Thursday, September 19, 2019

Remembering Jack Kerouac's sister


Caroline "Nin" Kerouac Blake died on this date -- September 19 -- at age 45 in 1964. She appeared in several of Jack's works: Nin Duluoz in Doctor Sax and Visions of Gerard; Nin in Book of Dreams, Maggie Cassidy, Visions of CodyVanity of Duluoz; Ruth Martin in The Town and the City; and, Carolyn Blake in Book of Sketches. The excellent Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend lists her twice for Maggie Cassidy (as Nin and Jeannette Bissonette). I need to research that little wrinkle and I'll get back to you on it.

P.S. This was posted from the road on my smartphone so forgive the brevity and any errors.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

On the road and mobile blogging

We'll be "on the road" tomorrow and for a few days. Some Beat birthdays/death dates are coming up in September. I will try to blog about them via my phone, but no promises as mobile blogging is tough on my little Android.

Here they are in case I miss a post:

September 19     Caroline "Nin" Kerouac died in 1964
September 20     Edie Parker was born in 1922
September 30     Carolyn Cassady died in 2013


Those are the ones coming up in September that I know about. Drop me a line if you can think of another Beat-related birthday or death date

Happy Birthday to William Carlos Williams

Dr. William Carlos Williams

Poet William Carlos Williams was born this date -- September 17 -- in 1883. He was a significant influence on the Beat generation writers, especially Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg discusses a 1957 visit he and Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky paid to Williams here. Ginsberg says Kerouac romanced up Williams' wife, Flossie, in the kitchen. According to Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, when the visitors asked him to impart some wisdom, the 73-year-old Williams pointed out the window and smiled, saying, "'There's a lot of bastards out there'" (Memory Babe, 1994, p. 541).

You can read a little bit about Williams on the Friends of Kerouac site here. And, of course, you can Google him for more. Williams wrote the introduction to Ginsberg's most famous poem, "Howl."

Williams was Doctor Musial in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. In Memory Babe, Gerald Nicosia says Kerouac's writing style was influenced by Williams' "attempt to write with the 'measured pauses' of speech" (1994, p. 453).

Before presenting one of Williams' more well-known poems, I want to point out that he was not just an acclaimed poet, but also a practicing physician in his hometown of Rutherford, N.J.

I love the following poem by Williams. This version is from Poetry Foundation, a comprehensive poetry site where you can read a bio of Williams here.



Happy Birthday, Dr. Williams!


Saturday, September 14, 2019

You never know . . . .




In college, I had a professor who was also the wrestling coach. Wrestling was a big deal at Lock Haven State College (now University), and Coach Ken Cox was well-known for screaming "Shooooot!" from the edge of the mat when he wanted his wrestler to "shoot" in and perform a takedown on his opponent.

Another thing he was well-known for, at least by those of us who had him for classes, was him saying -- frequently -- "Y--y-ou never know."

And you don't. You may think you do, but you are just fooling yourself by holding onto certainty when, in fact, there isn't any. The only thing for certain is we are going to die. Some day, humans -- if there are any -- won't even be able to say the sun will come up in the morning.

To wit, last night we were out and about in our usual Friday night rounds in Hallowell, Maine, taking in some live music, and an acquaintance we hadn't seen in a while came in the bar. In our conversation he mentioned how much he appreciates my Kerouac ramblings on The Daily Beat. I never suspected him to be a regular reader or even a Kerouac fan, but as Coach Cox said, "You never know."

It's gratifying to know that when I go to the trouble of spinning some Kerouac or Kerouac-related yarn here in my blog that at least one person takes the time to read it. Pageviews don't mean someone has read a post, only that they clicked to the page.

Don, you made my night so here's to you for sharing unsolicited and positive feedback in a world too full of people who only point out the worst of things. If you read this and don't already have my Kerouac book, send me an e-mail (thebeathandbook@gmail.com) with your mailing address and I'll send you a signed copy to show my appreciation.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

His name was Robert Frank.



I just learned from our daily newspaper that famed photographer Robert Frank died on Monday in Inverness, Nova Scotia. He was 94.

Frank is perhaps best known for The Americans, his 1959 book of black-and-white photographs taken on cross-country road trips in the mid-1950s. After those trips, Frank met Jack Kerouac, who wrote an introduction for the U.S. version of The Americans:
That crazy feeling in America, when the sun is hot and music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral, that’s what Robert Frank has captured in tremendous photographs taken as he traveled on the road around practically forty-eight states in an old used car (on Guggenheim Fellowship) and with agility, mystery, genius, sadness, and strange secrecy of a shadow photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film.


