I said, “Who’s there?” "It’s me.”
It was Phillip’s voice, and I opened the door and Phillip slid in quick. "Here,” he said, "have the last cigarette.”
He held out a pack of Lucky Strikes smeared with blood. There was one cigarette left in the pack.
It’s called And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. The hippos. Because Burroughs and I were sitting in a bar one night and we heard a newscaster saying “…and so the Egyptians attacked blah blah … and meanwhile there was a great fire in the zoo in London and the fire raced across the fields and the hippos were boiled in their tanks! Goodnight everyone!” That’s Bill, he noticed that. Because he notices them kind of things.
Jack Kerouac, on the novel he wrote with William S. Burroughs
I read And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks and I feel the ancient existential curse breathe down my neck
I listen to The Smiths and I stain my face and soul with someone else’s tears.
I dream of a Golden Era the spark of which is true and alive only in my imagination.
I plunge into that little spot of darkness inside my heart and I force it to stretch wider and deeper.
I build an identity for myself that is neither false nor true, but that would prove immensely useful should I ever end up sitting at 3 a.m. in a dingy New York 24/7 cafè with John Keats, Allen Ginsberg and the whole uk/us indie music scene.
This is why I don’t need saving: who could save me from my own mind?
This is why I don’t need saving - and what purpose would your theoreticalities serve anyway, when the only person who can live in my place is my own self?
This is why I don’t need saving, all I need is a beat of empathy.
Phillip started telling me about Gerald Heard’s The Third Morality, about biological mutation, and finally about how the more forward-looking dinosaurs mutated into mammals while the bourgeois dinosaurs became extinct.
He had a third martini. He looked at me intently and took hold of my arm. “Look,” he said. “You’re a fish in a pond. It’s drying up. You have to mutate into an amphibian, but someone keeps hanging on to you and telling you to stay in the pond, everything’s going to be all right.”
I asked him why he didn’t take yoga in that case, and he said the sea was more to the point.
Jack Kerouac, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
Today my History teacher made the mistake of asking me what And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks was about, seeing that it was on my desk. And that is the story of how I ended up having an hour long, in depth discussion with her about the relationship between Lucien Carr and David Kammerer, being sure to mention The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice and any other pieces of information I could excitedly spout from the top of my head. Although she was intrigued by it all, I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m insane now.
Phillip’s mother was an American of a good Boston family. After graduating from Smith, she was traveling in Europe when her lesbian tendencies temporarily gained the ascendance over her inhibitions, and she had an affair with an older woman in Paris. This affair plunged her into anxiety and conviction of sin. A typical modern Puritan, she was able to believe in sin without believing in God. In fact, she felt there was something soft and sinful about believing in God. She rejected such indulgence like an indecent proposal.