Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Kerouac-olutions

Below are my New Year's Kerouac-olutions for 2009 A.D.:

1. Read The Subterraneans
2. Blog every day
3. Attend Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! 2009
4. Read Ann Charters' Kerouac biography
5. Publish Charlie's book of poetry
6. Increase my blog traffic to 50+ visits per day
7. Continue the monthly free book giveaway
8. See my book reviewed in a "legit" newspaper or magazine
9. Send a copy of my book to David Amram
10. Accomplish at least 20 additional Kerouactions from The Beat Handbook

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The newest Kerouac novel

Kerouac fans are probably aware of the most recently published Kerouac novel, the one he co-wrote with William Burroughs: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Sitting in the Philadelphia airport on Sunday afternoon, I happened upon a copy of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer someone had left behind and saw this review of the book: Hippos review. The review contains a concise beat history of Kerouac meeting Carr and Ginsberg and Kammerer and it's fairly positive about the novel.

I do plan to read Hippos, but it's low on my priority list. First I want to finish The Beat Face of God. Then it's on to Empty Phantoms: Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Beat travelogue from my trip to Philly

Here are a couple of highlights from my whirlwind trip to Philadelphia to present at the American Philosophical Association conference.

Air travel to Philadelphia from Portland was straightforward enough. We had a slight delay, and were completely boarded, seated, and waiting at the jetway. All cabin lights were on, the air was running, etc. Noisy. The captain came on and said "Good morning from the flight deck. This is Captain Joe Something-or-other. Our first mate is going to fly us to Philadelphia this morning. I apologize for the slight delay. It's a busy day in Philly and air traffic control has us waiting just a bit. We have a departure time now of 12:45, so we are going to taxi out and wait on the runway for the go-ahead. It's a good thing we've boarded because that gets us into the system and ...." Power loss. Lights off. Air stops.

We hear him say, "Oh, Jesus!"


A few nervous twitters.

Several minutes later power comes back on and the captain says that these new planes are kind of like laptops and he fixed it with Control-Alt-Delete.

Those of us aboard hoped that Control-Alt-Delete would work very very quickly in case we lost power at 20,000 feet.

U.S Airways. You gotta love it.

Anyway, I got to PHL safely. I was traveling light and only had a carry on, so it was right to ground transportation and I caught a taxi to the downtown Marriott where the conference was located and where I was staying. $28.50! Jack would have hitchhiked.

Checked in. Grabbed some food and a couple of Yuenglings at Thirteen, the restaurant at the hotel. Started reading The Beat Face of God: The Beat Generation Writers as Spirit Guides by Steve Edlington. I got two copies for Christmas - one from Crystal and one from Kath. When someone buys you something from your Amazon wish list, take it off.

Caught a nap in the super-comfy bed in my sixteenth floor room.

Later caught up with Adrianne and Joe. Waiting in the hotel lobby bar for her to park the car I heard someone call my name. It was Elliott from UMF. I had just said to Joe that I would probably see someone I knew before too long, having been a lifelong resident of Pennslvania until 2006 and doing a bunch of work in Philly. I didn't expect to see someone from my university in Maine!

Ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe with Adrianne and Joe. Had twisted mac & cheese with chicken and a Stella. Yummy.

We adjourned to the hotel lobby bar and I downed a few Yuenglings and we discussed the presentation the next day and people watched and just generally hung out. Gave Adrianne a copy of The Beat Handbook for Christmas.

Up early. Showered. Grabbed coffee and a donut at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby.

On the way to the presentation I saw Cornel West coming out of the elevator. Cool!

Presentation went well. 9-11 AM. Early for a Sunday morning and yet there were 13 attendees. Our topic was assessment. My specific topic was self-assessment a la Carl Rogers' freedom to learn. One articulate attendee made a comment after I spoke that said everything that needed to be said because he railed against self-assessment arguing with all the un-questioned assumptions one would expect from someone conditioned by traditional schooling.

