Sunday, July 24, 2016

Big Sur!

Here's a picture of me holding my copy of Big Sur with the Bixby Canyon bridge in the background. Taken July 18, 2016.


(c) 2016 Crystal Bond



Sunday, July 17, 2016

On the road post

I'm mobile and without a laptop (arrive Big Sur tomorrow). Here's a random picture posted by Lowell Celebrates Kerouac on Facebook.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jack Kerouac and the "Bradley standard" on race relations

Given the events of the past week, I felt compelled to say something about race in America, acknowledging that I am white and can therefore never understand what it's like to be a person of color in this country. This morning I saw Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson on Meet the Press. Moderator Chuck Todd mentioned a controversial article Dyson had written this week. I read it. You can read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/opinion/sunday/what-white-america-fails-to-see.html?src=me. It's pretty strident, but I can't really argue with his points.
At birth, you are given a pair of binoculars that see black life from a distance, never with the texture of intimacy. Those binoculars are privilege; they are status, regardless of your class. In fact the greatest privilege that exists is for white folk to get stopped by a cop and not end up dead when the encounter is over. 
Those binoculars are also stories, bad stories, biased stories, harmful stories, about how black people are lazy, or dumb, or slick, or immoral, people who can’t be helped by the best schools or even God himself. These beliefs don’t make it into contemporary books, or into most classrooms. But they are passed down, informally, from one white mind to the next.
It is very difficult to see our own white privilege, and even more difficult to acknowledge it. White Americans who spewed hate in the comment section of Dyson's column make his case for him.

But what does this have to do with Jack Kerouac? I'm getting there. 

Also on Meet the Press this morning, they played several clips of politicians, past and present, talking about how we need to have a "national conversation" about race. What struck me was former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley who, not surprisingly, made it real. I can't find the clip, but it was along the lines of this quote attributed to Bradley: "If you haven't talked to someone of a different race about race in the last 30 days, you are part of the problem."

I think this speaks to the intimacy issue that Dyson raises. And that brings us to Kerouac. Without a doubt, Kerouac often met the Bradley standard during his road years. He often went out of his way to interact with disenfranchised groups in America: drug addicts from Times Square, bums on skid row, farm laborers in southern California, musicians and patrons at black jazz clubs. He wrote an entire novel, The Subterraneans, about his real-life love affair with a black woman, Alene Lee, in New York City (Mardou Fox, transported to San Francisco for the novel).

What did Kerouac write about race? In On the Road he describes going to Denver in the spring of 1949, thinking of settling down there. He describes walking around Denver thusly:
At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night. I stopped at a little shack where a man sold hot red chili in paper containers; I bought some and ate it, strolling in the dark mysterious streets. I wished I were a Denver Mexican, or even a poor overworked Jap, anything but what I was so drearily, a "white man" disillusioned. All my life I'd had white ambitions; that was why I'd abandoned a good woman like Terry in the San Joaquin Valley I passed the dark porches of Mexican and Negro homes; soft voices were there, occasionally the dusky knee of some mysterious sensual gal; and dark faces of the men behind rose arbors. Little children sat like sages in ancient rocking chairs. A gang of colored women came by, and one of the young ones detached herself from motherlike elders and came to me fast--"Hello Joe!"--and suddenly saw it wasn't Joe, and ran back, blushing. I wished I were Joe. I was only myself, Sal Paradise, sad, strolling in this violet dark, this unbearably sweet night, wishing I could exchange worlds with the happy, true-hearted, ecstatic Negroes of America. The raggedy neighborhoods reminded me of Dean and Marylou, who knew these streets so well from childhood. How I wished I could find them.
Based on this passage and others in On the Road, some have criticized Kerouac for being naive and patronizing about racial issues (we won't take issue with his use of the term, Negro, as it was the term of the times in which Kerouac lived and wrote). And perhaps he was, at least in part. Certainly, he romanticizes the life of blacks and other non-whites in America in his wish to exchange worlds with them. We must remember, though, that Kerouac was French-Canadian and knew from personal experience the plight of the "other." Nevertheless, he wrote and thought from a position of white privilege. But, at least he acknowledged it: "All my life I'd had white ambitions; that was why I'd abandoned a good woman like Terry in the San Joaquin Valley." Terry was Mexican, and Jack admits here that race was a factor in his abandoning her. How could he ever take a Mexican girl home to
Mémère?
Others smarter than me, with more credentials and valid points of view, can further parse this passage from On the Road. I'm going to leave it that, while Kerouac was white and fell into the same privilege traps that Dyson talks about, at least he acknowledged it and, even more importantly, he met the Bradley standard of interacting with people from a different race. Bradley specifies talking about race in that context, and I don't know if that always happened with Kerouac, but the interaction is a start.

When's the last time you talked with someone from a different race about race? For me, it's a damning question to have to answer.



Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Sunday haiku for Jack Kerouac



I'm no expert on haikus, or Kerouac, or anything -- really! -- but I was thinking about haikus this morning for some reason. Lately I've gotten so I journal in haiku, a practice which has yielded several hundred over the last few months ( about 370 to date).

