Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Beat’s The Beat-Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur


Here is how the adventure all began-criss-crossing, okay hitch-hiking(look it up if you are unaware of this honorable if now dangerous mode of travel), tramping, hobo camps, jungles, railroad trestles, awful stews and weak wines, the great American night highway, drinking, swilling really, wines (weak too), whiskeys (when in the dough), low-rent off the low shelf beers when cash was low, although never real hobo Thunderbirds and sternos, no, always just short of that instant madness, chain-smoking Lucky Strikes, king of the unfiltered western night chain, smoking mad reefers, roughing up some sheets with some stray chick, rutting off in some side road ditch if sheets were hard to come by, switching off with karma sutra babes if the feeling was right. Yeah, that was Jack Kerouac’s world, Jack’s late 1940s be-bop world, the world that he wrote about in On The Road, the one that made a generation drool for the open road, for freedom.

But let’s suppose that that free and open road had happened over a decade before Jeanbon set the late 1950s night afire (which it actually had publication delayed through the vagaries of publishing business and fame offered through a substitute book reviewer’s praise) Let us also suppose that Jeanbon tired, drunk, depressed and cramped after three years of being beat’s king fellahin world beat just wanted to chuck it all, just wanted to drink himself into oblivion. (Which he was both capable of and did.) Well, then you would get Jack’s famous drowned in sorrow, hubris and drink classic, Big Sur, in which he attempted to make one grand final slash at word-smithery to hail the new world he had coined.

And one half century later a keen director Michael Polish would come by and adapt those words, those maybe, probably, very possibility, non-cinematically possible words into a film sketch. Now the plot, book or film, is really nothing. Jack, in twenty-one conditions of tired of the real world, his real beat world, drunk, stupor drunk, decided to chill himself out in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin at Big Sur. And so among the splendors of that section of California hard against the Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean he dwelled, for a while.

But Jack was fundamentally a social animal, wrote out of a hardened social fist, could only survive by mixing words with others around and so he escaped back up the coast to Frisco town to hold forth with the modern incantation of Dean Moriarty, a little worn, a little house-broken, a little more mixed up with drugs, drink and sex, the very real Neal Cassady. And so they talked, they partied, they exchanged women, they bantered and befuddled each other and all around them in one last hell-broth attempt to rekindle those ancient transcontinental flames that ignited their youth. See though shades of forty (the age, brother the age) were hovering overhead and so the mood of life on the rim of the world was broken. The beat night shattered to caricature and faux beatness. As Kerouac’s mantra writer-hero Thomas Wolfe named his eminent novel-you can’t go home again- can’t go home again to an idea who time had passed. And so too, in the end, the book and film were strictly for Kerouac beat generation-be-bop search for the great American West night aficionados. Enough said. 

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