If you've been following along, you know we recently finished summarizing Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums in one sentence per chapter. That project started on December 19, 2019; we accomplished approximately one chapter per day. Now that we're finished, I thought it would be interesting to string all those sentences together in one post, which in effect would summarize The Dharma Bums in 34 sentences. To wit, below are all 34 sentences in sequence. NOTE: You will need to click on "Read more" to access all the chapters.
After a long journey from Mexico, our narrator, Ray, hops a freight out of Los Angeles on the way to San Francisco, meeting a thin old little bum -- who carried and read daily a prayer by Saint Teresa -- who he shares his food and wine with before they go their separate ways in Santa Barbara after which Ray camps alone by the ocean in the sand at the foot of a cliff and enjoys some hot food, all the while contemplating the void from a Buddhist perspective.Chapter 2
After hitchhiking to San Francisco courtesy of a beautiful darling young blonde in a cinnamon-red Lincoln Mercury, Ray Smith meets the number one Dharma Bum, Japhy Ryder, then goes out to a bar with a bunch of poets preparing for a reading at the Gallery Six, exchanges Zen koans with Japhy, takes up a collection for wine to pass around at the reading -- an event that signaled the birth of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance -- and afterwards goes out for Chinese food with the poets, anticipating everything he has to learn from Japhy including how to handle girls.
Living in Berkeley with Alvah Goldbrook, Ray visits Japhy's spartan shack and catches him sitting crosslegged while translating Han Shan's "Cold Mountain" (this book is dedicated to Han Shan), accepts a cup of tea from Japhy and listens to a description of the tea ceremony, after which Ray weighs in on some of Japhy's translations and accepts Japhy's offer to climb the Matterhorn in the High Sierras with Henry Morley, listens to Japhy's critique of vegetarians, asks Japhy what "yabyum" is (Japhy promises to tell him later), and notes how this interaction had been quite different from the night at the Gallery Six.
Ray, Alvah, and Coughlin buy a gallon jug of wine and bust in on Japhy (who we learn attended Reed College with Couglin) in his shack, Japhy roars and leaps like a Samurai from his crosslegged position across the room where he lands in a fencing position holding a dagger and barely stabbing the jug with a "clink," they spend four hours gabbing and drinking, and Ray feels guilty for making Japhy miss his evening of study until the following night when Japhy appears at their cottage with a pretty girl who takes her clothes off at Japhy's request.
Ray tells about how previously, at Japhy's shack, a girl had shown up and asked to climb the Matterhorn with them, to which Japhy replied, "shore, come on with us and we'll all screw ya at ten thousand feet," the same spirit in which he now brings the girl, Princess, to Ray's and Alvah's cottage to demonstrate "yabyum" [Google it], which turns into a threesome and Japhy announces they'll do this every Thursday -- Princess says, "Yeah" and that she's a Bodhisattva, impressing Ray -- so Japhy explains sex in Oriental religion and then leaves with Princess, resulting in Ray declaring Japhy the "great new hero of American culture," after which Ray and Alvah argue about Buddhism and Ray prays that God, or Tathagata, will help him tell people what he knows so they won't despair so much.
Japhy goes to Ray's to collect him and his gear for the mountain climb, along the way Japhy tells Ray about his outdoor experiences, they pack at Japhy's and head to Henry Morley's cottage in Berkeley, they head out in Henry's "little English car," Ray describes the overtalkative Henry and some after-climb adventures with him, Henry regales them with nonsense on the drive, they stop at a bar full of hunters (opening eve of hunting season) for a drink (port), Japhy tells them about his upcoming trip to Japan and Henry regales them with more nonsense, they drive till 2 A.M. and decide to sleep in the woods because it's a long way to Bridgeport, but they discover that Morley forgot his sleeping bag so they all sleep under two sleeping bags on top of two ponchos.
Along their way in the morning the group eats bread and cheese, but Ray talks them into stopping at a lodge for a "man's breakfast," during which the waitress expresses disbelief that they were headed to climb the Matterhorn, the snow-capped peak of which they could see from their car a little bit later that morning.
