Click-Clack-Paddy-Whack Meets Jack Kerouac on the Mer-O-Wac
The scene: In the imagination, but with combat boots on the soil, clearly, lugging the laptap across the land. Just out of lunch after getting my Chinese fortune cookie from this downtown rough spot in Lowell, Massachusetts, too dumb to realize I was doing the historic Jack Kerouac tour in some crude way, since he was born and raised in this half-priced-on-everything, that is, everything turned into a pawn-shop-of-a-New England industrial town. And I certainly don’t remember or have the cookie fortune now. Then when I stumbled upon a commemorative site, a classic red-brick river-walk territory of the National Park Service, or at least this part of town near the Merrimack River seemed to be, I stumbled upon the Jack Kerouac Mational Monument, or perhaps it was just a shrine, who knows? It all seemed very official. Paid for. Looks a lot like Stonehenge. With big horizonal cement slabs in half circles, trees growing old and wise. Worthy of the full respect of everyone. It was the year 2000. Bush had just been elected.
I’d gotten there how? By train out of Boston, I guess. I pulled a folded pouch of black, white, quite stained cloth from my backpack. I set it on a cement bench with various notebooks of poems, a backpack carting the PC, a compass, business cards, collected media, small piles of books for sale, a carved wooden “eagle” and, gotta have it, the Mythville logo, which is the image of a steer skull and the words Mythville.org, my brainchild just coming to being. An adaptation from a Georgia O’Keefe motif (traced it from a drawing myself … a red, white, black deathly image … when a friend saw it he said, “How unfortunate.”) But at that time, for myself, it said it all. Or so I thought. Really, the logo was just a “A premonition of anthrax,” I can now chuckle to myself, in the Mythville of my mind, on how that logo was devised nine months before September 11, 2001, but only a few weeks, if that long, after December 13, 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all Floridian dimpled chads null and void. That’s the kind of humor you find now. The ironic kind. With saturnine subtext. Oh well, satire never plays fair. All we really knew back then, the witches of Essex and myself, was there was going to be some serious hell to pay. “Some serious action,” this bizarre historian landlord in Ipswich would say, a year later, after the World Trade Center Towers were taken down. And the logo, the dot org, a network of one? What a gag! A serious non-prophet action, yes it is, yes it was.
Oh yeah, the scene, again: the Jack Kerouac shrine in Lowell, Massachusetts. Right by the river. Betwixt the satanic red-brick mills. The site is chosen now, for examination, because just eight years or so ago, as I write this, sometime after the so-called “election” of George W. Bush Jr. as national executioner, and just prior to the dawn of the new century, that is, January 1, 2001, I had accidentally found this place. Or, since there’s no such thing as an accident, it had found me. There I was, in a Chinese food restaurant in downtown Lowell, after coming out of the “T” station (Yes, I can see it, hear it now, the Dr. Sax sound echoing in the Lowell railway terminal, right along with the “On the Road” mementoes … and me regularly lugging it all over to the city center because, hey, it was something Kerouac would do. To see a woman. A witch ... to have her … should have saw it coming …. I didn’t really have that thought, however, until I opened up my fortune cookie and realized, like I say: I was “On the Road” to Mythville, on the way to the so-called Blakean “Palace of Wisdom.”
Yes, yes, certainly, it was a road of excess ... I just loved to wander all over New England, by car, train or, at best, by foot, to let the thickety mysteries of the Hub, for this transplanted Arizonan, find me.
So then, from downtown Lowell, I just got up, and started walking toward the Mer O Wac bridge, toward the home of this earth woman, a graphic designer and co-conspirator who had agreed to create a logo for the self-publishing effort ... the mission ... she had long flaxen hair, long flaxen body, as well … could it be an accident? Finding that place. Along the way, wham! A moment of complete synchronicity. I walk right up to the Kerouac shrine. Ker O Wac by the Mer O Wac. Never even knew there was such a thing. A veritable stonehenge for the New Journalism.
So now, the coffee is ready. Time for the imaginary press conference. The pouch, a pirate flag unfolded and draped over my shoulders, like a cape. An act of bizarre eccentricity worthy of a Lord Byron or Robert Bly. There are imaginary snickers all around, and I stand (the performance artist) on the cement benches there, part of the circuitous shrine, with big stone slabs circling me, each with bits of Kerouac’s writings, his poetry … imaginating a bunch of nobody listeners around me, listening to me, nobody, signifying nothing. I light up a cig, an Indian bidi, blowing out the smoke for effect. To make it worse, I stand on the center stool of the Kerouac shrine, and my voice begins to boom as the sound waves bounce around within this literary circle, standing on this sorcerer’s stump: "Click, clack, paddywhack, I just met Jack Kerou-oooooouuu-wack! Right along the Mer-O-Wack, the mighty Merrickmack," and so on, with nobody around to listen in, nobody to say, “shut up” … or, “I knew Jack Kerouac, and you ain’t no Jack, Jack.” Those not in audience, the members of the nobody press, would’ve just whispered sour nothings and giggled, but with the acoustics, if they really had been there, could hear the other: “What a piece of work! Standing on the shoulders of this giant, Kerouac! Indeed!”
