Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Kerouac-olutions

Below are my New Year's Kerouac-olutions for 2009 A.D.:

1. Read The Subterraneans
2. Blog every day
3. Attend Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! 2009
4. Read Ann Charters' Kerouac biography
5. Publish Charlie's book of poetry
6. Increase my blog traffic to 50+ visits per day
7. Continue the monthly free book giveaway
8. See my book reviewed in a "legit" newspaper or magazine
9. Send a copy of my book to David Amram
10. Accomplish at least 20 additional Kerouactions from The Beat Handbook

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The newest Kerouac novel

Kerouac fans are probably aware of the most recently published Kerouac novel, the one he co-wrote with William Burroughs: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Sitting in the Philadelphia airport on Sunday afternoon, I happened upon a copy of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer someone had left behind and saw this review of the book: Hippos review. The review contains a concise beat history of Kerouac meeting Carr and Ginsberg and Kammerer and it's fairly positive about the novel.

I do plan to read Hippos, but it's low on my priority list. First I want to finish The Beat Face of God. Then it's on to Empty Phantoms: Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Beat travelogue from my trip to Philly

Here are a couple of highlights from my whirlwind trip to Philadelphia to present at the American Philosophical Association conference.

Air travel to Philadelphia from Portland was straightforward enough. We had a slight delay, and were completely boarded, seated, and waiting at the jetway. All cabin lights were on, the air was running, etc. Noisy. The captain came on and said "Good morning from the flight deck. This is Captain Joe Something-or-other. Our first mate is going to fly us to Philadelphia this morning. I apologize for the slight delay. It's a busy day in Philly and air traffic control has us waiting just a bit. We have a departure time now of 12:45, so we are going to taxi out and wait on the runway for the go-ahead. It's a good thing we've boarded because that gets us into the system and ...." Power loss. Lights off. Air stops.

We hear him say, "Oh, Jesus!"


A few nervous twitters.

Several minutes later power comes back on and the captain says that these new planes are kind of like laptops and he fixed it with Control-Alt-Delete.

Those of us aboard hoped that Control-Alt-Delete would work very very quickly in case we lost power at 20,000 feet.

U.S Airways. You gotta love it.

Anyway, I got to PHL safely. I was traveling light and only had a carry on, so it was right to ground transportation and I caught a taxi to the downtown Marriott where the conference was located and where I was staying. $28.50! Jack would have hitchhiked.

Checked in. Grabbed some food and a couple of Yuenglings at Thirteen, the restaurant at the hotel. Started reading The Beat Face of God: The Beat Generation Writers as Spirit Guides by Steve Edlington. I got two copies for Christmas - one from Crystal and one from Kath. When someone buys you something from your Amazon wish list, take it off.

Caught a nap in the super-comfy bed in my sixteenth floor room.

Later caught up with Adrianne and Joe. Waiting in the hotel lobby bar for her to park the car I heard someone call my name. It was Elliott from UMF. I had just said to Joe that I would probably see someone I knew before too long, having been a lifelong resident of Pennslvania until 2006 and doing a bunch of work in Philly. I didn't expect to see someone from my university in Maine!

Ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe with Adrianne and Joe. Had twisted mac & cheese with chicken and a Stella. Yummy.

We adjourned to the hotel lobby bar and I downed a few Yuenglings and we discussed the presentation the next day and people watched and just generally hung out. Gave Adrianne a copy of The Beat Handbook for Christmas.

Up early. Showered. Grabbed coffee and a donut at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby.

On the way to the presentation I saw Cornel West coming out of the elevator. Cool!

Presentation went well. 9-11 AM. Early for a Sunday morning and yet there were 13 attendees. Our topic was assessment. My specific topic was self-assessment a la Carl Rogers' freedom to learn. One articulate attendee made a comment after I spoke that said everything that needed to be said because he railed against self-assessment arguing with all the un-questioned assumptions one would expect from someone conditioned by traditional schooling.

One of the presenters was from Alverno College in Wisconsin. They do not use letter grades, campus-wide. They use ability-based assessment and self-assessment. Pretty interesting. Every professor on campus uses the same writing feedback rubric. She said she wished I could teach there. I said I wished her college was in the southwest. If I ever leave Maine, it ain't gonna be for Wisconsin winters.

After the presentation I cleared out the room and took the hotel shuttle (Tropiana) back to the airport. 10 bucks. Should have done that the other direction. I was the only passenger and the driver gave me a guided tour of every important landmark along the way. The Roman Catholic high school, the U.S. Constitution (fastest steamship crossing of the Atlantic), Ben Franklin Bridge, Philadelphia Sports Complex, where the new casino is going, etc. Very interesting and I tipped him well and told him why.

