Monday, December 31, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 10 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 10 of The Dharma Bums and summarize it in one sentence. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.

The Dharma Bums Chapter 10 in one sentence:
Japhy makes dinner at camp -- bulgur with vegetables, chocolate pudding, and tea -- and, as Japhy predicted, Ray forgets all about alcohol, they talk about characters they've known, Japhy gives Ray a set of juju beads (he is always practicing charity), Ray is inspired by Japhy to begin a new life and tramp all over the country with a rucksack "the pure way," after a night's sleep they yodel for Morley and hear his response, Ray washes his face in the cold creek, they can just see Morley far below, Morley starts spouting nonsense as soon as he is within talking distance, and he finds Japhy and Ray sitting on a sunlit rock waiting for him.

Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 11 and post a one-sentence summary.

2019 New Year's Kerouac-olutions, anyone?



Last year in this space I decided to lower the bar and declare no New Year's Kerouac-olutions. That was in stark contrast to years past, when I had lists of 10. Click here to read last year's piece (as well as access a link to all past Kerouac-olutions).

But just what is a New Year's Kerouac-olution? It's just a New Year's Resolution dressed up in Kerouacian language. It doesn't have to be about Kerouac or even be related to Kerouac (although everything connects to Kerouac, as I have repeatedly claimed).

So what about 2019? Are there Kerouac-olutions afoot?

The answer is yes. I am in a different head space from last year. To wit, below are my 2019 New Year's Kerouac-olutions.

In 2019, I resolve to:

1. Drink a bottle of 21-year-old Bushmills single malt Irish whiskey (with help from Crystal)
2. Finish reading the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (already started - very good book!)
3. Use the treadmill at least twice a week, preferable three times (30 minutes per)
4. Lose a little bit of weight (10 pounds would be a good start)
5. Successfully complete training with Crisis Text Line (already started) and start volunteering with them 4 hours/week
6. Read Kerouac (no particular titles or amount)
7. Work back up to being able to do 30 push-ups in a row (what a weakling I've become)
8. Identify and purchase the best healthcare I can afford
9. Buy Crystal flowers at least 6 times (monthly was a fail in 2017)
10. Acquire a camper in time to attend some bluegrass festivals this coming summer


What are your Kerouac-olutions for 2019?

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 9 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 9 of The Dharma Bums and summarize it in one sentence. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.

The Dharma Bums Chapter 9 in one sentence:
Ray and Japhy climb on, reaching a meadow with a pond, following "ducks" (cairns), eyeing the plateau above them that was their destination for the night (no crowds there like potentially in the meadow), then it's all jumping from boulder to boulder, and Japhy says the secret is "'like Zen. Don't think. Just dance along,'" and they talk less as they tire, Japhy goes on ahead without his pack to find the camp site, he returns for Ray and it takes an hour climb to the 30-foot square "huge gray rock" they camp next to, they drink Japhy's tea, Ray tells Japhy a prayer he says and Japhy writes it down in his notebook, they worry about Morley but finally hear a distant "'Yodelayhee,'" then they meditate on a promontory overlooking the whole valley listening to Morley's yodels, it gets dark and Japhy supposes Morley will have the sense to pitch camp for the night so they head back to cook supper, and it turns out Morley does just that, sleeping in his two blankets on his air mattress in the meadow far below them. 

Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 10 and post a one-sentence summary. We're close to 1/3 of the way to the finish (Chapter 34)!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 8 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 8 of The Dharma Bums and summarize it in one sentence. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.

The Dharma Bums Chapter 8 in one sentence:
It's Saturday and Ray and Japhy kill time in Bridgeport while Morley looks to buy a sleeping bag but he's unsuccessful so ends up renting a couple of blankets from the lake lodge, Japhy draws a magic Buddhist mandala in the road dust with his pickax to help them with the climb, they lock the car and start out walking down the lake road with their gear, Japhy tells Ray "comparisons are odious . . . it's all the same old void, boy," then after four flat miles they stop at the final little store at the foot of the trail and buy "candy and crackers and Cokes and such," Morley suddenly remembers he forgot to drain his car's crankcase and decides to head back to do that and catch up with them at their first camp, so Ray and Japhy start up the trail while talking a "blue streak," the lake begins to appear below them, they make up and trade haikus, and they stop by a "tremendous cataracting stream" where they dunk their heads and drink deeply of the cold water. 

Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 9 and post a one-sentence summary.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 7 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 7 of The Dharma Bums and summarize it in one sentence. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.

The Dharma Bums Chapter 7 in one sentence:
Along their way in the morning the group eats bread and cheese, but Ray talks them into stopping at a lodge for a "man's breakfast," during which the waitress expresses disbelief that they were headed to climb the Matterhorn, the snow-capped peak of which they could see from their car a little bit later that morning.

Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 8 and post a one-sentence summary.

RIP, Al Hinkle, the "last man standing"

Al Hinkle (R) with Jack Kerouac


Al Hinkle, who readers know was Big Ed Dunkel in Jack Kerouac's On the Road and who also appeared in other Kerouac works, died on December 26, 2018. I believe Al was born in 1926, although I don't know the month and day, making him 92.

At the time of his death, Al was the only living person who had been in the car with Kerouac on any of the road trips Jack wrote about in On the Road. Hence the name of the book, Last Man Standing, which we curated here on November 2, 2018.

We had the honor of interviewing Al for The Daily Beat. That post appeared here on January 31, 2012.

I had the privilege of meeting Al one time. It was at a beat poetry event at Sweetwater in Mill Valley, CA. We posted about that here (it includes a picture of Al speaking at the event). I remember that he was kind and gracious to me.

Here's a little bit about Al from Dave Moore's excellent Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend (available here).


Everything that has a beginning has an ending, but that doesn't make endings any less sad. RIP, Al. You left a mark on this world.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 6 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 6 of The Dharma Bums and summarize it in one sentence. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.


The Dharma Bums Chapter 6 in one sentence:
Japhy goes to Ray's to collect him and his gear for the mountain climb, along the way Japhy tells Ray about his outdoor experiences, they pack at Japhy's and head to Henry Morley's cottage in Berkeley, they head out in Henry's "little English car," Ray describes the overtalkative Henry and some after-climb adventures with him, Henry regales them with nonsense on the drive, they stop at a bar full of hunters (opening eve of hunting season) for a drink (port), Japhy tells them about his upcoming trip to Japan and Henry regales them with more nonsense, they drive till 2 A.M. and decide to sleep in the woods because it's a long way to Bridgeport, but they discover that Morley forgot his sleeping bag so they all sleep under two sleeping bags on top of two ponchos.

Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 7 and post a one-sentence summary.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 5 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 5 of The Dharma Bums and summarize it in one sentence. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.


The Dharma Bums Chapter 5 in one sentence:
Ray tells about how previously, at Japhy's shack, a girl had shown up and asked to climb the Matterhorn with them, to which Japhy replied, "shore, come on with us and we'll all screw ya at ten thousand feet," the same spirit in which he now brings the girl, Princess, to Ray's and Alvah's cottage to demonstrate "yabyum" [Google it], which turns into a threesome and Japhy announces they'll do this every Thursday -- Princess says, "Yeah" and that she's a Bodhisattva, impressing Ray -- so Japhy explains sex in Oriental religion and then leaves with Princess, resulting in Ray declaring Japhy the "great new hero of American culture," after which Ray and Alvah argue about Buddhism and Ray prays that God, or Tathagata, will help him tell people what he knows so they won't despair so much. 

Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 6 and post a one-sentence summary.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 4 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 4 of The Dharma Bums and summarize it in one sentence. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.


The Dharma Bums Chapter 4 in one sentence:
Ray, Alvah, and Coughlin buy a gallon jug of wine and bust in on Japhy (who we learn attended Reed College with Couglin) in his shack, Japhy roars and leaps like a Samurai from his crosslegged position across the room where he lands in a fencing position holding a dagger and barely stabbing the jug with a "clink," they spend four hours gabbing and drinking, and Ray feels guilty for making Japhy miss his evening of study until the following night when Japhy appears at their cottage with a pretty girl who takes her clothes off at Japhy's request.


Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 5 and be prepared to post a one-sentence summary. Here in the U.S., we have holidays approaching at the beginning of the week so I can't promise daily postings for a few days. Feel free to read ahead but stay with us, too.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 3 in one sentence

Yabyum position

If you've been following along, we've been reading a chapter at a time in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums and summarizing each chapter in one sentence.Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 3 and summarize it. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.


The Dharma Bums Chapter 3 in one sentence:
Living in Berkeley with Alvah Goldbrook, Ray visits Japhy's spartan shack and catches him sitting crosslegged while translating Han Shan's "Cold Mountain" (this book is dedicated to Han Shan), accepts a cup of tea from Japhy and listens to a description of the tea ceremony, after which Ray weighs in on some of Japhy's translations and accepts Japhy's offer to climb the Matterhorn in the High Sierras with Henry Morley, listens to Japhy's critique of vegetarians, asks Japhy what "yabyum" is (Japhy promises to tell him later), and notes how this interaction had been quite different from the night at the Gallery Six.


Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 4 and be prepared to post a one-sentence summary.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 2 in one sentence



Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 2 of The Dharma Bums. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.


The Dharma Bums Chapter 2 in one sentence:
After hitchhiking to San Francisco courtesy of a beautiful darling young blonde in a cinnamon-red Lincoln Mercury, Ray Smith meets the number one Dharma Bum, Japhy Ryder, then goes out to a bar with a bunch of poets preparing for a reading at the Gallery Six, exchanges Zen koans with Japhy, takes up a collection for wine to pass around at the reading -- an event that signaled the birth of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance -- and afterwards goes out for Chinese food with the poets, anticipating everything he has to learn from Japhy including how to handle girls.


Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 3 and be prepared to post a one-sentence summary.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums Chapter 1 in one sentence

A gondola, the kind of open-topped freight train vehicle Ray hops out of Los Angeles


Your assignment for today was to read Chapter 1 of The Dharma Bums. Below is my one-sentence summary -- post yours as a comment. I'd also love to see general comments about the chapter, or questions.



The Dharma Bums Chapter 1 in one sentence:
After a long journey from Mexico, our narrator, Ray, hops a freight out of Los Angeles on the way to San Francisco, meeting a thin old little bum -- who carried and read daily a prayer by Saint Teresa -- who he shares his food and wine with before they go their separate ways in Santa Barbara after which Ray camps alone by the ocean in the sand at the foot of a cliff and enjoys some hot food, all the while contemplating the void from a Buddhist perspective.  


Your next assignment is to read The Dharma Bums Chapter 2 and be prepared to post a one-sentence summary.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Let's read The Dharma Bums together!

The version of The Dharma Bums I'll be reading from

When I taught a Kerouac class at the University of Maine at Farmington, two novels we read were The Dharma Bums and On the Road. One of the in-class small-group activities I had students participate in was developing one-sentence summaries of chapters they had read for that day. Recently, it occurred to me that I needed to re-read The Dharma Bums, my favorite Kerouac novel, for general purposes (from 2013-2017 I read it each spring for class and haven't re-read it since then). Today I was pondering blog topics and it struck me that it might be fun to read a book together with readers of The Daily Beat.

Combining all of the above ideas, I decided to try the following:

I will assign a reading each day (or at least each day that I take time to blog). It will be from The Dharma Bums -- we will go in order and it will be one chapter per day. I will likewise complete the reading assignment, plus I will write a one-sentence summary of the chapter. That one-sentence summary will be the title of and the content of a subsequent blog post and I will also include the next assignment (the next chapter). And so on . . . . If you read along with us, you are encouraged to post a one-sentence summary of the chapter on the relevant day as a comment.

