Monday, December 31, 2012

On the Road is an Oscar contender?

The title of this ABC News piece says that On the Road is an Oscar contender, yet the body of the article doesn't mention it. I hope it's true: it can only be good news for book sales, Jack's and mine.

Kerouac hometown New Year's Eve happenings

If you're wondering what's going in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, MA, on New Year's Eve, click here. For example, two of Jack's favorite watering holes, Ricardo's (formerly Nicky's) and The Old Worthen are featuring live music. I wish it weren't 3 hours away (more if you hitchhike).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Kerouac-olutions

Herewith are my Kerouac-olutions for 2013, starting with how I did on 2012's.

Update on 2011 Kerouac-olutions (click here for original post):
1. Read Dr. Sax.
Done.2. Read A Dance with Dragons (is this appropriate since I already started it?).
3. Read On The Road: The Original Scroll (again, already started).
4. Buy Crystal flowers at least once a month.
Done (I think).
5. See the glass half full more often.
To report on this would defy it.
6. Travel somewhere new.
Greenville, Moosehead Lake, Chain of Ponds, Rangeley.
7. Figure out what my next book will be about and actually start it.
May have figured out the first half.
8. Sell one of my banjos and get a better guitar.
Gave away one of my banjos (to my son, Jason) and spend a bunch of money getting my guitar re-set.
9. Take advantage of the On The Road movie hype to advertise and sell The Beat Handbook.
I'm lousy at such things, but maybe the San Francisco event will help.
10. Learn to love my job or find a new one.
Tried and failed. On both counts.

So, I achieved about 65% of my 2011 Kerouac-olutions. Now it's time to make some for the approaching new year.

2013 Kerouac-olutions:
1. Read Visions of Kerouac: The Life of Jack Kerouac by Charles E. Jarvis.
2. Read Surviving on the Streets: How to Go Down Without Going Out by Ace Backwords.
3. Read Neil Young's autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace.
4. Read The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson.
5. Read Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation, and America by Dennis McNally.
6. Read Beat Generation: Glory Days in Greenwich Village by Fred and Gloria McDarrah.
7. Buy Crystal flowers once a month.
8. Start a second book.
9. Write 12 poems.
10. Visit Pennsylvania.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Kerouac cartoon

The below cartoon was recently posted on the Jack Kerouac Facebook page. The poster couldn't identify the cartoonist - maybe a Daily Beat reader can help - and said he found it tucked inside Tom Clark's Kerouac biography.

It's not too flattering to our hero, but I thought Daily Beat readers would find it of interest. Kerouac fans know that you have to be larger than life to deserve such a lampooning, and we can take it in stride.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hobos, Dilbert, & Jack Kerouac

Because of my obsession with all things Kerouacian, I have determined that it is a requirement to share here on The Daily Beat all references to hobos that I happen upon in the media. To wit, I offer today's entry from my Dilbert calendar.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

LA Times calls On the Road "achingly romantic"

Click here for the LA Times review of On the Road. It's a good review, and I agree with it for the most part. They call the film "a poetic, sensitive, achingly romantic version of the Kerouac book that captures the evanescence of its characters' existence and the purity of their rebellious hunger for the essence of life." The review concludes as follows:
One of the hallmarks of Salles and Rivera's perspective is that even though these characters can be heedless in search of their pleasures, whether it be through sex or drugs, the film never loses sight of how young everyone is, and by implication, how innocent. How long they can live on "the edge of sanity and experience" before a reckoning looms down the road is the question everyone wants to avoid but, finally, no one can.

Another Kerouac Christmas!

Thanks to Crystal and Jason and Adri, my Christmas was very Kerouacian! THANKS!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Krazy Kat and Jack Kerouac

We mentioned Jack Kerouac's affinity for Krazy Kat in a previous post or two (February 17, 2009 and March 29, 2009), so this image posted by a friend on Facebook caught our eye this evening.


Merry Christmas and a thought from Jack Kerouac

We here at The Daily Beat wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and offer the following as a reminder from Jack Kerouac about taking a moment amid the frenzy to appreciate what's important in life.
In the general uproar of gifts and unwinding of wrappers it was always a delight to me to step out on the porch or even go up the street a ways at 1:00 in the morning and listen to the silent hum of heaven diamond stars, watch the red and green windows of homes, consider the trees that seemed frozen in devotion, and think over the events of another year passed.
-From "Not Long Ago Joy Abounded at Christmas" in Good Blonde & Others (1993, Grey Fox Press)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Movie Fanatic loves On the Road

Click here for a rave review of On the Road by Movie Fanatic. It just goes to show that opinions vary, or, as Kerouac himself put it: “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

Rotten Tomatoes rating of On the Road so far

According to Rotten Tomatoes, "Beautiful to look at but a bit too respectfully crafted, On the Road doesn't capture the energy and inspiration of Jack Kerouac's novel."

LA Times On the Road review roundup

If you don't want to take the time to read all the reviews coming out about On the Road, you can always read summaries like this roundup from The Latin Times.

NY Times review of On the Road

Now that the U.S. version of On the Road has hit theaters (at least in two cities), we can expect more reviews. My prediction is that they will be mixed (as were the ones for the Cannes version), as is this one from the NY Times.

