Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Kerouacian New Year!

From the Lowell Sun Blog, Cctober 7, 2014

I haven't posted in over a month, not since the announcement came out about finding the Joan Anderson letter. Since then, of course, the legal wrangling has begun in earnest.

As expected, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Enough about that.

I seem to remember opining about having little left to say about Kerouac given my 1,100+ posts on the subject since 2008, and given that nothing I can possibly say hasn't already been said by someone, and given that anything "newsy" about Kerouac makes it to the Jack Kerouac Facebook page before I have a chance to post about it.

Not to mention that I am a dilettante where Kerouac is concerned. I have positioned myself at times as someone who knows a lot about the subject, but compared to the likes of Dave Moore, Gerry Nicosia, Paul Maher, Kurt Phaneuf, and others I have met in my Kerouacian travels, I am a supreme lightweight (at best).

Nothing, however, can take away from my absolute love affair with the man's words, and you can bet I will continue to read them and make pilgrimages to Lowell and stay abreast of the news (even when it's estate-related - ach!).

Speaking of which, the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac group just got a $10,000 donation from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay (owner of the roll, scroll, whatever). That is very cool and it's always good to see dedication and perseverance to a great cause rewarded (he should have given them $100,000, but that is just my opinion).

Next, Mr. Irsay needs to fund Cat De Leon's traveling Kerouac exhibit. Check her out on Facebook here. That's her work at the top of this post. If you get a chance to see her exhibit, take it. I did not do so when I was in Lowell, and it's to my great regret.

But I ramble....

Here's hoping you had a great Christmas (or whatever you call the holiday - in the Kerouac world we defer to his Catholicism and call it Christmas, and if you don't like that, get off the airplane). Have a safe and Happy New Year (probably offended someone there, too) and don't do anything Jack wouldn't do!

MAY YOU USE THE DIAMONDCUTTER OF MERCY.

And dig the ride....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Neal Cassady's Joan Anderson letter: FOUND!

The letter from Neal Cassady that Kerouac claimed inspired his spontaneous style, dubbed the "Joan Anderson letter," has surfaced and is going up for auction.

Click here for the news story.

Some of the letter was retyped before it disappeared. You can read those excerpts here.

Click here for some backstory from The Beat Museum's Jerry Cimino on the letter's reappearance.


All I'm going to add is that I hope whoever buys it makes it available for publication and to scholars for study. If that doesn't happen, it will be a travesty of major proportions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jack Kerouac, free of that slaving meat wheel

Jack Kerouac's grave in Lowell, MA
(c) Rick Dale, October 9, 2014

In the 211th Chorus of Mexico City Blues, Jack Kerouac concluded:
Poor! I wish I was free
of that slaving meat wheel
and safe in heaven dead

Jack got his wish 45 years ago today. I've posted consistently on or around the anniversary of Jack's death dating back to this blog's inception. Click here for last year's post  (which includes links to all previous years' posts).

Were Jack still alive he would be 92. Of the real-life characters represented in On the Road, only Al Hinkle (Big Ed Dunkel) is still with us and he is 88 or so years young. Gary Snyder, Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums, is 84.

I guess it's therefore not inconceivable that Jack could still be alive, assuming he undertook a major lifestyle change early on and stuck with it. But would we have the canon as we know it?

Little matter. Jack's gone, but he left us a lot of prose and poetry to light our way. Read some today in his memory. Please.

RIP, Jack.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top ten Daily Beat posts of all time

The Daily Beat Top Ten Posts by Pageviews as of October 14, 2014

Every so often I check Google stats to see my blog's top ten list based on numbers of pageviews. As you can see, Kristen Stewart topless continues to be the leader by far. Sad by understandable.

After that, not surprisingly, is a link to the full text of On the Road. Why John Sampas hasn't shut that website down is beyond me, unless, as someone suggested, it is based in another country.

I'm glad to see the two Gerry Nicosia interviews still fare pretty well; I thought they were chock full of interesting information and insights.

Surprising to me is how well my spontaneous prose effort, Dimetapp dreams, is doing. I never would have thought my original writing would land in the same top ten list as Kristen Stewart naked. Who knew?

It's fun to see my Lowell story from 2011 doing well. I doubt I still look like Kevin Nash (if I ever did) given my haircut.

How to pronounce "Cannes" continues to stay in the top ten. I guess it didn't just mystify me.

Being a lover of words like Jack, I'm pleased to see the post about "fellaheen" doing well.

The On the Road movie official website is long past usefulness at this point.

Why a blog post about my next tattoo got so many hits is beyond me.