Skye, my friend who used to live in Mansfield, was manning the TSA security checkpoint when I went through and we got to chat across the baggage belt for a minute. Nothing extraordinary on the rest of the way home to Crystal and Maine except they changed my gate somewhere during my two-hour wait and if I weren't a seasoned air traveler I would have sat right there at B10 waiting and waiting while my plane left out of B16. Knowing that there should have been some boarding activity by a certain time, I re-checked the monitors and, sure enough, there'd been a gate change. They probably announced it on the public address system, but if you've ever flown you know how futile that is.

While waiting I had deep-fried pulled pork-filled ravioli and a couple of Yuenglings (can't get it in Maine) at Friday's.

The drive home was very foggy. Crystal had baked tortellini casserole and wine by candlelight waiting for me. Sweet!

By the way, Jack would be proud of me for flying under the radar and not paying the conference attendance fee. Hey, I was a presenter and I flew at my own expense from Maine. Adding a conference fee to that is adding insult to injury.

Anyway, glad I did the thing. Glad it's done.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To "stink of Zen"

Those who know do not speak;
Those who speak do not know.

In studying or practicing Zen it is of no help to think about Zen. To remain caught up in ideas and words about Zen is, as the old masters say, to "stink of Zen."
~Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, 1989, p. 127

When it's time to get dressed, put on your clothes. When you must walk, then walk. When you must sit, then sit. Don't have a single thought in your mind about seeking for Buddhahood.... You talk about being perfectly disciplined in your six senses and in all your actions, but in my view all this is making karma. To seek the Buddha (nature) and to seek the Dharma is at once to make karma which leads to the hells. To seek (to be) Bodhisattvas is also making karma, and likewise studying the sutras and commentaries. Buddhas and Patriarchs are people without such artificialities.... It is said everywhere that there is a Tao which must be cultivated and a Dharma which must be realized. What Dharma do you say must be realized, and what Tao cultivated? What do you lack in the way you are functioning right now? What will you add to where you are?
as cited in Watts, The Way of Zen, 1989, p. 151

Enlightenment is for sissies. Living ethically and morally is what really matters.
~Brad Warner
Daily Zen Calendar reading for December 26, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Roberts

I've in the past year or so befriended two different Roberts. One in the bar. One in the coffee shop. Both older than I. Both artistic. One with an established track record as an artist. The other a PTSD-tortured Vietnam vet. Both married. Both with good souls. They're not perfect - not politically correct. They both have long hair (like me - yair!). And they mostly say what they think without too much filtering.

They are beat characters. I love them. They seem to live that simple beatific life Kerouac extolled (and lived at times). The "mad ones...," you know?

I don't know why they perk up to see me. Maybe because I listen to their stories. (How couldn't you listen?) Maybe I have something to offer on occasion when we talk. I'm pretty sure my "college professor" title lends some aura of credibility to my words, but that is just so much utter bullshit. Having a doctorate, being a college professor - who cares? It's just meaningless noise. Neither of the Roberts have doctorates. Neither of the Roberts is a college professor. And either of them is routinely way more interesting than I (although I aspire to it - I would love to someday hold court in a coffee shop corner spinning tales and having someone hanging on my words).

Life experience! GO GO GO! That's what makes for having something to say. Been places! The jungles of southeast Asia. Denver. Texas. Chicago. Mexico. New Orleans. Denmark. San Francisco (North Beach - City Lights Bookstore - Sausalito). Done things! Lived in a tepee. Posed naked for aspiring artists in D.C. Greeted the southwestern sunrise tripping on peyote, naked and wrapped in a blanket with a beautiful woman. Survived combat. Protested (in real protests, not the namby-pamby excuses for protests that happen today).

And more. Much more. That I hope to hear about until the story and the stories end. As they all do. So listen now. And weave them, too, as you can.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Jack Kerouac breakfast

I just made pancakes for Crystal and me with real Maine maple syrup ($25 per quart!) and it got me thinking about Jack's description in "Railroad Earth" of Lonesome Traveler (1960) about making his breakfast in the tiny San Francisco flophouse room he rented when he was a brakeman on the Southern Pacific:

...make my raisin toast by sitting it on a little wire I'd especially bent to place over the hotplate, the toast crackled up, there, I spread the margarine on the still red hot toast and it too would crackle and sink in golden, among burnt raisins and this was my toast.-- Then two eggs gently slowly fried in soft margarine in my little skidrow frying pan about half as thick as a dime in fact less, a little piece of tiny tin you could bring on a camp trip -- the eggs slowly fluffled in there and swelled from butter steams and I threw garlic salt on them, and when they were ready the yellow of them had been slightly filmed with a cooked white at the top from the tin cover I'd put over the frying pan, so now they were ready, and out they came, I spread them out on top of my already prepared potatoes which had been boiled in small pieces and then mixed with the bacon I'd already fried in small pieces, kind of raggely mashed bacon potatoes, with eggs on top steaming, and on the side lettuce, with peanut butter dab nearby on side (p. 48).

