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Playing Skiprope in a Bar Fight
Ron West's Queer Chicken Dinner, pages 31-34
© 2018 James LaFond
In his ‘trek to the mountains’ chapter 10, Kerouac puts down the best party scene he’d been to, to now, because, it’d been hosted by the Denver partisans, in the ongoing feud with the Ginsberg fraud. He has what it would seem amounts to one hundred people cleaning up an old mining house, to party in, but can’t find a bed that isn’t choking with dust when he needs to pass out. Frat kids crash and ruined his party (I laughed at this) and all the girls bailed out and abandoned the scene. Bar hopping in the company of Denverites Ed White and Bob Burford, he projects what to certainly amounts to his own out of control and drunken behaviors onto Burford, throwing a whiskey in someone’s face for being an opera tenor, maybe it was Burford knocked someone cold, to keep them from killing the boorish Kerouac, and then no doubt it was Kerouac had called a waitress a whore (he pins it on Burford) and White and Burford get him out the door alive before the ‘count of ten’ the locals had told Kerouac he’d best be out of sight or he would have, as we say in the Rocky Mountains, ‘had his clock cleaned.’
We can know Kerouac is pinning his own boorishness on the Denver Burford because we know Kerouac had already framed Montana Slim as the victim of the ‘pissing in the wind’ prank, his modus is to pin his own inadmissible behaviors on other people. This all points to the reality of cause or reasoning behind Hal Chase threatening Kerouac biographer Nicosia with a rifle some years later, to make him go away.
In all likelihood, Kerouac, who has a clown’s instinct that is actually pretty amazing, clearly takes opportunity to frame his associations for his inadmissible experiences, and it is certainly possible ‘On the Road’ had been penned as a cartoon chronicle of sorts, a deliberate, dishonest lampoon of his experiences.
It can’t hurt to point out here, Kerouac, who is living and partying entirely on his several Denver host’s dime, unbeknownst to them having already passed up opportunity at employment, preferring to avoid work and search out opportunities to party and screw instead, is giving a real middle finger to naturally generous folk who’re trying to show him the authentic side of the Rocky Mountain West character and provide Kerouac a contrast to Denver’s skid row dens, and associated denizens Cassady and Ginsberg, to write about.
Kerouac could not fit this truth into his biographical endeavor, the fact he’d ultimately made a dissolute, cowardly and wrong choice of company he’d kept. As well, Kerouac can’t help but lie about the character of the people’s lives he writes about, in some cases destroying reputations. With his Catholic guilt syndrome, there could be no confessional booth big enough or priest with a life long enough, to confess the entirety of his lying behaviors, it is small wonder he drank himself to death.
It was ‘up the line’ at Marten City, Montana, where a bar fight of legend broke out. The setting was the “Deer Lick Saloon” and it entailed a local rivalry, of sorts, or perhaps better said, an ignorant misapprehension of reality. Loggers are of a peculiar sort, never much venturing out of the woods, or so it would seem. Not that they’d entirely a limited world-view. Now, before the advent of hippies in this world, we had some pretty cool red-necks. They did not refer to Gays as ‘queers’, rather using the more polite euphemism ‘greek.’ This points to a well read red-neck in the subject of history and I think where things went wrong was, the time came along when classical music could no longer be called ‘long-haired’ music after the portraits of composers, without raising the specter of Ginsberg, homosexuality and free love, rather than a discreet ‘greek’ conductor, and it pissed them off as a class. The red-necks could no longer enjoy symphony orchestra, Alan Ginsberg having poisoned everything that come to mind, and that ended the more tolerant ‘greek.’ All this came to a head one day at the Deer Lick Saloon, when a drunk logger mistook some local, long-haired, mountain boys for hippies, or maybe just wanted a fight, and called them a bunch of queers.
It happened fast, there was no build-up at all to the fullblown riot that ensued, fists were flying along with bar stools tossed through the air in the general direction of opposing sides, and the group of loggers had their hands full with a bunch of long-haired, hay bale bucking, green chain raw lumber pulling, every bit as strong, tough-asnails country kids, and the Deer Lick Saloon was going to be destroyed in short order, there was no doubt.
I’d have never believed, ever, that I’d be playing skiprope in a bar fight but that is exactly what I found myself doing, except it was ‘skip-leg’ when a one legged old timer had been knocked off his bar stool in the chaos, landed on the floor and his fake leg had come off. With his back against the bar, he had his own foot by the ankle with both hands and was swinging his fake leg at anyone in range, purely survival driven I suppose. I was surrounded on three sides by fist-fights, boxed in, and had to jump his leg again and again, to avoid being struck, as he swung his fake leg back and forth in an arc.
About this time the owner of the saloon had brought out a large caliber handgun, a 44 Magnum, and began firing shots into the ceiling, to get people’s attention and break up the bar fight. Twice we all heard BOOM! BOOM! .. and suddenly it was the folk proverb ‘all you could see was assholes and elbows’ as people tried to clear out of the place, not knowing what was up, only that someone had pulled a gun and was shooting. There were too many people to go out the two saloon doors fast enough .. you could hear the large plate glass break as chairs went through windows to open escape routes.
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