Kerouacians may best know Frank for being the co-director, with Alfred Leslie, of the avant-garde Beat film, Pull My Daisy, which was adapted from Kerouac's play, Beat Generation. Kerouac narrated the short film -- you can watch it in its entirety on YouTube here

Frank and Kerouac were friends. Frank helped him house-hunt in Northport and then helped Jack move Jack's mom and their two cats, Tyke and Timmy, to Northport from Orlando. An essay about that trip, "On the Road to Florida," was published in Evergreen Review in January 1970 (after Jack's death). Frank appears in that essay under his own name. In a letter to Ginsberg in July 1958, Kerouac said that Frank thought Gregory Corso was the greatest poet. Jack met his lover Dody Müller at Frank's NYC Bowery loft in October 1958.

Read Frank's NY Times obit here.

RIP, Mr. Frank.


P.S. This post's title is a movie reference. Can you figure it out?


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Happy Anniversary to Crystal



Regular readers of The Daily Beat see references to Crystal, so I thought it would be appropriate to give her a shout-out on our anniversary. We met 14 years ago today (online via Cupid). She's put up with my Kerouac obsession for that long, one of the many things about her that make her a "keeper."

Happy Anniversary, sweetie! YAUTMIATW! 143!



Monday, September 9, 2019

Food seriousness: A random quote from Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums



Herewith I present you with a random quote from my favorite Jack Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums:
. . . I wished the whole world was dead serious about food instead of silly rockets and machines and explosives using everybody's food money to blow their heads off anyway. (Penguin, 1976, p. 217)

Perhaps this passage was not chosen totally at random. As I was thumbing through, it spoke to me, remdinding me of Bill Maher's "New Rules" segment on Friday night's show and his lament that our current eating habits in this country, which lead to obesity, are a major cause of our health problems. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dm4TAdiEFn0.



Sunday, September 8, 2019

Poetry review: Word Against the Machine by Jane 'SpokenWord' Grenier and Albey 'onBass' Balgochian


Every once in a while something comes along out of the blue that restores one's faith in humanity, and that's what I want to say about this book of poetry. Sent to me unsolicited for review by co-author Jane 'SpokenWord' Grenier, it reminded me that there are others out there who are beyond disturbed at the state of our world, from the corruption in politics to the devastation of our environment to the corporate takeover and ruination of everything holy.

I get the sense -- from Jane's nickname and from the available audio recordings of several of these poems accompanied by co-author Albey 'onBass' Balgochian  on bass -- that this poetry is meant to be experienced auditorily, such as at a slam poetry or spoken word event. Nevertheless, it stands on its own as solid poetry whether read aloud or in silence.

The themes of these poems are founded in resistance to the evils facing us in this country today, from the current occupant of the White House ("I woke up to an orange man president with a wig hat on" in "Darkness of Knight, p. 7) to the corporatization of the food supply ("those who control the food, control the world" in "Those who Control the World, p. 37) to the destruction of the environment ("I'm her to tell you that it's you that I fear, all that smell you smear on daily from your toes up to your hair" in "Anthrax and Bombs," p. 19) to the folly of religion ("as long as it's your version of god then you're happy" in "Bang your Dead," p. 28) to racial injustice ("where is your outrage?" in "Reparations," p. 36).

Co-author Balgochian lends his mysterious line drawings to the book. The last three poems are strong back-and-forth collaborations with poets Michael 'Warrior' Bonds, Art Collins, and John Sinclair. In one of them you'll see a reference to "the King Alfred Plan." I won't say more about that, but you may want to Google it.

There are connections to Jack Kerouac here. Grenier uses neologisms such as "politricks" and "deNOTcracy" in "I Write" to make her points. Jack would dig that. And her poem "I am a poet" was chosen for publication in "We Are Beat," the National Beat Poetry Foundation Anthology 2019. There's a Beat flavor to this poetry, as well as a Beat attitude toward social conventions. Finally, it's poetry, and Jack was a poet of considerable note as we've pointed out repeatedly in this blog.

Overall, this book is a wake-up call, a call to action from a devout member of "the resistance" who understands that "silence is death" (in "Winter has come to America," p. 12). As such, I can only say huzzah and encourage readers to buy the book (available at https://janespokenword.com/purchase.html, where you can also buy the audio versions).

Remember, "you're never too old to mend your soul" (in "JIMI," p. 34).


Friday, September 6, 2019

September 6: A macabre date in the Kerouac saga

Natalie Jackson (L) and Joan Vollmer (R)

Two woman associated with Jack Kerouac died young in tragic ways and they share today's date, one because it's her birthday and the other because it's the day she died.

Natalie Jackson was born on this date -- September 6 -- in 1931. She was Rosie Buchanan in The Dharma Bums and Rosemarie in Desolation Angels, Big Sur, and Book of Dreams. She died from suicide at age 24 in 1955.

