COLUMN 108, AUGUST 1, 2004
(Copyright © 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)
DRINKING WITH JOHN KEROUAC IN A ROCKAWAY BAR
(Photo by Myles Aronowitz)
(Copyright - Myles Aronowitz)
wrote a book? So, what's the name of it??
summer's afternoon in the Sand Bar in the "50s, a fetid, open-aired
boardwalk bar at the end of Beach 116th Street in Rockaway, Queens,
just a short distance from where the sea begins. The last stop on the A train.
Nowhere to go but Europe from here. Hope you know how to swim, baby. The
weatherman says its going to hit 98 today. All around the round bar you see a
merry-go-round of misery, men with these ruined Hank Williams faces, women that
have so much ruin in their eyes you don't want to know what they have seen.
You can hardly move in here. You can hardly breathe. It's that crowded. Every
time you shift you find yourself plastered up against some older woman wearing a
bathing suit that looks like it came off of a Salvation Army rack. The Tom
Collinses are lined up like neat rows of soldiers with cherry red hats. Next to
them are bowls and bowls of stale pretzels. But they taste good with the wash of
They're cooking up hot dogs and hamburgers and Coney Island knishes on a huge, grease-covered hot plate next to the open door of the men's room. Got them sizzling on the grill. Jesus, look at that older woman's eyes darting over this way. She can't stop looking. Takes a sip from her Seven and Seven and looks over again. And that juke box! Listen to it. Someone played Don Gibson's It's Been a Blue Blue Day again. Give it a break, Goddam it! We're trying to drink in here. We're trying to survive. Look at the build on that woman. She may be old, but damn! She
.That's the shit
always drank. . .'
look bad in those tight jeans. Fills them out good. But, Christ, her face is
ruined. Just look at it. She's darting her eyes over here again. And look at
her smoking her ass off. She's going to kill herself. Sure is.
bartender. Fill me up again. Another beer, and give me a bump with it. A little
of that Jack D in a side glass."
the shit that Sinatra always drank. Kept him living that long. It's better
than wine. Look at this guy coming in. He looks like he's wearing only half of
his bathing suit it's hanging down so low on his ass.
fuck with me, man. Nobody better fuck with me."
will you listen to this guy and he has to be sitting right next to me.
fuck with me, man."
my cash now, bartender. Moving my shit down to the other end of the bar. Oh,
shit. I forgot my cigarettes."
are mine," the guy that was doing all the swearing says as he slides the
brand-new pack of Marlboros down
the bar toward him like a shuffle board puck he's getting ready to shoot.
want to fight over a pack of cigarettes, " he says as he rubs the palm of his
heavy hand over my outstretched hand.
So I move
down the bar. I'm still on the other side where I can see the older woman with
the darting eyes. She's been watching it all.
yell in here when they talk. That's the only way to talk in here. And as you
drink you hear whole passages of conversations floating around. Johnny Ace's
voice is coming out of the jukebox now singing Pledging My Love. A sailor
in white summer uniform gets up and starts to slow dance with an older woman
wearing a bathing suit. It stops the spin of the room for a moment, capturing it
all in a brief tableau of grief.
that guy over there, the one with the T-shirt on and the black pompadour.
Good-looking dude, but like the rest of the people who drink here he has that
hurt on his face. Who the hell else would come in here? We're all drawn here
like moths to a flame.
next to him is asking him questions. See him over there, the red-haired guy with
the thick black glasses. He's squinting like he can't see well.
wrote a book? Did you get it published??
all this noise here. It's hard to hear them. They're coming in broken up.
a few years ago."
red-haired guy looks like he's screaming now.
what's the name of it? What's it about??
Town and. . .The
Town and the Town and the City. It's about . . . It's about my father
dying in my arms, it's about all the shit I saw in my life."
hear him now. The jukebox is going full tilt.
They got Hank Williams on now: "He's only a tramp, a tramp on the
street. Once he was fair, once he was young. He was somebody's
darling, he was...."
about . . . "
can't hear you," the red headed guy yells.
fucking worry about what it's about, " the good-looking guy with the
pompadour flowing over his forehead says. And then he says to the red headed
guy, out of the blue, "I served our
country, did you??
did. Marines. Where did you serve??
the S.S. Dorchester when it was flying the red flag. You know what the red flag
were you in the merchant marine??
know what the red flag flying is? I asked you a question."
it's dynamite. It's a ship hauling bombs to the war front?
that's what I did, all right? See,
I missed the next trip out on it. You know how many went down with the
Dorchester that day? One thousand American boys torpedoed by Germans. So don't
tell me shit about you being a Marine. It doesn't mean anything to me. All
noise level is up now. The guy I moved away from is screaming again. And, Jesus,
look at this guy who just walked in off the boardwalk. He's swinging at people
at the bar for no reason at all. Oh, Christ!
read books?? the good-looking guy with the black pompadour is saying. "Do
you read books? Do you read books? Have you read Spengler? Have you read the
French poets? Have you read Verlaine?"
fuck you. Who are you to be on my ass about what I have read?? the marine is
saying. "You live around here? What's your fucking name??
John Kerouac. I live I live in Ozone Park.."
of the room roars on as he pushes back his bar stool and walks out toward Beach
116th Street. He looks over his shoulder once at the Marine, who is
signaling the bartender over for another drink. And then he disappears. He's
lost in the night now, on the road, half stumbling down Beach 116th
Street, the future King of the Beatniks heading home, heading toward America.
But he's lost.
it all with her darting eyes, all the misery that's going on here. Man, the
noise in here is killing me tonight. Move me over near her, bartender.
Copyright - Patrick Fenton 2004 ##
FOR AS LONG AS PEOPLE KEEP LISTENING TO BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, PEOPLE WILL WANT THIS BOOK
"A masterpiece!" --- SALLY GROSSMAN, widow of Bob Dylan's brilliant original manager, Albert Grossman.
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Duritz (he's the lead singer and writer for the famed
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. .It is a fasinating, insightful read. You are such a wonderful
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IN THIS 615-PAGE PAPERBACK, AL ARONOWITZ, ACCLAIMED AS THE "GODFATHER OF ROCK JOURNALISM," TELLS YOU MORE ABOUT BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES THAN ANY OTHER WRITER CAN TELL YOU BECAUSE NO OTHER WRITER WAS THERE AT THE TIME. AS THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED ALLEN GINSBERG TO BOB DYLAN, BOB DYLAN TO THE BEATLES AND THE BEATLES TO MARIJUANA, ARONOWITZ BOASTS, "THE '60S WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THE SAME WITHOUT ME."
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