Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Off The Road With On The Road
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
We will always have fugitive memories emerging out of the fog-horn Frisco town night in the late 1940s ready to take refugees, car-borne just enough gas to get over the Bay Bridge refugees out of Route 101, Route 66, Route 20, hell, even up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, hell, maybe especially up and down that highway, coming in from the cold war red scare Denver/Chi Town/Jersey Shore/Village/Lowell/Hullsville American monster dreaded night. (Second-hand fugitive memories in some cases some of us having been just a little too young to have been word-blasted directly at the time.) Later once the horde gathered in the North Beach, Big Sur and other points south sweeps listening, be-bop frantic listening, to some homoerotic scatological son of Abraham howling forth the new dispensation, the new beat, the new blessed, the new meek shall inherit the earth message if they would only heed the beat, we would add that factor as well. That mad monk speaking deadpan of Negro streets, hipster angels, tea, constant tea dreams, and Moloch dreads, spreading and spewing out of their industrial-sized flames. Later still speaking of one million Trotskyite revolutions (if only that were true, the one million part rather than the one millionth part).
Of course unto the umpteenth generation of those who seek their own open roads, and sweet Jesus there will always be a few who must devour road miles, a few who dream of surviving outside the box, who take seriously the open road expanses and movement, we will always have Jack Kerouac’s novel, On The Road. The Sal-Dean stream dream filled with stolen (borrowed?) broken down standard- shift cars right on the steering wheel made when automobiles were automobiles stirring every young blade with dreams of the open road and hidden sex not some robotic inventions made to make commutes easier cars. Flashing out in some desperate smoke-hazed (unnamed smokes) wine jug-swigged (get Thunderbird it is cheaper and lasts longer under human thirst beatings), bed jumped night novel that sent one, and maybe the next two, generations on the road, on the road to some mystical discovery thing never quite explained, never quite grasped. Some foreboding search for language, for words, for the right words that never seemed to come, or if they came came in million word torrent deluges for chrissakes to explain our short existence, to make sense of things in the Moloch (beautiful word) modern world that required explanation but that has no time for reflection on the big cosmic questions.
Yes, we will always have Kerouac’s finely wrought be-bop word plays jumping off the page out in the desolate 1950s a-chicken-in-every- pot-and-two-cars-if-not-three-cars-in-every-garage, in every suburban ranch house sub-division garage. Speaking out of the vastness of the fellaheen world like some broken down drummer from Merrimack rivers (although, not strangely, not strangely at all, for a guy trying to half break-out of that river world, not to that world but the city literati make no mistake) about lost adventures, about lost time (like bedded sniffling Proust not river-bend Wolfe was some ancient kin), about lost remembrances but mostly about the desolate life for the dusty bedraggled fellahin left without words down in the sinking sweated sun-bake field of the word. Not the million Trotskyite words, not the Negro streets words, not the North Beach hipster angel words (although he tried) but cool be-bop words refracting the total mass anxieties of a long-gone daddy world, a world from which to run and hide with or without a bottle or some tea.
Yes, we too will always have Sal (a.k.a Jeanbon Kerouac) the errant river-borne son searching for that tea dream high world to make the anguish stop and always have Dean, Dean Moriarty (a.k.a. Neal Cassady), the father we did not know, could not know, while we were vicariously sitting on those Jersey shores, be-bopping in the Paterson night, shooting “pools” in Larimer Street Denver, looking for a long gone daddy fixer man in some Division Street Chi town dark night, sweating out in those Ames cornfields like some busted sod-buster, worse, doing stoop bracero labor in Fresno, hell, even sitting second-hand on the seawall down in those old Hullsville beach fronts looking for the great blue-pink great American West night.
We will always have Charlie, Sonny, Slim, Big Red, the Duke, blowing out brass, trying to reach and sometimes making it, that high white note, after hours, after the paying customers, the carriage trade, went home to bed and they blew to heaven, or tried to, with the boys, with the guys who knew when that note floated out of some funky cellar bar door winding its way down to the harbor, down to the turgid bay seeking passage to the Japan seas. With more blows at that dark hour before the dawn to get the hemp squared, to be right with that tangled mass of brethren who constituted the beat-down, beat around world.
We will always have Sal, Carlos, Bull, Dean and an ever changing assortment of , well, women, women, mainly, at their beck and call, riding, car-riding, riding hard over the hill and dale of this continent searching, well, just searching okay. We will always have the lost father and son (odd combination since they could have been brothers), Sal and Dean, playing off of each other’s strengths (and weaknesses) as they try to make sense of their world, or if not sense then to keep high, keep moving, and keep listening. And we will always have a great American novel to pass on to the next wanderlust generation, if there is another wanderlust generation.
We will always have that beat down novel, praise be.