Gregory Corso loved Jack Kerouac and Jack loved Joan Haverty, his second wife, loved her at least for a month or two. Joan loved Jan Kerouac, their daughter, although Jack barely owned up to her. Jan loved her daddy. Joan Haverty said she had the same hands as her daddy, and he in his cups said that she could use his name to publish a book.
I met Jan on May 19, 1994 and instantly loved her a bit, myself.
It was outside of the Big Beat/ Kerouac Convention Craze. I was ambivalent about the whole thing and was not going to cough up $225 to get into the N.Y.U. conference, but I went into the city for the Town Hall reading and walked by, thinking that a door would open up for the likes of me. I had no ticket, but I saw a guy hanging out by one of the side entrances and he had a cardboard sign that said: Kerouac Gate, so I thought (delusionally) that the sign was semiotic; meaning: This is the gate to come through, the opening you were looking for – this was the gate to go through if you were ticketless. Holding the sign, it turned out, was the Kerouac-obsessed (He reminded me of A.J. Weberman the “Dylanologist”) Gerald Nicosia, whose 697-page tome, I had read in bits and pieces. He asked me if I wanted to meet Jan, another fucked-at-birth kid, who was sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette.
People up on stage, people in the audience, and me on the corner with Jan.
Nicosia explained the intricacies of Kerouac Gate: missing papers, Stella Sampas, wills, people snubbed, Jan shut out – it was a bit too much for me to process and besides many of you know all about this, or were at N.Y.U. for the week-long extravaganza or were at Town Hall that day. I couldn’t figure out if Nicosia had been boycotting the conference or trying to get in. I guess he was boycotting it because he couldn’t get in.
Boycotting like Mark and I had done to the Burroughs Nova Convention on December 3, 1978, even though it was two blocks from 1st Avenue and we could’ve gotten in one way or the other. Maybe it was cool not to go to something that cool, or maybe I couldn’t be that cool, or maybe I wouldn’t be that cool. Or maybe some other maybe.
We had moved in about six weeks before. Railroad flat six flights up. Formica floor, dinette with a sleeve and a fake chrome skirt. And from the street window, if you craned your neck, you could see the Empire State Building. We holed up that December with Mark’s industrial sized stash (long story, another time) of Dilaudid, Demerol, Morphine, and Dolphine. Enough for a chippie, even for two kids with the natural resilience of youth. We banged two deep dents in our arms.
All gone by the time Gregory moved in, in February of 1979. Gregory had cut the amp cord of Peter Orlovsky’s girlfriend, Denise Mercedes of the Stimulators’, Patrick Mack’s band, after unsuccessfully trying to drown out their practice by blasting Mahler’s 9th on Ginsberg’s phonograph. Gregory got kicked to our curb. He showed up on 1st, suitcase in hand, his fiancée Lisa and son Max in tow.
Fifteen years later and I was kicked to the curb with Kerouac. They wouldn’t let her in either. She looked ill and looped; Nicosia said something about kidneys but I made no further inquiries. Then she started talking about how she had kidney stones when she was in Peru in the early ‘70s or maybe it was appendicitis, but it was some kind of bad stomach pain.
“I went to a psychic surgeon, a shaman,” she said, smoking and crouching. I snuck a look at her hands. She was sitting on the curb with her feet tucked under her like real city kids do when they’re getting ready to play skelly or double Dutch.
“He made me drink some tea and then stuck his hands inside me and pulled out my (kidney stones? appendix?)”
She took another drag.
“I should’ve had him reach into my brain and do psychic surgery there. Pull out my daddy and my mother too, pull them both out of my brain.”
“Ahh,” I said: “You know it’s probably true for most people.” I don’t even know if she heard me; she was drifting off into her private past.
She said to the street: “There’s a point at which a bitch don’t recognize her pups, but pups they always recognize the bitch. People, we recognize the bastards too. And then we keep loving them.”
She stubbed out her cigarette and finally looked at me and did some psychic surgery on me: “I want someone who will leave me for more important things. You got anything important to leave me for?”
I understood it was a rhetorical question. But I answered anyway.
“Then I can’t be with you.”
I hung out with them for a while and then drifted off. Went and did something, came back.
I saw Gregory walk out of the side door, the Kerouac Gate door; I think he was with Allen. He had white hair and beard. I hadn’t seen him since ’86? More like ’87.
We shared a ride down to Horatio Street. In the cab, Gregory, for the moment in fine form, still caught in the thrall of adulation, did a side-splitting mind fucking diatribe on the cab driver. I would love to access it, but it’s hidden in the recesses. Something about how crack is actually better for you than snorting cocaine because processing it took the impurities out. And ending the routine with something like – “that’s right smack, shmeck, scag, horse, babanya, call it whatever you want, I call it dopey poo!”
When we got to Horatio St., he climbed up the six flights, stuck his white head out the window and dropped me down two bags of dope, dirty spring snowflakes, which I took back to my cottage on Long Island and, for the last time, got high.
Sixteen years after Mark and I boycotted Nova, and that was the last I was to see of Gregory, until, as he lay dying, Mark and I went to visit him.
It’s now been thirty-six years since we sat at the dinette on 1st and got off on Mark’s stash, padded across the slightly tilted Formica floor, threw open the window, and having been made impervious to the New York winter night, put our arms around each other’s shoulders, and craned our necks to watch the Empire State Building tint green and red. It started to snow slightly and the flakes falling past our faces seemed to sanctify the air: “Mysterioso,” I said, and we both shouted our hosanna, “FUCK NOVA,” to the denizens trudging six stories below.
Thirty-six years. Thirty-three years for Mark, if time stops when you do…
“Catch those you motherfucker!” cried Gregory as the dirty white flakes drifted down onto Horatio St on that May night.
“Catch you on the rebound Gregory,” I yelled back up to him.
(You too, Mark…)
Photo (c) D. Alexander Stuart, shared with CC license.
Short story by Ammon Baker.
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