MEXICO, MARXISTS & JACK KEROUAC
According to Bobby Van Rothʼs letters, written during the winter of 1965/ʼ66, he and best buddy Johnny Osborne left California in Bobbyʼs 1947 Dodge panel truck and were on their way to Veracruz, Mexico where they planned on spending the winter. His first letter described their journey through Western Mexico where they came across a band of natives just south of Durango; Huichols -- direct descendants of the Aztec. There, as some sort of spiritual ritual with the aid of peyote buttons, brother Bobby ventured into his first of many out-of-body experiences of altered states of consciousness with mystical insights into the meaning of existence. He described this mescalin-induced hallucinogenic journey as a dream-like state of euphoria and on a path of self-transcendence leading to a world of the metaphysical; an escape from reality, somewhat like entering a Sartrean consciousness -- that unique phenomenon where one is able to negate that which is real through denial and imagination; a realm where Bobby could escape from himself and the demons of his past. It was Sigmund Freud who wrote that childhood experiences are influential in the development of moral character such as integrity, honesty, and truthfulness. Bobbyʼs childhood memories were those of a mangled right leg and Shriners Childrenʼs Hospital. Enough of Freudʼs psychoanalytical mumbo-jumbo.
Bobby didnʼt say whether it was the peyote, tequila, or combination of the two that caused his William Blake-like hallucinations of phantasmagoria and it didnʼt matter. This dream-world would be his soul catcher; or as Rod Serling would say -- that mental state between reality and fantasy; middle ground between light and shadow; between science and superstition; a zone that lies between the pit of his fears and the peak of his knowledge; a dimension of imagination; a no-man's land ... a hallucinatory state -- a dimension known as the Twilight Zone. This otherworldly astral experience transcended Bobby Van Roth into a realm of the nonphysical; into a world beyond his impediment. For brief moments, he could step out of his earthly bleakness and into a timeless kingdom of ecstasy and wonderment by transcending himself beyond his physical incapability. Lameness would cease to nip at his heels like a pack of starving hyenas. The essence of his bright mind radiated.
“Man is essentially a dreamer, wakened sometimes for a moment by some peculiarly obtrusive element in the outer world, but lapsing again quickly into the happy somnolence of imagination” (Russell, Bertrand. Skeptical Essays. NY: W.W. Norton, 1928. pp. 26)
The horizon shimmered with illuminated, mystical visions of Blakeʼs “Ancient of Days.” They dined on rattlesnake meat and the next day, journeyed on while wearing necklaces made of snake rattles. Bobby was in limbo, suspended in an acceptable present, but caught between an idealized and often dreadful past and an unknown future. His body and mind were tied together with a soul crying for freedom, but his handicap had held him hostage and shackled in chains. In the past, the twenty-three-year-old Bobby Van Roth had packed around a great deal of both physical and metaphysical baggage. History was at times, a nightmarish past which he desperately wanted to escape. That life was beginning to change. Is there such a thing as objective reality or is reality merely perception?
“That humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with Artificial Paradises seems very unlikely. Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul.” ( Huxley, Aldous. The Doors of Perception. Middlesex: Penguin, 1959. pp. 59)
Upon reaching Veracruz, they met a grizzly old traveler named Jarbo who had constructed a cabin-like structure right on the beach; built upon pilings made of palm trunks. Ocean waves ebbed and flowed underneath as the tides rolled in and out. Jarboʼs casa became Bobby and Johnnyʼs casa so they spent a month there. The two gringos were introduced to “Mary Jane” and treated like a couple of Greek gods. They beach-combed, gorged on abalone, drank tequila, got stoned, and mingled with the locals around a large campfire while listening to the sounds of Spanish lullabies ... then crashed on the deck of Jarboʼs beach-shanty while the Gulf of Mexico rushed in and washed all their troubles away. Bobby would return each winter for the next five years; return to Veracruz where he would sit on a dock by the bay, thinking and wasting time while the tides rolled away; sat on a dock while his life rolled away.
The following spring, Bobby and Johnny made their way back to California and rented a Victorian flat in the 200-block of Ashbury Street in San Francisco. The apartment included tall ceilings accented with ornate crown molding, hardwood flooring, and a ballroom-like living room with a stained-glass bay window. The rent was cheap for such a beautiful place and one of Bobbyʼs other hometown pals, Jim Powell, also moved to San Francisco near the corner of Hayes and Haight streets. The boys didnʼt work but were on some kind of government program whereby all one had to do was proclaim to be unfit for work and they would get a check for four to five thousand dollars. Attend regular meetings stating that you just couldnʼt cope with the rigors of regular employment and you would also receive a monthly check for everyday living expenses. Powell was the first to take advantage of this liberal freebee and blew his entire initial check on a used Volvo, a Fisher stereo system, and a forty-gallon aquarium which he stocked with angle fish, swordtails, and bottom feeders.
