Divining the Road
In his chapter in Penguin Books' 2007 publication of the original scroll, "Fast This Time: Jack Kerouac and the Writing of On the Road," Howard Cunnell writes that, "Kerouac told Cassady that between April 2 and April 22 he had written a '125,000 [word] full-length novel . . . whole thing on a strip of paper 120 foot long . . . just rolled it through the typewriter and in fact no paragraphs . . . rolled it out on floor and it looks like a road." Wildly, this creation of this On the Road, the actual typing of the scroll, this natural Hermes movement in a grander scale of a transformative rite taking place across the North American continent and Mexico, exactly matches the dates between the first night John and I looked at each other on April 1st, and the day that John went on the ASCAP "I Create Music" Expo Q & A on 22 April 2010, to talk about going deeper in communication than daily "brand management" or "self-correcting" on Twitter. That navigation is what I felt so strongly from John in his ability to go to a level inside himself and stay true to that plane of existence so imperative to Being and to being an artist and to the ability to create alive works of art that thus take on a powerful movement themselves, the internal giving new life to the external world, as John does, opening new perception and taking that experience deeper which is an opening of new levels of existence, a new way to see and experience and Be. Five days after the ASCAP interview, as Jack had moved into revisions in 1951 and started a new draft beyond the original scroll in order to make it able to be published with the time's thoughts and opinions, John went on Tumblr to open up communication in a more thoughtful, expanded manner. It was the first day I wrote to him and the beginning of another "scroll": ten years of writing continuously on-line to him what became Apocalypse of the Heart, My Love Affair with Moonbeam (2007-2017), Coyote Weaves a Song Volumes I & II, On Being, the 'Until Shiloh Comes' Tapestry, Hermesesque Tapestry, and the continuing and resurgence of this BSW journal from its auspicious west coast beginnings 63 years ago (the number of the year JFK was assassinated) and all that that brings, even from Allen Ginsberg and his breaking through of the imperative profane to the natural, opened and flowing sacred alive in the veins, the internal voice not just broken free coming from its own experience of itself, now True to itself, but also powerfully engaging its own house of culture, as Bob Dylan's new song "Murder Most Fowl" marvelously does.
John at the ASCAP Expo 2010 on 22 April:
These "Days Between" (from the Grateful Dead song with the lyrics, "When all we ever wanted / Was to learn and love and grow") the time John and I first looked at each other and when he spoke about this deeper dive, delving into the more authentic creation and dialogue unloosed from the fast trap and unanchored criticism of faceless social media, was the exact time the On The Road scroll was typed in New York City free from the constraints now in the art just as the road, breaking it open had been for Kerouac. (In "divining the road" one is divining the art.) Kerouac did mean it to be sacred. What lay ahead for Jack Kerouac was an entanglement of cultural binds, just as it was for John in 2010 with the very loud voice of media demanding it be the voice of consciousness, like parents' voices, and not John's internal navigation. For Kerouac the writing and the experience themselves had obliterated that outside structured thought as reality in the writing as his soul now soared with illuminated inspiration. He would also, along the way, suffer with the external as he created.
What is to become of this in one important way is to bring to natural light the already emerging divergence of the ancient mythological and vastly effective Hermes road lifting from just a three-dimension configuration--that spot John found himself in in 2010 and from which Born & Raised was then other-worldly created--and what culture has continually "owned" but offhandedly dismissed as peripheral, or stating and misjudging that it should be quiet--the life-line of culture to "stay in its lane" even as the road is life, the flow of life being the music, the music carrying the human spirit--and this even while society often "claims" and grasps its art and artists (to dictate to it) without internal awareness of the artists' urgent, paramount spiritual quest and vitality-offering--far, far from didacticism--that was marginalized even with Jack Kerouac and his publishing of On the Road. And yet now we can see that America itself was broken back open to the spirit right there at his typewriter where society had become harshly closed with its demands that one give one's existence and body to the factory instead of the permeating realness. His pouring this opening to the page opened to public consciousness the free, dancing spirit of jazz, bop, and rhythm and blues music that articulated what could not be said, creating the space and importance for it to be heard now not just in dingy city back rooms but to every room the dance and articulation of the human spirit in experience. He opened the road to everyone the deep, true utterances of the Poets fully alive, a Walt Whitman now taking one's hand into the forbidden and showing it to be gentle and good, deeply compassionate of existence, and enlivening the everyday streets that were not mundane, but were experience in both deep stillness, realness, and the important setting of one's life, our lives.
While here "divining the road," that "using the rod to find the water," and finding more than I ever dreamed, Bob Dylan steps forward in that astounding voice and speaks right to it, divining those roads in Dallas down through the heart of Texas to Mexico with me and speaking the wild, most imperative, revelatory truth exampled in the song's own carnivalesque path, even through a Shakespearean tragedy played upon the stage--the stage here being Dallas and the river of music that runs through it. Bob Dylan's song "Murder Most Foul" follows the flow of music alongside a hugely transitional and tragic turning point of innocence in American history: "We're right down the street from the street where you live / They mutilated his body, and they took out his brain / What more could they do? They piled on the pain / But his soul's not there where it was supposed to be at / For the last fifty years they've been searchin' for that." The power of the music to guide, relieve, comfort, keep moving, calling out, holding, altering the path, stays true through the unthinkable.
One showing of the flow of the water from Dylan's inimitable poetic perception of this road through Texas from seeing the murder of JFK (it brings to mind the understatement of "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding")) to a ride then through music history and its roots in Deep Ellum, the place of the black blues in old Dallas (I remember old black men still sitting on those roads playing their guitars and singing, what would have been decades after the forties when Deep Ellum was alive with it, but they still singing those deep-felt blues.) This path that Dylan sings of holds the feeling still of the souls there and those utterances of the blues and down to San Antonio and Robert Johnson's 1936 recording of "Crossroads" and the "selling of one's soul" for music, but perhaps there finding that line into the eternal, where I found myself following the path and trying to figure it all out. My writing also puts Pat Garrett and possibly Billy the Kid right on that crossroads, even crossing that very place where "Crossroads" was recorded, a road that led for me, too, from that very crossroads down to the border and the filming of Apocalypse of the Heart / "Something Like Olivia" in Del Rio and Acuña on the Texas/Mexico border. Dylan sings:
"I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it's beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it's thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he's speaking in tongues
He's going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac"
Notedly, that soul of the music is right there. The street where John F. Kennedy was assassinated is the very street that gives Deep Ellum and the music its name. These are the streets of Dallas where Stevie Ray Vaughan grew up and played and the old blues players "the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Huddie 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith in Deep Ellum clubs like The Harlem and The Palace" (Wikipedia)--later John played at Trees Dallas, a place I frequented when I was in college with my brother, a musician who also loves those blues, and how I grew up knowing about them. Another part of that is that my mother loved black churches, and we also lived in black neighborhoods like the Polytechnic area in Fort Worth which was predominantly black at the time. The path of the music led from here down into Austin, down the center of Texas on I-35. Fort Worth, right below Dallas where I grew up, claimed to be "Where the West Begins." When I was 10-11 years old my family was friends with a black couple, the Kirbys, who lived in downtown Fort Worth, the very buildings that would have been flooded in 1949. Mr. Kirby was 100 years old in 1981, which means he was born the year Billy the Kid is said to have died in 1881. Mr. Kirby would tell stories like coming into Fort Worth on its dirt roads as a child on the back of a wagon. My favorite places in Fort Worth were the Log Cabin Village, a collection of operating historical log cabins, the Japanese Botanical Gardens (where I would pretend to have a boyfriend which was forbidden to me), and standing in the flowing waters at the Water Gardens. After college I moved from Central Texas down that path to Southwest Texas down by San Antonio while also traveling to earn an MA in that far West Texas town of Alpine, driving through Langtry (named for the 1800s actress Lillie Langtry) where Judge Roy Bean's saloon/courtroom is, the "Law West of the Pecos"). All of this certainly gives another dimension of what happens there. From Dylan's song we can hear that the music is going to carry the soul. His lyrics are uncanny, to say the least.
In Dylan's lines, 1963 and Wolfman Jack coincides with my filming of Apocalypse of the Heart, and even with Neal Cassady taking that road and On the Road, as one will see in a moment, the very neighbor up the street several houses from where we were filming Apocalypse on the Texas/Mexico border at Del Rio is where Wolfman Jack broadcast out across the United States from 1962-1964, the years that Dylan references as transformative and the music being so necessary in carrying us. Wolfman broadcast from there because of the less restrictive laws on the border in Mexico, if not the spirit in place in the beginnings of projecting rock n roll from its break-through in the 1950s and into Dylan's arrival in New York City and into that radical shift in culture at the assassination in 1963. Phenomenally, this broadcast was the strongest signal in the United States with a clear delivery all the way in New York. Wolfman Jack described decades before satellite: "A car driving from New York to L.A. would never lose the station" (Wikipedia, Tom Miller. On the Border: Portraits of America’s Southwestern Frontier, pp. 84–85). Coinciding then with Dylan's words and these roads, that's where, too, my Apocalypse of the Heart broadcast out, working towards a shift in consciousness about the music, and this, unplanned, only a few doors down from Wolfman Jack. Like Kerouac's On the Road, what was created has remained unheard for a time with a struggle through the cultural barriers--it had to come into its time of awareness, of being able to be heard and seen, even as the story of the screenplay had had to be altered to show what was happening in daily life--and Dylan showing the flow from that time of that road, the music carrying the flow, the writing bringing the realization, the human spirits involved speaking to the truths of the unfathomable in being carried and transformed by the art and music. Through transformation into Being I became more and more able to speak the truth of my Being and my existence, to get it to the page where that path is opened alive to anyone, just as I was first lightning-bolted to the realness I felt, to the reality of the music at seeing John, and then, in these ten years, conducted, lifted, and given life by the spirit of the enormous, unprecedented outflow of the creation of art and music and letting it do its work into a new, extraordinary dimension of existence: same roads, enlivened view, and now a far higher frequency of signal right to the soul, wherever you are on the road. As John sings in "On the Way Home":
"Do you remember when we first got here?
