The Dharma Bums

“Hopping freight out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbra.”—Opening sentence of Jake Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums

“The little bum was sitting crosslegged at his end before a pitiful repast of one can of sardines.  I took pity on him and went over and said, ‘How about a little wine to warm you up?  Maybe you’d like some bread and cheese with your sardines.’
‘Sure thing.’ He spoke from far away inside a little voice-box afraid or unwilling to assert himself.  I’d bought the cheese there days ago in Mexico City before the long cheap bus trip across Zacatecas and Durango and Chihuahua two thousand long miles to the border of El Paso.  He ate the cheese and bread and drank the wine with gusto and gratitude.  I was pleased.  I reminded myself of the line in the Diamond Sutra that says, ‘Practice charity without holding in the mind any conceptions about charity, for charity after all is just a word.’”  — The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac 


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