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Authors: Jack Kerouac

Lonesome Traveler



Published by Grove Press

Dr. Sax

Lonesome Traveler

Mexico City Blues

Satori in Paris

The Subterraneans



Copyright © 1960 by Jack Kerouac

Copyright © renewed 1988 by Grove Press

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Any members of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain permission to include the work in an anthology, should send their inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

Originally published in 1960 by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc

Published simultaneously in Canada

Printed in the United States of America

Portions of this book appeared in
Holiday, Evergreen Review, Jubilee
, and
. Lines from
The Buddhist Bible
, edited by Dwight Goddard, are reproduced by permission of E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-14613

eBook ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-9570-8

Grove Press

841 Broadway

New York, NY 10003


Jack Kerouac


Lowell, Massachusetts

March 12, 1922

schools attended, special courses of study, degrees and years

Lowell (Mass.) High School; Horace Mann School for Boys; Columbia College (1940-42); New School for Social Research (1948-49). Liberal arts, no degrees (1936-1949). Got an A from Mark Van Doren in English at Columbia (Shakespeare course).— Flunked chemistry at Columbia.— Had a 92 average at Horace Mann School (1939-40). Played football on varsities. Also track, baseball, chess teams.




Everything: Let's elucidate: scullion on ships, gas station attendant, deckhand on ships, newspaper sportswriter (
Lowell Sun
), railroad brakeman, script synopsizer for 20th Century Fox in N.Y., soda jerk, railroad yardclerk, also railroad baggagehandler, cotton-picker, assistant furniture mover, sheet metal apprentice on the Pentagon in 1942, forest service fire lookout 1956, construction laborer (1941).


I invented my own baseball game, on cards, extremely complicated, and am in the process of playing a whole 154-game season among eight clubs, with all the works, batting averages, E.R.A. averages, etc.

Played all of them except tennis and lacrosse and skull.



Had beautiful childhood, my father a printer in Lowell, Mass.,
roamed fields and riverbanks day and night, wrote little novels in my room, first novel written at age 11, also kept extensive diaries and “newspapers” covering my own-invented horseracing and baseball and football worlds (as recorded in novel
Doctor Sax
),—Had good early education from Jesuit brothers at St. Joseph's Parochial School in Lowell making me jump sixth grade in public school later on; as child traveled to Montreal, Quebec, with family; was given a horse at age 11 by mayor of Lawrence (Mass.), Billy White, gave rides to all kids in neighborhood; horse ran away. Took long walks under old trees of New England at night with my mother and aunt. Listened to their gossip attentively. Decided to become a writer at age 17 under influence of Sebastian Sampas, local young poet who later died on Anzio beach head; read the life of Jack London at 18 and decided to also be an adventurer, a lonesome traveler; early literary influences Saroyan and Hemingway; later Wolfe (after I had broken leg in Freshman football at Columbia read Tom Wolfe and roamed his New York on crutches).— Influenced by older brother Gerard Kerouac who died at age 9 in 1926 when I was 4, was great painter and drawer in childhood (he was)—(also said to be a saint by the nuns)—(recorded in forthcoming novel
Visions of Gerard
).—My father was completely honest man full of gaiety; soured in last years over Roosevelt and World War II and died of cancer of the spleen.— Mother still living, I live with her a kind of monastic life that has enabled me to write as much as I did.— But also wrote on the road, as hobo, railroader, Mexican exile, Europe travel (as shown in
Lonesome Traveler
).—One sister, Caroline, now married to Paul E. Blake Jr. of Henderson N.C., a government anti-missile technician—she has one son, Paul Jr., my nephew, who calls me Uncle Jack and loves me.— My mother's name Gabrielle, learned all about natural story-telling from her long stories about Montreal and New Hampshire.— My people go back to Breton France, first North American ancestor Baron Alexandre Louis Lebris de Kerouac of Cornwall, Brittany, 1750 or so, was granted land along the Riviere du Loup after victory of Wolfe over Montcalm; his descendants married Indians (Mohawk and Caughnawaga) and became potato farmers; first United States descendant my grandfather Jean-Baptiste Kerouac, carpenter, Nashua N.H.— My father's mother a Bernier related to explorer Bernier—all Bretons on father's side—My mother has a Norman name, L'Evesque.—

First formal novel
The Town and the City
written in tradition of long work and revision, from 1946 to 1948, three years, published by Harcourt Brace in 1950.—Then discovered “spontaneous” prose and wrote, say,
The Subterraneans
in 3 nights—wrote
On the Road
in 3 weeks —

Read and studied alone all my life.— Set a record at Columbia College cutting classes in order to stay in dormitory room to write a daily play and read, say, Louis Ferdinand Celine, instead of “classics” of the course.—

Had own mind.— Am known as “madman bum and angel” with “naked endless head” of “prose.”—Also a verse poet,
Mexico City Blues
(Grove, 1959).—Always considered writing my duty on earth. Also the preachment of universal kindness, which hysterical critics have failed to notice beneath frenetic activity of my true-story novels about the “beat” generation.—Am actually not “beat” but strange solitary crazy Catholic mystic …

Final plans: hermitage in the woods, quiet writing of old age, mellow hopes of Paradise (which comes to everybody anyway) …

Favorite complaint about contemporary world: the facetiousness of “respectable” people … who, because not taking anything seriously, are destroying old human feelings older than
Time Magazine
… Dave Garroways laughing at white doves …


Lonesome Traveler
is a collection of published and unpublished pieces connected together because they have a common theme: Traveling.

