

took place. A fat colored man was driving with his entire family

in a sedan in front of us; on the rear bumper hung one of those

canvas desert waterbags they sell tourists in the desert. He

pulled up sharp, Dean was talking to the boys in the back and

didn't notice, and we rammed him at five miles an hour smack

on the waterbag, which burst like a boil and squirted water in

the air. No other damage except a bent bumper. Dean and I

got out to talk to him. The upshot of it was an exchange of

addresses and some talk, and Dean not taking his eyes off the

man's wife whose beautiful brown breasts were barely con-

cealed inside a floppy cotton blouse. "Yass, yass." We gave

him the address of our Chicago baron and went on.

The other side of Des Moines a cruising car came after us

with the siren growling, with orders to pull over. "Now what?"

The cop came out. "Were you in an accident coming in?"

"Accident? We broke a guy's waterbag at the junction."

"He says he was hit and run by a bunch in a stolen car. "

This was one of the few instances Dean and I knew of a Negro's

acting like a suspicious old fool. It so surprised us we laughed.

We had to follow the patrolman to the station and there spent

an hour waiting in the grass while they telephoned Chicago to

get the owner of the Cadillac and verify our position as hired

drivers. Mr. Baron said, according to the cop, "Yes, that is

my car but I can't vouch for anything else those boys might

have done."

"They were in a minor accident here in Des Moines."

"Yes, you've already told me that-what I meant was, I

can't vouch for anything they might have done in the past."

Everything was straightened out and we roared on. Newton,

Iowa, it was, where I'd taken that dawn walk in 1947. In the

afternoon we crossed drowsy old Davenport again and the

low-lying Mississippi in her sawdust bed; then Rock Island, a

few minutes of traffic, the sun reddening, and sudden sights

of lovely little tributary rivers flowing softly among the magic

trees and greeneries of mid-American Illinois. It was beginning

to look like the soft sweet East again; the great dry West was

accomplished and done. The state of Illinois unfolded before

my eyes in one vast movement that lasted a matter of hours

as Dean balled straight across at the same speed. In his tired-

ness he was taking greater chances than ever. At a narrow

bridge that crossed one of these lovely little rivers he shot

precipitately into an almost impossible situation. Two slow cars

ahead of us were bumping over the bridge; coming the other

way was a huge truck-trailer with a driver who ,was making a

close estimate of how long it would take the slow cars to

negotiate the bridge, and his estimate was that by the time he

got there they'd be over. There was absolutely no room on

the bridge for the truck and any cars going the other direction.

Behind the truck cars pulled out. and peeked for a chance to

get by it. In front of the slow cars other slow cars were pushing

along. The road was crowded and everyone exploding to pass.

Dean came down on all this at 110 miles an hour and never

hesitated. He passed the slow cars, swerved, and almost hit

the left rail of the bridge, went head-on into the shadow of

the unslowing truck, cut right sharply, just missed the truck's

left front wheel, almost hit the first slow car, pulled out to

pass, and then had to cut back in line when another car came

out from behind the truck to look, all in a matter of two

seconds, flashing by and leaving nothing more than a cloud of

dust instead of a horrible five-way crash with cars lurching in

every direction and the great truck humping its back in the

fatal red afternoon of Illinois with its dreaming fields. I couldn't

get it out of my mind, also, that a famous bop clarinetist had

died in an Illinois car-crash recently, probably on a day like

this. I went to the back seat again.

The boys stayed in the back too now. Dean was bent on

Chicago before nightfall. At a road-rail junction we picked up

two hobos who rounded up a half-buck between them for gas.

A moment before sitting aro1;lnd piles of railroad ties, polishing

off the last of some wine, now they found themselves in a

muddy but unbowed and splendid Cadillac limousine headed

for Chicago in precipitous haste. In fact the old boy up front;

who sat next to Dean never took his eyes off the road and

prayed his poor bum prayers, I tell you. "Well," they said,

"we never knew we'd get to Chicaga sa fast." As we passed

drowsy Illinois towns where the people are so conscious of

Chicago gangs that pass like this in limousines every day, we

were a strange sight: all of us unshaven, the driver barechested,

two bums, myself in the back seat, holding on to a strap and

my head leaned back on the cushion looking at the countryside

with an imperious eye-just like a new California gang come

to contest the spoils of Chicago, a band of desperados escaped

from the prisons of the Utah moon. When we stopped for

Cokes and gas at a small-town station people came out to stare

at us but they never said a word and I think made mental

notes of our descriptions and heights in case of future need.

To transact business with the girl who ran the gas-pump Dean

merely threw on his T -shirt like a scarf and was curt and abrupt

as usual and got back in the car and off we roared again. Pretty

soon 'the redness turned purple, the last of the enchanted rivers

flashed by, and we saw distant smokes of Chicago beyond the

drive. We had come from Denver to Chicago via Ed Wall's

ranch, 1180 miles, in exactly seventeen hours, not counting

the two hours in the ditch and three at the ranch and two with

the police in Newton, Iowa, for a mean average of seventy

miles per hour across the land, with one driver. Which is a

kind of crazy record.

 

 

10

 

Great Chicago glowed red before our eyes. We were suddenly

on Madison Street among hordes of hobos, some of them

sprawled out on the street with their feet on the curb, hundreds

of others milling in the doorways of saloons and alleys. "Wup!

wup! look sharp for old Dean Moriarty there, he may be in

Chicago by accident this year." We let out the hobos on this

street and proceeded to downtown Chicago. Screeching trol-

leys, newsboys, gals cutting by, the smell of fried food and

beer in the air, neons winking-"We're in the big town, Sal!

Whooee!" First thing to do was park the Cadillac in a good

dark spot and wash up and dress for the night. Across the

street from the YMCA we found a redbrick alley between

buildings, where we stashed the Cadillac with her snout

pointed to the street and ready to go, then followed the college

boys up to the Y, where they got a room and allowed us to

use their facilities for an hour. Dean and I shaved and show-

ered, I dropped my wallet in the hall, Dean found it and was

about to sneak it in his shirt when he realized it was ours and

was right disappointed. Then we said good-by to those boys,

who were glad they'd made it in one piece, and took off to

eat in a cafeteria. Old brown Chicago with the strange semi-

Eastern, semi-Western types going to work and spitting. Dean

stood in the cafeteria rubbing his belly and taking it all in. He

wanted to talk to a strange middle-aged colored woman who

had come into the cafeteria with a story about how she had

no money but she had buns with her and would they give her

butter. She came in flapping her hips, was turned down, and

went out flipping her butt. "Whoo!" said Dean. "Let's follow

her down the street, , let's take her to the ole Cadillac in the

alley. We'll have a ball." But we forgot that and headed

straight for North Clark Street, after a spin in the Loop, to

see the hootchy-kootchy joints and hear the bop. And what a

night it was. "Oh, man," said Dean to me as we stood in front

of a bar, "dig the street of life, the Chinamen that cut by in

Chicago. What a weird town-wow, and that woman in that

window up there, just looking down with her big breasts hang-

ing from her nightgown, big wide eyes. Whee. Sal, we gotta

go and never stop going till we get there."

