Thursday, March 29, 2012
Lu Anne's Story by Gerald Nicosia and Anne Marie Santos
I saw Jack three times when he was out here in 1957. Al Hinckle and Neal and I went over to see him when he staying in that little cottage over in Berkeley with his mother.. It just happened to be the day his box of On the Road arrived – none of us knew he was going to get his book that day, And of course we were all thrilled – Jack’s first book! – I can still remember Jack sitting at that big old round table with the stack of books in front of him. All of us were bending over him – hovering over him- and flipping through pages and trying to read this or that. And Jack was going through real agony – he really and truly was. He kept apologizing to us, He says,” You gotta understand now, I was mad at you here… I was mad at you here…” He was apologizing to us through the whole book and you know we could’ve cared less. We were just so excited that Jack had had a book published, and I don’t think any of us – at least I didn’t – we never really thought about Jack being famous. It wasn’t about fame – that wasn’t it. What made us so happy there that day was just the togetherness and the fact that he had done it. There is was, and it was in print! But he was just completely embarrassed.
When you are going through a book like that, just reading a line here and there, you’re not getting any real sense of it. Without meaning to, Jack made us all a little more curious than we might have been otherwise. Of course, we would all have read the book in any case. In fact, later, I found a lot of little things in On The Road that just didn’t match what I remembered but even if it had been the greatest flop in the world, on that day we would have thought it was great, because it was our friend who wrote it. But Jack was sure Neal would disapprove of it; he was in total agony from the minute Neal laid eyes on it. I mean it was obvious he really didn’t want to show us the book – he didn’t want any of us getting into the book. And if we were going to read it, he didn’t want to be around when we did. He couldn’t stop making excuses and apologies for different parts that he knew weren’t quite right. He’d say, “You’ve got to understand that I had to change a few things here and there.” But none of us really cared.
Afterward, Neal and I discussed the book many times. Well, in the beginning, Neal was thrilled. I mean, no one could have given Neal a finer compliment- in his eyes. He was proud that someone found him interesting enough to be written about, but especially someone that he thought so much of as Jack – someone he admired as much as he did Jack. The strange thing about the two of them, when they were with each other, it seemed like they were totally unaware of the other’s real feeling. This was true even for Neal- even though he knew Jack had written so much about him. I mean, they knew that they cared for each other; but I think on both their parts they felt the friendship was unequal. They, Jack and Neal, each felt it was more on their part that it was on the other side. Do you understand what I am saying?
They were both very envious of one another. It never interfered with their association, but it was a very obvious thing when you’d see them together. Everything that Neal was, Jack would want – had wanted – would like to be. And everything Jack was, Neal would have given his right arm to be or to have. Neal not only envied the school Jack had; he also envied the football thing, the athletic ability, the good looks, the ability to sit down and write the way Jack did. There were just so many things Neal didn’t have that came naturally to Jack. On the other hand, on Jack’s part, he envied Neal for his powers with women, of course; but he also envied Neal’s whole attitude, the confidence that real projected that Jack lacked; Neal’s ability to go anywhere and to act sure of himself. I think the woman part of it was small. I mean, Jack was very envious of Neal’s ability to talk with women so easily, and talk them into anything so easily, but I think that’s on any man’s mind.
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If my mother had wanted a life with Neal, it wouldn’t have been a life of driving frantically around San Francisco looking for kicks, it wouldn’t have been the life Neal had later with Kesey and all those hippies taking acid on the bus. If Lu Anne could have had her dearest wish, Neal would have gone to college, he would have become the writer he wanted to be. He wouldn’t have become the Merry Prankster. If they had stayed together, this would not have been the story.
Lu Anne’s great sadness was that Neal didn’t become everything she thought he could be, and that she didn’t become everything she thought she could be with him. There was a song that Barbara Steisand sang, an adaptation of Johnny Ashcroft’s “Little Boy Lost,” that hit my mom very hard when she heard it. That song was very profound for her, because the words were exactly what she felt for Neal. It went something like “Little boy lost/ in search of little boy found/ you go on wondering, wandering…/Why are you blind/ to all you never were / really are / nearly are…” The song was about a boy, or it could be a man, who keeps searching for something that is really close by, but he never realizes it, and keeps wandering farther and farther from those things which are really most important to him.
My mom felt that Neal remained the Little Boy Lost, that he was never done traveling and “always unraveling” as the song says. After Jack’s book came out, Neal became stuck in the role of the gut searching on the road, and he couldn’t get beyond it. My mom told me that she a Neal were looking forward to everything in the early days. Everything was a possibility then – going to New York, becoming a writer. Neal was reaching out for something better, and then somehow he got sidetracked.
The loss of Neal for Lu Anne wasn’t like a daily loss, like a loss of someone who’s been with you every day. They didn’t interact that much during the later years of their lives. But it was the loss of youth, and the dreams of youth, and the possibility of youth. When she lost Neal, all her youthful dreams were shut down. The future had been something that seemed open to her, an suddenly it was it was finalized – it was over. Over the years, she talked about how he died too young, but the thing that bothered her the most was that he died sad. Their youth, their dream, was gone.