“Thelonious, he was so weird, he wandered the twilight streets of Harlem in winter with no hat on his hair—sweating, blowing fog. In his head, he heard it all ringing. Often he heard whole choruses by Lester or Bird or Dizzy or Bags…”
Preserve the Dead: 57 Irish Railroad Workers of Duffy’s Cut
…often I think of going up to some of ’em like say blonde ones with wild hair and torn shirts and say, “You oughta apply for the railroad it’s much easier work you don’t stand around the street all day and you get much more pay…”- Jack Kerouac, October in the Railroad Earth
What Kerouac’s story doesn’t tell, is the risk of death when you’re working in cholera-ridden, hostile-to-Irish territory. There’s a patch of land that silently holds a mass grave of Irish railroad workers—I pass it everyday on the Amtrak Keystone in between the Paoli and Exton train stations. It’s only just now—today—that I’ve learned some of the history behind this railway burial site. And I learned of it because a few good people bothered to preserve the dead.
One such person is Dan Leyden, who not only preserves the dead by singing in a Grateful Dead tribute band, Splintered Sunlight, but also preserves the dead by passing along the stories of the dead through song.