A rucksack warrior hits the Psychedelic Sixties in Kerouac’s Ghost

OK, so we’re away Into the Northwest Passage. Before sailing, and so going incommunicado, I offer a brief excerpt from my novel Kerouac’s Ghost.  This newly revised ebook edition publishes on Sept. 16, but is now available from Bev Editions at the advance price of $2.99.

Again it was 1966, Thanksgiving Day, and I had just arrived in
California. Nineteen years old, a yea-saying rucksack warrior in blue jeans and
a turtle-neck sweater, I had crossed a continent and stumbled into what we all
took to be a social revolution. A few days before, while driving me into San
Francisco in a Volkswagen bus, a sociology professor from Berkeley had raised
his eyebrows: “The Haight-Ashbury? You’ve never heard of the Haight?”

He rhapsodized for twenty, twenty-five miles, describing the Haight as
the most interesting social experiment America had ever spawned. “But
you’ve heard of Timothy Leary and LSD?”

Before leaving Montreal, I had read the famous Playboy interview with
Leary, found it fascinating and said so, and when the professor dropped me off
in downtown San Francisco, he not only directed me to the Haight-Ashbury but
reached into his shirt pocket and extracted a ball of tinfoil. “This is
all I’ve got with me. Just half a tab, but it’s pure LSD—primo acid.” He
handed me the ball. “Wait for the right moment.”

Now it was Thanksgiving Day, free turkey dinner in the Haight, and I
stood in the middle of a dirt-floor garage, the original Free Frame of
Reference, grinning and nodding, unable to believe my stumbling good luck, a
turkey leg in one hand, a cup of wine in the other, the half-tab of acid safe
in my wallet.

The feast was courtesy of a group called The Diggers, self-proclaimed
Merry Men who regarded the Haight as a contemporary Sherwood Forest. Beautiful
people were everywhere. A guy wearing a W.C. Fields mask and an old top hat
hovered over a turntable playing Visions of Johanna, the same verse, over and
over again, Bob Dylan observing repeatedly that little boy lost, he takes
himself so seriously, but nobody seemed to mind. A girl wearing a see-through
American-flag and nothing else climbed onto a piano and made like the Statue of
Liberty. Nobody minded that, either.

I stood nodding, guzzling red wine, stuffing my face with turkey. People
were jostling me, climbing back and forth over a Mad-Hatter type stretched out
on the floor, his arms crossed on his chest. Reaching for another cup of wine I
took an elbow in the ribs. Turned to see an older guy, mid-thirties, chubby,
with a light-bulb nose, pale blue eyes and thin brown hair that hung lifeless
over his ears.

He said sorry, I said no problem. Was I new to the Haight? Yes, I said,
and suddenly I was talking, telling this guy that I had hitchhiked and ridden
freights from Montreal, that I was chasing experience, gathering material for a

“Experience you want?” He held out his hand. “My name’s

We both laughed. Turned out Oscar, too, was a writer, and more
specifically a poet, and that got me babbling particulars: “I call my
latest story A Piece of Wandering Orgasm. It’s like my hero is –“

“Sorry, a what?”

           “A Piece of Wandering Orgasm. It’s like my hero is so alive, he’s
experiencing orgasm all the time. You know, just walking around. It’s an
advance on Kerouac.”

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