In these collected articles, essays, and wild autobiographical tales, Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road, leads readers down the highways and through the myriad subcultures of mid-twentieth-century America, guiding them along with his ingenious observations and brilliant command of language. He cruises to San Francisco high on Benzedrine with a barefoot blond model in a white bathing suit; traipses from New York to Florida with photographer Robert Frank and a $300 German camera; takes a bus ride along the edge of a precipice in Montana; and revels in the swampy blues of an old Southern bum at a Des Moines diner.
On a journey of the mind, Kerouac courses through the philosophy, origins, and dreams of the Beats, those “crazy illuminated hipsters” of post-war America; describes his theory of experimental prose with the “Essentials of Spontaneous Writing”; and gives a tour of the San Francisco Renaissance, pointing out the new American poets who are “childlike graybeard Homers singing on the street.” This sweeping portrait of the art, sounds, and people of a nation in transition could only be told with Kerouac’s inimitable wisdom and charm.
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Good Blonde & Others
By Jack Kerouac
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1994 John Sampas Literary Representative
All rights reserved.
This old Greek reminded me of my Uncle Nick in Brooklyn who'd spent 50 years of his life there after being born in Crete, and wandered down the gray streets of Wolfe Brooklyn, short, in a gray suit, with a gray hat, gray face, going to his various jobs as elevator operator and apartment janitor summer winter and fall, and was a plain old ordinary man talking about politics but with a Greek accent, and when he died it seemed to me Brooklyn hadn't changed and would never change, there would always be a strange sad Greek going down the gray streets. I could picture this man on the beach wandering around the white streets of San Francisco, looking at girls, "wandering around and looking at things as they are" as the Chinese say, "patting his belly," even, as Chuang-tse says. "I like these shells." He showed me a few shells he'd picked. "Make nice ashtray, I have lots ashtrays in my house."
"What do you think? You think all this is a dream?"
"Here? Now? What you mean a dream, we're awake, we talk, we see, we got eyes for to see the sea and the sand and the sky, if you dream you no see it."
"How we know we're not dreaming?"
"Look my eyes are open ain't they?" He watched me as I washed my dishes and put things away.
"I'm going to try to hitchhike to San Francisco or catch a freight, I don't wanta wait till tonight."
"You mens always in a hurry, hey, he he he he" and he laughed just like Old Uncle Nick, hands clasped behind his back, stooped slightly, standing over sand caves his feet had made, kicking little tufts of sand grass. In his green gray eyes which were just like the green gray sea I saw the yawning eternity not only of Greece but of America and myself.
"Well, I go now," says I hoisting my pack to my shoulder.
"I walk to the beach." Long before we'd stopped talking I'd seen the girl come out of the bushes, shameful and slow, and stroll on back to the bathhouse, then the boy came out, five minutes later. It made me sad I didn't have a girl to meet me in the bushes, in the exciting sand among leaves, to lie there swapping breathless kisses, groping at clothes, squeezing shoulders. Me and the old Greek sighed to see them sneak off. "I was a young man once," he said. At the bathhouse we shook hands and I went off across the mainline track to the little store on the corner were I'd bought the wine and where now they were playing a football game from Michigan loud on the radio and just then the sun came out anyway and I saw all the golden wheatfields of America Football Time stretching back to the East Coast.