Now, you might take a peek at my journal and say that what I have been writing are not haikus because, while they are three lines, they do not follow the traditional 5-7-5 syllable format. Jack Kerouac would beg to differ with that observation, saying:
I propose that the "Western Haiku" simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture . . . . (source: http://www.haikuworld.org/books/kerouac.html)
For some on-line examples of Kerouac's Western Haikus, click here: 
http://www.kerouac.com/Beatquoteoftheweek/januaryninth.htm. Notice how they follow Jack's description above: three lines, simple, no worries about syllabication. Notice also how this form differs from Allen Ginsberg's "American Sentences": one sentence, 17 syllables. See http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/a/ginsbergsentenc.htm.

Here's an example of a haiku I wrote while sitting at The Dugout, my regular bar in Farmington, ME, on April 6:
I see a hobo
but she's really
a queen for the day
Now that haiku may not stand-alone very well, but when I re-read it (remember, this is my journaling technique) it brings back memories of that particular moment -- for me! And that's the point of a journal.

And so, per this post's title, here is a Sunday haiku that I just wrote this very moment:
Friends visit
windchimes tinkle
summer happens anew
What does that have to do with Jack Kerouac? Well, it's a Western Haiku. And besides, everything connects to Kerouac. But you already knew that.

Write a haiku today and don't worry about syllables. Just create an image or a feeling in as few words as possible in three lines. You can do it! You might even like it enough to try it as a journaling technique and end up with hundreds of haikus. Next you'll think about publishing them, and a Pulitzer is not far behind. Think big, right?

Happy Sunday, everybody!







Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jack Kerouac, war, world events, miasmic torpor



I'm beaten down by world events and can't think of anything original to say about Jack Kerouac today, so here is a random Kerouac quote from one of his works that is a favorite of mine (the work, not the quote). Maybe it has some relevance to the messed up world we find ourselves in.

A VICIOUS WAR with all the American infantrymen continually blasting away with their rifles but I'm the Company Joker Imbecile who's always losing his gun and looking for another that works so in the midst of battle (on ramparts, hills, in copses, against enemy soldiers hiding) you hear me yelling "Where's my gun, hey?" and everybody too busy to pay attention or even laugh--My sadsack soldier role--But at one point I look up and realize the vast ruin of a  European town we're in, the architecture of the town clearly seen in the rubble--I'm lost and cant find my company, no one cares, it's a huge new war-- (Book of Dreams, 1981, City Lights, p. 138)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Beat Generation, Donald Trump, Republicans, GOP Convention, Hippies, Google, Apple, Facebook, Burning Man, Millennials, and Jack Kerouac



Here is a link to a recent article by Jerry Cimino, founder and curator of The Beat Museum in San Francisco: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jerry-cimino/an-open-letter-to-the-tech-industry_b_10597900.html.

Titled " An Open Letter to the Tech Industry" and published by The Huffington Post, it makes the argument that other tech giants should follow Apple's lead and not support the GOP Convention in Cleveland in July. Why? Those tech giants wouldn't be flourishing in the Bay Area if it weren't for The Beat Generation. You can read the article and see if you agree with Jerry's logic.

I know, I know....we have now waxed political here on The Daily Beat and some of  you are going to stop following us as a result. If that is how closed-minded you are -- that is, an opposing view causes you to retreat from social interaction -- then you don't understand Beat values enough to be a regular reader in the first place. Autodidacticity is in order.

Some will argue, "But Kerouac himself expressed conservative views in his later years." He was a raging drunk, too, but I wouldn't use that to justify alcoholism. 

Find me a well-written piece arguing for GOP values based on The Beat Generation and I'll gladly post a link to it. Or write one and ask to be a guest blogger. We're an equal opportunity offender!

Peace out....




Thursday, June 16, 2016

Joan Anderson letter doesn't sell at Christie's auction: UPDATED 6-26-16

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to the famous Joan Anderson letter, the once-thought-lost-but-recently-found letter that Neal Cassady wrote to Jack Kerouac and Jack called the greatest piece of writing he ever saw. If you need background, here's a good piece on Beatdom to bring you up to speed: http://www.beatdom.com/reconsidering-the-importance-of-the-joan-anderson-letter/.

Anyway, the letter went up for auction at Christie's today, and according to Neal's daughter, Jami, on Facebook:
The Joan Anderson Letter.....did not get ONE BID!!!! IT DID NOT SELL AT Christie's this morning....
I don't know why it didn't sell or what happens next. If I learn anything I'll update you.

******UPDATE*****

It seems that there were bids made at the auction, but they didn't meet a pre-established minimum of $400,000. According to Brian Hassett on Facebook:
It opened at $240,000, then went $260,000, then $280,000, then $300,000, then $320,000, then $350,000, then $380,000....
I'm not sure of next steps but will update this post as I find out anything.

In the meantime, here is a picture of Gerald Nicosia with Jami Cassady and husband Randy Ratto viewing Neal Cassady's Joan Anderson Letter at the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco on June
3, 2016. Photo by Rowland Weinstein.

(c) 2016 Rowland Weinstein