Friday, December 06, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-Four Dreams-Finding Whistler’s Mother-Gazing On The Girl With The Bette Davis Eyes-Following Allan Ginsberg’s Flowers-Searching For The Father We Never Knew

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-Four Dreams-Finding Whistler’s Mother-Gazing On The Girl With The Bette Davis Eyes-Following Allan Ginsberg’s Flowers-Searching For The Father We Never Knew




By Lance Lawrence       

[Apparently, although site manager Greg Green, the guy who gives out the assignments, has never said so in so many words, I am the “go to” person this year as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of the most well-known, some say “King” of the Beats who flourished mainly in the 1940s and 1950s, mill town Lowell’s own Ti Jean (Jack) Kerouac. Although there has been a fair amount of speculation around the collective water cooler about why I am now doing my fourth different introduction to various archival writings by others over the forty some year history of this publication both as hard copy and now for the past decade or so on-line nobody has a clue to why that is so. Part of that is that they too wanted to write some introductory material giving their slants on fifty years without two-million-word Jack or to update pieces, mainly book reviews and “how Jack influenced me” stuff.

Part, and this is the part I do know about and am telling here for the first time to fend off the charges of favoritism, I actually met Jack a few  times when he was living down in Saint Petersburg with his third wife Stella and his beloved (and hated too it was that kind of relationship) toward the end of his life. In those days he was drinking heavily, and I was too, that before the twelve-step program saved my sobriety and my life. We met, quite by accident, in Jimmy Jack’s Tavern which I do not believe is still there at least I couldn’t find it under that name when I Google d it, since I had stepped in for my early day drinking and there he was getting ready to do his serious early day drinking. Since it was early and since there was some kind of unspoken and assumed bond between early day drinkers we started to chat. Got animated when he found out that I had grown up in Chelmsford the next town over from Lowell and were able to identify places we had mutually been to and other local news. Above all we spoke almost in reverence about various youthful exploits along the mighty Merrimac River which drove our imaginations then and later, especially for him, as writers. In those days I was not writing for any publication or had any assignments along those lines, was actually doing a short-hand version of what Jack had done in the late 1940s and chronicled in his famous On The Road but mainly drinking my blues away stumbling and tumbling down the road to some next place where I might stick, might make myself feel better. After a few days I left Saint Pete and drifted, I think, to Key West or maybe Miami. Later when I heard that Jack had cashed his check I, not knowing and probably not caring if I had known, that the cause of death was from complications from that lifelong drinking I lifted a shot of Johnny Walker Red whiskey in his memory.                  

How Greg Green found out that I had met Jack Kerouac and from there assumed that I had profound things to say or that having met him should be the “go to” guy based on that flimsy premise I don’t know. Now that I have spilled the beans maybe Greg can speak to that. I am happy to do these introductions whatever the reason but over the past several months that I have been working and reviewing pieces I have had to think through how Jack Kerouac has influenced me. Certainly not as a drinking buddy, the short time we passed our time but maybe style of writing or dropping certain verbal bombshells which he had a habit of doing. That remains to be seen as we go through the year-long commemoration.

What is clear already is that the Beat beat was only tangential to me growing up for I was just a little too young to be influenced directly by the movement. The hipsters, grifters, grafters, wanderers, pyschos, holy goofs and that crowd were not around our town (by the way the just listed crowd if truth be known have had progeny who still exist on the far margins of society down where the hipsters and their ilk hold forth on high holy days and remember). Beat, hard non-commercial Beat flourished that is to say before my own growing up, coming of age time, the 1960s and hence the devotion to rock and roll rather than be-bop jazz, folk music lyrics rather than the immense output of poetry put out by the likes of mad monk  Allan Ginsberg and the crowd. But enough of this for this is about Ti Jean Kerouac and what might have been not me. Although I do wonder how Greg Green will respond to my finding out he knew I met Jack in sullen days for both of us. Larry Lawrence]

