Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Remembering Natalie Jackson


Natalie Jackson

24-year-old Natalie Jackson died on this date -- November 30 -- in 1955. She was Rosie Buchanan in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums and Rosemarie in Desolation AngelsBig Sur, and Book of Dreams.

Jackson, who was a model of Robert LaVigne's, gained Beat notoriety from having an affair with Kerouac's 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 Neal get money from the bank for a race track betting scheme. Kerouac describes Jackson's death in The Dharma Bums Chapter 15 thus:
The musicians and I drank up all the wine and talked, till about midnight, and Rosie seemed to be all right now, lying on the couch, talking, even laughing a bit, eating her sand­wiches and drinking some tea I'd brewed her. The musi­cians left and I slept on the kitchen floor in my new sleeping bag. But when Cody came home that night and I was gone she went up on the roof while he was asleep and broke the skylight to get jagged bits of glass to cut her wrists, and was sitting there bleeding at dawn when a neighbor saw her and sent for the cops and when the cops ran out on the roof to help her that was it: she saw the great cops who were going to arrest us all and made a run for the roof edge. The young Irish cop made a flying tackle and just got a hold of her bathrobe but she fell out of it and fell naked to the sidewalk six flights below. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 112)

Note that I reported she cut her throat but Kerouac said wrists. I depended on Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac for the throat detail (University of California Press, 1994, p. 499). And it seems Natalie didn't necessarily throw herself off the roof, but may have accidentally fallen off while backing away from the police officer who attempted to grab her. It's hard to say if she would have survived cutting herself had the police been successful in preventing her fall.

Jack wrote about Natalie in Some of the Dharma:
(About this time Natalie Jackson committed suicide----I tried to tell her everything was empty, including her paranoiac idea that the cops were after her & all of us---she said O YOU DON'T KNOW! then the next day she was found dazed on the roof and when a cop tried to catch her she jumped, off Neal's tenement roof) (Penguin Books, 1999, p. 346)
Regardless of specifics, Natalie died tragically and too young, one of several Beat figures to do so (e.g., Bill Cannastra and David Kammerer).

RIP, Ms. Jackson.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving from The Daily Beat

 


We are soon off to a family get-together and I wanted to take a minute and express my thanks to everyone who reads The Daily Beat and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Blessings to all who have little or no reason to be thankful today. We see you and acknowledge your pain.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

Happy Belated 91st Birthday to Kerouac pal, David Amram


Trading books with David in Lowell in 2011

Musician and Jack Kerouac close friend David Amram turned 91 years old yesterday, November 17. David (I call him that having met him and talked with him a number of times at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! and having traded books with him there -- click HERE) wrote a book titled Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac (curated HERE) and was an intimate acquaintance of Jack Kerouac's, yet I don't think he appears in any of Kerouac's works, under pseudonym or otherwise. He did appear in and write the music for the Beat film narrated by Kerouac, Pull My Daisy, which you can watch HERE and read David's thoughts about in an Evergreen Review piece HERE.

There is an official David Amram website with a ton of information -- click HERE

If you know David or know about him, you know that he is an amazing force of nature, consummate musician, and all-around nice guy. It's good that such a fine human being has enjoyed such a long life and I wish him many more years.

In July 1968, Kerouac wrote the following on a postcard to David, who had sent him phonograph records and a musical setting of a section of Lonesome Traveler;

Dear Dave--

You must have a secretary to be able to turn out so much work and at the same time mail records to people--I just sent you this little note to thank you for the beautiful records--I have no piccolo but (picolo) I had the nextdoor Lutheran minister play me the Lonesome Traveler piece and of course I found it beautiful--I have just signed your Peters contract [permission to quote the text] and it will be in to you soon, a week or so--That's the main thing--I wish you success with this land of ours oratorio--I'll buy a picolo next year and play the other records too--So, vell, kidsel, see you in N.Y. sometime next year . . . .Excuse the postcard but I have so much mail and not time to buy envelopes ugh, fame is a drag to anybody who wants new work done . . . . as you know already . . . stick to guns . . . I'll do same

                                                                                                                    Jack (Kerouac)

(Source: Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 516.)


Happy Belated 91st, David!


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Remembering Alan Watts

                                             


Spiritual entertainer and philosopher/writer Alan Watts died on this date -- November 16 -- in 1973. He appeared in two Jack Kerouac novels: as Arthur Whane in The Dharma Bums and as Alex Aums in Desolation Angels.

I've read and listened to Watts a lot, and he continues to impress me with his ability to make Eastern spirituality understandable. We are lucky that we have his books, videos (see YouTube), the official website (alanwatts.org), and even phone apps where we can access his unique ability to entertain and teach at the same time. Click HERE for one of my favorite Watts short lectures animated by the creators of South Park

I posted about Kerouac and Watts on July 24, 2011 (click HERE).

RIP, Mr. Watts.


Friday, November 12, 2021

Remembering Alan Ansen (Rollo Greb in On The Road)

 

Alan Ansen in 1973

Writer Alan Ansen died on this date -- November 12 -- in 2006. He appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Rollo Greb in On The Road; Austin Bromberg in The Subterraneans; Irwin Swenson in Book of Dreams and Visions of Cody; Amadeus Baroque in Doctor Sax; and, Allen Ansen in Book of Sketches. HERE is a nice remembrance of Ansen along with a sample of his poetry.