Here's the concluding paragraph in case you need a teaser to go read the review:
In the cameo roles of the mistreated women in Dean’s life, Kristen Stewart smolders with sullen, defiant sensuality as she tries to keep up with the boys, and Kirsten Dunst reacts to Dean’s betrayals with outraged indignation. Because these female impediments to Dean’s selfish pleasure-seeking are far more real on the screen than in the book, his romantic mystique is fatally tarnished in the movie. It all seems — dare I say it? — of little consequence.

Desolation Adventure: video from KCTS9 about Kerouac's time on Desolation Peak

Click here for an interesting little video from KCTS9 titled "Desolation Adventure" about Jack Kerouac and his time on Desolation Peak.

On the Road is in U.S. theaters!

If you're able to get to New York City or Los Angeles, you can see On the Road starting today. In New York it's at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. In L.A. it's in Arclight Cinemas and Landmark Theaters. Get tickets here.

Go go go . . . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Playboy goes Kerouac again

The July/August 2012 edition of Playboy featured some "lost photos" of Jack Kerouac taken by Robert Frank in 1959. The current edition - January/February 2013 - features an article titled, "Chasing Moriarty." Guess I'll have to go buy a copy (coincidentally, Boardwalk Empire's - a favorite show of mine - Paz De La Huerta - Nucky's original stripper girlfriend - is the cover model).

Here's a pic from the on-line table of contents:

Some insights from Sam Riley on playing Jack Kerouac

Click here for some insights in the New York Observer from actor Sam Riley on playing Jack Kerouac in On the Road

The U.S. version opens officially on Friday in New York and L.A.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jack Kerouac Series at UMass Lowell

FYI, UMass Lowell is hosting a free five-part reading and discussion series focusing on three of Jack Kerouac’s Lowell-centric novels: The Town and the City, Visions of Gerard and Maggie Cassidy. Sounds interesting, plus it's in beautiful Lowell, Massachusetts, Jack's hometown.

It's being led by UMass Lowell English professor and Beat Generation scholar Todd Tietchen. Here's the schedule:

Tuesday, Jan. 29 – The Town and the City, Parts 1 and 2;
Tuesday, Feb.19 – The Town and the City, Parts 3 to 5;
Tuesday, March 19 – Visions of Gerard, public reading at Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell with the community group Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!;
Tuesday, April 9 – Visions of Gerard;
Tuesday, April 30 – Maggie Cassidy.

Click here for more details.

If the link doesn't work, contact  librarian Sara Marks at 978-934-4581or Those who pre-register will get a free copy of The Town and the City by mail.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jack Kerouac in today's Peanuts cartoon?

The third panel of today's Peanuts cartoon reminded me of Jack Kerouac at the Six Gallery reading in 1955.

Go, man, go!!!

Because, as you know, here at The Daily Beat everything relates back to Jack . . . .

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the Road etc. on Jeopardy last night

One of the categories on last night's Jeopardy was "The Beat Movement." I missed the first answer but did catch the other four (see below). The picture of Neal accompanied a question about the famous book in which he was a character. How would you have done? If anybody saw the episode and can remember the first answer, let us know.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Neal Cassady: The Denver Years

If you want to be a backer of the new documentary by Heather Dalton, Neal Cassady: The Denver Years, click here to donate.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Jack Kerouac subreddit

Attention, Redditors. I just created a Jack Kerouac subreddit. Click here to visit.

QR Code for the Jack Kerouac subreddit

You either know what to do or you don't.

The Miracle of Three Avocados by Gordon Gross

Thanks to Facebook, a while ago I reconnected with Gordon Gross, a friend from my misspent youth in Wellsboro, PA. If memory serves, the last time I saw Gordon we were playing music and he was picking on a vintage Martin guitar, the loudest and sweetest I think I've ever heard. Gordon's an accomplished singer-songwriter and picker. What I didn't know was that once upon a time he walked clear across the United States! His tale of that trip follows, and a more Kerouacian exploit I haven't seen in a while. I know Daily Beat readers will enjoy this as much as I did. It's 6,696 words well worth reading. Thanks for sharing with us, Gordon. (I only want a 10% commission on the book deal that's sure to follow.)

The Miracle of Three Avocados
by Gordon Gross

It was the last week in May when I began walking though really it began some months before that. I had met a teacher of Zen Buddhism in Baltimore, Maryland where I was attending college. That fellow seemed exceptionally obnoxious to me as a teacher as he was always emphasizing that it was my belief that I knew something as I always had an opinion ready, that prevented me from actually perceiving reality. In a forest when I was fifteen I had experienced a shift in perception where I left my body and saw the forest not as a collection of trees and animals contained in one small area but as a living organism that was interconnected throughout our planet. I was part of it and my breath as it rose and fell was the same breath that breathed life into everything. From this odd experience I had investigated the nature of what I experienced via a shift in consciousness. The Christian minister I had asked about it was condescending, suggesting there was medication that could “help” me. I investigated mysticism and books on spiritual experiences and that lead me to Buddhism where some sects didn’t believe the experience to be an anomaly but rather a direct perception of reality. I still lived my life as a young man but the experience was ever present in me and I could no longer view the world in the same way. I moved into a student house in Baltimore and not coincidentally met the Zen teacher. He was a student of Philip Kapleau, a somewhat famous Zen teacher and was an ardent and sincere practitioner. He taught me how to control breath and sit and began giving me books. I had opinions on everything which in retrospect must’ve been hard for him to listen to but then he was only listening to himself. We had a discussion some months after I had met him regarding enlightenment. I had finished reading a 14th century Zen abbots work on enlightenment. I was offering my lofty views on it when he interrupted me and said,”It is true that all humans are fundamentally enlightened if they bit catch a glimpse of their true nature. To come to deep realization, the glimpse, which is a seed must be nourished until it becomes a full grown tree. You will never be enlightened until you let go of your attachments. It is the letting go that will let the seed ripen.” I started to speak to defend my majestic ego but he held up his hand. “I have watched you. You rise at the same time every morning and go to bed as if on schedule. You eat three meals a day and I can tell you what you will say before you say it. Is this spontaneous behavior or attachment? He pointed to a book I had on the life of the Buddha. Emulate that and you will lose attachment.”