Makes you wanna go cook breakfast, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Compassion and materialism

Today is a tradition in this country when we come together as families and communities and spend some time rising above our differences and practicing compassion for others. It's also a day when we spend exorbitant amounts of money on "stuff." Thinking about those two issues - compassion and materialism - reminded me of the following entry from The Beat Handbook:

Day 11
Today’s Kerouaction: On Compassion

Kerouac would advise being careful about judging others for how they live. That is, while he would advocate forsaking “white kitchen machinery” (a metaphor for the materialism he saw growing in America), he would also caution against judging those who aspire to that kind of life. A paradox? No. As he points out, compassion is the heart of Buddhism.

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Find a definition for compassion from a Buddhist source and write it here.

I hope this day is everything you wish for, and that everything you wish for is this day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas shopping advice

As you're doing your last minute Christmas shopping, remember that books make excellent gifts. In my opinion, they make the best gifts. But that's just me.

Anyway, if you agree, don't forget to support your local bookstore. Some communities are lucky enough to still have one, such as From My Shelf Books in Wellsboro, PA. You get more personalized service than at a big corporate chain bookstore, and chances are you can find a place to park. Just try going to the Barnes & Noble at The Marketplace at Augusta (Maine) today. One way in. One way out. Thousands of shoppers. Good luck. Last Christmas Eve I got stuck in a line of traffic that didn't move for half an hour. I know that sounds minimal for you city dwellers, but in Maine that's a long wait.

Oh, if you stop at From My Shelf Books, you can pick up a signed copy of The Beat Handbook. If you wish.

But what's all the above got to do with Jack Kerouac? He was an author, for heaven's sakes.

However, for you Kerouac-obsessed readers, here's a Christmas Eve quote from p. 135 of The Dharma Bums (1976):

The following night was Christmas Eve which I spent with a bottle of wine before the TV enjoying the shows and the midnight mass from Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York with bishops ministering, and doctrines glistering, and congregations, the priests in their lacy snow vestments before great official altars not half as great as my straw mat beneath a little pine tree I figured.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Warning: Kerouac myth #2 spoiled

In a previous post I spoiled the myth that Kerouac wrote On The Road in a three-week caffeine-fueled frenzy. Today we'll discuss the term "beatnik," an often misunderstood and misused term.

Kerouac and his fellow beat generation writers viewed the term "beatnik" as perjorative. The term was coined by Herb Caen in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958. Writing close on the heels of the Sputnik episode, Caen's addition of the Russian suffix -nik was likely an effort to portray the beat generation writers as un-American. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote to the New York Times, deploring the "foul word" (Wikipedia).

Nevertheless, from there the media took over, stereotyping the "beatnik" as a beret-wearing, goatee-sporting, bongo-playing, poetry reading counterculture character.

Or as criminals.

And the ignorance continues today. Note the incredible wikiHow titled How to Be a Beatnik Stereotype. Someone with more time on their hands than I might want to edit this particular wiki.

Jack didn't wear berets, sport a goatee, or play the bongos. Yes, he wrote and read poetry, but comparing the beat generation to Bob Denver's Maynard G. Krebs character on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis is ludicrous beyond words.

Consider Kerouac's own words from a November 22, 1960 letter:

The vision of America is being destroyed now by the beatnik movement which is not the "beat generation" I proposed any more but a big move-in from intellectual dissident wrecks of all kinds and now even anti-American, America-haters of all kinds with placards who call themselves "beatniks."*

Or this from a February 15, 1961 letter:

"Original members" of the Beat Gen. means it started out in 1948 as a group of poets, beardless, with no political beefs, no idea of "nonconformity," just poets. Today's "beatnik" cant even recognize Stan Gets [sic] when he hears him, or even tell the tune he's playing, etc. "Beatniks" are Henry Wallaceniks jumped on the movement for left-wing reasons. I am a Catholic Conservative.*

In later years, Jack even distanced himself from friend Allen Ginsberg over the latter's anti-war sentiments that Jack thought were un-patriotic.

Bottom line: please don't associate the term "beatnik" with Jack Kerouac except to de-mythologize its inappropriate use.

*From Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969, edited by Ann Charters.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Samuel Adams Winter and The Beat Handbook

My band was playing at The Higher Grounds Saturday night. As regular readers know, Crystal placed a copy of The Beat Handbook on the shelves behind the band as part of a display (there are copies of On The Road & The Dharma Bums and a cool picture of Allen Ginsberg with Bob Dylan). As chance would have it, Woody placed a Samuel Adams Winter next to my book, and he noted the similarity in color schemes. Pretty amazing, huh?

I've always loved Samuel Adams Winter. I look forward to it every year. And now, as long as they don't change the styling on the bottle, it complements my book.

Hmmmm.... A six-pack of Winter and a book as a Christmas gift combo?

