Kerouac by Tom Palumbo


Spiraling down a silo of despair and drunkenness in the wake of his On The Road/Dharma Bums celebrity as ‘king of the Beats’, Jack Kerouac longed for a safe haven. Poet/publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti heeded the call, loaning Kerouac his cabin at Big Sur on California’s rocky Central Coast. Once there, Kerouac had what he feared all along—a Delirium Tremens (DT)-fueled crack up. Kerouac scholar Paul Maher Jr. picks up the story…

On the morning of July 1, 1960, Jack Kerouac woke with stomach cramps so bad that he writhed on the floor. He shit black blood. He felt better once it passed. He had been hiding out since the turn of the new year at his mother Gabrielle’s home in Northport, Long Island and had been binge drinking for several weeks. He could not find peace or solace from a world that wanted more pieces of himself than he had to give.

He was deeply suffering, he felt, from being hexed by “everybody.”

He was slowly going mad.

More people came to his door with bottles in their hands. This time it was Charlie Byers and his cousin. Kerouac told them him that he was sick, that his nerves were shot. Byers talked him into a boat ride with his family, saying that he’ll even hide the booze so Kerouac wasn’t tempted. Kerouac was ashamed that such an offer even had to be made.

His sister Caroline and her son Paul Jr. were ever-present. She wanted money. “$1000 for the house,” she told him. In person, Jack was an easy draw. By letter, he could be cold and noncommittal. Coming north from her home in North Carolina was her best bet. She was pushed by Paul Sr. If he couldn’t get the money on his own, ole’ Jack was pushover enough.

Lois Sorrells, his girlfriend, wanted to come over too, but she at least had the company he craved. Lois had originally fallen in love with Kerouac through the first book she read, The Subterraneans. This infatuation was not with just him the writer, but an attraction to the muscular yet sensitive prose that moved her deeply.  She later told journalist, Maria Popova, “I had fallen in love with the soul of this man.” It moved her to such a degree that she moved east in 1958 from California to Northport.

In his attic he could get anything he wanted, as he detailed to Allen Ginsberg in a letter. Henri Cru was in town. That would be good for another tedious bar crawl, showing him off to the boys over at Gunthers Bar. Ginsberg was also expected in a few weeks, to which Gabrielle loudly protested. It’ll start all over again. One after the other, they came to see Jack, and he was unable to resist their pleas to just “have one.” His peace and quiet, what little he had, would be shattered. He wanted to be alone. He craved it with all of his being. He would never get any writing done under such conditions. He had to get away.

In the first week of July, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, aware of Kerouac’s problems, offered him the use of his cabin at Big Sur, California. Big Sur is located on the Central Coast between Carmel and San Simeon. To the east squatted the San Lucia mountains. To the west, the glassy Pacific festooned with rusty kelp beds at continent’s end. Cutting through was the narrow passage of Route 1 with its impressive cliffs and scenic ocean views.

Kerouac wrote back on 8 July:

“What I need now is a rest, is sleeping in my bag under the stars again, is quiet meditative cookings of supper, reading by oil lamp, singing, sitting by beach with note book and occasional wine.”

If he didn’t go now, he’d have a crack-up just like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fearing a railroad strike, Kerouac left earlier than planned. He was ready to begin anew. He made new promises to himself; to find Buddha in the sea waves and cathedrals in the Redwoods. Here, on the East Coast, there was nowhere to go. He was perpetually caught between Heaven and Earth, whirling in the Void longing to be set free at last. He did not want to be found, and so he gave Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg a pair of fictitious names: “Fyodor” and “Richard Wisp.”

In July, he took a train for Chicago and transferred to the Zephyr all the way to Oakland. For the first time in a long time, he was happy watching his beloved America zip past the roomette’s window seat—it was better than hopping a flatcar and enduring bad weather; or, starving roadside with his thumb out watching the alien hostile faces of tourists drive by with their mouths open and their hearts closed. He found it “all so easy and dreamlike compared to my harsh hitch hikings before I made enough money to take transcontinental trains.” En route, he brewed instant coffee and ate sandwiches prepared by his mother.