Although the landscape and architecture were mostly the same, the atmosphere in and around the Haight-Ashbury district had changed dramatically during the several months while Bobby was away. The Blue Unicorn java shop, that little hole-in-the-wall coffeehouse, was still smoky, dimly lit by a few candles perched on top of rickety tables, and remained the heart and soul of a thriving bohemian community. The only physical changes were cosmetic -- the concrete floor was painted battleship gray while the tall ceiling now sported a colorful, surreal mural reminiscent of an amateurishly painted Sistine Chapel.
It was the mood of the people that had changed. No longer was owner Bob Stubbs serving hot, spiced apple cider and handing out leaflets that stated: We have a private revolution going on. A revolution of individuality and diversity that can only be private. Upon becoming a group movement, such a revolution ends up with imitators rather than participants. Only a few of Norman Mailerʼs dark and mysterious hipster-cats from North Beach with their black turtle necks, Jesus boots, sunglasses, and neatly trimmed goatees remained and were still hanging out at the Hayes Street coffee shop. No longer were there “beats” playing chess or reading poetry while women swayed together to the soft rhythms of bongos. Sexy, were those women dressed in skintight, black leotards with their long silky hair flowing down below their waistlines. That revolution was no longer private.
The new movement was similar -- donʼt trust anyone over thirty and just look at the mess that their parents had made. The new trendy style of garb could be found at the Salvation Army and at local psychedelic T-shirt shops. Journalist Mike Fallon coined these second-generation “beats” as “hippies” after the beat generationʼs “hipsters.” Unlike their predecessors who were often moody and nihilistic, these new outcasts were joyful and jubilant. They were into examining their own consciousness and on a journey into another world. Bobby Van Roth had found his calling and fit right in.
“To this day, there is a copy of Ginsbergʼs “Howl” behind the seat of my old Nissan pickup. And just this past Christmas, I gave Dr. Fred Smiley a thick volume of Gary Snyderʼs “Bear Shit On the Trail” poetry. The beat generation you say? But there was a time lasting many years when two of my favorite heroes were Jack Kerouac and Henry Valentine Miller. There was a time when I believed the beat generation was another name for Kerouac. Iʼm not sure I donʼt believe that even now. But I canʼt remember much nowadays. Iʼm only sure that, as you say, the Beats preceded the Hippies.” (Van Roth, Bobby. Toastmasters, Albuquerque, N.M.)
In his journals dated July of 1966, Davie Van Roth stated that he was feeling pretty good about baseball and life in general ... and why not? He had recently finished his sophomore season with the Marysville High School Indians where his .370 batting average and 16 runs scored were the teamʼs best. He led the league in victories (7-1) winning percentage (.875), ERA (0.70) and strikeouts, 124 batters in just 60 innings pitched, averaging better than two strikeouts per inning. His best game was a no-hitter against the Tiger Cubs of Oroville where he struck out 18 in a seven-inning contest, tripled, and scored the gameʼs only run. He was called up to the varsity and recorded a 3-2 victory over the Las Plumas Thunderbirds. It was only the varsityʼs third win of the season as they finished at 3-13. Van Roth was looking forward to his next varsity start; but instead, got suspended; got kicked out of school for three days and booted off the baseball team by manager Joe McCrackin. He had checked out several physics books from the school library and they were all a few months overdue. Other than that, things were on the up and up, especially after going toe-to-toe in two games and conquering Northern Californiaʼs greatest, the prodigious Gary Nolan.
“Winter was approaching, so best friend Roscoe and I decided to take a trip to Frisco and visit Bobby for a few days. He had spent last winter in Veracruz, and soon, would be headed back to Mexico. He seemed to be enjoying an exciting life ever since leaving home and moving to San Francisco near Golden Gate Park.” (Van Roth, Davie. Recollections & Journals of a Ballplayer. July, 1966. pp. 15)
When they first arrived in San Francisco, Bobby and his circle of buddies, including the local Neff brothers, were gathered around an oaken, bear-clawed kitchen table and involved in a lively game of poker. Bobby, Johnny, and Jim Powell were wearing their typical back-home attire -- Converse tennies, Levi denims, and white, big-daddy tee-shirts. The Neffs were homegrown San Franciscans and donned combat boots, camouflaged fatigues, tan short-sleeve shirts, and olive green cadet caps. They were loudmouths, often referring to and shouting, Che! Young Davieʼs first thoughts were: who the hell are these clowns and what the hell is a Che? Noticing his discomfort, Bobby sent him around the corner to the Blue Unicorn to get a soda and change for a ten-spot.