It's Saturday and Ray and Japhy kill time in Bridgeport while Morley looks to buy a sleeping bag but he's unsuccessful so ends up renting a couple of blankets from the lake lodge, Japhy draws a magic Buddhist mandala in the road dust with his pickax to help them with the climb, they lock the car and start out walking down the lake road with their gear, Japhy tells Ray "comparisons are odious . . . it's all the same old void, boy," then after four flat miles they stop at the final little store at the foot of the trail and buy "candy and crackers and Cokes and such," Morley suddenly remembers he forgot to drain his car's crankcase and decides to head back to do that and catch up with them at their first camp, so Ray and Japhy start up the trail while talking a "blue streak," the lake begins to appear below them, they make up and trade haikus, and they stop by a "tremendous cataracting stream" where they dunk their heads and drink deeply of the cold water.
Ray and Japhy climb on, reaching a meadow with a pond, following "ducks" (cairns), eyeing the plateau above them that was their destination for the night (no crowds there like potentially in the meadow), then it's all jumping from boulder to boulder, and Japhy says the secret is "'like Zen. Don't think. Just dance along,'" and they talk less as they tire, Japhy goes on ahead without his pack to find the camp site, he returns for Ray and it takes an hour climb to the 30-foot square "huge gray rock" they camp next to, they drink Japhy's tea, Ray tells Japhy a prayer he says and Japhy writes it down in his notebook, they worry about Morley but finally hear a distant "'Yodelayhee,'" then they meditate on a promontory overlooking the whole valley listening to Morley's yodels, it gets dark and Japhy supposes Morley will have the sense to pitch camp for the night so they head back to cook supper, and it turns out Morley does just that, sleeping in his two blankets on his air mattress in the meadow far below them.
Japhy makes dinner at camp -- bulgur with vegetables, chocolate pudding, and tea -- and, as Japhy predicted, Ray forgets all about alcohol, they talk about characters they've known, Japhy gives Ray a set of juju beads (he is always practicing charity), Ray is inspired by Japhy to begin a new life and tramp all over the country with a rucksack "the pure way," after a night's sleep they yodel for Morley and hear his response, Ray washes his face in the cold creek, they can just see Morley far below, Morley starts spouting nonsense as soon as he is within talking distance, and he finds Japhy and Ray sitting on a sunlit rock waiting for him.
Starting out at noon and leaving their packs at camp, Japhy -- dressed only in a jockstrap -- leads Ray and Henry toward the summit, they marvel at the beautiful mountain lake at the foot of the Matterhorn (unseen by most men) at 11,000 feet, and with only a 1,000 feet to go Morley decides not to try it and wait at the lake, so Japhy and Ray start up the scree slope, but after some difficult climbing Ray gets scared by the height and wedges himself inside a ledge and yells to Japhy -- "I'm staying right here!" -- then Ray ponders a Zen saying ("When you get to the top of a mountain, keep climbing"), and when Japhy reaches the top Ray hears him yodel, but Ray considers Morely the smartest of them all and vows that they'll never get him up there again.
Ray is amazed by the wisdom Morely showed by waiting behind, but then sees Japhy literally running down the mountain and realizes "it's impossible to fall off mountains you fool," so Ray joins him and they surprise Morley at the lake, Ray tells Japhy when he saw him running down the mountain he suddenly understood everything and Japhy calls it a moment of satori, Ray expresses shame at not making it to the top, they head down and rest at the big rock where they have a little to eat and a lot of tea, they start down again in the moonlight leaping boulder to boulder, Ray can't go on because of his blisters so Japhy trades his protective boots for Ray's thin sneakers, they rest in the alpine meadow, Morley and Japhy talk a blue streak, they finally reach the car and their first stop is the lodge to return Morley's blankets, Japhy balks at the first place they stop to eat because he isn't dressed well enough, at the second they have a "raving great dinner," after which Ray buys a bottle of muscatel at a liquor store, and they drive back to San Francisco through the night "drinking and laughing and telling long stories," Japhy and Ray sleeping along the way until they reach Berkeley and Ray crawls into bed in his cottage and sleeps till late afternoon, arising to find the veins in his feet all cleared -- he had "worked the blood clots right out of existence."