The days were longer the nights were hot here.
Now, it's September the engine's starting.
You're empty-handed and heavy-hearted.But just remember on the way home, (oh oh oh)
That you were never meant to feel alone."
(Source: LyricFind; Songwriters: John Clayton Mayer; "On the Way Home" lyrics © Reach Music Publishing).
My one job became like what Kerouac had done on the road: to create the study of the Beauty and in allowing--what those Beats and those jazz musicians were saying up and down the body and the scales--and taking that now created space in that allowance, even of myself, to heal, the reception could come in clear, and in that, transcendence. I could stop perpetuating the patterns and pain trapped inside from an external world that doesn't work, and learn to Be here, and then, the extreme realization in that my existence, in that wholeness, is now able to radiate out. Being "forced" inside for those "days of typing" is where the road actually goes. As Joseph Campbell entitled his work The Inner Reaches of Outer Space about the role of artists to "break holes through to eternity," that's where the road leads most finally through the inside. All experience is then transformed.
That first writing to John was ten years after John's first ASCAP event in Austin in March 2000 where we had by just a few weeks been in the same old 1800s room, and now a second ASCAP event, ASCAP being The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers "that protects its members' musical copyrights": the guardian of music rights through culture. In a further strange addition to this (and it keeps going "Further," like the bus Neal Cassady would drive), my niece who was born on Jack Kerouac's birthday lives in Fredericksburg, Texas, outside of Austin, which Kerouac wrote of passing through in On the Road, twice. She was born the day after John's ASCAP showcase which was in Austin on 11 March 2000 (the next day being Kerouac's birthday, just as the next day after seeing John in Vancouver was the beginning of the typing of the scroll--the beginning of Homeric twenty and of ten years On the Road--John had already been traveling with the music, of course). That was the very month that I would most closely cross paths with John, now 20 years ago, and now it is all certainly in a very different light in many ways, even very importantly in the challenges of the copyrights of music--its being put out into the world--and its "composers, authors and publishers," and even as Coyote Weaves a Song that I wrote in this time traces the flow of the Song back millennia and finds its breathing lineage. That day was shortly before John signed his first recording contract. My niece's great grandfather (my grandfather) was born in the year Kerouac was born, 1922, and she is the female, born right on the millennium in 2000, from that male line: her great-grandfather born '22 (on Michelangelo's birthday), grandfather '44, father '66. (Her great-grandfather passed the Halloween of the fall Jerry Garcia passed in 1995, and a month later our great-grandmother, grandmother.) Not only do my niece and Kerouac share a birthday, he crossed this path with her where she is now at 20 years old, where my brother lives.
It is the same age Cassidy Law was when John Perry Barlow would write about he and Bob writing the Grateful Dead song "Cassidy" about both Neal Cassady, the person and a main character in On the Road, Cassidy's namesake, and her birth in [August] 1970 to the Grateful Dead's "patron saint of the Deadheads" (according to lyricist John Perry Barlow) Eileen Law, who worked in the Grateful Dead office, and the roadie Rex Jackson, a birth really to the Grateful Dead themselves, the year of their American Beauty in November 1970. (Don McLean's "American Pie" was released in 1971; I was born the month before Cassidy Law.) The night of Cassidy's birth, legend states, Bob Weir stayed up writing the chords to the song. Bob, in fact, along with Bill Kreutzmann and John Perry Barlow, was born the year that Jack Kerouac would start the travel and notes on On the Road, in 1947, to be published in 1957. Thirty years to the day of Bob's birth and his taking to the road, John was born. Thirty years after that in 2007 the original scroll of On the Road was published for the first time. It was the year I premiered my movie Road to El Paso down near the border of Mexico. 1947, the beginning of this road, is also the year Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip.
In the original scroll typed in the days that would match John and I coming to communicate, Kerouac writes of the trip crossing Texas from William Burrough's house in Algiers, Louisiana to San Francisco with Neal Cassady and Louanne Henderson. After getting stuck in mud along the road, Jack wakes near Fredericksburg, Texas (259). Kerouac writes again of this mud what was a few months later, "In the back of the kitchen was a storage room where Neal's old shoes still were caked an inch thick with Texas mud from the night the Hudson got stuck at Hempstead near the Brazos River" (283). That's the Brazos River whose name means "the arms of god" that I've written about owning property there in Granbury since I was a child growing up near its banks. I walked the river's dinosaur tracks. I went to church camp every summer along its banks as well, in Glen Rose, where author John Graves lived. My favorite part of that was "evening vespers," singing down by the river in a stone outdoor amphitheater to the acoustic guitar. What I wanted most there was a soul mate. That's also the river that John Graves wrote of beginning in the fall of 1957 in Goodbye to a River, the year this journal was begun. (My family had a history with the novel and the author. Even when I went to do research on Stevie Ray Vaughan in his archives in San Marcos, the paddle from this trip was hanging on the archive room wall right across from me.) I had written about Graves (also the last name of where I got my name in 1963 from a girl named Shiloh Graves, even as the Grateful Dead was getting started, and it being the year my mom graduated from high school, the year my parents married, and the year JFK was shot, a month later, ending "Camelot"). John Graves stepped out onto the banks of the Brazos the same fall On the Road was published (September) and then the river trip of Goodbye to a River begun that very October 1957. And now this mud near the Brazos was in Neal Cassady's kitchen, the very Neal Cassady who would in the 60s go live with Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead at 710 Ashbury (which is also the address and street name matching my birth date and biblical etymology of my name relating to the goddess Asherah). This road Kerouac writes of here cuts across, too, the towns and roads I write of in On Being, inside "the arms of god," and where I first crossed paths with and saw John on Red River St., twenty and ten years ago, epochs matching the Homeric epics, the Songs sung three millennia ago--and coming from at least 40,000 years ago.
And too, when my niece was very little, before all her words could be deciphered, when "spiders" were "bikers," one of the clearest things she said was "Stuck in the mud!" She was telling her family the story about her, me, and her sister taking a boat out on the little pond and because it had rained, our feet sunk deep into the mud so that we could barely move as we climbed back to shore. All her other words sounded like fast gibberish as she excitedly explained what had happened, and then clear as day, "Stuck in the muuuudddd!" (She also told my dad that night, motioning to the flashlight, "Dad, shine the star . . . on the Luuuunaaaa!" She was a gorgeous, bright, blonde, free spirit and half Mexican, intrepid at heart. I was her "My Shiloh." My other beloved niece, both her ancestries from Mexico to create the most beautiful girl ever, and who also plowed through that mud in our adventures was the one who got me to go see John in concert, by which we were all changed.
Jack Kerouac wrote of that part of the road: "The tormented Hudson heaved and heaved. We were in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly it jolted out and went skidding across the road. There weren't any cars for miles. Louanne pulled it up just in time and we ran in. That was that--and the work had taken thirty minutes and we were soaked and miserable. I fell asleep all caked with mud; and in the morning when I woke up the mud was solidified and outside there was snow. We were near Fredericksburg Texas in the high plains. It was the worst winter in Texas and Western history, January 1949."
I had at one point wanted desperately to move to an old stone house in Fredericksburg, part of a ranch management estate of my father's, and plant a vineyard in that newly burgeoning wine country so that I could leave the family ranch where I lived alone and go nearer to the city of Austin where I longed to be, not aware the wonder was already at work, had already happened there and was about to happen again in 2010. Both John and I--not "knowing" of each other had both over the years before all of this longed to get to these places in Texas. I turned down a job there very close to the time when John went there for the ASCAP event when Austin Community College offered me a position as Assistant Professor. After I agreed to the contract, they informed me I would be placed at an outlying campus nearby in Cedar Park, but not exactly in Austin. As fragile as I was trying to get away from a deeply negative situation at home--I had even left it to go live on the Mexico border--I didn't feel like being messed with like that, like my life and the decisions didn't matter, sent again to another outlying city when I needed the city. (Since I had been living in Eagle Pass on the Texas border, I wanted this Austin city life.) I didn't know it, but I had already crossed paths with John in Austin, and indeed, in an old stone building built, too, in the 1800s. I didn't need to move there. Those things I was pushing for had already presented themselves in a heavenly way, on this road, already alive. I had missed graduating from high school in 1988, held back by my mom. (John didn't graduation "on time" either.) I had thought for years about how much I had a hard time enjoying school being a self-learner and my head full of ideas and ended up doing an extra year (not to mention the later degrees and teaching, which I did love), but I felt like I had missed this date that would have aligned with the '22, '44, '66. As it turns out in this wonder, John, born in '77, was at Stubb's, which in longitude and latitude is almost exactly parallel to the old stone house in Fredericksburg, they having been built near the same time, but not only this, from doorstep to doorstep they are 88 miles apart. I had already arrived at the true, further 88. It wasn't the graduation, the empty life rite I had dreamed up, but the one that was waiting, the one that was already on the road. Ten years later in the summer of 2010 John would reference the movie Say Anything, the kind of graduation, connection, and flight I knew was true deep in my whole Being. This 88 miles from Stubb's also pointed to where Kerouac would pass, where my brother lives, the brother with whom I had pursued the music all of our existences, from Deep Ellum through Fort Worth and Austin. With Kerouac heading out on the road from Fredericksburg towards El Paso and writing the novel "with a built-in soundtrack," my brother had completely written and produced the original soundtrack to our film Road to El Paso from 2005-2007. He worked so many hours on it on his own his hands went numb. One doctor even believed it to be something like muscular dystrophy it was so intense. My brother was completely dedicated, teaching junior high all day, writing and recording the music at night. He didn't have access to much studio time, and he was aware it was rough, which embarrasses him now. But we did what we had to work with. Those miles were also pointing this direction, the art, the lives, like the novel, with a soundtrack.
