The West (Part 1 of Many)
I am about to embark on a trip to the dirty dark free glorious heart of America, the place that Kerouac failed to capture but tried his best to. I won’t patronize its people and the delusional dreamers and manics who traipse about its glorious deserts. They speak for themselves in their everyday freedom and those who wish to know how freedom feels should simply go and taste it themselves.
What I will do is speak of the joy of setting out. And in this I have to quote the oft-quoted Kerouac, because as much as the Beats failed to explain America they could explain the yearning to see America.
They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
This spirit finds itself in Heroin, my favorite song. Lou Reed, the best Beat, explained why he chose to check out, metaphorically, I contend, through heroin (will discuss further in upcoming post).
Because when the smack begins to flow
I really don’t care anymore
About all the Jim-Jims in this town
And all the politicians making crazy sounds
And everybody putting everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds
’Cause when the smack begins to flow
And I really don’t care anymore
He’s only talking about “smack” because that’s what his audience would be shocked by. But what he really loves is anything transcendant. As Stairway tells us,
Read these songs in conjunction, as I do and you should, and you will see the unbroken chain of yearning for more, which for simplicity and cultural shock value we should call a “drug.” All songs use drugs as the metaphor, and sometimes “love” or “candy” when they want radio play. But the real drug that has always captured the soul has always been for all humans and not only Americans, the inexorable march towards freedom which is found in the West. The [Mid]West is young and restless like Mr. West is, and so should we all. And so I beat to win the war with ourselves on in the path of the Beats towards the green light of the West, the drug of drugs.