Yeah, go for a walk, barked one of the Neffs. Check out the scene, man. Take in The Dead and the Deadheads just a few blocks down Ashbury.
The dead? As in a graveyard? asked the young ballplayer.
No! As in Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. You know ... like the Stones and the Beatles, only psychedelic.
Psychedelic? You mean like drugs and crazy out-of-your mind?
Exactly. Psychedelic, said one of the Neffʼs with a nod.
The Dead House was about seven blocks from the Unicorn and Van Roth began to hear the din of the former Warlocks about four blocks away. The Grateful Dead, defined as the soul of a dead person, was advertised as the loudest band on the planet. As he got about a block away, he could tell that the amplified clamoring was not at all like the British sensations. Chopped Harleys were lined up across the street where Hellʼs Angels rented a Victorian flat. By the time Van Roth returned, the party had elevated to a higher level with whiskey bottles now half empty. They werenʼt just sharing a bottle or two ... each had one of his own. The Neffs were puffing on stogies ... Cubans, they called them. The voices were getting louder as the conversation now turned to belittle and ridicule. They were ripping to shreds the government, parents, and just about anything establishment. Che! they simultaneously bellowed as they tipped their glasses in salute and slugged down another shot of whiskey. The Neffs were radicals, pseudo-Marxists, and wannabe anarchists who talked the talk but doubtful if they ever walked the walk.
Bobby Van Roth often existed in a dreamscape with strange, mysterious characteristics of wild imagination. His phantasmagoria first began by following Alice down that rabbit hole in Lewis Carrollʼs Through the Looking-Glass, then through the exploits of his younger brother on the ball field before entering Daliʼs surreal, visual version of Freudʼs Interpretation of Dreams ... the liberation of the spirit from the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter ... and now by faux-fighting a war alongside Che Guevara while On the Road with Jack Kerouac. Che! ... all night long they shouted as a tribute to the ultimate revolutionary who along with Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, toppled Cuba and turned the once island paradise into a Marxist-Leninist state, robbing its people of private enterprise. Communism, like her sisters Marxism and Socialism, wipes out or redistributes wealth and eliminates competition; thus, becoming the enemy of the entrepreneur, enemy of the private individual, destroyer of freedom, and the epitome of big government. No longer, are people called citizens, but instead, members of the proletariat, aka the masses ... lower-class ... commoners ... the herd ... lower orders. All but the ruling class shall be plebs and simply common robotic cogs in a gigantic red wheel. Why bother striving for a better existence? What a waste of life. Hemingway, who wrote his The Old Man and the Sea while living there, had to flee the scene. All individuality was lost.
“Perhaps a revolution can overthrow autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression, but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones they replace, will serve as a leash for the great unthinking mass.” ( Kant, Immanuel. What is Enlightenment (Was is Aufklarung?) Berlin: 1784. pps 481-494)
Davie Van Roth disgustingly turned away and fled to the living room where books and other printed matter stuffed several bookshelves and were scattered about on a makeshift coffee table, originally a large wooden spool made for electrical cable -- The Berkeley Barb, The Oracle, Das Kapital... He preferred the sciences and was unfamiliar with the literature that his brother and these other kooks were into. He had heard of Trotsky, Lenin, and Marx but the names of Rexroth, Snyder, Kerouac, Burroughs, and Henry Miller eluded him -- The Dharma Bums, Naked Lunch, The Tropic of Capricorn. He began thumbing through some of these odd, radical works and began reading Jack Kerouacʼs On the Road where the one-time running back from Columbia University rambles on about his cross-country adventures on foot, by bus, and hitchhiking.
