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'A Junkie'
Ron West's Queer Chicken Dinner, pages 71-76
© 2018 James LaFond
Rolling south and then west on the ride to New Orleans, there is a page dedicated to putting down cops as a class, all the while the petty criminal nature of these men shine, stealing gas and cigarettes as they push on. Kerouac is nearly 27 years old, with his mother supporting him when he is not subsidizing his ‘on the road’ with petty theft. Cassady is on the cusp of turning 23 years old. He claims engaging in sexual activities beginning at age nine, not a definitive proof of ‘acting out’ experiencing pedophilia but we do know by age 14 years he had a ‘mentor of promising but disadvantaged young men’ who introduced him to sex with males. Ginsberg has introduced him (and Kerouac) to two-men-on-onewoman sex. Meanwhile Cassady is trying to convince the still black and blue (from his beating) Henderson all should be forgiven and she can move to San Francisco where they can sustain a relationship on the side, when he returns to the abandoned Robinson and his infant child. Kerouac feels stiffed by this unsurprising behavior from Cassady, he’d expected Henderson would be turned over to him to be screwed. Ginsberg has stayed behind in [Cassady’s quote] “fag town New York.” Hinkle is along on this ride to look up William Burroughs, where the woman he’d married to get money to begin this ‘adventure’ is waiting for him, after they’d dumped her in broke in Tucson weeks ago, because she is a “tenacious loser.” As they arrive in Burroughs town of New Orleans, Cassady “spat out the window, he groaned, he clutched his head. Great beads of sweat fell from his forehead from pure excitement and exhaustion.” I don’t
suppose Kerouac would admit, even if he could with 1950s censorship, they are little more than a party of amphetamine-wrecked losers. All this, and we are merely ½ into part two’s chapter 6.
The second half of chapter 6 is an ode to William S Burroughs, a junkie (self-injecting every day) and among the every imaginable substance imbibed, such as whiskey, marijuana and morphine, there is Benzedrine galore at his house, Burroughs wife Joan is a complete speed freak. It comes as small surprise Kerouac claims Burroughs had been the guru of himself, Cassady and Ginsberg, they’d all previously ‘sat at his feet’ to learn.
For all of one’s adventures going about this incredible world and all of its possibilities, it is ultimately unnecessary to sink into a dissolute state where a man will kill his wife, when ostensibly trying to shoot a glass of vodka off of her head in a so-called ‘William Tell stunt gone wrong.’ This is precisely what Burroughs would proceed to do in a few years, when in Mexico.
Bribes had been paid to release him from jail, and he skipped the country, never answering for this behavior, on top of that, he’d been in Mexico waiting out the statute of limitations on charges in the USA. Prior to this, Kerouac had, together with Burroughs, attempted to conceal a killing, disposing of evidence, when one of their associates had killed another. It never ceases to amaze, how Western Civilization honors and rewards its’ losers, criminal genius notwithstanding. Now, Burroughs is joined the pantheon of the immortal ‘Beat Generation.’
I was walking alone in the forest outside of my hometown (West Glacier, Montana USA) returning to my house from a visit to some Blackfeet Indians staying in a tipi a mile or so away. Not paying attention to the fact I was not on a trail but walking through the forest simply by familiarity with the terrain, my foot rolled into a small depression concealed by leaves and I heard my ankle break with the sound equivalent to the crack of a 22 caliber pistol. I was about half-way way home, out of earshot of anyone and thought .. 'well, this is pretty stupid circumstance'
Sitting on the ground, I felt over my foot and determined what to do. I tore my shirt into a makeshift wrap for my ankle, to give it some support, stood up and leaning against a tree, looked around for a suitably strong walking stick. I spotted one and hopped on one leg to retrieve it, and completed my journey home.