If you want to read any of these entries, the dates are listed and you can use the tool over on the right to access them by date.

Maybe I shall write a blog post titled, "Kristen Stewart on the road in Cannes getting a fellaheen tattoo of Dimetapp." That should get some traffic.

Dodge Poetry Festival



I had not heard of the Dodge Poetry Festival before today, but it's worth a look. This year features poet Gary Snyder, who readers of The Daily Beat know as Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums. There are a lot of other heavy hitter poets there as well.

Click here for details.

What does this have to do with Jack Kerouac other than Gary Snyder being there? Jack was a poet, perhaps first and foremost. You could cut up his prose into poetry and not know the difference. He even called prose "an endless one line poem."

By the way, Gary's times: 23rd @ 11:15 AM, 2:15 PM; 7:00 PM; 24th @ 10:50 AM; 25th @ 9:00 AM, 12:00 PM; 26th @ 10:30 AM, 12:00 PM, 1:30 PM.

In other words, you should be able to catch him any day.

So, if you're not doing anything October 23-26 . . . .


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2014

We just got home (to Maine) from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) and I thought I'd file my annual report before memory fades. We left Thursday morning (October 9) around 11:30. We stopped once: at the New Hampshire liquor store (conveniently located right off an exit on I-95) to stock up on some of the wine we like at very good prices. When we arrived at our hotel (UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center) around 2:30 our room wasn't ready so we waited in the lobby. Our good friend, Richard (who we only know thanks to LCK), had already checked in so we hung out with him while we waited. We also met Rich, another LCKer, and re-connected with Nancy (from Texas), who we see every year.

After we got checked in, we made our way, with Richard, to the gravesite for our annual visit. Thankfully, no one was there and we got to spend some private time with Jack. A couple of us, who will remain unnamed, were not too enthused by the new gravestone. It's a bit too Hollywood and we thought things were fine as they were.

Here is an excellent picture that Richard took (with his iPhone!) of Crystal reading from The Town and the City.




Crystal is at the gravestone that's always been there, and the new one is behind her.

Here's one of the gravestone as it looked when we got there (with the addition of a copy of my book, which I always leave behind, and the rose from Crystal).



Click on the links below to watch the videos we took of each of us reading from one of Jack's books. It was windy so the sound quality is sketchy.

Rick

Crystal

Richard

From the grave we returned to the hotel and then headed out on foot for an early dinner at The Worthen just in time for the pub crawl that started there at 5:30. 

Bill Walsh (pub crawl leader and Lowell/Kerouac docent) looked back as we crossed the street and pointed out what he called one of Lowell's best views. Here's pic.



After The Worthen we stopped by a gallery (whose name I have forgotten) as well as an exhibit of artists' interpretations of various haikus by Jack (this was at the Lowell Telecommunications Corp. across from the National Historical Park Visitors Center entrance on Market Street). By the time we got to the next pub stop, Ricardo's (Nicky's in Jack's time), we were flagged and decided to go back to the hotel and rest a bit. We're sure the pub crawl went on without a hitch despite our absence. They were slated to stop at Ward Eight and end up at Cappy's Copper Kettle. We met up with them there in time for the traditional LCK kick-off of music and readings. 

I neglected to take pictures (as I pretty much did all weekend), but it was a fun night, kicked off with music by Alan Crane and George Koumantzelis and highlighted by David Amram's musicianship and great story-telling/philosophizing. It culminated with a belly dance by Meg Smith with David playing a traditional wind instrument (whose name escapes me). Meg is the widow of the recently late Lawrence (Larry) Carradini, past President of LCK.

Friday was a low-key day as Crystal wasn't feeling quite up to par. We did make the "Talking Jack" session in the hotel at 3:30. It was well-attended and we got some good discussion going courtesy of enthusiastic attendees. One thing that stuck with me is the bumpersticker that Roxanne (from New Jersey) described having made for her car: "Sometimes only Jack Kerouac understands me." Nancy (mentioned previously) pointed out how Jack was capitalizing on archetypes, and . . . well, she's an English professor and I would go astray if I tried to go further with it here. Kurt (another friend I'd never have if it weren't for LCK) added his usual poignant observations as did Nomi (the facilitator). I chimed in that we forget that loving Kerouac is a pretty small club, really, and that makes connecting with fellow Kerouacians at LCK extra special. By the way, check out the "Kerouac in Lowell" Twitter feed by clicking here.

Crystal, Kurt, and I ate dinner at Ricardo's. Yummy. Kurt said it was the best steak he ever ate, and Crystal's lobster ravioli and my mushroom ravioli with scallops were both very good. As was the bottle of wine.





