Thursday, February 25, 2021

Rush Limbaugh and Me

Let’s start this with a painful confession: 


During my late teens and early twenties, I listened to Rush Limbaugh. I even enjoyed him. And some other talk radio guys too. I wasn’t a rabid fan or anything, but...

I am embarrassed now, of course, but I thought I might explain a bit of why I was how I was at that time in my life, and what eventually changed my mind. 

[On a related note, I have already confessed that at that time in my life I knowingly violated my Christian beliefs by voting for the anti-immigrant Prop 187. Even more than Limbaugh, that choice haunts me today.]

In retrospect, it was Limbaugh who paved the way for Trump. He made being mean and nasty toward women, LGBTQ people, minorities, immigrants, and “liberals” socially acceptable. He made he American Right about tribes and not principles, about the Culture Wars™ first, last, and in the middle. He stoked a sense of grievance and “us versus them,” lied without the slightest qualm or apology, and spit on the very idea of democracy. Those “Trump 2020: Fuck Your Feelings” flags didn’t come out of nowhere. Decades of Limbaugh and his imitators fed that. And now he is a patron saint both of what has become of the Republican Party and of white Evangelicalism. 

 I kind of recall this as one of the incidents that turned me off from Limbaugh.


So, why did I get into Limbaugh? There are several factors. 

1. The Conservative/Evangelical/Homeschool/Culture War Subculture. 

There are very few white conservatives who grew up in either the homeschool subculture or the Evangelical subculture who did not listen to Limbaugh at least a little. Particularly the males, for obvious reasons. He became part of the subculture along with other voices like James Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly, and (in the case of homeschoolers) Michael Farris. Limbaugh was part of shared culture for us the same way that, say, Nintendo or The Simpsons were for our secular peers. It was in the water, and felt normal. 

2. Limbaugh fit our existing political views - and prejudices

As I have come to realize, while Limbaugh was “meaner” on the surface than people like Dobson, Schlafly, and Farris, they all agreed on politics. And as has become obvious in the Trump Era (and in the era when the internet lets you see what they wrote back in the day), all of them are or were deeply racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homo- and trans-phobic, and hostile to all religious beliefs different from theirs - Fundamentalists were the only true Christians, and thus the only people who should have a say in our society. 

Limbaugh didn’t feel that new or different - except in style - because all of his beliefs were already ones we had been taught all our lives: minorities are poor because they are lazy or have sex too much, women are happier as stay-at-home-mothers and Feminism ruined everything, gay people are child molesters, liberals want to kill babies and are evil people, the New Deal was a mistake, AIDS is god’s punishment on gay people, Muslims are evil, and so on. Limbaugh just said out loud what we already said among ourselves. His worldview WAS our worldview already.

Because I didn’t really learn the other side, wasn’t much around people on the other side, and didn’t have much contradictory life experience, it was all too easy to just nod along with Limbaugh. This was particularly so after we left Los Angeles and a multi-racial church, and ended up mostly around other white conservative Evangelicals. 

3. I was a certain age, shall we say

Late teens and early twenties. And male. Sigh. When everything is black and white with no shades of grey. When you are hungry for easy, pretty answers to life’s problems and uncomfortable truths. When you are between childhood and true adulthood. 

Oh, and I had a few other things going. We joined a nasty misogynistic cult which taught that people shouldn’t go to college. (Hey, you lose your faith, and will probably turn gay!) While the leaders paid a lot of lip service to “apprenticeship,” what that really meant in most cases was that young people were unpaid volunteers for the organization. Heck, our parents PAID so we could do that. Law School was my only ticket to higher education - because it was part of the cult. I took my chance, and here I am. It worked out, but I did not have a choice of careers. Not in any meaningful sense. (My parents will deny this, but the rule was if an older child went to college, the whole family got kicked out. That was impressed on us adult children strongly by the cult leaders.) The law school didn’t even start until nearly a year after I had graduated high school, so I had an aimless year with no real prospects. This also meant that I had a lack of direction in my life - I worked hard at freelance jobs and music, but didn’t have a normal world open to me. 

Along with that came the teaching about courtship, which meant dating in the traditional sense was out. My wife and I made it through that anyway, but only after we had both moved out. So what you had was a young man with an uncertain path forward in life, no romantic or sexual outlet, and a sheltered circle of acquaintance. Limbaugh and doctrinaire right wingery filled a gap. 