This will accomplish several things. One, it will give me something to blog about. Two, it will encourage me to re-read The Dharma Bums, which I wanted to do anyway. It's 34 chapters, so this is going to take us well into if not past January 2019. Three, it will provide an interesting summary of The Dharma Bums in 34 sentences (I didn't always dig the ones my students came up with -- they often left out what I though were important points -- I posted an example of their work with On the Road here).

So there you have it. Your assignment for next time we meet, should you choose to accept it, is to read Chapter 1 of The Dharma Bums and be prepared to post a one-sentence summary of the chapter as a comment.

See you next time . . . .



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Kerouac favorite book survey results update #4


                                                               


Now that we have 44 responses, I thought I'd update you on the Kerouac favorite book survey. Below are the standings.

The Dharma Bums                 20.5%    (9)
On the Road                           18.2%    (8)
Big Sur                                   15.9%    (7)
Desolation Angels                  13.6%    (6)
The Subterraneans                 11.4%    (5)
Visions of Cody                         6.8%   (3)
Tristessa                                    4.5%   (2)
Dr. Sax                                      2.3%   (1)
Maggie Cassidy                        2.3%   (1)
The Town and the City              2.3%   (1)
Visions of Gerard                      2.3%   (1)


As you can see, The Dharma Bums -- rightfully -- has taken the lead away from On the Road. Ha! Am I going to Kerouac hell because I said rightfully? Tristessa picked up a vote and moved out of a last place 5-way tie.

Does anything surprise you about the results to date?

Here is the link in case you haven't voted yet: https://goo.gl/forms/a6ByhzyEZ79mFuVr2. All you have to do is visit the link, click a radio button next to your favorite Kerouac book, and click Submit. Three clicks. Easy!



Friday, December 14, 2018

December: A rite of passage month for Jack Kerouac



I was looking to do a "Jack Kerouac on this date" entry today but didn't find one for a year I haven't already posted about. There is a 1957 letter to Lucien Carr on December 14, but we already did 1957 and I'm trying not to repeat years. So, I looked through some chronologies that listed things that happened in December without a date.

One that struck my eye is that Jack lost his virginity to a red-haired prostitute in midtown Manhattan in December of 1939.* We know October was Jack's favorite month, but December must have held a special place in his memories as this is a rite of passage I assume most people never forget.

Although as I ponder my own experience, I have forgotten the month. Damn....

No matter, this is all trivial information at best and probably #NSFW to boot.

Cheer up -- we have additional favorite book surveys in and will report on that tomorrow.




*This is according to the Cosmic Baseball Association's Jack Kerouac Chronology and being more or less confirmed by Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (p. 67). I say "more or less" because Gerry's retelling of the story is a bit ambiguous on year (it's either 1939 or 1940 -- I doubt 1940, though, because Jack broke his leg playing football that October and probably wasn't being too engaged with prostitutes).

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kerouac favorite book survey results update #3

                                                          
Google forms won't display the key on one screen!
                                                         

With a respectable 39 responses to date, the My Favorite Kerouac Book Survey results are getting interesting. We have a tie for first place and a couple of books showed up for the first time. Every book on the list now has at least one vote. The only missing category is Other -- maybe I should have included Lonesome Traveler? Here are the results (the numbers in parentheses are the number of votes cast for that book):

On the Road                           20.5%   (8)
The Dharma Bums                 20.5%   (8)
Big Sur                                   15.4%   (6)
Desolation Angels                  12.8%   (5)
The Subterraneans                 10.3%   (4)
Visions of Cody                         7.7%  (3)
Dr. Sax                                      2.6%   (1)
Maggie Cassidy                        2.6%   (1)
The Town and the City              2.6%   (1)
Tristessa                                    2.6%   (1)
Visions of Gerard                      2.6%   (1)


As you can see, with a small n like we have here, a single vote one way or the other can make a big difference in percentage. Therefore it's good to look at the raw tallies in order to get a real perspective on how close things really are. 

Hopefully, no one is gaming the system and voting more than once.

Tally ho!



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What does that have to do with Jack Kerouac?