Crystal and I said goodbye to Kurt, who was headed to an LCK event, as we made our way to the Jolie Holland concert at the Luna Theater at Mill #5, sponsored by UMass Lowell. This is a new place in Lowell with a number of shops and it is a very cool space. Before Jolie started they screened the Andy Warhol film, Couch, featuring Kerouac and Corso and Ginsberg et al. Then they played a number of Warhol's "screen tests" behind Jolie's band. Jolie has a great voice and her band is very good and it was an interesting juxtaposition of media. Here's a pic from the audience point-of-view.



We headed back to the hotel before the end of the show. That's the kind of thing that happens when, as I heard Roger Brunelle say, you are in the "afternoon of the trip."

Saturday was a full day. We made it to the Commemorative at the Commemorative, which wasn't at the Commemorative because of rain. We parked on French street and walked to the rain location, the Boott Cotton Mill Museum. Below you can see my DHRMABM license plate and the Commemorative in the background.


The Commemorative was dedicated to Larry Carradini, and featured his wife and friends reading his works or his favorite Kerouac passages. It concluded with David Amram reading the penultimate chapter from On the Road.



Many attendees then left to go on the birthplace-to-gravesite bus tour with Roger Brunelle. We chose to attend a presentation on Japanese haiku and its connection to Jack Kerouac given by Yuko Utomo. It was an excellent talk, followed by artists reading the Kerouac haikus that inspired their pieces mentioned earlier (we were in that same gallery space for the talk).

We ate lunch at The Athenian across the street. Crystal has moussaka and I had pastitio, washed down with Greek beer, Mythos. Tasty.

I saw a stage at The Athenian with musical equipment and asked about music there. The waitress said they have music three nights a week - with a belly dancer. Just FYI.

From there it was over to the Parker Lecture by New York poet Steve Dalachinsky. He's always great to listen to and this was no exception. Sorry for the crappy picture quality.



After Steve's talk we took the car back to the hotel and rested a bit before catching a cab to The Worthen for open mike. It was well-attended and a lot of fun. I especially got a kick out of Roxanne's rendering of what On the Road would sound like from the point-of-view of Jack's rucksack, and there were several other notable readings as well (I'm terrible at names and don't want to slight someone). I read three of my poems available at my poetry blog: "Rosemary's Hike," "Empty Dreams," and "Falling Thoughts." I thought the latter was too pornographic for the venue but went with it anyway.

From The Worthen we walked to Cobblestones for dinner. Italian Wedding Rehearsal Soup (sausage not meatballs) and petite filet with crabcake. We split the latter entree, which is a good thing because we learned when we got the check that the soup was 10 bucks a pop. But we knew from past experience that this is an expensive place. We like it there and have made it a regular stop during LCK. After finishing our meals we were so full that . . . guess what? Correct. Back to the hotel and there we stayed for the night.

We did have an "incident" on the way back to the hotel. We walked, and it was night-time in a city, so I am always a little on my guard. We passed a recessed storefront on Merrimack Street and I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up to see a  young man standing back there facing the store. He turned around very suddenly and sped off. Fortunately, I looked down to see a river running across the sidewalk. I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go. We both missed stepping in it, thankfully, but it was not a pleasing encounter. Don't judge Lowell by this one incident, but do be careful where you walk at night.

Sunday morning we headed out to eat and I took this shot from the hotel parking lot. Except for some of Saturday the weather was perfect the whole time! What's that song Jack sings in On the Road? Something about "blue skies" . . . .



We ate at Jameson's, a place that's very walkable from the hotel and was recommended by the desk clerk.


I had Irish Benedict. Bagel not English muffin. Home-made hash not Canadian bacon. Awesome. And an excellent waitress. We'll go back there.

Below is a view from our walk back from breakfast.



As usual, we missed a lot of events. The "Serious Amram Jam" was starting at the Lowell Beerworks a little after we left for Maine, and there were more Sunday and Monday events as well.

Crystal is a real trooper about my Kerouac obsession, and it's good not to push it too hard. Plus what Roger said.

We made it back to Maine without incident. All in all, it was another great trip. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but, honestly, sometimes feeling an obligation to take pictures gets in the way of my enjoying what's going on.

If you're a Kerouac fan (which I assume is a pretty good bet if you are reading this), a trip to Lowell in October for Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is something for your bucket list (unless you've already done it, in which case you should do it again). You can also help the cause by donating at the LCK website (click here).

