I’ve been getting my read on somewhat during this long hard ride, and although it hasn’t been as much as I had hoped, I’ve still been able knock back a few pieces of classic American literature.
Travels with Charley and Log from the Sea of Cortez: Both complete wastes of time. I cried at the end of Travels with Charley when Steinbeck’s pet French poodle Charley died of canine consumption. No, that didn’t happen and Charley never died, at least not in the book. He is most assuredly dead now, along with Steinbeck, although it would have been much better if Charley died during the course of the book because it would have added a small touch of excitement to Steinbeck’s drab tale of driving in America. As long as we’re being honest here, let it be known that this famous author comes across as a giant pussy as he relates his story of riding around America in a brand new custom built pick-up/camper set-up with his pet French poodle. If I remember correctly I finished this read in Alaska, knowing full well that Charley would have been dead long ago if he had been riding sidesaddle with me on the old CB500t; just another creepy mascot, cold and wet and dead and strapped to the back of the seat along with the spare tire and gas can jostling about. And even if Alaska didn’t kill him, the great pilgrimage through the deserts of the American West would have. Remember, the only good poodle is a dead one and no man should be seen with a poodle ever, or even write about their adventures with one. There’s also at least two occassions where Steinbeck creepily rifles through somebody else’s garbage and he’s way too enthusiastic about disposible aluminum cookwear, which he likes to cook on and then pitch into the ether, giddily relating how he would use the stuff on his sailboat and then then throw it into the ocean. If that’s not enough, in Log from the Sea Cortez he nonchalantly discusses the indescriminate and wanton killing of sea creatures both large and small by himself and his crew. Sure, spear a giant manta-ray because you want to have your picture taken with its corpse. Complete asshole. Steinbeck, the murdering litterer. Log from the Sea of Cortez follows along the same lines of Travels with Charley in that Steinbeck once again manages to come across as a big hueco. The Sea of Cortez is an exceedingly beautiful and magical place and I picked this book up in Alaska of all places thinking it’d be a good book to read while listening to some jazz, feet propped up and dreaming of bobbing like a cork in some aquatic garden of eden. You know, like in Kon-Tiki. I’m still hustling through it. It’s allright, I guess. But it’s all about another man’s philosophy on life interspersed with travel narrative. I hate that. Don’t you…?
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Ah, an absolutely delightful read. Shit gets lonely out on the road and Hunter S. Thompson’s tome is an excellent travelling companion. I was never really into Thompson but Fear and Loathing seems to read just like my blog. I’m glad somebody gets it: a dead person. Thompson captures the spirit of Vegas perfectly, and all with a cynical attitude that only a man of the world can appreciate. Gary notes, with awe, that lil’ Silvaback Hunter must have had a serious constitution to come out on top after using and abusing all those drugs. Indeed, and I’m more than a little jealous for I know if I did the same I would end up retarded or dead. Most people would really, I think. The book, not the movie, made me laugh out loud, but it should be noted that, truth be told, the movie is a faithful adaptation of the book. Wait, that part where Flea is licking acid off of Johnny Depp’s arm made me laugh out loud, and the part in the book did too because Depp’s narrative is almost verbatim. There’s a lot of references to the American dream here and again I’m glad Hunter gets it. Somebody has to. My copy lies somewhere within the heart of Mexico, in the hands of some Mexican that can never understand the Dream, no matter how hard she tries, with her cold doll eyes.
“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run …but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant …
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket …booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) … but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that …
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda …. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ….
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ….
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
A tremendous and descriptive piece of literature, and without a doubt both true and sad. That’s a really famous part of the book and it sums up the 60′s pretty well. The 70′s man, must have been a really sad time for anyone who really tried in the 60′s. Utterly depressing man, although, both decades seem like a great time in history to be alive, to soak and ferment in the strange zeitgeist of the times. What’s going on now in old America? Operation Wall Street? Justin Beiberbottom? Dancing Con Los Estrellas? Mitt Romney? All that shit makes me wish I was waiting in line to punch my ticket on the midnight express. Enter: Riverworld.
Louis L’amour: Like a white hot gun barrel pressed against sizzling flesh, the tales of Louis L’amour are seared into the mind, never to be forgotten. Well, maybe not but this is pulp fiction at it’s finest. These are iconic tales of the West here people, brought to you by a master of American literature, and in quick little reads that will fit in any pocket. Jesse Ventura said that Louis L’amour paperbacks were worth more than dollars in old Nam, and I can believe it because you can get lost in these simple little books filled with great adventures of courage and despair. Dude wrote a million of these things and they’re all the same, and you know the ending, but yet…
I guess these are the lonesome adventurer’s equivalent of your Grandma’s dimestore harlequin romance novels. Look, just do yourself a favor and pick one of these fuckers up at a used book store. They’re like $1 each.
