Levi Asher


Back in San Francisco

Though he left Big Sur early, he did manage to salvage some kind of spiritual meaning out of his stay there, if only because he so badly needed to believe he was having a spiritually meaningful experience. But this fragile veneer of happiness (for Kerouac, is there any other kind? Think even of the ecstatic moment on the mountain at the end of 'Dharma Bums,' how thin that happiness felt) shatters when he returns to City Lights, reads a letter from his mother, and learns that his cat Tyke has died. Tyke was a symbol, for Dulouz , of an older brother who died in early childhood. Dulouz is deeply upset, and can't help but feel like the victim of a cruel cosmic joke: as he was trying to commune with nature in Big Sur, nature was dealing him a new and unexpected tragedy. His only response is to run to the nearest bar and get shit-faced drunk.

He hooks up with Dave Wain, another hard partier and apparent lost soul (Dave Wain is based on Lew Welch, a talented poet who is believed to have killed himself in 1971). They visit a friend, George Baso, who is dying in a hospital, and there is a very tender, poignant scene of Dulouz saying goodbye to this friend. Cody Pomeray (Neal Cassady of course) has joined them, and Dulouz asks Monsanto if he can go back to the cabin in Big Sur, this time with Wain and Pomeray. Monsanto, apparently not willing to let the three wild "boys" go unchaperoned, proposes a bigger outing, including himself, Pat McLear (Michael McClure) and his wife and child, a young Beat-wannabe (wannabeat?) named Ron Blake, and Monsanto's friend Arthur Ma. Dulouz would prefer to be alone with Wain and Pomeroy, but he immediately likes Arthur Ma when he meets him. Ma is Chinese, and Dulouz sees him as a symbol for the dying George Baso, who is Japanese. (As always, Kerouac's habit of categorizing by race doesn't translate very well into our current age -- especially when he keeps referring to Arthur Ma as 'little Arthur').

But if we forgive him this and move on, there is an interesting motif of death and renewal here. Years ago Dulouz 's older brother died and was symbolized by the cat Tyke; now Tyke is dead. And now George Baso is dying but is symbolized by Dulouz 's new friend Arthur Ma. And the waves keep crashing into the shore under the bridge at Raton Canyon.

The Second Trip to Raton Canyon