Another notable parallel dimension in Kerouac's passing through Texas, if not prophetic, when Kerouac writes of the "worst winter in Texas and Western history," this was 1949, the age I am now, 49, and that matches Jacob's prophecy of Genesis 49:10, and my name, and all the connections I have written about that. After Kerouac passed through in January, actually there came the flood of '49 which sent where I would come to live in Fort Worth in '74 completely under water from the overflowing Trinity River. It's the same river Dylan writes of in "Murder Most Foul" in Dallas: "Wake up, little Suzie; let's go for a drive / Cross the Trinity River; let's keep hope alive / Turn the radio on; don't touch the dials." That flood of '49 is the flood on which the Grateful Dead song "Here Comes Sunshine" is based from the flood on the west coast that year, with its opening lyrics, "Wake of the flood / Laughing water / '49" from the 1973 album Wake of the Flood from the year before my family and I moved to Fort Worth. The year '49 and flood are also the basis of the blues song Stevie Ray Vaughan covered and which became the name of his first album, Texas Flood. Being that is was the "Trinity" River that overflowed in Fort Worth in '49, that is the same river that had breached its levies in 1922, the year Kerouac and my grandfather were born, the trinity in my family being the male births in '22, '44, and '66" and then John in 1977. And the next "trinity": '47 writing On the Road and Bob Weir born, ('57 On the Road published), '77 John born, and '07 the original scroll published. And so this river that flooded the very streets where I would come to live overran its banks in 1922, the year Kerouac was born, and in 1949, the year he passed through. In his wake was the flood. (His last written work was a jaded "After Me, the Deluge.") But this passing through Texas holds something else extraordinary in the wonder.
In the spot where Kerouac writes about going through Fredericksburg, the mud-caked duo and Louanne then set out on the road west towards El Paso. Not only do I know this road well from traveling between my home in New Mexico, my mom in Alpine in Texas near Big Bend National Park, my brother in Fredericksburg, and the family ranch in Uvalde County (although now the road from Fredericksburg to El Paso is an interstate), I recognized while reading it most of the landmarks Kerouac spurs to life. There is an extraordinary magic beyond just this recognition--what was a road now becomes an opening of a road in the Hermes sense, voraciously alive in its opening. (This is the road I took after first coming to know John to move to New Mexico, even as I had been traveling it for years.) These audaciously intrepid spirits on this road are breaking every rule and standard known to exist, a necessity for stale and locked-down culture, and this act, both the taking to the road and the writing of it, opening a dimension they could not have imagined in their own necessity to break and be free, although they did surmise its imperativeness and Kerouac certainly was divining its importance in the literature with even his act of writing enacting again the act of the open, free road and the spirit breaking through it, carrying the spirit now through art. More wonder on the importance of this style of writing in a moment.
On this road to El Paso are a most Dionysian and Hermes of acts. As they are driving the 500 miles to El Paso, Neal Cassady, "took all his clothes off, near Ozona, and ran like a jackal through the sage yipping and leaping" (260). Neal then directs what is a literal flash-forward to the Grateful Dead's "Here Comes Sunshine" even as they are causing the cultural wake of the flood '49, and which would hit in '57--as they go. Kerouac writes of Neal there telling them, "'Now Jack, now Louanne, I want both of you to take all your clothes off--now what's the sense of clothes--and sun your bellies with me. Come on!'" Kerouac continues, "We were driving west into the sun; it fell in through the windshield. 'Open your belly as we drive into it.' Louanne took her clothes off: I decided not to be a fuddy and did likewise." In Eastern philosophy, this opening of the belly, the solar plexus energy center, is what one takes in energetically, and also what one projects of one's purpose out into the world. Here they take in that western sun as they drive into it, that returning sun on its own Hermes trail to the west coast. And so this portion of the road is a step beyond, this Hermes road takes on this other-worldly quality not only in what is being radiated out, but also in the nakedness of driving into this new realm, headed straight for LA and San Francisco and this breaking it open for what would become in front of them: the music and the Grateful Dead.
In this other-dimensional portion of the road, as it transcends into the mystery of El Paso on the border--the marginal, mystical space where lawlessness and mythology is understood and is as present as Being--before arriving there the three get out in the "orange-rocked Pecos canyon country" with Neal "stark naked" and Luanne and Kerouac having only pulled on overcoats (261). The importance of Neal Cassady's unconquerable spirit in this Dionysian mad breaking through can be clearly seen here: without him there is no breaking it open all the way and all of which lies ahead. The Hermes, the trickster can't hold back. Doing so would admit to limitation, to rules, to boundaries. For Neal and what lies inside him (now evident in his bare belly), behind and before him, there can be no limitations, of which this moment is a perfect example, even in what is understood in nakedness in mythology: the stepping into the divine. That he is also carrying the mud on his boots (left in the car) from the Brazos in Texas to the hearth in San Francisco and what that would mean in 1957, this very portion of the road blows past the very harsh, heavy-handed mental politics of hardened Texas land and thought, and right through the very heart of it, against all opposition, opens the spirit. Having grown up in Texas, having come from the north, I know this mystique and mythology to which he is headed in El Paso as a transitional place untouched by everything else. It stands alone, even if just in imagination, it always remains so. (Even as the charm to be felt in the cities dissolves into mass population, traffic, and dense metal construction.) That mystery and mythology later comes alive in the music, as in the Grateful Dead's "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" wherein one goes "Across the Rio Grand-eo / Across the lazy river" where things are different and altered and the music carries what can't be touched, the spirit broken through in the literature. The music has certainly followed it: in "Brokedown Palace" Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia wrote, "In a bed, in a bed / By the waterside I will lay my head / Listen to the river sing sweet songs / To rock my soul" (Brokedown Palace lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.) and in Bob's "Only a River": "Only a river's gonna make things right" (Only a River lyrics © Rural Songs, Just After Midnite Music, Touch Tones Music Ltd.).
Who, then, does "place" really belong to? Moneyed, self-centered, filter-minded politicians or the ones where the roads are continually broken back open for the human spirit? In On the Road it is the road to El Paso that is showing this dance of the divine into unaccountability to the former mandates, transform, free now to express oneself from deep in the loosened psyche which Neal is both demonstrating and demanding. A new, very real accountability on life itself, on humanity, emerges. He's been "free" on the entire road, but chased by "cruising cars," criticisms, and opinions. Now he has stripped it off. Jack writes of the moment, "Blue distances opened up in the sky." And now it is a visitation to this very real place in Neal's nakedness: "We got out of the car to examine an old Indian ruin . . . We wandered among the old stones hooting and howling."
In the post "Miracles at Isleta," I write about an old stone building in New Mexico (which would have been on the road Neal took up to Denver from Las Cruces, NM) where I had been filming our independent film Road to El Paso and the wild horses with my dad in 2005, only miles from up the road where I would see John face to face and speak with each other for the first time twelve years later. Here now on the road to El Paso the three in On the Road visit an ancient spot that I would travel many times in the transitional phase to New Mexico, a long-unknowing, but lifted by Hermes himself, by the very music, John's music, and his insight and intellect, just as Hermes lifts Psyche from the underworld: mind, body, and soul, and this pull of what would hold her in darkness, entrapped by other minds, and not transcendence. I would even get robbed right on this section of road, right on John's birthday in 2011 while stopping overnight. But what it all is is a breaking open, a willingness to open, to leave behind, to forgive, to lay those heavy, seemingly protective defenses down, and to know that something unimaginably extraordinary is already written, already in motion, and has been for decades, centuries, millennia. The Being cannot carry anger or resentment, those are offensive/defensive patterns of the mind. As John sings in "Belief": "And some have to know they tried / It's the chemical weapon / For the war that's raging on inside." Kerouac's On the Road is definitely taking a different path. Along that same path to come in the Grateful Dead's song "Uncle John's Band" they sing:
"Think this through with me, let me know your mind
Woah-oh, what I want to know, is are you kind?"
"I got me a violin and I beg you call the tune
Anybody's choice, I can hear your voice
Woah-oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?"
(Jerome J. Garcia / Robert C. Hunter, Uncle John's Band lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc).
It is at this point on the Road that Kerouac writes in the original scroll (but is removed in the published '57 version), "In the middle of the Pecos country we all began talking about what we would be if we were Old West characters." They have even stepped into the transformative mythology. Not only that, they have prophetically brought to life the western movie I would make right there, in 2005, and its name even being Road to El Paso, at first inspired by the music, Marty Robbins' "El Paso City," and because my dad loved westerns and had all his life and would sing Marty Robbins' beautifully, and because I knew when I took stock in everything in how I could produce an independent film I knew what I had to work with: Texas, New Mexico, horses, a ranch, and music. I was following what was presented.
And now, here in 1949 are Neal Cassady, Louanne, and Jack Kerouac on the very road, speaking of the entities in a western they translate into/are. Jack writes, "'Neal, you'd be an outlaw for sure' I said 'but one of those crazy-kick-outlaws galloping across the plains and shooting up saloons.' 'Louanne would be the dancing hall beauty.'" " [. . .] 'But what about me?' I said. 'You'd be the son of the local newspaper publisher. Every now and then you'd go mad and ride with the wildbuck gang for kicks." Their western imagining continues on for the rest of Kerouac's page, each cohort of theirs taking on their individualized characterizations in this mythical western town apparition. This being the very road and title of how my life transitioned into the "upper spaces" in so many ways, accompanied and lifted by the music, this scene is astounding to me.
Whereas On the Road begins with Kerouac's words, "I first met Neal not long after my father died," the very next part of this section of road where the three stop is where I always turn at Van Horn from El Paso to go south to Alpine, the turn and road where I would turn and drive the morning of my dad's passing there in Alpine, a stayed-in-time old west enclave in the mountains, something I know he adored. Even Dan Blocker, "Hoss" Cartwright from the western TV show Bonanza was born there.