Ray makes love to Princess at his cottage, then Ray and Alvah party with Japhy and Coughlin, they spout Zen nonsense while drinking wine, Japhy describes his vision of how the whole world is full of rucksack wanderers (Dharma Bums) who eschew materialism and stage a Zen Lunatic revolution, they talk about having floating zendos, the Zen talk gets a little more serious, Japhy gives Alvah life advice, the talk turns nonsensical again, Ray and Coughlin almost knock down the cottage wrestling, Morley shows up, Japhy leaves but promises to return in the morning to help Ray buy outdoor gear, Ray wonders about the point of it all, hoping he can find out at last from these Dharma Bums.
Ray intends to get all the outdoor gear he needs ("a regular kitchen and bedroom right on my back") to go off somewhere and find perfect solitude in order to "pray for all living creatures" ("the only decent activity left in the world"), so he and Japhy and Alvah shop for gear at Goodwill and Salvation Army and Army Navy stores in Oakland and at the Ski Shop in Berkeley, until he has acquired: assorted clothing and cookware, a new rucksack, snow glasses, gloves, poncho, polybdenum bottle, food wraps, shaker, and cutlery -- he feels like a new man.
Ray packs his rucksack and tries it out by walking around San Francisco, hangs out with some bums on Skid Row, decides to visit Cody and Rosie at her place, Cody worries about Rosie's mental health (she is convinced the police are coming to arrest them all) and talks Ray into staying with her while Cody goes to work, Ray tries to calm her down by explaining the Dharma, he goes out for wine and brings back some musicians, she seems better, Ray goes home when Cody returns, Cody sleeps and Rosie goes up on the roof and breaks the skylight to cut her wrists, a neighbor sends the cops, Rosie makes a run for the roof edge, a cop grabs for her but only gets her bathrobe and she falls six flights to her death, all of which pushes Ray to pack up the following week and hit the road, comforted by the thought that Rosie is now in Heaven and "she knows" the truth Ray was trying to teach her.
Before Japhy leaves, Ray and Japhy eat in Chinatown, see a street preacher, discuss Christianity v. Buddhism, see a new Buddhist temple being built, Ray tells Japhy goodbye, then spends a few days with Cody's family, helps Cody pray Rosie into purgatory, Ray hops a train to L.A. and hangs out there waiting to catch the 7:30 PM Zipper to Yuma, Arizona, meets an ex-marine bum carrying a slip of paper with a quote by the Buddha, the bum teaches Ray about standing on his head three minutes a day to cure thrombophlebitis (it cured the bum's arthritis and cures Ray in three months), Ray hops on an "eighteen-car sealed sonofabitch" by mistake and barely gets off before it is going too fast, spends the rest of the night miserable in the industrial jungle of L.A., then walks to the bus station and catches a 25-mile ride to Riverside, noting that "everything was far away from the easy purity of being with Japhy Ryder in that high rock camp under peaceful singing stars."
Reaching Riverside by bus, Ray wants to try out his new gear and camp out but is warned by someone at the bus station that the cops would arrest him, nevertheless he buys food at a supermarket and then bushwhacks through the woods toward the riverbottom under the highway bridge to a nice opening where he can't be seen, he sets up camp, stands on his head for five minutes to clear his head cold, remembers crying in L.A. the night before because "After all a homeless man has reason to cry, everything in the world is pointed against him," eats his food, prays and includes a little prayer for Rosie, spends a long time sitting crosslegged and meditating, sleeps well except for some bamboo joints under the leaves -- "Better to sleep in an uncomfortable bed free, than sleep in a comfortable bed unfree" -- wakes and makes up a little morning prayer, packs his gear, and washes up in a tumbling spring across the highway to ready himself for his "three-thousand-mile hitchhike to Rocky Mount, North Carolina" where his mother is waiting.