Sadly, this year no one whispered the secret word in my ear to win a free copy of my book. The secret word was Caroline (or Nin). See my blog entry from August 8 (click here) for background. I should have given a copy to Cliff Whalen, who introduced himself and said he reads The Daily Beat. Cliff, I'll save you one for next year!

I'm inspired from LCK this year on two fronts. One is to learn more about the art of haiku and write a few based on that learning. It's way more than three lines of 17 syllables (5-7-5).

Another is to read The Haunted Life, which I think someone got me for Christmas and I never picked up. If you're reading this, Todd, sorry it's taken me so long . . . .

That's my report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in the Year of our Lord 2014. Long live Jack Kerouac.




P.S. If you spot inaccuracies, omissions (given my memory of late), and the like in my report, please let me know and I'll make corrections.

P.S.S. I have decided that next year everyone in Dave Moore's Jack Kerouac Facebook Group must come to LCK. No excuses. Let's make it more epic than ever.











Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jack Kerouac gets a new gravestone



I've written a lot about Jack in the past 6 years on this blog, and faithful readers know that I've made a pilgrimage to his grave almost annually since 2008. Today we learn that Jack got a new headstone. Click here for the story.

I don't know if the old headstone is still there, but I hope so. I always thought it was perfect. Unassuming. Inscribed, "He honored life." And what about Stella? I don't see her name on the new stone.

 I'm going to wait to weigh in on the new stone until after I see it in person in a couple of weeks. I'll definitely let you know what I think in my 2014 Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

Regardless of what I think, Jack doesn't care. He's safe in heaven dead.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Jack Kerouac's On the Road is 57 years old today



On the Road was published 57 years ago today. It's always a good time to go back in time and read the rave review that helped launch Kerouac into literary fame. Click here to read it.

As reviewer Gilbert Millstein said on September 5, 1957:
"On the Road" is the second novel by Jack Kerouac, and its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion (multiplied a millionfold by the speed and pound of communications).... 
Just as, more than any other novel of the Twenties, "the Sun Also Rises" came to be regarded as the testament of the "Lost Generation," so it seems certain that "On the Road" will come to be known as that of the "Beat Generation." There is, otherwise, no similarity between the two: technically and philosophically, Hemingway and Kerouac are, at the very least, a depression and a world war apart.


Thank you, Jack.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Random Kerouac musings on a late August morning

The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, near "home"
It's starting to feel like fall outside, especially in the morning it seems, and so my thoughts often turn to Jack Kerouac.

It's widely thought that October was Jack's favorite month. As he said, in On the Road, "Everybody goes home in October." One of my strongest memories of adolescence is returning home from college for "homecoming weekend," especially my first year (when I was a "freshman," a no longer politically correct term because we've lost our minds in service to tolerance). There was just something about standing around the huge bonfire on the baseball field, eating a hot dog from the concession stand, watching football players you actually had gone to school with, seeing high school friends who similarly left for college but returned for the weekend, and reminiscing about high school life.

But as one of Jack's favorite authors, Thomas Wolfe, titled a novel: You Can't Go Home Again.

One can visit, though, and this faux fall weather seems to be pulling me back toward "home." Honestly, while Maine is my home and I love it here and I love my life, Pennsylvania still feels like "home." I haven't been back in a few years, yet a trip in the near future is doubtful. I want to use Christmas break to see my grandson for the first time, and I'm using fall break for our annual trip to Lowell.

Now that I think of it, going to Lowell feels like going home. Figure that one out if you can. I'm a surrogate for Jack, going "home" in October?

See you in October, my Kerouacian friends.

Friday, August 8, 2014

2014 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac schedule and this year's secret word

Click here and you will be able to download a brochure containing the schedule of events at the 2014 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) Festival in Jack's beautiful hometown of Lowell, MA, from October 10 - October 14. If you're reading this post, I'll assume you're a Kerouac fan. That means a visit to Lowell for the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival is essential! At the LCK website you can also buy schwag (merchandise) and donate to help keep this great organization doing its thing.

I'm not sure Jack had a major novel published 50 years ago (1964), although the LCK website says it's the 50th anniversary of Visions of Gerard (VOG). We assumed last year was VOG's 50th (1963) and read from it at the grave, so this year we'll be reading from a novel we haven't yet read from at Jack's grave: Visions of Cody. Why? Because it's Jack blowing his wildest and we need some of that in these crazy times.

The secret word this year is the name of the Kerouac family member who died 50 years ago (on September 19). Long-time Daily Beat readers already know that the first person who comes up to me at LCK and whispers the secret word in my ear gets a free signed copy of my book, The Beat Handbook.

