Thursday, June 25, 2015

Happy 70th Birthday to Tucker Clark -- and a weekend with Jack Kerouac

Tucker Clark was born in St. Louis, Mo., on June 25, 1945.

Today he is 70. By any measure, Tucker (my oldest brother) has been and continues to be an enduring touchstone of 60s culture.

For just a literary taste, we will take GTOTD readers back in time, to the University of North Carolina in 1963.

Tucker arrived as a freshman, having spent the summer building roads in Gambia with a program called Crossroads Africa.

He took part in a protest to integrate the lunch counters in downtown Chapel Hill. Since Main Street in Chapel Hill was also a federal highway, Tucker recalls, “on TV there were shots of the Feds hauling us away on charges of obstruction of a federal highway."

When he was a junior, he lived in a house off campus. His mother, Charlotte, recalls visiting him there. “It was the first time I saw MAKE LOVE NOT WAR. It was on a car in front of the house."

At one point, one of Tucker’s friends was on the road when he was picked up hitchhiking by … well, let’s let Tucker tell it:

My buddy, Marshall Hay – who is still at the Meher Baba Ashram in Myrtle Beach, S.C. – was hitch-hiking back to Chapel Hill after his first one-month stay down there, giving up the psychedelic life for Baba, when the first car that picked him up was a bunch of Lowell, Massachusetts, Indians and a drunk and bloated ---dah-dum --
 Jack Kerouac!!! 

He was coming from his mommy’s house in South Carolina. Marshall convinced the crew to come get drunk in Chapel Hill and sequestered them in the Tempo Room and went and got me, Russell Banks, and all the other UNC literati, who proceeded to Russell's house, where Kerouac berated hippies, the screwed-up California scene and how sick of everything he was. 

He consumed lots of cheap-by-choice wine and told Russ and other erstwhile writers that they all sucked. Later on in New York Russell Banks wanted us to reconstruct each of our vantage points of that weekend for a Vanity Fair article-- never happened. It was so seminal -- and a part of Chapel Hill lore. 

From Chapel Hill, Tucker went on to the Peace Corps in Nepal, a commune in Maine, an ahead-of-its time drug-education firm in Cambridge, Mass., a couple of decades as an alcoholic treatment counselor in Harlem, and now as a man-about-town in Westport, Conn.

Tucker with his daughter, Charlotte Spring Clark

At right, Tucker with his daughter, Charlotte Spring Clark.