The title of this post is the question I try to ask myself every time I post here on The Daily Beat, given that I have frequently proclaimed it as "the most Kerouac-obsessed blog on the planet." Sometimes I publish a post and it is not explicitly obvious that the post relates to Jack Kerouac, in which case I try to remember to make that connection explicit.

I hope when I do the latter that I am not being insulting to Kerouac aficionados. I have to keep in mind that some folks stumble on my blog posts who don't know a thing about Kerouac, and therefore would likely not know the connection to Jack. Since that connection is the sine qua non of this blog, I feel compelled to spell it out when it's not explicit.

For example, I might post about Allen Ginsberg. True Kerouac fans know the Kerouac connection there, but even quasi-fans might not, let alone non-fans. Therefore, I may point out what is obvious to many (i.e., for example, that Ginsberg was one of the Beat Generation core members, friend of Kerouac, etc.).

I hope all of the above made sense. And I hope that my use of that is, for example, and et cetera in one parenthetical did not overly violate writing decorum.

My mission here is to keep the spirit of Jack Kerouac alive. To that end, every post I publish needs to have some connection to him, even if it's tangential at best.

Like I always say, "everything connects to Kerouac." If you doubt it, comment with some obscure topic and I'll do my best to connect it to Kerouac in a reply.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1963

Allen Ginsberg

On this date in 1963 -- December 11 (my birthday!) -- Jack Kerouac wrote from Northport, NY, to his friend John Clellon Holmes. With this letter, Kerouac sent a blurb for Holmes' book, Get Home Free, saying he liked it and that some parts of it were "great." Then Jack complains about Allen Ginsberg and the "bohemian beatniks" that hang around him:
Meanwhile, Allen G. is already here, I had no time to send him to you, as a matter of fact I dont even particularly wanta see him with his pro-Castro bullshit and his long white robe Messiah shot--I mean, actually too much mixup, I wanta stay home and think and read and write--Enough talk I've had these last 6 years around NY--He and all those bohemian beatniks round him have nothing NEW to tell me--I am Thomas Hardy now and that's that, back to my moor and my house (Ker) i' the moor (ouac)--Period. (p. 427)

(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999)


I don't have a lot to say about that excerpt, except to point out Jack's oft-expressed desire to be left alone to focus on reading and writing (and thinking). And, of course, his frequently stated disdain for aspects of the very countercultural movement he helped create.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kerouac favorite book survey results update #2


Now that we have a whopping 13 responses, here is the breakdown from my survey asking respondents to pick their favorite Kerouac book from a list:

On the Road               38.5%
Visions of Cody          23.1%
The Dharma Bums     15.4%
Dr. Sax                         7.7%
Desolation Angels       7.7%
The Subterraneans      7.7%


There's a lot wrong with this survey. Too many choices for one item. Not a big enough response. No restriction on voting multiple times. No way to tell if a respondent had actually read all the choices and thus made an educated choice (versus, for example, picking the one book they had read).

Consequently, one cannot put any stock in the results, despite them looking pretty much as expected. But the point was fun (see original post), after all, and not science.

If a few more votes drift in, I'll provide another update.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1964

James Joyce

On this date -- December 8 -- in 1964, Jack Kerouac wrote a letter to his friend, John Clellon Holmes. Jack was living in St. Petersburg at the time. He addressed Holmes in the greeting as "Dear John Boyo."

We can glean several important points from the letter.

1. Jack had been reading about James Joyce and was feeling motivated to return to his writing.
I've just finished reading the life of James Joyce and feel it's worthwhile after all to study and struggle through life and suffer and shit and sweat, while people laugh at you, rich or poor, famous or not-famous, and come to the margin of the sea at the end of life and say: "I've got my life work done, annaliviaplurabelle is the belle of all belles forever." Yowsah, John, it made me feel like getting back to my work.... 
But now, in the peace of this, my new Florida study, I'm starting to churn for new work, to add to that long shelf Duluoz Legend, fill in the gap thar between Maggie Cassidy and On the Road and don't think for one minute that I feel inferior to James Joyce because my lifework arrangement is in installments that are eventually going to number in the twenties and that are cast as "narratives in time" rather than as universal and linguistic mellings in 2 long "poems" like ULYSSES and FINNEGANS WAKE. No sir, I got my lil old bangtail way, to arrive at the same sea margin satisfied. (p. 439)
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999)

