What a wonderful Saturday afternoon I've had talkin' to old DOTHAN TIGER pals http://classof68.myevent.com/
on the phone, reading Charles Jarvis' VISIONS OF KEROUAC, eating sauteed shrimp w/cauliflower and napping with the TV on.
Jarvis' book got me going all over the Internet dis evenin'
& I revisited my old buddy John Allen Cassady's website
image courtesy of http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=110241603
JOHN ALLEN CASSADY
John's family also has a wonderful site http://www.nealcassadyestate.com/family.html
which commemorates the virtues & accomplishments of John's Daddy, Neal Cassady.( Seeing as how Neal was a railroad brakeman & recapper & seeing as how my Grandpa Register was a railroad brakeman & my Daddy, Earl Register, was a recapper
~ I've always related to Neal The Wheel)
One of strangest nights of my life occurred back in the winter of '73/'74 when I met John Allen Cassady.
John was one my guests at a party in my apartment at 1519 8th Street here in Tuscaloosa but I had no idea who this California cat with the long platinum blond ponytail WAS.
He walked over to my desk and picked up the copy of Ann Charters' KEROUAC Susan had given me in October of '73.
He opened the book & pointed to a picture of Cowboy Neal, smiled and told me,
"That's my Dad."
photograph by Carolyn Cassady courtesy of http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/15/books/15kero.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Neal Cassady & Jack Kerouac
Here's a portion of Jarvis' book that got me going when I read it this afternoon...
"Do you correspond much with Cassady?" I asked, being careful to stay in the present tense.
"Well I used to," came the reply. "But the past few years, I haven't. Neal's not an easy guy to keep up with, you know."
A few months later we talked again about Neal Cassady. Cassady had been out of Kerouac's life for some years. While Kerouac had lived mostly on the East Coast, Cassady persisted on the West Coast. They had remained buddies but during this period a new phase in Cassady's life surfaced that could not have escaped Kerouac's attention. The hero of ON THE ROAD had gone beyond the pages of Kerouac's epic and had emerged under his real name in another book: Tom Wolfe's THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST. This was a non-fiction novel, a documentary really, on Ken Kesey, young author of the best seller, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.
Kesey had become the leader of the LSD-Hippie Syndrome (until he dropped out later after a few legal adventures) and his story was chronicled by Wolfe in a massive volume written in a careening style which at times shouted echoes of Kerouac's ON THE ROAD. Certainly Dean Moriarity-Neal Cassady lived on as the inimitable con man-philosopher-individualist; the only difference now was that Ken Kesey had replace Jack Kerouac as the focal point of reference for Neal Cassady.
As I said, a few months after Cassady's death, his name came up again. I wondered if Kerouac had finally accepted the fact of his demise. "I won't believe it," he said, "until I see Neal packed away neatly like a new suit of clothes."
"I don't want to get morbid about this, Jack," I said, "but I understand that Cassady's body was cremated."
"Now that's a crock of shit, " he almost shouted. "First of all, Neal has always been a good Catholic, like me. He wouldn't allow anything like that. Secondly, the story of his cremation sound like one of Cassady's jokes." I made up my mind that Kerouac was mad, psychotic if you will, on the matter of Cassady's death. I left this subject as hopeless.
"What about Tom Wolfe's portrayal of Cassady, Jack?" I injected suddenly. "Some of those passages seem to have come right out of ON THE ROAD."
"I'm flattered," he said impishly. "Tom Wolfe is no Thomas Wolfe- my first writer-saint by the way- but if he saw fit to echo some of my visions of Neal, then I'm flattered." He gave me a fish-eye. "And if you're going to start talking about plagiarism- and it seems to me that that's all you professors are ever interested in, playing cops and robbers with the students- if you're going to start in on plagiarism, then I give you the back of me arse."
I laughed. Kerouac had made a hip movement with those last words. "You injure my sensibilities, Mr. Kerouac," I said, trying to perpetuate his "me arse" intonation. "Far be it from me to suggest plagiarism. Tom Wolfe is such a skillful writer and such a skilled reporter. And after all, his book on Kesey and Cassady is a monumental documentary; it is a tribute, among other things, to his research talents."
"and a toodle-de doo to you, too," came Kerouac's response.
"No really, Jack," I went on. "What I'm asking you is: did you notice any difference in your Dean Moriarity and Wolfe's Neal Cassady?"
"How in the fuck can I answer that," he said, half-smiling, "when I haven't even read Wolfe's book."
It hadn't occurred to me; that is, that Kerouac might not have read THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST. "Well, then you ought to read it," I tried to recover.
"Man, I ain't got the time," he said. "I'm too busy reading other things, like Plato and Aristotle, Mutt and Jeff, The Bible- and the greatest newspaper east of the Mississippi: THE LOWELL SUN.
"The shame on you," I took another tack. "Your friend Neal would feel hurt if he found out you weren't interested in reading about him."
"My friend Neal could never feel hurt from anything I ever did that concerned him." I noticed immediately Kerouac's voice had dropped in volume. He seemed to have uttered this remark to himself. "Everything I've written about Neal has been written out of love, the kind of love that one can feel only about his brother."
"Do you miss Neal, Jack?"
"Of course I do." He answered in a way that rendered my question an accusation. "Wouldn't you miss somebody who gave you so much? I mean, I'm not afraid to admit that Neal made me a better writer. His letters, his philosophy, his whole existence were a treasure to me."
"You're not implying that Cassady's name should also have been under the title of your books?" I wondered if I had pushed too much. Kerouac threw a stare at me- and I was relieved. I had learned to interpret his stares; he had about twenty of them. This one said: "Jarvis, you are trying to mindfuck me."
"My name is where it should be: under my book titles." He was admonishing me. "But I'll tell you one thing. Neal Cassady was the greatest writer of the bunch. Better than Ginsberg, Holmes, Corso-"
"Ah yes, Kerouac." He didn't miss a stride. "Well, we will never know that because Neal was too busy to sit on his ass like the rest of us and scribble. But he did write some things and someday these will all be collected and Neal will emerge as the father of us all."
"But in the meantime, " I said, "he keeps turning up as a character in your books and now, lately, as a character in Tom Wolfe's book. Do you feel any resentment against Tom Wolfe, or even Ken Kesey who obviously became Neal Cassady's buddy?"
Kerouac threw me the accusatory mindfucking stare again. "I'm too old to resent anybody- you diabolical professor, you." He smiled faintly. "But even if I weren't too old, and even if this were a few years back, I could bear no grudge against any man."
"Especially Neal- and the rest of Beat brothers."
"Right you are."
"Do you miss them, Jack? I mean, besides Neal. Do you miss Burroughs, Ginsburg, Corso, Ferlinghetti?"
Kerouac's face flashed sadness. Then he spoke slowly, quietly. "No, not really. I still love them all but each time frame in life is different. Back in the late forties and in the fifties, I used to see one or two or three of them and we'd get together and we'd try to decide what the hell this cockeyed world was all about. When I went out West a few times, I'd stay with Neal sometimes and it was always a great thing. And in San Francisco we all had the great times."
"And you don't miss that now?" I interrupted.
He seemed to hesitate. "Naw. Once was enough. Besides, I always kept the door open."
"A door for what?"
"A door which would lead me back."
"Back to Lowell?" I suggested.
"Well you might put it that way, although that door was also a path to my own private little monastery where I would communicate with the angels."
"The angels, " I echoed.
"That's right...Gerard, Sammy Sampas, John Koumantzelis, Billy Chandler...Memere." All the names Kerouac uttered were of dead people- except the last one, his mother. The first, of course was his brother; the second was his teenage Lowell poetic young friend; the third was high school fellow athlete; the fourth was a childhood chum. Except for Gerard, the others had died in the war.
"Did you use that door often, Jack?"
"Man, I practically existed on the threshold of that door. I think I had one big toe in the room and rest of me was up in a tall mountain walking through a little garden and talking with those angels."
"Sounds to me like you never had your heart in it... I mean the Beat Brotherhood. By your admission, you had more than just one foot out the door." Kerouac did not respond to this. A short impasse settled between us. Then I thought of something else to say. "You know, Jack, this open door business you mention reminds me of one of Aesop's fables- something about a couple of foxes or bears breaking into a farmer's food cellar and one of them gorging himself, while the othere one ate a little at a time and kept going in and out of the opening to the farmer's cellar to make sure he didn't bloat himself too much and not be able to squeeze himself out of the place. I guess the other bear or fox ate himself into a balloon and got trapped in there."
When I stopped, Kerouac affected an expression of mock surprise. "So I'm the fox," he said. Then he looked down at his distended middle. "Or maybe I should say the bear." He patted his belly, and then focused on me again. "But you're not implying, Jarvis, that I was some kind of thief, a man who only took and gave nothing in return."
"No, not exactly, " I said somewhat hurriedly. "I'm saying that this going in and out the door was a manifestation of your desire to remain free, to leave your options open, so to speak."
"Beat Brotherhood," he said. Kerouac had a way of suddenly changing direction. " I think I like the term. Did you think that up all by yourself- or did you plagiarize it somewhere?"
I feigned being offended. "I assure you, Mr. Kerouac, that I did not steal it. Seems to me that all we've been talking about the last couple of minutes is thievery- on both sides."
"Beat Brotherhood," Kerouac repeated. "Yeah, I guess you could say that. We were all brothers; but we were all on the road, each unto himself."
"Except when you traveled with Neal Cassady."
"Well yes. That was something else. Neal was the man there."
There was a quiet moment."Now he's with the angels," Kerouac added.
I knew then that Jack Kerouac had at last accepted the fact of his friend's death;
or passing on really, on to join the other
angels of his life:
Gerard, Sammy Sampas...
The following images courtesy of http://www.thebeatmuseum.org/grandopening.html
The Worthen House - one of Jack's favorite hangouts.
Inside the Worthen - see the Kerouac poster on left.
So, we’re inside the Worthen toasting a few to Jack’s memory (as if we needed that for an excuse) when we meet these couple of guys and strike up a conversation with them and it turns out they’re from out of town like North Carolina or some place and they had just left Jack’s grave like five minutes before we got there and decided to go to the Worthen as well. The one guy didn’t believe John was who he said he was and asked to see his license to prove it. We had such a hoot with these guys, everyone buying everyone else drinks etc etc.
You really ARE John Allen Cassady!
This Yankee walks up to me and we start talking and he asks, "What brings an Alabama Rebel to this bar?"
"I guess I'm chasing the ghost of one of my favorite authors."
"Yeah, he used to drink here and lived upstairs for about a year.
The upstairs has the belt drives for those fans. The slaves used to peddle the belt drives."
"Kerouac lived upstairs?"
"Naw, Edgar Allen Poe."
An excellent example of the many Kerouac YouTube clips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBILjdzkpzU
Here's a Cassady clip http://youtube.com/watch?v=HoopzKD8tIk&feature=related
Thought you all might enjoy this
1961 Minaret Recording.... written by Buddy Buie, Finley Duncan and
The Playground Team