“They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as Iʼve been doing all my life after people who interest me, the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ʻAwww!” (Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. Signet, 1958. pp, 9)
Kerouacʼs buddy Dean Moriarty reminded Van Roth of his best friend and batterymate since little-league days. Tony Rossi, or Roscoe as they called him, was wild, adventuresome, and lived a pedal-to-the-metal kind of lifestyle. Although possessing a happy-go-lucky charismatic charm with a cackle for a laugh, Roscoe was often troublesome, careless, thoughtless, and lived for kicks, sometimes just one step ahead of the law ... mostly small-time stuff -- petty theft, vandalism, and starting fistfights. He lived just down the street on Cottonwood Avenue and was a shit disturber -- the kind of guy that would instigate a street brawl, but when the fists started to fly, would be at the back of the pack shouting encouragement while the rest defended themselves. Roscoe was a free-spirited maverick who let it all out, was spontaneous, and often without regard for others. He lived life for the moment as if there was no guarantee of tomorrow and apologized for nothing. Roscoe was the epitome of blithe -- reckless with no worries nor fears while living a carefree lifestyle with a sense of adventure. Roscoe was a hellion born to be wild and at times, possessed a joy that he couldnʼt hide. Roscoe loved life.
He looked up and saw Bobby, Roscoe, and these other clowns ... then realized that they were not much different from Kerouacʼs clan -- boozing, drugging, criticizing, looking for answers, and pushing life to the limits. He kept on reading, and as disgusting as On the Road was, just could not put that damn book down; wanting to know what that crazy fool Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady in real life and Kerouacʼs soul mate) was up to next. He was uncontrollable, often letting his biological urges dictate his life. The long-lost hoboʼs son had an adventurous spirit with radioactive energy, was a drunk and a drug addict, a con-man, and a thief to the nth degree.
Bohemians! Prometheans! These misfits with their literary porn that Bobby and his pals were into were anti-establishment; outsiders living non-traditional, unconventional lifestyles who were fed up with the bourgeois of societyʼs middle class. They didnʼt like anyone telling them what they could or could not do. They liked Buddhism and other Eastern religions. They liked their drugs, free love, and for the most part, they were homo or bisexual. They loved their men, but with the morality of a serpent, screwed their women for kicks and for free room and board. They wrestled with real life, preferring bold recklessness to caution and common sense, pleasure and ecstasy to restraint, and venturing into the unknown to comfort. They explored the wild territories of the mind, erotic behavior, the occult, and drugs. They were interested in the poor, the lowlifes, and outsiders who had no choice, but these freeloaders of the Beat Generation who influenced and had a stranglehold on Bobby Van Roth were volunteer outsiders because they chose to be so.
There were other books on the table written by Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust, Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, William Blake, and W.B. Yeats. Van Roth continued to skim and read a chapter or two. As he thumbed through a copy of Millerʼs Tropic of Cancer, he began to wonder just what in the hell was his brother doing there with these other screwballs? After reading a few chapters, he realized that Millerʼs life in Paris was not unlike Kerouacʼs while On the Road -- an endless search for kicks -- anything to cure the boredom and banality of their lives. Why did Bobby just give up and choose this way of life? thought younger brother Davie.
The elder Van Roth was now a useless member of society -- a living corpse and it was no longer in the cards to exert himself. He read his Emily Dickinson: "Iʼm nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too?" (Dickinson, Emily. Selected Poems and Letters of Emily Dickinson. Garden City: Doubleday, 1959. pp. 75) The hell with it, he thought. Iʼm crippled! It would take some outside force -- an external push to motivate him. Why chase after a world which shall never be yours? No tears would be shed for a future that could not be his own. Bobby had turned his back on the past.
“I want to break through this enlarged world and stand again on the frontier of an unknown world which will throw this pale, unilateral world into shadow. I want to pass beyond...to the irresponsibilities of the anarchic man who cannot be coerced nor wheeled nor cajoled nor bribed nor traduced.” (Miller, Henry. Tropic of Capricorn. NY: Grove Press, 1961. pp. 139)
Bobby Van Roth celebrated his new start; his new beginning that would eliminate the terror of the past, or as Henry Miller once stated: I want to flee toward a perpetual dawn with a swiftness and relentlessness that leaves no room for remorse, regret, or repentance. It was something that Mr. Hughes had said that weighed heavily on my mind: You canʼt possibly know what itʼs like to be a champion without ever winning a championship. I had spent the better part of thirty years writing about champions but have never been a champion myself. How could I possibly know? So too, Davie Van Roth could not possibly know what itʼs like to be a cripple, even though he grew up alongside his older brother. Without actually being handicapped, how can anyone understand the feeling of being crippled; understand the self-consciousness that the whole damn world was staring; understand what itʼs like to study Freud and self-analyze your own self, then wonder how great things might have been without an atrophied right leg; to live in a dreamworld alongside Ted Williams, knowing all along that it could never become reality? Bobby could never become the champion he once dreamt to be.
