Henry didn’t have any friends and he liked it that way—well, he had Ruby his waitress and May at Siam Massage, but the relationships were based on money exchanged for food or sex.
He was out there, a few million miles out, freakish, a rare duck. Every month the shrink at welfare would say, “Henry have you made any friends? Remember good friends don’t let you do crazy things!”
The shrink doesn’t know anything about me, I’m here because I’m crazy, I get paid welfare money every month because I’m crazy, if I wasn’t crazy I would have to get a job which is out of the question, I’m a creative writer, being a working stiff would break my visionary green twig.
Night creeping up on the city, Henry itching to get out and walk. He would go to Chaim’s Deli and nosh.
In his usual booth, Ruby his regular waitress who had a crush on him says,” Henry I have given up on you, you are a nut job, you have the emotions of a five year old, you are blank emotionally, you are a drug addict, I don’t want you anymore.” He says, “ Ruby you know me well, can I have a corn beef and pastrami extra lean on pumpernickel, some fries well done and a Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola?”
After dinner leaving the deli, walking though the Bowery smoking a joint, just wanting to get through without getting hassled by the bums.
The bums know their place in the food chain, at the bottom but they're highly evolved—They only care about the next drink, they don’t care if people think they are crazy, they don't care about love. It's all about stoking the fires of the high with whatever fuel they can get their hands on, by any means, it's the bum’s creed.
He had heard the great Jack Kerouac was reading at the “Gaslight Cafe,” a hangout for beats and literati, Kerouac had hung out there for years. It was a non publicized reading, first come first serve, only a few lucky folks knew, Ruby had overheard customers talking about the reading.
Henry at the “Gaslight Cafe” early, at 830PM, sitting at the bar, no cover charge. Within minutes an ocean of people swarmed the place, they had to bolt the double doors at the entrance to keep people out.
Henry eyeballing the place, noticing that Kerouac was siting at the bar drinking a few barstools away. Kerouac in his late forties, looking haggard, drinking gallons of cheap wine in his life, like the bums or hobos he idolized and wrote about in "The Dharma Bums," to escape from something, something that only he knew.
Kerouac makes his way to a small black podium not far from the bar. Squinting in the harsh light, he tells the bartender to dim the lights and bring him a drink, then saying, “ I dig jazz, I can remember hearing jazz for the first time when I was at Columbia, walking the streets at night as sounds start to come from a nightspot, filling me with a yearning for an intangible joy—it was jazz baby.”
Henry felt empathy with the great Kerouac, the beatnik walking the city streets at night like Henry did, wasted and looking for signs of weird life on the streets to write about.
Kerouac shuffling through papers, poems typed on yellow paper, typed out jazz riffs, it was his stuff, sacred dogma a million years old.
“Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.”
Reading from an old tattered copy of his book, “On the road.” He used language like it was a saxophone or a bongo drum, as though he invented onomatopoeia, inventing rhythmic words.
Writing like Whitman, great like Whitman.
“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”
The reading winding down to a whisper as Kerouac evaporated in cloud of smoke, disappearing like a ghost.
Henry didn’t remember going home that night, the Jack Kerouac reading taking everything out him.
Kerouac the 20th Century Lao Tzu knowing that—
Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.