He rented a room at the Mars Hotel and woke with the same self-loathing that affected him in Northport. It was in the low-income district in San Francisco on 4th and Howard. He heard moans in nearby rooms, retching drunks, and the creaking of sinister footsteps. Life, a whirling dervish spinning through the Void, was calling him to the streets. He urged himself not to drink. This was the change he sought. Seize it!  It was, he knew, the first intimations of delirium tremens, every bit as vicious and unrelenting as kicking horse. That same night, Kerouac hoisted his rucksack—with a St. Christopher medal sewn into its inner flap by Gabrielle—and boarded a bus to Monterey. He arrived just after midnight and hired a cab to take him the rest of the way, 26 more miles, to Big Sur. He knew that finding Ferlinghetti’s cabin in this unfamiliar terrain was next to impossible, so he laid his rucksack in the sand and slept by a murmuring creek.

He heard moans in nearby rooms, retching drunks, and the creaking of sinister footsteps. Life, a whirling dervish spinning through the Void, was calling him to the streets.

At dawn, Kerouac crossed the bridge. He was silenced, intimidated by the canyon’s primal vastness. He shuddered peering over the railings at the wreck of a car that had plunged over the side. Once he crossed, he saw a lone mule passively grazing. He named it Alf. Before long, he found the cabin. He rested on a cot on the porch and wondered whether he could last alone out here for three whole weeks.

At night, the only things that kept Kerouac company were Big Sur’s nocturnal offerings: a bat fluttering in his cabin, a rat skittering over his head. Outside a raccoon was scraping in the sand near the cabin. In the canyon hollows an owl hooted. In the corner of his cabin he laid out a meal of cheese and chocolate for a resident mouse. His sleeping bag was torn; the down feathers poked out. Kerouac repaired it by hand with his sewing kit. By the light of a kerosene lantern, he read Ferlinghetti’s copy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that was left behind. During the day, he wrote in his notebook. He took it down to the shore once, and with a plastic bag over the pages to protect it from the Pacific mist, he recorded the sounds of the sea. Despite the breathtaking view, Kerouac found the experience sad. Even the flies were as “sad as the fog on the peaks.” Could he ever be liberated?

Big Sur unfolded miserably. The craving set in. Death was all around, permeating the cabin with the harsh iodine reek of the tide crashing in and the reek of sulfurous low tide when it rolled out. It was “world horror” that awakened him; there was no respite from the endless realities of life and death. The fly on his cup was as doomed as Alf the donkey. He thought of his mother in her grave, a gray skull with an accusing grimace of broken teeth. Night time spun in his bed like a vicious hangover. He couldn’t sleep and so he stepped outside the cabin. The crickets whirred an insane chorus a million years old. The crashing sea bashed the shore, eroding ancient bedrock leading Kerouac to believe in the temporal state of existence. Looking up, he saw headlights crossing the bridge. He wondered if the drivers, tucked safely within their metal cocoons, suspected the lonely soul hunkered down in the remote depths of the canyon “in all that windy fury sitting in the dark writing in the dark.”

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

The next afternoon he left the beach, up the canyon trail, and onto Route 1 to mail some letters. He cut a lonely figure hitchhiking, traveling seven miles without one car stopping to offer a ride. He was no longer the lean dark young man with the carved cheekbones hungry to document the grand poem that was America. Now he was pudgy-faced and ruddied from exertion, a manic stare in his eyes as he craved the tonic effect of booze. The soles of his boots wore thin. His feet blistered in the late August heat softening the tar of the road. He sat roadside on a rock. He took off his boots, soothing his feet as best he could with blister-ointment from his little first-aid kit. A small truck pulled up and idled. The driver offered a ride to the next gas station. When he saw the condition of Kerouac’s feet, he took him straight to Monterey and dropped Kerouac off at a bus station.

In San Francisco, in a reasonably comfortable skid-row motel room, Kerouac slept soundly at last. Here there were no skittering rats or ungodly winds shaking the frames of the cabin. He took a hot bath. He closed his eyes. Once he dried off, he wrote and dispatched letters home, to tell his mother that he was alright.

He cut a lonely figure hitchhiking, traveling seven miles without one car stopping to offer a ride. He was no longer the lean dark young man with the carved cheekbones hungry to document the grand poem that was America.

The next morning, he went to City Lights bookstore and found Ferlinghetti.

Ferlinghetti had received word from Gabrielle that their cat, Tyke, was dead. Kerouac was devastated. Oh, did not the death signs at Big Sur invoke such wicked prophecy?