"Damn," said I, "I'll just hitchhike on that highway" (101) seeing the fast flash of many cars. The old Greek was still wandering on the water's edge when I looked back, right on that mystical margin mentioned by Whitman where sea kisses sand in the endless sigh kiss of time. Like the three bos in Lordsburg New Mexico his direction in the void seemed so much sadder than my own, they were going east to hopeless sleeps in burlap in Alabama fields and the eventual Texas chaingang, he was going up and down the beach alone kicking sand ... but I knew that in reality my own direction, going up to San Francisco to see the gang and whatever awaited me there, was no higher and no lower than his own humble and unsayable state. The little store had a tree in front, shade, I laid my pack down and went in and came out with a ten-cent ice cream on a stick and sat awhile eating, resting, then combed my hair with water out of an outside faucet and went to the highway all ready to thumb. I walked a few blocks up to the light and got on the far side and stood there, pack at my feet, for a good half hour during which time I got madder and madder and finally I was swearing to myself "I will never hitchhike again, it's getting worse and worse every goddamn year." Meanwhile I kept a sharp eye on the rails a block toward the sea watching for convenient freight trains. At the moment when I was the maddest, and was standing there, thumb out, completely infuriated and so much so that (I remember) my eyes were slitted, my teeth clenched, a brand new cinnamon colored Lincoln driven by a beautiful young blonde in a bathingsuit flashed by and suddenly swerved to the right and put to a stop in the side of the road for me. I couldn't believe it. I figured she wanted road information. I picked up my pack and ran. I opened the door and looked in to smile and thank her.
She said "Get in. Can you drive?" She was a gorgeous young blonde girl of about 22 in a pure white bathingsuit, barefooted with a little ankle bracelet around her right ankle. Her bathingsuit was shoulderless and low cut. She sat there in the luxurious cinnamon sea in that white suit like a model. In fact she was a model. Green eyes, from Texas, on her way back to the City.
"Sure I can drive but I don't have a license."
"You drive all right?"
"I drive as good as anybody."
"Well I'm dog tired, I've been driving all the way from Texas without sleep, I went to see my family there" (by now she had the heap jet gone up the road and went up to 60 and kept it there hard and clean on the line, driving like a good man driver). "Boy," she said, "I sure wish I had some Benzedrine or sumptin to keep me awake. I'll have to give you the wheel pretty soon."
"Well how far you going?"
"Far as you are I think ... San Francisco."
"Wow, great." (To myself: who will ever believe I got a ride like this from a beautiful chick like that practically naked in a bathingsuit, wow, what does she expect me to do next?) "And Benzedrine you say?" I said "I've got some here in my bag, I just got back from Mexico, I got plenty."
"Crazy!" she yelled. "Pull it out. I want some."
"Baby you'll drive all the way when you get high on that stuff, Mexican you know."
"Mexican Shmexican just give it to me."
"OK." Grinning I began dumping all my dirty old unwashed rags and gear and claptraps of cookpot junk and pieces of food in wrapper on the floor of her car searching feverishly for the little tubes of Benny suddenly I couldn't find anymore. I began to panic. I looked in all the flaps and sidepockets. "Goddamnit where is it!" I kept worrying the smell of my old unwashed clothes would be repugnant to her, I wanted to find the stuff as soon as possible and repack everything away.
"Never mind man, take your time," she said looking straight ahead at the road, and in a pause in my search I let my eye wander to her ankle bracelet, as damaging a sight as Cleopatra on her poop of beaten gold, and the sweet little snowy bare foot on the gas pedal, enough to drive a man mad. I kept wondering why she'd really picked me up.
I asked her "How come you picked up a guy like me? I never seen a girl alone pick up a guy."
"Well I tell you I need someone to help me drive to the City and I figured you could drive, you looked like it anyway ..."
"O where are those Bennies!"
"Take your time."
"Here they are!"
"Crazy! I'll pull into that station up ahead and we'll go in and have a Coke and swallow em down." She pulled into the station which also had an inside luncheonette. She jumped out of the car barefooted in her low-cut bathingsuit as the attendant stared and ordered a full tank as I went in and bought two bottles of Coke to go out, cold. When I came back she was in the car with her change, ready to go. What a wild chick. I looked at the attendant to see what he was thinking. He was looking at me enviously. I kept having the urge to tell him the true story.
"Here," and I handed her the tubes, and she took out two. "Hey, that's too many, your top'll fly out ... better take one and a half, or one. I take one myself."
"I don't want no one and a half, I want two."
"You've had it before?"
"Of course man and everything else."
"Sure pot ... I know all the musicians in L.A. and the City, when I come into the Ramador Shelly Manne sees me coming and stops whatever they're playing and they play my theme song which is a little bop arrangement."