Just as my brother had done the soundtrack for our western film, Bob Dylan had done the soundtrack for these very roads for Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in 1973, also the year of the Grateful Dead's Wake of the Flood, and the very path I was taking between the Lincoln County War and the borders of Mexico.
Upon my dad's passing my mom, brother, and I had to go find dinner and ended up at the Reata, a restaurant built on the order of the ranch setting of the old west movie Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor. (The movie was made nearby in Marfa.) I like to point out how the lead actor next to James Dean was Rock Hudson, a very gay man, ironically an icon in a very straight Texas. One the features of this restaurant is a live tree growing up through the middle of the floor, as in the Odyssey. These marginal lands in myth--greater than reality, as the artists break it open--do not obey rules even if they outwardly, anal-retentively proclaim to. This very road, at Van Horn, was where I would turn that morning to drive into the saffron sun with the 'door ajar' alarm screaming at me, and it has not screamed since. I guess dad fixed it. We had been laughing one day when I was asking him over the telephone what to do about that alarm when he suggested I find something in the car to ground it with, to see if that helped. I got the giggles and he was laughing with me because I had a blanket in the car and touched it and for awhile it stopped and I was saying it just needed soothed with a blanket. Only months later I would be getting that blanket out of the car to wrap my dad's body in for burial, trying to send a piece of me with him. At that moment I had not remembered that one reason I had that blanket in the car was that it matched fleece that John had worn in a photograph in Montana, which is where my dad most loved to hunt. I had put the blanket in the car precisely to give comfort to my Yorkie on the passing of his brother, our Bichon Frise, Moonbeam . . . this circle of unforeseeable events, all linked, all offering one comfort to the next. My dad would have been four years old, my mom three, the moment these three were on the road to El Paso. The characters were where we would make the movie, where I would go on to New Mexico, where in the night of the last summer of my dad's life he would stay up into the morning hours with me on the phone as I drove up to Denver. I remember wondering if he knew the GPS could give me directions (I was so far out in the wilderness near Vaughn, NM, in the middle of the night and in a storm where there might not have been a signal), what an odd thought I kept pressing out of my mind, and it turns out his voice was guiding me in encouragement to "go on"--something I would very soon desperately need, even into the roads up into Colorado again. He rented my mom and I a room, after I picked her up in Denver, off of Fillmore Street, as in San Francisco and the history of the music, in Colorado Springs, the very exit to the gate of the Garden of the Gods, Maggie's Farm for weed, and to get to Pike's Peak, things he would not have known as he found a motel we could make it to after I had driven all night. Jack writes of this very spot in On the Road right before he writes of Fredericksburg: "We passed Castle Rock, came to Colorado Springs at dark. The great shadow of Pike's Peak loomed to our right. We bowled down the Pueblo hiway. 'I've hitched thousands and thousands of times on this road' said Neal. 'I hid behind that exact wire fence there one night when I suddenly took fright for no reason whatever'" (370).
In the '49 crossing on this road headed towards El Paso, Kerouac wrote that after they had dreamed up the whole scenario of the old western characterizations and burning William Burroughs's house would even burn the whole town down he, "fell asleep dreaming the legend." And right where I would turn from El Paso at Van Horn, Kerouac writes of them: "Neal and Louanne parked the car near Van Horn and made love while I slept. I woke up just as we were rolling down the tremendous Rio Grande Valley through Clint and Yselta to El Paso [ . . . ] To our left across the vast Rio Grande spaces were the moorish reddish mounts of the Mexican border; soft dusk played on the peaks; beyond lay adobe houses, blue nights, shawls and guitar music--and mysteries, and the future of Neal and myself" (262). It was the very reason my dad, brother, and I had made the movie. In reverse, this was the last place of my dad's last road trip, coming back from El Paso to Van Horn, then turning towards those mountains into the living western set. And like our western movie, he had gone to the airport in El Paso, just as he had gone in the movie where we had filmed. On a coming trip down from Denver to Mexico, Kerouac writes of the three in the car: Of Frank Jeffries, "I saw he was fleeing his father." Then he adds, "Here were the three of us--Neal looking for his father, mine dead, Frank fleeing his and going off into the night together" (367).
All of this lays bare the underpinning search and theme of these travels, what Joseph Campbell termed the mythical "search for the father," that he wrote in that very year, 1949, in Hero With a Thousand Faces, also leading literally to the Grateful Dead, this inevitable transformative need to find that true line of one's soul, even as the form at first eludes the knowledge and spiritual connection and the rapturous connection at the realization and opening of one's own Being in participation in that community. I had been on this road with my dad, then with just his voice, and then . . . on my own. The answer, too, they follow follows and opens the music, art, and literature, again and again, in ways much larger than one road would seem able to do, one naked dance on the road side, breaking free.
The question of the feminine in the novel itself and on the road looms large as well: the feminine trapped Beings, limited to form and their psyches not dealt with, held to a pent-up underworld, contort with the unrealized spiritual and eternal in the sexual unions, trying to turn it into something of form, tangible, but the somewhat empty marriage declarations mostly for adoration and necessary security and social positioning. Kerouac nonetheless states that this rite leads home. Author Penny Vlagopoulos in her chapter "Rewriting America: Kerouac's Nation of 'Undergound Monsters'" writes of Kerouac even breaking these feminine, homosexual, and race boundaries open. (One can also see the difference in politics that don't break open their closed, repeated patterns, century after century.) Culture must be infused by pattern-breakers so that every flower sees the daylight.
Somehow, even in the society that appears unaltered upon the return but culturally is broken open, this home union is the return of the mythical flight of the shaman to that transformed feminine, now "allowed" because the road is broken open, where she has not been allowed to even exist before, and she owning her own body again, and on to the long road to form realization at the consciousness of Being, all of which would take many more planetary shifts and decades, to a time, now, when culture can realize the imperative of breaking the road open from culture's tendency to find itself going in circles of history. Trapped patterns do not heal themselves or stop due to a passage of time or the illusion of "progress." They do not heal or stop because they can only do so through awareness of being trapped in the pattern. Beingness becomes more and more apparent in that awareness. Thus, the road opened breaks open history's patterns.
This is what the "shaman in flight" knows when he gets back there: keep the art going, free, even of opinion, and this transformation finally brought about through the art that allows He and Her to Be, always broken back open to the spirit and not trapped by society to being considered throw-away form, whatever color or sex. Form then doesn't have to look one certain way or it's not sacred, because it is then known as infused by spirit, an expression of spirit. What can be seen with these very characters is that their spirits, the artist in the enclave of institution constantly closing in, this flight would carry forward to the music to come, to finally "find the father" and deeply, eternally connect with a spiritual lineage of the psychopomps between life and the eternal Song of experience and Being.
When I dedicated Coyote Weaves a Song to the members of the Grateful Dead in 2018 and my dad was still alive, I wondered if he would understand. He understood so little of what I said but meant well by. That dedication is that line of Hermes that I know is gratitude for my lifeline and a bringing of the ancient path there as to which Joseph Campbell had pointed, but now in the feminine and a recognized shaman's flight of so many individuals. It is the lifeline of the feminine as well in the sense that she is reopened in Being, the psyche brought up, what I was never allowed to Be, and done only through the art and the flight of the shaman/Athena so that it can emerge into all form, form broken back open to it, to nature and to the universe itself, a society altered. And so the original scroll in its inspired form was speaking to each and every of these forms as spiritual matters.
On the trip a year later in May 1950 with Jack, Neal, and Frank Jeffries headed down from Denver into deep Mexico, Fredericksburg actually forms a cross on this path in the middle of the United States with this road in '49 on this new trip south in '50. Jack recognizes it and writes, "I took the wheel and drove all the way to Fredericksburg, and here again I was crisscrossing the old map again, same place Louanne and I had held hands on a snowy morning in 1949, and where was Louanne now?" At that moment Neal yells out in a dream Kerouac suggests is of "Frisco Jazz and maybe Mexican mambo to come" (372). Of that in '49 Kerouac had written, "Louanne was driving, Neal was sleeping. She drove with one hand on the wheel, and the other reaching back to me in the backseat. She cooed promises about San Francisco. I slaved miserably over it" (260).
If the current COVID-19 shelter-in-place--this energetic retreat into Penelope's inner chambers for the entire planet (more on this later) and the energetic planetary push for transition--opens by July, Dead and Company will be playing in Boulder, CO, 7.10.2020-7.11.2020, the day I turn 49 to 50, like the years of this crossing trip to Mexico from Denver in 1950 and the road to El Paso in 1949, but for me, up. On that very path that started John and I that summer in New York and whose influence was palpable on Born & Raised and the happenings around it, Bob Dylan will be on that road in Albuquerque June 23rd. (The cathedral there in Santa Fe written of in Death Comes for the Archbishop, as I've written before, was built the years of the Lincoln County War. I filmed the wild horses right there near Albuquerque, spoke to John for the first time, saw Dead and Company from the first rows.) Above Denver, Boulder is the place where in 1974 (the year I was on the road to Texas) Allen Ginsberg, a dear friend of Bob Dylan's, too, established the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. These years are also the unimaginable 70th anniversaries of these very travels: 1949 & 1950, and now, Dead and Company playing Mexico and up, Dylan on his Never Ending Tour, and all in between, to Albuquerque and Boulder, 2020. This 70 year anniversary also coincides with the 700 year anniversary of Dante's Divine Comedy and his Beatrice, and these the "Beat" Poets. What also comes to mind is the companionship between Virgil and Dante, between Ginsberg and Dylan, between Kerouac and Cassady, and Bob Weir and John.