After our conversation I thought long and hard about attachment and as I sat in silence each evening and considered my behaviors of the day I saw that he was right. I decided to jettison everything and walk away form my life as the Buddha had done. I was going to engage in a Buddhist “walkabout,” to see if I could lose my sense of attachment though there was part of me that was still convinced I was free and unattached. I began my walk in northern Pennsylvania and took a small pack loaded with about ten pounds of food, two books, a change of clothes, one sweater, canteen, a sleeping bag with plastic ground cloth, some soap, a washcloth and of course a toothbrush and 40 dollars. I began walking towards the west. California was a slightly defined goal but I was open to whatever would happen along the way. One of the lessons the Buddha offered was the interconnectedness of everything. Which is simply that one event occurs because it is connected to and part of another event that we can’t imagine at the time. The walk was the beginning of a series of vast interconnections. I felt since everything was interconnected it didn’t matter where i started or ended. The first thing of note that occurred was that I was walking not many miles from my hometown when a massive thunderstorm rolled in. Huge black roiling clouds filled the sky. I was in an open area and there was a massive old oak tree about two hundred yards away. A bolt of lightning struck the tree and it literally exploded in half. There was so much electricity in the air that I could feel it in my jaw as it struck the tree. I realized then that the lightning was my welcome to a world far more intense and precarious than anything I had previously known.

2 weeks later I found myself in Ohio and went to sleep one night on a small grassy hill surrounded by trees. I lay there for the longest time enjoying the stars above me and then fell into dreams. I awoke in the morning suddenly as I realized something rather large, black and alive was lying next to me that hadn’t been there when I fell asleep. I thought, ”A bear!” as it was quite large and had black fur. From where I lay I could only see tufts of black fur moving the wind. I felt its body huddled next too mine and surmised that it had come in the night and was there for warmth. I didn’t dare move and wondered how I would get out of this when a large head flopped onto me and began licking my face. I jumped up amazed and discovered a large black German shepherd. He was incredibly friendly and I sat with him for a while pondering what to do. As I sat with him I felt his ribs. He was seriously gaunt and had obviously been lost for quite a while. He had a collar but no identifying marks. I considered taking him to the nearest town to a shelter but in my town that was a sentence of death. He was also gaunt and didn’t look healthy and I was certain no one would pick him as a pet so I became unattached to an outcome and welcomed my spontaneously arrived travelling companion. I called him Ralph and he didn’t seem to mind. I went into the nearest town and bought ten cans of dog food a can opener and two plastic bowls. Ralph and I traveled west.

The teaching of non- attachment was ever present in my mind. I moved ever further into the horizon as day by day the conjunction of attachments beliefs and judgements that made up my ego made themselves known. Weeks passed then months. I often considered the coincidence of Ralph’s appearance especially one June night. I was tired and walked off a road to sleep in a flat meadow below a bridge. We were in the mountains by then and the sky was clear. Ralph made a big fuss about our sleeping spot. He barked at me and whined as I unfolded the sleeping bag but I ignored him. I often consulted with Ralph on navigational matters. We were walking one day and came to a fork in a country road and I pointed to the left. “Shall we go this way Ralph?” No reply. “To the right then?” I asked pointing the other way. He began barking and pacing back and forth. We went to the right. A half hour later an old gentleman in a pickup truck pulled over. “Where ya going sonny?” he asked affably. I smiled back, “Down the road a piece.” I had no idea where the road led or even what road we were on. At that point I wasn’t even sure of the state we were in. One thing I knew for certain I was out of money and that was not so good. I didn’t mind having no money as I had learned from the subtle art of starving that if you go to road side vegetable and fruit stands that they throw away a lot of perfectly good food. A few quick cuts with a Swiss army knife and an apple with a few spots is perfectly edible. A dumpster behind grocery stores was also useful but still no food for Ralph. Problem was Ralph didn’t like apples and now that I was broke I didn’t know what I would do about feeding him. The old fellow said, “Well, hop in.” We went down the road a bit and he was an inquisitive old man. He asked about where I came from and why I was walking so far out in the country. I told him what I was doing and he said, “Well, you are one strange fella, but I like that you’re taking care of the dog. What do you feed him?” I explained that I had fed him with the money I brought with me and that I had spent it all on him and Ralph hadn’t eaten since the day before. We arrived at a small town and pulled in front of a grocery store. He insisted I accompany him and he bought a bag of dog food for Ralph. Outside before we parted ways he handed me a 20 dollar bill and said, “I know you are watched over by God. I knew it when I saw you standing there. Don’t forget it.” I thanked him, we shook hands and a few minutes later his old red Ford pickup disappeared in the distance. Ralph’s intuition had paid off.

Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention to Ralph’s intuition as I laid my sleeping bag out in the meadow. I took off my hiking boots and lay my weary head down to sleep. Ralph was still whining and carrying on. I said ,”Save it for the morning will you?” he shut it and lay down next to me and let out a big “Hmmmphff” before quieting down. Somewhere in the middle of the night I awoke. The meadow which had been alive with the sound of peepers and crickets when I went to bed was dead silent. There was a curious cold dead calm lingering in the air which had been warm when I fell asleep. Ralph was standing there sniffing the air. Suddenly he ran to the sleeping bag and began tugging on it, barking and whining wildly. He would run towards the bridge then run back and bark crazily. I trusted him enough to know it was time to move. I jumped out of the bag, grabbed it and my boots and pack and without putting the boots on ran for the bridge. Ralph was already there barking and urging me to hurry . As I climbed up the concrete bridge structure I head a sound behind me and a three foot tall wall of water roared through where I had been sleeping just moments before. I would’ve been drowned if not for Ralph. The sky was still clear but over a nearby mountain a thunderstorm was in progress and had dumped massive rainfall onto its slopes which then rushed down as a flashflood through the dry creekbed where I had been sleeping. I learned then never sleep below a bridge and always listen to Ralph. The distant rainstorm crept up on us by afternoon and Ralph and I hunkered down in a dry ledge we found under a cliff. We spent two days there as the rains beat down. I discovered I was attached to doing things. It was hard to sit still for two days. It was easy walking because I was doing something but to sit and have nothing to do was tough. I had long since read the two books and gave them away. The rain finally subsided and we went on our way again. I felt curiously light after the rain and had a feeling that something wonderful was going to happen. I had thought about Ralph quite a bit and what would happen to him. I wasn’t sure that he could stay with me indefinitely since the money situation was precarious and his food needed to be bought. I had to meditate on that and realized that I needed to let go of the attachment to outcome. A week later I was walking down a road in Montana. I was amazed at the beauty of the majestic mountains there. I told Ralph,” You should stay here Ralph, this is the kind of country you could be happy in. Just think of all the rabbits you could chase!” he looked around us and barked in agreement. The next day a man in his 30s pulled over in his pickup and said, “You need a lift?” I hadn’t been asking and didn’t but accepted and at his prodding spilled the beans regarding my odd journey. “Damn!” he said, smiling, “I think that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Come on home with me, my wife would like to meet you . She’s got a lot of crazy ideas like yours. “I smiled at being labeled crazy and accepted. I must admit looking back was there any other way to see the person he found walking along a road from his viewpoint? He lived on one of those massive Montana farms that stretch out for miles in any direction. They aren’t measured in acres but seemingly in the number of years it takes to circumambulate their borders. We enjoyed a home cooked dinner and his three kids were having a ball playing afterwards with Ralph out on a vast tree lined yard. You would have thought he grew up with them as they wrestled and climbed on him. Daniel told me, “Our dog died last month. He was a big shepherd like Ralph. The kids were tore up by it. I haven’t been able to find another dog as nice as him.” I looked at Ralph out in the yard with the kids and the incredible vistas of the farm and said, “Well, I think you just did.” Daniel replied, “He’s your dog, I couldn’t.” “No,” I said , “he was sent to me so I could help him find his way home again and now he’s here. Could you give me a ride back to the main road now?” Without saying goodbye to Ralph I got into the truck and he took me a few miles down to the main road. As I shook hands with Daniel I said, “I’m not going to ask you take good care of him because I can already see he’s happy there. Thank you.” The rancher reached into his pocket and took out his wallet and said, “Let me give you some money.” I opened the door and climbed out. “Thanks for the generosity,” I said , ”but I really couldn’t.” I turned and continued walking towards the west. That evening there was a full moon. I sat on the side of a mountain road and looked out into a moonlit valley below me. Tears streamed down my face as I realized how lonely I felt and much I missed my companion of the past few months but I was certain that he was where he was supposed to be and so I let go of my attachment to his company by being grateful in meditation that evening for his new found happy home. In the following weeks I found it was difficult being alone so much. I discovered that I was attached to talking even if it was just with a dog. Now I didn’t talk except to those few compassionate souls who might decide to stop and ask if I needed a ride. I asked myself in meditation who is it that needs to talk? I discovered that I was a veritable chatterbox always busy, never resting even in dreams holding insanely conflicting and conflict filled opinions and views . I became ever quieter in my journey as I sensed that all these inculcated opinions were not really a “me,” but something else. A collection of bioelectrical impulses stored within a body that assembled themselves into judgement and opinions and had no more basis in reality than a fleeting thunderstorm cloud. As I sat quietly night after night just watching thoughts and listening to the brainstorm chatter I became the watcher of these random thought events and realized that as the watcher I was something quieter and other than the random thoughts that rose and fell continuously from my brain which was like a thought well that continually overflowed. If I was not just those thoughts, then what was I? So I walked into it further. Morning arrived bright, early and clear and I walked along a country road. I had already left Ralph behind and was clear again. A tractor trailer truck was pulled over ahead and a man was coming out of a clump of bushes evidently had attended to a call of nature. He saw me with my pack approaching him and waited. “Where you going buddy?” He called out. “Down the road a piece,” I replied.

