The back part of this Florida bungalow is where Jack lived with his mother for a time. He rented the space for something like $40 a month, a fortune for a guy who had no real job and had not yet published On the Road. He got word of its publication while living here.
Last night, before going to bed in the front part of the home, I stepped into Jack’s room in the dark. There was just a hint of light coming from the north facing window, the outside porch light of the house next door. On the wall in that room is a photograph from a news photographer who came here to take pictures of Jack for a Time magazine article. It shows Jack in that very room, typing the publisher’s manuscript from the scroll that was the first draft of The Dharma Bums. There’s something of a shyness in his eyes, a reluctance to the fame about to envelope him, which we all know was eventually the root of his demise. I could see only the shadows of that photo, but for a moment, it appeared to slightly move, like an old-fashioned movie house picture show. Of course, it was only the meager light dancing on the black-and-white photo. But I like to think that Jack’s energy is what made that photo move. His energy everywhere in this place.
There are also lizards.
Yep, those small central Florida lizards. They’ll not exactly in the house, but they are outside. They scurry when I go out to the front porch, fast and furious like Jack’s typing. And the gigantic oak tree that shades this home is, as one poet who stayed here said, one large pencil scratching out words on the old tin roof. The branch lightly touches the house as if recording the life of those who are lucky enough to stay inside.
Jack kept hundreds of little notebooks with sketches and words and thoughts, scribbled out with pencil and pen. Maybe that’s where Jack’s ghost resides – in the beauty of that big oak, scribbling out his musings on the tallest part of the house, the part closest to heaven, nirvana.
Twenty-four hours have passed. I have decided to live in the front section of the house and write in Jack’s room, so I can be there when the light again catches that photo.