As I've written before, while this BSW journal was begun two days before the arrests of Ginsberg's Howl in '57, it came to me in '97 shortly after Ginsberg passed. Dylan's Never Ending Tour took an interval in this internal--this forced indoors for this 2020 pandemic--for the very dates that the scroll was typed, a pushed inside as Kerouac himself was for those dates: Bob's tour of Japan for April 1-24 was postponed while these mythical travels of 70 years ago reveal themselves, and in this in-between, the road coming to life more than ever. Something wildly dynamic is happening. Even Trump was forced to announce the nation would still be held in quarantine until the end of April; and likely it will be extended further. I woke in the early morning hours and heard Dylan's new release, "Murder Most Foul" and I could not go back to sleep. A feeling came over my whole body, the inward expanding powerfully three feet outside myself. I know those roads, those very places, and here their true aliveness came out in that voice so alive I was struck . . . and this voice with me (us) our whole lives, always coming profoundly through because it is most TRUE, and in this coming out and speaking to the music, to the art, to the roads I'm here looking at, now even in further amazement. It's a visitation. It has left me astounded. Of course he has opened a new dimension to already wild happenings, even involving President Kennedy and Kennedy calling to that place, the home of John Nance Garner, where the former sheriff Pat Garrett was. JFK had essentially called the Crossroads before getting shot in Dallas. Up that very road on Hwy. 90 is Del Rio where Wolfman Jack was. When I got up I listened to Norah Jones's "I'm Alive." She lived those places as well in Dallas. And Jessica Simpson, Leon Bridges, and Kelly Clarkson. These voices. These words. Wow.
Uncannily characteristic of these paths crossing, in 1968 Neal Cassady passed (into the eternal) in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, four days before turning 42 (John's age) right in this Mexican city where I filmed the video for "Something Like Olivia" / Apocalypse of the Heart in 2012 using props that looked like John's regalia from Born & Raised: the typewriter, the whiskey, the guitar . . . on the road in a hotel room there, the story of a novelist writing and helping me find the way as I tried to free my mind, my wings, and get them to the screen, but actually to actualization. While I was there filming John posted pictures and story of his Patek Philippe 5396G Limited Edition For Tiffany & Co. "A Shared Vision 2008-2013" watch on Hodinkee while I was sitting in a Mexican café and then wondering over into the huge cathedral, buoyed spiritually and psychologically by him and this intimate connection and encouragement, and where now Jesus looked like he was miserably needing to crawl out of the glass box and the city where there were bars on all the windows. John told me to keep following the art. Of that continued shaman flight on his The Search for Everything in his song "Changing" in 2017 he would write, "Time's been talking to me / Whispering in my ear / Saying 'Follow your heart / 'Til it tears you apart' / But hearts keep changing." It wasn't the guide to just returning home, but a new transcendence. It is opening one's heart all the way, past all the former beliefs and fears and containments. This is the Hermes Guide to Being, which is Home and naturally, spiritually provides Home in a different seeing, one that isn't bound to form, but embraced, realized, in it. This novel, these roads, these Hermes tours, the Grateful Dead and all the rest and the history of this free movement have opened it so that the psyche now lifts and can be known. My movie was following a song along the Rio Grande with my dad. He left an inheritance on that very path, much broader in dimension than society would have been able to see. He told me to fly free. He even built the wings for San Miguel. Dulce Ramon's dad flew us there. In the other room just yesterday I opened up the case to my dad's microphone. His guitar is hanging above my piano. I had heard him play it all my life, and now . . .
In another miracle, in the last few "pages" of the scroll, John's watch and the setting in Mexico take on yet another dimension. While driving into this mythical land these Beings are primed from their previous travels and longings to access and experience this "IT" to its fullest and realest where they know they will find it here in Mexico where the spiritual and the unloosed is in the air. Right before arriving in Mexico City Neal Cassady is overtaken by the spirits exuding from some indigenous children gathering near their car. Kerouac writes, "'Look at those eyes!' breathed Neal. They were like the eyes of the Virgin Mother must have been when she was a child. We saw in them the tender and forgiving gaze of Jesus [ . . .] One particularly soulful child gripped at Neal's sweaty arm. She yammered in Indian. 'ah yes, ah yes dear one' said Neal tenderly and almost sadly and he got out of the car and went fishing around the battered trunk in the back--the same old tortured American trunk--and pulled out a wristwatch. He showed it to the child. She whimpered with glee."
It was the very thing with which John had offered comfort to me, a watch, and right in the place where Neal died in 1968, while we were finding the way in 2012, following the art, creating the best and realest we could. With the watch John was recognizing things that I had written while also showing me that I was not alone. John's road case also stands out here, and the Jesus in the box that I was standing in front of that very afternoon. Kerouac writes of the little Mexican girl: "The others crowded around in amazement. Then Neal poked in the little girl's hand for 'the sweetest and purest and smallest crystal she has picked from the mountain for us.' He found one no bigger than a berry. And he handed her the wristwatch dangling. Their mouths rounded like the mouths of chorister children. The lucky little girl squeezed it to her ragged breastrobes. They stroked Neal and thanked him. He stood among them with his ragged face to the sky looking for the next and highest and final pass and seemed like the Prophet that had come to them" (397-398) [emphasis mine].
The night before this the three have had to stop to rest in the extreme heat and try to sleep. Jack lies awake on the top of the car, the hot air only moving with bugs, he merging with the atmosphere in an eloquent description as his body dissolves into it. Frank is asleep on the car seat. Neal, however, "took a blanket and laid it out on the soft hot sand in the road and stretched out (393). In the dark Kerouac hears dogs barking and "the faint clip clop of horse's hooves. It came closer and closer. What kind of mad rider in the night would this be? Then I saw an apparition: a wild-horse, white as a ghost, came trotting down the road directly towards Neal [. . . ] I felt no panic for Neal. The horse saw him and trotted right by his head, passed the car like a ship, whinnied softly, and continued on [. . .] What was this horse? What myth and ghost, and what spirit? I told Neal about it when he waked up. He thought I'd been dreaming. Then he recalled faintly dreaming of a white horse and I told him it had been no dream" (394-395). As I have written before, the night my father passed is the same night that Lady Gaga's white horse, Arabella, passed, I believe providing profoundly beautiful passage.
Down from Fredericksburg on this trip to Mexico that "will finally take us to IT' (366), Jack, Neal, and Frank go through "old San Antone," near where my family ranch is, where my father is interred, and on to Laredo where they will cross the border into the mythical, the free, the mysterious Promised Land. Kerouac writes of it, "I couldn't imagine this trip. It was the most fabulous of all. It was no longer east-west but magic SOUTH." Around the year 1980 (or before) my family, living in Fort Worth, got a bus which I believe we lived in briefly (I'd have to ask my brother), and on the back of it, much like Ken Kesey's bus "Further," but very different from, but alike in the quest for spirituality, my dad had painted on the back, "Follow me, I'm going to see Jesus." One time we took a bus trip in it, with family visiting from Ohio, to Laredo to experience the border. I have faint memories of the trip and riding on the bus. Across the border my brother and I got animal-shaped balloons, mine was something like a pink pig, his was purple. My grandmother got a wall-hanging of a sleeping Mexican in a sombrero which hung on her wall for the rest of her life. On a trip to Laredo, I do not remember if it was the same trip, I looked out the window while my dad was driving and in the field was the very end of a rainbow, the actual beginning of it and its bow, hitting the ground. I was amazed. I remember sharing the moment with my dad. He even stopped the vehicle so that we could see it. And so this is where Neal, Jack, and Frank cross over the border. Somehow this magic had always been a part of my existence.
Kerouac writes of IT and how it is in music as he and Neal leave San Francisco on one trip back to Denver: "Neal and I sat alone in the backseat and left it up to them and talked. 'Now man that alto man last night had IT--he held it once he found--I've never seen a guy who could hold so long.' I wanted to know what 'IT' meant. 'Ah well' laughed Neal 'now you're asking me im-pon-de-rables--ahem! Here's a guy and everybody's there, right? Up to him to put down what's on everybody's mind. He starts the first chorus, he lines up his ideas, people yeah, but get it, and then he rises to his fate and has to blow equal to it. All of a sudden somewhere in the middle of the chorus he GETS IT--everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He's filling empty space with the substance of our lives. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling for the tune of the moment that everybody knows it's not the tune that counts but IT---' Neal could go no further; he was sweating telling about it" (304). They continue later in a conversation, " [ . . . ] the car was swaying as Neal and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our lives" (306).
This is what happened to me the first time I actually saw John in Austin, on that same Red River St., but now in concert. The IT that stayed welling up inside through a lifetime, after everything I had experienced and not experienced, was on that stage, fully alive, tremendously, audaciously beautiful, arrived. John was exactly IT and he knew how to create it, how to deliver it. He was a pure artist, a pure Being. It was about the music and his Presence. I never thought that "oh, I have to be with him," or anything like that, even though I did very well see how gorgeous he is. I was too shook to form a thought. Also, I wasn't even aware of the kind of enveloped situation I was in that had now been so broken into that I'd never be the same nor would I ever be able to ever turn back. I was eviscerated by finally seeing this, and I had seen years of live music. That is the moment it all broke open for me on the inside. I had no idea what to do with it, I just knew I had finally experienced the very realest thing. I had told students that the literature is alive, showed them the magic, but when I wrote to John, he knew exactly what I was talking about because it was him. John knew to tell me, go inside, keep at it, there will come a time. This was extremely hard for me as I had spent my whole life inside, I thought.
This leads back to the writing of On the Road. Because I knew there was extraordinary realness and aliveness in the literature and what I was writing and what John was doing that operates on a different plain, I should then be able to trust it. And thus began the long, hard process of coming to know how to completely trust in one's own Being, fall in love with it all, and watch it work on a higher frequency that the mind can't even plan or comprehend, and all the while, holding to "the road," and for me, also taking the private space for that internal now as my own as I had never done before, come what may, but certainly astounding in the present moment--and it's always the Present Moment. Jack Kerouac faced a similar situation in trying to get On the Road published, and, too, across a decade from 1947 when he began writing it to its eventual publication in 1957. He agonized over it over those ten years. "Success, money, and fame" eluded him while editors tried to make On the Road "publishable" in their socially-indoctrinated views, and in that process worked to remove the very spirit of it. But then Kerouac would look back and see the time before its publication as the most real and personally connected, before money and fame and the sweeping movement his work would have across the world. And still, there's wild magic in that publication when it happened: this journal, the arrests for Howl, Goodbye to a River, rock n roll itself being born and hitting the airwaves, Jerry Garcia getting an electric guitar, and Bob Dylan on his way to New York . . . It was a cultural ignition much bigger than "this could have been published in '51," even as that version holds the magic.
