The ghost of Ken Kesey came in through my kitchen window last night looking like a bag of neck muscles and clown hair. Ken, you are long gone, I said. Turning a chair around he sat in it backwards and said, so? Ken, your bus Further is a pile of peeling rust and you don’t look much better, I said.
Hey, I said, do you remember 1972, you were on a tour of college campuses? And you talked about either being a Venusian or an Egyptian? You were so full of divine shit at times. It was right after the acid tests, right after you blew poor young Tom Wolfe’s mind. You put us on your back that night and took us on great windy loops out past Alpha Centauri and the Crab Nebula, out through your LSD-fueled back pages. LSD lets you look at the celestial books, you said. You ask and LSD says OK, you want to look at the books? And it grabs you by the back of the neck and slams your face into the books. My God, what back pages you had, celestial or otherwise. The incredible detours you took us on, side roads past the eastern Oregon petroglyphs, the mummified brains of of Aztec poet gods, past the flooding Siuslaw river, past the ghost of Tom Joad reincarnated in Sometimes a Great Notion, “Never Give A Inch, Never Give A Inch,” with the sawed off arm, middle finger extended, waving from the topmast of the log boom tugboat.
Do you remember once right after sundown in Washington park. A bunch of us were lying on a hillside while you read to us by flashlight from a fistful of crumpled up three-hole notebook paper. It was a story called the Tranny Man about a transmission repair guy. For an hour your flashlight became the celestial campfire, and you the griot telling the tribe’s history, the shaman-come-con-man with the Kerouac demons in his head telling us about a poor working guy with rough diamonds around the edges of his life if he could only get to them but they were always just out of reach. Yes the shit was divine, Ken, it was. Divine.
Ken smiled his goofy crumpled smile, said yes, I remember. He stood up and turned to go. Well, he said over his shoulder, are you a Venusian or an Egyptian?