Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Remembering Carolyn Cassady

Two years ago today, Carolyn Cassady died. As I pointed out at the time (click here), we don't have too many of Jack Kerouac's intimates left, let alone those who knew him. But, she was a force in her own right, and the world might well be remembering her without having had a Kerouac connection if her life had unfolded along a different path.

To wit, the Boston Herald said of her 1990 memoir, Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg: "Bursts with emotions of joy and enlightenment, anger and restlessness, delight and desolation." If you're interested in Kerouac -- and I assume you are given that you are reading this blog -- Off the Road is must-reading. Her first meeting with Jack is described starting on p. 28 in the above version (Penguin 1991). If you're not a Kerouac fan, it's still a great memoir about a seminal time in American history.

Click here for a video interview of Carolyn not long before her death at age 90. I hope I'm nearly that cogent in my waning years.

RIP, Carolyn.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Visit to Kerouac's grave during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2015

As we do every year, we are planning to visit Jack Kerouac's grave during the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival. The ritual involves reading something of Jack's at the grave, videoing the reading and posting it to YouTube, taking pictures, and generally paying homage to the greatest writer who ever lived. It also involves Bushmills (not required and we're low key about it).

Here are some links to past year's readings, featuring me, or Crystal, or our friend Richard (and note Chris and Charlie from Michigan in the 2009 entry):

This year, I think the grave visit will be mid-morning (10:30-ish) on Friday, October 9. This is sort of after the high school poetry competition and before the must-attend Talking Jack session led by Kurt Phaneuf (click here for the schedule).

If you are reading this, you are welcome to join us. A special invitation is extended to members of the Jack Kerouac Facebook page. If enough of the latter attend, we could snap an awesome group photo at the grave!

This year, in honor of the 50th year since it's publication, we will be reading selections from Desolation Angels. You are invited to read from DA or anything else of Jack's. Or recite a passage from memory. Or tell a tale. Or just listen.

It's all about honoring Jack with fellow Keroucians.

See you in Lowell in October. Everybody goes home in October.

P.S. Jack's grave is easy to find. It's in Edson Cemetery, 1375 Gorham Street, in Lowell, MA. Enter the main gate off Gorham and go straight. Turn left on Lincoln Avenue. Jack's grave is on the right between 7th and 8th Avenue. Jack's actual gravestone is flat on the ground in front of the new-ish monument below.

The new-ish monument (which, while gaudy, does help locate the grave for first-timers)

The original gravestone

If you need a driving video for directions, click here. Turn the sound off unless you like Deconstructing Shed.

P.S.S. This year's secret word is "subterraneans." Be the first person to whisper it to me at LCK and get a free signed copy of my book,

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kerouacian+ Report from NYC - Redux UPDATED 9-16-15

Faithful (thank you) readers of The Daily Beat will recall a recent post from our exploits in NYC (click here). Because my great friend and Kerouac scholar, Richard Marsh, arranged a 10-day house swap in Brooklyn culminating this past weekend, I was able to visit the city again for the cost of transportation and meals. On Thursday (9-10-15) I drove to Portland to catch a JetBlue flight to JFK. Thunderstorms delayed my departure by a couple of hours, but I got there in time for some night life. I was going to Uber from JFK to Brooklyn, but the app presented me with weird options to choose from in terms of where I wanted to be picked up. Not being sure of how to proceed, I got in the fairly large queue for a taxi. $45 later I was outside Richard's Brooklyn apartment and he met me on the stoop. I know that I could have taken public transportation for a lot less money, but my skills in that regard were and remain lacking.

Our Brooklyn pad (sorry for the pic - it's from Google Streetview)

View out our back window

We had a beer on the roof. Great view of the Manhattan Skyline from there. Since it was opening night for NFL football and we wanted to see the Patriots v. Steelers, we decided to subway to the East Village to a known Patriots sports bar, Professor Thom's. We started from Jefferson Street Station, a short walk away from the apartment, and took the subway to Third Avenue.

Richard at the Third Avenue station

Rick at the Third Avenue Station
By the way, I learned that subway stations are hot and smelly, but the cars themselves are fairly cool and clean. I don't know why.

When we exited, it was raining and we had forgotten our umbrellas. We had remembered them a block from the apartment and decided not to go back. Big mistake. We made our way to the sports bar and it was packed beyond imagination. As was every other bar in the area with TVs. We asked a bouncer in the doorway of one packed place where we could get a bite and watch the game and he suggested 5 Napkins Burger down the street. We were soaked already so another walk in the rain was irrelevant. We got seats at the bar but soon moved to a nearby table, where our waitress was Sherley. I had an excellent burger and Richard had a chicken dish. The latter was not up to par and Richard returned it for a burger. The manager, Ben, came out to apologize and comped us both a drink. Classy. By the time we'd finished eating it was time to get some sleep so we headed back to Brooklyn on the subway (L line). Walking to the apartment I saw a city chipmunk scurry across the sidewalk in front of us and under some garbage. Funny how they don't have bushy tails like in Maine and they are all dark-colored.

