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«1 James Dean In Saigon (or The True Story of the Clods) By Richard Turner Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved Presented by: Silverfox Company – ...»

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After going through three training cycles of six weeks each I began to hate presenting such a picture of life in the States. The mayhem of rock and roll, the rebellion of youth on fire, the Beats’ mad rushes back and forth across the country had no place in the Taylor’s world. But they were everything to the world I was coming to know through On the Road, Rebel Without a Cause and Jailhouse Rock. So, at what turned out to be my last graduation dinner – they had a big celebration at a Chinese restaurant each time one of the classes finished their cycle – I decided I was going to tell my students about another America. After the usual thirteen-course meal interrupted by the compulsory toasts to the teacher – iced beer or Mekong whiskey – I stood up at my table to give what was supposed to be the congratulatory farewell speech. I was pretty drunk by this time, though not by choice, all sixteen of the guys in the class insisted on toasting me individually and I had to return their toasts. Whiskey, beer, whiskey, whiskey, beer, beer, whiskey. I wouldn’t have had the guts to do it if I hadn’t been that far gone. Anyway, I propped myself up behind my chair and said that I was going to salute the graduating class with a reading of a poem by one of America’s foremost new poets, Allen Ginsberg. I think that if I had introduced Ginsberg as the American Tran van Do or whatever the name of some famous Vietnamese poet is, things might have gone better…but I doubt it. I began with the opening lines of Howl, “I saw the best minds of my generation…” My students, who only understood a few words of my slurred but spirited rendition, applauded the opening stanza boisterously, but when I got to the first mention of cocks and balls the spy shot up out of his chair enraged. He grabbed my copy of Howl and sat me down abruptly, announcing in curt English, “Your young professor has had too much to drink.” Eyebrows raised, heads turned, I passed out on the table.

A couple of my students took me home in a taxi and carried me up to my room. Nice guys in spite of the fact that I must have embarrassed the hell out of them. I was a complete asshole. No doubt about it. I went by the school and apologized profusely the next day, but they said that they no longer needed me. I couldn’t blame them. I would have fired myself too. I saw a couple of the guys from the class on the street later. I apologized to them too, but they didn’t seem to mind. I think it went over their heads. They laughed. They were going to the States. I wished them luck. The funny thing is that I never got my copy of Howl back. Maybe the spy and his friends are reading it somewhere right now. Maybe there will be a Vietnamese translation of it sometime and a Vietnamese Allen Ginsberg. Maybe the whole thing was worth it. The Taylors got what they deserved.

“Yeah, fuck the Taylors, long live the Beats!” “We weren’t going to invite the Taylors anyway.” “No, this event is big enough. We’ve got Elvis and his itinerary all taken care of. We’ve introduced Jack Kerouac to James Dean and they’re getting along fine out in the Cho-Lon opium den. Ginsberg may come later if Jack can get a hold of him. We’ve got a trip to Cambodia by motorcycle and car after the book signing. When we get back from that we can have a farewell party for everyone at the club where Phuong plays sax. Elvis can play piano and guitar and sing, Jimmy and Jack can play congas and bongos – all Beats can play bongos – it says so in Life magazine. Phuong plays rock and jazz, he’ll be the bridge between the rockers and the beboppers. We’ll get Bach Yen, The Nightingale of Saigon, to do a duet on It’s Now or Never with Elvis and that will be it.” “What about Hemingway?” “Who said anything about Hemingway? He isn’t invited.” “No, he isn’t invited but he is the subject of the essay we have to hand in tomorrow.” “OK, how about this, Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in a bar, in fact in several bars. I’ll bet our essays on it come out better if we compose them in a bar. What do you think?” “Good idea. Let’s do it over in the Café Frigate, the one down by the river with the concrete bar and the blue walls. It’s a Hemingwayesque place to write.” “And tonight I’m sure it will be a clean well lighted place.” “Aren’t you the wit? You can write my essay for me.” “No deal, but let’s meet there at eight. I’ll get something to eat and see you then.” “That will be good. The Frigate is definitely the place to do Hemingway homework.

Where do you suppose the most atmospheric place in Saigon would be to write essays on Howl or On the Road?” “Oh, the airport gift shop or the Officers English Language school.” “Forget it. It’s old Ernesto tonight, not Allen or Jack. Count your blessings. At least it’s not Silas Marner or David Copperfield. I can’t think of any place in Saigon that would make writing about them enjoyable.” “Me either. See you later.”

Recommended Reading

Biography – James Dean (A & E DVD Archives The Complete James Dean Collection (East of Eden / Giant / Rebel Without a Cause Special Edition) (1955) William Faulkner: Novels 1926-1929: Soldiers' Pay / Mosquitoes / Flags in the Dust / The Sound and the Fury (Library of America) (Hardcover) William Faulkner: Novels 1930-1935: As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Light in August, Pylon (Library of America) (Hardcover) William Faulkner: Novels 1936-1940: Absalom, Absalom! / The Unvanquished / If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem / The Hamlet (Library of America) (Hardcover) William Faulkner: Novels 1942-1954: Go Down, Moses / Intruder in the Dust / Requiem for a Nun / A Fable (Library of America) (Hardcover) William Faulkner: Novels, 1957-1962: The Town / The Mansion / The Reivers (Library of America) (Hardcover) Jack Kerouac: Road Novels 1957-1960: On the Road / The Dharma Bums / The Subterraneans / Tristessa / Lonesome Traveler / Journal Selections (Library of America) (Hardcover) The Beats: From Kerouac to Kesey, an Illustrated Journey through the Beat Generation (Hardcover) Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript, and Variant Versions, Fully Annotated by Author, with Contemporaneous Correspondence, Account of First Public... Pres (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Allen Ginsberg: Collected Poems 1947-1997 Albert Camus: The Stranger The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway Kalhil Gibran: The Collected Works The Quiet American – Graham Greene

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