Tyke died after he left New York. Gabrielle buried it in the backyard under the house’s honeysuckle vines—as she noted in a letter to her son—amid a chorus of noisy starlings. It was, for sensitive Kerouac, as upsetting as the death of brother Gerard. He became concerned for his mother. Caroline had left after she secured the thousand bucks, and now Gabe was alone in the house. She, in her paranoia, had taken desperate measures for security against the continuing wave of visitors who appeared unannounced and uninvited. She barred the front door after someone broke a pane of glass in search of Jack.

Frantic, Kerouac began an exhausting drunken bar crawl through North Beach. He chugged double bourbons and ginger ale as fast as they could be served to him. The panorama of the city became a temple of pleasant blurs. Strange faces became familiar, the familiar strange. Accompanying him was poet Philip Whalen who watched with helpless alarm the depths of Kerouac’s self-abuse. He could only take so much, despairing and wondering where Kerouac’s avowed Buddhist principles had gone. He left Kerouac alone at a bar to pursue quiet study and contemplation elsewhere.

Kerouac also met Cassady who was just regaining his sense of equilibrium after being out of the game for so long. His release, on 3 June, freshly rehabilitated, was strange. In prison, he had taken classes in theology, even earning an award of recognition for the successful completion of a course called “Meaning of Life in Buddhism.” The seismic shift was not difficult. Cassady, because he was confined and regulated, had attained the bliss Kerouac only wished for. To support his family, he already had a job waiting for him recapping tires —the only job available for a convicted felon. Neal promised Carolyn that he would do right by her and even bought matching gold rings to seal their marriage vows. She was hesitant, only taking him back because he needed a home to go to in order to secure his early release. However, he had a woman on the side, Jacqueline Gibson, with whom he had been corresponding regularly and who wanted him to divorce Carolyn as soon as he was released.

One night a banging on the Cassadys’ patio door announced a drunken Kerouac with a few drinking friends (including Lew Welch and Paul Smith, a musician). The visit arose from Kerouac’s spur-of-the-moment desire to introduce Welch to the real-life Dean Moriarty. However, Neal was working late. He wasn’t home. When Carolyn greeted him with a kiss, Jack pushed her away barking a crude remark. Shocked, she phoned Neal. He told her to have them come by the shop after midnight when his boss had left. Although Carolyn offered Kerouac dinner, he decided to buy his dinner elsewhere and bring it back to the house. Over the course of the visit, his demeanor changed. He warmed to Carolyn. After midnight they left to see Neal. Soon thereafter they were back with both cars careening into the driveway. Kerouac, Welch, and Smith slept over. The next morning, a somewhat sober Kerouac woke to find Carolyn making coffee. It relieved Carolyn that he had forgotten their initial awkward encounter. They sat and talked. She noted that one thing had changed: he didn’t make any more promises to quit drinking. “He knew,” she later wrote in her memoir Off the Road, “he was being slowly pulled down into the quagmire, and his will was too weak to resist. His tormented eyes foretold the future, his face like that of a character from Poe.”

Kerouac made plain to her the ruinous effect fame had on his mental and physical health. Buddhism, he told her, was useless, as were the last three weeks in Big Sur, which only added boredom to his bleak life. Soon, the men woke and were eager to return to the city. Before they left, Carolyn drove Kerouac to a liquor store to buy some wine. They returned and he said goodbye to Neal, who was still sleeping off his late night. A few days later, Neal was laid off precisely when his mortgage was due. In desperation he asked Kerouac for a loan. Kerouac agreed, eager to contribute after all the times the Cassadys had put him up in their home. Soon thereafter, he appeared at their Los Gatos house en route back to Big Sur. With him were Lawrence Ferlinghetti, local artist Victor Wong, and Philip Whalen. Since Neal had no immediate obligations, he went with them. He had violated his probation.

It was a great get-together of artists and poets. Michael McClure drove in with his wife. At night they read their poems aloud, with Kerouac holding court with an impassioned reading of his poem, “Sea.” Kerouac, already deeply interested in painting, took an interest in Wong’s art. Wong brought along his colored pencils and paper and began to draw. The next day, they went skinny-dipping in the hot springs, except for Neal and Jack.