"Where we going, man?"

"I don't know but we gotta go." Then here came a gang of

young bop musicians carrying their instruments out of cars.

They piled right into a saloon and we followed them. They set

themselves up and started blowing. There we were! The leader

was a slender, drooping, curly-haired, pursy-mouthed tenor-

man, thin of shoulder, draped loose in a sports shirt, cool in

the warm night, self-indulgence written in his eyes, who picked

up his horn and frowned in it and blew cool and complex and

was dainty stamping his foot to catch ideas, and ducked to

miss 'others-and said, "Blow ," very quietly when the other

boys took solos. Then there was Prez, a husky, handsome

blond like a freckled boxer, meticulously wrapped inside his

sharkskin plaid suit with the long drape and the collar falling

back and the tie undone for exact sharpness and casualness,

sweating and hitching up his horn and writhing into it, and a

tone just like Lester Young himself. "You see, man, Prez has

the technical anxieties of a money-making musician, he's the

only one who's well dressed, see him grow worried when he

blows a clinker, but the leader, that cool cat, tells him not to

worry and just blow and 'blow-the mere sound and serious

exuberance of the music is all he cares about. He's an artist.

He's teaching young Prez the boxer. Now the others dig!!"

The third sax was an alto, eighteen-year-old cool, contempla-

tive young Charlie-Parker-type Negro from high school, with

a broadgash mouth, taller than the rest, grave. He raised his

horn and blew into it quietly and thoughtfully and elicited

birdlike phrases and architectural Miles Davis logics. These

were the children of the great bop innovators.

Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top

in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians

who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa

marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy El-

dridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it

had in waves of power and logic and subtlety-leaning to it

with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broad-

cast to rock the jazz world. Then had come Charlie Parker, a

kid in his mother's woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his

taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming

out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band

that had Hot Lips Page and the rest-Charlie Parker leaving

home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonius

Monk and madder Gillespie-Charlie Parker in his early days

when he was flipped and walked around in a circle while play-

ing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC,

that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was

wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from

his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer

and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down half-

way; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his

thick-soled shoes so that he can't feel the sidewalks of life his

horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and

easy get out phrases. Here were the children of the American

bop night.

Stranger flowers yet-for as the Negro alto mused over

everyone's head with dignity, the young, tall, slender, blond

kid from Curtis Street, Denver, jeans and studded belt, sucked

on his mouthpiece while waiting for the others to finish; and

when they did he started, and you had to look around to see

where the solo was coming from, for it came from angelical

smiling lips upon the mouthpiece and it was a soft, sweet,

fairy-tale solo on an alto. Lonely as America, a throatpierced

sound in the night.

What of the others and all the soundmaking? There was the

bass-player, wiry redhead with wild eyes, jabbing his hips at

the fiddle with every driving slap, at hot moments his mouth

hanging open trancelike. "Man, there's a cat who can really

bend his girl!" The sad drummer, like our white hipster in

Frisco Folsom Street, completely goofed, staring into space,

chewing gum, wide-eyed, rocking the neck with Reich kick

and complacent ecstasy. The piano-a big husky Italian truck-

driving kid with meaty hands, a burly and thoughtful joy. They

played an hour. Nobody was listening. Old North Clark bums

lolled at the bar, whores screeched in anger. Secret Chinamen

went by. Noises pf hootchy-kootchy interfered. They went

right on. Out on the sidewalk came an apparition-a sixteen-

year-old kid with a goatee and a trombone case. Thin as rick-

ets, mad-faced, he wanted to join this group and blow with

them. They knew him and didn't want to bother with him. He

crept into the bar and surreptitiously undid his trombone and

'raised it to his lips. No opening. Nobody looked at him. They

finished, packed up, and left for another bar. He wanted to

jump, skinny Chicago kid. He slapped on his dark glasses,

raised the trombone to his lips alone in the bar, and went

"Baugh!" Then he rushed out after them. They wouldn't let

him play with them, just like the sandlot football team in back

of the gas tank. " All these guys live with their grandmothers

just like Tom Snark and our Carlo Marx alto," said Dean. We

rushed after the whole gang. They went into Anita O'Day's

club and there unpacked and played till nine o'clock in the

morning. Dean and I were there with beers.

At intermissions we rushed out in the Cadillac and tried to

pick up girls all up and down Chicago. They were frightened

of our big, scarred, prophetic car. In his mad frenzy Dean

backed up smack on hydrants and tittered maniacally. By nine

o'clock the car was an utter wreck; the brakes weren't working

any more; the fenders were stove in; the rods were rattling.

Dean couldn't stop it at red lights, it kept kicking convulsively

over the roadway. It had paid the price of the night. It was a

muddy boot and no longer a shiny limousine. "Wheel" The

boys were still blowing at Neets'.

Suddenly Dean stared into the darkness of a corner beyond

the bandstand and said, "Sal, God has arrived."

I looked. George Shearing. And as always he leaned his

blind head on his pale hand, all ears opened like the ears of

an elephant, listening to the American sounds and mastering

them for his own English summer's-night use. Then they urged

him to get up, and play. He did. He played innumerable cho-

ruses with amazing chords that mounted higher and higher till

the sweat splashed all over the piano and everybody listened

in awe and fright. They led him off the stand after an hour.

He went back to his dark corner, old God Shearing, and the

boys said, "There ain't nothin left after that."

But the slender leader frowned. "Let's blow anyway."

Something would come of it yet. There's always more, a

little further-it never ends. They sought to find new phrases

after Shearing's explorations; they tried hard. They writhed

and twisted and blew. Every now and then a clear harmonic

cry gave new suggestions of a tune that would someday be the

only tune in the world and would raise men's souls to joy.

They found it, they lost, they wrestled for it, they found it

again, they laughed, they moaned--and Dean sweated at the

table and told them to go, go, go. At nine o'clock in the

morning everybody-musicians, girls in slacks, bartenders,

and the one little skinny, unhappy tiombonist-staggered out

of the club into the great roar of Chicago day to sleep until

the wild bop night again.

Dean and I shuddered in the raggedness. It was now time

to return the Cadillac to the owner, who lived out on Lake

Shore Drive in a swank apartment with an enormous garage

underneath managed by oil-scarred Negroes. We drove out

there and swung the muddy heap into its berth. The mechanic

did not recognize the Cadillac. We handed the papers over.

He scratched his head at the sight of it. We had to get out

fast. We did. We took a bus back to downtown Chicago and

that was that. And we never heard a word from our Chicago

baron about the condition of his car, in spite of the fact that

he had our addresses and could have complained.