Works for me.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Commitment to a principle

On Thursday I completed another suggested Kerouactivity from The Beat Handbook, courtesy of my favorite tattoo artist, Chris Killingstad of Nightwind Studios in Wellsboro, PA. Thanks, Chris! I gave him a signed copy of my book, since his past artistry certainly triggered the idea for the Kerouactivity in the first place. No, the tree of life and the stars are not new - just the motto. Oh, and yes, the accomplishment's been duly noted in my personal copy.

Below is the above-referenced entry from the book.

Day 9
Today’s Kerouaction: On Freedom

To quote the movie, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, “It’s better to be dead and cool than alive and uncool.” To wit, when you are out sleeping under the stars, and no one on earth knows where you are, and your life-alienating cell phone is either turned off or, better, not with you, you can experience a rare feeling: freedom. Freedom is one of the key principles behind Kerouactions. It is so important that a little – or perhaps even a lot – of physical discomfort pales in comparison to the feeling that one is at all times and in all situations able to make a choice! The Kerouaction? Live free or die (with thanks to New Hampshire)! Right now, go up to the first person you see and give them $5.00. Tell them a book you are reading told you to do it. Or perhaps your sense of freedom tells you to tell me to take a hike. Great! You are free to choose! But always remember that. Do not blame your parents, your past, your mate, your children, events, places, or anything else for your troubles. You choose! Freedom....

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Get “Live Free or Die” tattooed somewhere on your body.

Soon after my book was published, my friend Bob walked up to me and handed me 5 bucks and said a book told him to do it. And November's book winner has reported a number of Kerouaccomplishments based on The Beat Handbook. Crystal's done some, too! At a book-signing, I was asked if I planned on completing all the Kerouactivities. I said that some of them aren't intended to be taken literally, but I was working on it. I can't very well expect my readers to follow advice in the book if I don't. It's called "walking your talk." I figure getting a tattoo is pretty strong evidence of commitment to a principle.

As you're completing Kerouactivities, please keep us all posted on your progress here at The Daily Beat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Charles Dickens factoid

I learned from yesterday's USA Today that Charles Dickens could not find a traditional publisher for A Christmas Carol, so he published it himself! One reason he couldn't find a publisher was the length: less than 30,000 words.

The lesson: self-publishing a short novel is not necessarily the path to oblivion.

There are current stories about self-published books making the jump to traditional publishers. I'll report on some of them in a future blog.

Happy snow, New England.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kerouac, Krishnamurti, Burroughs, and the number 23

It struck me yesterday that my two biggest literary influences, Jack Kerouac and Jiddu Krishnamurti, have the same initials: J.K.

I don't know where thoughts like that originate, or where they go necessarily, but this particular one went to more thoughts about synchronicity and connections and then I found myself playing around with the number 23 enigma.

2 = the # of authors
10 = J's number in the alphabet
11 = K's number in the alphabet
23 = the total

So I did some net-surfing and found out that the "23 enigma," as it's called, may have first been noticed by beat author William S. Burroughs! How weird is that?

According to Wikipedia, Robert Anton Wilton, co-author of the Illuminatus! trilogy, credits Burroughs "as being the first person to notice the 23 enigma: Wilson, in an article in Fortean Times, related the following story:

I first heard of the 23 enigma from William S Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, Nova Express, etc. According to Burroughs, he had known a certain Captain Clark, around 1960 in Tangier, who once bragged that he had been sailing 23 years without an accident. That very day, Clark’s ship had an accident that killed him and everybody else aboard. Furthermore, while Burroughs was thinking about this crude example of the irony of the gods that evening, a bulletin on the radio announced the crash of an airliner in Florida, USA. The pilot was another captain Clark and the flight was Flight 23."

Read all about it here: 23 Enigma.

I first learned about the "23 enigma" from the Jim Carrey movie, The Number 23. Notice that the initial sounds of Jim and Carrey sound like "J" and "K"? Never mind, let's not go there.

I'm not a believer in numerology, per se. In fact, thanks to J.K. #2, I think beliefs are the source of all conflict on this planet. If people didn't "believe" that things are supposed to be a certain way, what purpose would violence serve in the first place? Should is a much more evil word than most people realize. Especially but not exclusively regarding religion. Like my beat friend Charlie told me yesterday about the time two LDS evangelists accosted him on the street and he pointed his finger in one's face and stridently asked, "Why do you need some fictitious person up there to tell you to love him [pointing now at the other proselytizer]?" They walked away.

For sure, humans seem to have some innate bent toward beliefs. And we love to be told what to do. Or have some external authority to blame for our actions.

All that said, I'm not so sure we aren't given clues from time to time about what our purpose is. Jack's purpose had to be writing On the Road and becoming the voice of the beat generation. The world notices individuals who find their purpose and live it.

At the bar yesterday, someone brought up Tiger Woods with the usual awe I hear whenever he's mentioned. I said something about how he was just one of those people who happened to be lucky enough to figure out what he was "born to do." I think we all have something we're "born to do." The sad thing is, most of us don't seem to figure out what it is. We stop looking somewhere along the way, beaten down by "schooling" and authorities of every stripe and the well-meaning discouragements of others whenever we dream big.

