Saturday, June 12, 2021

Remembering Stanley Twardowicz

Stanley Twardowicz

Jack Kerouac's Northport friend, painter/photographer Stanley Twardowicz, died on this date -- June 12 -- in 2008. He appeared in one Kerouac novel, Satori in Paris, under his own name. To wit --

Spend most of the time talking to big corpulent Breton cabdrivers, what I learned in Brittany is "Don't be afraid to be big, fat, be yourself if you're big and fat." Those big fat sonumgun Bretons waddle around as tho the last whore of summer war lookin for her first lay. You can't drive a spike with a tack hammer, say the Polocks, well at least said Stanley Twardowicz which is another country I've never seen. You can drive a nail, but not a spike. (Satori in Paris & Pic, 1988, Grove Press, p. 108)
In January 1968, Jack wrote to Twardowicz, thanking him for a Christmas gift.
Dear Stanley:
When your fruitcake arrived as usual, as wd. be expected from a fruitcake, Stella said to me: "Now who is it that remembers you at each Christmastime?" I said: "Gordo?" She said: "Guess again?" I said: "Lucien? Allen? Peter? John the Baptist?""Awright," I shouted, "Ho?" She said "Stanley." Thank you, will eat, it, and love to "Blondie" too.
                                                                                                        Jack

The Bishop orders you not to beat it too much. (Beat the Bishop)

 (Source: Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 507)

I don't know if Jack intended that comma after eat or if it's a typo.

RIP, Mr. Twardowicz.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Remembering Kenneth Rexroth

 


Kenneth Rexroth

Poet and critic Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth, who we wished a happy birthday in December (click HERE), died on this date -- June 6 -- in 1982. Rexroth appeared in only one of Jack Kerouac's books, The Dharma Bums (my favorite), as Rheinhold Cacoethes.

Rexroth and Kerouac were not chums. As Gerald Nicosia points out in Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, Rexroth often put Jack down with snide remarks (1994, University of California Press, p. 491). Jack returned the favor by naming him "Cacoethes," which means "the irresistible urge to do something inadvisable."

Notably, Rexroth was the master of ceremonies at the famous Six Gallery poetry reading in October 1955. You can read more about him HERE as well as some of his poetry.

Random thought: I rather think the younger Rexroth looks like actor Steve Zahn.


A young Rexroth

Actor Steve Zahn


RIP, Mr. Rexroth.


Belatedly remembering Jan Kerouac

                                                 



Writer Jan Kerouac, Jack's only child, died on yesterday's date -- June 5 -- in 1996. We wished her a happy birthday and provided some info about her back in February. You can access that post HERE.

A fitting book to check out today, in addition to any of Jan's own novels (Baby DriverTrainsong, and Parrot Fever (unpublished but a chapbook is available from Gerald Nicosia) would be Nicosia's The Last Days of Jan Kerouac (Noodlebrain Press, PO Box 130, Corte Madera, CA 94976-0130). Click HERE for a European Beat Studies Network interview with Nicosia about this book.

Like her father, Jan died too young (age 44) and had a promising writing career cut short, most likely from similar lifestyle choices involving intoxicants. To which I say: Life is short. Live every minute of it.

RIP, Ms. Kerouac.



Thursday, June 3, 2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Allen Ginsberg

 

Allen Ginsberg

Poet and core Beat Generation member Allen Ginsberg was born on this date -- June 3 --  in 1926. He appeared in a number of Jack Kerouac's works: as Carlo Marx in On The Road; Alvah Goldbook in The Dharma Bums; Adam Moorad in The Subterraneans; Irwin Garden in Big SurDesolation AngelsVisions of CodyBook of Dreams, and Vanity of Duluoz; Leon Levinski in The Town and the City; Allen Goldbook in an early draft of Beat Generation; Bleistein in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; Allen Ginsberg in Pull My Daisy; and Leo in Orpheus Emerged.

The influence of Ginsberg on the other Beat writers, including acting as their agent/promoter, and his impact on the culture from the 50s to the 90s cannot be overstated. One need only read the above list of appearances in Kerouac's works to imagine his importance to Jack. You can read a short bio and some of his poetry by clicking HERE.

In honor of his birthday, Allen would dig it if you read some of his poetry, especially aloud. Even better, read along while listening to him read his own work. It's all out there on the interwebz.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Ginsberg.


NOTE: This is basically a repost of last year's post on this date. Hey, I'm allowed to plagiarize myself!



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A "two-fer" Kerouac date

 

Gerard Kerouac (left) and Albert Saijo

On this date -- June 2 -- two important figures in Jack Kerouac's world died, his brother Gerard in 1926 and his friend Albert Saijo in 2011. Gerard appeared as Gerard Duluoz in Visions of Gerard, Doctor Sax, Visions of Cody, and Book of Dreams; and as Julian in The Town and the City. Albert appeared as George Baso in Big Sur and co-authored Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road with Kerouac and Lew Welch based on a road trip across America in Welch's Jeep.