One of the presenters was from Alverno College in Wisconsin. They do not use letter grades, campus-wide. They use ability-based assessment and self-assessment. Pretty interesting. Every professor on campus uses the same writing feedback rubric. She said she wished I could teach there. I said I wished her college was in the southwest. If I ever leave Maine, it ain't gonna be for Wisconsin winters.

After the presentation I cleared out the room and took the hotel shuttle (Tropiana) back to the airport. 10 bucks. Should have done that the other direction. I was the only passenger and the driver gave me a guided tour of every important landmark along the way. The Roman Catholic high school, the U.S. Constitution (fastest steamship crossing of the Atlantic), Ben Franklin Bridge, Philadelphia Sports Complex, where the new casino is going, etc. Very interesting and I tipped him well and told him why.

Skye, my friend who used to live in Mansfield, was manning the TSA security checkpoint when I went through and we got to chat across the baggage belt for a minute. Nothing extraordinary on the rest of the way home to Crystal and Maine except they changed my gate somewhere during my two-hour wait and if I weren't a seasoned air traveler I would have sat right there at B10 waiting and waiting while my plane left out of B16. Knowing that there should have been some boarding activity by a certain time, I re-checked the monitors and, sure enough, there'd been a gate change. They probably announced it on the public address system, but if you've ever flown you know how futile that is.

While waiting I had deep-fried pulled pork-filled ravioli and a couple of Yuenglings (can't get it in Maine) at Friday's.

The drive home was very foggy. Crystal had baked tortellini casserole and wine by candlelight waiting for me. Sweet!

By the way, Jack would be proud of me for flying under the radar and not paying the conference attendance fee. Hey, I was a presenter and I flew at my own expense from Maine. Adding a conference fee to that is adding insult to injury.

Anyway, glad I did the thing. Glad it's done.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To "stink of Zen"

Those who know do not speak;
Those who speak do not know.

In studying or practicing Zen it is of no help to think about Zen. To remain caught up in ideas and words about Zen is, as the old masters say, to "stink of Zen."
~Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, 1989, p. 127

When it's time to get dressed, put on your clothes. When you must walk, then walk. When you must sit, then sit. Don't have a single thought in your mind about seeking for Buddhahood.... You talk about being perfectly disciplined in your six senses and in all your actions, but in my view all this is making karma. To seek the Buddha (nature) and to seek the Dharma is at once to make karma which leads to the hells. To seek (to be) Bodhisattvas is also making karma, and likewise studying the sutras and commentaries. Buddhas and Patriarchs are people without such artificialities.... It is said everywhere that there is a Tao which must be cultivated and a Dharma which must be realized. What Dharma do you say must be realized, and what Tao cultivated? What do you lack in the way you are functioning right now? What will you add to where you are?
as cited in Watts, The Way of Zen, 1989, p. 151

Enlightenment is for sissies. Living ethically and morally is what really matters.
~Brad Warner
Daily Zen Calendar reading for December 26, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Roberts

I've in the past year or so befriended two different Roberts. One in the bar. One in the coffee shop. Both older than I. Both artistic. One with an established track record as an artist. The other a PTSD-tortured Vietnam vet. Both married. Both with good souls. They're not perfect - not politically correct. They both have long hair (like me - yair!). And they mostly say what they think without too much filtering.

They are beat characters. I love them. They seem to live that simple beatific life Kerouac extolled (and lived at times). The "mad ones...," you know?

I don't know why they perk up to see me. Maybe because I listen to their stories. (How couldn't you listen?) Maybe I have something to offer on occasion when we talk. I'm pretty sure my "college professor" title lends some aura of credibility to my words, but that is just so much utter bullshit. Having a doctorate, being a college professor - who cares? It's just meaningless noise. Neither of the Roberts have doctorates. Neither of the Roberts is a college professor. And either of them is routinely way more interesting than I (although I aspire to it - I would love to someday hold court in a coffee shop corner spinning tales and having someone hanging on my words).