Young brother Davie began to tire around twelve-thirty and decided to crash on the living room sofa but couldnʼt sleep. There was too much saluting, crazy laughter, and cursing coming from the kitchen. An all-nighter was going on and Roscoe was right in the middle of it. He already knew how to drink and seemed to fit in. He could hear his brother ripping and bad-mouthing their parents, and for no good reason. All night, they sat around criticizing the world while justifying themselves with their moral narcissism. The party roared on till about three in the morning with the Neffʼs finally passing out at the kitchen table. Powell staggered off to a back bedroom while Roscoe, Bobby, and Johnny crashed on the living room floor. This was how they rolled. This was their worldliness, their priority, their savior-faire, their free ride on the tax payerʼs ticket. This was their way of life, void of ethics and morality -- at least those that were laid out by their forefathers. Finally, the night was over.
The following afternoon, Bobby took his younger brother to City Lights Bookstore, in North Beach, near Chinatown and bought him a copy of Ginsbergʼs Howl. It was a neat little book, bound in black, stapled stiff wrappers with a white paper label -- Pocket Poets Series #4, only 44 pages with a two-page introduction by William Carlos Williams. Bobby was a regular at City Lights and knew the owner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who had gone to trial on obscenity charges because he published and was selling Howl. The trialʼs not guilty verdict paved the way for the publication of other banned books such as D. H. Lawrenceʼs Lady Chatterleyʼs Lover and Henry Millerʼs Tropic of Cancer.
So, this seemed to be their method: party all night, when able, and sleep most of the next day. That evening was much the same, only this time they were dropping “Strawberry Barrels” and smoking hashish through long rubber tubes from a large, brass Indian water pipe. They were choking and gagging, not able to hold in the vapors. It didnʼt look like much fun to the younger Van Roth. He had never taken a single puff, not even from one of his brotherʼs roll-your-own cigarettes. They soon became mellow. Just go with the flow, said one of the Neffs. Also, the music was strange. The night before they were listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Tonight, it was Hindu music -- Ravi Shankar playing the sitar.
Hey Davie, hollered one of the Neffs. Want to go for a ride on the wild side? Want to take a trip? Blow your mind?
Leave him alone, said brother joe. Donʼt try to lay a trip on him. Heʼs a ballplayer. Athletes donʼt do drugs. Ahem.
I knew all about Jack Kerouac and the rest of these swashbuckling literary pirates. Much of their trash-and-gutter poetry is dramatic porn, like Playboy and Penthouse put to prose, only without the pictures. These penners of vile, erotic smut were mostly anarchists and Marxists who lived lifestyles reminiscent of their beliefs -- wild, chaotic, and reckless. Debauchery still loomed near, around, and on campus at Columbia during the seventies with Frat-Beats prevalent in “The Village.” The doppelgängers of Kerouac, Lucien Carr, Alan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Hal Chase were still haunting Hartley Hall and the White Horse Tavern in the West Village of New York nearly three decades later in 1978 while I was completing my ten-month course in journalism at Columbia. Some biographers laud Kerouac as a great running back when he attended Columbia; however, statistics reveal that he was a utility halfback, appearing only in the fourth quarter when the rest of the players, especially the defense, were tired and rundown.
The inner circle of these Beat writers also included Neal Cassady, William S. Burroughs, and Gregory Corso. This group of Janus-like creatures with Kerouac and Cassady blazing the trail, laid the foundation of the Beat Generation -- a generation which began with rampant bisexual and self-lust, booze, drugs of all kinds, and thievery ... even suicide and murder. Lucien Carr, ironically, stabbed his stalking, pederastic former boy scout leader with his scout knife, then dumped the body into the Hudson River. Later, Burroughs would blast his wife right between the eyes in a drunken game of William Tell. Most of these “Beats” wound up behind bars on numerous occasions for various crimes: auto theft, subway robberies, drug possession and dealing, failure to pay child support, urinating in public, obscenity, drunk in public, ... and murder. Some of the main “beat” lives ended tragically at an early age. Neal Cassadyʼs forty-one-year-old body was found full of booze, barbiturates, and dead alongside a Mexican railway. Burroughsʼ thirty-three-year-old body was found stiff in a ditch alongside a Florida highway. Both Burroughs and the forty-seven-year-old Kerouac spend their last waning moments vomiting blood.