 

11

 

It was time for us to move on. We took a bus to Detroit. Our

money was now running quite low. We lugged our wretched

baggage through the station. By now Dean's thumb bandage

was almost as black as coal and all unrolled. We were both as

miserable-looking as anybody could be after all the things we'd

done. Exhausted, Dean fell asleep in the bus that roared across

the state of Michigan. I took up a conversation with a gorgeous

country girl wearing a low-cut cotton blouse that displayed the

beautiful sun-tan on her breast tops. She was dull. She spoke

of evenings in the country making popcorn on the porch. Once

this would have gladdened my heart but because her heart was

not glad when she said it I knew there was nothing in it but

the idea of what one should do. " And what else do you do

for fun?" I tried to bring up boy friends and sex. Her great

dark eyes surveyed me with emptiness and a kind of chagrin

that reached back generations and generations in her blood

from not having done what was crying to be done-whatever

it was, and everybody knows what it was. "What do you want

out of life?" I wanted to take her and wring it out of her. She

didn't have the slightest idea what she wanted. She mumbled

of jobs, movies, going to her grandmother's for the summer ,

wishing she could go to New York and visit the Roxy, what

kind of outfit she would wear-something like the one she

wore last Easter, white bonnet, roses, rose pumps, and lav-

ender gabardine coat. "What do you do on Sunday after-

noons?" I asked. She sat on her porch. The boys went by on

bicycles and stopped to chat. She read the funny papers, she

reclined on the hammock. "What do you do on a warm sum-

mer's night?" She sat on the porch, she watched the cars in

the road. She and her mother made popcorn. "What does your

father do on a summer's night?" He works, he has an all-night

shift at the boiler factory, he's spent his whole life supporting

a woman and her outpoppings and no credit or adoration.

"What does your brother do on a summer's night?" He rides .

around on his bicycle, he hangs out in front of the soda foun-

tain. "What is he aching to do? What are we all aching to do?

What do we want?" She didn't know. She yawned. She was

sleepy. It was too much. Nobody could tell. Nobody would

ever tell. It was allover .She was eighteen and most lovely,

and lost.

And Dean and I, ragged and dirty as if we had lived off

locust, stumbled out of the bus in Detroit. We decided to stay

up in all-night movies on Skid Row. It was too cold for parks.

Hassel had been here on Detroit Skid Row, he had dug every

shooting gallery and all-night movie and every brawling bar

with his dark eyes many a time. His ghost haunted us. We'd

never find him on Times Square again. We thought maybe by

accident Old Dean Moriarty was here too-but he was not.

For thirty-five cents each we went into the beat-up old movie

and sat down in the balcony till morning, when we were shooed

downstairs. The people who were in that all-night movie were

the end. Beat Negroes who'd come up from Alabama to work

in car factories on a rumor; old white bums; young longhaired

hipsters who'd reached the end of the road and were drinking

wine; whores, ordinary couples, and housewives with nothing

to do, nowhere to go, nobody to believe in. If you sifted all

Detroit in a wire basket the beater solid core of dregs couldn't

be better gathered. The picture was Singing Cowboy Eddie

Dean and his gallant white horse Bloop, that was number one;

number two double-feature film was George Raft, Sidney

Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre in a picture about Istanbul. We

saw both of these things six times each during the night. We

saw them waking, we heard them sleeping, we sensed them

dreaming, we were permeated completely with the strange

Gray Myth of the West and the weird dark Myth of the East

when morning came. All my actions since then have been

dictated automatically to my subconscious by this horrible os-

motic experience. I heard big Greenstreet sneer a hundred

times; I heard Peter Lorre make his sinister come-on; I was

with George Raft in his paranoiac fears; I rode and sang with

Eddie Dean and shot up the rustlers innumerable times. People

slugged out of bottles and turned around and looked every-

where in the dark theater for something to do, somebody to

talk to. In the head everybody was guiltily quiet, nobody

talked. In the gray dawn that puffed ghostlike about the win-

dows of the theater and hugged its eaves I was sleeping with

my head on the wooden arm of a seat as six attendants of the

theater converged with their night's total of swept-up rubbish

and created a huge dusty pile that reached to my nose as I

snored head down-till they almost swept me away too. This

was reported to me by Dean, who was watching from ten seats

behind. All the cigarette butts, the bottles, the matchbooks,

the come and the gone were swept up in this pile. Had they

taken me with it, Dean would never have seen me again. He

would have had to roam the entire United States and look in

every garbage pail from coast to coast before he found me

embryonically convoluted among the rubbishes of my life, his

life, and the life of everybody concerned and not concerned.

What would 1 have said to him from my rubbish womb? "Don't

bother me, man, I'm happy where I am. You lost me one night

in Detroit in August nineteen forty-nine. What right have you

to come and disturb my reverie in this pukish can?" In 1942

I was the star in one of the filthiest dramas of all time. I was

a seaman, and went to the Imperial Cafe on Scollay Square

in Boston to drink; I drank sixty glasses of beer and retired

to the toilet, where I wrapped myself around the toilet bowl

and went to sleep. During the night at least a hundred seamen

and assorted civilians came in and cast their sentient debouch-

ments on me till I was unrecognizably caked. What difference

does it make after all?-anonymity in the world of men is

better than fame in heaven, for what's heaven? what's earth?

All in the mind.

Gibberishly Dean and I stumbled out of this horror-hole at

dawn and went to find our travel-bureau car. After spending

a good part of the morning in Negro bars and chasing gals and

listening to jazz records on jukeboxes, we struggled five miles

in local buses with all our crazy gear and got to the home of

a man who was going to charge us four dollars apiece for the

ride to New York. He was a middle-aged blond fellow with

glasses, with a wife and kid and a good home. We waited in

the yard while he got ready. His lovely wife in cotton kitchen

dress offered us coffee but we were too busy talking. By this

time Dean was so exhausted and out of his mind that every-

thing he saw delighted him. He was reaching another pious

frenzy. He sweated and sweated. The moment we were in the

new Chrysler and off to New York the poor man realized he

had contracted a ride with two maniacs, but he made the best

of it and in fact got used to us just as we passed Briggs Stadium

and talked about next year's Detroit Tigers.

In the misty night we crossed Toledo and went onward across

old Ohio. I realized I was beginning to cross and recross towns

in America as though I were a traveling salesman-raggedy

travelings, bad stock, rotten beans in the bottom of my bag

of tricks, nobody buying. The man got tired near Pennsylvania

and Dean took the wheel and drove clear the Test of the way

to New York, and we began to hear the Symphony Sid show

on the radio with all the latest bop, and now we were entering

the great and final city of America. We got there in early

morning. Times Square was being torn up, for New York never

rests. We looked for Hassel automatically as we pa~sed.

In an hour Dean and I were out at my aunt's new flat in

Long Island, and she herself was busily engaged with painters

who were friends of the family, and arguing with them about

the price as we stumbled up the stairs from San Francisco.

"Sal," said my aunt, "Dean can stay here a few days and after I

that he has to get out, do you understand me?" The trip was

over. Dean and I took a walk that night among the gas tanks

and railroad bridges and fog lamps of Long Island. I remember

him standing under a streetlamp.