What were you born to do?

Maybe the number 23 holds a clue.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The unbearable obsequiousness of posting

WARNING: This post is a commercial for my book. If that bums you out or whatever, please feel free to check back tomorrow. Otherwise, read on!

Crystal told me last night she was going Christmas shopping at Amazon, and, of course, since she is brilliant, I thought that was a brilliant idea. So that is what I intend to do today. But it struck me that time's a-wastin' if you want to order from Amazon and have the order arrive by Thursday next.

Therefore, a reminder is in order. If you're planning to give The Beat Handbook for Christmas, today is the time to order it. Below is a very appropos excerpt from the book(s) you're fixin' to purchase.

Day 65
Today’s Kerouaction: On Books

You simply cannot have enough books. They are the one material possession that doesn’t count as a material possession. That is, they don’t count towards the earlier advice to be able to fit everything you own in your vehicle (see Day 10). And books are easily acquired these days. Libraries hold sales to clear room for the thousands of new books that assault them yearly. Sometimes you can buy a whole bag of books for a dollar (or some similarly cheap arrangement). And don’t forget to take advantage of buying used books from yard sales or old bookstores or even on-line! Why buy anything new if you don’t have to? It’s cheaper and better for the environment. And if you do acquire thousands of books, you can always give them away as gifts. When your place is full of books, and birthdays or other gift-giving holidays approach, just look around for a suitable gift, wrap it in anything but gift wrap (i.e., spare the environment and re-use something, like an old newspaper or a paper grocery bag), write the obligatory To and From and something unique directly on the paper (gift tags are for Martha Stewart wanna-be’s), and honor the giftee with an original and meaningful present! A used Kerouac book, of course, would be best. A dog-eared, written-in tome of Edward Abbey’s would do, also, as would a beat-up copy of Fight Club. Or anything from the References at the end of this book. Or this book!

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Start planning this very minute to give the gift of a book the next time you will be giving someone a present. Write down the name of the person, the occasion, and the title of the book below. Then get busy acquiring the book.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Beat Generation blog

Many thanks go out to my friend at The Beat Generation blog for suggesting The Beat Handbook as a great gift for the "holidaze." I encourage readers of this blog to pay his blog a visit and check it out: The Beat Generation. He'll appreciate it and so will I. He collects and posts news pieces, articles, and photos about the beats that you won't easily find anywhere else. Hell, it's one of the only blogs I follow!

Oh, one more thing. Don't forget to dig the ride this holiday season! On Christmas Eve, climb up on your roof and yell "Harumph and diddly-i-do, yass, yass."

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Jack Kerouac poem

The following poem was posted on December 5 at Shadow of Diogenes. I really liked it and obtained consent from the author to share it here. Check out the rest of his blog if you get a chance!

Jack Kerouac

Where have you gone mon ami?

Is your old worn out Beat ghost

Haunting those back roads

And those desolate Cascade peaks.


The road has changed a lot

Since you left it -

It's gotten mean

And the country is tired

And bored.

We've gotten stale.

Those Mexico City Blues still touch me

Down deep.

Beat to the end,

Jack Kerouac.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hippies use side door: The Rack at Sugarloaf

Actual sign outside the main entrance to The Rack at Sugarloaf, where my band, The NitPickers, played last night.

For sure I used the side door.

What would Kerouac do?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Jack Kerouac School at Naropa

Do you know about The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics? It was founded at Naropa University in Boulder in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman.

Naropa is a way beat place to go to school. The below is directly from Naropa's website:

Classical Greece and Classical India hosted two of the most revered traditions of education the world has known.

One wonders what might have happened if these two historical giants of academia had been able to combine their wisdom, to see the world from each other's perspective, and finally arrive at a place where East and West truly met, exchanging valuable ideas and insights.

The fact is, this very phenomenon is unfolding today at Naropa University, a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian liberal arts institution dedicated to advancing contemplative education.

This approach to learning integrates the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions, helping students know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others. By combining these two storied pedagogies, East and West are indeed meeting every day at Naropa University and the resulting sparks of inspiration are flying.

The below is directly from The Jack Kerouac School's website:

The Jack Kerouac School was founded at Naropa in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. Besides the Department of Writing & Poetics, which includes the MFA in Writing & Poetics and the BA in Writing and Literature, the school is comprised of the Summer Writing Program and MFA Creative Writing, our low residency degree.

Our programs emphasize traditional and experimental approaches to creative writing in Poetry, Prose and Translation within a variety of genres. Literature courses and the thesis requirement of a student’s final manuscript also emphasize the development of critical writing.

All classes are taught by active, published writers, giving a practitioner's insight into literary art. Our curriculum includes opportunities for students to learn how to teach their craft, exercise performance skills, and develop as practicing writers in the world.