“Get in, I’ll give you a lift.” I climbed up the side of the truck, opened the door and got in. I had never ridden in a large semi- truck before and it was interesting to me the feel of the cab as it vibrated when underway. The roar of the diesels and the constant motion of the seat as it vibrated from road noise. The driver pulled out a small vial took a couple of pills out and said , “You want some speed?” I declined and he swallowed them with a swig of water . “Jesus I hate taking this stuff but I’m under a deadline and I gotta get this load there in twelve hours. Been driving two days straight, starting to get a little dicey. Say can you drive?” I quickly assured him that was not in the realm of immediate or any other foreseeable possibilities. We drove for hours and I was regaled with one story after another, each succeeding story being ever more implausible than the preceding. We came to a large hill that evening and he said, “This is where I damn near came to the end a few years back. See that ramp at the bottom of the hill?” I nodded yes. “That was where I nearly drove off the mountain. I was coming over with a load of liquid oxygen. That’s some heavy stuff not only for the weight but also because it will explode sometimes if you crash. Anyway I was coming down when I lost my brakes. I missed the first runaway ramp and then the second but I made the last one at the bottom. Problem was I was going so fast and loaded so heavy that it pushed my cab all the way to the end. The cab went over and was just hanging there with the cab half off the Goddamn mountain. I was so scared when I got out I had pissed myself. I shook for near an hour. I said then I wouldn’t drive anymore but nothing else pays this good so here I am at it again.” Just then he put on the brakes and yelled out, “Oh my God! The brakes are gone!” I was concerned but his torrent of patter had been so inane I felt it was a ruse. I smiled and he looked at me and burst out laughing. “Damn!” he said, “I had you there, didn’t I?’ I didn’t say anything and he seemed to get angry. “Didn’t I get you there?” he asked, his voice rising perceptibly. “Oh yeah ,” I replied to mollify him. “You sure had me fooled .” He smiled. “I’ll tell you what, though, I did lose my brakes on this goddamn hill and I’m telling you that will scare the hell out of you.” At the next truck stop he pulled in for gas and dinner. He paid for dinner and told me how much he enjoyed my company. After eating he was less hyper than he had been though he did take more speed. I wasn’t too worried about that as he told me it was something that every truck driver he knew did as a matter of course in a day’s work. Later that night around ten o’clock we were in Oregon somewhere in the mountains. He let me out a crossroads. He said, “The terminal is just up the road. I’m gonna let you out here. I enjoyed your company but watch yourself, this corner is where the last known sighting of a sasquatch occurred. Two fellas saw it. One got away but the other guy, well they found his boots in the morning with his feet still in ‘em. Seems they’d been chewed off at the ankles.” With that he drove off and left me standing in total darkness at a remote country crossroads. There was no sound except for the night peepers and they were mostly quiet. It was overcast and so pitch black darkness. I had no flashlight. After a while I heard what I thought was a snap in the in the underbrush . Perhaps a raccoon foraging ? Then another and another coming closer. I could tell from the footfall sound it was big. Not human. Maybe a bear? I didn’t really entertain his idea of a sasquatch but a brown bear at night is something you don’t really need to encounter. It was getting closer when an old Oldsmobile Rocket 88 lurched to a stop next to me and the passenger window went down.

“What in the hell are you doing out here so late at night?” a grizzled old man asked peering out at me. “Waiting ,” I replied. “Well, get in Mr. Waiting, I’ll give you a ride.” I got in and he drive down the road for some miles. We passed the truck terminal which was the only thing resembling civilization I saw. A few more miles and a small funky country bar appeared. “Let’s have drink!” roared the geezer. From the way he slurred his words he had already had quite a few. We went in and he introduced me to his corny cronies. “This crazy sumbich,” he was saying, “has walked all the way across these here United States of America. I say let’s buy him a drink!” Soon the table was covered with beers and shots generously shared by his compatriots and equally generously imbibed by the old man. I was in no mood for drinking but they insisted and soon I found myself every bit as drunk as my host. Around 3 a.m. he decided it was time for bed. “Let’s go get some bacon and eggs,” he said, “My daughter will cook us up some.” We were soon at his house nestled further down a country road. I was more lost even more than usual not even knowing east from west. We went into the old tumble down house. “Desmona!” he bellowed at the top of his lungs, “Get your fat, lazy ass out here and cook us up some eggs!” A short time later an enormous young woman in pajamas stumbled dazed out of her bedroom. “Dammit, Pa, I was sleeping.”

“Oh shut it ,” he snarled, “and make us some damn bacon and eggs, this young fella is hungry. “When she saw me she froze, then her face turned as red as her hair. She fled back into her bedroom. Her father said, “Dammit I said make us some breakfast.”

