I was sitting on the john in my pajamas when the buzzer rang. It was seven o’clock on a Sunday morning in November 1956 and Helen and I–my roommate had the same name as me–didn’t have any plans for the day. Neither one of us had gone to church in years. As far as I knew it was going to be just another boring Sunday in Greenwich Village.
Who the hell could be ringing our bell at this ungodly hour? To see who it was you had to look out my bedroom window, which looked onto the flagstone courtyard on West 11th Street below. To let somebody in you had to throw down the key in a sock, because the buzzer only worked one way.
As I splashed water on my face I could hear Helen rummaging around in her room. Then her door opened and I heard her pad across the living room and into my bedroom.
“It’s Allen and Jack!” she yelled, sounding wide awake and very excited. I knew who she meant right away. She had told me all about the two writers she used to hang out with at the West End Bar when she was a student at Barnard College and they were at Columbia.
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As I get ready to send this book out into the world I understand the long overdue movie of On the Road is still spinning its wheels, having run out of gas for the umpteenth time.
I’ve seen most of the movies in which an actor plays the Jack Kerouac character, and none are successful. For Jack they always pick some young man who is short, dark, and handsome and who looks “sensitive” but who doesn’t look or sound anything like Jack.
The only Hollywood actor who actually looks like Jack is Mel Gibson. He’s not as handsome as Jack was but has very similar features and that same wild gleam in his eye, the same combination of wildness and sweetness–the athlete and the poet, Braveheart and Hamlet–and the same good-humored crinkles around the eyes. He, too, is one of those bantam-sized men–they’re both only five feet nine–that women want to take home and feed a hot meal.
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