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Ti Jean wondered sitting on Pawtucketville silts listening to the rushing rock-strewn Merrimack coming by, wondered like maybe those old-time Dutch sailors sighting that green fresh breast of land that would become  Long Island as they entered the sound, another waterway a metaphor for Jack life, and found a new world unspoiled for that fifteen minutes before they laid anchor and claim on the cheap. That wonder drove Jack boy, all fourteen- year old Jack boy so not worried by red dress Paula Cole coming hither Friday night dates or that damn Maggie down by the almost Chelmsford dream side of the river, damn already the river is in play with her Irish braids and that god damn Bible between her knees to wonder if James was it MacNeil Abbott or Abbott MacNeil Whistler sat beside this same river thinking about his own Mere, his mother and how he could do justice to that forlorn Puritan face which razzled him with blacks, browns and greys, as if to mock the very idea of mother. Hell, James, he would never be called Jimmy like the other boys once he “did” his mother in those woe begotten colors decided he would use the old dame, and she was an old dame to star in his various studies of colors and only philistines would dare to call the work some mother lode draught.  

This is where the story gets interesting, although we know that Jack was not bothered just then by come hither girls in red dresses or Bible-kneed Irish girls since he had, playing hooky, crept into his holy of holy spots in the cubicle at the school library gone beyond the wonder of those muddy splat riverbanks where he first wondered the wonder akin to those Dutch sailors seeking his own fresh green breast of land, the land of the mind. Wondering how to stop wondering Jack picked up a biography of James Whistler complete with mother on the front except she was painting title called some study in black and white, something like that by one Lancelot Grey who Jack would later find out was the central figure in what he would wind up calling the pre-war art cabal that was attempting to “dress up,” read, protect American art and artists from the onslaught of European critics who basically call that art “folk art” meaning show the bastards the door and maybe get them shown in Peoria or better Grand Island but stay away from European shores.

Grey’s take on Whistler, taking the American born but life-long ex-patriate in was that he never left the American shores and stuff like that. What interested Jack though was not that art cabal stuff (art cabal a term he would not know until later when landing in New York he came face to face with the denizens of that cabal through various Student Art League girlfriends and others met in Village garrets when garrets were there and not in Soho). But that was after the war (World War II in case a younger reader has happened on this piece) when New York told cheapjack art Europe to fuck off, to step back and various abstraction movements were all the rage. Just then Grey delved into Whistler’s various non-mother pieces (than mother painting an iconic come on since back then only the art cabal knew other paintings and the publisher insisted that that painting be on the front).

The most interesting one, and one that seemed to contradict what the art cabal was doing to protect American artists, was a painting called The White Girl (now in the National Gallery but then in private hands). Jack was fascinated by the young woman portrayed who he learned from Grey had been one of Whistler’s mistresses. The title intrigued and confused him since somebody else called it that study in white gag that had handcuffed poor Mrs. Whistler when it suited her James. Jack would wonder, would have deep chaste Roman Catholic dreams (some say that would by his writings really always be his dreams, his Jesus-sweated dreams) and wonder what it was like to have been James’ girlfriend, and wondered too whether James wondered that he would paint his mistresses to help pay the rent. Jack would later laugh about how many girls he would con into paying the rent, walking the streets if necessary or going in some café back room to play the flute for the night’s booze and dope money and so he had kindred feelings for Brother James somewhat akin to the bandit prince Gregory Corso. But at fourteen in some library cubicle in Lowell mill-town hard by the Merrimack all he could think of was how long he would have to wonder about lots of things, too many things when the world was moving way to quickly but he would always say with pride that James was from Lowell and leave it at that. Even when he found out that James’ white girl was like his Mexican junkie- whore Tristessa. By then though that fresh green breast wonder had hardened into funk, dunk and drunk.

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Jack popcorn for eyeballs sitting in the last row of the orchestra section of the old Majestic Theater off of Bridge Street across from the offices of the Lowell Sun waiting as the screen heated up after some very ordinary news of the week reels and an off-color cartoon which he never did get even after watching several times over the next few Saturday matinee double-feature week. The films changed every Friday but Mr. Le Blanc cheapened up his operation by re-running those silly cartons built for ten-years olds with no brains but silly to a strapping boy of sixteen who actually took girls to the shows. (Le Blanc also sold stale popcorn with so much salt laid in it would make your eyelids curl and watered down the tonic, old-fashioned New England word for soda, so much it might as well have been water and even made boys like Jack with strong kidneys ran to restrooms frequently.) Of course, that was a totally different proposition, that messing with girls stuff that he had pretty much figured out by sixteen with  plenty of street advise some of it recklessly dangerous and no, zero, parent advise but that was when you asked a girl if she wanted to sit in the orchestra section or go up to the heavy-breathing pitch dark moaning balcony. If the former that would be a last date (one time he left the girl in the front lobby to fend her herself on the way home while he went off to Renoir’s Ice Cream Shop with Even Stephen and Dizzy Izzy). This day, this Thursday afternoon first show skipping afternoon classes was different when Jack was all business trying to figure some stuff out that was going to appear on the satin silk screen.  

