Monday, April 13, 2009

Reunion - Kesey Week Begins

Twenty four years ago I loaned Ken Kesey's Garage Sale to a dude that worked with me at McDonalds. He was another grill jockey like me, but he was older and cooler and he dated assistant manager Linda. Linda came in to work once that summer of 1985 singing "Walking On Sunshine" and that made everything all right for a few fleeting moments. She threw a party later that summer and I came to it dressed in green slacks and a golf shirt I had purchased at Friedmans. It was my one attempt at going preppie to impress Lisa Whitmore and even though she wasn’t go to be at the party I figured I’d give the outfit a test run.

I also brought The Beatles's Rubber Soul album, the British Parlophone import, and put it on the hi-fi. The crowd grew restless after a few tunes and took it off to be replaced by Prince's Around The World In A Day album which is ironic as hell since it was his blatant Beatles rip/homage/whatever record. So my choice of music was crap, but I did have several people ask me if I played golf. Linda and her boyfriend were perhaps only two or three maybe four years older than me, but at that moment in time fresh out of high school they seemed vastly older, more worldly, and mature than me. Her boyfriend was a cool dude, but I never got my book back.

I had purchased it at the Outlets Limited Mall when I was a junior in high school. There was a little book kiosk in one of the halls that sold remaindered stock. I got an Evergreen Review compilation book there too with some Gregory Corso poetry and drawings inside. After I loaned and lost the Kesey book I'd look for it, but years had gone by and I gave up wandering upon it at McKay or some other fabulous used book shop.

So I broke down last week. I ordered a used copy off of Amazon. It was more than I had paid originally, but it was still well under $20. Not too bad for a quasi-collectible hippie generation artifact. It arrived yesterday along with the Lester Bangs penned Blondie bio I had also ordered. I had hoped that the Kesey book might even bear my name...I used to always write my name on a book back in the day, but it didn't happen. Man, that would have been supremely cool, but it was still awesome to have the book back in my hands.

It's not a great book, but it is a fun volume of essays and fiction. The best moments are Kesey's praise of Faulkner, his pro-life stance stated elegantly and forcefully in an interview with Paul Krassner, and of course lots of stuff about Neal Cassady and the rest of the Beats. Opening it up was like seeing an old friend again. Sure, you've lost touch, but just moments in you're synched right back into all of the old social graces that made your life richer and better for knowing them.

So to celebrate this reunion I’ve decided to make this Kesey Week. Each day I’ll post some blather about Kesey and The Merry Pranksters and their trajectory through my little old life. Tomorrow I’ll examine Tom Wolfe’s tale of Kesey, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and how the book’s meanings have changed to me through my readings of it over the years.

“We don’t take our trips on LSD” – Merle Haggard

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