Jack Karlos died in 2006 aged 74 in Brisbane, where he lived the last ten years of his life. He worked all his life as a merchant seaman since he first shipped out from Glasgow as a young man of twenty in 1952. After jumping ship in 1954 in New York City, where he lived for two years as an illegal immigrant, he arrived in Australia and made his home base in Melbourne.
Jack Karlos’s papers (contained in a single small suitcase) were passed on to me when he died – including the unpublished manuscript ‘Eternity Unzipped’ (1966) and note books and journals. For the past few months I have been reading them obsessively. It seemed that I was in a dream – lodged more in the Dreamtime than in everyday reality. Desolation angels are in all generations and from all creative urges and surges, not just the Beats, and in all walks of life - are they not? So I will roam wide and include those who are well known, those not so well known and, those in my own locale - Australia. From time to time I will also post up more from Jack Karlos' manuscript.
Dharma Jack Kerouac
1946, this photo was taken ten years before the other classic shot of him that was used on the back cover of his early books - the one taken in San Francisco right after he had just come down from the Cascade mountains and firelookout job in 1956.
♣ ♣ ♣
Holy Skid-Row Blues . . .
The awakened Buddha to show the way, the chosen Messiah to die in the degradation of sentience, is the golden eternity. One that is what is, the golden eternity, or, God, or, Tathagata-the name. The Named One. The human God. Sentient Godhood. Animate Divine. The Deified One. The Verified One. The Free One. The Liberator. The Still One. The settled One. The Established One. Golden Eternity. All is Well. The Empty One. The Ready One. The Quitter. The Sitter. The Justified One. The Happy One.”
Jack Kerouac [The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, 1953]
John Clellon Holmes - On his way
I surveyed the people moving in and out of the sleazy little grocery up ahead (dark, good-looking men in sport shirts, most of them, with bags full of beer), but saw no one I would have identified as the author of a novel, weighing twenty pounds in the hand [the munuscript of On The Road], that was being seriously touted to publishers by people I respected.
But Kerouac was one of those men — the one who looked like the serious, tee-shirted younger brother of the others; the brother they were proud of because he played the violin as well as he played basketball; the young John Garfield back in the neighborhood after college, absolutely at ease there, but just as absolutely separated from it now by some weaning knowledge he could not communicate. He was making the run for more beer, he said with a hesitant smile, and, while [Alan] Harrington bought a contribution of big, brown quarts, he and I talked a little there on the sidewalk.
I don’t remember anything we said. It was probably no more than that gauging, neutral chat beneath which young men take each other’s measure, but I do remember my first impression. Under the boyish forelock, his strangely tender eyes noted me as we spoke, but all the time I felt that he was more keenly attuned to the tangled life of that street than to anything we were saying. It seemed to distract and stir him; he was at once excited and somehow emptied by it. Though he was just as straightforward, personable, buoyant, and attractive as I had been led to expect, there was a curious shyness under his exuberance; there was the touch of a moody thought around his mouth (like the reveler’s sudden foretaste of the ashen dawn to come), and, above all, there was that quietly impressive intensity of consciousness. All of which made me understand his friends’ enthusiasm in a flash: he was so evidently on his way toward some accomplishment, or some fate, that it was impossible not to warm to him immediately. [...]