4. Limited life experience

It was a LOT easier to believe in the “Conservative Fantasy World” when you had little experience of the real one. Just saying. 

5. A need to find a pretty explanation for unpleasant truths

Why are the poor poor? Why is there so much inequality? Why is that inequality strongly connected to race here in America and abroad? Why do women earn less than men? Why are people gay? These questions are problematic. And when you are young and idealistic, you want explanations and answers to tough questions. And Limbaugh was right there (alongside the Fundie leaders) to supply easy, pretty answers to ugly questions. People are poor because their women don’t keep their knees together. Poor people are lazy. Whites are just inherently superior, and the government should stop pretending otherwise. Women were created to be homemakers, not wage earners. Gay people rejected god, and that’s why they are gay. 

That these answers were utter bullshit didn’t become clear to me until later. They were satisfying at the time. It was so nice to believe that the world and our society in particular were essentially just, and that the supposed injustice that was increasingly apparent was just karma - social darwinism really - doing god’s will. 

6. Rush could be wildly entertaining at times.

Sure, a lot of the humor was mean and bullying. But some of it really felt like “punching up.” For example, I still rather dislike Bill Clinton. He had that tall, good looking, southern white boy thing going, and irritated me at a visceral level. So it was funny to poke fun at him. And he - like Trump - fucked women with impunity and left them to pay the price. But this was all before Trump, so we could believe Republicans were different. (And then Gingrich went down, and…) There were some parody songs that were hilarious at the time, but have aged badly. Particularly since everything the American Right says turns out to be projection. But it was entertaining. He was talented at what he did. 




What changed my mind? Why am I not still a “dittohead”? 


As I said, I wasn’t exactly a rabid fan - I listened when I was driving somewhere at that time, not as a regular daily thing. And more often than not, his West Coast broadcast time was 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM - live across the country - which didn’t line up that often with when I was driving. And I had studying to do too. (See below for who I did end up listening to a lot longer than Rush.) I think the last I actually listened to national political talk radio was sometime around when our second kid was born? I can’t entirely remember. It just kind of faded away, for reasons. (I listened to - and still occasionally do - a couple of reasonable, local personalities if they have a guest on that I know or something like that. One guy featured our conductor, and a local artist, and so on.) 


Here is what I think happened:

1. I got a normal job

No time to listen to talk radio when you have to, you know, work for a living. Lawyering doesn’t fit well with listening to stuff, except over lunch break. So if for no other reason, I didn’t have the time. 

2. Life happened

It became increasingly untenable to live in the Conservative Fantasy World once I grew up and had to live in the real world. Making $19.00 an hour doing part time work with no benefits - as a freaking lawyer - was a wakeup call. Government jobs, such as at the DA’s office eventually pay, but start out surprisingly low. (People think lawyers make a lot - statistically, some do but most make less than people think.) I ended up spending several years with no health insurance, and really had to live frugally to be able to pay my bills. 

I met and eventually married my wife, and discovered that either she was a freaky exception to the general female rule, or, more likely, that I had been fed a bunch of anti-feminist horseshit. (It was the latter, believe me.) In fact, the best decision I ever made for my marriage was to jettison every last toxic teaching on gender differences that I grew up with. 

I had an intersex client, which started me on a journey of reconsidering everything I was taught about gender, sexuality, and identity. 

I started working with impoverished clients in my first legal job, which revealed the whole “poor people are lazy” trope to be false. 

Having kids made clear that the authoritarian, power-based dynamic that Dobson and Gothard pushed just didn’t work. (Our second kid was fully capable of starving herself to death starting at age two.) The idea of bending the will toward obedience - so as to train a child in unquestioning obedience to dogma and church authority - was never going to work for us. 

Life happened, and it didn’t fit the Conservative Fantasy World. It became increasingly obvious that Limbaugh, Gothard, Dobson, Schlafly, and Farris were lying to us. Lying to everyone. 

