Jack Kerouac Reading (for Lois Sorrells) – 1

Jack Kerouac, late 1945 or early 1945, New York City – photo: Allen Ginsberg

Another gem from the Ginsberg Stanford archives – “Jack Kerouac reading from Doctor Sax and “Old Angel Midnight on a tape made for (his girlfriend) Lois Sorrellscirca 1961″

The recording can be listened to  – here

For more on Lois Sorrells – see here

For more on Dr Saxhere

For more on Old Angel Midnighthere

The readings of Dr Sax come with the faint background music of recordings of Frank Sinatra

For more on Frank Sinatra – see here

JK: “Yeah, that’s right – now  (background music) accompaniment starts up) – “A strange lull took place after the Flood and before the Mysteries the Universe was suspending itself for a moment of quiet – like a drop of dew on the beak of a Bird at Dawn. By Saturday the river has gone way down and you see all the raw marks of the flood on wall and shore. The whole town is soaked, muddy and tired – By Saturday morning the sun is shining , the sky is piercingly heartbreakingly blue, and my sister and I are dancing over the Moody Street Bridge to get out Saturday morning Library books. All the night before I’ve been dreaming of books – I’m standing in the children’s library in the basement, rows of glazed brown books are in front of me, I reach out and open one – my soul thrills to touch the soft used meaty pages covered with avidites of reading – at last, at last, I’m opening the magic brown book – I see the great curlicued print, the immense candelabra firstletters at the beginnings of chapters – and Ah!  – picture of rosy fairies in blue mist gardens with gingerbread Holland skylark rooftops  – parenthesis – with breadcrumbs on them – end of parenthesis, comma, talking to wistful heroines about the mean old monster on the other bosky side of the dale – “In another part of the forest, mein princess, the lark’s largesse is largely hidden” –  and other sinister meanings – shortly after dreaming that I dive into dreams of upper hills with white houses slashed across by rays of a Maine sun, sending sad redness over pines in a long highway that goes unbelievably and with.. remorse.. jump off the bus so I can stay in little Gardiner town, Gardiner, Maine, I bang at shutters, that sun’s same red, no soap, the people of the north are silent, I take a freight train to Lowell and settle on that little hill where I rode my bicycle down, near Lupine Road, near the house where batty woman had the Catholic altar, where. where I remember the statue of the Virgin Mary in her livingroom candlelight.
And I wake up in the morning in this bright March sun – my sister and I, after hurried oatmeals. rush out in the fresh morning not unenlivened by the dew-residue of the river in its muddy slaw down by the tearful shore – Nature’s come to pet and woo poor billywoo in the river valley – golden clouds of blue morning shine above the decay of the flood – little children dance along the washlined neighborhoods, throw sunny rocks in muddy rivers of the turtle day, – In a Susquehanna special river shore on Riverside Street-a-Dreams, legitimate, I saunter along with my sister to the library, throwing scaled rocks on the river, drowning their flight in mud floodwaters of greenly corpses bumping – Sailing along and jumping in the air we dally to the library, fourteen.
I come home from the library that morning, up Merrimac Street with my sister, Nin. At one point we veer off to Moody Street parallel. Ruddy morning sun on stone and ivy (our books firm under our arms, joy) – the Royal Theater we pass, remembering the gray past of 1927 when we went to movies together, to the Royal, free, because Pop’s printing press that printed their programs was in back, early days, the usher upstairs, niggerheaven balcony where we sat..we did ..where we sat, had raspy voice, we. waited impatiently for 1.15 movie-time, sometimes arrived 12.30 and waited all that time looking at cherubims in the ceiling, round Moorish Royal Theater pink and gilt and crystal-crazy ceiling with a Sistine Madonna around the dull knob where a chandelier should be, – long waits in rickety nervous snapping bubblegum seat-scuff scattle tatter “Shaddapl” of usher, who also had hand missing with a hook at the hump World War I veteran my father knew him well fine fellow – waiting for Tim McCoy to jump onscreen, or Hoot Gibson, or Mix, Tom Mix, with snowy teeth and coalblack eyebrows under enormous snow white bright blinding sombreros of the Crazy Hollywood silent West – leaping thru dark and tragic gangs of inept extra-fighters fumbling with beat torn vests instead of bright spurs and feather holsters of Heroes – “Gard Ti Jean, le on y alia au Royal tou le temps, eh? – on fail ainque pensee allez au Royal –  as t’heur on est grands on lit des livres” (Look, Ti Jean, the Royal. we used to go to the Royal all the time, hey? – that’s all we thought about how to go the Royal – now we are grown up we read books). And me sister and me we go tripping along gaily, past the Royal, the Daumier Club where my father played the horses, Alexander’s meat market on the canal.. which now, which now in the Saturday morning all mad with a thousand mothers milling at the sawdust counters.. was..mad. Across the street the old drugstore in an ancient wood Colonial block house of Indian times showing jockstraps and bedpans in the window and pictures of the backs of venereal sufferers (made you wonder what awful place they’d been to get such marks of their pleasure)…  [Kerouac pauses approximately seven minutes in] – (“Ladies and gentleman, I will now have a drink”) –