See you in Lowell in the redslant October sunlight!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Robot hitchhiking across Canada



I saw this story on the national news the other night and it caught my attention. A robot is making its way across Canada by hitchhiking. "Hitchbot" can talk, but is totally dependent on humans to pick him up and transport him. Hitchbot started in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is headed for Victoria, British Columbia.

Read about Hitchbot by clicking here.

A robot after Jack Kerouac's heart. You gotta love it!




Happy 80th Birthday to Diane di Prima

Poet Diane di Prima was born this date 80 years ago. What's she have to do with Jack Kerouac, you say? She's a beat poet and she knew Jack. That's enough to qualify as a Daily Beat birthday honoree.

Happy Birthday, Diane.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

RIP, Jan Kerouac

Jack Kerouac's only child, Jan Kerouac, died this date in 1996 at the age of 44. If you haven't checked out her writing, please do so. The acorn didn't fall far from the tree in that regard. I recommend both her completed novels, Baby Driver and Trainsong. Excerpts of her unfinished novel, Parrot Fever, are also available (at a price).


There's no complete biography of Jan yet, but one may be in the works. In the meantime, you can read Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory, a collection of memoirs, photos, and an interview (edited by Gerald Nicosia).

RIP, Jan. You led a colorful life and definitely lived a lot in your time. I wish we could have met (from what I know, I suspect I may have had a little crush).










Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg would have been 88 years old today. Click here for last year's birthday greeting and links to his poem, Howl.

In my head, this is how I picture Allen. I don't know why. There are lots of younger and older images out there to choose from.

Ginsberg at Kerouac's funeral
Photo by Jeff Albertson

Happy Birthday to an original American poet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Jack Kerouac Jeopardy

Jeopardy Labs is a pretty cool little website for building an on-line Jeopardy game. I built this one (click here) for my First Year Seminar Kerouac class and used it today. The students seemed to get a kick out of it (partly because they knew a lot of the answers and surely wouldn't have at the beginning of the semester). I tried to make the questions harder as the dollar amounts increased. We had an argument about whether Jack grew up speaking French or Canadian French or Joual and what's the difference . . . sigh . . . . I didn't teach all of this stuff - some of it came from them writing their research papers.

If you see something obviously in error, let me know. Or something that can be improved. Unlike some in the Kerouacosphere, not only do I not know everything but also I am willing to learn and not be a snark about being corrected. Sorry if that last sentence pricked your conscience. If it did, it probably needed to.

In any case, I'm certain my version is better than this attempt (author unknown).


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2014 - SAVE THE DATE

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac will take place October 9th to the 12th this year, so save the date. The best place to stay, in my opinion, is the UMass Lowell Inn and Convention Center, right in the heart of the activities (and usually host to some). Rooms aren't easy to get so you might want to jump on it. Hotels.com still had some as I posted this and it was cheaper than booking directly.

For more information, click here.

See you there.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy 95th Birthday to Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Source: Wikipedia
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of City Lights Bookseller & Publishers in San Francisco, turns 95 today. Click here to visit the City Lights Ferlinghetti page.

Kerouacians will be familiar with Ferlinghetti as the owner of the cabin in Big Sur where Jack spent some time between July and September, suffering the nervous breakdown he made famous in his novel, Big Sur.Of course, Ferlinghetti was a strong proponent of Beat writers, but City Lights has published across genres internationally. 

For more on Ferlinghetti, his Wikipedia article (here) is quite informative. 

I've been lucky enough in the past to serve as a reviewer for City Lights publications, and I hope that opportunity continues. If you ever get to San Francisco, a pilgrimage to City Lights is required. While you're there, you can bop over to Vesuvio's (across Jack Kerouac Alley) where Jack used to hang out or make the trek across the Columbus and Broadway to visit The Beat Museum.

Happy Birthday, Lawrence!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jack Kerouac, Steve McQueen, On the Road, and the origin of "cool"


Click here for a PBS article about the American Cool exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibit brings together 100 examples of "cool" Americans, and features photographs of the likes of James Dean, Billie Holiday, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen (the coolest, in my book). I'm not sure if Jack Kerouac is represented in the exhibit, but he's mentioned in the article:
In the face of racism, the great African-American jazz saxophonist Lester Young was “cool.”

Credited with bringing the word into the modern American vernacular, “I’m cool” wasn’t Young’s reference to the sunglasses he wore day and night on stage, or the saxophone slung across his shoulder. It was his response to a divided society, a way of saying that he was still in control.