Kerouac noted of Cassady in the novel Big Sur: “ever since he’s come out of San Quentin there’s been something hauntedly boyish about him as tho prison walls had taken all the adult dark tenseness out of him.” Neal returned home in a maroon jeep that replaced the run-down Rambler in the Cassady driveway. The Cassadys decided to test their new vehicle by driving to Big Sur after Neal finished work on Friday. It would be, they thought, a surprise for Jack. After a terrifying taste of Cassady’s driving along Big Sur’s perilous cliff highways, they arrived at the cabin. Neal knocked on the door and opened it wide. A wave of California sunshine swept the darkened interior. Kerouac had been talking to Michael McClure about his poem, “Fuck Ode,” when they saw Cassady’s arm reach toward them from the doorway. It was, to Kerouac, the arm of an “archangel.” Seventeen-year-old Paul Smith was sitting hearthside, McClure’s wife Joanna and their child was at another table. Neal and Carolyn approached them laughing. Kerouac yelled out, “My God! It’s a band of angels.”

That day they left Big Sur for Old Town. Jack drove with the Cassadys, in the back where the mattresses were stacked. When they arrived at a roadside café, Kerouac, who was drinking beer and wine intermittently, refused to eat and sat waiting in the car. The Cassadys went into the café to eat. Before long, they heard the wail of sirens. The Cassadys’ new Jeep was in flames. The fire was promptly extinguished. Kerouac was assumed to be at fault, although he was never confronted. A cigarette was found smoldering between two mattresses.

During the ride to the theater where Carolyn worked, she noticed Jack becoming more inebriated. Neal was increasingly aloof. Arriving late in Old Town, Neal dropped Carolyn off and whisked Kerouac away. Jack was in the dressing room embarrassing himself with a bad imitation of the owner, Frank Dean, who sported a distinctly western drawl. In a nearby saloon, Kerouac banged on the player piano, bawling western songs till he was thrown out. Angry, frustrated, and tearful, Carolyn was furious at Neal and Jack for taking no interest in her work. Neal suggested that she find her own ride home. He took Kerouac to meet Jacqueline, a single mother of one boy, in the hopes that she and Jack would become romantically involved.

Neal and Carolyn approached them laughing. Kerouac yelled out, “My God! It’s a band of angels.”


Neal’s matchmaking was a dubious proposition at best. Carolyn felt that Neal intended to prove that he was through with his mistress. One week later, Kerouac appeared at the Cassady home with “Jackie” and her son to retrieve the knapsack that he left. Carolyn sewed a tear in his flannel shirt. Soon, she discovered that Kerouac had left Jackie and her son in the car. Carolyn insisted that he bring them inside. Once inside, Jackie carried on a conversation about motherhood with Carolyn. Meanwhile, Neal paced the floor in jealousy and regret. This did not escape Kerouac’s notice; he was sick with worry that he had angered Neal. At the urging of Lew Welch, they all left. It was the last time Carolyn ever saw Kerouac.

He had gone back east.

Jack paid an extra $69 for red wine, champagne, pastries, and a steak dinner on the plane to New York. As he flew over the country, he wrote into his diary. He was giddy with the prospect of using the past few weeks, bleak as they were, to write a new novel. He knew that he needed to write new material, since his stockpile of completed but unpublished “novels” had dwindled to a handful of oddball experimental works. Tristessa, published while Kerouac was at Big Sur, only received a warm, appreciative review from the New York Times. The critic, Daniel Talbot, sensed Kerouac’s empathetic nature and sincerity, remarking that despite being “embarrassing, even sloppy,” inevitably he was “more truthful, entertaining and honest than most writers on the American scene.” Despite the praise, the cheesy pulp paperback would not generate any significant revenue for Kerouac. It slipped away from the public’s attention and soon thereafter went out of print.

Once in Northport, Kerouac realized that he was at a crossroads once again. He had to choose whether to write more easy-to-read works like The Dharma Bums or continue pursuing experimental works like “The Railroad Earth.” He wrote in his notebook a revised listing of his Duluoz legend, this time adding five new installments. “Memory Babe” would span 1927 to 1936; Vanity of Duluoz, 1939 to 1943; “Visions of Julien,” 1944 to 1946; “Beat Traveler,” 1957 to 1960; and an unnamed novel documenting his sojourn to Hollywood to read for Steve Allen. The beat writing anthology that Kerouac had so arduously labored over was returned to Sterling Lord with Kerouac’s suggestion that his agent submit it to Dial Press. There was still editorial work to be done on Book of Dreams.

Hoping to recreate the flawed idealism of Big Sur, despite his bad memories of the delirium tremens nightmare experienced there, Jack assumed that it could be improved upon closer to his home turf. He once more broached the idea of buying a cabin somewhere in New England to Gabrielle. She would have none of it. In her retirement years, Florida was the only answer. Caroline wouldn’t take her in because her marriage was on the rocks, and having her overbearing mother there would only make matters worse.