Jack (Sal) talks about Ansen (Rollo Greb) in On The Road as follows:
Everything happened. We found the wild, ecstatic Rollo Greb and spent a night at his house on Long Island. Rollo lives in a nice house with his aunt; when she dies the house is all his. Meanwhile she refuses to comply with any of his wishes and hates his friends. He brought this ragged gang of Dean, Marylou, Ed, and me, and began a roaring party. The woman prowled upstairs; she threatened to call the police. "Oh, shut up, you old bag!" yelled Greb. I wondered how he could live with her like this. He had more books than I've ever seen in all my life--two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls, and such books as the Apocryphal Something-or-Other in ten volumes. He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn't give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life. Dean stood before him with head bowed, repeating over and over again, "Yes . . . Yes . . . Yes." He took me into a corner. "That Rollo Greb is the greatest, most wonderful of all. That's what I was trying to tell you--that's what I want to be. I want to be like him. He's never hung-up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth. Man, he's the end! You see, if you go like him all the time you'll finally get it."
          "Get what?"
"IT! IT! I'll tell you-now no time, we have no time now." Dean rushed back to watch Rollo Greb some more. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 127)

Notice, in particular, that Ansen had "IT," which I write about in my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, on Day 85 (click here for a post about that particular entry).

Understanding what IT is can be a challenge, but it's important and I hope the below excerpt from my book helps:
Dean and Sal are sitting in the back of a travel bureau car at the beginning of their way back East. Dean has been going on about IT. What is IT? I can't explain it with concepts and even if I could you couldn't understand it with your mind. Maybe it's that state where you find yourself and you lose yourself, like Bodhi talks about in the movie, Point Break. Or maybe it's the state Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls "flow" (1991). Or maybe it's the state of no mind, beginner's mind, where you know everything and you know nothing and you know that this moment is everything and nothing at the same time and words don't matter at all. It is understanding without words, without thought, like when you and a friend both experience something and look at each other and words are unnecessary. 
But what's the Kerouaction, you ask? Be fully present every moment. Experience everything like you were going to die tomorrow. See, feel, smell, hear, and taste with reckless abandon whatever is in the moment. Things are fine just like they are, right this minute, right now. And there is no need to label what is. As Alan Watts pointed out, the sound of the rain needs no explanation. (p. 187)

I may be off-base on IT, but then it's an ineffable concept so even if I fully understood it, I would be incapable of defining it adequately.

So be IT.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Stella Sampas Kerouac

 

Jack and Stella

Jack Kerouac's third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, was born this date -- November 11 -- in 1918. She appeared once in Kerouac's works under pseudonym: as Stavroula Savakis in Vanity of Duluoz.

That particular book, dedicated to Stavroula, starts out:

All right, wifey, maybe I'm a big pain in the you-know-what but after I've given you a recitation of the troubles I had to go through to make good in America between 1935 and more or less now, 1967, and although I also know everybody in the world's had his own troubles, you'll understand that my particular form of anguish came from being too sensitive to all the lunkheads I had to deal with just so I could get to be a high school football star, a college student pouring coffee and washing dishes and scrimmaging till dark and reading Homer's Iliad in three days all at the same time, and God help me, a WRITER whose very 'success', far from being a happy triumph as of old, was the sign of doom Himself. (1994, Penguin Books, p. 9)


True Kerouacians know that Stella was the sister of Sebastian Sampas, Jack's close friend of youth and a significant influence on his intellectual and emotional development. Stella was instrumental in providing care to Jack's mother, who lived with them, and some have suggested that was the main reason he married her. Jack was dismissive of her input into  his business affairs in a September 27, 1968 letter to agent Sterling Lord, saying, "I think she oughta mind her own business and wash her dishes" (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 520). He did share with her his inner thoughts, though, as evidenced by this excerpt from an October 1957 letter to Stella:

Every night I thank God that's it's only a show in his mind. Since thought is unthinkable, and the world a thought in God's mind, what world is there? Think of your dead ancestors, now did they really truly appear and disappear? Twould seem to me that the nature of appearance and disappearance is in conformity with the nature of non-appearance and non-disappearance . . . . Go to the source for your spiritual comfort. The world is a primordial mystery and never even happened. Five falling stars every minute on a dark night mountaintop I saw. The name of the mountain was Desolation Peak. I was in bliss. (p. 520)

Since it's Stella's birthday, we won't get into the Kerouac estate controversy that swirled (swirls?) around her and her family.

Suffice to say that she played a critically important role in the Kerouac story, and we wish her a Happy Birthday in Heaven.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Remembering Arthur Rimbaud

French poet Arthur Rimbaud died on this date -- November 10 -- in 1891 at the young age of 37. He influenced many other poets, including a young Jack Kerouac and the other early Beat figures like William S. Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, and Lucien Carr. You can read a bio of Rimbaud and some of his poetry HERE.

Elbert Lenrow, who had lectured on American writers at classes Jack had taken at the New School, said of Rimbaud after publication of On The Road, "'I suppose he would have liked your people, 'the mad ones.' And you've got their quintessences'" (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 105). Time magazine invoked Rimbaud to criticize Jack's The Subterraneans, writing that Kerouac "'is not Rimbaud but a kind of latrine laureate of Hobohemia'" (p. 137). Jack himself cited Rimbaud's influence thus: 

Finally I entered a romantic phase with Rimbaud and Blake which I called my "self-ultimacy" period, burning what I wrote in order to be "Self-ultimate." (p. 248)

Don't you wish you could read what Jack burned?

In 1958, Jack wrote a poem titled, "Rimbaud." It was published as a broadside by City Lights in 1960 after originally appearing in LeRoi Jone's (Amiri Baraka's) underground poetry magazine, Yugen 6  in 1959 (p. 265). HERE is a link to the poem.

RIP in Heaven, Mr. Rimbaud.