John Ross: The Inspiration Lives On

by David Ker Thomson, January 21, 2011

The late John Ross

John Ross, late of Mexico City and the world, was kind to me once.

There’ve been many a John Ross, from Cherokee chief to Arctic explorer.  The name has done good service.  The John Ross I briefly knew and long admired was the prolific journalist and unruly character with Beat instincts and the sad and righteous heart of a jester.

We—my family and I—had just returned to the N’Am continent after stints abroad and down under.  For various Macbethian reasons I can expand upon some other time, I was born in each of the nation-states of N’Am, and I returned to S’Am-and-N’Am, the hourglass continent, the land of moving forests, with some trepidation.

This was in the day when we believed in “wives” and “running off,” and I had one, and she had.  I gather that John had had a certain amount of experience when it came to women.  Well, he was kind.  That is all.  I tried to get him up to the Spanish dep’t at the University of Toronto, but found that—what with my own tradition of unruliness and all—I didn’t have enough cultural capital for that, even if I scraped together all the change from my back pockets.

In the end, the wife stayed away but the woman in the wife came back, and we have been the better for it.

The plan this March had been to just sort of show up at Ross’s digs in Mexico City and see what happened.  Well, I was never much of one for plans.  I was going to tell him whether I’d stolen his latest book, or paid for it outright in a bookstore.
I might go anyway.  Lurk a bit.  I’ll probably have to read some of that French philosopher Bataille (pronounce butt-eye) on how life beneath the solar anus is about spending rather than hoarding (this to bolster myself against the guilt of fuelish travel), and then in the fullness of time get down to the Monster and do a crazywalk in John’s honor.  Run some lines across the city.  Do some “investigative poetry”—isn’t that how he’d phrase it?

The last time Sebastian and I strolled in Mexico, he was three and we got in a bit of a Falstaffian scrape with several men who attacked us from behind.  “Crack!” went my neck.  “Biff” and “bang” went my arms, and—more to the point—I set about roaring with gusto, and we routed the evildoers.  That clash drew firstblood from Sebastian, but some nice ladies mopped up the blood, and I found some chiropractor guy, an old sage living on a hill, who snapped my neck back into place, and I haven’t had the slightest trouble with it since, though any other time I’ve tried chiropractic it has done nothing for me.  Sebastian still remembers the clash on the street, though he was so young.  Mexico and boisterous—bring it.

Well, now the Americans have that war going on, and like anything on drugs, you got to watch out for it.  I’ll be more circumspect than in the days of my roaring.  But the need to be born again, to be born once more by the lands of my bearing, is upon me, and soon I shall set out in mourning and joy upon the streets of the cities, perhaps of the Monster itself, perhaps in all the city streets of the world that rise to the challenge of my falling foot.

At this distance in space and time, John Ross still lives on, and the rest is rumor.

David Ker Thomson writes for Counterpunch.  John Ross’s latest book is El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City (Nation Books, 2009).  He can be reached at dave.thomson@utoronto.ca.


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