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Authors: Jack Kerouac

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BOOK: Desolation Angels
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As far as I can see and as I am concerned, this so-called Forest Service is nothing but a front, on the one hand a vague Totalitarian governmental effort to restrict the use of the forest to people, telling them they cant camp here or piss there, it's illegal to do this and you're allowed to do that, in the Immemorial Wilderness of Tao and the Golden Age and the Millenniums of Man—secondly it's a front for the lumber interests, the net result of the whole thing being, what with Scott Paper Tissue and such companies logging out these woods year after year with the “cooperataion” of the Forest Service which boasts so proudly of the number of board feet in the whole Forest (as if I owned an inch of a board altho I cant piss here nor camp there) result, net, is people all over the world are wiping their ass with the beautiful trees—As for lightning and fires, who, what American individual loses, when a forest burns, and what did Nature do about it for a million years here up to now?—And in that mood I lie on my bunk in the moonlit night on my stomach and contemplate the bottomless horror of the world, from that worst of all spots in the world, a set of streets in Richmond Hill beyond Jamaica Avenue just northwest of Richmond Hill Center I'd guess where one hot summer-night when Ma (1953) was visiting Nin in the south I was walking and suddenly because completely depressed almost to match the depression-walk I had the night before my father died, and in those streets one winter night I called Madeleine Watson on the phone to make a date with her to see if she was going to marry me, a kind of fit of madness like I'm subject to, I really am a “madman bum and angel”—realizing that there is no place on earth where that bottomless horror can be dispelled (Madeleine was surprised, scared, said she had a steady boy friend, must still be wondering these years later why I called or what's the matter with me) (or maybe she secretly loves me) (I just saw her face in a vision, in the bed beside me, those tragic beautiful dark Italian lines of her face so streakable of tears, so kissable, firm, lovely, like I like)—thinking, even if I lived in New York, bottomless horror of palefaced pockmarked television actors in smorgasbords wearing thin silver ties and the utterest dismality of all the windswept apartments of Riverside Drive and the Eighties where they always live or cold January dawn on Fifth Avenue with the garbage cans all neatly lined near the incinerators in the courtyard, cold hopeless in fact malicious-minded rose in the skies above clawy trees of Central Park, no place to rest or warm up because you aint a millionaire and even if you were nobody'd care—Bottomless horror of the moon shining on Ross Lake, the firs that cant help you—Bottomless horror of Mexico City in the pine trees of the hospital grounds and the overworked Indian children at the market stalls Saturday night awfully late—Bottomless horror of Lowell with the Gypsies in empty stores on Middlesex Street and the hopelessness stretching over that to the mainline rail of the B & M Railroad cut by Princeton Boulevard where trees that dont care for you grow by a river of no-concern—Bottomless horror of Frisco, the streets of North Beach on a foggy Monday morning and the dontcare Italians buying cigars on the corner or just staring or old paranoiac Negroes who take you to be insulting them or even nutty intellectuals taking you to be an FBI man and avoiding you in the gruesome wind—the white houses with empty big windows, the telephones of hypocrites—Bottomless horror of North Carolina, the little redbrick alleys after the movie on a winter night, the small towns of the South in January—agh, in June—June Evans dead after a lifetime of irony, is right, her unknown grave leers at me in the moonlight telling that all is right, right damnable, right got rid of—Bottomless horror of Chinatown at dawn when they slam garbage pails and you pass drunk and disgusted and shamed—Bottomless horror everywhere, I can picture Paris almost, the Poujadists pissing off the quai—Sad understanding is what compassion means—I resign from the attempt to be happy. It's all discrimination anyway, you value this and devalue that and go up and down but if you were like the void you'd only stare into space and in that space though you'd see stiffnecked people in their favorite various displaytory furs and armors sniffing and miffed on benches of this one-same ferryboat to the other shore you'd still be staring into space for form is emptiness, and emptiness is form—O golden eternity, these simperers in your show of things, take them and slave them to your truth that is forever true forever—forgive me my human floppings—I think therefore I die—I think therefore I am born—Let me be void still—Like a happy child lost in a sudden dream and when his buddy addresses him he doesnt hear, his buddy nudges him he doesnt move; finally seeing the purity and truth of his trance the buddy watches in wonder—you can never be that pure again, and jump out of such trances with a happy gleam of love, being an angel in the dream


A little interplay on the lookout radio one morning brings a laugh and a memory—it's clean early sunlight, 7
, and you hear: “How 30 ten eight for the day. How 30 clear.” Meaning station number 30 is on the air for the day. Then:—“How 32 also ten-eight for the day,” right after it. Then:—“How 34, ten eight.” Then:—“How 33, ten seven for ten minutes.” (Off the air for ten minutes.) “Afternoon, men.”