The Kerouac School educates students as skilled practitioners of the literary arts. Its objectives include embracing a disciplined practice of writing, and cultivating a historical and cultural awareness of literary studies.

The next summer writing program is June 15 - July 12, 2009.

Hmmm.... What would Kerouac do?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Heavy snow...bucketfuls of rain/ice...flooding...electric out...sump pump stops...basement floods...utilities in danger...shovel shovel shovel...get out of (slide?) to home gas...return home...assemble generator...fill with gas...start...plug in sump pump...

Problem solved...for now....

Enjoying my pepperoni and cheese omelet in the warm glow of the burning hearth. Gas stoves rock. And battery-powered laptops with Verizon Wireless broadband internet cards.

Fireplaces, too.

What's this got to do with Kerouac?

Making do, my beat friends, and accepting what is.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Today's post is all about me. It's my birthday!

If you go to Brainy History, you'll see that nothing too spectacular seems to have happened on this date in history.

Well, Joe DiMaggio announced his retirement from baseball on this date in 1951. I imagine that Jack Kerouac paid attention to that news, given his love of baseball.

From Douglas Brinkley's Windblown World, below is Jack's journal entry from December 11, 1947 (referencing his work on The Town and the City):

At 5 A.M. wrote 1500-words. Spent most of the night typing and re-working 3,000 words in the manuscript, and thinking of the structures. The world is a structure of souls, nein? And so on --

I have now officially outlived Jack by 6 years. However, life expectancy when Jack was born was around 57 years. For my birth year - 1955 - it was about 69. So Jack fell short of his life expectancy by about 10 years. I'm not trying to emulate Jack in this regard! That would only give me about 6 more years this go-around.

Oh-kay, enough morbid talk.

What do I want for my birthday? Well, Jack Kerouac books are always a winner. Books of any kind, in fact, as The Beat Handbook points out, make excellent gifts.

Speaking of my book, a fantastic gift would be for you to go to Amazon today and purchase one (or several)! Or, if you already own my book, a 5-star review on Amazon would be Kerouac-tastic! Or, give this blog a thumbs-up on Stumble (and a positive review). Or, I'd be equally thrilled with a happy birthday posting right here on Blogger. Your choice!

Happy Birthday to me! 53 years young today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Six Degrees of Jack Kerouac: Robert De Niro

I love actor Robert De Niro. How couldn't I? I don't really consider him a "beat" personality, although he's played a couple of beat roles in his time. I've never connected him to Jack in any way.

Until last night.

I've been reading Lonesome Traveler (admittedly, for the first time). It's a collection of unrelated short stories rather than a straight-through novel. It's the source of this quote:

Am known as "madman bum and angel" with "naked endless head" of "prose" (1960, p. vi).

That's one of the phrases engraved on a pillar at Kerouac Park in Lowell. Crystal really likes that one. Me, too.

For sure, Lonesome Traveler epitomizes that description. It's more poetry than prose. As is much of Jack's prose, I think.

But I digress.

In the chapter, "New York Scenes," Jack is describing how he and his friends spend time in the city. On p. 116, Charley Mills is

walkin down the street with bums drinkin bottle of wine singing in twelve tone scale.

"Let's go see the strange great secret painters of America and discuss their paintings and their visions with them--Iris Brodie with her delicate fawn Byzantine filigree of Virgins--"

"Or Miles Forst and his black bull in the orange cave."

Or Franz Klein and his spiderwebs."

"His bloody spiderwebs!"

"Or William de Kooning and his White."

"Or Robert De Niro."

Robert De Niro? Couldn't be the actor, I thought to myself. A little Internet research reveals that Robert De Niro, Sr. (1922-1993) - born same year as Jack - was an abstract expressionist painter who lived in the Village and went to Black Mountain College and was bisexual and .... Well, a beat character!

And father of actor Robert De Niro! I had read that De Niro's father was a painter, but I never went beyond that simple factoid.

So, what is actor Robert De Niro's Kerouac number?

1. Jack wrote about painter Robert De Niro, Sr. in Lonesome Traveler.

2. Actor Robert De Niro is painter Robert De Niro's son.

Actor Robert De Niro's Kerouac number is 2.

Now I have to go do some surfing and look at his dad's paintings.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Warning: Kerouac myth #1 spoiled

The #1 myth about Jack Kerouac it seems to me is that he wrote his most famous novel, On The Road, in a caffeine-fueled nonstop 3-week typing frenzy in April 1951.

On the contrary, Kerouac had been preparing notes, text, key phrases, etc., for years - ever since his late-40's cross-country travels with Neal Cassady. Here is an actual April 1949 entry from one of his journals, courtesy of Douglas Brinkley's Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 (2004).

