Kerouac’s Ghost tracks the King of the Beats into the Sixties

News flash: The newly revised, final final final edition of my novel Kerouac’s Ghost has just become available via Print on Demand. Yes, you can still get the ebook. But if you prefer to peruse a physical artifact, voila: here it is from Bev Editions. For the rest, I offer incontrovertible evidence that I am an obsessive reviser: would you believe four published versions? AND that the first version emerged from Pottersfield Press in 1993. Not only that, here’s a taste . . . .

Chapter 21:

Jack Says Don’t Do It 


If human consciousness is a neural megalopolis, then a
psychedelic trip is a chart-blasting earthquake. It reduces buildings to
rubble, knocks out communications, plunges the city into wounded silence. And
if that city is a San Francisco of the Psyche? If it straddles a major
fault-line? On Mount Jubilation, the rush of Frankie’s first acid trip brought
me not only that Haight-Ashbury experience but my own psychic adventure in
Newton Center, Massachusetts, where with Allen Ginsberg, in January of 1961, I
visited Timothy Leary. The guru-to-be was still working as a psychology
professor at Harvard, supposedly chasing down a cure for alcoholism.

Leary told me psychedelic drugs could work miracles. They
could change the world. They made religious experience universally accessible.
I popped his mushrooms and relived a nervous breakdown I had narrowly survived
in the navy, when I had ended up in the psychiatric ward because I thought I
could see inside people’s heads.

That trip shook me to my foundations. But it did not raze
me. And later that year, when Leary produced more mushrooms in Ginsberg’s New
York City apartment, I chewed a dozen or so. Leary took me walking through the
snowy streets of the Lower East Side and we tossed a loaf of bread like a
football. Then I started hallucinating—saw buildings toppling, people turning
into cackling demons. The usual horror show, with everything happening on
several planes at once. Every sentence Leary uttered contained five or six
meanings.

 Next day, I awoke to
myself—but I wasn’t the same. It was the morning after an earthquake. In some
sectors, the destruction was minimal. Elsewhere, nerve centres and filters had
been knocked out. I was disoriented. If objects could change essence without
changing shape, a simple chair becoming a golden throne, how then did I know
what I thought I knew? Reality was provisional. Our modes of perception were
conditioned responses. Anything was possible.

Despite my differentiated consciousness, and my thirty-nine
years of age, psychedelic drugs had reduced me to pre-adolescence. And here’s
the worst of it: the effect stayed with me. Months after that second
psychedelic trip, during a thirty-day drinking binge that brought me, red-faced
and ranting, to an old favorite bar in Lowell, Massachusetts, I met a
ne’er-do-well steeplejack named Paul Bourgeois, an ex-thief who had spent
twelve years in jail.

After listening to me rave drunkenly that my ancestors
included not only French Canadians but North American Indians, Bourgeois
concocted an insane story that spoke directly to the drug-traumatized
twelve-year-old in me. Bourgeois was Moon Cloud Chief of the Four Nations of
the Iroquois. He had just returned from Prince of Wales Island near the North
Pole, where 3,000 of our people, half-French, half-Iroquois, were starving to
death. Trouble was, nuclear submarines were cruising beneath the polar ice cap,
polluting the water and contaminating the fish. As Moon Cloud Chief, Bourgeois
was en route to Washington to complain. What’s more, we were cousins, he and I,
because two of the four tribes in the North were named Kirouac and L’Evesque, Memere’s
maiden name.

Incredibly, I believed all this, even when I got sober. I
wrote letters telling friends that soon I would be travelling north to join my
Iroquois brothers. And I hung onto this fantasy for six months. Eventually, I
brought Bourgeois home to Florida where, under pressure from Memere, he
confessed the truth and made me listen. Nobody understood it—how a cheap con
artist with an eye for beer money could snooker a famous author. But that was
because nobody understood the destructive power of psychedelic drugs. . . .

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