In case you didn't know (I didn't), Anna Livia Plurabelle is a character in Finnegans Wake. I've never successfully made my way through an entire Joyce work, and never even gave FW a spin. "Sea margin" is a nautical technical term about engine power needed to reach a certain speed given the wind, wave, and other factors. Jack may have been using that term as a metaphor for getting things right and reaching your ultimate destination successfully.


2. Kerouac's book, Desolation Angels, was making progress toward publication.
As you know, I guess, "Desolation Angels" is going into galleys now at Coward-McCann's. Twice as long as when you [illeg.] read it (another novel added on to it, the sequel.) I think I told you all this. (p. 439)
We could say a lot here about DA, but I will save that for another post.


3. Jack spent some time in jail.
I've been drunk, John, drunk on Scotch and beer chasers. Enough, now I'm through with that and going back to my private philologies. I went to jail on Thanksgiving night for putting a bun on in honor of the pilgrims. The cops saw me piss in the street. First time in jail. Okay, so I ain't spending no more money on the businesses of St. Petersburg but staying home to work on my private philologies. (p. 440)

I think it's worth noting that here, as in other letters, Jack acknowledges that he has a drinking problem and wants to remedy it.  It's too bad he wasn't able to do it -- the Kerouac canon might be much larger than it already is. By the way, philology is the study of literary texts (I had to look that one up).


4. Jack wanted his address kept secret (this was a postscript).
Keep my address secret--I'm too happy to be back with my books! J.

There are three reasons I can think of for Jack desiring such privacy. One is that he was sorely tired of the hassles caused by fans and the media seeking him out. Two is that he needed privacy in order to read and write (see #1 above). Three is that he liked to keep his whereabouts unknown from ex-wife Joan Haverty, in case she wanted to modify Jack's child support payments for their daughter, Jan (born in 1952). Reasons one and two I can understand, but number three is not okay in my book. You make a child, you support that child. Period.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Kerouac favorite book survey results update


Yesterday we launched a survey via Google forms asking respondents to pick their favorite Jack Kerouac book from a list. While we have limited numbers of respondents so far, there is currently a neck-and-neck tie between On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Visions of Cody (33% each).

If you still haven't taken the survey, click here.

Yes, I voted and you likely know how.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

My Favorite Kerouac Book: A Quick Survey



Just for fun, I created a one-question survey in Google Forms asking respondents (that's you) to pick their favorite Kerouac book from a list.

I hope you'll respond. I will share the results here at The Daily Beat. I think you are able to take the survey multiple times, but please don't do that.

Here is the link: My Favorite Kerouac Book: A Quick Survey.

All you need to do is click on the link, pick a book, and submit your answer. I'll do the rest.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1968

1968 Mercury Colony Park Wagon

On this date -- December 5 -- in 1968, Jack Kerouac wrote to Tony Sampas, brother of Jack's wife, Stella. That same date he wrote Tony another letter dictated by Stella. These are the last two surviving letters from Kerouac in 1968.

In Jack's letter to Tony, he wrote a description of their move from Lowell to St. Petersburg in a "Lincoln Mercury stationwagon" driven by Red Doherty and Joe Chaput with Jack's mom (Mémère) on a mattress in the back with Stella on pillows and two cats ("with pre-tranquilized catfood"). Their furniture followed in another truck driven by Jim Dumphy.
I stayed awake all the way, drinking and yelling and playing harmonica and watching that old road, as usual, and I insisted on riding shotgun near the window because I told old Joe he was skinnier than I am, and Red was skinny--We piled right in--I was amazed when I thought of it a week later--Of course it cost money but we got here safe and fast like a long, soft river . . . . (p. 526)
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999)


Can't you just picture it? Jack says they went 90 most of the way and made it in less than 24 hours. They got stopped for speeding in South Carolina but the cop took pity on them when he saw Mémère and Stella and the cats in the back.

