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"They found him in a flophouse and Lawrence took him up to his place. After that he came to me and said, "You know, I'm really in a bad place, and I need to get some wise person. Can I talk to your father?" And I'm saying to myself, "Shit here's this guy, he's drunk all the time and he's got these terrible clothes on, and he's unshaven. What will my father say?" I lived in a world that was so far away from him, that was so distinct, even though it's around the corner from the whole scene. So I talked to Lawrence and we figured it out. I remembered that I had a maroon cashmere sweater which had little holes in it, but you couldn't see them too well. Lawrence shaved Jack, or he somehow shaved himself. Then we put this shirt on him and sweater. My father was in this store on Jackson Street, a grocery store. But it was kind of dirty. Nobody ever went in there to buy stuff because it wasn't really a grocery store, it was my father's political office, like one of those ward offices in Chicago. In the back there's a fifteen-watt lamp up there with a shade so that only the person who sat in front of it had the light. But there was this couch there because people would come in to talk.
So we got Jack shaved, sprayed, and gargled, and he walks in there, but his face is still red. Obviously he's been drinking. So he sits there on this couch where all the politicians sit. My father says to me, in Chinese, "What is this?" I say, "This is a very noted poet. He's a very literary man. He's just as literate as you are in Chinese." He says, "Why do you bring him here?" This is all in Chinese. Meanwhile, Kerouac is sitting there, and he doesn't know what the hell to do about it. So I say, "Come on, talk to him. He's in trouble and he needs something from the Chinese that's wise."
My father turned around, turned his back to Jack and went back to writing his calligraphy. Went on for about ten minutes. Ten minutes in silence is a long time. I said, "Well, Id' better play it cool. If I say something it will prolong the damned thing." It would get too embarrassing and we would have to leave.
So I'm looking at Kerouac and he doesn't look at me. He's just looking at my father's back. Finally, my father turns around and says to Jack in his broken English, "What do you want?"
Kerouac says, "I'm not doing so well. I'm having troubles."
My father says, "What do you do?"
He says, "I write poetry."
So they banter back and forth, but finally my father said to him, "Obviously you like to drink."
He said, "Yes, of course."
And my father said, "You know, you should be like the Japanese monks, the Zen monks. You should go up in the mountains, drink all you want and write poetry."
-an interview with Victor Wong, from Jack's Book: An Oral History of Jack Kerouac. St.Martin's Press, 1978.
"DIALOGUE WITH A YAMABUSHI
One time, when Ikkyu was in a solitary mood, he went to the Kanto with only his flute for company. A yamabushi happened to meet this priest strolling up the path playing his flute like a wandering komuso. Feigning stupidity, the yamabushi approached and asked him,
"I say there, wandering priest, where are you going"
"I go wherever the wind takes me."
"I see. But what do you do when the wind stops blowing?"
"Why I just do the blowing myself," said Ikkyu turning back to his flute.
Outdone, the yamabushi clapped his mouth shut and passed by without a backward glance.
1. Ikkyu's love of the Japanese flute is well documented.
2. The Komuso were an eccentric fraternity of itinerant monks of the Tokugawa period. These members of the so-called Fuke sect of Zen were noted for their odd hats which resembled a beehive and covered the monk's entire face. They wandered all over Japan "playing enlightenment" on long shakuhachi flutes. Often they carried swords as well, and it was generally suspected that no small number of their ranks were nothing more than mercenaries in clerical disguise. Because of the bad reputation that it developed, the sect was often made subject to government regulation, and it was entirely supressed in 1871.
The supposed founder of the Fuke sect was the Chinese monk P'u-k'o (Jpn: Fuke). Since Ikkyu dedicated poems to bamboo, to P'u-k'o, and to the shakuhachi, the later Fuke sect claimed him as one of their founding figures, though the supporting evidence for this thesis is very weak. No full study of the Fuke fraternity exists in English, but my"Shakuhachi Zen: The Fukeshu and Komuso," Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 32, no. 4 (Winter 1977), pp. 411- 440, will provide the curious reader with a useful introduction to the group. ***pp.295-296"
From Zen-Man Ikkyu by James H. Sanford
"Eating is a sacrament. The grace we say clears our hearts and guides the children and welcomes the guest, all at the same time. We look at eggs, apples, and stew. They are evidence of plenitude, excess, a great reproductive exuberance. Millions of grains of grass-seed that will become rice or flour, millions of codfish fry that will never, and must never, grow to maturity. Innumerable little seeds are sacrifices to the food-chain. A parsnip in the ground is a marvel of living chemistry, making sugars and flavors from earth, air, water. And if we do eat meat it is the life, the bounce, the swish, of a great alert being with keen ears and lovely eyes, with foursquare feet and a huge beating heart that we eat, let us not deceive ourselves. We too will be offerings—we are all edible. And if we are not devoured quickly, we are big enough (like the old downed trees) to provide a long slow meal to the smaller critters. Whale carcasses that sink several miles deep in the ocean feed organisms in the dark for fifteen years. (It seems to take about two thousand to exhaust the nutrients in a high civilization.)"
- Gary Snyder
- Gary Snyder