3. My circle of acquaintance greatly expanded

There is a reason that cults try to isolate members from others. And in this sense, white Evangelicalism is a cult very similar to Gothard’s cult. Some homeschool for defensible reasons - one size doesn’t fit all. But the movement as a whole has long been all about isolating children from people different from them...well, more like different from their parents. If children don’t ever hear competing ideas, make friends with people outside their socioeconomic and political bubble, and don’t grow up having to empathize with other people’s experiences, then, well, they are easier to indoctrinate. (In theory.) 

In my case, my circles were broader before age 16, very narrow for a time, and then expanded after I left home. Coincidentally (or not), this was also when I was in to Limbaugh - that period of isolation. 

But definitely, meeting people outside of the bubble really helped change my mind. Talking with people from Europe, who pay far less for healthcare, and get months of vacation time to come here and see our national parks. Talking with people who grew up under Jim Crow - and can see that segregation in fact still remains. Talking with people who work service-sector jobs, and seeing how necessary social programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps were for their survival. Talking with undocumented immigrants (like I did as a child too.) 

Making friends with LGBTQ people. And hearing how they had been assaulted and insulted and harassed. 

Making friends with liberals, and realizing that they were not at all how they were portrayed.

And, maybe even most of all, listening to my right wing friends and family as they started to sound more and more like Limbaugh and Trump - and nothing whatsoever like Jesus Christ. Hearing - really hearing - the hate is what finally pushed me out of Evangelicalism altogether, and has been a significant factor in relationships that have either died or been wounded during the Trump Era. 

4. Reading more broadly

I have always been a reader, although I tended to read classics by white people more than others. That said, before our Gothard years, my parents actually introduced us to a lot of subversive books. Books on racism, economic inequality, feminism even, in some cases. I believe that those books are what kept me from permanently going down the Limbaugh path. 

But I kept reading after high school. I discovered left-leaning magazines, mainstream science and history and economics, feminist and antiracist voices, and so much more. 

This, combined with experience, led to a complete rethinking of my politics - and much of my religion as well. 

So there you have it. 



Ironically, one of my talk radio experiences did have a lasting positive effect on me. Although Dr. Laura Schlessinger eventually had a racist meltdown, and embraced some rather anti-LGBTQ positions after she found religion, she started out as more traditional relationship advice in the tradition of, say, Ann Landers. I literally remember back when she was still in favor of pre-marital sex. (Fundies clutch their pearls…) 

Where she had the biggest influence on me was that she was, at heart, an egalitarian. Her advice to women on how to care for a husband started off with the idea that men were human too, that they had feelings, that they needed love and affection, not just sex, and that a good marriage or relationship wasn’t primarily about finding the right gender roles as I had been taught by Dobson et al., but about, as she said, “choosing wisely, and treating kindly.” Oh, and also that women needed respect, not just love. And that women liked sex as much as men - as long as they were being satisfied. 

That advice encouraged my wife and I to go into our relationship in a much healthier place than had I never discovered an alternative to the gender-essentialist and hierarchical teachings of Evangelicalism on love, sex, and marriage.




Also ironically, ultraconservative magazine, World, was one of my intellectual gateways out of Fundamentalism too. While I have significant political and religious disagreements with it now, the people who ran it back when I still subscribed had high journalistic standards, issued retractions when they messed up, and were unafraid to take on people within the tribe. Because World wasn’t afraid to engage pop culture, I discovered bands like U2 through its reviews, even during the era when rock music was forbidden in our house. World was where I first discovered that David Barton was neither a qualified historian nor remotely honest in his books - World published a strong rebuttal to some of his claims. As I said, I haven’t read it in a while, but I still have some respect for the people who ran it back then.  




Irony number three: One of my favorite parody songs on Limbaugh’s show back then (by Paul Shanklin) was “Werewolves in Congress.” A spoof on Warren Zevon, it had lyrics that seemed great at the time, but have aged really badly in the Trump Era. It was basically Bill Clinton and Al Gore “fearmongering” about what the Republicans would do if elected. As the best example: “They’re going to eliminate the EPA.” Which….that’s pretty much what Trump tried to do, gutting a nearly endless list of environmental protections. In 1999, the idea that the GOP would do that was laughable. Literally. Even on conservative talk radio. But here we are. It turns out that the GQP (as it is now) would love to eliminate the EPA and environmental regulation generally. It gets in the way of profits or something…


Warren Zevon, on the other hand...he sounds as good as ever. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Source of book: I own this.