My "bed" for the weekend
Friday morning we puttered around the apartment and made Kerouacian plans for the day. We decided to do the Bill Morgan Greenwich Village Tour 1 in order (from his book, The Beat Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack Kerouac's City). 

Our tour guide in NYC

Little did we know how much time we would spend on the tour. Consequently, we only accomplished the first fourteen entries in sequence before it was time to change gears. What follows are pictures from the tour in the same order as they appear in Morgan's book, each annotated by entry number and description.

1. Richard near start of the Morgan tour in Christopher Park

2. Lucien Carr's apartment at 92 Grove Street

2. Rick in front of Lucien's
3. Former Jack Delaney's Steak House (72 Grove)
4. Former jazz club, The Pad (now The Garage) - 99 Seventh Avenue South
5. Former Circle in the Square (now Gristedes)

6. At Barrow Street Ale House (former Cafe Bohemia)
6. Barrow Street Ale House (15 Barrow St.)

7. Bob Dylan's former apartment (161 W. Fourth)

8. W. H. Auden lived here (7 Cornelia St.)
9. Former Phoenix Bookshop (18 Cornelia St.)
10. Where Leroi Jones and Hettie Jones lived (7 Morton)
11. Where David Kammerer lived at 48 Morton Street

12. Where Burroughs lived at 69 Bedford
13. Former Cherry Lane Theater (38-42 Commerce)
We shared a park bench here with a woman who lived across the street and had lived in the Village for 50 years. Very interesting!

14. Former Chumley's (86 Bedford)
This is where we stopped in sequence with the Morgan Tour. There are 16 more stops and we had already spent several hours! He says you can do the tour in 3, but I don't think that includes pictures. Plus, it is mesmerizing to walk where Kerouac and the Beats walked, and it's easy to get caught up and lose track of time.

Anyway, now at least you have pictures of the first 14 stops in Morgan's Greenwich Village Tour 1 in case you want to double-check yourself on your own tour. He only included 3 pictures of the 14 stops. If you aren't sure why any of the above 14 pictures is important, buy Morgan's book. Or post a question in the comments and I'll try to answer it.

From Chumley's we hoofed it to Washington Square Park, where Richard soaked his feet to cool them off.

From there we walked to Paradise Alley (Heavenly Lane in The Subterraneans) to recreate Mardou's walk to 206th East 7th to borrow a dime from Ginsberg for bus fare. Here is where things got interesting. Richard had always wanted to see the back of the building where the famous picture of Kerouac was taken (it adorns the cover of Morgan's book as well as Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 by Douglas Brinkley). 

Of course, it's a bunch of private apartments so getting back there is difficult if not impossible. We were about to leave when we saw a guy with a drill coming out of the basement door. Richard asked him if he were the super (he wasn't). He asked us why we wanted to know and we explained our interest in seeing the back of the building. His name was John and he was familiar with the picture. Once we swore we weren't building inspectors, he led us through the junk-filled bowels of the building to a funky courtyard (not the site of the picture). 


Funky courtyard

Then John led us to the back of the building where, lo and behold, he directed our attention to the fire escape in the famous photo. Richard took this shot. It was a Beat coup and one of the top three highlights of the trip. Thanks, John. You made our day.

We headed for McSorley's but found it jammed with firefighters for some kind of 911 memorial celebration (it was, after all, the anniversary).

From there we headed to Monte's Trattoria on Macdougal for drinks. Tony was bartending and we had a good time talking with him as well as the owner, Pietro. Richard had Manhattans but it was Peroni for me. Then it was time for picture recreation at the new Kettle of Fish in front of the famous BAR sign.

Rick at the Kettle of Fish

I wasn't as drunk as I look in that picture. There's one of Richard, too, but I need to get him to send it my way and then I'll update this post. For dinner we decided to make our way to Lombardi's in Soho, home of the best pizza anywhere (according to Richard). Judging by the crowd and how long we had to wait for a table, the pizza had to be good and it was. Oh, along the way we caught some of a street festival, perhaps the San Genarro (supposedly in Little Italy that weekend): lots of vendors along the street under lit arbors. Very pretty. Huge police presence.

Our pie: pepperoni, sweet Italian sausage, and fresh mozzarella

Lombardi's coal-fired pizza oven
After Lombardi's we went back to the apartment and crashed. We'd literally been walking most of the past 11 hours.

On Saturday we headed first to Columbia University by subway. It took a while because we had to change trains for a planned service disruption and had some confusion at first.