“I will Pa, just gimme a minute.” A few minutes later she came out with a housecoat on and had combed her hair. She began preparing our meal and I heard her whisper to her father, “He’s cute, is he gonna stay?” Her father nodded yes and a curious sensation arose in the pit of my stomach. We ate our breakfast and the old man said, “Well, sunup ain’t too far off, guess some shut eye is in order. You sleep in here.” He opened the door to a room that was a combination bedroom and storage room. It smelled of mildew. There were boxes and tool chests and four or five old TVs stacked up and a very funky looking bed that was more U shaped than flat. Desmona was smiling at me. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she said as her father closed the door. I heard the door click as he locked it from the outside. They stumbled off to their respective bedrooms and soon the house was silent except for the sounds of the old man’s snoring. I waited another half hour then turned on a small lamp and looked around. The door was locked from outside and the window painted shut but I found a crow bar amongst a debris pile of tools and jimmied the window open. I thought the sound might wake them but I exited unhindered. I didn’t know what the old man had in mind for the next day but my door being locked and his conspiratorial whispering with his daughter had terribly inflamed my imagination. I took my pack and walked down the road till daylight when a farmer on his way to a farmer’s market gave me a ride. I told him the history of the world according to Gordon and he asked If I wanted to work for the day? His helper didn’t show up and I could help at the farmer’s market. We agreed upon a wage and so I made a little money and a pack full of veggies for my day’s trouble. I was expecting the old man and his daughter to show up but they didn’t. During a lull in the day’s sales the old man leaned close and said , “See that son of a bitch in that stall over there?” I looked and then remarked , “He looks a lot like you.” The old man nodded and said, “Well, he should, he’s my brother. At least he used to be. When Pa died he took over the farm and forced me off. We was supposed to share it. I started my own farm and now I see him here every weekend when I’m here but we haven’t spoke in over 40 years.” As he told me of this I felt his resentment towards his brother and his continuing grief for the love they had lost. I thought it odd that they worked so close to each other yet never spoke. I remembered then my grandmother who lived in a little village in Pennsylvania called Asaph. My great aunt lived across the street and whenever I stopped to visit with my grandmother I would always go across the street to see Aunt Helen as I loved them both dearly. One day I was speaking with Helen and she said, “I’m going to my cottage up on Keuka lake this weekend why don’t you ask your grandmother if she would like to come? There will be two other women and we will have a lovely time. She can ride with me."

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” I replied, surprised as they just lived across the street from each other. “I would but she won’t answer her phone or come to the door if she sees that it is me.” So I asked my grandmother for Helen when I went over to her house. Her reply was mystifying. “I’m not going anywhere with THAT woman,” she emphatically replied. “We had an argument and I can’t stand the sight of her.”

“What was the argument about ? “ I asked. “I don’t remember but by God I was right and she wouldn’t admit it.”

“When did you have this argument?” I asked sensing something a little odd. “It was 37 years ago but I’ll be damned if I’m going to make up now. I was right!” I shook my head in disbelief. This was attachment at its worst. She was attached to the emotional memory of an argument whose basic tenets she couldn’t remember and would rather live in anger than happiness. That weekend I went down to visit her again and Helen was at the lake. It was a hot August day and we were sitting on her porch sweating and drinking tea and playing canasta. At one point I said, ”I’ll bet some cool lake water would feel good right about now.”

“Oh shut the hell up!” was my grandmother’s angry reply.

Before I left the market that day I thanked the farmer for the work and I went over to his brother and introduced myself.

“I seen you over there working with him,” said the farmer’s brother. “I suppose he had plenty to say about me?”

“Yes,” I replied , “he told me how much he loves you.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as bewildered as he was when I left. Of course that was exactly what his brother had told me. No one ever bemoans the loss of someone in their life if they don’t love them. With that I headed south and spent the next month walking in northern California. It was hot that August and incredibly dry. I wasn’t used to the heat and it was wearing me down. I discovered more attachments as I walked. I now ate only when I was hungry and slept when I was tired. I had given up talking to friends and family. This walk preceded cell phones so there was no communication. In the mountains the nights were cold and even with a sleeping bag I often shivered through the night. After a while it no longer bothered me as I dropped attachment to comfort. There was no routine anymore I had dropped that as well. My ego resisted the change and sometimes I found my mind making up lists of grievances and reasons why I should abandon what I was doing and return home. I was no longer certain what it was that I was doing it just seemed to be at times to be wandering ever deeper into a wilderness and the idea of returning home seemed far more foreign now than remaining in my pointless meditative state. By now my clothes were shabby and people looked at me with negative judgement. Without knowing who I was or what I was doing they would arrive at conclusions as to what I was. Many years later I was in Berkeley, California visiting with some friends. I arose early for meditation then went out for coffee and a croissant. When I arrived in Berkeley I was astounded by the number of homeless people there. Not just a few but hundreds within a few city blocks. They camped out in full view at night huddled in doorways and cardboard boxes. I choked on my tears as I saw all that misery and seemingly affluent people walking by not noticing. I was overwhelmed both by a desire to do something but also by my inability to do much. As I was walking one soul staggered out of a doorway. He didn’t seem drunk but perhaps staggering from hunger weakness. ”Please,” he said desperately, “can I have a dollar to get something to eat? I’m not going to use it for drugs I’m hungry and I haven’t had anything in two days.” As I looked deeply into his eyes all I saw was despair. “I won’t give you money but come with me. “ We walked down the street to a breakfast place where the smell of bacon and eggs was wafting onto the street. “Uh, I can’t go in there” he said. “Why not?” I asked. “They don’t like me.”  

“Well, screw that ,”I replied, “we’re eating here.” We went in and the owner obviously used to this poor soul begging pointed at him and said, “You can’t come in here.”

“Why not ?” I asked.” He doesn’t have enough money,” replied the man. “Well,” I replied, “if money is the only cost of admission we apparently have enough.” I held up a wad of bills. The owner turned away and we ordered. While eating, the young man, whose name was Chris, told me his life story. He had mental problems and couldn’t hold a job and wasn’t together enough to even get assistance. He was literally starving. He said his family was wealthy but didn’t want him around as they saw him as an embarrassment. We finished our meal. I gave him some money and bade him goodbye. I held out my hand to shake his and he pulled his hand back. “Oh, he said, “I’m dirty.” I took his hand and smiled. I looked around us at the buildings and street we stood on. “My friend ,” I said,” this place is filthy but you are beautiful and pure. He looked inside and was desperately looking for something to give back. He was quiet for a moment then said , “God bless you!” I was happy for that and we parted. I saw that in that moment he realized that even as poor as he was he had something to give. I found it odd that people were attached to judging him just as they were attached to judging me while I was on my walkabout.

After I left the farmer’s market in Oregon I wandered into the grove of the gods and slept under redwoods. I found myself in Eureka late one afternoon which was ironic. There was a heat wave going on and I was incredibly hot, dirty sweaty and tired. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before and I felt like I was starving. I hadn’t eaten in three days. The dumpsters I had found were empty, the road side stands empty and I felt like whatever luck I had was gone. I had been on the road for months completely lost and now felt worn down from the harsh reality of living in the environment. Harassment from police made me cautious and especially one afternoon from some men in a pickup truck who thought it might be fun to beat up a homeless person. One of them hit me and I took off running. I went back for my pack later after they left and they had taken it. I still had my canteen which I wore at my side. I stopped at a small roadside ice cream stand. It was maybe 105 degrees in the shade. I asked the man if I could please have some water? He asked if I was thirsty. I replied I was and he said “Good I hope you fucking suffer a long time while you slowly die of thirst you worthless hippie piece of shit.” He called me other names unworthy of repeating and I left sad that he suffered so much. I walked a mile down the road and a sign said “Welcome to Eureka.” I sat down under a small shade tree. My throat was so parched I could barely swallow. The months of privation and being lost had worn me down and I didn’t think I could endure anymore. I was physically and spiritually thin. I had lost 15-20 lbs on my trek and I wasn’t exactly stout when I left. I felt weak and tired and tears came to my eyes. I knew I couldn’t go on anymore this way. I was at the extreme end of the tether and determined that I would sit there until something happened . I didn’t know that something would happen but I wasn’t budging or going any further as I felt simply worn out. So I sat under a small shade tree by the side of the road just past the sign that said “Welcome to Eureka.” Then as I sat there I realized that the single most difficult aspect of the walk was to not have a goal. To be formless with no thought of acquiring anything but to simply be. My greatest attachment I discovered was to a sense of achieving something or just being busy. I found it difficult to sit in meditation at first. My thoughts were incessantly random as if I carried a hive of bee thoughts in my head and they were always buzzing about. As time went on and I became more centered and calm in the moment during the walk I found I could sit for hours. The impulse to always be moving began to fade. I sat through that long night awake comforted by the moon in its fullness and the stars so clear above. After what seemed like an eternity of just sitting quietly and watching, I saw the sun rise and then the colors of the morning arose. Before too long a police car appeared and stopped on the road right in front of me. The policeman rolled down his window and was about to speak, he didn’t look happy with my being there. A voice came over his radio and he turned on his lights and he sped off to something far more important than me. The next vehicle a few minutes later was a flatbed produce truck on its way to a market somewhere. It had produce boxes piled high on the back that seemed precariously perched as I looked at them. It hit a pothole in the road and the back of the truck bounced and three avocados were launched from their resting place and landed at my feet in a neat line. I was astonished yet dismayed. “Damn!” I thought, “it had to be avocados.” The truth of the matter was that I had only ever tasted the Florida kind of avocado. The large green ones that were shipped hard to Pennsylvnia and never seemed to ripen. They were stringy and bitter. These were the California Hass avocados, the small black ones. I looked at them for a few minutes debating whether or not to even bother. I saw a car coming and decided even though I didn’t like avocados they were edible and I was starving so I picked them up before the car squashed them flat. I took out my Swiss army knife from my pocket and opened the blade and cut a slice from one of my prizes. I put it into my mouth expecting bitterness but instead tasted sweetness and a subtlety of flavor that was astonishing. I felt as if something had gone off in me and in that moment was finally free. In that moment I saw it clearly. All my judgements and perceptions had blinded me via my attachments which are really just limitations and now I was just sitting there eating the most amazing fruit I had ever tasted. My ego had been tricking me for the longest time and smiling I finished the rest of the avocado then another. I put the third in my pocket for dinner. I stood up smiling it was such a beautiful day after all and the world so full of vast open space and mystery. I walked down the road and immediately a car pulled over and a young man asked if I would like a ride. “Where you going?” he asked. “Further down the road,” I replied. He had a lot of food and water with him and freely shared. I gave him an avocado. Happiness came to visit that day as in the space of a momentary flash of sunlight on a water drop, I lost my definition of self via attachment and saw my nature clearly. That night I slept under a redwood tree and in the morning when I awoke to the music of birds overhead I wrote, “Morning birds sing songs of joy. Who can give or ask for more?"