In September, Kerouac went north to Laconia, New Hampshire, a town nestled close to the White Mountains, to look at some land for sale. Fearing that the purchase would signal a move back to Lowell, Gabe protested his decision until Jack gave up. So he stayed in Northport, in the drab living room where his mother dutifully served him his tumbler of Christian Brothers port. In his attic room he played his solitary baseball game and scribbled futile entries in his notebook. In his diary he spilled out his desire to die. He would convey such a wish in Big Sur:

“I see the cross, it’s silent, it stays a long time, my heart goes out to it, my whole body fades away to it, I hold out my arms to be taken away to it, by God I am being taken away my body starts dying and swooning out to the Cross standing in a luminous area of the darkness. I start to scream because I know I’m dying […]”

He sat in the yard, bored and waiting for something to happen. He sensed “ghosts everywhere.” He drank more. To escape Gabrielle, he went into the city with increasing frequency. That fall, like so many Americans, Kerouac watched the presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. On election night, he stayed up till 5 A.M. watching Kennedy’s victory, “fascinated” by “gatecrashing beatniks” swarming the headquarters of the Washington GOP. The next day, he went downtown to buy some books, the Frank Sinatra album No One Cares, a new winter coat and hat, and a pint of whiskey. He played the Sinatra album and made a tape of himself reading passages from Doctor Sax and Old Angel Midnight for Lois Sorrels.

The next month, Lonesome Traveler was published. The motley collection of travel-themed pieces gave readers an opportunity to experience Kerouac’s prose in brief encounters. There was Kerouac’s winter 1951 visit to San Pedro, California (“Piers of the Homeless Night”); his spring 1952 Mexican sojourn (“Mexico Fellaheen”); his 1952 railroad brakeman job (“The Railroad Earth”); his stint as a steward on the SS William Carruthers (“Slobs of the Kitchen Sea”); New York City jazz encounters sketched with his inquisitive eye (“New York Scenes”); fire watching in the High Cascades (“Alone on a Mountaintop”); an ill-fated winter 1957 jaunt through Europe (“Big Trip to Europe”); and a fine retrospective on ever-changing America and its less-than-tolerant treatment of Kerouac’s beloved vagrants (“The Vanishing American Hobo”). The New York Times’ Daniel Talbot declared:

“…it is vintage Kerouac; it is not quite a travel book, nor is it quite fiction; it is again a collection of Kerouac’s nerve-ends vs. the universe; it has flashes of poetry, truth, daffiness, lapses of embarrassing writing, and in the end is much more readable than most 183- page books I could think of.”

He was silenced, intimidated by the canyon’s primal vastness. He shuddered peering over the railings at the wreck of a car that had plunged over the side.

If the book was not a financial triumph for Kerouac, it was at least an artistic one. The truth and honesty of his writing style—only suggested in On the Road—was recognized, at last, by a major periodical.

It was time; the emergence of the psychedelic revolution questioned the motives of America’s youth (sometimes violently). The “Establishment’s” decision to send even more young men and women to the new war, Vietnam, was accelerating as the decade progressed . . . or regressed, since its ideals rejuvenated in the advent of the second world war seemed to have dissipated to dim nostalgia. America’s involvement in Vietnam will be most noticeable as troops were sent with acceleration between April 1965 and March 1968. The Greatest Generation, of which Kerouac was part, will bear witness to the new generation growing their hair long, embracing mystical religions, openly experimenting with psychedelic drugs, and plugging their folkie guitars into amplifiers to usher in a new sound.

Nineteen sixty one was the start of President Kennedy’s New Frontier. After the sluggish Republican moderation of the 1950s, Kennedy’s objective was to spark America’s engine by calling for inexpensive health care and increase expenditure on educational aid. However, the ultra-conservative majority in Congress blocked such lofty ideals during Kennedy’s brief reign as president. Instead, the economy of the 1960s would be reinvigorated through foreign policy and a continued effort to thwart the Soviet Union’s quest to reach space by getting there first. The notion to “ban the bomb” was paramount in light of the atomic age that began with the detonation of the atomic bomb in July 1945 and continued to pose an ominous threat to the entire world. It came to symbolize the era. Worldwide demonstrations in France, Germany, and Britain followed suit in America. Marches, demonstrations, rallies, and clashes with police were seen with increasing regularity on the six o’clock news on televisions.