And then comes further quaint magic in looking even closer into the month by month details of how On the Road came to be published, as writer Howard Cunnell details, in a different configuration from the scroll and what Jack was going through. When Jack was losing spirit over the edits of On the Road to the editors at Viking into four and five years after typing the scroll, there is an editor named Helen Taylor, who in her edits is taking the life right out of not just the content and sentence structure that holds aliveness and meaning, but also taking away the very style of the material that gives it its animation of being on the road itself and by its realness and impact of the art, breaking it open.
Howard Cunnell writes of the process of de-eroticizing Kerouac's manuscript, "tempering the sexual content," especially of Ginsberg and Cassady's gay physical bond and exploration, and then points out: "Also significant are the later editorial changes that break Kerouac's single long sentence into two. It is these changes to his sentences, rather than the cutting of scenes, which Kerouac would most strongly object to after the novel was published. He would blame Malcolm Cowley [who was a consultant to Viking] for making 'endless revisions' and inserting 'thousands of needless commas,' though it is Helen Taylor [actually doing the edits] who very likely made these changes. Prevented from seeing the final galleys before the novel was printed, Kerouac would say that he 'had no power to stand by my style for better or worse'" (31). This would change the pace of the reading, the drive of the spirit intended, the rush like water, like music. In looking at the overall picture of all the drafts towards publication, of the scroll version Cunnell states that it is, "a markedly darker, edgier, and uninhibited text than the published book, with a rough, demo-tape urgency that feels contemporary." There is its aliveness. Cunnell goes on to point out that one of the first things that Kerouac reported to an editor about how the scroll could not be changed is that "this manuscript has been dictated by the Holy Ghost" (32). Kerouac would forgo any barriers on his following books he started that same fall in '51 in wild, ignited inspiration while these editors shut him down and out. As they "took over" the text of On the Road completely to themselves in 1957, they stopped communication with Kerouac, but look at what was developing:
"With the contracts signed and the book in production Kerouac found himself isolated by Viking. Writing from Berkeley in July, and worried about how the forthcoming Howl obscenity trial set for August would affect On the Road, Kerouac complained about the 'eerie silence' to Sterling Lord. 'I'm real worried because you never write any more, as tho something is wrong, or is it just my imagination? I wrote a long letter to Keith Jennison, also no answer. Is ON THE ROAD going to be published? And if so, what about the final galleys I have to see, and what about the picture of me, and isn't there some kind of promotion or business going on I should know about. I tell you I am lonesome and scared not hearing from anybody'" (47-48).
--now knowing that in those very days this journal had been typed and distributed and on Jerry Garcia's birthday, on August 1 "Jerry received an accordion for his birthday and complains until it is exchanged for an electric guitar" (Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip 14). Black music was bringing rock n roll: "Ready Teddy" from Little Richard's new album Here's Little Richard had hit the airwaves.) Bob Dylan was writing his first songs (Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957–1973).
In her chapter, "Rewriting America: Kerouac's Nation of Underground Monsters'" Penny Vlagopoulos writes, "In a Village Voice review of The Dharma Bums, Ginsberg discusses On the Road and describes feeling a 'sadness this was never published in its most exciting form--its original discovery--but hacked and punctuated and broken--the rhythms and swing of it broken--by presumptuous literary critics in publishing houses'" (64). But seeing the process of this in this moment now is also a cultural boon: All that has been overlooked or misjudged can be seen in the new light where the judgmental mind has blocked it out, disallowing it, editing it out, but now, as Kerouac supremely did, letting the beauty, illuminated, powerfully flow, as he was able to see it. The division held so strong in view point as separateness is dissolved again, and now also seeing the power of art and the music. One thing that comes to mind is a musician like Leon Bridges coming from Fort Worth and his Texas Sun EP with Khruangbin from Houston, creating music from there, and Selena Gomez from nearby Grand Prairie, and Jessica Simpson from those same parts, from the same places I knew, and now ending the divisional mind that cannot see the real in these voices, that the formidable music from those first streets there did continue in spirit, and this to be broken back open in a symphony of aliveness, only dormant to non-awareness.
Of this "on-going scroll" of the same roads, I have long believed that Jessica Simpson is lovely, sweet, and thoughtful, and this felt like something of a communion in knowing that we shared some things in common like our birthdays, July 10th, exactly 10 years apart, both being from Texas, and both being preachers' daughters from the heart of that Bible Belt. Our paths would cross in extraordinary ways. When she lived in Fort Worth in 1982 at two years old, I lived there, too, and that is the year I was moving from there, going closer to the parts where she had been born. Years later, one year after I worked (as an extra) on a movie set of The Ringer with Johnny Knoxville in 2003, she worked with him on The Dukes of Hazzard in 2004 and began an emotional relationship with him which she tells of in her new memoir, Open Book. That's the set I was sent far off from the camera, and this being across the street from the water, Riverside Dr. and Texas's Colorado (Spanish for "Red") River and SRV's statue in Austin. In 2007 I had long-distance relationship with a guy who was working on a movie set with her while, I believe, she was with John. Even as she writes of her impassioned relationship with John an extraordinary beyond these already striking similarities further emerges. Where my name and my and Jessica's birth date are spoken on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, John and Jessica stood beneath it looking up in March 2007 on a private tour, the month I was premiering my small movie by a river in Texas. Was Jessica some kind of spiritual guide? A protective angel? Jessica lost her beloved Daisy, her white dog that looked so much like my Moonbeam, on September 14th, the same date, but six years before I would lose mine in 2015. She lost Daisy in 2009, right before I saw John for the first time. She was in Brazil when it happened, she writes, and the episode of her The Price of Beauty aired 26 April 2010, the day before I first wrote to John. Her pain had to be immense at that moment. I always felt horrible about her loss, and we would come to share it. I remember seeing photos of she and John together with her Daisy. Moonbeam was my joy, heart, and soul, so I felt it for her. That date of 14 September is also the date of Dante's passing that I write about in My Love Affair and the Tapestry. And it is that white dog on the Sistine wall frescoes that clued me into looking up at what was on the ceiling when I lost Moonbeam unexpectedly. And there John and Jessica stood. In unthinkable circumstances, a coyote took hers, what I would come to name the book, Coyote Weaves a Song, that includes the work about the Sistine before knowing all these details, but still I considered if the title was hurtful. I did think John was still crazy about her when I went to write to him at the end of April 2010, and I tried to be respectful of it. I thought I completely understood why, I'd be crazy about her, too. I did become aware at that time that in February 2010 she had been affected by John's words. I also thought it was phenomenal to be called the sexiest person on earth by the most gorgeous guy and whose opinion like that would be sought by any girl I think. I knew it was close on these relationships and I gave it that distance. I expressed that I knew it had to be painful. I also knew John still shared a love with Jennifer Aniston. One reason I wrote to him about it is because I felt like I had been harshly judged, too, not allowed to speak, and people not understanding how I meant well but needed the space and right to make life choices for myself. I did not write anything romantic to him for some time. I let him go there; shaken when he did. (What I wrote in is My Love Affair with Moonbeam.) I finally posted a picture of myself when he posted a mirror shot. What has struck me so is the light and beauty at work. Jessica writes of her time with John, "I kept seeing signs and spooky-spiritual things that would make me think of him. I would see a white feather and ask Adrienne what it meant. Oh, Lord" (338-339). Those white feathers are what I had been writing on through 2008, through sitting in the chapel in Santa Fe getting distance from the person who had been on the movie set working with her, and what I was writing at the time I first came to know John.
Jessica also suffered another loss that she writes of, of her cousin and best friend Sarah. In Coyote Weaves a Song I write of the spiritual significance of the horses, the spirits of the go-between the worlds and of their importance in the prehistorical cave art and in the Homeric epics, and here I wrote of the horse passing with my dad. Horses were so prevalent between my dad and me and then in his passing. Jessica writes of her cousin Sarah's life being taken by a horse leaping onto the road, an accompaniment quite literal in their passing together, and right before Sarah's high school graduation. Jessica writes that it is Sarah she thought of as she looked at the Sistine Ceiling with John. In the Hebrew bible Sarah is the decedent of Noah and the grandmother of Jacob, which would connect the lineage at the very front of the Chapel from the flood on the ceiling panel to Jacob's prophecy over the entryway, or the feminine spiritual lineage right as one walks in.
Rachel (this appearance even suggesting the natural and inner loveliness of Jennifer Aniston, "Rachel" of Friends, whom John would come to know, as well as Duchess Meghan, whose first given name is Rachel) wears the "coat of many colors," the natural rainbow, the promise of Jacob's prophecy and the symbol of Isis, the female messenger of the gods; Underneath her cloth, signifying her skin, is golden; The male, because he was born, got his skin from the female, still suspiciously looking on, claiming that skin, even as he has the color of the sky god
Along with Jessica's beautiful voice like the Muses, it seems quite inspired and destined that John took her to that very spot (I am certain he knew what it would mean to her, given her life-long deep commitment to her faith and God), and that, given these ten years, culture would let her have her voice to speak. The title of her book also resembles the open book right at the sacrificial altar scene where the Poet takes his Victory, as Dante foretold he himself would and with his passing matching our lamb-like fleeced dogs, with Jessica's birth date 7.10 there as well, and now at this 700th anniversary wherein Dante told of his return in "other fleece" (that reminded me so much of Moonbeam) in Paradiso Canto 25:
"If it should happen… if this sacred poem—
this work so shared by heaven and by earth
that it has made me lean through these long years—
can ever overcome the cruelty
that bars me from the fair fold where I slept,
a lamb opposed to wolves that war on it …
By then with other voice, with other fleece,
I shall return as poet and put on,
at my baptismal font, the laurel crown;
for there I first found entry to that faith
which makes souls welcome unto God, and then,
for that faith, Peter garlanded my brow."
