Ti Jean's only daughter lived on Monte Vista...

(Dear DCF Community, I am embarking upon a serial narrative, of my early days in Albuquerque- 1993-1995. This particular story will be continued in future posts, sporadically, as this story warrants additional details and conclusion in a future telling. Future tales may be more concise. My goal is to bring tidbits of "Moving to Albuquerque" and how the Land of Enchantment in general will suck you in. Which in my case, has been nothing but a good thing. Oh, and sorry in advance for all the "passive" sentence construction and parenthetical diversions.)

I first moved here in 1993, armed with a Bachelor's Degree in Rhetoric and a high degree of respect for the likes of The Beats, Bukowski, Mary Jane, and things which are not mechanized. I owned no car & no TV. I arrived on Greyhound via Denver, with 750 bucks in my pocket from selling my 1976 Silver VW Beetle (painted with Black and White polka dots and Yin & Yangs on the wheels-- or is that Yins and Yangs...). The girl that bought it called me the next day asking if I would buy it back from her because her boyfriend was so mad that she bought "a clown car". Some months and an additional owner later I visited it after it had been painted "Champagne Pink"...

My college buddy with whom I had a loosely based agreement to "meet up" with after graduation had an English degree built entirely on his poetry skills. I know people throw this word around but he truly was a poet. He exhibited an even more profound mortal fear of technology and modern conveniences than I, one-upping me by refusing to own even a blender. Our post-baccalaureate soul searching pan-country jaunts crossed paths in Colorado- he on his way back east and I on my way out west. Despite our subdued efforts to meet up for a beer at buddy "UE" (Eugene) Takahashi's place in Boulder, we missed each other by a day and connected over the phone.

"Of all the places I went through I think I liked Albuquerque the best" he told me. "So if you're getting a place there- get a two-bedroom. I'll be out in 2 weeks."

So it was decided. Albuquerque would be where we would conquer the world, 2 medium length, messy-haired dudes seething with boyish enthusiasm and nearly unparalleled Scrabble skills (is that what 100K in Liberal Arts education gets you?).

Those days on Madison Ave. across from the "Zia Tres" Apartments were subsistence at its basest, at least for two guys from a liberal arts college in Maine- one a private school educated son of a Massachusetts judge (him), the other a public school educated son of a soon to be convicted felon (me). I slept under a sleeping bag on a box spring and mattress buttressed by milk crates yoinked from behind the old John Brooks Food Town on Lomas across from (the bigger) Los Cuates. My roommate again outdid me by sleeping on a tatami mat on the hardwood floors, revealed to us after pulling the nasty brown "cottage cheese" carpet. The rent was $425 a month. Sundays were "rice and tamari night".

We both got jobs as bus boys- he at a new restaurant downtown called Rio Bravo (anyone remember this?) located I think where the ill-fated Club 7 was, and I at Nob Hill Bistro (anyone remember that one?-- nee Central Deli?") located where Vivace is. The Rio Bravo was hip and young and cool both in the type of employees they hired and in the spiciness of the menu offerings. The Nob Hill Bistro was pomp and circumstance, with a mirrored wall, a giant Rousseau mural and thick French sauces like "Havarti Dill".

One day, at the Nob Hill Bistro, having ascended to the lofty post of lunchtime waiter, I served a 40-ish year old woman who dined solo, and whom I’d seen in there for lunch a few times in my busboy days. I had also noticed her many times previously, walking slowly up and down Central in Nob Hill late morning and early afternoons. It was during those precious moments before the patrons arrive, when tuxedo clad wait staff stand outside of busy Central Ave. cafes spiritually beckoning all high tippers whilst lending some class and refinement to the establishment as a whole-- "Wow, a lunch place with waiters in Tuxedo shirts. I'll have to try that...". (At least that was my rationale for doing it myself back in the day).

As I served her, I noticed the manner in which she chose her words-- the most precise of manners, actually. The rhetor in me really appreciated that. She savored every spoonful of that French Onion Soup (topped with a puff pastry, natch) and asked careful questions regarding its preparation. She seemed to savor life itself, her lunchtime dining experience was merely the conduit. She was slow and deliberate in her actions, had a puppy dog face and a remarkable yet small paunch in her belly, which she attempted to hide by only wearing dresses- oddly, it only served to accentuate it. She was small, maybe 5 foot 1, and was a bit of a throwback to an earlier time in the way she dressed and comported herself. Her overall appearance belied her age, frankly. She was 40 going on 80. I never really thought of her as attractive, or in a sexual way, but she imbued a sense of chivalry in me, or at least a need for me to help her out, be nice to her, be her companion, something. I thought she was lonely, but not in a pathetic way. She was not desperate. She didn't need anyone.