"Just as we passed that other lamp I was going to tell you

-a further thing, Sal, but now I am parenthetically continuing

with a new thought and by the time we reach the next I'll

return to the original subject, agreed?" I certainly agreed. We

were so used to traveling we had to walk allover Long Island,

but there was no more land, just the Atlantic Ocean, and we

could only go so far. We clasped hands and agreed to be friends

forever.

Not five nights later we went to a party in New York and I

saw a girl called Inez and told her I had a friend with me that

she ought to meet sometime. I was drunk and told her he was

a cowboy. "Oh, I've always wanted to meet a cowboy."

"Dean?" I yelled across the party-which included Angel

Luz Garcia the poet; Walter Evans; Victor Villanueva, the

Venezuelan poet; Jinny Jones, a former love of mine; Carlo

Marx; Gene Dexter; and innumerable others-"Come over

here, man." Dean came bashfully over. An hour later, in the

drunkenness and chichiness of the party ("It's in honor of the

end of the summer, of course"), he was kneeling on the floor

with his chin on her belly and telling her and promising her

everything and sweating. She was a big, sexy brunette-as

Garcia said, "Something straight out of Degas," and generally

like a beautiful Parisian coquette. In a matter of days they

were dickering with Camille [Carolyn Cassady] in San Fran-

cisco by longdistance telephone for the necessary divorce pa-

pers so they could get married. Not only that, but a few months

later Camille gave birth to Dean's second baby, the result of

a few nights' rapport early in the year. And another matter of

months and Inez had a baby. With one illegitimate child in

the West somewhere, Dean then had four little ones and not

a cent, and was all troubles and ecstasy and speed as ever. So

we didn't go to Italy.

 

 

[PART FOUR]

 

Immediately outside Gregoria the road began to drop, great

trees arose on each side, and in the trees as it grew dark we

heard the great roar of billions of insects that sounded like

one continuous high-screeching cry. "Whoo!" said Dean, and

he turned on his headlights and they weren't working. "What!

what! damn now what?" And he punched and fumed at his

dashboard. "Oh, my, we'll have to drive through the jungle

without lights, think of the horror of that, the only time I'll

see is when another car comes by and there just aren't any

cars!'And of course no lights? Oh, what'll we do, dammit?"

"Let's just drive. Maybe we ought to go back, though?"

"No, never-never! Let's go on. I can barely see the road.

We'll make it." And now we shot in inky darkness through

the scream of insects, and the great, rank, almost rotten smell

descended, and we remembered and realized that the map

indicated just after Gregoria the beginning of the Tropic of

Cancer. "We're in a new tropic! No wonder the smell! Smell

it!" I stuck my head out the window; bugs smashed at my face;

a great screech rose the moment I cocked my ear to the wind.

Suddenly our lights were working again and they poked ahead ,

illuminating the lonely road that ran between solid walls of

drooping, snaky trees as high as a hundred feet.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" yelled Stan in the back. "Hot damn!" He

was still so high. We suddenly realized he was still high and

the jungle and troubles made no difference to his happy soul.

We began laughing, all of us.

"To hell with it! We'll just throw ourselves on the gawddamn

jungle, we'll sleep in it tonight, let's go!" yelled Dean. "Ole

Stan is right. Ole Stan don't care! He's so high on those women

and that tea and that crazy out-of-this-world impossible-to-

absorb mambo blasting so loud that my eardrums still beat to

it-whee! he's so high he knows what he's doing!" We took

off our T -shirts and roared through the jungle, bare-chested.

No towns, nothing, lost jungle, miles and miles, and down-

going, getting hotter, the insects screaming louder, the vege-

tation growing higher, the smell ranker and hotter until we

began to get used to it and like it. "I'd just like to get naked

and roll and roll in that jungle," said Dean. "No, hell, man,

that's what I'm going to do soon's I find a good spot." And

suddenly Limon appeared before us, a jungle town, a few

brown lights, dark shadows, enormous skies overhead, and a

cluster of men in front of a jumble of woodshacks-a tropical

crossroads.

We stopped in the unimaginable softness. It was as hot as

the inside of a baker's oven on a June night in New Orleans.

All up and down the street whole families were sitting around

in the dark, chatting; occasional girls came by, but extremely

young and only curious to see what we looked like. They were

barefoot and dirty. We leaned on the wooden porch of a

broken-down general store with sacks of flour and fresh pine-

apple rotting with flies on the counter. There was one oil lamp

in here, and outside a few more brown lights, and the rest all

black, black, black. Now of course we were so tired we had

to sleep at once and moved the car a few yards down a dirt

road to the backside of town. It was so incredibly hot it was

impossible to sleep. So Dean took a blanket and laid it out

on the soft, hot sand in the road and flopped out. Stan was

stretched on the front seat of the Ford with both doors open

for a draft, but there wasn't even the faintest puff of a wind.

I, in the back seat, suffered in a pool of sweat. I got out of

the car and stood swaying in the blackness. The whole town

had instantly gone to bed; the only noise now was barking

dogs. How could I ever sleep? Thousands of mosquitoes had

already bitten all of us on chest and arms and ankles. Then a

bright idea came to me: I jumped up on the steel roof of the

car and stretched out flat on my back. Still there was no breeze,

but the steel had an element of coolness in it and dried my

back of sweat, clotting up thousands of dead bugs into cakes

on my skin, and I realized the jungle takes you over and you

become it. Lying on the top of the car with my face to the

black sky was like lying in a closed trunk on a summer night.

For the first time in my life the weather was not something

that touched me, that caressed me, froze or sweated me, but

became me. The atmosphere and I became the same. Soft

infinitesimal showers of microscopic bugs fanned down on my

face as I slept, and they were extremely pleasant and soothing.

The sky was starless, utterly unseen and heavy. I could lie

there all night long with my face exposed to the heavens, and

it would do me no more harm than a velvet drape drawn over

me. The dead bugs mingled with my blood; the live mosquitoes

exchanged further portions; I began to tingle allover and to

smell of the rank, hot, and rotten jungle, allover from hair

and face to feet and toes. Of course I was barefoot. To

minimize the sweat I put on my bug-smeared T -shirt and lay

back again. A huddle of darkness on the blacker road showed

where Dean was sleeping. I could hear him snoring. Stan was

snoring too.

Occasionally a dim light flashed in town, and this was the

sheriff making his rounds with a weak flashlight and mumbling

to himself in the jungle night. Then I saw his light jiggling

toward us and heard his footfalls coming soft on the mats of

sand and vegetation. He stopped and flashed the car. I sat up

and looked at him. In a quivering, almost querulous, and

extremely tender voice he said, "Dormiendo?" indicating

Dean in the road. I knew this meant "sleep."

"Si, dormiendo."

"Bueno, bueno," he said to himself and with reluctance and

sadness turned away and went back to his lonely rounds. Such

I lovely policemen God hath never wrought in America. No

suspicions, no fuss, no bother: he was the guardian of the

sleeping town, period.

I went back to my bed of steel and stretched out with my

arms spread. I didn't even know if branches or open sky were

directly above me, and it made no difference. I opened my

mouth to it and drew deep breaths of jungle atmosphere. It

was not air, never air, but the palpable and living emanation

of trees and swamp. I stayed awake. Roosters began to crow

the dawn across the brakes somewhere. Still no air, no breeze,

no dew, but the same Tropic of Cancer heaviness held us all

pinned to earth, where we belonged and tingled. There was

no sign of dawn in the skies. Suddenly I heard the dogs barking

furiously across the dark, and then I heard the faint clip-clop

of a horse's hooves. It came closer and closer. What kind of

mad rider in the night would this be? Then I saw an apparition:

a wild horse, white as a ghost, came trotting down the road

directly toward Dean. Behind him the dogs yammered and

contended. I couldn't see them, they were dirty old jungle

dogs, but the horse was white as snow and immense and almost

phosphorescent and easy to see. I felt no panic for Dean. The

horse saw him and trotted right by his head, passed the car

like a ship, whinnied softly, and continued on through town,

bedeviled by the dogs, and clip-clopped back to the jungle on

the other side, and all I heard was the faint hoofbeat fading

away in the woods. The dogs subsided and sat to lick them-

selves. What was this horse? What myth and ghost, what spirit?

I told Dean about it when he woke up. He thought I'd been

dreaming. Then he recalled faintly dreaming of a white horse,

and I told him it had been no dream. Stan Shephard slowly

woke up. The faintest movements, and we were sweating pro-

fusely again. It was still pitch dark. "Let's start the car and

blow some air!" I cried. "I'm dying of heat."

"Right!" We roared out of town and continued along the

mad highway with our hair flying. Dawn came rapidly in a

gray haze, revealing dense swamps sunk on both sides, with

tall, forlorn; viny trees leaning and bowing over tangled bot-

toms. We bowled right along the railroad tracks for a while.

The strange radio-station antenna of Ciudad Mante appeared

ahead, as if we were in Nebraska. We found a gas station and

loaded the tank just as the last of the jungle-night bugs hurled

themselves in a black mass against the bulbs and fell fluttering

at our feet in huge wriggly groups, some of them with wings

a good four inches long, others frightful dragonflies big enough

to eat a bird, and thousands of immense yangling mosquitoes

and unnamable spidery insects of all sorts. I hopped up and

down on the -pavement for fear of them; I finally ended up in

the car with my feet in my hands, looking fearfully at the

ground where they swarmed around our wheels. "Lessgo!" I

yelled. Dean and Stan weren't perturbed at all by the bugs;

they calmly drank a couple of bottles of Mission Orange and

kicked them gway from the water cooler. Their shirts and

pants, like mine, were soaked in the blood and black of thou-

sands of dead bugs. We smelled our clothes deeply.

"You know, I'm beginning to like this smell," said Stan."  I

can't smell myself any more."

"It's a strange, good smell," said Dean. "I'm not going to

change my shirt till Mexico City, I want to take it all in and

remember it. " So off we roared again, creating air for our hot

caked faces.

Then the mountains loomed ahead, all green. After this

climb we would be on the great central plateau again and ready

to roll ahead to Mexico City. In no time at all we soared to

an elevation of five thousand feet among misty passes that

overlooked steaming yellow rivers a mile below. It was the

great River Moctezuma. The Indians along the road began

to be extremely weird. They were a nation in themselves,

mountain Indians, shut off from everything else but the Pan.:

American Highway. They were short and squat and dark, with

bad teeth; they carried immense loads on their backs. Across

enormous vegetated ravines w~ saw patchworks of agriculture

on steep slopes. They walked up and down those slopes and

worked the crops. Dean drove the car five miles an hour to

see. "Whooee, this I never thought existed!" High on the

highest peak, as great as any Rocky Mountain peak, we saw

bananas growing. Dean got out of the car to point, to stand

around rubbing his belly. We were on a ledge where a little

thatched hut suspended itself over the precipice of the world.

The sun created golden hazes that obscured the Moctezuma,

now more than a mile below.

In the yard in front of the hut a little three-year-old Indian

girl stood with her finger in her mouth, watching us with big

brown eyes. "She's probably never seen anybody parked here

before in her entire life!" breathed Dean. "Hel-lo, little girl.

How are you? Do you like us?" The little girl looked away

bashfully and pouted. We began to talk and she again ex-

amined us with finger ill mouth. "Gee, I wish there was some-

thing I could give her! Think of it, being born and living on

this ledge-this ledge representing all you know of life. Her

father is probably groping down the ravine with a rope and

getting his pineapples out of a cave and hacking wood at an

eighty-degree angle with all the bottom below. She'll never,

never leave here and know anything about the outside world.

It's a nation. Think of the wild chief they must have! They

probably, off the road, over that bluff, miles back, must be

even wilder and stranger, yeah, because the Pan-American

Highway partially civilizes this nation on this road. Notice the

beads of sweat on her brow ," Dean pointed out with a grimace

of pain. "It's not the kind of sweat we have, it's oily and it's

always there because it's always hot the year round and she

knows nothing of non-sweat, she was born with sweat and dies

with sweat." The sweat on her little brow was heavy, sluggish;

it didn't run; it just stood there and gleamed like a fine olive

oil. "What that must do to their souls! How different they must

be in their private concerns and evaluations and wishes!" Dean

drove on with his mouth hanging in awe, ten miles an hour,

desirous to see ~very possible human being on the road. We

climbed and climbed.

As we climbed, the air grew cooler and the Indian girls on

the road wore shawls over their heads and shoulders. They

hailed us desperately; we stopped to see. They wanted to sell

us little pieces of rock crystal. Their great brown, innocent

eyes looked into ours with such soulful intensity that not one

of us had the slightest sexual thought about them; moreover

they were very young, some of them eleven and looking almost

thirty. "Look at those eyes!" breathed Dean. They were like

the eyes of the Virgin Mother when she was a child. We saw

in them the tender and forgiving gaze of Jesus. And they stared

unflinching into ours. We rubbed our nervous blue eyes and

looked again. Still they penetrated us with sorrowful and hyp-

notic gleam. When they talked they suddenly became frantic

and almost silly. In their silence they were themselves.

"They've only recently learned to sell these crystals, since the

highway was built about ten years back-up until that time

this entire nation must have been silent!"

The girls yammered around the car. One particularly soulful

child gripped at Dean's sweaty arm. She yammered in Indian.

"Ah yes, ah yes, dear one," said Dean tenderly and almost

sadly. He got out of the car and went fishing around in the

battered trunk in the back -the same old tortured American

trunk-and pulled out a wristwatch. He showed it to the child.

She whimpered with glee. The others crowded around with

amazement. Then Dean poked in the little girl's hand for "the

sweetest and purest and smallest crystal she has personally

picked from the mountain for me." He found one no bigger

than a berry. And he handed her the wristwatch dangling.

Their mouths rounded like the mouths of chorister children.