Then it, no, she started. All fresh as a new born daisy fending off some sidewalk Lothario, if only in Jack’s imagination, really only some lug like a million lugs he knew in Lowell High School and who if he hadn’t been on a mission this afternoon could have stood in front of the high school at close of day and counted the number of lugs from the class of 1939 carousing out the door some he could name by name. So, no this lug was going nowhere, was getting nothing except the desert breezes from this girl. Jack swore the girl with the Bette Davis eyes after beating the clown off with a car jack sat in her dust-filled private reading spot reading some French poet from the fourteenth century. Jack pressed his popcorn eyeballs to see book jacket cover and his heart beat a mile a minute once he saw that she, Gabby let’s give her a name, was reading his hero prince bandit poet Francois Villon, like him a Breton when that meant something before the wave of diasporas which led angelized angel-headed Kerouacs to the shores of the Saint Lawrence River and downwardly mobile fates stripped the clan of their respective dignities.     

Yes, Villon the prince of thieves who Jack had discovered in that broken- down school library where he hid out when he could not deal with bullshit chemistry classes or some such subject around the time that he read that book by Lancelot Grey about that pimp daddy, holy goof (first use of the term “holy goof” came from reading Grey) James Whistler the artist who kept himself from the Thames and watery graves by selling his paintings or more usually “selling” his mistresses to make the rent money when times were tough. He still loved Whistler (although he could only mock a guy who had to practically handcuff his mother to the chair to get her to stand still for what he called a study in black and white, something like that) if only because he was Lowell, was a native son and that counted a lot for Jack then even if James was not a Breton. (Funny later he would go through seven kinds of hell with his own mother before telling her to kiss off.) But Villon was a legitimate bandit-prince who hung with the lumpen outside the guarded moats ready to pounce one minute on the next jackroll victim (some historians have speculated that Villon and his scumbags invented the jackroll, taking a bag of nails or coins if they had any wrapping them in a small cloth and under cover of darkness bopping some old lady or drunken sot for their dough). A lost art that Jack would use more than once in Times Square when some pansy hipster tried to do tricks on him and he bopped him for hot dog money at Howard Johnson’s stuff like that, yes, a lost but helpful art for those who lived outside the law, for those whose only road was the road.

And there she was the girl with the Bette Davis eyes all dewy even as a desert dust storm was brewing just outside the Gates of Eden reading Villon in French (her mother was French a catch for her woe begotten father during World War I service in France with the American Expeditionary Force who came back to Eden saw the dust and stone wood and left on the next train with some Singer sewing machine salesman with four quarters and a quart of wine). That Garden of Eden business a gag, a gag of sorts since the diner that he father owned, no, really her grandfather who was getting too old to run the place but too ornery to let his deadbeat son who couldn’t keep a French whore, Gramp’s words, in the middle of the desert from running away with the next time that came by with long pants on was just outside the main entrance to the Petrified Forest (couldn’t later a guy like Allan Ginsberg or even novice poet Dean Moriarty have a field day with that idea as the 1930s was tearing America, tearing the world apart, making the world turn in on itself). The gag was that Gramps an old Kentucky coalminer until he was thirteen and figured out that he would rather not die in Appalachia with the muskrats had headed out of the hills and hollows as fast as he could. Head out to California where he had heard had streets paved of gold and young girls ready to give whatever they had to give. But see Gramps and his forbears were sitting folk, were tied to the tired land so long that they would sit down anywhere where that didn’t have to pretend to seek prosperity. So Gramps stopped at the Petrified Forest once he ran into some Nevada Jane heading east after busting out heading west who worked at the diner and who played the flute for him until she too ran off with some calico salesman. Gramps just stayed put and married the first woman who smiled at him (Gabby’s grandma) and that ended the road west in that generation.         
      