[Kerouac resumes]….”when it starts to rain”…   – “I never did forgive you for that time that you hit me on the head with a marble, Ti Jean”, Nin is saying to me, my sister, “but I will never hold it against you – but you hit me on the head”. I had, too, but, if with Repulsion, champion of the Turf, she wouldn’t be saying it without a lump on her head. Luckily I used a regular marble not the ballbearing – I flew into an awful rage because Ma had sent her up to clean my room, Saturday morning, 11 o’clock when smells of boiling’s on stove and I was settled for my game and cried when I saw the Meet (with 40,000 people on hand) was going to be postponed, but she was adamant, so I confess before the judgment of the eternities I threw a marble (Synod. owned by S & S  Stables) right at the top of her head. She ran down crying – I was severely jostled by my irate mother and made to sit and sulk on the porch awhile – “Va ten dehors mechant! frappez ta tite soeur sur la tete comme col! Tu sera jamais heureux etre un homme comme ca!” (“Go on outside, bad!, hitting your  sister on the head like that! You’ll never be happy being a man like that!). Doubtful that I ever grew up , too. I’m worried. “Eh bien Nin“, I say, “faura du pas faire car“(Well, Nin, I shouldn’t a done that)

Well, we come to the St.Jean Baptiste Church (St.John the Baptist’s Church) and she wants to go in for a second to see if the third-grade girls at St. Joseph for girls are having their Lenten exercises, wants to check on her girlfriend’s little sister – ah the poor little girls of Lowell I knew that died, at ages 6, 7, or 8, their rosy little lips, and little eye glasses of school, and little white collars and Navy blue blouses, all, all, underdusted in fading graves soon sinking fields – ah black trees of Lowell in your March glare- We peek in at the church, at shuffling groups of little girls, at priests, people kneeling, doing the sign of the cross in the aisleways, the prim flutter of front altar lights where a pursy-mouthed young priest wheels sensationally to kneel and hangs knelt like a perfect motionless statue of Christ in the Agony of the Garden, budging for just an instant as he barely loses balance and all little kids in church who watched have seen, the sensational wheel failed, I notice all this just as I slip out the door – after Nin with a flick at the.. front waters.. fount-waters.. and quip.. quick cap on (my hat was an old felt hole-hat).

Bright morn blanked our eyelashes right there, inside the church perpetual afternoon, here: morning… But as we proceeded right on Aiken Street and left up on Moody the day stretched to noon with a whitish glare now come into the halyards of the blue and the trumpets have stopped sounding, half lost their dew – always hated morning going – The women of Moody Street were rushing and shopping literally in the shade of the Cathedral – at Aiken and Moody Street, in the center of traffic activities, it cast its huge bloat shadow on the scene – climbing a tenement or two in shadow-vertical-extenuation – lengthening with afternoon..length-en-ing..