Once we got there, we had to do the obligatory picture re-creation. NOTE: If you need a pit-stop, Butler Library has limited hours when it is open to the public, but you can go to the all-glass building to its right and find what you need.

Jack Kerouac (l) and Lucien Carr (r)

Richard Marsh (l) and Rick Dale (r)

Since they were close by, we checked out various buildings where Kerouac lived, but a highlight (2nd of the trip) was finding the former Lion's Den fireplace where Kerouac sat and ate steaks and ice cream sundaes while on the football injured roster (bottom of John Jay Hall).

"With my broken leg in a cast, and with two crutches under my good armpits, I hobbled every night to the Lion's Den, the Columbia fireplace-and-mahogany type restaurant, sat right in front of the fire in the place of honor, watched the boys and girls dance, ordered every blessed night the same rare filet mignon, ate it at leisure with my crutches athwart the table, then two hot fudge sundaes for dessert, that whole blessed sweet autumn."                                                                            ~Jack Kerouac, Vanity of Duluoz 
We left the gated area and found the Craigsmoor Apartments where Joan Vollmer Adams lived and hosted Jack and Edie for a spell. This was the site of the famous "Night of the Wolfeans."

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

We passed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in our ramblings. We went in and it was amazing (it cost money to take a tour but we were able to experience the majesty). Hungry, we asked a construction worker for a recommendation and he suggested looking on Broadway. We Yelped and found Mel's, where we had eggs benny and mimosas. There was a subway station right across the street so we then headed to the Strand Bookstore in the East Village.

On the way out of the Union Square Station we saw a group of chanting hare krishna devotees.

We were going to check out a 1st edition/2nd printing copy of The Subterraneans ($600). Richard had seen it earlier in the week. When asked about other Kerouac titles, they produced a copy of Pull My Daisy and a first edition/first printing of The Town and the City - with dustjacket. The price was low, perhaps reflective of the dust jacket adhering to the inside of the front and back cover. Richard snatched it up. The third highlight of the trip.

I had wanted to visit The Stonewall Inn on our last visit to NYC, so we headed there and had two drinks to the tune of $28 (that's one each). Yikes. I left a copy of my book there, inscribed as follows. No, I didn't ask permission. I left two other copies around the city, one in the apartment with a thank you to the hosts, and the other at the airport bookstore. I'll post a pic of that later.

View from inside The Stonewall

From The Stonewall we walked to Monte's for dinner. Richard had veal bolognese (yummy) and I had, of course, tortelloni (also yummy). It was late by then and we headed back to the apartment via subway.

Sunday was travel day. We both packed our stuff and said our goodbyes. I Ubered to JFK where I left a copy of my book at the bookstore. I call it "reverse shoplifting." If you zoom in you'll see that it's in the #4 Bestseller spot.

I had a good breakfast at Loft, where  you order and pay with an iPad and you can plug your personal devices in for recharging. Good Brooklyn bagel (scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese).

The flight back to Maine was uneventful. It was good to see Crystal after being away a few days, and sleeping in a real bed was okay, too. I was exhausted and sore from all the walking, but happy happy happy I got to see some more Kerouac NYC locations.

Richard, more Kerouacian adventures await us in October in Lowell! 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Kerouac's On the Road: 58th Anniversary

Jack Kerouac's On the Road was published on this date in 1957, making the legendary book 58 years old today. Click here for History,com's blurb about it.

Not his "best" novel, according to many, it is certainly the one that launched him to fame, starting with an over-the-top review (click here) by Gilbert Millstein in the New York Times (as luck would have it, Millstein was substituting for the regular reviewer, who would not have been so kind).

So, in honor of this auspicious occasion, today it is necessary for all Kerouac fans to read at least one chapter from On the Road. Which one are you going to read?

P.S. I'll make it easy: click here for the full text.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2015 (and the secret word)

Every year, a small group of dedicated Kerouacians puts on the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival in Jack's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. This year the festival runs from October 8-12. For an agenda, click this link:

Every so many years, the Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for the Public Humanities at UMass Lowell sponsors events during and around the festival, and this is one of those years. Click this link for events:

Every year, I establish a secret word whereby whoever first comes up to me at LCK and whispers it in my ear gets a free signed copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions. Last year, no one took me up on the secret word offer, so we need to do better this year. This year's secret word is "subterraneans."

If  you are a Kerouac fan, Lowell is a must-see city and Lowell Celebrates Kerouac just makes it all the more essential a trip. Let no ocean or number of states stay your journey. Get busy right now making reservations at local hotels and booking your air travel/planning your drive.

See you in Lowell. And don't forget the secret word!

P.S. Remember that when you are in Lowell, you can visit the famous Memory Babe archive at the Center for Lowell History in the Mogen Center (my own visit is chronicled here: