Study Guide

Big Sur Chapter 14

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Chapter 14

  • Jack wakes up the next morning to the sound of Lex Pascal chucking glass bottles around in the kitchen.
  • Today they've planned to go visit George Baso (who has T.B.) in the hospital.
  • Before they can leave Joey Rosenberg, "a strange kid from Oregon […], a strange athlete who's suddenly decided instead to become some sort of beat Jesus" arrives.
  • Joey is wearing what the new beat wannabes wear – "special smooth dandy clothes." He immediately spots Jack's beat-up blue sneakers that he hiked away from Big Sur with and wants them for himself. So he trades Jack his snazzy shoes in return for them.
  • Dave explains that Joey showed up about a week ago, and all he wants to do is watch and hang out and that he's a sweet harmless guy who has faith and wants to learn from the beat veterans.
  • Later, "in a strange revery," Jack has a vision of walking across a plain in Arkansas toward a group of pilgrims. In this vision, Dave Wain wants Jack to be quiet and not wake Joey and his disciples.
  • The next morning, when Jack looks at Joey, he realizes "it IS him, Jesus, because anyone […] who looks into those eyes is instantly convinced and converted."
  • A few months later, Jack says, he will throw away those fancy shoes he got from Joey because he believes they bring bad luck. He'll wish he had his beat-up sneakers back.
  • Back in the present, the group goes over to Mike's place to drink and "watch Jesus shoot pool." And Jack, the "drunken novelist," pays for everyone to drink and eat as much as they want.
  • Jack describes the process of getting drunk. "Any drinker knows how the process works," he says. The first day of drinking is OK, then you kill your headache the next day with a few more drinks, skip eating and head right into drinking again on night #2. Keep going until the fourth day, at which point you're on overload and the drinks won't even effect you anymore. Then you need to sleep it off, but you can't sleep and end up delirious, sleepless, sweating, trembling and weak.
  • At noon they pick up Romana, Dave's girl, a Mae West-type woman who is supposedly (or according to Dave) a nudist. She's also intelligent and writes poetry.
  • So they all drive two hours to the hospital to see George Baso, the Japanese Zen master, as Jack calls him.
  • What Jack likes best about George is that the night Jack met him, George outlined his version of the entire life of Buddha and his own theories regarding it. When they all traveled to New York together, George sat on the mattress in the back and wondered aloud if he was traveling to New York or the Keep was traveling to New York, "A Zen problem of some kind," writes Jack.
  • And now that George is very sick, Jack is hit with another wave of mortality, a sense that all these deaths around him are "piling up suddenly."
  • They arrive and surprise George, who is sitting on the edge of his hospital bed and looking displeased. He wants to know what they want in coming to see him, and Jack marks this new skepticism in his friend.

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