So poor rattled and pestered Gabby was torn between sweet perfume dreams of Left Bank Paris cafes and that endless rock-hard dust. Then out of the blue some pretty hobo came walking up the road to the diner all dusty and road worn, a hobo whose name turned out to be Leslie Howard (that would be important later to Gabby if meaningless to Jack when she inherited his life insurance policy but that was later long after Jack had gathered in the wanderlust that set that first Breton to Canadian shores and that fucking raging Saint Lawrence River of no returns) Listen up, Jack did, this Leslie Howard was no stumble bum like half the hoboes, tramps, bums, and there are social distinctions among the brethren who were running around the country stopping at railroad jungle camps or sleeping under unkempt bridges and arroyos but a real live itinerant intellectual who had when he had seen the first turnings of the world inward in those times got the hell out of  Europe as fast as he could (he would be found later when Gabby looked for next of kin to see if anybody would contest the life insurance policy to have been Jewish not a good thing to be in Europe in those times to be a “rootless cosmopolitan”) This Howard, let’s call him that since it is as good as any other and who knows what he real name was if he was on the run bedazzled Gabby from minute one leaving that lug gas jockey out to dry with the trees. Knew his Villon cold, knew that he too was a bandit prince who hung outside the moats with the lumpen.

Right then Jack’s already strong flight of fantasy knew that he was kindred, here was guy who loved to read but could not settle down with at crazy-mixed up world pounding tattoos in his fevered brain. If anybody had been near Jack in that darkened orchestra section fit only for one-date girls and sullen adults they would have heard him gasp every time this Howard said anything of import to Gabby. Jack’s fevered mind started sketching things out, read like crazy, write like crazy and keep on the move, always on the move. What Jack would call later in one of his lesser but more philosophical books the quest, the grail hunt, the breaking from the holy goofs that keep you penned in and unfree, that holy goof a well-worn word in Jack talk. For now though just the germ of a plan.

They say that Bretons are not only are hearty but also headstrong and Jack sensed in Gabby just such characteristics even though she was nothing but some dirt farmer Okie, Arkie descendent. He would forever search for his Gabby but never find her, and frankly that search was just one among a number of searches later. This guy Leslie, what made him tick, why Jack was drawn to him like lemmings from the sea was more problematic. The Villon, hobo road warrior philosopher king part was straight up. He would have a million sleepless night visions of being out on some tramp road in say Winnemucca or Yuma facing no dough and no food or water and glad-tiding himself into soft spot, some soft bed if that was the way the thing played out. Pearl-diving, you know washing dishes for his meal in some such Garden of Eden diner somewhere if necessary just to stay on the road one more day. That part held romance, held him in thrall.

What Jack couldn’t figure out especially since the girl with the Bette Davis eyes was totally smitten by him and his wayward ways against the lugs, demented grandpas, jelly-fish fathers and abandoned down some Seine River mother not unlike the Merrimack always close to his dreams especially that rocky crest around the old Lowell Textile Institute why this modern day troubadour had so little regard for himself that he would let a bum like the notorious Duke Mantee, yes, that Duke who was the scourge of the West just then put two random slugs into his body. He tries, and would continue to try later to understand the idea of the retreat of the intellectuals, that the time of the caveman was making a reappearance after so much spent trying to come up from the mud and slime. Backwards. Damn, that bothered Jack, would bother him until his own dying breath when he turned on the intellectuals with a vengeance. The now dank dark movie hall left him utterly perplexed about what would happen to him when he had to face his own road west.

Outside the movie theater, actually he had been in the lobby when he spied her and then hailed her, Jack stopped that come hither Paula Cole and asked her if she would like to go to the movies that next Friday night when the films changed. When she answered yes Jack now a veteran of the ploy asked Paula -orchestra or balcony? Answer: “don’t be silly I would not have accepted if we weren’t going to the balcony.” With that he would put the fate of Howard in the back of his mind. First things first.