Decades later, after the term crossed over into Jack Kerouac’s work, and even found itself the subject of one of Leonard Bernstein’s numbers in “West Side Story,” the question “what is cool?” remains a topic of debate, a generational point of contention. But for Frank H. Goodyear III and Joel Dinerstein, it’s the question “who is cool?” that takes center stage in the “American Cool”exhibit they curated for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

I didn't know Lester Young brought the word "cool" into our vernacular, but he was mentioned by Jack in On the Road a couple of times. Now, in fact, Jack used the word "cool" in On the Road in a few different ways.

For example, referring to temperature:
Terry said we could live in tents on the job. The thought of living in a tent and picking grapes in the cool California mornings hit me right (Kerouac, 1976, p. 89).
Or pejoratively:
There he is! That's him! Old God! Old God Shearing! Yes! Yes! Yes!" And Shearing was conscious of the madman behind him, he could hear every one of Dean's gasps and imprecations, he could sense it though he couldn't see. "That's right!" Dean said. "Yes!" Shearing smiled; he rocked. Shearing rose from the piano, dripping with sweat; these were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial (p. 128).
Or as in Steve McQueen "cool":
"I don't know but we gotta go." Then here came a gang of young bop musicians carrying their instruments out of cars. They piled right into a saloon and we followed them. They set themselves up and started blowing. There we were! The leader was a slender, drooping, curly-haired, pursy-mouthed tenorman, thin of shoulder, draped loose in a sports shirt, cool in the warm night, self-indulgence written in his eyes, who picked up his horn and frowned in it and blew cool and complex and was dainty stamping his foot to catch ideas, and ducked to miss others-and said, "Blow," very quietly when the other boys took solos. Then there was Prez, a husky, handsome blond like a freckled boxer, meticulously wrapped inside his sharkskin plaid suit with the long drape and the collar falling back and the tie undone for exact sharpness and casualness, sweating and hitching up his horn and writhing into it, and a tone just like Lester Young himself. "You see, man, Prez has the technical anxieties of a money-making musician, he's the only one who's well dressed, see him grow worried when he blows a clinker, but the leader, that cool cat, tells him not to worry and just blow and blow-the mere sound and serious exuberance of the music is all he cares about. He's an artist. He's teaching young Prez the boxer. Now the others dig!!" The third sax was an alto, eighteen-year-old cool, contemplative young Charlie-Parker-type Negro from high school, with a broad gash mouth, taller than the rest, grave. He raised his horn and blew into it quietly and thoughtfully and elicited birdlike phrases and architectural Miles Davis logics. These were the children of the great bop innovators (pp. 238-239).
 Definitely check out this link to the exhibit itself.

Bottom line: Jack Kerouac was cool.


References

Kerouac, J. (1976). On the Road. New York: Penguin Books.



P.S. The above quotations from On the Road are duly cited and used in accordance with the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law.
P.S.S. (on 8/14/15) I just noted that Jack mentions a Steve McQueen movie title in one of his prose works. Can you name the movie and the work?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy 92nd Birthday to Jack Kerouac!

In honor of Jack Kerouac's 92nd birthday today, here is a quiz I gave my First Year Seminar class on Tuesday. It covers On the Road Part 3 Chapters 5-11 (classic edition, not The Scroll). I give quizzes to check on whether the students do the assigned reading; they aren't meant to be profound.

Scroll way down for answers and leave a comment about how you did. Oh, and for my students: If you were absent for the quiz, I wrote an alternate for you to take so don't bother memorizing the answers.

Rating:
10 correct = You know Jack
9 correct = You're no Memory Babe but not bad
8 correct = You're ready to head out "on the road"
7 correct = Much better than sheer guessing
6 correct = As close to flunking as you can get (by university standards)
5 correct = Fail (along with all the scores below)
4 correct = Good test-taking skills may have gotten you here
3 correct = Sheer guessing may be in play at this level
2 correct = No bragging rights for you
1 correct = This is really, really bad
0 correct = Wow, you really suck at On the Road knowledge and test-taking

Quiz

1. At the beginning of this section, Sal and Dean are:
A. leaving New York for Chicago
B. in Denver looking for Old Dean Moriarty
C. in New Orleans at Old Bull Lee’s
D. heading eastward from San Francisco

2. Sal gets really mad at Dean when they first get to Denver because:
A. Dean finds Marylou and they ditch Sal
B. Dean makes a crack that Sal thinks makes fun of his age
C. Dean has been driving too fast
D. Dean refuses to pay for his share of their room at the YMCA