The lucky little girl squeezed it to her ragged breastrobes. They

stroked Dean and thanked him. He stood among them with

his ragged face to the sky, looking for the next and highest

and final pass, and seemed like the Prophet that had come to

them. He got back in the car. They hated to see us go. For

the longest time, as we mounted a straight pass, they waved

and ran after us. We made a turn and never saw them again,

and they were still running after us. " Ah, this breaks my

heart!" cried Dean, punching his chest. "How far do they carry

out these loyalties and wonders! What's going to happen to

them? Would they try to follow the car all the way to Mexico

City if we drove slow enough?"

"Yes," I said, for I knew.

We came into the dizzying heights of the Sierra Madre Ori-

ental. The banana trees gleamed golden in the haze. Great

fogs yawned beyond stone walls along the precipice. Below,

the Moctezuma was a thin golden thread in a green jungle

mat. Strange crossroad towns on top of the world rolled by,

with shawled Indians watching us from under hatbrims and

rebozos. Life was dense, dark, ancient. They watched Dean,

serious and insane at his raving wheel, with eyes of hawks.

All had their hands outstretched. They had come down from

the back mountains and higher places to hold forth their hands

for something they thought civilization could offer, and they

never dreamed the sadness and the poor broken delusion of

it. They didn't know that a bomb had come that could crack

all our bridges and roads and reduce them to jumbles, and we

would be as poor as they someday, and stretching out our

hands in the same, same way. Our broken Ford, old thirties

up going America Ford, rattled through them and vanished in

dust.

We had reached the approaches of the last plateau. Now

the sun was golden, the. air keen blue, and the desert with its

occasional rivers a riot of sandy, hot space and sudden Biblical

tree shade. Now Dean was sleeping and Stan driving. The

shepherds appeared, dressed as in first times, in long flowing

robes, the women carrying golden bundles of flax, the men

staves. Under great trees on the shimmering desert the shep-

herds sat and convened, and the sheep moiled in the sun and

raised dust beyond. "Man, man," I yelled to Dean, "wake up

and see the shepherds, wake up and see the golden world that

Jesus came from, with your own eyes you can tell!"

He shot his head up from the seat, saw one glimpse of it all

in the fading red sun, and dropped back to sleep. When he

woke up he described it to me in detail and said, "Yes, man,

I'm glad you told me to look. Oh, Lord, what shall I do?

Where will I go?" He rubbed his belly, he looked to heaven

with red eyes, he almost wept.

The end of our journey impended. Great fields stretched on

both sides of us; a noble wind blew across the occasional im-

mense tree groves and over old missions turning salmon pink

in the late sun. The clouds were close and huge and rose.

"Mexico City by dusk!" We'd made it, a total of nineteen

hundred miles from the afternoon yards of Denver to these

vast and Biblical areas of the world, and now we were about

to reach the end of the road.

"Shall we change our insect T -shirts?"

"Naw, let's wear them into town, hell's bells." And we drove

into Mexico City."

A brief mountain pass took us suddenly to a height from

which we saw all of Mexico City stretched out in its volcanic

crater below and spewing city smokes and early dusklights.

Down to it we zoomed, down Insurgentes Boulevard, straight

toward the heart of town at Reforma. Kids played soccer in

enormous sad fields and threw up dust. Taxi-drivers overtook

us and wanted to know if we wanted girls. No, we didn't want

girls now. Long, ragged adobe slums stretched out on the plain;

we saw lonely figures in the dimming alleys. Soon night would

come. Then the city roared in and suddenly we were passing

crowded cafes and theaters and many lights. Newsboys yelled

at us. Mechanics slouched by, barefoot, with wrenches and

rags. Mad barefoot Indian drivers cut across us and surrounded

us and tooted and made frantic traffic. The noise was incred-

ible. No mufflers are used on Mexican cars. Horns are batted

with glee continual. "Whee!" yelled Dean. "Look out!" He

staggered the car through the traffic and played with every-

body. He drove like an Indian. He got on a circular glorietta

drive on Reforma Boulevard and rolled around it with its eight

spokes shooting cars at us from all directions, left, right, iz-

quierda, dead ahead, and yelled and jumped with joy. "This

is traffic I've always dreamed of! Everybody goes!" An am-

bulance came balling through. American ambulances dart and

weave through traffic with siren blowing; the great world-wide

Fellahin Indian ambulances merely come through at eighty

miles an hour in the city streets, and everybody just has to get

out of the way and they don't pause for anybody or any cir-

cumstances and fly straight through. We saw it reeling out of

sight on skittering wheels in the breaking-up moil of dense

downtown traffic. The drivers were Indians. People, even old

ladies, ran for buses that never stopped. Young Mexico City

businessmen made bets and ran by squads for buses and ath-

letically jumped them. The bus-drivers were barefoot, sneering

and insane, and sat low and squat in T -shirts at the low, enor-

mous wheels. Ikons burned over them. The lights in the buses

were brown and greenish, and dark faces were lined on wooden

benches.

In downtown Mexico City thousands of hipsters in floppy

straw hats and long-lapeled jackets over bare chests padded

along the main drag, some of them selling crucifixes and weed

in the alleys, some of them kneeling in beat chapels next to

Mexican burlesque shows in sheds. Some alleys were rubble,

with open sewers, and little doors led to closet-size bars stuck

in adobe walls. You had to jump over a ditch to get your drink,

and in the bottom of the ditch was the ancient lake of the

Aztec. You came out of the bar with your back to the wall

and edged back to the street. They served coffee mixed with

rum and nutmeg. Mambo blared from everywhere. Hundreds

of whores lined themselves along the dark and narrow streets

and their sorrowful eyes gleamed at us in the night. We wan-

dered in a frenzy and a dream. We ate beautiful steaks for

forty-eight cents in a strange tiled Mexican cafeteria with gen-

erations of marimba musicians standing at one immense

marimba-also wandering singing guitarists, and old men on

corners blowing trumpets. You went by the sour stink of

pulque saloons; they gave you a water glass of cactus juice in

there, two cents. Nothing stopped; the streets were alive all

night. Beggars slept wrapped in advertising posters torn off

fences. Whole families of them sat on the sidewalk, playing

little flutes and chuckling in the night. Their bare feet stuck

out, their dim candles burned, all Mexico was one vast Bo-

hemian camp. On corners old women cut up the boiled heads

of cows and wrapped morsels in tortillas and served them with

hot sauce on newspaper napkins. This was the great and final

wild uninhibited Fellahin-childlike city that we knew we would

find at the end of the road. Dean walked through with his

arms hanging zombie-like at his sides, his mouth open, his ~yes

gleaming, and conducted a ragged and holy tour that lasted

till dawn in a field with a boy in a 'straw hat who. laughed and

chatted with us and wanted to play catch, for nothing ever

ended.

Then I got fever and became delirious and unconscious.

Dysentery. I looked up out of the dark swirl of my mind and

I knew I was on abed eight thousand feet above sea level, on

a roof of the world, and I knew that I had lived a whole life

and many others in the poor atomistic husk of my flesh, and

I had all the dreams. And I saw Dean bending over the kitchen

table. It was several nights later and he was leaving Mexico

City already. "What you doin, man?" I moaned.