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Jack brought the Tokay, the cheap wine of the day that got him through the day and the only other wine beside kosher Mogen David mad monk (although just then demurely so) Allan Ginsberg, hereafter Monk, would drink to set himself up to read some sliver of a poem. This night expecting a bunch of people to of all things a North Beach (San Fran) converted garage gallery something the Monk would put an end to guys like T.S. Eliot, bum of the month Nazi-symp Ezra Pound and about fifty other guys and twenty other gals including his high school prose father. Would burn their old-fashioned words now of no account on a pile of burnt offerings, a pile of faggots (he would not learn until later that word’s common origins use to destroy brethren fellow homosexuals). Would get the world well, for a minute, in search of some fatherless compadre, in search of the father Jack claimed he had never known, and not he alone in the welter of great depressions and slogging through war. Maybe in the end they were searching for Father Death who knows. Jack passed the wine, passed all understanding before that search was consummated.    

Some guy, some guy who claims that his mother had worked at City Lights Bookstore in those days and had had an affair with the poet Phillip Larkin and had brought the dago red and him to the reading. Claimed to know Jack, or maybe it was the Monk in the old days, in the days when they raged with so many words they couldn’t keep enough Woolworth 5 &10 notebooks in flannel shirts or golf scorecard pencils ready wrote this, second hand about being present at the creation, second hand. At this far remove it is hard to tell fact from fiction, tell who is bullshitting and who has the goods especially since virtually all the background characters are gone, some long gone. Make of that what you will.   

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I have seen the best poet of the generation before mine, no, let me start over, I have seen a universal max daddy poet speaking some truths to put old Homer and freaking staid T.S. Eliot in the shade. Starting off by   declaring that he had seen that the best minds of his generation, guys like brother in soul Kerouac, be-bop Charlie Parker, Phil Larkin when he was sober, Johnny Spain when off the needle and doing cold turkey and of course the daddy them all one Carl Solomon turn to mush. Turned out in the barren wilderness, not the friendly desert-scrapes heading west on lonely Greyhound buses or Tourist Bureau hang-ups wilderness out pass Butte or Boise but what a novelist named Nelson Algren who called the shots and gave many a troubled youth the keys to the fixer man and wellness  called the neon wilderness, called that place where the bright lights of the city blinded a proper man (or woman) some junkie Frankie Machine haven with a wife he hated and a girlfriend who couldn’t stick with him when he was on the junk. That neon beast from which no one returned except for quick stays in safe haven mental asylums (called ironically funny farms but even the Monk, whose own mother had her share of sorrows in such places could find no humor in such designations).

Get this, no, let me start again against the cold nose of my sister filled heart. Saw, he the Monk okay in case I lose my train of thought passing through Salt Lake City and thoughts of Joseph Smith’s grand hustle taking a bunch of farmers from burned over lands to the searing sun of the western depot. Saw the same Negro streets Jack, and one time Jack and he when he, Jack was looking for some rough trade sailors just off the China Seas pierce earring trail saw around Blue Hill Avenue and Dudley Street blank, 125th Street blank, Dearborn Street blank, MacArthur Boulevard blank, Central Avenue blank, Cielo Street in Tijuana blank, Plaza del Mayo, Montezuma revenge Mexico blank, and wasted in the sweated fetid humid Thunderbird-lushed night dreaming of pink Cadillacs and stony-faced fixer men getting wise by the hour on Carl’s ancient fears. (And, this is funny or so the winos and every hobo, vagrant, escapee, drifter and grafter yelling out in unison thought so “what is the word-Thunderbird-what is the price forty twice.” Ready to jackroll some senior citizen lady for the price, for fucking eighty cents which any self-respecting junkie could cadge in two minutes even in Cielo Street, Tijuana and that is a hard peso to drill,-ready to commit mayhem at Park Street subway stations for their “boy,” to be tamped by girl but I will be discrete since the Feds might raid the place sometime looking for the ghost of Trigger Burke who eluded them for a very long time. (Trigger who captured Jack’s imagination and the Monk’s but here is the weird part Carl’s too who started strutting like him too after the prince of bandit-poets Corso showed him how to do that slinky swagger on the last visit before the blade at Sandhill).