Where am I now, or that is, where do we go? Nowhere, so much, because at the end of it all, it exists in each and everyone’s mind. The Road, that is. Think of it like the impossible endless search for the Holy Grail, negotiating the storehouse of each person’s personal mythology, where all of their angels and demons live. It’s the shining city of light. A place the imagination (and therefore the soul) can go into infinite directions. Just on the edge of touch, but certainly not your mind. For some people, it’s a whole barnyard of beings and deities, gods and their avatars. To meet the Ethereans, perhaps, at first. To ask for their guidance … all quite within the literary tradition of summoning the muses … yes, yes ….
There’s a code for this quest. Comes in handy. Comes in studying the land, the symmetries of it all, the way the old Freemasons even lined up the old North Shore lodges, leaving clues in the aging stone bridges crossing the river in Haverhill, Lowell, North Andover … Ah yes, code is law ... just follow the sun east to west, note the charted streets, the compass-like points of civilization. The passwords are being all handed out now, then, to all of the nobodies there. Indeed it is. Just like the Da Vinci code, too, but in this case it’s a real story of that search? Some of it perhaps. But it’s all a lost doggy story, too, really. Of a borderline perp trying to find his own little lost doggy. Yes, yes … explains the pain … the loss, the endless searching .... You do need to be able to work your machine to get to my machine and then download either an e-book or print-on-demand book, or fuck’n’hell, just read my mind. It’s all tipping over now … pouring out.
So the code is the computer, the ghost between the digits one and zero, and all of these digitized geeks, who like to read about wizards, the enviro digeratis, the online sorcerers, all of those not in the audience … except, perhaps, as, well, kind of personal pathway: The road to superinformation. Like Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.”
The road could’ve begun, a ticket for a tricked up mule born then bought on the Smolak Farm in Andover, actually, when I had a long discussion about rabbits. Actually, books with “Sully,” as in author William Sullivan, who wrote numerous short, somewhat quirky, oddly sinister children’s books. It was the fall of 2000. Election day was looming. It was a beautiful day. Picking apples, wandering through the trees, picking a pumpkin with my little girl. Talking of wolves and rabbits. Then I met “Sully” and saw what he was trying to do, and is still doing, writing fairy tales about rabbits and a whole barnyard of his own characters. I was the senior editor for Access Internet Magazine, with its 11 million readers, weekly, another kind of content farm, and I suddenly realized the connection between the mythological constructs of William Blake and the hierarchical order of the online, and therefore, real world. And more than that, what it might mean for a self-publisher of numerous, smaller, shorter, more digestible reads. In other words, making e-books, William Blake-style. Some dumb idea, huh?
But, actually, the experiment in experiential literature all started,
also, with a pirate flag. That is really the crux of the whole thing. That was my first logo. The Jolly Roger.
What kind of Peter Pan fantasies are we talking about here? Now? No, that’s right … I remember ... That medium was the message. The pirate flag was the crux of the whole thing, the Skull & Crossbones vibe back then. A kind of upgrade from the X-files journey of the 1990s … the pirate flag … the crux … the whole thing. Oh well, maybe I really should backtrack? Provide even more back story before the Bush era even begins? When moving through a lot of the ephemeral stuff quickly, we are well advised to keep the mind still and the eyes sharp. The truth will fly right past you.
Okay, so there’s the election. I voted for Nader. Who knew? Then, this long period of a couple of weeks, then a month, then six weeks of nobody knowing who the hell is in charge anymore, right?
Then came a solar storm … A solar storm hit New England. I looked it up. Nobody believed me, except for a lady in a gas station pay counter near the freeway in Andover. A lake of fire in the sky, over Lawrence. I thought the whole place was ablaze with lightning. Yes, yes, that was the first day of forty days of fire that I can count, forty days of rain …
Look it up yourself, a freak solar storm hit New England, the whole earth, really, from that point, sometime between the election and December 13, 2000. Apparently, it was the end of a 13-year cycle of unusual solar activity. My theory is that it sent vibrations turbulatin’ on into the very core of the earth. I was certainly feeling them: After the Supreme Court had ruled to decide the election, I just broke loose. I wanted nothing to do with this country, or, any other. It was as if a bolt of lightning had briefly lit up every one of our institutions and revealed, for just one brief flash of X-ray, every one of our major institutions as faulty, frail and hopelessly corrupt. For me, looking at it from the dark, wintery, London-esque Mordor of Boston, one big, giant, monstrous … well … one big complete bogus ... Mythville. Not that there was much of an audience for this kind of publishing, expression, through the blogs and so on … a specialized audience, indeed. Audience? At that point, I was just one guy with a blogger … A voice crying out in the wilderness …. Yeah sure, that’s what we all believe, but like the ancient Google myth, it’s really just endless pourings of pitchers of water into a crack in the earth, an attempt to cool off the planet, or heat it up, who knows? … So, as my world was coming apart, and I was determined to tap out of the system, especially creatively, in pursuit of this self-publishing, self-expressive dream, I decided I needed to network with like-minded people.