This was this month’s selection for our “Literary Lush” book club. One of the things I enjoy about this club is that I end up reading interesting books that I never would have discovered on my own. This book certainly qualifies. I don’t read much genre fiction, although I do enjoy a good mystery once in a while.


The Guest List is a mystery, in the general tradition of the British murder mystery, although without a detective. The isolated island, the multiplicity of legitimate suspects, and the question of who the victim would be reminded many of us of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which was, believe it or not, my first experience of the murder mystery genre as a kid. Although there were similarities, and the book wasn’t bad, it did not rise - in my opinion - to the level that Christie’s best works attained. 


The basic setup is that there is a destination wedding on a remote Irish island between a reality television star and a magazine editor, both too impossibly perfect for anyone to actually like them. The guests include a number of people from the past - friends and relatives of the bride and groom - who have reasons, known and unknown, to hate them. The book refuses to reveal who the victim is until near the end, although it is telegraphed pretty well. Likewise, most of the major twists seemed a bit obvious as I was reading it, in part because of how contrived it seemed to make the victim connected to so many people. 


The book also seems as if it might be the author’s hate letter to entitled Public School kids. (Note to Americans: in England, a “public school” is what we would call an exclusive private boarding prep school, such as Eton or Harrow. Or Hogwarts.) The groom and several of his buddies graduated from a certain school, where the groom’s nasty father was headmaster. It becomes clear that something unsavory went down there, and that event led to later events, which now reverberate through the years. And that is why we have a murder which a long list of people at the wedding would have been motivated to commit. 


This also leads to one of the other disappointments in the book. The villain is really one dimensional. On the one hand, he is the epitome of a certain kind of entitled narcissistic jerk. (Like a certain ex-president in his youth…) The guy whose good looks and charm enable him to get away with anything, with zero consequences. Which, I get it - his type does exist. However, despite all the major characters getting a chance to narrate sections of the book, the victim never shows any sort of human side. He’s all flaw. 


The other characters are drawn better, at least. A couple are sympathetic, although most are not the most savory of characters. Again, this is in line with the “entitled public school jerks are horrible” theme. The female characters are definitely the ones you would want to hang out with, not the men.


I don’t generally quote much from books like this, but I thought I might at least note this line, by the bride:


And so much of this wedding business, I have realized, is about how things appear. 


I have performed at a lot of weddings, and, yes. That’s all too true. Some weddings are genuinely happy and joyful. And others have various undercurrents, from religious differences to family feuds, to bridezillas. But, as long as the appearance is good, the show goes on, right? 


I read this in a couple days while on a beach camping trip, and it was fun for a beach read. The pacing is brisk, the use of multiple viewpoints works well, and parts were definitely creative. It could have been better, but it wasn’t a waste of time. As a few of us speculated, we as a club might have appreciated a bit more literary writing style, or more character depth. 


I won’t reveal any more than that, because of spoilers. 



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Big Sur and "Sea" by Jack Kerouac

 Source of book: I own this.


This was this month’s “Make it a Double” selection for our “Literary Lush” book club. Starting this year, because a bunch of us have a bit of extra time on our hands due to a certain malevolent virus, our hosts decided to add an optional second book for those who wanted a bit more to discuss. In this case, Big Sur was the very first book the club discussed, a full decade ago, long before I joined it. The leaders of the group wanted to revisit it, and a few of us wanted to read it for the first time. Having read and enjoyed The Dharma Bums and Joyce Johnson’s biography of Kerouac, The Voice Is All, I was happy to give this one a try. My book also included the long poem that Kerouac wrote on the beach during the visit to the cabin, “Sea,” so I read that as well. 


I was confirmed in my earlier impressions of Kerouac’s writing. It is unique, if often imitated now, and appeals to me in its style. There were so many moments of brilliant description in Big Sur, moments of insight and truth, and memorable phrases. And also, there was a never-ending sequence of truly terrible personal decisions made by Kerouac, whose awareness of his self-destructive tendencies never made him actually change. The Dharma Bums is a bit more of a positive book, written about an earlier time, before Kerouac was as famous or wealthy, and still expected to find the epiphany that would change his life. To quote Johnson about how Kerouac was in real life: 


“Jack seemed to be hoping that the voyage would be a cleansing and transformative experience from which he would emerge renewed like a character in a novel.” 


