Saturday, 27 June 2015

Riffing, Kerouac-style

I'm reading Jack Kerouac's Big Sur now and the following passage gives some idea of his frenetic writing, which I love so much:

But Dave is anxious and so am I to see great Cody who is always the major part of my reason for journeying to the west coast so we call him up at Los Gatos 50 miles away down the Santa Clara Valley and I hear his dear sad voice saying "Been waitin for ya old buddy, come on down right away, but I'll be goin to work at midnight so hurry up and you can visit me at work soon's the boss leaves round two and I'll show you my new job of tire recapping and see if if you can't bring a little somethin like a girl or sump tin, just kiddin, come on down pal --"

So there's old Willie waiting for us down on the street parked across from the little pleasant Japanese liquor store where as usual, according to our ritual, I run out and get Pernod or Scotch or anything good while Dave wheels around to pick me up at the store door, and I get in the front seat right at Dave's right where I belong all the time like old Honored Samuel Johnson while everybody else that wants to come along has to scramble back there on the mattress (a full mattress, the seats are out) and squat there or lie down there and also generally keep silence because when Dave's got the wheel of Willie in his hand and I've got the bottle in mine and we're off on a trip the talking all comes from the front seat -- "By God" yells Dave all glad again "it's just like old times Jack, gee old Willie's been sad for ya, waitin for ya to come back -- So now I'm gonna show ya hold old Willie's even improved with age, had him reconditioned in Reno last month, here he goes, are you ready Willie?" and off we go and the beauty of it all this particular summer is that the front right seat is broken and just rocks back and forth gently to every one of Dave's driving moves -- It's like sitting in a rocking chair on a porch only this is a moving porch to tok on at that -- And insteada watching old men pitch horseshoes from this here talking porch it's all that fine white clean line in the middle of the road as we go flying like birds over the Harrison ramps and whatnot Dave always uses to sneak out of Frisco real fast and avoid all the traffic -- soon we're set straight and pointed head on down beautiful fourlane Bayshore Highway to that lovely Santa Clara Valley - But I'm amazed that after only a few years the dan thing no longer has prune fields and vast beet fields like at Lawrence when I was a brakeman on the Southern Pacific and even after, it's one long row of houses right down the line 50 miles to San Jose like a great monstrous Los Angeles beginning to grow south of Frisco.

At first it's beautiful to just watch that white line reel in to Willie's snout but when I start looking around out the window there's just endless housing tracts and new blue factories everywhere -- Sez Dave "Yes that's right, the population explosion is gonna cover every bit of backyard dirt in America someday in fact they'll even have to start piling up frigging levels of houses and others over that like tour cityCityCITY till the houses reach a hundred miles in the air in all directions of the map and people looking at the earth from another planet with super telescopes will see a prickly ball hangin in space -- It's like era horrible when you come to think of it, even us with all our fancy talks, shit man, it's all millions of people and events piling up almost unimaginable now, like raving baboons we'll all be piled on top of each other or one another or whatever you're sposed to say -- Hundreds of millions of hungry mouths raving for more more more -- And the sadness of it all is that the world hasn't any chance to produce say a write whose life could really actually touch all this life one very detail like you always say, some writer who could bring you sobbing thru the bed fucking bed cribs of the moon to see it all even int the goddamned last gory detail of some dismal robbery of the heart at dawn when no one cares like Sinatra sings" ("When no one cars," he sings in his low baritone but resumes): -- "Some strict sweeper sweeping it all up, I mean the incredible helplessness I felt Jack when Céline ended his Journey To The End Of The Night by pissing in the Seine River at dawn there I am thinkin my God there's probably somebody pissing in the Trenton River at dawn right now, the Danube, the Ganges, the frozen Obi, the Yellow, the Paraná, the Willamette, the Merrimac in Missouri too, the Missouri itself, the Yuma, The Amazon, the Thames, the Po, the so and so, it' so friggin endless it's like poems endless everywhere and no one knows any better old Buddha you know where he says it's like "There are immeasurable stars misty aeons of universes more numerous than the sands in all the galaxies, multiplied by a billion lightyears of multiplication, in fact if I were to go on you'd be scared and couldnt comprehend and you'd despair so much you'd drop dead," that's what he just about said in one of those sutras -- Macrocosms and microcosms and chillicosms and microbes and finally you got all these marvellous books a man aint even got time to read em all, what you gonna do in this already piled up multiple world when you have to think of the Book of Songs, Faulkner, César Birotteau, Shakespeare, Satyricons, Dantes, in fact long stories guys tell you in bars, in fact the sutras themselves, Sir Philip Sidney, Sterne, Ibn El Arabi, the copious Lope de Vega and the uncurious goddam Cervantes, shook then there's all those Catulluses and Davids and radio listening skid row sages to contend with because they've all got a million stories too and you too Ron Blake in the backseat shut up! down to everything which is so much that it is of necessity don't you think NOthing anyway, huh?" (expressing exactly the way I feel, of course).

And to corroborate all that about the too-much-ness of the world, in fact, there's Stanley Popovich also in the back mattress next to Ron, Stanley Popovich with Jamie his Italian beauty girl but;s going to leave her in a few days to go work for the circus, a big touch Yugoslav kid who ran the Seven Arts Gallery in New York with big bearded beatnik readings but now comes the circus and a whole big on-the-road of his own -- It's too much, in fact right this minute he's started telling us about circus work. On top of all that old Cody is up ahead with HIS thousand stories -- We all agree it's too big to keep up with, that we're surrounded by life, that we'll never understand it, so we centre it all in by swigging Scotch from the bottle and when it's empty I run out of the car and buy another one, period.

(Big Sur, Jack Kerouac)

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