It is one of the pivotal spots on the ceiling where Michelangelo takes his victory with Dante before making the David statue to look there to Rome starting the caving in 1501, 500 years to the year of John's first hit, "No Such Thing" in 2001, a Renaissance before John arrived. John's lyrics "No such thing as the real world, just a lie you've got to rise above," resonate here. It makes that moment with Jessica destined and extremely blessed and beautiful, even as it also shows stages of great pain shaping who they are. This took place during John's Continuum era, and the very building was built 500 years to the year of his birth, 1477-1977. It is when John was in what he described his greatest joy in the creation of music while having figured out that creative process, and creating the depth of beauty of such songs as "Heart of Life" and "Gravity" and getting that inspiration and fire to the record with the presence of passion, honesty, the natural self coming through, mastery, and, of course, inspired master musicians with that shared vision. That space of joy in creation becomes pivotal to seeing the power of music and art to first lift, then transform, even die to oneself, soar above, and open culture beyond itself.
John and I first looked at each other on Easter weekend. Both Odysseus and Jesus are known to have "cleared the temples" of those who only sought identity, social status, and wealth--the Suitors, the women aiding and abetting that invasion of the sacred, and then with Jesus almost a millennium later, the "money-lenders" having taken over the temples--the very act of clearing the sacred dining hall where the gods commune with humans that Michelangelo was also doing at the risk of his life. Tomorrow morning is an Easter like no other, of course, with the pandemic. Never have the temples been cleared, let alone on an Easter morning, and across the entire planet.
Erythraean Sibyl, who is known for the acrostic (word puzzle) "ΙΗΣΌΎΣ ΧΡΕΙΣΤΟΣ ΘΕΟΥ ΎΊΟΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ ΣΤΑΎΡΟΣ" ("Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior, Cross") (Biblehub.com); In the 'Until Shiloh Comes' Tapestry I write about this Sibyl having similarities to Katy Perry with John (right at the time I was discovering this in 2015-2016), she empowered beyond the tabloids, with she and the Sibyl now having the "arm of David" from the sculpture and the wisdom and cultural acumen of Athena--desperately necessary to the reclamation of culture through the feminine (even according to Plato)--and being at this position at the judgment at the sacrificial altar--the position Katy was in as John was sacrificed in the media in 2010--and she also at the turning of the page at the symbol of Asherah, which matches the etymology of my name, the goddess and female removed from the Hebrew bible, to Eve with the same epithet, "The Mother of All Living Things," the female and beginning of the history of deep, ingrained misogyny cursed in that same male-written male-centric history, but the path altered, the pattern broken here by Michelangelo, as it was by Dante, Homer, and would happen with Leonardo da Vinci. Of course this was also after Katy had spoken to Billboard in December 2013 about doing the NY Times Monday crossword puzzles with John, something he and his brother have done for years.
The names Asherah and Eve are also an iteration of beatitude and Beatrice and the Beat poets--which also bring to mind Beyoncé whose illumination is quite evident and for whom Kanye sacrificed himself in the media in 2009 for the realization of her and her work, and of course, how her skin color was a barrier and a cause for her oversight, as if even in excellence and ground-breaking for women, and black women, it didn't matter and it was alright to overlook her labor for a popularity contest. (Indian goddess Kali, herself, is black and known as "the black one.") Kanye was also born in 1977, the year the chapel was built. For him, 2001, the 500 year anniversary of Michelangelo beginning to carve David, was his breakthrough as a producer with Jay Z on Jay Z's standard setting and historic Blueprint, the title usually referring to an architecture's structure (and as Michelangelo is here concerned with the metaphorical "structure" of the Chapel). The album was unintentionally released the same day the World Trade Center towers fell on 11 September 2001. Kanye emerged at the very alteration of world culture, on the very day. It was Jay Z's sixth studio album. Eight years later and after Katrina devastating a black population that clearly did not matter to its nation, it seems the patterns of voting on Anglo ubiquitousness as a main criteria for music awards, attention, and recognition should have been at least slightly broken open, but there still was no consideration or awareness, only drastic public shaming of Kanye who was dared to speak again against the norm. He was to be sacrificed. Michelangelo knew, speaking out for the feminine, the same would be true for him.
Another wonderwork flowering out of my name relating to Asherah and Eve both in etymology and meaning, and including the epithet "Mother of All Living Things," even beyond the many marvels I show in the 'Until Shiloh Comes' Tapestry and Coyote Weaves a Song, is that in Sanskrit "the syllable Shri (also spelled as Sri and Shree) is equally popular and sacred in Hinduism. It is used in prayers and invocations, and before the names of gods and goddesses, as a prefix, to denote their purity and power, and their connection with the Mother Goddess" (Quora.com). It is "a title of respect used before the name of a man" or woman [mister/master, ms.], "a god [or goddess], or a sacred book" and "an Indian word denoting wealth and prosperity, primarily used as a honorific." The first two initials of my first and last name (which are both evident in what is shown on the ceiling here at the prophecy of the sibyl) Shiloh, "Sh", and Richter, "Ri" spell out the goddess, master, and holy book title Shri. According to Wikipedia, "Shri is also the avatar of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth." It is also a marvel then that my name also includes "rich." When I was twenty-five I earned a master of arts degree in languages and literature, and thus added "MA" to my name, which also matches the title following a holy female Being as in Shri Anandamayi Ma, which denotes "mother"--of all. And so the name includes both sacred Sanskrit titles, shri and Ma and both of these epithets on the ceiling. The name Anandamayi also matches:
Also near John at the beginning of his career and into the time of the media and public mind onslaught in 2010, he surrounded by these muses, was Norah Jones. Norah, a goddess and master musician and singer-songwriter in her own right, is the daughter of world-renown "Sitar maestro" Ravi Shankar whose life was touched by Shri Anandamayi Ma, and to whom he became a devotee (Wikipedia):
"Shankar used to visit Anandamayi Ma frequently and performed for her on various occasions. Shankar wrote of his hometown, Benares (Varanasi), and his initial encounter with 'Ma':
'Varanasi is the eternal abode of Lord Shiva, and one of my favorite temples is that of Lord Hanuman, the monkey god. The city is also where one of the miracles that have happened in my life took place: I met Ma Anandamayi, a great spiritual soul. Seeing the beauty of her face and mind, I became her ardent devotee. Sitting at home now in Encinitas, in Southern California, at the age of 88, surrounded by the beautiful greens, multi-colored flowers, blue sky, clean air, and the Pacific Ocean, I often reminisce about all the wonderful places I have seen in the world. I cherish the memories of Paris, New York, and a few other places. But Varanasi seems to be etched in my heart!'"
(Qtd. on Wikipedia from Dunn, Jerry Camarillo (2009). My Favorite Place on Earth: Celebrated People Share Their Travel Discoveries. National Geographic Books. p. 213)
(Michelangelo etched his name on Mary's heart on the Pieta.)
It is only fitting then that Ravi's daughter Norah, also growing up in Texas near Jessica and me, was near John at this time and from the beginning of his career, and she herself being such a peaceful and powerful flow in the music. Norah maintains a serene and illuminated beauty and love of music "outside" and removed from fame and the public view. Anandamayi Ma "frequently referred to herself in the third person as either 'this body' or 'this little girl', which is a common spiritual practice in Hinduism in order to detach oneself from Ego" (Qtd. in Wikipedia from Aymard, Orianne (1 May 2014). When a Goddess Dies: Worshiping Ma Anandamayi after Her Death).
Sri Anandamayi Ma
In line with this lineage of female names relating to bliss, safety, security, well-being, beatitude, and inner joy--which then opens the Mona Lisa in a new light, "Paramahansa Yogananda translates the Sanskrit epithet Anandamayi as 'Joy-permeated' in English. This name was given to her by her devotees in the 1920s to describe her perpetual state of divine joy" (Qtd. in Wikipedia from Lipski, Alexander (1993). Life and Teaching of Sri Anandamayi Ma. Motillal Benarsidass Publishers. p. 28).
How enigmatic, too, that during these days of world pandemic shelter-in-place, we have these "singing panels" as on Zoom and filled with internal music so much like the panels of the Sistine Ceiling and in uplifting and intimate, equalized concerts such as the Global Citizen One World: Together At Home. The internet has blossomed with the internalization of music being shown in private spaces from endless internal spaces with people playing instruments and singing across the planet. It has made music and its processes prevalently visible, a visualization and coming forth naturally, leveling everyone to their humanity and inner spirit, of what seemed like a silent, almost absent, unconsidered movement while other things dominated the spotlight on the world stage. It is both quieting and exhilarating how it has moved to the "fire of the hearth," as Homer's epics do. In journalist Chris Hedges' book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, it is that hearth that finally heals and most sorely needed, comforts, the body and soul, and thus the culture to its very heart and spirit. The entire Sistine Ceiling is about a return to that inner flame represented in the female, and within the body, the home, and most certainly in reentering that now sacred dining hall and having a seat at that table.
Sir Anandamayi Ma Singing in 1958
Sacrificial Altar Scene, Sistine Ceiling, Michelangelo; I write of the symbolism and what is happening in this panel in Coyote and in the Shiloh Tapestry
And the Real goes even further, like spirit, not bound by how forms move:
While Kerouac was fully alive in this passionately creating in those twenty-one days, he's going further than what others have written of as his "spiritual quest" in that by dissolving the boundaries on the road he had created within himself the possibility of dissolving them on the interior (as the editors had not, and could not see), and thereby he set up an astounding explosion onto the page that was not travel notes but fully alive itself: whereas some say there is no fulfillment of the spiritual quest here, or even deny that there is one (because they miss experiencing it in themselves), this creative act back to the interior, and now the courage, passion, and inspiration, and the writing and then the confinement pressurizing the interior spaces, transmutes that visionary experience into a radiance on the page that has the power of transformation beyond the road itself, elevating what could not be elevated, transforming what could not be transformed, and this of everything he writes of to a higher plane of existence. This is furthered even more with the conscious choice to stop writing it as fiction, making up things and histories to fill in the background spaces, and this is the point at which the radiance is ignited within the soul able now to alchemize and render the characters--the humans--actually "beatific."
Now looking back to Dylan's song as to what is transmuted along the path of the music: it can be seen that one was transmuted into one's own soul through the music, elevated from the shock and suffering, and then one's soul was carried by the music while the external experience of oneself and of a society, by this, was also transformed, even as humanity did unthinkable things in unawareness, unawareness even of how this moves as they were carried by the songs into a different kind of experience of it. We've been disciplined that secular is not and cannot be sacred, therefore it cannot be spiritual, therefore we cannot be spirits without the mandated sacred, we're just unsacred, expendable bodies deserving to be disciplined, and yet Kerouac was writing the road of the in-between of being human and being a soul, unbound, and what he found in ecstasy was the realization of Neal Cassady, a symbol of a vagabond he could break open and show the sacred. Kerouac was driven by what he could see even as other voices told him he didn't see it just because they couldn't. It wasn't in their perspective. The effects of On the Road prove grandly otherwise. Dylan has often been asked the same thing, "Explain it to us," on a mundane level, but all the while being elevated and able to speak to the experience of being alive and what is happening only through Dylan's Poetic language and delivery. It's a voice that carries and there are qualities to it that take it into this pivotal zone.
Jack Kerouac's words actually come to wild life when he stops years of trying to make up the story and starts typing the very real truth of these very real travels and letting go, breaking through. Nothing compares to that aliveness both conveyed and opened by the art. Should we not be inward during those days where that road actually transformed?
Cunnell writes that:
"John Clellon Holmes remembers Kerouac saying, 'I'm going to get me a roll of shelf-paper, feed it into the typewriter, and just write it down as fast as I can, exactly like it happened, in a rush, the hell with these phony architectures--and worry about it later.' [ . . . ] After reading the Joan Anderson letter and writing his own series of letters in reply Kerouac was convinced that On the Road should be written in a straight-ahead, conversational style and that he should 'renounce fiction and fear. There is nothing to do but write the truth. There is no other reason to write'" (23).
Those notes were written at a time before the scroll when On the Road was tentatively named Souls on the Road. The magic of this happens as he steps into what combusts within him of the lived truth of it, what is living and breathing in his realization and brighter than shining stars, the fire of being astounded, what that sets into motion, and then knowing one has to step away from what has been dictated to him and let it soar with his own soul. Now the something grander can happen. Whereas on the road it was just between them, now the level of magic of it can be delivered. This is imperative, now actually inescapable, in that in the tight hold of the judging mind of America he was going to speak the existence of the spaces between the jazz notes, where the heart leaps with its own wonder and possibility, where love, kindness, and gentleness vanquish any opposer by a more profound, greater truth, and the notes from the horn and the piano keys then affirm it. The soul is gripped by it. The soul recognizes its own truth, not in knowledge but in recognition of itself.
What also stands out in these works along with that gentleness, kindness, and compassion, "tenderness" as Kerouac expressed it, is Kerouac's own affirmation that he considered some of his works to be "holy," both because of where they came from within him--a rush, as he called it, and a recognition upon the page of the realizations without judgment, and because of being without that judgment, he was experiencing what Is in a sublime way in the travels, and then also in letting them Be that radiant in creation. Therefore it would be odd for an editor to step in and say, "that can't be said," because not only is it what Is, (what Is can't be said?) and what actually happened and the colors of their skins and their intimate preferences (the oddity of censoring life itself and of one human holding opinion and authority over another as "lesser," the dragon guard of culture oddly keeping life and culture out)--it was and is the experience and also the purest act of creation without his own mental voice ensnaring it to the heaviness of human-made verdicts based on social beliefs. Thus, the creation is out of the vice grip. It is cruised by "cruising cars" (editors, police, opinions), but it is transcendent in its method, purpose, and delivery. Kerouac is trying to open everything--his own personal closures, his Catholicism, death, his writing, and the structures, in order to get to the Real experience, as has been written continually, or as Joseph Campbell put it, to get to “the rapture of being alive”: Experiencing this most miraculous, blessed phenomenon of Being in this most amazing creation of Earth in the all sacred Moment.
In the writing and in the travels Kerouac steps outside of "norms" and experiences what has become forbidden when the culture closed again after their own Anglo immigrations to this Native American continent (which the Anglos themselves deemed their travels "right and holy," but it is off-limits for everybody else, and “holy” and “right” is also closed to everybody else, while the Native Americans knew what they were doing was the sacred). This carries similarities with two things of which Kerouac and the Beats and the path ahead in the music and literature were aware: it is the cultural road to enlightenment which cannot take place in the old identities, perceived roles, and mind structure, and also to the Trickster who takes to the new open road for culture, even if that culture doesn't trust or like it very much. (One can even find a Deadhead who lives and breathes the music, then mistrusts a decision made by Bob Weir, for example. It is the ancient nature of this, evident even in Native American folktales. What has happened is that Bob and the other members, in forming Dead & Company, for example, have gone the road where the others can't see yet, and that's what they are meant to do. I have to relearn to give that trust all the time with John, outside the broken open patterns.)
Much later after Kerouac, Lewis Hyde would write about how the trickster leaves signposts along the way of transforming staid constructs, opens a reordering of the sacred (taking the rightful inheritance without tearing it down), transforms found objects which then hold the magic and wealth, and becomes literally prophetic. Kerouac has become the Coyote trickster, really assigning the role to Neal Cassady, and Kerouac himself the recorder of events, with the Grateful Dead coming in that direct line, and with them Ken Kesey and the Beats stepped out of the norm and were in alive movement Being what they Are and creating from there. The same is true of Joni Mitchell (who wrote the song “Coyote”) and Bob Dylan, among the huge movement of others from B.B. King to Freddie King to Etta James and Freddy Fender, often "written off" by critics and opinions as peripheral to what happens in the narrow news focus, but they are transcendent of this nonetheless, seen or not, mostly not, because it a path beyond structure and into the rough and sublime. When one goes into the sublime, one goes into non-language, thus music.
The realization at what they do in those “marginal spaces” “on the periphery” in their creations and how culture is then reopened to the heavens themselves, looks and seems impossible from the previous world view. It is cordoned off as “music” and “entertainment” and the other as "religion" and "heaven." But as such, seen as peripheral, it also has the leeway to “take to the unseen roads”: the roads only they can see. What happens is that they can also then reopen anything behind them or ahead, wisdom, history, altering past events, foretelling the future. It's a strange place in the marginal spaces, but deeply necessary. They can do very strange things politics or institutions, for example, can’t do.
Importantly, and what seems most unlikely, taking to the “open space” of the road goes to where the sacred can occur: the golden is found in What Is, the What Is presents the miracle "found objects," which then provides its sacred path and allows for a reclamation. Religions themselves are based on self-altered found objects, but then they forbid, with entire brutal crusades, anyone breaking it open to humanity again. Some souls, like Mickey Hart’s and Bob Dylan’s, are born knowing they have to take that road and it is actually out of the deepest gentleness and kindness that that depth, destiny, and intelligence happens.
Kerouac and the other voices leave behind in their own goings all that must be loosened for those moments of realization, leaving behind even identity and identity with roles, a necessity for awareness, consciousness, conscientiousness, enlightenment, and even this compassion. Bob Dylan sings in "Tangled Up in Blue": "There was music in the cafés at night and revolution in the air / [. . .] And when one day the bottom fell out, I became withdrawn / The only thing I knew how to do / Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew / Tangled up in blue." One can now look at the continuation of the writing in the Grateful Dead and Dead and Company and ask if these things occurred from On the Road until now. Did it hold the road open to enlightenment? What identities were left and opened anew? What "found objects" became the miraculous? What was prophetic and came true? That is this road and "divining" it: showing these transformations, the sign posts, and how open it is. While it is a visit to the "crossroads," I think it is also a visit to Terrapin Station, and as with the Grateful Dead lyrics, almost everything is reopened to a realm of play.
Near the beginning of the scroll and the travels Jack recognizes what can be identified as a loss of staid identity, which is then an opening to something more and the way in which things can be changed and one knows he has now entered into a liminal space where things can be different. Near the beginning of his travels Kerouac writes,
"I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, that I didn’t know who I was … I was far away from home haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared, I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost… I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then that strange red afternoon" (120-121).
Instead of at this point hanging on strongly to that identity of himself and doing things all day long to try to strengthen it like lording authority over other people, this moment is a loosening of the grip and an opening to what can be discovered, even of the eternal self. It does seem like the effect of these days or months of quarantine is like this, an universally enforced loosening of the tight grip one holds on illusory identity in the external world--as one thinks they have to be there to enforce--force--it. The entire planet has entered a marginal space. And then there are people like Donald Trump whose primary concern is not humanity but that abused power and still, how he looks in that power. The marginal space, however, tumbles that order into unrecognizable.
This taking to the road is so ancient and primordial, it is deeply necessary to our own psyches, and yet still into the unknown, but now as we can see, into the movement of Being. What they "bring back" is an insight into the eternal that can be viewed evident in their own Beings and workings. There is no institution on earth to place recognition on that as it always goes beyond where those institutions are closed. The participants, in fact, break themselves open time and again and even do this to open it again to pass it on and thus also to Be alive again.