Jack Kerouac (b. March 12, 1922 - October 21, 1969)
Born Jean Louis Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts to French Canadian parents, Jack Kerouac wrote 22 books before the invention of word processing. Often on speed, he typed on a continuous scroll of paper through a typewriter and churned out landmark novels like On the Road (1957) that defined a generation called “beat.”
Kerouac hints at pot smoking at the beginning of Desolation Angels (1965), when he travels to Mexico to visit “Bull Gaines” (William Burroughs, a streetcorner philosopher/junkie that Kerouac turned his college buddies Allen Ginsberg et al onto in Times Square). One of Gaines’ diatribes described in Desolation Angels spanned the Epic of Gilganish (sic), Minoan civilization, Petronius, Mallarme, and HG Wells’s history of the world.
“I had my little wines, lesser drugs of my own (for excitement, for sleep, or for contemplation, and when in Rome),” Kerouac wrote. Any doubt that he was talking about marijuana is erased when “Irwin Garden” (who wrote “Howling”) and his buddies appear: “Whenever I rolled a joint they smoked it without a word.” The group would argue about Samsara (this world) and Nirvana (no world) and Heidegger.
After Gaines cures a bout of dysentery with morphine, Kerouac writes “which makes you realize the restrictions on drugs (or, medicine) in America comes from doctors who don’t want people to heal themselves – Amen, Anslinger.” At the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, in Teotihuacan, “I lit up a marijuana cigarette so we could all examine our instincts about the place….sitting up there high and thoughtful I began to see something about Mexican history I’d never find in books.”
On their way home, “we settled down to the trip beginning with the rolling of joints of pot.” When they encountered hostility from their driver, “We’re all high and suspicious anyway on tea.” Back in New York, Jack starts hanging out with a resentful school chum and his family, and drinking, a vice that plagued him for the rest of his life. Reconnecting with a friend with some leftover Mexican pot, Jack paints pictures all night. He writes that he got high for a Life magazine interview and was photographed standing on his head saying, “Tell everybody this is the way to keep the doctor away.”
The remainder of the book has the author Passing Through places like Tangiers, France and London. From Tangiers, Kerouac writes, “Majoon is a candy you make with honey, spices and raw marijuana (kief)…A tremendous high giving vent to many colored sensations like, ‘Notice the delicate white shade of those flowers under the tree’…Man, that hasheesh in Bull’s room – and it’s amazing how American potsmokers have gone around the world by now with the most exaggerated phantasmagoria of gooey details, hallucinations actually, by which their machine-ridden brains though are actually given a little juice of the ancient life of man, so God bless pot.”