Joan Vollmer died on this date in 1951 at the age of 28 when she was killed by her common-law husband, William S. Burroughs, who was allegedly trying to shoot a water glass off her head in William Tell style using a pistol. Vollmer was Jane Lee in On The Road; Jane in The Subterraneans; June Evans in Book of Dreams, Desolation Angels, and Vanity of Duluoz; June Hubbard in Visions of Cody; Joan in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; Mary Dennison in The Town and the City; and, "my old lady" in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

It's no wonder Vollmer shows up prominently in Kerouac's works, given that she was a central figure in the early days of the Beats. The New York City apartment she shared with Edie Parker (who later married Kerouac) became the unofficial hangout for Beat figures between 1943-1944. Vollmer was an active participant in the famous marathon discussions that took place in apartment No. 62 at 421 W. 118th Street. According to Bill Morgan in The Beat Generation in New York, "Kerouac often said that the happiest days of his life were spent" there (p. 11).

Jackson, who was a model of Robert LaVigne's, gained Beat notoriety from having an affair with Kerouac muse Neal Cassady. She killed herself by slitting her throat and throwing herself off the roof of 1051 Franklin Street (reached from her apartment's roof at 1041) in San Francisco, supposedly over her fear of the consequences from having impersonated Neal's wife, Carolyn, to help him get money from the bank for a race track betting scheme. Kerouac describes Jackson's death in The Dharma Bums Chapter 15.

In summary, what links Natalie Jackson and Joan Vollmer is that they were Beat figures who died tragically and young and they share this important date, for one a beginning and for the other an ending. As the Oracle says in The Matrix, "Everything that has a beginning . . . has an end."

Here's to remembering Natalie's beginning and Joan's ending on this macabre date in the Kerouac saga.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Happy 62nd Anniversary to On The Road!

My well-loved copy of On The Road (the tabs are
from when I taught a yearly Kerouac class at the University of Maine at Farmington from 2013-2017)
which I curated here

Jack Kerouac's On The Road was published 62 years ago today on September 5, 1957. It garnered a rave review from the New York Times (the regular reviewer didn't like the book but was on vacation -- a stroke of luck for Jack) -- click here to read the review -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

I don't know what can be said about the importance of this book -- and therefore this date in history -- that hasn't already been said better by smarter folks than yours truly. Suffice to say that on today's date in 1957, Jack Kerouac started on the path of fame we all know so well, with its ups and downs, strikes and gutters (Jack would appreciate that movie reference).

It's not my favorite book of Jack's -- that honor goes to The Dharma Bums -- but it's certainly his most well-known work and, as I found when teaching it at the college level, it stands the test of time fairly well. Many students were into it (and some were not, but you could say that about pretty much any book you require a group of young people to read).

In honor of today's significance, it would be appropriate to read some of On The Road.* Just grab your dog-eared copy and open to a random section and read. If that's not possible, below is the last paragraph (which Jack read aloud in 1959 on the Steve Allen TV show mashed up with a section from Visions of Cody -- here's a link so you can read along).
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

With that, we wish On The Road a happy anniversary. Yair!




*Or read the whole book, which is do-able in several hours.




Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A significant Kerouac-related birthday of note

Justin W. Brierly
On this date -- September 3 -- Justin W. Brierly was born in 1905. Brierly appeared in several Kerouac books: as Denver D. Doll in On The Road, Justin G. Mannerly in Visions of Cody, and Manley G. Mannerly in Book of Dreams.

Brierly is particularly noteworthy in the Kerouac saga as he was instrumental in grooming a young Neal Cassady during his Denver years. Brierly was a Columbia University graduate, and it is no stretch to say that he was responsible, at least in part, for Cassady and Kerouac connecting at Columbia (where Jack also attended). Another Columbia student, Hal Chase, was a Brierly protégé and he (Chase) introduced Cassady to Kerouac.

No Cassady-Kerouac connection, no On The Road, and so . . . no Brierly, no Kerouac. At least as we know him.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Today's Kerouac-related birthday of note

David Kammerer

For those of you steeped in Beat lore, the name David Kammerer needs no explanation. For those of you new to the subject or with only passing Kerouacian knowledge, Kammerer was the man killed by Lucien Carr (stabbed to death with a Boy Scout knife) and Kerouac -- in trying to help him cover up the crime -- was arrested as an accessory after-the-fact and ended up in jail (which resulted in Jack marrying Edie Parker to get bail money from her parents when his own father, Leo, wouldn't spring him, but that is another story).

Kerouac recounted this story in several works, and Kammerer appeared in Visions of Cody as Dave Stroheim, Vanity of Duluoz as Franz (Swinburne) Mueller, The Town and the City as Waldo Meister, Ramsey Allen in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, and Alfred in The Haunted Life (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend).

My point? Kammerer was born this date -- September 2 -- in 1911. So even though he (allegedly) stalked Carr around the country and was murdered as a result, we remember him on his birthday as playing a significant role in the Kerouac saga.



P.S. As I was on the road for the last 5 days, I missed pointing out that Chandler Brossard died on August 29, 1993. We wished him a happy birthday on July 18 so you can read the Kerouac connection in that post (click here).