The intoxicating moment for me came, when I hustled to the back to use the credit card machine in my usual manic way, and I read on her card that her name was “Jan Kerouac”. The copious hairs on my forearms stood at attention. I was born and partly grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts and that name is obviously near and dear to me. I have visited the grave site, the statue in the slightly underwhelming Jack Kerouac Park in the mill district. I have read all that there is to read. But this was different. This was Beat flesh and blood. This was knee-buckling.

As I approached the table with her receipt and requested her signature, the rhetorician (me) said, "I don't mean to pry... I grew up in Lowell Mass.... Kerouac is not a very common name... (blurting) are you related to Jack Kerouac?" At least that's what i thought i said... I'll bet it was actually even more stammered and choppy, with some shaking for good measure. I fully expected her to say, "No, but my family's from Quebec and i'm sure we're distantly related- I get that all the time, blah blah blah..." But no.

While I stood there, hunched over the prim little front window table with its white on white linens, on baited breath...

She said, "Yeah, I'm his daughter."

Views: 112

Comment by cathyray on January 8, 2009 at 9:47am
very, very cool!
Comment by Adelita on January 8, 2009 at 9:52am
Holy crap, so very cool. You just never know who you'll run into here. Thanks Mass, I'm looking forward to many more!
Comment by mombat on January 8, 2009 at 9:57am
A family friend always said that NM was the center of the universe, when ever I would disagree he would point to stories like this.
Nice post
Comment by Mike Ryko on January 8, 2009 at 10:14am
It is interesting how synchronistic your post is with my completion of the best biography, in my opinion, on Kerouac. Chills ran down my body last night upon finishing Paul Maher's biography of Kerouac when Maher stated that Jan Kerouac died in Albuquerque on June 7, 2006!!! My wife and me had moved to Albuquerque in June 2006 and I was mining the depths of my mind to figure out what day we actually arrived. I wondered if I had passed Jan on Central or at the grocery store. How fortunate you were to meet the daughter of the best and most misunderstood postmodern American writer!

Masshole: Have you been to see the scroll? I saw it in Santa Fe when it was housed at the Palace of the Governors. AND, thank goodness for an observant wife, I was able to see it again during the 2007 Christmas holiday, at the New York Public Library. They had most of what John Sampas donated in 2001, the Berg Collection, on display. I sobbed like a little girl walking around that place! It was wonderful to be able to see a slew of journals, letters, manuscripts, and other items that have never been released. I wanted to roll out a sleeping bag, stay a few months and simply be.

My next goal is to go and see Lowell and pay my respects at Kerouac's grave.

Your story made my day, thank you Masshole! Now, back to Old Angel Midnight!
Comment by Masshole in Fringecrest on January 8, 2009 at 10:22am
@Mike Ryko- Great to hear! Keep your eyes peeled for the future tales, they are many! Jan and I talked at length about how she thought the "collection" should be handled, archived, etc. Basically she was distraught over the piecemeal selling off of items (a trenchcoat to Johnny Depp, for example) and tried very hard to get things reined in. She despised Stella Sampas (who's sister-in-law Mary ironically was my Dad's next door neighbor for many years) and fought for more control of the legacy. I can honestly say she was not motivated by money. One continuing habit I have is to read the copyright page of every Kerouac book I see to see jan's Name. If I catch a volume published during the right span, It mentions the estate of Jack Kerouac, Stella Sampas AND Jan Kerouac... I loved to hear jan bad mouth "The Greek Mafia" of Lowell...

Don't even get me started... more episodes to come!
Comment by Adelita on January 8, 2009 at 10:23am
Masshole - if you ever find yourself in San Francisco, you have to go to Vesuvio for a drink and a nod.
Comment by Masshole in Fringecrest on January 8, 2009 at 10:26am
@Mike Ryko, I just noticed the date of her death you quoted (and maybe Maher?) is actually wrong-- sorry to mess up the synergy. She actually died in June 1996, not 2006. If only I had 10 extra years...
Comment by CRV on January 8, 2009 at 10:43am
I'm the "observant wife" mentioned in Mike's post. We did indeed move here in 1996. Hubby gets excited when discussing Kerouac. Synchronicity is indeed scary.
Comment by once banned twice shy on January 8, 2009 at 10:44am
Yeah, well, Sissy King lived on the corner of Tulane and Lomas.

Comment by Masshole in Fringecrest on January 8, 2009 at 10:48am
OK, i'll bite. Who's Sissy King?


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