Life experience! GO GO GO! That's what makes for having something to say. Been places! The jungles of southeast Asia. Denver. Texas. Chicago. Mexico. New Orleans. Denmark. San Francisco (North Beach - City Lights Bookstore - Sausalito). Done things! Lived in a tepee. Posed naked for aspiring artists in D.C. Greeted the southwestern sunrise tripping on peyote, naked and wrapped in a blanket with a beautiful woman. Survived combat. Protested (in real protests, not the namby-pamby excuses for protests that happen today).

And more. Much more. That I hope to hear about until the story and the stories end. As they all do. So listen now. And weave them, too, as you can.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Jack Kerouac breakfast

I just made pancakes for Crystal and me with real Maine maple syrup ($25 per quart!) and it got me thinking about Jack's description in "Railroad Earth" of Lonesome Traveler (1960) about making his breakfast in the tiny San Francisco flophouse room he rented when he was a brakeman on the Southern Pacific:

...make my raisin toast by sitting it on a little wire I'd especially bent to place over the hotplate, the toast crackled up, there, I spread the margarine on the still red hot toast and it too would crackle and sink in golden, among burnt raisins and this was my toast.-- Then two eggs gently slowly fried in soft margarine in my little skidrow frying pan about half as thick as a dime in fact less, a little piece of tiny tin you could bring on a camp trip -- the eggs slowly fluffled in there and swelled from butter steams and I threw garlic salt on them, and when they were ready the yellow of them had been slightly filmed with a cooked white at the top from the tin cover I'd put over the frying pan, so now they were ready, and out they came, I spread them out on top of my already prepared potatoes which had been boiled in small pieces and then mixed with the bacon I'd already fried in small pieces, kind of raggely mashed bacon potatoes, with eggs on top steaming, and on the side lettuce, with peanut butter dab nearby on side (p. 48).

Makes you wanna go cook breakfast, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Compassion and materialism

Today is a tradition in this country when we come together as families and communities and spend some time rising above our differences and practicing compassion for others. It's also a day when we spend exorbitant amounts of money on "stuff." Thinking about those two issues - compassion and materialism - reminded me of the following entry from The Beat Handbook:

Day 11
Today’s Kerouaction: On Compassion

Kerouac would advise being careful about judging others for how they live. That is, while he would advocate forsaking “white kitchen machinery” (a metaphor for the materialism he saw growing in America), he would also caution against judging those who aspire to that kind of life. A paradox? No. As he points out, compassion is the heart of Buddhism.

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Find a definition for compassion from a Buddhist source and write it here.

I hope this day is everything you wish for, and that everything you wish for is this day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas shopping advice

As you're doing your last minute Christmas shopping, remember that books make excellent gifts. In my opinion, they make the best gifts. But that's just me.

Anyway, if you agree, don't forget to support your local bookstore. Some communities are lucky enough to still have one, such as From My Shelf Books in Wellsboro, PA. You get more personalized service than at a big corporate chain bookstore, and chances are you can find a place to park. Just try going to the Barnes & Noble at The Marketplace at Augusta (Maine) today. One way in. One way out. Thousands of shoppers. Good luck. Last Christmas Eve I got stuck in a line of traffic that didn't move for half an hour. I know that sounds minimal for you city dwellers, but in Maine that's a long wait.

Oh, if you stop at From My Shelf Books, you can pick up a signed copy of The Beat Handbook. If you wish.

But what's all the above got to do with Jack Kerouac? He was an author, for heaven's sakes.

However, for you Kerouac-obsessed readers, here's a Christmas Eve quote from p. 135 of The Dharma Bums (1976):

The following night was Christmas Eve which I spent with a bottle of wine before the TV enjoying the shows and the midnight mass from Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York with bishops ministering, and doctrines glistering, and congregations, the priests in their lacy snow vestments before great official altars not half as great as my straw mat beneath a little pine tree I figured.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Warning: Kerouac myth #2 spoiled

In a previous post I spoiled the myth that Kerouac wrote On The Road in a three-week caffeine-fueled frenzy. Today we'll discuss the term "beatnik," an often misunderstood and misused term.

