Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1968

1968 Mercury Colony Park Wagon

On this date -- December 5 -- in 1968, Jack Kerouac wrote to Tony Sampas, brother of Jack's wife, Stella. That same date he wrote Tony another letter dictated by Stella. These are the last two surviving letters from Kerouac in 1968.

In Jack's letter to Tony, he wrote a description of their move from Lowell to St. Petersburg in a "Lincoln Mercury stationwagon" driven by Red Doherty and Joe Chaput with Jack's mom (Mémère) on a mattress in the back with Stella on pillows and two cats ("with pre-tranquilized catfood"). Their furniture followed in another truck driven by Jim Dumphy.
I stayed awake all the way, drinking and yelling and playing harmonica and watching that old road, as usual, and I insisted on riding shotgun near the window because I told old Joe he was skinnier than I am, and Red was skinny--We piled right in--I was amazed when I thought of it a week later--Of course it cost money but we got here safe and fast like a long, soft river . . . . (p. 526)
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999)

Can't you just picture it? Jack says they went 90 most of the way and made it in less than 24 hours. They got stopped for speeding in South Carolina but the cop took pity on them when he saw Mémère and Stella and the cats in the back.

Once they got to St. Petersburg, Jack put Red and Joe up in a motel for a couple of nights while they waited for Dumphy, who had lost his way. They
went out and played pool and drank by the Gulf of Mexico waves at the Red Barn club, Red Doherty played partners all night with a cute young women detective (!) but me and Joe won most of the games . . . . (p. 526)

There's still a Red Barn Tavern in St. Petersburg at 5300 Haines Road North, but I doubt if it is the same place -- it's 5 miles from 5169 Tenth Avenue North where Jack and Stella and Mémère had mid-November 1968, but it's not "by the Gulf of Mexico waves."

Speaking of young women detectives, I am reading the first of Michael Connelly's Detective Renee Ballard series, The Late Show. It's not Kerouac, but it's pretty good.

What were you doing on December 5, 1968? I was about to become a teenager and had no idea Jack Kerouac existed, although at some point I may have seen his name in the Playboys we hid from our parents. We didn't read the articles . . . .

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