We became friends more quickly than I have ever become friends with anyone else. Everything about him was engaging in those days. He days. He was open-hearted, impulsive, candid and very handsome. He didn’t seem like any other writer that I knew. He wasn’t wary, opinionated, cynical or competitive, and if I hadn’t already known him by reputation, I would have pegged him as a poetic lumberjack, or a sailor with Shakespeare in his sea locker. Melville, armed with the manuscript of Typee, must have struck the Boston Brahmins in much the same way. Stocky, medium-tall, Kerouac had the tendoned forearms, heavily muscled thighs, and broad neck of a man who exults in his physical life. His face was black-browed and firm-nosed, with the expressive curve of lip and the dark, somehow tender eyes that move you so in a loyal, sensitive animal. But it was the purity in that face, scowl or smile, that struck you first. You realized that the emotions surfaced on it unimpeded. Mothers warmed to him immediately: they thought him nice, respectful, even shy. Girls inspected him, their gazes snagged by those bony, Breton good looks, that ingathered aura of dense, somehow buried maleness. (New York, 1948)
"Around 1952 Jack Kerouac stumbled onto Buddhism and as was his wont he went deep and intensely into a study of it over several years, accessing original texts of Buddhism in the best libraries in New York City. Kerouac was no dill, he was very intelligent - and empowered by his desire for liberation - salvation from the worldly life - he had become profoundly sick of it all and with himself and his own personal life … he was profoundly disillusioned – but at that stage he still had hope and optimism about transcending it all, of finding a genuine way out.
Probably his biggest ball and chain was his heavy regular drinking . . . his alcoholism was his downfall just like his contemporary - Jackson Pollock the beat alcoholic enfant terrible of action/abstraction painting who was also based in NYC - in the immediate environment of the best bop jazz and blues music going – the New York beat hipsters – right there at the beginning . . .
Neal Cassady apparently had a genius level intelligence. Neal, the hippest of the hip, the Holy Hipster, the V8 horsepower heart, who burned with Kerouac flash for flash, dash for dash.
Keroauc burned out fast “…like a roman candle that shoots high, a long trailing tail of flame arcing and at its zenith suddenly bursts with the colours of the rainbow exploding in the dark night …and everyone goes aaaah!” (Kerouac). Jack Karlos (Eternity Unzipped’,1966, unpublished manuscript)
1954 Dharma and Meditation on Buddha nature in the North Carolina woods after New York booze binges wild bebop wailings and womanisings.
Who wouldnt be struck with this guy . . .
"I met Jack Kerouac in 1954 in the Black Gypsy club – a jazz an blues bar in Harlem when I jumped ship in New York City – he was with a black woman maybe Mardou? (The Subterraneans)… we talked for a while, he said it “was like looking in a mirror, ten years back” - later we got very drunk but before that he took me backstage where all the musicians talked with him - they loved Jack’s love for and understanding of their music. They liked what he had to say in his writing - we turned on with Billie Holliday and Charlie Parker I think Miles Davis was there too but I don’t remember now him touching the weed.
Jack Keroauc was such a turned on guy - talking to him lit up my mind like one of those multi coloured 1950s style jukeboxes - playing the best music I ever heard – the only one who maybe matches his certainty of stance and existential interaction with life and quality of soul as a writer is Bob Dylan. – aint that the Beatest of the Blues - that Dylan should be a musician : - Yes Jack . . . ironic hey.
Talking to him in 1954 [Kerouac] you got the feeling that this guy for sure had a date with destiny - and that it was waiting just down the road. But who could foretell the darkness and desolation. After that last time, when he doubted his destiny as a writer - 1946, when he had possession of a gun and for a week or two while holed up in a cheap hotel down South seriously considering armed robbery of a petrol station!
The crossroads - Yes he met those Desolation Angels and was taken up by them. He returned to New York City and worked on his manuscripts – the rest is as they say, all over now baby blue."
Jack Karlos, (Eternity Unzipped’,1966, unpublished manuscript)
1946, The Deal at The Crossroads - - when the deal went down.
jumping swinging gates of wails
poverty or halls of jails
take my pale
I have something to give
surely cant fail
the tanker ship's horn baughs
coming up from the docks
a mile from my doors
on the other side of the semi
wild industrial parklands
without within without
"(...) For an hour, I drank beer alone at the bar [of the Cedar Street Tavern] and listened to arguments over centerfielders. Suddenly Kerouac and his friends came in, shouldering through the door, then merging with the other drinkers, three deep at the bar. Kerouac edged in beside me. He was drunk. He threw some crumpled bills on the bar. I said hello. He looked at me in a suspicious, bleary way and nodded. The others were crowding in, yelling, Jack, Jack, and he was passing beers and whiskeys to them, and Jack, Jack, he bought more, always polite, but his eyes scared, a twitch in his face and a sour smell coming off him in the packed bar that reminded me of the morning odor of my father in the bed at 378. Soon he was ranting about Jesus and nirvana and Moloch and bennies [amphetamine], then lapsing into what sounded like Shakespeare but probably wasn’t, because his friends all laughed." (New York, 1957)
1956, the famous image taken when he had only just come down
off the mountains and the firelookout job.