WED. 27--Started "On the Road" with a brief 500-wd. stint of 2, 3 hours duration, in the small hours of the morning. I find that I am "hotter" than ever--tho on closer examination afterwards I figure I may only be over pleased with words, and not structurally sound yet (after a long layoff). My interest in work is at a high pitch. My aim is to have much of "Road" done, if not all, by the time T & C is published next winter. I quit school today so I can do nothing but write.--Now I want to expand the original 500 words which, in the heat of work, 'discovered' an important opening unity.

Brinkley includes photocopies of certain pages from Jack's journals, the above entry being one of them.

Jack, I love you, man, but this is one myth that needed to be busted.

The truth is out there.*

*Gratuitous pop culture reference.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Here's a picture Crystal took of me at The Lazy Lab Cafe during my book-signing on Saturday during Christmas stroll:

Proof positive I was there.

Where were you?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Take me back to Kerouac's technology?

I am so so so very frustrated with my computer right now that I contemplated not posting today. But that would break quite a streak of daily postings and let the virus-creating buggers get the upper hand. Therefore, despite an incredibly annoying and useless toolbar (Mirar) installing itself in my Internet Explorer and refusing to be uninstalled, and losing all display of images on webpages (related to the toolbar I do not know), and my computer restarting itself repeatedly at random times, and Automatic Updates for Windows being disabled without my knowedge--despite all of that, I am posting from this laptop today. So there. But tomorrow I may be without said laptop since it needs to go to the computer emergency room and I don't know when I'll get it back. If necessary, I will post tomorrow night from the home desktop or C's laptop. Maybe a picture from the booksigning last night.

Sometimes I contemplate life before the Internet, before word processors. I think about typing my culminating Master's paper on a typewriter, and compare that to writing my dissertation on the word processor. Honestly, while pecking away on a manual typewriter is a romantic notion, I'm sold on word processing. Just in writing this post I have corrected probably a dozen or more typing errors as I typed. Of course, were I using a typewriter, I would not be going at the same high rate of speed (speaking of which, thank you to whoever talked me into taking a semester of typing in high school and learning to touch type). Nevertheless, as a writer, I'll take a word processor over a typewriter. Jack and Papa, forgive me.

I also think about the instantaneous, worldwide communication that the Internet allows. Jack painstakingly typed his manuscripts on a manual typewriter, often retyping entire novels, and waited months and months to see his work in print. There was no such thing as an electronic version of one of his novels - the only way to access them was via hard copy. Today, I can type something, press a button, and within hours people as far away as Australia have read it (I still marvel at the international traffic this blog gets).

Indeed, with progress come new challenges. I struggle to understand how the strategy of creating malicious computer viruses meets human needs, but the conspiracy theorist in me thinks perhaps it's all part of a grand scheme to prop up the business of fixing computers after they've been rendered useless by a virus. So the virus creators are being paid, and money is a powerful strategy for meeting a number of human needs: food, water, shelter, and the list goes on. I also acknowledge that creating a malicous virus and seeing it render people helpless may meet needs for power, control, and recognition. I don't agree with the strategy, but I understand the underlying human needs.

In a conversation at The Wharf Friday night I mentioned my computer woes and wished evil on the virus creators (in a most violent way), and my friend reminded me that putting that kind of vibe out there is never a good idea. He knew I knew that, and I was just expressing frustration, but I still wish I had kept that thought trapped in my mind. Better, I wish I didn't have such thoughts--die you evil hackers!--occur to me at all. Sorry. One escaped again, but I moderated it from its original version. That's progress, right?

If you're a virus-creating computer hacker reading this, rest assured that you or your ilk have royally screwed me over and I am going to be without my computer for some period of time while people more accomplished than I attempt to remove your evil seed from my creative womb. Feel better? More powerful? In control?


Now, would one of you please teach me how to infect the main page of every blog on the planet with a direct link to my book on Amazon?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jack Kerouac timeline

I've been thinking about how nice it would be for the Kerouac-obsessed (or maybe it's just me) to have a timeline of Jack's life, but I haven't searched for one before today. His biographies - as biographies do - jump around (a technique to keep the reader interested) or have so much information that comprehension of what happened in what order is difficult. I want a visual organizer of his life!

Today I found an amazing (and I cannot vouch for its accuracy) feature on Google: a Jack Kerouac timeline. I guess Google has these for all famous people? I tried to give you a hotlink to it here, but Blogger won't allow a direct link to it because the URL contains tags of its own. Google owns Blogger, right? So why they can't overcome this limitation is beyond me. (But then, so is my laptop, which has picked up yet another viral infestation, leaving me without it until I can take it to IT on Monday and who knows how long it will take to fix it. Grrr!)

So how do you get there? In Google search, type: Jack Kerouac. Scroll down and click on: Timeline results for Jack Kerouac. You're there! Notice that you can click on any of the decades at the top of the screen and produce a year-by-year timeline.

I hope you'll pay the timeline a visit, but allow yourself some time because each entry is "Google-icious" (my way of saying it can send you off in many directions).