"Poor Sal, poor Sal, got sick. Stan'll take care of you. Now

listen to hear if you can in your sickness: I got, my divorce

from Camille down here and I'm driving back to Inez in New

York tonight if the car holds out."

"All that again?" I cried.

"All that again, good buddy. Gotta get back to my life.

Wish I could stay with you. Pray I can come back. " I grabbed

the cramps in my belly and groaned. When I looked up again

bold noble Dean was standing with his old broken trunk and

looking down at me. I didn't know who he was any more, and

he knew this, and sympathized, and pulled the blanket over

my shoulders. "Yes, yes, yes, I've got to go now. Old fever

Sal, good-by." And he was gone. Twelve hours later in my

sorrowful fever I finally came to understand that he was gone.

By that time he was driving back alone through those banana

mountains, this time at night.

When I got better I realized what a rat he was, but then I

had to understand the impossible complexity of his life, how

he had to leave me there, sick, to get on with. his wives and

woes. "Okay, old Dean, I'll say nothing. "

 


From Charters Ann, “The Portable Beat Reader” Penguin Books, New York, 1992, pgs 57-59

By: Jack Kerouac

ESSENTIALS OF SPONTANEOUS

PROSE

 

SET-UP The object is set before the mind, either in reality, as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object.

 

PROCEDURE Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.

 

METHOD No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)-"measured pauses which are the essentials of our [speech"-"divisions of the sounds we hear"-"time and how to note it down." (William Carlos Williams)

 

SCOPING Not "selectivity" of expression but following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash)-Blow as deep as you want-write as deeply, fish as far d9wn as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind.

 

LAG IN PROCEDURE No pause to think of proper word but the infantile pileup of scatalogical buildup words till satisfaction is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing.

 

TIMING Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to laws of time-Shakespearian stress of dramatic need to speak now in own unalterable way or forever hold tongue-no revisions (except obvious rational mistakes, such as names or calculated insertions in act of not writing but inserting).

 

CENTER OF INTEREST Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in 'subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion-Do not afterthink except for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to "improve" or defray impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal wrung-out tossed from- cradle warm protective mind-tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow!-now!-your way is your only way-"good"-or "bad"-always honest, ("ludicrous"), spontaneous, "confessional” interesting, because not "crafted." Craft is craft. 

 

STRUCTURE OF WORK  Modern bizarre structures (science fiction, etc.) arise from language being dead, "different" themes give illusion of "new" life. Follow roughly outlines in outfanning movement over subject, as river rock, so mindflow over jewel-center need (run your mind over it, once) arriving at pivot, where what was dim-formed "beginning" becomes sharp-necessitating "ending" and language shortens in race to wire of time-race of work, following laws of Deep Form, to conclusion, last words, last trickle-Night is The End.

 

MENTAL STATE If possible write "without consciousness" in semitrance (as Yeats' later "trance writing") allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so "modern" language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly, with writing-or-typing-cramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich's "beclouding of consciousness." Come from within, out-to relaxed and said.

 

BELIEF & TECHNIQUE

FOR MODERN PROSE

 

LIST OF ESSENTIALS

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy

2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house

4. Be in love with yr life

5. Something that you feel will find its own form

6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

7. Blow as deep as you want to blow

8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind

9. The unspeakable visions of the individual

10. No time for poetry but exactly what is

11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest

12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you

13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time

15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye

17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself

18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea

19. Accept loss forever

20. Believe in the holy contour of life

21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind

22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better

23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning

24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge

25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it

26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form

27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness

28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the      better

29. You 're a Genius all the time

30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

 


From Charters Ann, “The Portable Beat Reader” Penguin Books, New York, 1992, pgs 60-71

 

Allen Ginsberg

 

Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926, in Newark, New

Jersey, the son of the poet and high school teacher Louis Gins-

berg. His mother Naomi Ginsberg was a member of the Com-

munist party during the years of the Depression and suffered a

series of nervous breakdowns. When Allen began to study at

Columbia College in 1943 on a scholarship from the Paterson

YMCA, he thought he wanted to become a labor lawyer. In his

early years at Columbia he was editor of the Jester, the literary

humor magazine, and won the Woodbury Poetry Prize in 1947.

He was also suspended twice from Columbia, once for writing

"Butler has no balls" (a reference to Columbia University Pres-

ident Nicholas Murray Butler) on the dirty windows of his

dormitory room and for letting Kerouac sleep in his room over-

night, and another time for getting involved as an accessory in

a robbery after he let Herbert Huncke store stolen goods in his

apartment.

Ginsberg's biographer, Barry Miles, understood that the great

appeal of breaking the rules for Ginsberg was the "acceptance

and approval of madness" in an unconventional life-style. Bo-

hemianism gave him a framework within which to accept his

mother's mental illness and his confused feelings about hij

homosexuality. In 1948, after a vision of the poet William Blake,

Ginsberg formally dedicated himself to becoming a poet, but

he was not able to express himself freely until he left New York

and moved to San Francisco in 1954. There he met the older

anarchist poet Kenneth Rexroth, who encouraged him to drop

formal poetic forms and meters and write to please himself.

Following Rexroth's advice, Ginsberg decided he would ex-

periment with a technique more like Kerouac's spontaneous

prose. As Ginsberg recalled the moment, (I thought I wouldn’t

write a poem but just write what I wanted to without fear, let

my imagination go, open secrecy, and scribble magic lines from

my real mind-sum up my life-something I wouldn't be able

to show anybody, writ for my own soul's ear and a few other

golden ears. " He used a triadic verse form he admired in the

poetry of William Carlos Williams, extending the line out to the

length of his own long breath, thinking of himself-as Kerouac

was doing in the poems he was writing in Mexico City Blues

-as a jazz musician.

Academic critics like James Breslin and Michael Davidson

have pointed out that Ginsberg's preparation for the compo-

sition of (( Howl" extended over a number of years in notebooks

and rough drafts. With the completion of the poem, he entered

an inspired period, creating lyrics like “A Supermarket in Cal-

ifomia," “Sunflower Sutra," and “America" in the fall and

winter of 1955 through 1956, when he shared a cottage in Berke-

ley with his lover, Peter Orlovsky. “Song" and “On Burroughs'

Work" are earlier lyrics from 1954.

In 1958, after living in Paris, Ginsberg returned to New York

City, where he found an apartment at 170 East Second Street

on the Lower East Side. There he wrote a long formal elegy,

“Kaddish," personalizing the traditional Jewish memorial poem

for the dead in memory of his mother, who had died in the

Pilgrim State Hospital on Long Island in June 1956.

Naomi Ginsberg had been one of the ((best minds of my time

destroyed by madness" Ginsberg had evoked in the opening

line of “Howl." Writing fifty-eight pages in an inspired forty-

hour stretch at his desk while taking, by his Own account, heroin,

liquid Methedrine and Dexedrine, Ginsberg completed ((Kad-

dish" in November 1958. A poem in six sections (Proem, Nar-

rative, Hymmnn, Lament, Litany, and Fugue), it was the

culmination of his early work, a deeply compassionate portrait

of his mother's mental illness and its devastating effect on Gins-

berg and his family.

