Friday, January 25, 2013

A Cock-a-mamie Saguaro Meets Tom Mix In The Kerouac Daerk

January 25, 2013

I had a speech this morning at the Dude Rancher's Association which was held at the Rancho de Caballeros outside of Wickenburg. Always fun. On my drive home I finally stopped and took a photo of a cactus I have admired for decades on the road from Wickenburg to Cave Creek.

The Cock-a-mamie Saguaro

Yesterday I finished the second pass of "On The Road." The first time was the cleaned up 1957 version and this time I read "The Historic Scroll Version". Both have the same poetic power proving even the neutered one doesn't sap the power of the tale.

 Got up this morning to skim my notes on the Kerouac biography. For one thing I've thought of him being closer to my age, but the Dude is my parents age! He graduated from high school in 1939 which is the same year my mother graduated from Kingman High! So to think of him as younger is probably a testament to the timelessness and power of the book more than anything.

 Secondly, Jack and Neal come off like such the kind of rebels we think of that led to the hippies and rock star gods of the late fifties and sixties. And when you scratch the surface on that prototype they are usually sensitive types, the anti-jocks. But Kerouac was a lifelong Catholic AND a jock. Check out this photo of him at Columbia:

So that is kind of a mind blower, that Kerouac was coming from a jock background. It helps explain his total rejection of the hippie movement. He thought they were all Communists! Just like our parents did. Ha. Because he's my parent's age and has their values.

One of the slams on all the subsequent portrayals in the movies of Neal and Jack is that they are invariably portrayed as hipsters, and as Carolyn Cassady puts it in the foreword to the bio book, "I am periodically subjected to attempts to dramatize the lives of Kerouac and Cassady by playwrights and filmmakers who have so far ignored these influences [that they were middle class guys with middle class values, in spite of the fact that they were flaunting them or abusing them, and by the way, they felt very guilty about it which led to their alcohol and drug issues] and portray their characters in present time. This results in the persons depicted appearing to be no more than hedonistic airheads or juvenile-delinquents, or both—really boring people who couldn't possibly have changed the history of society and literature."

With that said, a new movie version of "On The Road" produced by Francis Ford Coppola, came out last Dec. 21, but it has been withdrawn from full release and according to a movie reviewer I know, it's indefinitely shelved. One of the reviews I read basically agreed with Carolyn's assessment, above.

So it's heavier when you know it's a couple of WWII kids who are rebelling, but struggling for their place in the world. They still want a family and a home. And they both paid dearly. Cassaday died in Mexico in 1968 and Karouac in 1969, both from substance abuse.

 Does knowing any of this change the book? Yes, it makes it deeper, but it also points out some of the flaws. It is, after all fiction in spite of the real names and specific sex acts. But, when all i said and done, the poetic imagery is what carries it and will carry it for a very long time.

Here's Kerouac on the first moving picture he saw which was a Western featuring Tom Mix:

"Mix galloped across the amazing 'muddy movie screen california' in a white hat so snowy it makes him 'look like a glowworm.' He finally leaped 'across rainy shacks. . .landing on maniacs in the dark.'"

Man that is sweet! I need to get the full quote (it's from the bio, quoting from Visions of Cody, page 270). If you have it I want the whole quote. Thanks.

"Kerouac was a writer. That is, he wrote. Many people who call themselves writers and have their names on books are not writers and they can't write—the difference being, a bullfighter who fights a bull is different from a bullshitter who makes passes with no bull there."
—William Burroughs