Happiness is still a regular visitor.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review of Linda King's Loving and Hating Charles Bukowski

A few weeks ago, Gerry Nicosia suggested I get in touch with Linda King regarding her recent book, Loving and Hating Charles Bukowski. Gerry knew Bukowski and knows that I'm a fan of his work, so there's a Kerouac connection. Although about the same age, Bukowski isn't considered one of the Beat writers; however, one can imagine his style appealing to Beat fans and in some ways he certainly lived a Beat lifestyle.

I contacted Linda by e-mail and we agree to exchange books. My journey through her fascinating memoir began with her intriguing inscription:

Linda first saw Bukowski at The Bridge, "a small bookstore poetry-hole off Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles." While browsing the books waiting to hear Bonnie White in performance, Linda asked the owner, "'Who is the best poet in Los Angeles?'" The owner named Bukowski and handed Linda a book of his poetry which she opened to the line, "God tongues out your asshole." She asked if Bukowski were a homosexual and the owner told her to look out the window, where Bukowski and friend Neeli Cherry were wrestling in the parking lot. When Neeli came in the store, the owner said, "'Is Charles Bukowski a homosexual? This lady would like to know.'" Cherry was momentarily speechless and then said, "'He doesn't suck my cock.'"

Linda quickly ducked into the performance room before Bukowski came in the store, and such was her first encounter with the man who later became her long-time lover. She next saw Bukowski reading at The Bridge on July 2, 1970. Recently divorced and celebrating her liberation, she attended the reading on her way out of LA for an annual family get-together in Boulder for the 4th of July.

After the reading, Linda went up to Bukowski and said, "'You don't seem to like women too much.'"

"'Sure, baby, I love women,'" Buk replied. "'LET'S GET DRUNK. THE PARTY'S AT MY HOUSE.'"

Linda left, thinking that would be the last time she saw Bukowski. On the contrary, she ran into Bukowski again a few weeks later, and ended up agreeing to sculpt a bust of his head. Through that process - which Linda describes in detail as she does many facets of their relationship throughout the book - she was seduced by his "letters, writing, and wit," and began an intense, on-again-off-again love affair that lasted until the mid-70s.

Loving... is an intimate memoir focused around Linda's love affair with Bukowski.  To be able to put forth the level of detail in the book, she either journaled extensively through that time period or has an incredible memory (or both). The opening story above is just one example.

A real plus in this book is the extensive, verbatim entries from Bukowski's letters to Linda, often spurred by their frequent break-ups.

Dear Linda,
I am sitting here with his [sic] hole in my guts today.
I can't even look at your photo. I have to hide it.
I was going to drive over .
Then I thought, better not, better not.
It rains. It won't rain. It's dark. Jesus Christ.

Several of Bukowski's (she called him Bukowski) poems appear in the memoir in addition to letters like the above. Speaking of photos, there are a few sprinkled throughout the text. The one of Linda on p. 7 proves she was quite a looker (30-something to Bukowski's 50-something). On p. 40 is a picture of Bukowski posing next to her bust of his head, and it is a fantastic likeness.

You'll notice the error in the letter above (I doubt it was Bukowski's), and that is my one complaint about the book: it has an inordinate number of typos. They don't get in the way of comprehension, though, and I found myself engaged throughout. One of my yardsticks for the value of a book is how quickly I read it. If I'm not engaged, it can take me weeks to slog through a book. I read Linda's in about a week. For me, that is record time at this stage of my life.

One thing puzzled me all the way through the book, and that was why a woman would stay with a man who mistreated her so (cheating on her, raging at her for no reason, etc.). It's an age-old story, though, and there's never a simple answer. Linda's memoir gives us as good an answer as we're likely to get regarding such situations, and in part it involves intense feelings that offset the accompanying low points.

Loving... includes many of Linda's poems, including one she confesses is a shocker, "A Cock," which she read at the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival on November 25, 1974 (which also featured Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Jerry Kamstra, and others). An excerpt: 
what is it?
it goes up, it goes down
what's that?
there's nothing that important
about going up and down
and in and out
If you're prudish about graphic sexual references, you may find Loving... a bit over the top. I did not. I found it honest and insightful, and I enjoyed it immensely. How could one possibly be intimate with Charles Bukowski for years and write a memoir about him that isn't graphic? It just wouldn't do.

Linda has been a sculptor for over 50 years and has done many sculptures of noted writers and poets, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Micheline. She's also a widely published poet and continues to write, paint, and sculpt in San Francisco where she lives near her grandchildren.

If you're a Charles Bukowski fan, or just a fan of interesting memoirs related to well-known people, check out Loving and Hating Charles Bukowski.