3. Why does a mother living across the cornfield from the Okie family threaten to shoot Dean with a shotgun?
A. Dean has been repeatedly trying to make her daughter
B. Sal steals their corn and they mistake him for Dean in the dark
C. She is delusional and thinks Dean is her cheating husband
D. Dean steals a bag of grain out of her barn

4. What old habit does Dean return to when they are out and about in Denver?
A. knocking Marylou around
B. hustling pool
C. stealing cars
D. tagging alleyways with graffiti

5. What kind of travel-bureau car do they drive from Denver to Chicago?
A. a 1949 Hudson
B. a baby blue convertible
C. a brand new 1950 Ford Crestliner
D. a big black Cadillac

6. On their way out of Denver they stop at what kind of place owned by Ed Wall?
A. a hippie commune
B. a ranch
C. a casino
D. a brothel                                                                                                                                                        

7. Dean’s common top speed across Nebraska and Iowa seems to be:
A. 70 MPH
B. 80 MPH
C. 90 MPH
D. 110 MPH

8. While out in Chicago listening to jazz, what musician shows up who they consider to be “God”?
A. Louis Armstrong
B. Thelonius Monk
C. Dizzie Gillepsie
D. George Shearing

9. What are the consequences of returning the travel-bureau car covered in mud with no brakes, stove-in fenders, and rattling rods?
A. They have to borrow money from Sal’s aunt to pay for the damages
B. There are no consequences
C. They get thrown in jail
D. They have to work with a mechanic to fix the car.

10. In Detroit, rather than rent a room somewhere, Dean and Sal:
A. sleep under a railroad trestle
B. stay in a movie theater all night
C. rent a tent at the local campground

D. spend the night in a whorehouse


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ANSWERS:
1. D
2. B
3. A
4. C
5. D
6. B
7. D
8. D
9. B
10. B






Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Town and the City anniversary

Jack Kerouac's first novel to be published, The Town and the City, appeared on this date in 1950. That's 64 years ago today! If you haven't read it yet, I recommend doing so. It's more traditional than Jack's later novels, Wolfean some say, but his voice is there.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

True Detective goes Beat

HBO's new series, True Detective, is blowing my mind with its literary references. It's already led me to read Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow and I am part way through Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Now it appears that William S. Burroughs' work appeared in the latest episode. Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), in one of his many philosophical monologues, says, "So death created time to grow the things that it would kill."

That line is classic Burroughs. Can you name the work?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Just like Jack Kerouac

Just like Jack, some modern writers use good old-fashioned pen and paper to write (and even manual typewriters). Click here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An anniversary of sorts and a plea

One year ago today I went in the hospital for an eight-day stay in a locked-down psychiatric ward. It was the worst experience of my life (losing one's freedom is a soul-crushing experience) but probably saved me from doom. I was experiencing a major depressive episode accompanied by psychosis, delusions, debilitating anxiety, and suicidal ideation. I missed 8 weeks of work and then only returned to part-time status, teaching one class for the last several weeks of the spring semester. Thanks to the support of loved ones and friends, meds, and therapy, I recovered and had a much different Valentine's Day this year (although I did have minor surgery on my toe this morning - all is well). Mentally, I am much better but far from where I was or wish I were. This may be the new normal. My memory isn't what it was, and a lot of the time it feels like my thinking is disorganized or happening in slow motion. Like someone said, you don't "beat" depression: you manage it. It's always looming, you sense its presence, and occasionally it wanders too close for comfort. That's when the skills you learn in therapy help.

One important lesson I learned from the experience - among many - was realizing firsthand what mental illness really means. It means you can't just "suck it up and get on with it." Even if you could give a shit about doing so - which you most assuredly don't when depressed - you don't have the capacity. Your executive functioning is affected, and irrational thoughts and delusions make your decision-making abilities suspect. Ending the pain once and for all makes total sense, and the suffering is so significant that no thought of others - if you even have one - ameliorates the thoughts of suicide. And the anxiety just makes it all worse.

I am reminded of the vitriole cast Philip Seymour Hoffman's way regarding his recent heroin overdose. How he was just "selfish." That hurt. That means I was being selfish when I contemplated suicide, and that is not accurate. I was sick. Period. I wasn't responsible - my brain wasn't working properly. I didn't ask to be depressed, psychotic, delusional, anxious, and suicidal, but that's what I was and that's why I was in a spiral of unhealthy behaviors. You might say Hoffman "chose" to use heroin and the rest was all therefore his fault. If that's so, then I chose to be depressed because - in hindsight - there were many red flags along the way and choices along the way I could have made that possibly would have skirted the whole affair. No one wants to be in the place I ended up, or in Hoffman's, but it happens, and when it does, I think some compassion is in order.

