Saturday, October 23, 2004


By Jack Random

On October 21, 1969, the summer of love was over. Woodstock was history. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were dead. Within a year, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were dead. A year later, Jim Morrison joined them. Chicago was the city of political corruption and police brutality. Boston was the home of racial strife. Painted faces of compassion walked the Avenue in Berkeley and the Haight in San Francisco. Student protestors had been beaten and gassed but they had not yet been shot dead by the guns of the National Guard. That was yet to come.

On October 21, 1969, the Jack of Hearts lay down and never rose again. The poetry of Zen, the bodhisattva of word jazz, the beat of the beats, the soul of a bum, the thumb of an endless highway, died in his sleep with $91 in his account, not a nickel in his pocket, and a belly full of Johnny Walker Red.

Jack Kerouac was a soldier in the army of social consciousness, a tireless fighter for truth, justice and the most illusive little gee god of all: enlightenment.

On the Road is his legacy, his guidebook for survival in an age of perpetual flux. Mexico City Blues is a prayer to the silent desert moon. And Dharma Bums is his epitaph.

All writers – especially the spoken word kind – are preachers, prophets and diviners of the human soul. The Jack of Kerouac was one of the finest of our times and, who knows, but of all times. He died at 49. He died before I even knew my name.

He understood that death was only a punctuation mark. He lived and wrote like a madman on a runaway train. He knew where he was headed.

He never wanted to be a legend. But, let’s face it, he could use the publicity.

Tip one to Jack tonight and toss a thought around.

Gather in comfortable places. Plot and commiserate.

That’s what Jack would have done.


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