She was 20 and Jack was 28 going on Jack, by then, had already been married and divorced. He had out one book, his first novel, The Town and the City , a semiautobiographical tale of growing up French Canadian and poor in Lowell, Massachusetts. But few copies sold. Two weeks after Jack and Joan met, they married.
Allen Ginsberg was best man. Joan went to work as a waitress. Jack typed away on what eventually would become On the Road. Jack paid Joan little attention. He expected her to support them and feed them and keep the apartment clean. By late spring, after six months of marriage, Joan threw Jack out. Then, in early June , Joan got in touch with Jack to tell him she was pregnant. Jack insisted Joan find an abortionist. She refused. She went back to Albany to her mother.
Jack was in California with Neal and Caroline Cassady. Jack had nothing to do with Joan or his child. He contested the suit. On the Road was published in and made Jack famous. Father and daughter saw each other only twice. The first time was in , when Jan was The second time Jan saw her father she was It made more sense he hadn't had time to be fatherly. In , thenyear-old Jack married year-old Stella Sampas, sister of a friend from his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts.
Jack, by this time, wrote little and drank a lot. In , when he was 47, he died. The baby she was carrying when she saw her father the last time was stillborn in Mexico. She married for the first time. She took off then, without her husband, and went to the Southwest, where she worked in massage parlors and shot heroin and generally led a wild party life.
Trainsong , published in , starts off in the early s, where Baby Driver ended. Jan describes her arrival in the little town in central Washington State. Jan, during this first visit, got involved with a married Mexican laborer with an alcohol problem. There were arguments and beatings.
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Her job was to cut corn off cobs. When Jan got together enough money, she took off. She married again. She and her new husband went to Tangier. They returned to the U.
Jan was still drinking, still using drugs. She fell in love with a cook in Portland. They traveled from city to city in the Pacific Northwest. He taught her to steal. They got arrested.
Jan, for a short time, was incarcerated in the little six-cell county jail in the town where we both had lived. Jan traveled. She lived in Boulder for a time in a house she shared with Allen Ginsberg. In , after her kidneys failed, she lived in Key West. Had Gabrielle died intestate, the estate would have become the property of her two grandchildren, Jan and Paul Blake Jr. I talked twice, for 20 minutes or so, with Jan late at night by telephone.
She was at home in Albuquerque. Barely five feet tall. She looks so young, so pretty The first time we talked she raged against what she felt was the ill-treatment given her by her fetters widow's family. When I asked her about the little town in which we both lived, she became less forthcoming. The first time my mother and I met him and his lawyer on a street in Brooklyn and then went someplace to a bar to sit down for a while.
The whole purpose of the test was to prove he was my father. He knew I was his kid. After the blood test, Jan said, they went back to the Lower East Side apartment where Jan, her mother, and twin sisters lived. Then he left.
Project On the Road: remembering Kerouac
Jan saved the cork from the sherry bottle. He was sitting in his rocking chair, watching The Beverly Hillbillies , and drinking Southern Comfort. When I got ready to leave, I told him I was going to Mexico and was going to be a writer. You can use my name. Jan suddenly sounded weary, tired, I thought, of telling strangers like me this old, sad story.
I know he was very attached to his mother and that she was the most important thing in his life. Jan said, politely, that she was tired. We said good-bye, and I wished her well. In March , Jan showed up again in the news. The city soon after turned down her request. But she remained confident. When I read last June that Jan had died, her death, as I said earlier, left me strangely upset. I thought what a sad story hers was. I thought what a terrible father Jack had been.
I thought that Jan had spent much of her 44 years trying to fill the abysmal absence her father left in her life. I thought that in an odd way she had tried to be her father, to live the way he lived, and that in a similarly odd and tragic way, she succeeded. Another person with whom I talked in was James T. Someone had given him a copy of my story about the suit and he called me. We talked several times, Mr.
Jones and I, and when he went to the small town in Washington State, I gave him some names and phone numbers of people who might help him find people who had known Jan. I remembered, from our conversation, that Mr. I was curious about that interview and curious as to whether Jan and Mr.
I also just wanted to talk to someone who knew and was interested in Jan. I called Mr. We talked first about the little town in central Washington. The only thing substantive I found out when I was there was that she actually did spend time in the county jail.
I took photos, like of the old theater, which has that beautiful old marquee on it, which is an image in one of her books, and of the canning factory, Twin City Foods. His book, Mr. The agreement that we had, Jan and I, although it was informal, was that it was going to be a no-holds-barred book.
I was going to be able to ask any questions and peer into any dark corners that I found.
Project On the Road: remembering Kerouac
Because I knew that Jan had lived a pretty wild life. Much wilder than her father, I think.
I went up to thank him for that, and we chatted a little. I was on leave that year, and so I went off to Ireland after that. And so I went about my business. I went off to Spain for a month. When I got back to Dublin, I thought perhaps Nicosia would have written, but there was nothing. Maybe I was too forward in my letter. One night in early January , I was out, and when I got home, I found a message on my answering machine.
Please give me a call. After that, Jan and I started talking on the phone. She was living in Albuquerque, where she had been, with the exception of some time in Key West, since she came back from Puerto Rico after her kidney failure. She thought that with this money she could move to Key West.