By the time we get to Big Sur, Kerouac is even more badly alcoholic than he was, and life seems more depressing to him. By the end of the book, he has drunk himself nearly to death twice, and driven himself into an alcohol-fueled paranoia and break with reality. And also, well, I will have to tell about that later in this post. Let’s just say that the decisions he made were...not good. 


Like most of Kerouac’s books, they are largely autobiographical, and tell of other real people under assumed names that vary from book to book. (Apparently at the insistence of his publisher, who was afraid of libel lawsuits. Although, honestly, Kerouac doesn’t really slander his friends - he is always the worst person in his books.) 


Another difference from The Dharma Bums is that Big Sur is much less sprawling, and seems to have an actual narrative arc and plan to it. Which is fascinating, considering Kerouac sat down and typed it over a mere ten day period, and, as was his practice, didn’t edit it. That it holds together as a coherent work is a testament to both Kerouac’s skill as a writer, and his ability to work out his books in his head before he wrote. 


The book opens with Kerouac waking up in a San Francisco hotel room after a drunken bender that left him unconscious for two days. His plan had been to accept Lawrence Ferlighetti’s invite to his primitive Big Sur cabin, quietly stay there for a few weeks, then surprise his friends at his arrival. Instead, he goes to Ferlinghetti’s book store (still in existence, although Ferlinghetti just passed), runs into friends, and goes out and drinks all night. 


Eventually, he does make it out to the cabin, in the first of three visits recounted in the book. For this one, he is alone, and eventually goes stir crazy after a couple weeks, and goes back to San Francisco for company. The other visits are more social, with various and changing casts of characters sharing the place with him. 

 The famous Big Sur Cabin - the small size explains why many ended up sleeping outside.

Right before the final visit, Kerouac meets up with Neal Cassady (Cody in the book) - his weirdly homoerotic-but-not-sexual-bro-crush - and ends up making one of the worst decisions of the book. Basically, Cassady is married with kids now, but has a girl on the side, Billie. Wanting to cut ties with Billie, Cassady pushes her off on Kerouac. The two of them hook up, and Kerouac ends up living with her for a while, drinking himself into a stupor during the day, and having wild sex (often in front of her kid) in the evenings. Before taking her and the kid to the Big Sur cabin for the final visit (when he goes crazy), he has the brilliant idea of introducing Billie to Cassady’s wife, which goes about as well as expected. See, great decisions, made under the influence of cheap booze. Of course, Cassidy was no better, married to Caroline, bigamously married to another woman, keeping multiple mistresses, and occasionally sleeping with Allen Ginsberg. I honestly do not understand the magnetic attraction Cassidy had for so many people. 


The book ends with Kerouac’s breakdown, and the first glimmers of a (brief) sobriety afterward. 


I feel like I could pick so many of the descriptions to quote, but I settled on just a few. Kerouac’s writing is kind of like poetry or jazz or a free-flowing stream of consciousness, with neither sentences nor normal punctuation. Here is how he saw the cove at Bixby Canyon - the site of the iconic Highway 1 bridge, and accessible only by cabin owners and their guests. 


Big elbows of Rock rising everywhere, sea caves within them, seas plollocking all around inside them crashing out foams, the boom and pound on the sand, the sand dipping quick (no Malibu Beach here) - Yet you turn and see the pleasant woods winding upcreek like a picture in Vermont - But you look up into the sky, bend way back, my God you’re standing directly under that arial bridge with its thin white line running from rock to rock and witless cars racing across it like dreams! From rock to rock! All the way down that raging coast! So that when later I heard people say “Oh Big Sur must be beautiful!” I gulp to wonder why it has that reputation of being beautiful above and beyond its fearfulness, its Blakean groaning roughrock Creation throes, those vistas when you drive the coast highway on a sunny day opening up the eye for miles of horrible washing sawing. 


Already, by the end of the passage, you can see that his love of the natural beauty is turning sour and paranoid. One of the brilliant things about the book is how the change happens bit by bit, until everything crashes onto the sand, so to speak. It feels like a giant wave that obliterates all that is good in Kerouac’s life. 


And such things - A whole mess of little joys like that amazing me when I came back in the horror of later to see how they’d changed and become sinister, even my poor little wood platform and mill race when my eyes and my stomach nauseous and my soul screaming a thousand babbling words, oh - It’s hard to explain and best thing to do is not be false. 