1960 the Dharma is lost, Jack's lost too - the booze madness, and despair. By 1955 he had left behind the beat scene - he had been tired of it anyway since as early as 1949 - that's clearly stated in his early journals. His involvment with Buddhism; and then his interactions with Gary Snyder was really the last 'scene' that he associated with with any enthusiam. Its true that as his alcoholism progressed and his feelings of loneliness increased with it - and that for a few years he missed Gary Snyder. But Snyder effectively ended any further connection via a thoughtless and ignorant letter he sent Kerouac in effect telling him he was dumb - that he had no understanding at all of Buddhism. But Kerouac had a very good understanding of Buddhism. What Kerouac, or Snyder, did'nt understand was alcoholism, and it was that that brought him undone - not his grasp, or otherwise, of buddhism.
Kurt Vonnegut - Thunderstorms in the head
"I knew Kerouac only at the end of his life, which is to say there was no way for me to know him at all, since he had become a pinwheel. He had settled briefly on Cape Cod, and a mutual friend, the writer Robert Boles, brought him over to my house one night. I doubt that Kerouac knew anything about me or my work, or even where he was. He was crazy. He called Boles, who is black, "a blue-gummed nigger." He said that Jews were the real Nazis, and that Allen Ginsberg had been told by the Communists to befriend Kerouac, in order that they might gain control of American young people, whose leader he was.
This was pathetic. There were clearly thunderstorms in the head of this once charming and just and intelligent man. He wished to play poker, so I dealt some cards. There were four hands, I think—one for Boles, one for Kerouac, one for Jane, one for me. Kerouac picked up the remainder of the deck, and he threw it across the kitchen." (Hyannis, Mass., mid-1960s)
“ He was gone for all money, by 1958 he was talking jibberish after only two or three drinks. He was away with the fairies, sometimes he would be seen leaning on a bar talking to someone who wasn’t even there – sometimes for an hour at a time. The only reason he lasted as long as he did was he had stopped going out so much and mostly drank at home in front of the television set at his mother’s where he lived. Also, by then almost all of his books had already been written, if all not yet published. It was so sad and terrifying to see what had happened to him – he who had so much going for himself for everyone – so much greatness draped around him like a magic shaman’s cloak – probably the best writer of us all. Those later years - seeing Keroauc in a bar was scary. He was like one of those punchdrunk fighters that had taken a few too many bad beatings in the boxing ring. It scared the shit out of me – it haunted me for a long time. "
Norman Mailer (‘Advertisments for Myself’, 1959, the original manuscript: edited out).
There is a blessedness surely to be believed, and that is that everything abides in eternal ecstasy, now and forever.
Mother Kali eats herself back. All things but come to go. All these holy forms, unmanifest, not even forms, truebodies of blank bright ecstasy, abiding in a trance, "in emptiness and silence' as it is pointed out in the Diamond-cutter, asked to be only what they are: GLAD.
The secret God-grin in the trees and in the teapot, in ashes and fronds, fire and brick, flesh and mental human hope. All things, far from yearning to be re-united with God, had never left themselves and here they are, Dharmakaya, the body of the truth law, the universal Thisness.
"Beyond the reach of change and fear, beyond all praise and blame," the Lankavatara Scripture knows to say, is he who is what he is in time and time-less-ness, in ego and in ego-less-ness, in self and in self-less-ness.
Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.
Jack Kerouac [The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, 1953]
★★★★★ five star hit
The 'Trans-Siberian' of Blaise Cendrar,
Introduction and translation by Ekaterina Likhtik