Thought that those angel-headed hipsters hearing choruses of angels strumming their noiseless wings, those cold as ice in a man’s veins hep cats hanging around Times, Lafayette, Dupont, Harvard squares (you can fill in your own squares, square the Monk laughed and Jack hee-hawed) crying in pools of blood coming out of the wolves-stained sewers around the black corner would never stop bleating for their liquor. Would not stop until they got popular and headed for the sallow lights of Harvard Square where they, those angel-headed hipsters in  case you (and Carl) forgot  hustled young college students, young impressionable college students green as grass whose parents had had their best minds, those hallowed students’ mines, okay, wasted in the turbid streets of south Long Island (not the West Egg of Gatsby’s dream out of Fitzgerald’s fresh green breast of land to stir even sullen rough trade Dutch sailors looking for whips and cuts, conquering everything in sight like any other poor-boy arriviste with too much money and not enough imagination and not East Egg of the fervid elites but any-town, Levitt-town of those who would escape to Boston or Wisconsin to face the angel of death, that angel frightening even Monk when Carl was not around to anchor his brain. Up front and say no go, pass, under luminous moons which light up sparks and say to that candid world which could have given a fuck hard times please come again no more.

Here is the beauty of the green as grass hustle working fast to get enough to fix that jones. Dangle some college guy, maybe with a girl, shy, with dreams of hard-core liquor or a well-twisted joints to loosen her up and her fragile come hither virginity (reminding Jack of that Paula Coe who played the flute for him more than one time in that Majestic Theater balcony some hardcore Friday night and the Monk, searching for some blue-eyed  Adonis, settling for some pimpled has been teenager seeking his own father dreams). Lay out the story-kid your booze and something for me. Done. Later, a big bottle wrapped tight in a paper bag. Trick, a very thin brew of whiskey split and cash for him to get himself well. Oh the hipster cons which would have made even the Monk laugh.        

The Monk saw hipsters cadging wine drinks from sullen co-eds staying out too late in the Harvard Square night who turned out to be slumming from some plebian colleges across the river maybe good Irish girls from frail Catholic parishes with rosaries in their fair-skinned hands and a novena book between their knees who nevertheless has Protestant lusts, strong Protestant lusts busting down the shrines to Immaculate Conception Virgin Marys pretty painted by guys like Tintoretto and marching to the church door just behind Martin Luther and his bag of lusts and Salvation Army clothing in their pallid hearts but unrequited. Here’s how-they those sullen salty Irish girls, not all redheads but close  would arrive at the Café Lana with ten bucks and their virginity and leave with both leaving some guy with dreams of salty sucking blowjobs walking out the backdoor and doing the whack job behind the dumpster –a waste of precious fluids and according to Norman Mailer who would have known from his perch down in Provincetown when the mix of homosexuals and straight, except those lusty lonely Portuguese fisherman Marsden Hartley loved to paint (and to love)  the waste of world-historic fucks which would product the best minds of the next generation all dribbled away.

You already know about what you need to know about Protestant girls with their upfront Protestant lusts although they would not be caught dead, or alive, in Sally splendor although they certainly could play the penny whistle and damn those world historic fucks. Maybe tasty Jewish girls from the shtetl not in East or West Egg who flocked to the other side of the river and gave Irish guys who previously had dribbled their spunk behind dumpsters after losing out to ten bucks and virginity in tack tickey-tack Catholic girls who refused to give that head that would have brought some of the best minds some freaking relief (better not say fucking relief because that would be oxymoronic). Maybe some off-center sullen fair-skinned and blonded Quaker, Mennonite, Primitive Baptist or Brethren of the Common Life kind of Protestant girls, like I said off-center, who spouted something about one god and no trinities, no god and no trinities and just feel good stuff.