Ray catches various rides from Riverside all the way to the Mexican border and walks across to Mexicali where he is warned off sleeping in the riverbottom mudflats, eats some garbanzo soup, digs the people and places, recrosses the border at dusk, is searched by American guards, mistakenly thinks he can catch the Zipper to Colorado in El Centro (where he goes by bus), starts thumbing, gets a ride from a middlewestern man (Beaudry) who promises to take Ray to Tucson in his big truck if he shows him around Mexicali that night, Ray shows him a good time at the old saloons of real Mexico and a whorehouse, they cross back over and reach Tucson, Ray cooks him a big steak over a fire along the highway, Beaudry ponders his life compared to Ray's and offers to take Ray clear to Ohio, Ray has a Buddhist-tinged vision over the mountains of Alamogordo, they make only one overnight stop to sleep in a hotel in Independence, Missouri, Beaudry drops Ray off in Springfield, Ohio, Ray buys a bus ticket to Rocky Mount, changes his mind and tries to cash in his ticket but they won't do it, instead of waiting for the next bus he decides to hitchhike to the next town and catch the bus there, Ray finally reaches his mother's and looking at her he thinks of Japhy and decides that "People have good hearts whether or not they live like Dharma Bums. Compassion is the heart of Buddhism."
Ray sets up his sleeping bag on the couch on the back porch, and after his family members (mother, sister, brother-in-law, nephew) go to bed he returns to the meditation spot he created the previous spring in the woods under a pine tree, Bob the dog and some strays go with him, he meditates for an hour before returning to the house where he falls asleep in his bag, the next night enjoys Christmas Eve with the family, thinks of Japhy, spends the next week alone (mother at a funeral in New York and the rest working) reading and studying and meditating in his woodsy spot, makes supper for the family, puts up a basket and shoots hoops, and one night after pacing in the yard Ray experiences satori (sudden enlightenment) after which he goes inside and feeds the cat.
Ray continues to meditate in the woods and grow in his Buddhist understandings, while his brother-in-law is getting annoyed at him for hanging around and not working, and the "old tobacco-chewing stickwhittlers" Ray sees at the crossroads store are baffled by his eccentricities.
One day his nephew Lou visits Ray at his new meditation spot under a twisted twin tree by a brook, (Ray calls it "Twin Tree Grove"), Ray spends a lot of days meditating there with the dogs, one day he gets word that he got an assignment for the coming summer as a fire lookout in the High Cascades in Washington State, he gets into an argument with his brother-in-law about meditating as well as unleashing Bob the dog in the woods, Ray gets mad and stomps off to the woods where he decides he'll pack up and leave but changes his mind after meditating on the matter, deciding "I was hurting deep inside from the sad business of trying to deny what was," Ray tries to explain emptiness from a Buddhist perspective to his family but they wish he'd stick to the religion he was born with, Ray returns to the woods and ponders what he will tell Japhy back in California, Ray has a vision and another moment of satori in the woods, then he has a vision that leads to curing his mom's cough (his first and last "miracle" lest he become vain), and on his final night in the woods Ray sees "there was nothing to do because nothing ever happened, nothing ever would happen, all things were empty light," then the next day he packs up and starts hitchhiking back to California.
Living in Sean Monahan's spartan shack on a hill in Corte Madera, Japhy waits for Ray, who, after a peaceful winter of meditation, finds hitchhiking harder than ever, Ray takes a bus through part of Georgia and ends up staying in a four-dollar hotel when he can't get another ride, he gets scared by a ride with a drunk Southerner and decides to take the bus to El Paso and then hop Southern Pacific freights, has the most beautiful sleep of his life in a sandy arroyo beyond the El Paso trainyards, eats canned pork and beans for breakfast, decides to camp there another night while he enjoys Juarez, leaves his pack in a train station locker and drinks and smokes marijuana in Juarez, and then returns to sleep in his sandy spot in the desert where he listens to "the mysterious roar of silence itself."
With eight dollars of cash left, Ray hitchhikes out of El Paso, earns four dollars in New Mexico for helping move a piano, pays for a ride with a big Texan all the way to L. A., explains Buddhism to a poor Mexican couple riding with the Texan, walks to the railyards where a cop chases him away, comes back and hops a train right under the cop's nose, hops off in Santa Barbara for a swim at the beach and some food, then hops a flatcar on the Midnight Ghost to sleep all the way to San Francisco with a dollar left and Gary* waiting for him at the shack.*NOTE: This should be Japhy, but it is Gary in the text as this was a publishing error and they forgot to use Gary Snyder's pseudonym in this one instance.
Ray arrives at the Corte Madera home of joyously living carpenter Sean Monahan, whose rustic 3-room cabin (where Japhy is staying in one room) sits high on the hill behind Sean's house, Ray starts a pot of New England beans on the shack's woodstove, Japhy arrives after work and tells Ray about all the parties they will have there, Ray learns that all he has to do for his "keep" is cut firewood, Japhy tells Ray about Desolation Peak where Ray will be stationed as a fire lookout that summer, they discuss Japhy's disenchantment with Zen, Japhy tells Ray his sister Rhoda is in town, Ray and Japhy get a little out of sorts so Ray meditates outside in the trees, and in the morning Ray awakes to Japhy yelling, "Come on, boy, your pancakes are ready!" accompanied by the Buddhist "I take refuge in . . . " chant.
After breakfast, Japhy and Ray split logs, Sean's wife Christine feeds them lunch, Japhy expounds on Buddhism, they have a big Saturday night party (with naked dancing girls), when couples pair off Ray goes to his sleeping bag under the rosebush to sleep, the party continues into Sunday (people in Sean's house, the yard, or the shack) -- Princess, Alvah, and Warren Coughlin show up -- these kind of festivities seem to go on every weekend and Ray always steals off for a nap, Ray has visions of Cody and Rosie, interacts with a hummingbird, one weekend Japhy's favorite girl Psyche shows up and Japhy makes her and Ray slumgullion and they borrow Sean's jalopy to go to the beach, Ray buys food for the shack and cooks for all the visitors (twelve at once in the shack on weekends), and Ray scares away some kids who had been throwing rocks on the shack roof by appearing at the door holding a black cat and saying in a low voice, "I am the ghost."
Because they are tired of parties, Japhy and Ray make plans for a long hike part way through the big farewell party for Japhy (who is going to Japan), Japhy's sister Rhoda and her fiancé visit, Ray finds Rhoda attractive but puts sex out of his mind again whenever he sees something like a dead crow in the deer park ("all of it comes out of sex"), preferring to meditate pretty much wherever he is with his eyes closed (nobody ever considers his behavior strange), the one time Ray does bring a women to the shack Japhy and a friend burst in dancing and laughing and drive the beautiful brunette away, Japhy is stern about things being "done right" (like sharpening an ax properly), Ray is impressed with the meals Japhy can concoct from his side of the food shelf, and sometimes Japhy can't find Ray because Ray is meditating outdoors amidst the deer and mosquitoes and doesn't reply to Japhy's "Hoo!"
When Japhy and Ray go into San Francisco to get haircuts and poke around the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores, Ray buys two poorboys of ruby port and gets drunk, Japhy and he get into an argument over Ray drinking too much so Japhy goes to a Buddhist lecture in Berkeley while Ray stays at Alvah's, then Japhy reappears after two hours drunk as a hoot owl because they were all drinking saki at the lecture and says Ray was right about drinking and they never had an argument again.
The night of the big party arrives, around Sean's roaring bonfire Cacoethes holds forth on the qualities of different contemporary poets, Morley shows up but just for a short time, wild dancing and nakedness ensues, Ray talks with Japhy's father, Japhy and Psyche have a disagreement, Ray tries to get her to come up the hill with him but she is out like a light, he eats alone by the fire, wonders about the pitifulness of human beings, and Japhy calls everybody to pancakes at 8 a.m. banging on his frying pan and chanting the "Gocchami" chant.
Japhy and Ray leave the still-happening party the morning of day three with their packed rucksacks, they hike the Marin woods talking about the future and about God and about Japan and about the coming rucksack revolution, they reach Muir Woods, they postulate what is happening back at Sean's, camp for the night at a National Forest camp, Japhy makes the best soup Ray has ever eaten, they go to sleep thinking about how soon Japhy will be far out to sea and Ray will be hitchhiking toward Desolation Peak, Ray has a vivid dream he tells Japhy about, they have crackers & cheese & salami for breakfast, they start hiking again and Japhy advises trying the "meditation of the trail," reach Laurel Dell camp at 10 and start for Stimson Beach at noon, they swim and then eat, Japhy tells Ray how happy he is they decided to spend the last two days hiking, and Ray notices Japhy getting sadder and sadder about leaving for Japan.
On the hike back from the beach, Japhy points out that trails are a metaphor for life, Ray goes on and on about wanting a Hershey bar, they reach the shack, Japhy goes out for groceries and brings Ray a Hershey bar ("greatest Hershey bar I ever ate") and red port (it's their last night home together), Sean and family visit them, the next day Ray gives Japhy a going-away gift of a little piece of paper on which he writes "MAY YOU USE THE DIAMONDCUTTER OF MERCY,"* Japhy and Psyche make love on the ship in his cabin and she almost doesn't get off in time (Japhy has to throw her ten feet off the ship on to the pier into Sean's arms), Warren Coughlin predicts Japhy's future in Japan, and Alvah concludes with "It all ends in tears anyway."
Ray says goodbye to Christine and heads north on the morning of June 18, 1956, walking and hitchhiking his way through Eureka & Crescent City & Grants Pass & Portland & Vancouver & Olympia, he takes the ferry across the Puget Sound to Seattle, he is impressed by the unbelievable mountains of the Northwest, gets a room in a clean skid row hotel, shops at Goodwill stores after a good long sleep, keeps walking and hitchhiking north and starts to feel afraid as he is really in mountain country now, noting the torrent of the Skagit River and cliffs on either side,
With a couple more hitchhiking rides, Ray arrives at Marblemount Ranger Station to spend a week at fire school, meets oldtimer ranger Burnie Byers who goes on about what a great lookout Japhy had been, Ray buys groceries and rides up to Diablo Dam with Happy the muleskinner in a truck to begin the trek to his lookout cabin on Desolation Peak, Ray takes the boat to the foot of Ross Dam to meet Happy with the pack mules, after a restless sleep on the Forest Service floats and Happy chiding him that he should have brought brandy with him, Ray heads out on the barge, almost falls in the lake getting off the barge with his groceries, then heads out with several mules with supplies while he and Happy and assistant ranger Wally ride horses, they get above the timberline and the rain changes to hail, they reach the "almost Chinese cabin" and it is a mess of mouse chewings and turds, Happy cooks supper, they get a night's sleep, in the morning Happy gives Ray one last piece of advice about not "answerin" his own questions, the windows howl, Ray spends the first day cleaning the cabin, that night he meditates outside and hears the packrats scratching at the cellar door, he wakes up in the middle of the night and is frightened by Mount Hozomeen staring in his window (the fog had lifted) -- "What a mountain!"
In the morning it's clear and Ray takes in the magnificent view from his "6600-foot pinnacle," does chores, identifies landmarks with his panoramic and firefinder, stands on his head outside on a burlap bag, realizes he is truly alone, can see Ross Lake in the afternoon when the low clouds disappear, his first sunset is unbelievable, he makes beef stew for dinner, often meditates (facing west), at night the deer come and eat leftovers he leaves for them, Ray sees the Aurora Borealis over Mount Hozomeen, all he has to do is watch the horizons for smoke and run the two-way radio and sweep the floor, gets new radio batteries by parachute, has visions of Avalokitesvara while meditating, makes Japhy's pea-and-bacon soup, takes two-hour naps each afternoon, and ponders the mysteries of life and death.
August arrives, Ray ponders the landscape and feels really free, it snows (and rains), Ray sees a rainbow three hundred yards from his door, it makes him pray and think of Japhy, mornings feel autumn-like, nights are cozy with hot chocolate by the woodfire, bears visit Ray's garbage pit, then just like that season is over, Ray has a vision of Japhy standing on Desolation Peak, Ray is inspired and says, "I have fallen in love with you, God. Take care of all of us, one way or the other," Ray starts down the mountain with his pack and says, "Thank you, shack," adding "Blah" -- which he knows the shack and the mountain will understand, and down the trail back to the world he goes.