Yukon Ho!: An intellectual book of cartoons for children? I picked this up in Fairbanks, being in the mood for it and having done the Yukon and made the march to the Arctic Circle all astride the legendary CB500T. This was my first ever book and it still is funny to me and I’m still not sure what age group Calvin and Hobbes are geared towards. Better than Garfield. Would you just look at it?
Washington Irving: Father of American literature and mysoginist, the tales of Washington Irving are without a doubt some of the best ever told. Look, this is the man who gave birth to the legend of Santa Claus and the phrase “the almighty dollar.” You can’t go wrong with this shit. A New Yorker with an obvious love of the magical and mystical Catskillian mountains, the words of Washington make a man grow wistful for his old haunts back in la gran manzana and in the hinterlands of old New York, especially at a time when the leaves are turning and the first flakes are beginning to fall. The legends of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle are indeed that, real legends that sprung forth from old tales brought from across the sea and then brilliantly rewoven into quintessentially American fables. Read them both in the Guadalajara cemetary on the Day of the Dead for added lustre.
No One Here Gets Out Alive: The future is uncertain people, and the End is always near. The last great American poet, the lizard king man. Jim Morrison is dead and gone, and immortalized in this terrible biography. Well, not terrible really, but pretty standard run of the mill stuff that reads like any other biography you might ever chance to read. Buy it or not, but one would be better served by looping The End ad infinitum while riding out a harsh introspective journey. Look, Morrison got it. The weirdness of the American trip, the futility of life, everything out there that’s plain as day for the immature weirdo. Contemporary lyrical poetry like Waiting for the Sun would take on an important and literal meaning as it was chanted like a mantra within the walls of my pup-tent at the Talkeetna Blues Festival up old Alaska way, where I scored this read for 30 cents and rode out the rain, drinking gallons of coffee, chain-smoking, and getting drunk on cheap booze. Rain and Helmet Time give a man the chance to think. And that’s never good, is it? And why, a young man once asked me, why do those like Hendrix and Morrison die, while those like Katy Perry and Nicki Sixx live, seemingly forever, and go on to write terrible books? The answer is simple, because dying, at their absolute zenith, and leaving people wanting more, paves the way for them to become gods. The trick is making people want what you got. Now, if only I could increase the readership of this blog…and then it’s off to Riverworld.
The west is the best, dont you forget.
FREAK!: Culled from deep within the extensive files of the National Enquirer, Freak! is the biography of a little-known indie performer named Michael Jackson. I knew I had to have it when I saw the picture on the cover because Michael sort of looks like a bug. I traded my unread copy of Voltaire’s Candide for this sparkling gem and haven’t looked back. I never will and I will never read Candide. FREAK! reads better than the Morrison tome if only for it’s sensationalism. There’s a “wackography” in the back of the book that highlights some of Jackson’s strangest acts and the book ends like this:
“Michael Jackson once said, “When I’m not on stage, I sort of close down.” Without question he is an adrenaline junky who can’t handle normal life. He needs excitement at all times. He has gone so far as to state, fatally in terms of his downfall, that the only other time, besides being onstage, when he feels complete and fully alive, is when he’s at play with young children. He needs intense drama to the brink of frenzy. So during performance downtime, when normal, boring, routine life intrudes, he acts bizarre.
He’s the oddest and most outlandish creature on earth – a FREAK!”
To Your Scattered Bodies Go: Welcome to Riverworld bitches. I picked this up at the same Oaxacan hostel where I traded Candide for FREAK! and at the insistence of Abi no less, because I was already loaded down with books. But those were back in the days when a lonesome adventurer might carry the classics along in his saddlebags. I’m glad I picked this one up because it was a delicious read. Just check out THIS description found on the dust jacket!!
“The premise here is that an unknown but highly advanced group of beings have used their formidable scientific abiliities to resurrect every human being who ever lived, on the shores of a million mile long river…The plot involves the quest of Sir Richard Francis Burton and assorted others, ranging from Neanderthal man Kazz to Hermann Goring, to find the source of the river and the base of the secret masters of the Riverworld. This Odyssey format is perfect…”
Indeed it is.
And if I ever run into Voltaire in Riverworld I’m going to slit his throat.
o:58 for vintage Morrison