You are not immune from experiencing what I went through. That's a fact. I hope you never do. In the meantime, though, I hope my sharing these thoughts will give you pause next time someone overdoses or attempts suicide or acts in some bizarrely inappropriate way. When your brain is sick you think and do things that don't make sense from the outside looking in. From the inside, they seem  logical, even unassailably right. At that point, people need help, not judgment.

Fortunately, help is available. Let's thank the people and organizations that work with people with mental health issues and support public policies that ensure mental health services are maintained and strengthened. Let's do what we can to end the stigma surrounding mental health, starting with telling our own stories and pushing this dark phenonmenon out into the light of day where we can deal with it openly, honestly, and with care.

Jack Kerouac was in the pschiatric hospital during his stint in the U.S. Navy. Diagnosed with "demential praecox" (schizophrenia), he was no stranger to this topic. Neither was Allen Ginsberg, Carl Solomon, and other beat characters. Depression et al. are equal opportunity conditions affecting people without regard to social status, ethnicity, political persuasion, gender, religion, or any other diversity factor. It's one of the last frontiers of discrimination in this country, and I say let's make it the civil rights issue of our time.

Want to get involved or learn more? Check out NAMI's website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Happy 88th Birthday to Neal Cassady

Photo (c) Larry Keenan, Jr.

Immortalized in On the Road as Dean Moriarty, Neal Cassady would have been 88 years young today.

Yass, yass, and yair we'd-a liked to (a-hem) hung out with Neal on one of his birthdays and lift a poorboy to his mother and to Old Dean Moriarty the father he and Jack Kerouac never found and to fast cars and faster women and "It" and to the whole crazy mad gone world.

Happy Birthday, Neal. Go go go wherever you are!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Happy 100th to William S. Burroughs

Beat triumvirate member William S. Burroughs would be 100 years old today. Here's a snapshot of his entry from Dave Moore's excellent Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend, which I highly recommend using to supplement your Kerouac reading.



Click here for a videoclip of Burroughs talking about Jack Kerouac.

 Happy Birthday, Old Bull!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

RIP Neal Cassady and J. J. Johnson

Noted jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson died this date in 2001, the same date Neal Cassady died in 1968. I wondered about a Kerouac-Johnson connection and found this via Google Books from The Musical World of J.J. Johnson by Joshua Berrett and Louis G. Bourgois III (pp. 126-127). The passage is from Dan Wakefield's 1992 book, New York in the Fifties.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Buyer doesn't know they bought Jack Kerouac's house!

Can you imagine buying a home and not realizing it had belonged to Jack Kerouac? How could - or why would - a realtor omit such information? Perhaps because they didn't want the prospective owner to worry about gawkers and visitors? Click here for the story. Apparently the owner listing it in 2005 hadn't know either.

Below is a picture of the house from 2005 when it was listed for $356,000.  I'm on the hunt for other pictures - do you know of any?

Source: Cape Cod Times

Friday, January 31, 2014

Jack Kerouac predicts the Super Bowl

Saw this courtesy of Dave Moore on the Facebook Jack Kerouac group. It's a pretty clever set of Super Bowl predictions as if written by famous authors Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, Ayn Rand, Jane Austen, James Joyce, and our hero: Jack Kerouac.

One thing is certain: Kerouac knew a little something about football.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

"One deathless line"



Last night I read in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters Volume 1: 1940-1956, edited by Ann Charters, that he told his friend Sebastian Sampas of a goal to write "at least one deathless line."

I think he achieved that goal (multiple times, actually). If you agree, what would be the example you'd give to make your case?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First day of teaching Kerouac

Today is the first day of classes for the spring semester at the University of Maine at Farmington. One of the four courses I am teaching this semester is a First Year Seminar. The topic? Jack Kerouac! We'll be reading On the Road and The Dharma Bums and related Kerouac or Beat Generation works and discussing their relevance today but, mostly, I hope we can just "dig the ride." One difference from last spring is that we not only have the film version of On the Road accessible, but we also have Big Sur and, hopefully, Kill Your Darlings (I saw a DVD release date of March) to choose from.

As interesting things happen across the semester, I'll post about them here on The Daily Beat, so stay tuned . . . .


Sunday, January 5, 2014

New look for The Daily Beat

I was just surfing around the 'Net via Facebook and came across this blog (about a favorite pet peeve of mine: unexplainable popularity for bigoted knuckleheads). I thought it had a simple, clean look and discerned that it is a template on Blogger, the same platform I use for The Daily Beat. A couple of clicks later and my blog has a new look.

Let me know what you think.