So, what I did was …. And really, trust me, I’m not this person anymore … I took the pirate flag, which I intended to give to my future-ex-father in law for Christmas, and I hung it out to flap in the breezes on the front porch, right out there to challenge the American flags, innocuous sailing flags, and so on … for whatever reason, people in New England alll have flag mounts on their porches. I wanted to signify to anyone who might get the code: Panic! Panic! It’s time to take action. It’s time to be a pirate.
But action came from unexpected quarters: My wife threatened divorce , then followed through with those threats. My in-laws, Sicilian mob-style, tried to get me kicked out of our place there in North Andover. They called the cops. Stirred up the neighbors. Threatened to send thugs over to kick me out. Took the family car, a kind of wedding gift, away, leaving me wheeless. Once, when I had left the home, they snuck into the basement and pulled out all of the fuses, leaving the place completely dark. I guess they figured I would never be able to get the old place back up and running. In fact, I’m pretty damned good with matters electric. They called the landlord and said I was burning candles in the house and leaving wax all over the place, like some kind of creepy Vincent Price.
O sure, there were candles … Yes, but I only burned them at dusk, as a ritual before more writing and blogging and so on. I was in mourning: Look, I'm not saying I wasn’t getting a pretty weird ... approaching the borderline … yes, well past, already, by the time I … I was just expressing the anxiety and turbulance I was feeling all around me. For God's sake. It was the year 2000!
Since both misery and mystery love company, some pretty cool people got curious about what I was up to, and started to come over to the house. I’m sure this sudden new type of gathering in the neighborhood only served to stir things up even more. By this time, the North Andover police really wanted my ass in a sling. One cop, a long-timer macho kid, who lived as a townie all his life, came over, and asked me, after I smarted off about “search and seizure” and some such lunacy, he asked me if I was a lawyer. I said “Yes, I went to Harvard law school.” It was true. What I didn’t say was it was only for one day to attend an Internet-related conference on MP3s and Napster. Anyway, I was obviously going head-to-head with the Gillette crate-packing mentality around there.
That’s when I really started to meet the witches of Essex county, too. They would come over, hang out. I would play loud music and try to describe what, exactly, was going wrong with me, trying to gert off medication I had been prescribed for my ADD … and they’d get to play the healers …. People from a salon in North Andover. In fact we had designers, Webmasters, entrepeneurs, like-minded folk came over, too … but there was a strong New Age vibe …. This Reiki therapy trainee came over and practiced on us, for myself, something of a hallucinatory experience. Was it Mesmer or was it Memorex, who cares? It was a real salon, Parisian style, and I was that cat Cagliostro. Or, at least one of them: the millenial metrosexual man. It only lasted for a short while, though, a few weeks at the most ... it was short-lived because I had decided to get out of there. The Sicilians around the corner, my former New England family fully militarized against me, were getting to be too much …
The whole plan was to end up in Telluride, Colorado, writing my tales from my heart-home, anyway. So with so many problems for me in the neighborhood, my pending divorce, and all of the lousy bitterness and stupidity that entailed, I decided to leave, going back to my friends in the mountains of southwestern Colorado. From there, at about 9,500 feet in altitude, I launched the first incarnation of my brainchild, my Frankenstein, my personal obsession, this text, my message to you, dear reader … and Bush had just been elected … the dot-com bust just a few months away …
Then, I lived in Telluride for a year, then came back to New England, living in Ipswich this time, in order to clear up legal stuff related to the divorce. But right as I moved back, this time to Ipswich, September 11 changed everything. I was living in Concord, Massachusetts, home of the first “shot heard ‘round the world” on the day of the attack. All I can most clearly recall is the complete silence of the skies to the east, over Boston, where the hijackings and subsequent attacks had begun.
I moved to Haverhill because it was cheaper, times getting tough, setting up a small metamedia bookstore right there on the street. And, of course, I always put my pirate flag out on the window to attract like-minded people and ward away the foul spirits, too. Artists. Writers. Programmers. Scammers. Lunatics wandering that unwalled insane asylum called Haverhill. Perfect town for people with Peter Pan fantasies in their heads. Lot of Captain Hooks floating around up and down the main old downtown quad, home of Arichies’ Comix, Viet Nam war vets, most likely … up and down the street drinking beer and me bashing away on my laptop in the Irish bar downstairs. I loved that place. A writer’s place, that bar, for this message to you, dear reader.
Please keep on, see … I almost starved. Trying to sell e-books and print-on-demand poetry is not, exactly, the stuff of commerce, you’ll no doubt find. You can only go so far with a pirate flag in your shop window, as well. But the public doesn't give a fuck about even the shadows flickering on the wall anymore. So until they do, it’s to thine own self be true, with time still to hope everybody else eventually realizes the only actual political boundary, that of Gaia, is both rock, living and atmospheric in nature and moving, through space, on the moment at perilous speeds ... the road going onward … the little doggies as lost as ever … and the weather spinning madly about … heated by the undulating currents beneath the overheated earth …