Once they got to St. Petersburg, Jack put Red and Joe up in a motel for a couple of nights while they waited for Dumphy, who had lost his way. They
went out and played pool and drank by the Gulf of Mexico waves at the Red Barn club, Red Doherty played partners all night with a cute young women detective (!) but me and Joe won most of the games . . . . (p. 526)

There's still a Red Barn Tavern in St. Petersburg at 5300 Haines Road North, but I doubt if it is the same place -- it's 5 miles from 5169 Tenth Avenue North where Jack and Stella and Mémère had moved.in mid-November 1968, but it's not "by the Gulf of Mexico waves."

Speaking of young women detectives, I am reading the first of Michael Connelly's Detective Renee Ballard series, The Late Show. It's not Kerouac, but it's pretty good.

What were you doing on December 5, 1968? I was about to become a teenager and had no idea Jack Kerouac existed, although at some point I may have seen his name in the Playboys we hid from our parents. We didn't read the articles . . . .




Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Jack Kerouac and bluegrass music



What about Jack Kerouac and bluegrass music, two passions of mine? Is there a connection?

We know Jack loved jazz, and jazz and blues influenced the originator of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, along with traditional music from Ireland/Scotland/England (think fiddle tunes) and southern gospel music.

Previously I've mentioned bluegrass 15 times here on The Daily Beat:

July 22, 2018
March 5, 2018
February 8, 2018
June 13, 2017
March 31, 2017
December 4, 2016
March 28, 2016
March 18, 2016
April 3, 2011
February 2, 2010
December 22, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 6, 2009
March 3, 2009
November 18, 2008


Railroad Earth, a currently popular Americana band that does some bluegrass, got their name from Kerouac's "The Railroad Earth" in Lonesome Traveler.

And then there's this from p. 217 of Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (speaking of Jack circa 1948 in NYC):
Performances of blues were rare in New York, but everyone in Cannastra's group bent an ear to his old race records, to hear in this music the roots of jazz. They listened to almost all forms of country music too, especially Bluegrass, which in New York was then called "plucking music" or "truckstop jukebox music." Jack shared their enthusiasm for it, and like the others he often danced to its driving rhythms. In one year they wore out twenty copies of "The Beatty Steel Blues," a straight instrumental, steel-guitar piece that later influenced rock-'n'-rollers like Elvis Presley. Although Bluegrass lacked the intricacy and revolutionary qualities of bop, it generated a fierce excitement just as bop did, and for that reason it was equally important to them. The folk singer Rambling Jack Elliott, a friend of Cannastra's, introduced the group to the classic Depression ballads of Woody Guthrie.

I'm going to assume here that the bluegrass Nicosia is referring to is truly bluegrass as we know it from Monroe on down to today (e.g., steel guitar is not a bluegrass instrument). I will quibble with the depiction of bluegrass as not having the intricacy of bop; it's always been intricate and has only gotten more complex since Bill Monroe's time. Revolutionary? Bluegrass is one of the few truly American genres of music.

Quibbles aside, it is good to think that Jack Kerouac enthusiastically listened to and even danced to bluegrass music. Knowing that may have been the case only makes me love him more.

As a bonus, click here for a link to my band, North Fork, performing a song I wrote, "Cry of the White Pine." That's me singing and playing the banjo. I played semi-professionally for 30+ years until my hand quit listening to my brain (dystonia).

Fortunately, I can still type. Typists get dystonia, too.