"How does it go?"
"Ha! and it goes: boop boop be doodleya dap."
"Wow, you can sing."
"I walk in, man, and they play that, and everybody knows I'm back." She took her two Bennies and swigged down, and buzzed the car up to a steady 70 as we hit the country north of Santa Barbara, the traffic thinning and the road getting longer and straighter. "Long drive to San Francisco, four hundred miles just about. I hope these Bennies are good, I'd like to go all the way."
"Well if you're tired I can drive," I said but hoped I wouldn't have to drive, the car was so brand new and beautiful. It was a '55 Lincoln and here it was October 1955. Beautiful, lowslung, sleek. Zip, rich. I leaned back with my Benny in my palm and threw it down with the Coke and felt good. Up ahead suddenly I realized the whole city of San Francisco would be all bright lights and glittering wide open waiting for me this very night, and no strain, no hurt, no pain, no freight train, no sweating on the hitchhike road but up there zip zoom inside about eight hours. She passed cars smoothly and went on. She turned on the radio and began looking for jazz, found rock 'n' roll and left that on, loud. The way she looked straight ahead and drove with no expression and sending no mincing gestures my way or even telepathies of mincingness, you'd never believe she was a lovely little chick in a bathingsuit. I was amazed. And in the bottom of that scheming mind I kept wondering and wondering (dirtily) if she hadn't picked me up because she was secretly a sex-fiend and was waiting for me to say "Let's park the car somewhere and make it" but something so inviolately grave about her prevented me from saying this, more than that my own sudden bashfulness (as the holy Benny began taking effect) prevented me from making such an importunate and really insulting proposition seeing I'd just met the young lady. But the thought stuck and stuck with me. I was afraid to turn and look at her and only occasionally dropped my eyes to that ankle bracelet and the little white lily foot on the gas pedal. And we talked and talked. Finally the Benny began hitting us strong after Los Alamos and we were talking a blue streak, she did most of the talking. She'd been a model, she wanted to be an actress, so forth, the usual beautiful-California-blonde designs but finally I said "As for me I don't want anything ... I think life is suffering, a suffering dream, and all I wanta do is rest and be kind somewhere, preferably in the woods, under a tree, live in a shack."
"Ain't you ever gonna get married?"
"Been married twice and I've had it."
"Well you oughta take a third crack at it, maybe this time you'd hit a homerun."
"That ain't the point, in the first place I wouldn't wanta have children, they only born to die."
"You better not tell that to my mom and dad, they had eight kids in Texas, I was the second, they've had a damn good long life and the kids are great, you know what my youngest brother did when I walked in the house last week and hadn't seen him for a year: he was all grown up tall and put on a rock-'n'-roll record for me and wanted me to do the lindy with him. O what laughs we had in the old homestead last week. I'm glad I went."
"I'll bet when you were a little girl you had a ball there in Texas huh? hunting, wandering around."
"Everything man, sometimes I think my new life now modeling and acting in cities isn't half as good as that was."
"And there you were on long Texas nights Grandma readin the Bible, right?"
"Yeah and all the good food we made, nowadays I have dates in good restaurants and man —"
"Dates ... you ain't married hey?"
"Not yet, pretty soon."
"Well what does a beautiful girl like you think about?" This made her turn and look at me with bland frank green eyes.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know ... I'd say, for a man, like me, what I say is best for him ... but for a beautiful girl like you I guess what you're doing is best." I wasn't going to say get thee to a nunnery, she was too gone, too pretty too, besides she wouldn't have done it by a long shot, she just didn't care. In no time at all we were way up north of Los Alamos and coming into a little bumper to bumper traffic outside Santa Maria where she pulled up at a gas station and said:
"Say do you happen to have a little change?"
"About a dollar and a half."
"Hmmmm ... I want to call longdistance to South City and tell my man I'll be in at eight or so."
"Call him collect if he's your man."