And said in that bright early morning wry voice of college boys, I see them on campuses in the mornings of September with their fresh cashmere sweaters and fresh books crossing dewy swards and making jokes just like that, their pearly faces and pristine teeth and smooth hair, you'd think youth were nothing but this kind of lark and nowhere in the world any grubby bearded youths grumbling in wood shacks and hauling water with a flatulent comment—no, just fresh sweet youngsters with fathers who are dentists and successful retired professors walking longstrided and light and glad across primordial lawns towards interesting dark shelves of college libraries—aw hell who cares, when I was a college boy myself I slept till 3
and set a new record at Columbia for cutting classes in one semester and am still haunted by dreams of it where finally I've forgotten what classes they were and the identities of the professors and instead I wander forlornly like a tourist among the ruins of the Colosseum or the Pyramid of the Moon among vast 100-foot-high shelled haunted abandoned buildings that are too ornate and too ghostly to contain classes—Well, little alpine firs at 7
dont care about such things, they just exude dew.


October is always a great time for me (knock on wood), 's why I always talk about it so much—The October of 1954 was a wild quiet one, I remember the old corncob I started smoking that month (living in Richmond Hill with Ma) staying up late-a-nights writing one of my careful prose (deliberate prose) attempts to delineate Lowell in its entirety, brewing café-au-lait in the midnights with hot milk and Nescafé, finally taking a bus trip to Lowell, with my fragrant pipe, the way I strolled around those haunted streets of birth and boyhood puffing on it, eating red firm Macintosh apples, wearing my Japanese-made plaid shirt with the white and deep brown and deep orange designs, under a pale blue jacket, with my white crepesole shoes (black foamsole) making all the Siberian-drab residents of Centerville stare at me making me realize that what was an ordinary outfit in New York was dazzling and even effeminate in Lowell, tho my pants were just dumpy old brown corduroys—Yes, brown corduroys and red apples, and my corncob pipe and big sack of tobacco stuffed in pocket, not inhaling then but just puffing, walking and kicking the gutter-deep leaves as of yore as I'd done at four, October in Lowell, and those perfect nights in my Skid Row hotel room there (Depot Chambers near the old depot) with my complete Buddhist or rather reawakened understanding of this dream this world—a nice October, ending with the ride back to New York through leafy towns with white steeples and the old sere brown New England earth and young luscious college girls in front of the bus, arriving Manhattan at 10
on a glittery Broadway and I buy a pint of cheap wine (port) and walk and drink and sing (slugging in excavations on 52nd Street and in doors) till on Third Avenue who do I pass on the sidewalk but Estella my old flame with a party of people including her new husband Harvey Marker (author of
Naked and the Doomed
) so I just dont even look but downstreet I turn just as they turn, curious lookings, and I dig the wildness of the New York streets, thinking: “Gloomy old Lowell, just as well we left it, look how the people in New York are on a perpetual carnival and holiday and Saturday Night of revel—what else do in this hopeless void?” And I stride to Greenwich Village and go in the Montmartre (hepcat) bar high and order a beer in the dim light full of Negro intellectuals and hipsters and junkies and musicians (Allen Eager) and next to me is a Negro kid with a beret who says to me “What do you do?”

“I am the greatest writer in America.”

“I am the greatest jazz pianist in America,” says he, and we shake on it, drink to it, and at the piano he whangs me strange new chords, crazy atonal new chords, to old jazz tunes—Little Al the waiter pronounces him great—Outside it's October night in Manhattan and on the waterfront wholesale markets there are barrels with fires left burning in them by the longshoremen where I stop and warm my hands and take a nip two nips from the bottle and hear the
of ships in the channel and I look up and there, the same stars as over Lowell, October, old melancholy October, tender and loving and sad, and it will all tie up eventually into a perfect posy of love I think and I shall present it to Tathagata my Lord, to God, saying “Lord Thou didst exult—and praised be You for showing me how You did it—Lord now I'm ready for more—And this time I wont whine—This time I'll keep my mind clear on the fact that it is Thy Empty Forms.”