Kerouac’s concern for this was marginal. He chose to spend his time trying to write, read, and keep up with his unquenchable addiction to alcohol. He was thoroughly disenchanted with America’s perception of him as a “beatnik.” He voiced his protest in his notebook:

“Realized last night how truly sick and tired I am of being a ‘writer’ and ‘beat’—it’s not me at all—yet everybody keeps hammering it into me—that’s why I wanta be alone with the dumb beasts of the country so I begin to feel like Ti Jean again instead of their goddam Jack Karrawack.”

What he resented was the emphasis the public placed on his celebrity and not the vast growing output of his work.

“They’re going to INSIST that I fit their preconceived notion of the ‘Beatnik Captain,’ as tho I was some degenerate Bearded insurrectionist.”

Kerouac accurately predicted a split between two camps: “America-lovers” and “America-haters.” But he was insistent that he would go on “scribbling” and, ultimately, living in a cabin from which he could just “admire” and not “get involved in discussions about society problems.” But America’s rumblings detested by Kerouac was the very thing Allen Ginsberg thrived upon. In the fall of 1960, Ginsberg had returned from Peru, where his search for yage yielded a breakthrough.

Ginsberg wrote poetry in drug-induced bliss: yage, nitrous oxide, cocaine, and, eventually, LSD-25. Enthusiastic about its creative potential, he encouraged Kerouac to partake. On the evening of 7 October, high on the ayahuasca potion that Allen brought back from South America, Kerouac spontaneously composed a poem, with Ginsberg at his side transcribing.

For three days in mid-October, Kerouac stayed with Allen at his East Second Street apartment. In a nostalgic way it was like the years of their friendship in the mid-1940s. It offered reprieve from his mother’s oppressive domination. In November, Ginsberg took his experimentation one step further by eating psilocybin mushrooms under the guidance of Timothy Leary. Ginsberg wandered to a phone and told the operator that he was God. After phoning William Carlos Williams and Norman Mailer, and trying unsuccessfully to reach Nikita Krushchev, Ginsberg called Kerouac in Northport to declare, “I am high and naked and I am the King of the Universe. Get on the plane. It is time!” Kerouac replied, “I can’t. My mother won’t let me go. Kerouac wasn’t taking the bait, yet.

In October he wrote a second preface for Book of Dreams after discarding the first. He sent it to Ferlinghetti to use as “blurb notes” after refusing to write a new draft. To do so would cause him, he told Ferlinghetti, “weeks of anguish.” What he did submit was effective for it gave the reader a keyhole to Kerouac’s creative process:

“I wrote nonstop so that the subconscious could speak for itself in its own form, that is, uninterruptedly flowing & rippling—Being half awake I hardly knew what I was doing let alone writing.”

However, Kerouac’s aesthetics were hardly a concern to his reading public, for much of his work was meant to capitalize on his name and not the importance of his hard-won work. In a letter written to Granville Jones at Carnegie Tech in Pennsylvania, Kerouac asserted that “academic recognition” would bring importance to his art and not the “temporary admiration for the wrong reasons coming from the wrong thinkers.”

Ginsberg called Kerouac in Northport to declare, “I am high and naked and I am the King of the Universe. Get on the plane. It is time!” Kerouac replied, “I can’t. My mother won’t let me go.”

However, this would not happen in his lifetime with the exception of some thesis papers mailed to him for his perusal. To Granville Jones, Kerouac explained:

“The vision of America is being destroyed now by the beatnik movement which is not the “beat generation” I proposed any more but a big move-in from intellectual dissident wrecks of all kinds and now even anti-American, America-haters of all kinds with placards who call themselves “beatniks.”

Desperate for validation, he turned to the possibility of leaving once again, unwilling to accept the fact that the only way to escape was to accept his addiction as his main obstacle. He needed to wake up ASTONISHED. To Neal Cassady he wanted to go to Paris. To Ginsberg, Mexico. To his mother, “a thatched hut in Lowell.” To himself, no place because there was nowhere left to go.

[This is adapted from the forthcoming book, DRUNKEN DUMBSHOW: Jack Kerouac in the 1960s by Paul Maher, Jr.]

Death Cab For Cutie wrote the song “Big Sur” in tribute to Kerouac. Here is Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar performing it in the studio at WNYC:

10,000 Maniacs performing their song “Hey Jack Kerouac” in New Haven, Conn. in 1989: