Seventeen-year-old Allen Ginsberg had fallen for an 18-year-old cerebral charmer, his fellow Columbia University student Lucien Carr, at once. Ginsberg’s infatuation with 21-year-old Jack Kerouac, a sensitive and articulate merchant seaman, was equally instant.
All three were also in the giddy early stages of a love affair with intellectual enlightenment. Carr later called it the rebellious students’ search for valid values.
|Jack Kerouac (l.) and Lucien Carr|
“Their walk had taken them to the Union Theological Seminary; they stood on the corner of West 122nd Street and Broadway and looked down the hill to the gray spread of Harlem,” wrote Barry Miles, Ginsberg’s biographer. “Allen was moving out of the seminary and still had a few things to collect. He and Jack had discussed their admiration of Lucien, so there was a mutual understanding when Allen pointed out the door where he had first heard the Brahms Quintet (that had introduced him to Carr) six months earlier.”
“Allen collected the few books and belongings he had come for, and as he turned from the dormitory suite he bowed to it, made a gesture of farewell, and said, ‘Goodbye, door.’ He continued down the stairs, saying goodbye to each step as he went. He bade farewell to the seventh-floor landing, the sixth-floor landing and all the rest, like a poem, all the way down. Kerouac was struck by this: ‘Ah, I do that when I say goodbye to a place.’ They had a long, excited conversation about the recognition of each of the stairs as the final stair and about Allen’s realization of the changes in himself since he first climbed them six months before.
“‘That struck him as an awareness of a soul in space and time, which was his nature,’ Ginsberg said later. Jack asked him if he knew any other people with the same awareness. Was it awareness? Was it poetry? They decided that everyone had it who was in any way conscious or sensitive. ‘Everyone has the same soul. We’re all here together at once in the same place. Temporarily, with a totally poignant tearful awareness that we’re together,’ they decided. This recognition became the basis of their deep and lasting understanding of each other.”