All three varieties and yes there were more off-centers but who even knew of Quakers, Mennonites, lusty Amish girls run away from home, Tantric card-wheelers, and fresh- faced red light district sluts who at least played the game straight-played the cash nexus for pure pleasure and maybe to even up some scores. All-Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, yeah, Quakers (fakirs, fakers and Shakers included), the sluts, Mennonites and yes those lusty red-faced Amish runaways all coming together after midnight far from the negro streets, the Monk’s beat and no anachronism like saying black or Afro-American back to those Mister James Crow days, but not far from the all night hustlers and dime store hipsters with their ten-cent cigar store rings and cheap Irish whiskeys bought on the installment plan who converged around the Hayes-Bickford just a seven league jump from the old end of the line dead of night Redline subway stop in order to keep the angel of death at arms’ length. The angel of death a tough bitch to break, and tougher to cross when they deal went down. There to listen until dawn to homosexuality- affixed hungry for the keyhole blast or the running sperm fakir poets, the Monk number one of all the number ones  and slamming singsters (to keep up with the gangster, mobster, hipster theme, okay) fresh out of cheapjack coffeehouses where three chords and two-line rhymes repeated in call and response got you all the action you wanted although maybe a little light on the breadbasket sent around to show that you were appreciated. Yeah, now that I think about the matter more closely hard times please come again no more.                    

Saw the angel of death make her appearance one night at the Café Lana and then backstopped the Club Nana to fetch one young thing who warbled like heaven’s own angel. Some Norman Mailer white hipster (read the Partisan Review essay if you don’t get this about all kinds of cultural mishmash and sexual too just ask the Monk when he was in his hungers and not worried about singing some Walt Whitman song about the rotgut of his generation) turned her on to a little sister and then some boy and she no longer warbled. No longer warbled like that angel angle heaven- shamed chorus but did sweet candy cane tricks for high-end businessmen with homely wives or fruitless ones who had given up that sort of “thing” after the third junior had been born and who were ready to make her their mistress if she would just stop singing kumbaya after every fuck like she was still a freaking warbler. A freaking virgin or something instead of “used” goods or maybe good for schoolboys whose older brothers took them to her for their first fling at going around the world, welcome to the brotherhood or maybe some old fart who just wanted to relive his dreams before the booze, the three wives and parcel of kids did him in and then the hustler sent her back to the Club Nana to “score” from the club owner who was connected with Nick the dream doper man, what did Nelson Algren and Frankie Machine call him in dead of night, yes, the fixer man, Christ who would get him- and her well –on those mean angel-abandoned death watch streets. Who knew that one night at the Hayes (everybody called it just that after they had been there one night), one after midnight night where they had that first cup of weak-kneed coffee replenished to keep a place in the scoreboarded night where hari-kara poets dreamed toke dreams, and brought paper-bag wrapped Tokay wines just like Monk’s Jack and some Mister dreamed of fresh-faced singer girls looking for kicks. So please, please, hard times come again no more.              

I have seen frosted lemon trees jammed against the ferrous night, the night of silly foolish childhood dreams and misunderstanding about the world, the world that that poet spoke of in a teenage dream of indefinite duration about who was to have and who was to have not once those minds were de-melted and made hip  to the tragedies of life, the close call with the mental house that awaits us all. Yeah Monk was right even about Carl Solomon and all his sorrows before the knife.
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What the hell did sullen Carl Solomon start before he went under the knife with his pleading for his father, a father that he had never known since he had been left back in Poland to peddle his fruits and vegetables to his brethren and his mother and the four kids headed to the Americas on some tub of a boat and never looked back. Rumors abounded that he survived because he had a gentile mistress grabbed after his wife and kids left. That at least is the story Carl told, told endlessly which would not be so bad but the Monk picked it up in his own moment of despair.

Monk searched his valium brain for his own prose-filled father but that was not nearly good enough, kept him awake at night because he had strange dreams that his father was not some fake high school teacher writing awful poems in broken down post-war America. Was afraid that his real father was William Appleton Williams who denied him three times, didn’t want to believe that his broken words would mesh so well. Had better dreams that his real father was sexy Walt Whitman (this remember in dialogue with Carl Solomon before the knife so it is not clear whether Carl remembered) whose vagabond dreams matched his and his homosexual desire beating out some Johnny Reb who could give Walt the ride he desired. Here is the trick though the Monk had sweet dreams whenever he read Leaves of Grass (usually on grass) and he passed that on to Jack in some secret moment in Denver when some screwball Adonis was looking for his father.