In honor of Gerard, here's a passage from Visions of Gerard (Penguin Books, 1991, pp. 32-33):
"Ainsi soit-il," amen, none of them knowing either what that meant, "thus it is," it is what is and that's all it is--thinking ainsi soit-il to be some mystic priestly secret word invoked at altar--The innocence and yet intrinsic purity-understanding with which the Hail Mary was done, as Gerard, now knelt in his secure pew, prepares to visit the priest in his ambuscade and palace hut with the drapes that keep swishing aside as repentent in-and-out sinners come-and-go burdened and dismembered as the case may be and is, amen--

In honor of Albert, here's a haiku of his from Trip Trap (City Lights/Grey Fox, 1998, p. 32).

    Grain elevators on 
                Saturday lonely as
Abandoned toys


It is a mystical synchronicity that both of the above passages come from page 32 in their respective sources. First of all, 32 is 23 backwards, and we all know the mystical significance of the number 23 (see my post HERE). Plus, I randomly picked Albert's selection first and then thumbed through Gerard to look for a section that'd been underlined (by the previous owner of the book in this case) and this was the first one I saw.

RIP, Master Kerouac and Mr. Saijo. We remember you on this day.


NOTE: For careful readers, this is indeed a re-print of a previous post.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Thinking about death today (again)

 

Jack Kerouac's grave in Edson Cemetery, Lowell, MA

Today I find myself again thinking about death* (see my April 21 post). My own, that of others I've known, others I haven't known (it's Memorial Day, after all, so one should remember the fallen** on this day especially). Jack Kerouac was no stranger to thoughts of death. He lost his older brother when the latter was only 9 years old and his father at the young age of 56. Jack himself only made it to 47. He frequently opined about death in his works, most notably saying he wrote Visions of Cody because "we're all going to die" and longing in Mexico City Blues (211th Chorus) to be "free of this slaving meat wheel."

I was pondering the time I have left when I happened on The Death Clock, which lets you input basic data about yourself and then tells you the date you will die. I don't know how scientific it is, but it is based on age and Body Mass Index (it includes a BMI calculator) and smoker status, so there's that. You can tell it to calculate in Normal, Pessimistic, Sadistic, or Optimistic  mode. For me that translated to:

Normal            =     September 22, 2029 (dead at 73 years old)

Pessimistic      =     July 8, 2013 (dead already)

Sadistic           =     September 21, 1992 (dead already)

Optimistic       =     November 28, 2041 (dead at 85 years old)

I'm 65 now, so a normal mode gives me a whopping 8 years to go. In the pessimistic and sadistic modes I already would have died (I wonder what I was doing on those two dates and whether I unknowingly "dodged a bullet"). Optimistic mode gives me till I'm 85 (20 years to go), which I will note is exactly how old my mom and dad were when they died. I'll plan on 85 but have to admit that, no matter what, it's been a good run.

If you give the calculator a go, don't blame me if it puts you in a low mood. I like to think of it as a perspective adjuster.

Remembering Linda, Charlie, Tom, mom and dad, brothers Jim and Billy, grandma and grandpa, and too many others to mention today.


*    FYI, I am not having suicidal ideations.
**  Which reminds me of a favorite toast: "To the fallen."


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Remembering Peter Orlovsky

 

Famous Ginsberg photo of Orlovsky (Left), Kerouac (Middle), and Burroughs (Right) on a Moroccan beach in March 1957
(c) Allen Ginsberg

On this date -- May 30, in 2010, Peter Orlovsky died. The obvious Kerouac connection here is that Orlovsky was a longtime partner of central Beat Generation figure Allen Ginsberg. Orlovsky appeared in several Jack Kerouac works as follows:

Character Name           Book

George                            The Dharma Bums
Simon Darlovsky           Desolation Angels
Simon                            Book of Dreams
Paul                               Beat Generation


Here are a couple of links for more information:

NY Times obit

Rebellious Love: Allen Ginsberg & Peter Orlovsky

You can also check out his brief bio on friendsofkerouac.com, which features a great picture of Orlovsky with Ginsberg.

Below is an entire letter that Kerouac wrote to Orlovsky in September 1956. I include this as it is the only letter in the two collected letters volumes edited by Ann Charters that Jack wrote just to Peter (as opposed to Peter and Allen et al.).

Dear Peter,

    I went  home to rest & work--I'll meet you and Allen here on Saturday night unless you change plans by phoning me. Tell Allen the piece of Burroughs I suggest for Black Mountain [Review] would be the whole vision of the Yage City. 
                                                                                                                         Jack 

(Source: Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 586)