And Nin and I gaped at the drugstore window – inside, where neat black and white tiles made a golden sun floor for the drugstore, and where the strawberry ice cream sodas were foaming at the top in pink bubblous mist froth at the slavering mouth of some idle traveling salesman with his sales samples on the stool, soda in glass sitting in steel glass-grip with round clinky gilder.. gitterbottom.. girderbottom, a solid, huge soda, oldfashioned, with a barbershop mustache on it, Nin and I sure wished we could get some of that. (Um yum-yum!) – Joy of the morning was particularly keen and painful in the marble slab counter where a little soda was freshly spilled – I romped, we romped on up Moody Street. We passed several regular journeyman Canadian grocery stores crowded with women (like our Parents) buying hamburger and huge pork chops of the prime (to serve with hot mashed potatoes in a plate in which also hot porkchop fat is floating around beautiful with luminescent golds to mix with the mash of hot patate, add pepper). In fact, Nin and I grow hungry remembering all our long hikes to the Royal, looking at sodas, walking, seeing the women buying sausage and butter and eggs in the grocery stores. “Boy mue farmer a ben vite,  tout de suite“, “Boy”,  Nin says, rubbing her dress over her belly, (“Boy, I’d like real soon, right away -) “un bon ragout  ctboullette, ben chad” (a good porkball stew very hot) dans mon assiette (in my plate), prend ma fourchette pis jelll mass ensemble ( I take my fork and I mash it together), les boules de viande molle  (phew! – the balls of soft meat, the potatoes, the carrots, the good fat juice, after that I put a lot of butter on my bread and a big glass of milk – For dessert I’d put in.. we’d have a big hot pie of cherry with whipcream”). My sister says, “The next morning for breakfast we’d have some nice big crepes with maple syrup, sausages well-cooked sitting in the plate hot with a big beautiful glass of milk”. “Chocolate milk!”, I yell. “No, no. no, no, no, no, no”, she says, “that’s no good, white milk – Boy, it’s gonna be good”. And I say, ” In the supper of that day. What we gonna have?” – She says – “oh, dunno” – She’s already turned her attention to other things, to watching the women hang up the area-ways of wash in the great shining alleys of famous Moody Street – So I say – “Me I want a big bowl of pate de fois with meatspread –  (see, this is all French talk, I’m not reading the French here) –  And hot beans, like tonight, Saturday night – a pot of beans, good fresh Belgium bread, lots of butter on my bread, lard in my beans, brown, just a little hot – and with all that some good hot ham that falls apart when you put your fork in it –  and then for dessert I want a big beautiful cake, hot, made by Mama, with peaches and the juice from the can, and some whipcream –  that, or else Pa’s favorite, whipcream with date pie”). Thus my sister and I rushed along and came to the bridge…we’d almost forgotten the Flood.

Huge washed out noon shining now on the river day. Great marks show how high the river was. Forests in the pebbly shore are all mudbrown.. – (I’m telling you, I”ve got to get high on pot again!) – A cold high wind blows the sign on the store at the end of the bridge, on Pawtucket, creaks and cringes. Whipping bright skies wash over the sight of the earth. Over in Rosemont you see great pools of despair still reflecting clouds… six blocks long some of them. All Lowell sings beneath our sight as we dance across the bridge. The flood is over. I look to see towards the Castle on Snake Hill and. I see the g-nomic old figure g-narled in its vlump on the keen desirable hill far away. Blazing heavens shine on its knobs.
The Castle is really deserted no one lives there – an old sign sags in the overgrown grass by the front gate – not since Emilia and her pals in the ’20’s did we see any signs of a car or a visitor or prospective buyer – It was a heap. Old Boaz endured in the woodsmoke cobweb hall – the only inhabitant of the Castle who could be seen with mortal eye. The kids who played hookey, and the occasional people who walked around in the moldy cellarly ruins inside did not realize that the Castle was Totally occupied – in the reality of the dark dust the Vampires slept, the gnomes worked, the black priests prayed their Litanies of the perfidious Damp, the attendants and Visitors of the Nark said nothing but just waited and workmen of the underground. mud local were ever loading trucks with bare shoulders below – When I walked on the Castle grounds I always felt the vibration, that secret below – This was because the location was not far from my birthplace hill Lupine Road… I knew the ground whereof I thought & tread. That sunny afternoon I visited the Castle, kicked at a broken glass in the side cellar window, and then retired to a bed of grass beneath a crabapple tree by the lower picket fence – from where I lay I could see, I could see the regal slope of the Castle lawns with their hints of last October’s ruddy-spot leaves (O great trees of the Versailles castle of our souls!  O clouds that sail our Immortalities that tear us to the Voom, beyond the ledge and massive widow, O fresh paint and marbles in a Dream!) – the gentle, graceful grass, the weaving waving in the drowsy afternoon, the kingly slump and slope of the earth of Snake Hill, and then sensationally out of the corner of the eye, a whole wing and corner and facade of the Castle – wild, noble, baronial home of the soul. This was an afternoon (of course) of such bliss that the earth moved – actually moved, I knew why soon enough– because Satan was beneath the rock and loam hungry to devour me, hungry to sleek me up through his portal teeth to Hell – I lay back and innocently in my boyhood barefoot sang “I got a nose, you got a nose, I got a nose, you got a nose” – Nobody passing in the road beyond the wall asked what I was doing there little boy – no paint trucks, no women with children – I was relaxed in my day in the yard of the homely old Castle of my play. Late that afternoon, almost dusk, very cold, I made my way down Snake Hill via the little cart road through the jackpines in the sand not far from the sooty old coal shute of the Centralville Bee Coal Company… – (that’s good enough)

“And after supper I went up there and I went on the sand banks and stood there and looked at the coal shack below..” – [reading continues but stops, and resumes after a reading from Old Angel Midnight]

At approximately twenty-minutes in, Kerouac begins reading from his long spontanous prose-poem, Old Angel Midnight

to be continued –  tomorrow – here


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