On Mexico City Blues (22nd Chorus)

“The fantastic steelsmoke..” – Southern Pacific Railroad

Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues continues  from here

AG:  And 22nd Chorus:

“Saved my bhikkucitos/for the holy hair/ that was found wanting in merde air -” – (In shit air) – ‘Ninety devils jokin with me/ And I’m running on the catwalk/ At Margaritee/ Jumping from car to car/ In a 60 mile freight/ Runnin up the pass maw/Tunnel Gore waited Ore/ The fantastic steelsmoke/In choke made tunnels/of Timbercountry Calif./where if I’d-a fell,/ I’d a fell on peb pebbles/of sore iron grit,/of hard put to it/Importunate fool that I was,/I raved to fight Saviors/Instead of listening in/To the Light – still a fool.”

So he’s describing here trying to be a hard iron fool raging in the gloom like he had in “Western Sorcery is Sad Science,/…Hard iron fools raging in the gloom.”  [21st Chorus]  He’s describing his time working on the railroad in California near (Santa) Margarita, which is one of the stops on the Southern Pacific Railroad – “Margaritee.”  – (Margaritee, Margaritee – T-E-E – working as a brakeman on the railroad)

“Ninety devils jokin with me/ And I’m running on the catwalk/At Margaritee/ Jumping from car to car/In a 60 mile freight”- (train) – “”Runnin up the pass maw’ – (Maw, or mouth, of a pass) – “Tunnel Gore waited Ore” – (I guess an ore train going through the tunnel) –

‘The fantastic steelsmoke/ In choke made tunnels/ of Timbercountry Calif./where if I’d-a fell/,I’d a fell on peb pebbles/ of sore iron grit,/of hard put to it” – (“sore iron grit,/of hard put to it”  –  that’s a funny American-ese phrasing.  That would sound also good in Tennessee)

“I’d a fell on peb pebbles/ of sore iron grit,/of hard put to it/Importunate fool that I was,/ I raved to fight Saviors” – (To fight against Saviors) – “Instead of listening in/To the Light – still a fool”

So is this beginning to make sense as autobiographical, historical?  Autobiographical -the tone is autobiographical.  Interior monologue.  Americana.  Buddhist themes.  Personal family history themes which come out more and more.  Reference to friends.  And a lot of talk about the suffering of existence, most of it.  The suffering of existence and the emptiness or ultimate dissolution into suffering and death, by death.  Or by some illumination of fact that we actually do not exist – there is no self.  And that’s the basic theme that runs all through it.

Almost seven, so I should stop.   Is this interesting, or is this boring?

Student: Some of it’s interesting
AG:  We need copies (of the texts)
Student:  Some of it’s interesting.
AG:  We need copies, then.  It’d be more interesting if we had copies.  So I’ll chase around tomorrow.  Or maybe you can do it yourselves.  Do you all know the different used bookstores here?

The remainder of the class consists of the names and a discussion of the local (Boulder, Colorado) bookstores, how to obtain books.   Tape (and the October 8, 1981 Kerouac class) ends here  

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-one minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape

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