Now Jack, funny before Carl grabbed Monk with the father who we never knew religion, always thought he knew his father, knew the con artist, poker cheater, movie theater ticket taker great bear of a French-Canadian who came down the Jackson, Maine road with five cents Canadian in his pocket and dreams of printing up ads. But that was not the father that he knew but some skinny stiff wino pissant who he sought out in greater Denver cattle yards. Always deferred to everlasting Mere, Mere out of some fresh Breton conceit never getting some whiplash from old father time who died before his time of heartache and heartbeats. So Jack conned himself into some holy goof, his words exactly, metaphysical search going up the Bear Mountain, Jackson, Wyoming Jackson not that trail of tears from down in Maine Jackson where the red brick and mortar spinning wheels beckoned and he spent and spilled his young manhood trying to get the fuck out from under even if he couldn’t drive, made him nervous, to save his life. Funny again that fame never stopped the bleeding inside looking behind some bushes for some father death, some father time pissing against that Tokay dream he figured out back in about 1946 but could never get past. The Monk did him no service on that long trail drive from Monument Creek to Sunnyvale and then drop off and outs at Big Sur where he got sober for a week.   

Damn that stuff is contagious, will drive you crazy, when twice removed Lance, me, went looking for the father he never knew too. Looked for him behind closed doors to his heart. That distant slightly dim figure who brought home not enough pay checks. Who never talked about but never got over the Pacific war like a lot of guys who found themselves on tubs picking up stray comrades from washed-up beaches, picking up too guys who got too close to chore, got wasted in some windless fire and fell down into the green-gray-blue surf that gets us all in the end. The old man, father, never talked much, much about anything that Lance, me would understand and so Jack-like Ma, Mere, Mom, Mere whatever you want to call her ran rough-shot over childish dreams and insecurities. Here’s the worst of it though, Jack-like, he never got to say good-bye to that father he never knew and crushed his days with regret, total regret that he didn’t have the sense of a holy goof, Jack talk, to have called a truce, even an armed truce to the madness that wracked his silly excuse for a family, and now all his has is slate grey stone to place the remnants down in some unknown holy place where he can never dwell, yes, Lawrence, me, got caught in the Monk’s version of Carl’s plainsong, no, got stuck in the damn mire.          

Silly to think that the father time search would only apply to men, young men, holy goofs like Lawrence, me, when the max daddy sin of all was the way Jack, in Jack speak, abandoned his Jan, his spitting image Jan, denied like Christ was denied three times by the count. Jan who would search like some strange Kenneth Rexroth figure for the father we all knew, or thought we knew once he pointed us toward the light, once we got the beat, the second-hand beat that washed us clean in places like Big Sur and Todo el Mundo where Jan still searches in some desperate wild water surf for some broken down guy who wasted away with drink, and she with drink too. Jesus, funny he was searching for his father too out in Middle Eastern wildernesses, will it never end.     

Contagious that is what Sam Lowell said about the freaking search for that lost father world made up of pure sand and not much else. Some goof, the holy part excluded was looking for his father, his famous private detective father, a guy named Lew Archer, who back around Jack time in California ran the rack on few good cases and then rested for forty years something like that. Tried to claim that his father’s life death was due to his father’s overused whip, his sorrows that he could not go the distance with his wife, this goof’s grandmother, his code of honor that once he took a job he was in, totally in, for good or evil, and       
maybe that he drank too much Tokay, Jack-like when he wound up behind some freaking wino pissant dumpster saved but some sister of mercy who could not save him in the end. Get this though that junkie weirdo so-called grandson, some modern-day Carl Solomon without the sorrows before he went under the knife could not be searching for Lew, Lew Archer since Lew never had a son, had no children. Sorry goof,    

Out on the Jersey looking east first to see the great ocean that drove his forbears to search for fresh green breasts of land then west to seek dungeon filled fathers never known in Denver, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City Salvation Army hotels or whatever they call those blessed places of rest the whole deal was to figure out a way to look for some American cowboy past, looking for the Monk’s Adonis if he couldn’t make it with sexy Walt Whitman with the furl of whiskers. There sat Dean Moriarty, no, fuck that, one Neal Cassidy who would ride the freight trains west looking for that father the others really did think they had found. Neal’s old man was in some wino jailcell speaking in tongues to a candid world. Maybe Carl was right, Monk too we should all cry to the high heavens looking for the fathers we never knew.             


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