"Now you're talkin like a man" she said and went trottin barefoot to the phone booth in the driveway and got in and made a call with a dime. I got out of the car to stretch out, high and dizzy and pale and sweating and excited from the Benzedrine, I could see she was the same way in the phone booth, chewing vigorously on a wad of gum. She got her call and talked while I picked up an orange from the ground and wound up and did the pitcher-on-the-mound bit to stretch my muscles. I felt good. A cool wind was blowing across Santa Maria, with a smell of the sea in it somehow. The palm trees waved in a cooler wind than the one in Barbara and L.A. Tonight it would be the cool fogs of Frisco again! After all these years! She came out and we got in.
"Who's the guy."
"He's my man, Joey King, he runs a bar in South City ... on Main Street."
"Say I used to be a yardclerk in the yards there and I'd go to some of those bars on Main Street for a beer ... with a little cocktail glass neon in front, with a stick in it?"
"All the bars have that around here," she laughed and gunned on up the road fast. Pretty soon, yakking happily about jazz and even singing a lot of jazz, we got to San Luis Obispo, went through town, and started up the pass to Santa Margarita.
"There you see it," I said, "see where the railroad track winds around to go up the pass, I was a brakeman on that for years, on drizzly nights I'd be squattin under lumber boards ridin up that pass and when I'd go through the tunnels I'd hold my bandanna over my nose not to suffocate."
"Why were you riding on the outside of the engine."
"Because I was the guy assigned to puttin pops up and down, air valves, for mountain brakes, all that crap ... I don't think it would interest you."
"Sure, my brother's a brakeman in Texas. He's about your age."
"Well he's a little younger but his eyes are greener than yours, yours are blue."
"Yours are green."
"No, mine are hazel."
"Well that's what green-eyed girls always say."
"What do hazel-eyed girls always say?"
"They say, hey now." We were (as you see) talking like two kids and completely unself-conscious and by this time I'd quite forgotten the lurking thought of us sexing together in some bushes by the side of the road, though I kept smelling her, the Benny sweat, which is abundant, and perfumy in the way it works, it filled the car with a sweet perfume, mingled with my own sweat, in our noses if not in our minds there was a thought of sweating love ... at least in my mind. Sometimes I felt the urge to just lay my head in her lap as she drove but then I got mad and thought "Ah hell it's all a dream including beauty, leave the Angel Alone you dirty old foney Duluoz" which I did. To this day I never know what she wanted, I mean, what she really secretly thought of me, of picking me up, and she got so high on the Benny she drove all the way anyway, or perhaps she woulda drove all the way anyway, I don't know. She balled up over the pass in the gathering late afternoon golden shadows of California and came out on the flats of the Margarita plateau, where we stopped for gas, where in the rather cool mountain wind she got out and ran to the ladies room and the gas attendant said to me:
"Where'd you pick her up?" thinking the car was mine.
"She picked me up, pops."
"Well I oughta be glad if I was you."
"I ain't unglad."
"Sure is a nice little bundle."
"She's been wearing that bathingsuit clear from Texas."
Excerpted from Good Blonde & Others by Jack Kerouac. Copyright © 1994 John Sampas Literary Representative. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
- Cover Page
- On the Road
- Good Blonde
- Introduction to The Americans
- On the Road to Florida
- The Great Western Bus Ride
- The Rumbling, Rambling Blues
- On the Beats
- Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation
- Lamb, No Lion
- The Origins of the Beat Generation
- On Writing
- Essentials of Spontaneous Prose
- Belief & Technique for Modern Prose
- On Poets & Poetics
- Are Writers Made or Born?
- Written Address to the Italian Judge
- Shakespeare and the Outsider
- On Céline
- Biographical Notes
- “Among the Fantastic Wits …”
- Not Long Ago Joy Abounded at Christmas
- Home at Christmas
- The Beginning of Bop
- Nosferatu (Dracula)
- On Sports
- Ronnie on the Mound
- Three for the St. Petersburg Independent
- In the Ring
- Last Words
- The Last Word
- The First Word
- My Cat Tyke
- “What Am I Thinking About?”
- Editor’s Note
- About the Author
- Copyright Page