“Well I’ve learned everything now, I’m ready”

This according to Allingham, which in preparation for his final undergraduate class (he had every intention of attending), told me all about the learning process, how it is, exactly, that one comes to acquire knowledge:

Take sketch number one (1): the geocentric consciousness: something that existed before the Copernican turn to heliocentrism and disallowed the cosmological claim b/c it pushed back against both everyday experience and religious hegemony. Heliocentrism, in Galileo’s time—a time of glass-and-leather technology, scant literacy, and reduced access to information—fits the criterion of miracles, as a “miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.”[1] Take the second (2) sketch. In this case it is our present-day experience and not science that informs us that bumblebees fly. It is our own inability to scientifically comprehend. In the face of the sheer amazement of entomological aeronautics we might identify such an everyday event as having miraculous criterion. In both cases, (1) & (2), when nature appears to be chaotic or unexplainable—as in the case of the bumblebee’s flight or when a claim is put forth that can, given the previous state of epistemological understanding, seem to be so outrageous as to refute the obvious track of the sun across the sky—consequent experience and closer investigation reveals only ignorance and credulity on our part, not the presence of any celestial activity.

 Of course Allingham explained these sketches in the context of Hume’s AECHU. (no doubt a gesture meant to indicate how learned and intelligent he is.) Yet it didn’t hold. He digressed. And ended up getting drunk and slipping into Spanish (though his Spanish is poor) and couldn’t stop talking about all those times on the road. These were times when his more reasoned and learned faculties (yet to be developed by the rigours of university life) had not existed in his mind, as he thinks they do now.

No one should be surprised if the speaker loses his thread.[2]

This according to Allingham:

Hitchhiking in Massachusetts is like hitchhiking in Alberta. You do a lot of walking. Cars roll by a little too close, speeding up as they pass you, scowling faces and pointing fingers from behind the windshield. Why are they angry at their windshields? But I walk into Lowell. A town beat down. Faded hand-painted signs slouch from boarded up storefronts. Bottles clank in alleys. The firmament a steel wool grey.

 I walk into a diner for a three-dollar burger and seventy-five cent coffee. My rucksack is heaped next to my stool. Some cops walk in and take a booth. With the waitress, they talk about the Red Sox. I pay with soggy green bills that I pull out of my sock, slip out and disappear around the corner.

 I’m disappointed when I finally make it to the cemetery. There are a lot of people milling about. The Dead Poet’s Society had a meeting here recently and everyone is standing around Jack’s grave. Why do I want this all to myself? A small spritely man introduces himself as Jerry, Kerouac’s biographer. Others nod and say hello. On the grave marker there are several plastic shot glasses, cigarettes, torn-out pages of Mexico City Blues. I recognize some of the words, the Charlie Parker choruses, and I want to recite them (know them by heart) but I don’t. A gentleman comes over and smiles. Says he is translating Dharma Bums into Japanese. Later, when we’re drunk, he’ll borrow fifteen dollars from me and we’ll never see each other again. Sad, I don’t read Japanese.

 I stay awhile after everyone leaves. As the light starts to fade, I feel more comfortable and untie my bedroll. A motorcycle pulls up, but I know it’s Eves by the sound of the engine. We’ve met before, him and I, when I was doing a reading at the Copper Kettle. He brings his gear over to the grave marker. It seems we have the same idea. To sleep on the earth, above Jack’s bones. Eves is a Kerouac. The same family line, from Quebec. He’s a real woodsman, real loud character. Doesn’t like to read. Never even read Jack. His third cousin, six times removed, or something distant like that. But I pull out Lonesome Traveller and read aloud. Eves boils water for cup-of-noodles and after we eat we get in our sleeping bags and from my headlamp I read on, before we both tire, and drift off to sleep.

 In the morning I ask Eves if he wants to have breakfast, but he’s got to move on. He’s on a motorcycle trip to the South. “Gotta make good time man.” And so we part ways but promise to meet up in Algonquin Park sometime. I’m left alone with Jack’s bones. But everything is different now. After all this road. Thirteen months in my tent. The Don Valley, Rod’s backyard at Steels Ave. In the tall grass outside Montreal. The verger in Rougemont. Picking apples and sleeping in orchards. Then New England, New York. Walden Pond and Wall Street. The centre of the universe seems no longer acceptable. There are constellations now. Patterns of Chaos. God can still be Pooh Bear but I close these covers and place the book on the grave marker. I light a cigarette and sip whisky from my flask. I walk out of Edson Cemetery and on to Gorham. I take it to Bridge Street and when I reach highway thirty-eight, I stop and turn, the slow pull of the Merrimack moves…then, after a minute, I turn, and deliberately walk north, thinking I’ll leave my thumbs in my pocket for while. 

[1] Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

[2] Bolaño: “Literature + Illness = Illness”


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