You were a magnificent bastard in life, and just plain magnificent on paper. I still have my rubber-banded edition of Visions of Cody that fell apart, page-by-page, as I read it. I thought it appropriate then and still do today. My water-damaged edition of Tristessa, which I hold as one of the best and most tragic love stories I’ve read, still lives on my bookcase.
Of course, I can’t forget to mention On The Road. That book I first read when I was fifteen when I didn’t ever think I’d make it out of Menomonee Falls, WI alive or with life. That book that drove me toward jazz and toward the freedom of the road, where I lived for the two most memorable months of my life. That book that I read under street lights at 3AM and in parks filled with people who had darker tones than my pale and sheltered suburban skin. That book that took me to places before I went places. That book that gave me the courage to bounce through the streets of New Orleans with two women on my arms. That book that I thought so sweetly of as I wiped my sweaty brow and danced with the woman at the Cuban club. That book that I never hesitate to admit (no matter how cliche or tedious it may sound to those who ask) had the most profound impact upon me during the years when impacts tend to be profound. That book. That book…
I’m glad I didn’t turn out like you, but I’m also thankful I had the courage to mirror you. Your buzzing flawed life gave a generation the words… your words… to make their own words… to keep them buzzing and looking and living.
Happy Birthday, Jack… May you have found peace by now… but not too much peace.