Way cool! Way beat! Thank you, Google. Hours of I-surfing await me. And blog ideas!

But not today: I'm off to a birthday party and then to my book-signing (see yesterday's post).

Au revoir les enfants!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jack Kerouac-inspired book: Reading/signing tomorrow

Tomorrow, Saturday December 6, is the annual "Christmas Stroll" in Belgrade Lakes, ME. It's an evening of holiday magic! Luminaries light your way as merchants along the quaint village nestled between Great Pond and Long Pond (inspiration for the movie On Golden Pond) stay open between 4-7 PM.

Bonfires warm hearty shoppers, carolers meander the street, horse-drawn carriages offer rides, cider warms the spirits, and . . . this year, from 5-7 PM, I'll be reading from my Jack-Kerouac-inspired book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, at the lovely Lazy Lab Cafe. I'll be cozied up near the fireplace, reading from my book as well as from On The Road and The Dharma Bums, and, of course, signing copies of my book. They make great Christmas presents for your beat friends!

Given this information, what would Kerouac do?

Well, this I know: He wouldn't use excuses like "But I live in Pennsylvania" or "I have to work" or "It's too expensive to get there from here" or "The economy's bad" to keep him from attending. He'd make up his mind and then go go go. Consequences be damned. He'd dig the ride!

I'll tell you what. If you attend, hand me a piece of paper with your name and address on it. At the conclusion of the event I'll figure out who came the farthest and I'll send them a free book.

How's that for an incentive?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You never know . . . .

It’s interesting what we remember.

I remember the name of the man who played the robot on the TV show, Lost In Space (which, by the way, was on from 1965-1968, meaning Jack Kerouac may well have been watching new episodes on TV at the exact time I was watching them, he in his waning years, me in my waxing).

I remember being yanked out of class in elementary school and being interrogated by the state fire marshal, bursting into tears and admitting to playing with matches in the basement of the hotel my dad managed (hey, I lived there and it was a dirt floor).

I remember the name of the girl I promised to write a poem for every single day of the summer of 1972, I remember doing it, and I remember giving them to her and never seeing them again.

I remember we called one of our high school teachers “Bill Swing” behind his back, but to this day I’m not sure why.

I remember what U.N.C.L.E. stands for.

And I remember a phrase that one of the profs at my undergraduate university used when teaching class: “Y-y-you never know.” We used to count how many times he’d say that in one class period. And mimic him (behind his back - he was the wrestling coach and even the superheavyweight feared him).

And you know, he was right.

You never know.

Today I received an e-mail from an actual book publisher, Softskull/Counterpoint, saying they had seen this blog and offering to send me review copies of beat generation-related books to review.

To quote professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin (more on professional wrestling in an upcoming blog), "HELL, YEAH!" I’ll gladly accept books about the beat generation and review them on my blog. Bring ‘em on, man.

Here’s their Spring Catalogue, in case you’re interested.

Hmmm . . . . I said at the outset of publishing my book that there was no way of telling what would happen, who I'd meet, where I'd go or do, etc. Who knows where this venture will lead? Other publishers? More blog readers? A publishing deal for The Beat Handbook?

You never know . . . .

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jack Kerouac & Emily Dickinson

I've loved Emily Dickinson since high school. I "got" her poetry. And that was an oasis of wonder amidst all the prescribed writing we had to suffer through (yes, suffer - because neither did we understand it nor were we interested in understanding it). But her poems "got through." I connected.

I had forgotten about a possible Kerouac-Dickinson connection until the other day when I was researching whether Kerouac had ever met Alan Watts. I knew they were contemporaries who opined about each other, but I couldn't remember a meeting.

Anyway, while thumbing through Gerald Nicosia's Kerouac biography, Memory Babe, I saw a passage I had marked up in which Nicosia was speculating about influences on Jack. In particular, he was focusing on Jack's use of a motif: "the slanting red light of afternoon sun" stirring "wonder in man" (1983, p. 312). Nicosia postulates that Jack may have learned to express this motif from the following Dickinson poem:

There's a certain slant of light
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything.
'Tis the seal, despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 'tis like the distance
On the look of death.

Jack Kerouac and Emily Dickinson. Can you imagine them collaborating? I know. Jack would fall in love with her and want to take her to bed. But afterwards, after all the fol-de-rol, when they got down to writing, wow . . . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Caution: Kerouac alert

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strengthh.

~Jack Kerouac

Monday, December 1, 2008

November's free book winner!

November saw a number of posts that were eligible to win a free copy of The Beat Handbook. I hope you'll go back through the archives and read them all.

However, without a doubt the "beatest" post had to be the one by "the bootch" on November 2.

So, bootch, e-mail me ( your snail mail address and I will ship you a free copy ot The Beat Handbook, no strings attached (except my request for a 5-star review on Amazon).

Everyone else - today starts a new month so get your beat on and post a comment this month to put yourself in the running for December's free book giveaway.