… This world, the palpable thought of God …


Up until that lightning storm which was a dry one, the bolts hitting dry timber, followed only afterwards by rain that banked the fires awhile, fires start popping up all over the wilderness—One on Baker River sends a big cloud of hazy smoke down Little Beaver Creek just below me making me mistakenly assume a fire there but they calculate the way the valleys run and how the smoke drifted—Then, when during the lightning storm I'd seen a red glow behind Skagit Peak on my east, then no more, four days later the airplane spots a burned-out acre but it is mostly dead making a haze in Three Fools Creek—But then comes the big fire on Thunder Creek which I can see 22 miles south of me billowing smoke out of Ruby Ridge—A high southwest wind makes it rage from a two-acre fire at 3 to an eighteen-acre fire at 5, the radio is wild, my own gentle district ranger Gene O'Hara keeps sighing over the radio at every new report—In Bellingham they assemble eight smokejumpers to fly in and drop on the steep ridge—Our own Skagit crews are shifted from Big Beaver to the lake, a boat, and the long high trail to the big smoke—It's a sunny day with a high wind and lowest humidity of the year—This fire was at first mistakenly assumed by excitable Pat Garton on Crater to be closer to him than where it is, near Hoot Owl pass, but sneering Jesuit Ned Gowdy on Sourdough verifies with the airplane the exact location and so it is “his” fire—these guys being forestry careerists they are very religiously jealous of “his” and “my” fire, as tho—“Gene are you there?” says Howard on Lookout Mountain, relaying a message from the Skagit crew foreman who is standing under the fire with a walkie-talkie and the men staring at the steep inaccessible slide it's on—“almost perpendicular—Ah How 4, he says that you might get down from the top, it would probably be a rope job and couldnt pack in what you needed—”—“Okay,” sighs O'Hara, “tell him to stand by—How 33 from 4”—“33”—“Has McCarthy got out the airport yet?” (McCarthy and the bigwig Forest Supervisor are flying over the fire), 33 has to call the airport to see—“How one from 33”—repeats four times—“Back to How four, I cant seem to get a hold of the airport”—“Okay, thank you”—But turns out McCarthy is in the Bellingham office or at home, apparently not much concerned yet because it isnt his fire—Sighing O'Hara, a sweet man, never a harsh word (unlike bossy cold-eyed Gehrke), I think if I should find a fire in this crucial hour I should have to preamble my announcement with “Hate to pile sorrows on you—” Meanwhile nature innocently burns, it's only nature burning nature—Myself I sit eating my Kraft Cheese Noodle dinner and drinking strong black coffee and watching the smoke 22 miles away and listening to the radio—Only got three weeks to go and I'm off to Mexico—At six o'clock in the still hot sun but high wind the plane sneaks up on me, calling me, “We're about to drop your batteries,” I go out and wave, they wave back like Lindbergh in their monoplane and turn around and make a run over my ridge dropping a miraculous bundle from heaven which whips out in a burlap parachute and goes sailing sailing far over the target (high wind) and as I watch it gulping I see it's going to go clear over the ridge and down the 1500-foot Lightning Gorge but a lordly little fir captures the shrouds and the heavy bundle hangs on the cliff side—I put on my empty rucksack after finishing the dishes and hike down, find the stuff, very heavy, put it in my rucksack, cutting shrouds and tapes and sweating and slipping in the pebbles, and with the rolled-up parachute under my arm lugubriously I labor on back up the ridge to my lovely little shack—in two minutes my sweat's gone and it's done—I look at the distant fires in distant mountains and see the little imaginary blossoms of sight discussed in the Surangama Sutra whereby I know it's all an ephemeral dream of sensation—What earthly use to know this? What earthly use is anything?


And that is precisely what maya means, it means we're being fooled into believing in the reality of the feeling of the show of things—Maya in Sanskrit, it means
—And why do we go on being fooled even when we know it?—Because of the energy of our habit and we hand it down from chromosome to chromosome to our children but even when the last living thing on earth is sucking at the last drop of water at the base of equatorial ice fields the energy of the habit of Maya will be in the world, embued right in rock and scale—What rock and scale? There are none there, none now, none ever were—The simplest truth in the world is beyond our reach because of its complete simplicity,
its pure nothingness—There are no awakeners and no meanings—Even if suddenly 400 naked Nagas came solemn tromping over the ridge here and say to me “We have been told the Buddha was to be found on this mountaintop—we have walked many countries, many years, to get here—are you alone here?”—“Yes”—“Then you are the Buddha” and all 400 of em prostrate and adore, and I sit suddenly perfectly in diamond silence—even then, and I wouldn't be surprised (why be surprised?) even then I would realize that there are, there is no Buddha, no awakener, and there is no Meaning, no Dharma, and it is all only the wile of Maya

BOOK: Desolation Angels
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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