The travels cover the United States from the south to the east coast to the west coast to the far northwest, cover Mexico, Morocco Africa, Paris, London, both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at sea in ships, and various interesting people and cities therein included.

Railroad work, sea work, mysticism, mountain work, lasciviousness, solepsism, self-indulgence, bullfights, drugs, churches, art museums, streets of cities, a mishmosh of life as lived by an independent educated penniless rake going anywhere.

Its scope and purpose is simply poetry, or, natural description.


Piers of the Homeless Night

Mexico Fellaheen

The Railroad Earth

Slobs of the Kitchen Sea

New York Scenes

Alone on a Mountaintop

Big Trip to Europe

The Vanishing American Hobo



before we all go to Heaven


All that hitchhikin

All that railroadin

All that comin back

to America

Via Mexican & Canadian borders …

Less begin with the sight of me with collar huddled up close to neck and tied around with a handkerchief to keep it tight and snug, as I go trudging across the bleak, dark warehouse lots of the ever lovin San Pedro waterfront, the oil refineries smelling in the damp foggish night of Christmas 1951 just like burning rubber and the brought-up mysteries of Sea Hag Pacific, where just off to my left as I trudge you can see the oily skeel of old bay waters marching up to hug the scummy posts and out on over the flatiron waters are the lights ululating
in the moving tide and also lights of ships and bum boats themselves moving and closing in and leaving this last lip of American land.— Out on that dark ocean, that wild dark sea, where the worm invisibly rides to come, like a hag flying and laid out as if casually on sad sofa but her hair flying and she's on her way to find the crimson joy of lovers and eat it up, Death by name, the doom and death ship the S.S.
, painted black with orange booms, was coming now like a ghost and without a sound except for its vastly shuddering engine, to be warped & wailed in at the Pedro pier, fresh from a run from New York through the Panamy canal, and aboard's my ole buddy Deni Bleu let's call him who had me travel 3,000 miles overland on buses with the promise he will get me on and I sail the rest of the trip around the world.— And since I'm well and on the bum again & aint got nothing else to do, but roam, longfaced, the real America, with my unreal heart, here I am eager and ready to be a big busted nose scullion or dishwasher on the old scoff scow s'long as I can buy my next fancy shirt in a Hong Kong haberdashery or wave a polo mallet in some old Singapore bar or play the horses in Australian, it's all the same to me as long as it can be exciting and goes around the world.

For weeks I have been traveling on the road, west from New York, and waiting up in Frisco at a friend's house meanwhile earning an extra 50 bucks working the Christmas rush as a baggagehandler with the old sop out railroad, have just now come the 500 miles down from Frisco as an honored secret guest in the caboose of the Zipper first class freight train thanx to my connections on the railroad up there and now I think I'm going to be a big seaman, I'll get on the
right here in Pedro, so I think fondly, anyway if it wasnt for this shipping I'd sure like it maybe to be a railroad man, learn to be a brakeman, and get paid to ride that old
zooming Zipper.— But I'd been sick, a sudden choking awful cold of the virus X type California style, and could hardly see out the dusty window of the caboose as it flashed past the snowy breaking surf at Surf and Tangair and Gaviota on the division that runs that moony rail between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.—I'd tried my best to appreciate a good ride but could only lay flat on the caboose seat with my face buried in my bundled jacket and every conductor from San Jose to Los Angeles had had to wake me up to ask about my qualifications, I was a brakeman's brother and a brakeman in Texas Division myself, so whenever I looked up thinking “Ole Jack you are now actually riding in a caboose and going along the surf on the spectrallest railroad you'd ever in your wildest little dreams wanta ride, like a kid's dream, why is it you cant lift your head and look out there and appreciate the feathery shore of California the last land being feathered by fine powdery skeel of doorstop sills of doorstep water weaving in from every Orient and bay boom shroud from here to Catteras Flapperas Voldivious and Gratteras, boy,” but I'd raise my head, and nothing there was to see, except my bloodshot soul, and vague hints of an unreal moon shinin on an unreal sea, and the flashby quick of the pebbles of the road bed, the rail in the starlight.—Arriving in L.A. in the morning and I stagger with full huge cuddlebag on shoulder from the L.A. yards clear into downtown Main Street L.A. where I laid up in a hotel room 24 hours drinking bourbon lemon juice and anacin and seeing as I lay on my back a vision of America that had no end—which was only beginning—thinking, tho, “I'll get on the
at Pedro and be gone for Japan before you can say boo.”—Looking out the window when I felt a little better and digging the hot sunny streets of L.A. Christmas, going down finally to the skid row poolhalls and shoe shine
joints and gouging around, waiting for the time when the
would warp in at the Pedro pier, where I was to meet Deni right at the gangplank with the gun he'd sent ahead.

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