Monday, December 3, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1950



Jack Kerouac wrote a long letter to his muse, Neal Cassady, on this date -- December 3 -- in 1950. According to editor Ann Charters,
The newly married couple moved into Gabrielle's apartment in Richmond Hill to save money so they could travel to Mexico after Christmas . . . . Sitting at the rolltop desk in his "den" piled high with Joan's dressmaking material, Jack smoked a joint and wrote to Cassady while his wife showered and his mother watched a news program on television about the escalating war in Korea.
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1995, p. 237)


Jack was newly married to Joan Haverty, who bore him his only child, daughter Jan. Richmond Hill was in Queens, NYC. In this letter, Jack is playing around with titles for what would become On the Road:
Another welter piling up is not only the need for me to write and sell stories, and a new job I have doing synopsis for 20th Century at home for pay, but to write that fucking Road. Down the road night; American road night; Look our for Your Boy; Boy on the road; Hit the road; Lost on the road--I don't even know what to call it. (pp. 237-238)
This reminds me of a famous passage from On the Road:
"What's your road, man?--holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. Where body how?"
(On the Road, Penguin Books, 1976, p. 251)


In this letter Jack uses "elitch" as a code word for marijuana: "Elitch is bad for muscles unless you keep going like you do all day" (p. 239).

Jack continues to be unhappy with the reception and sales of his first published novel, The Town and the City:
My book is not being mentioned by the Xmas lists and not only that the critics who raved about my book have completely forgotten it . . . some who said it was one of the best novels of the year do not mention it . . . I have had the worst shitluck possible with that book and it is the same thing all the time with whatever I do . . . the curse of Melville . . . gods don't even want their favorites to have one peaceful shit in their lifetime [and so on] . . . . (p. 239).

Most of the rest of this letter is a detailed description of a bar fight involving Bill Cannastra (click here), Lucien Carr, and Jack against six or seven "hoodlums." The bar is not named but Kerouac calls it "that bar" so Neal is familiar with it; it is on a corner near Cannastra's house. I think Cannastra may have been living at 125 W. 21st Street, but I don't know NYC well enough to guess in which bar this fight took place and my quick run-through of Kerouac biographies didn't reveal anything. I doubt it was the San Remo as that was too far away (albeit it was on a corner). Maybe you know? Tell us in a comment.

I encourage you to get this collection (see below) and read Kerouac's rollicking letter to Neal Cassady for yourself.



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Sunday, December 2, 2018

New book about Los Angeles includes a Kerouac mention



A new book edited by David Kipen, Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters 1542 to 2018, seeks to provide various perspectives on Los Angeles via diaries and letters from 1542 to present day. According to this review in the NY Times, our boy Jack Kerouac is included in the mix. I don't know which Kerouac letter or journal is referenced, but it has something to do with drinking "'jumbo beers' in the hot sun." Maybe some astute reader can put their finger on the reference and let us know.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1958



Jack Kerouac wrote Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums) a long letter on this date -- December 1 -- in 1958. It is full of important insights about various topics. I point out four such topics below.


1. Jack was stressed out from all the attention he was getting in the limelight.
I haven't written because five thousand sillinesses have kept me from it: emergency letters and gaddam telegrams thrown on my doorstep noon and night and I have to answer them all one way or t'other.... If you only knew how horrible it was to be "famous" you wouldn't want it, in fact you don't want it.... I wanted to give you idea of what a crock of shit it is to have to satisfy every tom dick and harry stranger in the world.
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 192-193)


2. Jack was drinking too much.
I have to get some whiskey.... I have just been insulted again in Esquire who don't take my stories any more because I slept on the floor or their photography editor. At noon, drunk....
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 193)


3. Some content in Visions of Gerard came from Jack's mother, not his prodigious memory.
I have to go over Visions of Gerard and stick in a few new anecdotes (true ones) my mother remembers.
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 192)


4. Jack used Buddhist concepts to understand himself and the world.
I am going to stop calling it samsara and call it vicious circle.... I was in love with the world through blue purple curtains when I knew you and now I have to look at it through hard iron eyes. I will survive as myself just the same. I read the Diamond Sutra and I still know all about that self shit.
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 192-194)


And there's more. If you haven't read this letter, or the rest of this book, what are you waiting for? Where else are you going to find prose like this: "I was in love with the world through blue purple curtains when I knew you"? Make it an early Christmas present to yourself.