One definition of the 1950s term ‘beat’ was that of ‘exhausted exaltation.’ Reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road conveys a sense of exhausting, frenetic activity, but at the end there is a sense of encompassing contentment;
“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”
The closing lines seemed apt for a day when the wind blew from the North and the rain lashed down, and when an Irish summer’s day draws to a close; the Dublin mountains are obscured by thick, uniformly grey cloud and squalls batter the windows of the house.
New Jersey, it’s not; the West Coast, it’s not; Iowa, it’s not; but Kerouac could never have felt more beat than those who worked at our fête today. Soaked by the rain, chilled to the skin, persisting with the stalls when the whole enterprise seemed a work of madness. The feeling of exhaustion was such, and the weather was so severe, that the annual celebratory barbecue was postponed by 24 hours.
The ‘exaltation’? That despite the most inclement weather imaginable, despite gale force winds that blew down the tents; despite the rainfall that formed flash floods; despite temperatures that were no more than single figures; we still took €15,000.
It is €5,000 short of the total for each of the past two years, but, looking back on the day, is an extraordinary achievement. To have had approaching a thousand people through the gates on a day when a wise person would have stoked the fire and pulled their chair closer to the hearth, seems almost baffling.
Tomorrow we will gather to celebrate another fête accomplished, no longer exhausted, but with a certain exaltation.