Scuzzy Son-of-a-Bitch #6:
My Future Be-Bop Boyfriend
My high school boyfriend bought me a poster of Jack Kerouac during our senior year. I had never even read any Jack Kerouac — I was more into Allen Ginsberg’s homosexual rages and Charles Bukowski’s drunken stupors. Nonetheless, he found a Jack Kerouac poster and thought of me.
He brought it to me one night when all I wanted to do was sit around and feel sorry for myself. The school year had begun with a bang, to say the least. I was Drama Club President (go ahead and laugh at me), as well as Co Editor-in-Chief of the high school newspaper (laugh harder). I had to prepare for our school’s upcoming “Cabaret Night,” as I was hosting the prestigious event and I wanted to do a good job. There was also the issue of mandatory play rehearsal until 5pm on top of writing a Goddamn play for the spring Murder Mystery Dinner and performing in improv shows every other Friday night. Add to all this the horrible fucking reality of college applications and yeah, I was one angsty 17 year old.
I was sprawled on my bed moping about how I was losing touch with my friends and blah blah when I heard the familiar knock at the door. My boyfriend always knocked — he never ever rang the doorbell. My mom let him in, and he came upstairs and presented me with this awesome fucking poster.
“Where did you get this?” I asked.
“Cost Plus,” he said.
“What were you doing at Cost Plus?”
“They have the coolest chocolate,” he said.
He then procured a small tin of green tea chocolate and offered me a piece. I didn’t fall in love with it, but I could understand why he did. It was the same reason he chewed clove gum and ginger gum and got excited whenever he was in a place that carried Beeman’s. He dug the weird sodas at BevMo and always opted for anything infused with chili powder or licorice. He loved used record stores and antique stores and was always giving me dusty old Tom Jones albums because he knew my friends and I thought Tom Jones was funny.
I thanked him for the poster and told him why I was sad. He gave me a back massage while I laid on my stomach, my bedroom door wide open for my parents’ peace of mind.
During Christmas vacation, I tried to read On the Road. I got as far as Sal Paradise’s affair with the beautiful Mexican woman and their adventures in cotton-picking. It was all very beautiful and very Beat, but once school started and it was time to focus on the next project, I had to put Jack down.
During my freshman year of college I nabbed a brand new boyfriend who also gave me cute presents. On Christmas he gave me ceramic figurine of a hummingbird, which was an inside reference to my very first panic attack — an event he got to witness one morning before the sun was even out. On Saint Patrick’s day he gave me a ring that he had found when he was in middle school and vowed he would one day give to a special girl. On Easter he sneaked into my room and hid candy eggs for me to find, which made some of the other girls in my dorm “Ooooh” and “Eeee!” and “You lucky bitch!”
He had never heard of Jack. He didn’t read poetry. He didn’t read. I tried and tried to at least get him to read “Howl,” but he always refused. One night, I finally got him to lie down with me and listen to a recording of Ginsberg reading it. When it was over, the only comment my boyfriend offered was, “I liked the part about the watches.” I tried to talk about societal revolutions and war and change, but the conversation didn’t last long. I refused to give up, so I tried showing him Easy Rider. When the movie was over all he had to say was, “You’re such a hippie.”
He also didn’t want to watch all the Beat Generation documentaries I rented on Netflix that year. I couldn’t even get him to watch No Direction Home, even though his roommate had exposed him to Bob Dylan’s music, which my boyfriend claimed to like. For the most part, anything having to do with poetry or music or counterculture was anathema to him. This led to many nights of,
“You should come hang out downstairs.”
“No. I wanna watch my movie.”
“Well come down afterward.”
“Nope. I’m sleepin’ in my own bed tonight.”
“But I wanna see you.”
“Then watch the movie with me.”
“But I hate hippies.”
“The Beats weren’t hippies.”
Eventually he would go to his room and I would go to mine. I would watch something about The Beats and he would do something else. When the movie was over I would lean over to turn on the light, and Holy Metaphors!, I would be face to face with the Jack poster.
This behavior led to writing sentimental journal entries and scribbling short poems in the margins of my lecture notes and drinking way too much coffee and hoping that one day I would meet someone who really got me. We’d go to San Francisco on the weekends and eat seafood and drink red wine and wander the streets tossing dimes to the bums and scat-diddly-dat-dat-datting back and forth in crazy love.
In August, one month before sophomore year started, I gave all the cute presents back and called the whole thing off. One day, I came across some old CD’s of Jack reading his poetry with Steve Allen playing piano in the background. I knew that we owned the CD’s because I had seem them in my mother’s bedroom before, but I had never thought to steal them. Newly single and newly inspired, I brought them up to school with me in September and listened to “October in the Railroad Earth” while I pinned pictures of Johnny Depp to my bedroom walls.
Soon after school began, my mom took a trip up to Santa Cruz to visit me. Well, okay, she wanted to check on me. The split with the hippie hater had been a tough one, and my mom didn’t want me to spend my first weekend back in Santa Cruz sitting in my room and crying about some guy. She drove up on Friday and spent the night, and the next morning she drove us to San Francisco. We stayed in a small room at the Hotel Bohème in North Beach, and mom took me to City Lights and bought me Beatnik postcards. We wandered into The Beat Museum, where we were given a tour by the owner. He also showed us THIS:
On Monday morning, when mom drove home and left me to get on with my life, I felt absolutely cured. I didn’t give a shit about boyfriend or ex-boyfriends. Everything was going to be fine. Everything was fine. All I wanted to do was write poetry, and all I needed was my Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen CD.
A few months ago, I quit my job and went on a road trip up north. Before I left, I checked out an audiobook of On the Road. I listened to it all the way to Santa Cruz, then a few days later I listened to it on my way to Menlo Park. When it was time to drive to Alameda I put on The Dresden Dolls, and then when it was time to drive to San Francisco I listened to my new copy of Let Love In.
In San Francisco I ate dim sum in Chinatown and wandered around North Beach drinking Espresso and taking pictures of graffiti. I had drinks at Cafe Vesuvio and scribbled in a notebook I bought on Valencia. I was alone, and I was free, and I was happy.
One evening I crashed into the Beat Museum and asked the guy behind the counter if he had access to the Poet of the Month archives. I told him that I had won Honorable Mention twice in 2007, and that I would like to have copies of my poems. He explained that he didn’t have physical copies, but he could try to find them for me online. He worked on his computer for about ten minutes before saying, “I found your poem from April.” I said, “There’s one from May, too.” He looked at his computer, then said to me, “That page has been corrupted.” My face fell. He said, “I can recover it. Give me a second.”
About twenty minutes later, he announced that he had fixed the problem and I now had web access to my poem. I thanked him profusely and bought some merchandise so I wouldn’t seem like a total asshole.
I was never able to find my poem online, but it’s okay. Somehow, I feel that if I ever found it and read it, I would only see the stupid mistakes and the dorky word choices. I would criticize myself, and I don’t want to do that. Instead, I prefer to think that a perfect poem written by a romantic 20-year-old girl is somewhere out there floating around in the informational abyss, never to be seen by human eyes. I think Jack would like that.
And I never finished listening to On the Road. I think Jack would like that, too.