My 'home' at that time was a metal shed with a dirt floor, I was unemployed and pretty much broke and seeing a doctor or using an emergency room and being billed, was not an appealing thought. So I packed up minimal camping and survival gear and a few paperback books, and hitch-hiked to the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Just inside the park, you won't see this in any of the official literature, is the natural drain of the 'Mammoth Hot Spring', where a large stream of very hot water erupts from the ground and flows a short distance into the Gardiner River. It is in the river canyon below Mammoth, about 2-3 miles south of Gardner, Montana, where the road from Gardner to Mammoth crosses the Gardner River (there is a sign marking the 45th Parallel) is a parking place, I had made the journey catching rides in less than two days. I hobbled the mile or so upstream along the riverside trail and arrived at Boiling River for my convalesce.
For the next ten days or so I spent my days soaking my foot (at times my entire body) in the natural beauty of my surroundings, taking breaks to sun myself while reading paperbacks on the ledge above the river. Elk and Bison had wandered by, the sky was big and beautiful. The river has cut away much of the bank since those days, as it slowly moves in a seasonal migration towards the opening in the ground whence the hot water flows, one day the flow of the hot water will likely emerge directly into the cold flow of the Gardiner River. Then, as now and as in times past, one should be able to find the place in the mixed hot and cold water flows to suit your desire, it is quite a marvelous experience to shift ones body from hot to cold and back to hot with minimal effort.
America was less fascist and our National parks less policed in those days, there was no one giving me any problem for having a small tent pitched 50 or so yards from the Boiling River hot spring, outside any designated camping area. Nor was it any big deal, in those days, to 'skinny dip' [bathe in the nude] at Boiling River, people worked these things out with common sense, or as in the case of what I had witnessed one day while sunning like an Iguana (in my cut-off blue jeans), sometimes fate works these things out for us, and that is ok. Or mostly that would be the case and people who could not handle the nude bathers would find somewhere else or another time to enjoy. Life was more relaxed in those days.
It was late mid-morning, I was reading 'The Greening of America' (it never happened, obviously) and a group of about a dozen hippies had arrived and all had jumped into the river naked, no big deal. They were enjoying the water where the hot mixed with the cold, after each season's high water people would gather the smooth river stones and build submerged dikes to shape the current into bathing pools of varying temperatures. Not everyone was naked and those not in the nude, did not seem to mind those who were.
But then .. it happened a Girl Scouts troop was coming up the trail, from my perch above things I could see what the others could not, an old and a young scout master, and about 15 teenage girl scouts with towels about to discover at near point blank range that their planned soak was full of naked people.
The older woman was up at the point of the troop and coming upon the place where the trail first opened a view of a dozen naked hippies in the water a mere 15 or 20 meters distant, she turned like a drill sergeant and ordered her girls to stop in their tracks. The girls obediently did so, but also you could see there was a certain spirit of rebellion stirring, obviously the nude hippies were no threat, they were women and kids among them, it was not like some motley lot of dirty old men. These were more lenient times, the girls were not horrified, they only wanted into the water, hippies being a common social phenomena of that era, they'd yet to become extinct and this was no big deal, it was plain to see.
Now, the scoutmaster ladies had separated themselves to one side, to have a 'Plan B' conversation out of the girls hearing, and I swear it must have been the serpent from the garden that freaks out the misogynist Christians, had something to say about what happened next.
It just so happened a very large Bull Snake frequented that area and liked a pile of old lava slabs to sunbathe and the lady scout masters had chosen those very lava slabs to stand on and have their conversation. The Bull Snake also choose that very time to come up for his morning sun and emerged precisely between the women, at their very feet, sending the two scout master ladies into what appeared to be opposite direction levitations with accompanying screams. By the time they had recovered their composure, too late, all discipline had been lost, and all of their charges were happily in the water, together with naked hippies.
Recipe for recreating an outdoor hot spring in your bathtub: Hot water on demand, a large window open to a beautiful day, one packet of 'natron' [baking soda will substitute] and a deep tub. Close your eyes while soaking and engage memories of more innocent times .. all the while imagining any sound of traffic are the narcotics deranged tourists Kerouac, Cassady and Hinkle, soon to be fatally gored, having convinced Henderson to take their photo while posing like clowns together with Bison.
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