One more gem from the Salem State 1973 Kerouac symposium. We’ve already featured it here and here – but – in answer to a panelist’s question – “Is it true (that) the last time you visited Jack that you were turned away?”
Allen tries to play it down, but Peter (on an anti-alcohol rant) is as vehement as ever – and Gregory emerges as a (happy?) fatalist. Here’s a transcription:
Steve Salvo (moderator): Is it true the last time you visited Jack that you were turned away?
AG: Yeah..his mother (had) had a stroke and..he called us..we spoke on the phone and we were coming back from..Harvard, I think, for (from) a reading in Harvard, (and) we were going to drop by Hyannis – Peter (Orlovsky) was driving – and stop by the house. It was late at night when we got there. He’d invited us to come, but then he changed his mind (and..) he couldn’t face the occasion, that’s all – so he said “go away”, or didn’t answer the door, that was all – (quite) normal (actually).
SS: But why was it that suddenly – and John (Clelland) Holmes mentioned this – that suddenly he was so lonely and separated from everybody at the end of his life, when perhaps he needed his friends the most?
Gregory Corso: Well he knew he was going to die
GC: He knew he was going to die.
Peter Orlovsky: I think alcohol finally took over and it wasn’t Jack..Jack wasn’t there anymore – it’s just like er..
AG: Well, it was a human being plus chemicals.
PO: It was all that alcohol that was propelling him on…
GC: He always wanted to die. When a man’s drinking..
PO: ..push(ing) everyone away so he could drink all day and night.
GC: He always wanted to die anyway. He always said, I want to be “safe dead in heaven” [“Safe in heaven dead” – Mexico City Blues – 211th Chorus – “I wish I was free/ of that slaving meat wheel/ and safe in heaven dead”]
SS: But isn’t that the time when you should be closest to him, if a man is sick?
AG: Yep, but he wouldn’t let us..
PO: He wouldn’t let us.. His mother threatened to call the police..They were about to call the police
GC: Right – but they let Gregory in the house – why? – because Gregory was Catholic!
Charles Jarvis: I don’t think he was lonely in his later years when he came back to Lowell. He married Stella Sampas, and, of course, the family really embraced him, (the) Sampas family..
AG: Yes, yes (the) family was very good.
CJ: He knew that they loved him, and he wasn’t completely lonely or isolated. I don’t think he felt that abandoned. Of course, his other friend [pointing to Gregory Corso] right here..
GC: Oh Jarvis, I’m happy about life, Jarvis. I’ve known the most beautiful people, even in prison, before I met Allen and Jack Kerouac and you and John (Clelland Holmes) and Eric (sic), and everybody here, all the shots, beautiful. I’d better handle life pretty good from now on. I’m beginning to realize they were all beauties and nice..