By the time of the second visit to the cabin, his language had turned to things like this:


But the new Big Sun Autumn was now all winey sparkling blue which made the terribleness and giantness of the coast all the more clear to see in all its gruesome splendor, miles and miles of it snaking away south, our three jeeps twisting and turning the increasing curves, sheer drops at our sides, further ghostly high bridges to cross with smashings below - Tho the boys are wowing to see it - To me it’s just an inhospitable madhouse of the earth, I’ve seen it enough and even swallowed it in that deep breath - 


One of the poignant events after he returns to the city is that Ferlinghetti informs him that his mother wrote to tell him that his beloved cat had died. Kerouac - like myself - was a cat person, and it really affected him. It haunts him later in the book, even though he knows that Tyke was really old at that point. 


Ordinarily the death of a cat means little to most men, a lot to fewer men, but to me, and that cat, it was exactly and no lie and sincerely like the death of my little brother - I loved Tyke with all my heart, he was my baby who as a kitten just slept in the palm of my hand with his little head hanging down, or just purring, for hours, just as long as I held him that way, walking or sitting - He was like a floppy fur wrap around my wrist, I just twist him around my wrist or drape him and he just purred and purred and even when he got big I still held him that way, I could even hold this big cat in both hands with my arms outstretched right over my head and he’d just purr, he had complete confidence in me -


Another interesting description was made by Lew Welch (Dave Wain in the book), a more minor poet who was, believe it or not, Huey Lewis’ stepfather, describing Jarry Heiserberg. 


“On a sort of pilgrimage, see, with all that youth, us old fucks oughta take a lesson from him, in faith too, he has faith, I can see it in his eyes, he has faith in any direction he may take with anyone just like Christ I guess.”


(Side note here: my edition has a section in the back with all of the real-life people and their names in the various books. It’s super helpful.) 


My general opinion is that male writers aren’t particularly good at writing about sex - I think the rule is pretty solid - but I actually liked a passage in this book. 


At first of course it’s a great ball, a great new eye-shattering explosion of experience - Not dreaming, I, what’s to come - For with sad musical Billie in my arms and my name Billie too now, Billie and Billie arm in arm, oh beautiful, and Cody has given his consent in a way, we go roaming the Genghiz Khan clouds of soft love and hope and anybody who’s never done this is crazy - Because a new love affair always gives hope, the irrational mortal loneliness is always crowned, that thing I saw (that horror of snake emptiness) when I took the deep iodine deathbreath on the Big Sur beach is now justified and hosannah’d and raised up like a sacred urn to Heaven in the mere fact of taking off of clothes and clashing wits and bodies in the inexpressibly nervously sad delight of love - Don’t let no old fogies tell you otherwise, and on top of that nobody in the world even ever dares to write the true story of love, it’s awful, we’re stuck with a 50% incomplete literature and drama - Lying mouth to mouth, kiss to kiss in the pillow dark, loin to loin in unbelievable surrendering sweetness so distant from all our mental fearful abstractions it makes you wonder why men have termed God antisexual somehow - The secret underground truth of mad desire hiding under fenders under buried junkyards throughout the world, never mentioned in newspapers, written about haltingly and like corn by authors and painted tongue in cheek by artists, agh, just listen to Tristan and Isolde by Wagner and think of him in a Bavarian field with his beloved naked beauty under the fall leaves. 


“Clashing wits and bodies” is perhaps my favorite Kerouac phrase of all time. Unfortunately, much of the rest of what Kerouac says about Billie in the book is quite sexist. This despite the fact that she (and the other women in his life) are the stable, responsible ones who tend to support the men financially and emotionally. The 1950s weren’t the only sexist era, of course, but those who remember them with a rose-tinted vision of loving and considerate men are creating a false reality. Of course there were good men. But even they usually expected women to take care of them in multiple ways. 


There is also a hilarious chapter consisting mostly of a conversation between Kerouac and Dave (Lew Welch) when Kerouac invites him and his wife to the cabin. I won’t quote it all, but one line was particularly fun. 