It was Hal Chase, not “Prince” Hal Chase, the gangster-ballplayer of the Chicago Black Sox who had a hand in fixing the 1919 World Series, but Hal Chase from Denver who introduced his buddy Neil Cassady to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg while at Columbia University that triggered Beatdom: misogynistic hipsters traipsing, hitchhiking, greyhounding, and hoboing under drunkenness and high on “Mary Jane” while loving each other, themselves, and seducing her and she in Euripidean aura. Every day is a holiday! -- Underground rebels spreading their literary gospel in Speed, On the Road, and Gasoline. Go, Lonesome Traveler, to a Naked Lunch at A Coney Island of the Mind and cut loose with a Howl -- Spontaneous Desolation Angels on goofballs, countering with speed balls; all the while, pilfering autos for kicks and keeping the fix alive -- “A New Vision”, inspired by Yeatsʼ A Vision, shipwrecking the bourgeois with creative, uninhibited, uncensored Rimbaudian dreams -- Iconoclasts with their jive, seeking transcendence from the banal reality of human society -- Uninhibited minds and naked souls exposing mankindʼs underbelly with Ovidian elegies -- Hopeless beings with hyperactive energy and adventurous spirit under the nihilistic influence of Nietzsche, Yates, and Rimbaud, corrupting the world and paving the way for a counterculture, all ending in spiritual bankruptcy. Whoa! What in hell had Bobby Van Roth gotten himself into?
Jack Kerouac trekked from his home base in New York where he lived with his mother, to Denver and San Francisco where he partied ... then on to Mexico City before backtracking back to New York; all the while, gathering information for the writing of books. So too, was the globetrotting Bobby Van Roth on the move, like a Marco Polo, on the road. To satisfy his wanderlust, he voyaged and ventured in Kerouacian odyssey-fashion -- roaming from San Francisco to Veracruz, Mexico and Guatemala, back to San Francisco, and occasionally back to Olivehurst-Linda. Bobby was hooked. The claws of Rousseau and his Romantics, along with Kerouac and other “beat” writers, were deeply set. He had read just about every word that Kerouac had ever published. You are what you read. Like a restless spirit on an endless journey, Bobby Van Roth was on the road -- on a quest to nowhere, constantly living on the threshold of fantasy, and locked inside his dreams. What was he seeking while chasing those rainbows in faraway forgotten lands?
Alan Ginsberg, author of Howl and one of the founding fathers of the Beat movement, taught a class called Literary Beat History at the Naropa Institute in 1977, and later at Brooklyn College. Writers on his recommended reading list included Poe, Whitman, Blake, Emily Dickinson, Yeats, Dostoyevsky, Melville, T.S. Eliot, Kafka, Thoreau, Keats, Snyder, Rimbaud, and Shakespeare. All of these authors appeared on the fourth self of Davie Van Rothʼs library. He was glad when Sunday morning finally arrived. In the past, the younger Van Roth had relied on his older brother for guidance and leadership, but now wasnʼt so sure and would have to start making his own decisions. On his way home, he wondered what was happening with brother Bobby. He had changed, and it all began at Chico State and that trip to Mexico. Would they ever clown around like the stooges again? Would they ever toss the ball around again? He felt alone and abandoned with a depressed bereavement. He had lost his coach, trainer, mentor, and father figure. He had lost his brother.
While booze and drugs became Bobbyʼs antidote to an absurd world, baseball became Davieʼs. He had no interest in altered states of consciousness and looked forward to next yearʼs baseball season. Surely, a professional contract loomed on the horizon. If not, he could always move to San Francisco, climb aboard that Liberal Express and get a free ride on a government gravy train. Not so with Tony Rossi. The happy-go-lucky maverick dug the scene in San Francisco and never got that monkey off his back. He returned to Olivehurst-Linda but never again donned a baseball uniform; instead, choosing to go over to the wild side. Although his and Van Rothʼs relationship remained cordial, their paths would go in opposite directions. For Van Roth, all directions pointed towards professional baseball while Roscoeʼs route was headed towards state prison, and sure enough, tall barb-wired fences lurked around the corner and would enclose the young rogue just a few years down the road.
Such was the atmosphere laid upon and mostly accepted by Bobby Van Roth through this underground literature and new life in San Francisco and Veracruz. Davie Van Roth was exposed to the disease but remained immune due to the inoculation of baseball. He didnʼt need any of this tomfoolery for he had a different crutch, baseball, and loved playing the game. For the time being, he would have none of this foolish fandango and left all those false delusions in San Francisco. On opening-day of the 1967 baseball season, at age 17, Van Roth struck out 19 batters and shut out the three-time defending Sierra Foothill League champion Oroville Tigers 1-0. The 19 Kʼs set a new school record that still stands today. The virus lay dormant.