 

HOWL

For Carl Solomon

I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving

hysterical naked,

dragging themselves .through the negro streets at dawn looking for

an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to

the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in

the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across

the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan

angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,

who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating

Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene

odes on the windows of the skull,

who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money

in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,

who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with

a belt of marijuana for New York,

who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley,

death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock

and endless balls,

incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in 1he

mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illumi-

nating all the motionless world of Time between,

Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine

drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of tea-

head joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and

tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn,

ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,

who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery

to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and

children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and

battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear

light of Zoo,

who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and

sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's,

listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,

who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to

Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,

a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops

off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the

moon,

yacketayakking screaming vomiting' whispering facts and memories

and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and

jails and wars,

whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights

with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the

pavement,

who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of am-

biguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,

suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines

of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark's bleak furnished

room,

who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard

wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,

who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow

toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,

who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop

kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their

feet in Kansas,

who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian

angels who were visionary indian angels,

who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in super-

natural ecstasy,

who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the

impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,

who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or

sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse

about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took

ship to Africa,

who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing

but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry

scattered in fireplace Chicago,

who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards

and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin pass-

ing out incomprehensible leaflets,

who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic to-

bacco haze of Capitalism,

who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping

and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them

down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry

also wailed,

who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling

before the machinery of other skeletons,

who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars

for committing no crime but their own wild cooking ped-

erasty and intoxication,

who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the

roof waving genitals and manuscripts,

who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and

screamed with joy,

who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors,

caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,

who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the

grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen

freely to whomever come who may,

who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob

behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked

angel came to pierce them with a sword,

who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed

shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that

winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does

nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden

threads of the craftsman's loom,

who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart

a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and

continued along the floor and down the hall and ended faint-

ing on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come

eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,

who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset,

and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten

the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and

naked in the lake,

went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars,

N.C. , secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of

Denver-joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls

in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows,

on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar

roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-

station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,

who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke

on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of

basements hungover with heartless Tokay and horrors of

Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment

offices,

who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank

docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room

full of steamheat and opium,

who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the

Hudson under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon &

their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,

who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the

muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery,

who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of

onions and bad music,

who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose

up to build harpsichords in their lofts,

who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under

the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,

who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations

which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,

who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas

dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom, ,

who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,

who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity

outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every

day for the next decade,

who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up

and were forced to open antique stores where they thought

they were growing old and cried ,

who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison

Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter

of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks

of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister

intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs

of Absolute Reality,

who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and

walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze

of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free

beer,

who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway

window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes,

cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses bare-

foot smashed phonograph r,ecords of nostalgic European

1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groan-

ing into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast

of colossal steam whistles,

who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other's'

hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz

incarnation,

who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision

or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,

who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to

Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver &

brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to 'find

out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,

who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's

salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its

hair for a second,

who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible crim-

inals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their

hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,

who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender

Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black

locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the

daisychain or grave;

who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were

left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,

who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subse-

quently presented themselves on the granite steps of the

madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of sui-

cide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,

and who were. given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol

electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational ther-

apy pingpong & amnesia,

who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong

table, resting briefly in catatonia,

returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears

and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of

the madtowns of the East,

Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering

with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the mid-

night solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a

nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,

with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of

the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M.

and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the

last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental

furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in

the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful

little bit of hallucination-

ah, Carl, while you are not. safe I am not safe, and now you're really

in the total animal soup of time-

and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden

flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipsis catalog a vari-

able measure & the vibrating plane,

who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images

juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between

2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the

noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sen-

sation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus

to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand

before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with

shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to

the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,

the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down

here what might. be left to say in time come after death,

and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn

shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America's

naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani

saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio

with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their

own bodies good to eat a thousand years.

 

II

 

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and

ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars!

Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in

armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental

Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless

jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings

are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the

stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is run-

ning money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch

whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a

smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose

skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless lehovahs!

Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch

whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is

electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter

of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!

Moloch whose name is the Mind!

Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy

in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless

in Moloch!

Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a con-

sciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out

of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up

in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!

Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton trea-

suries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations!

invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!

They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees,

radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is

everywhere about us !

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the

American river!

Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of

sensitive bullshit!

Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the

flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal

screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation!

down on the rocks of Time !

Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the

holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof!

to solitude.! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river!

into the street!

 

III

 

Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland

where you 're madder than I am

I'm with you in Rockland

where you must feel very strange

I'm with you in Rockland

where you imitate the shade of my mother

I'm with you in Rockland

where you've murdered your twelve secretaries

I'm with you in Rockland

where you laugh at this invisible humor

I'm with you in Rockland

where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter

I'm with you in Rockland

where your condition has become serious and is reported

on the radio

I'm with you in Rockland

where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms

of the senses

I'm with you in Rockland

where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of

Utica

I'm with you In Rockland

where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of

the Bronx

I'm with you in Rockland

where you scream in a straightjacket that you're losing the

game of the actual pingpong of the abyss

I'm with you in Rockland

where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent

and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed

madhouse

I'm with you in Rockland

where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to it

body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void

I'm with you in Rockland

where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the He-

brew socialist revolution against the fascist national Gol-

gotha

I'm with you in Rockland

where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect

your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb

I'm with you in Rockland

where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all to-

gether singing the final stanzas of the Internationale

I'm with you in Rockland

where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets

the United States that coughs all night and won't let us sleep

I'm with you in Rockland

where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own

souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop

angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary

walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry

spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory

forget your underwear we're free

I'm with you in Rockland

in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the

highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage

in the Western night

San Francisco, 1955-195

 

Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy

Holy1 Holy! Holy! Holy!

The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is

holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!

Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is holy! everyday

is in eternity! Everyman's an angel!

The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is holy as you my

soul are holy!

The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy the hearers

are holy the ecstasy is holy!

Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy Kerouac holy

Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cassady holy the unknown

buggered and suffering beggars holy the hideous human

angels!

Holy my mother in the insane asylum! Holy the cocks of the grand-

fathers of Kansas!

Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop apocalypse! Holy the

jazzbands marijuana hipsters peace peyote pipes & drums!

Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements! Holy the cafeterias

filled with the millions! Holy the mysterious rivers of tears

under the streets!

Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the middleclass!

Holy the crazy shepherds of rebellion! Who digs Los Angeles

IS Los Angeles!

Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria & Seattle Holy Paris

Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow Holy Istanbul!

Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time holy the clocks in space

holy the fourth dimension holy the fifth International holy

the Angel in Moloch!

Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the locomotive

holy the visions holy the hallucinations holy the miracles

holy the eyeball holy the abyss!

Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours! bodies! suffering!

magnanimity!

Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!

                                                                                                    Berkeley, 1955