“And what’s the purpose of all this?” - “Ah, Daddy, maybe just to see you again and we can talk about purposes anywhere: you wanta go on a lecture tour to Utah university and Brown university and tell the well scrubbed kids?” - “Scrubbed with what?” - “Scrubbed with hopeless perfection of pioneer puritan hope that leaves nothing but dead pigeons to look at?”


That’s kind of an interesting take on the jingoistic history education we still have here in the US, actually. “Hopeless perfection of pioneer puritan hope.” 


The final breakdown is harrowing. It goes on for chapters, but here is a central passage. 


But here I am again mooning by the creek hiding from all of them each five minutes tho I can’t understand what makes me do it - I HAVE to get out of there - But I have no right to STAY AWAY - So I keep coming back but it’s all an insane revolving automatic directionless circle of anxiety, back and forth, around and around, till they’re really by now so perturbed by my increasing silent departures and creepy returns they’re all sitting without a word by the stove but now their heads are together and they’re whispering - From the woods I see those three shadowy heads whispering me by the stove - What’s Dave saying? - And why do they look like they’re plotting something further? - Can it be it was all arranged by Dave Wain and Cody that I would meet Billie and be driven mad and now they’ve got me alone in the woods and are going to give me final poisons tonight that will utterly remove all my control so that in the morning I’ll have to go to a hospital forever and never write another line? 


And on and on it goes, getting more and more insane and conspiratorial. At least Kerouac could blame the ethanol - not sure how Q Anon followers found themselves sounding like alcoholics who have blasted their brains into a neuron storm… 


The book ends positively, however. Kerouac finally is able to sleep, and wakes up sober and clear headed for the first time in weeks. Alas, it wouldn’t last, and even the writing of the book wasn’t enough to get Kerouac off the sauce - he would die of alcohol-related issues barely older than I am. The final line is memorable:


There’s no need to say another word. 



 The Bixby Creek Bridge. Kerouac composed the poem on the beach below it. 
Ferlinghetti's cabin is up the canyon a mile or so.

“Sea,” the poem, was written during the first visit to Ferlinghetti cabin. It is very much a free verse, stream of consciousness, free form improvisation. Parts of it are in French - Kerouac’s first language - and even the parts in English contain words from French and Spanish mixed in here and there. Many of the words related to sounds are invented. It is an interesting experience to read, very much about the atmosphere rather than meaning. 


Kerouac seems haunted by the seeming emptiness of the sea, and the fact that the land itself consists of rock layers laid down millions or billions of years ago. The sea itself seems ancient, and mankind so brief and insignificant. The poem takes up 19 pages in my edition, and rambles quite a bit. But it is a poem, after all, and the journey is the point. Here are my favorite sections:



 Go on die salt light

  You billion yeared

   rock knocker




 Sad as wife & hill

 Loved as mother & fog

 Oh! Oh! Oh!

   Sea! Osh!

 Where’s yr little Neppytune



Neptune now his arms extends

 while one millions of souls

  sit lit in caves of darkness

The woman with her body

in the sea------The frog who

never moves & thunders, sharsh

------The snake with his body

 under the sand------The dog

 with the light on his nose,

 supine, with shoulders so

 enormous they reach back to

 rain crack------These leaves hasten

  to the sea------We let them

    hasten to be wetted & give

 em that old salt change, a

 nuder think will make you see

  they originate from the We Sea

   anyway------No dooming booms

  on sunday afternoons------We

 run thru the core of cliffs,

  blam up caves, disengage no

   jelly or jellied pendant



                  Our armies of

    anchored seaweed in the

     coves give of the smell

of jellied salt------

With weeds your roses,

sand crabs your hummers?

With buzzers in the sea!

 With runners in the deep!

This Sceptred Osh, this wide leg

 spanning rock U.S. to rock

  Ja Pan, this onstable

  roller roaming all,

  this ploosher at yr gory

   dry dung door, this mouth

  of silverwhite arring to hold thee,

   this purger of conscience

   arra for thee------

   No mouse in here but’s got

    a little glee------and

    aft, or oft, the osprey

    in his glee’s agley------

       Oh purty purty ocean


          Sop! bring the Scepter down

 Again you’ve accepted me!


That is enough to give the idea a bit. It definitely fits with the book itself, filling in some of the gaps in what he describes and giving form to his extended time on the beach. I would recommend reading them together if you can.