Kerouac and his fellow beat generation writers viewed the term "beatnik" as perjorative. The term was coined by Herb Caen in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958. Writing close on the heels of the Sputnik episode, Caen's addition of the Russian suffix -nik was likely an effort to portray the beat generation writers as un-American. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote to the New York Times, deploring the "foul word" (Wikipedia).

Nevertheless, from there the media took over, stereotyping the "beatnik" as a beret-wearing, goatee-sporting, bongo-playing, poetry reading counterculture character.

Or as criminals.

And the ignorance continues today. Note the incredible wikiHow titled How to Be a Beatnik Stereotype. Someone with more time on their hands than I might want to edit this particular wiki.

Jack didn't wear berets, sport a goatee, or play the bongos. Yes, he wrote and read poetry, but comparing the beat generation to Bob Denver's Maynard G. Krebs character on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis is ludicrous beyond words.

Consider Kerouac's own words from a November 22, 1960 letter:

The vision of America is being destroyed now by the beatnik movement which is not the "beat generation" I proposed any more but a big move-in from intellectual dissident wrecks of all kinds and now even anti-American, America-haters of all kinds with placards who call themselves "beatniks."*

Or this from a February 15, 1961 letter:

"Original members" of the Beat Gen. means it started out in 1948 as a group of poets, beardless, with no political beefs, no idea of "nonconformity," just poets. Today's "beatnik" cant even recognize Stan Gets [sic] when he hears him, or even tell the tune he's playing, etc. "Beatniks" are Henry Wallaceniks jumped on the movement for left-wing reasons. I am a Catholic Conservative.*

In later years, Jack even distanced himself from friend Allen Ginsberg over the latter's anti-war sentiments that Jack thought were un-patriotic.

Bottom line: please don't associate the term "beatnik" with Jack Kerouac except to de-mythologize its inappropriate use.

*From Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969, edited by Ann Charters.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Samuel Adams Winter and The Beat Handbook

My band was playing at The Higher Grounds Saturday night. As regular readers know, Crystal placed a copy of The Beat Handbook on the shelves behind the band as part of a display (there are copies of On The Road & The Dharma Bums and a cool picture of Allen Ginsberg with Bob Dylan). As chance would have it, Woody placed a Samuel Adams Winter next to my book, and he noted the similarity in color schemes. Pretty amazing, huh?

I've always loved Samuel Adams Winter. I look forward to it every year. And now, as long as they don't change the styling on the bottle, it complements my book.

Hmmmm.... A six-pack of Winter and a book as a Christmas gift combo?

Works for me.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Commitment to a principle

On Thursday I completed another suggested Kerouactivity from The Beat Handbook, courtesy of my favorite tattoo artist, Chris Killingstad of Nightwind Studios in Wellsboro, PA. Thanks, Chris! I gave him a signed copy of my book, since his past artistry certainly triggered the idea for the Kerouactivity in the first place. No, the tree of life and the stars are not new - just the motto. Oh, and yes, the accomplishment's been duly noted in my personal copy.

Below is the above-referenced entry from the book.

Day 9
Today’s Kerouaction: On Freedom

To quote the movie, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, “It’s better to be dead and cool than alive and uncool.” To wit, when you are out sleeping under the stars, and no one on earth knows where you are, and your life-alienating cell phone is either turned off or, better, not with you, you can experience a rare feeling: freedom. Freedom is one of the key principles behind Kerouactions. It is so important that a little – or perhaps even a lot – of physical discomfort pales in comparison to the feeling that one is at all times and in all situations able to make a choice! The Kerouaction? Live free or die (with thanks to New Hampshire)! Right now, go up to the first person you see and give them $5.00. Tell them a book you are reading told you to do it. Or perhaps your sense of freedom tells you to tell me to take a hike. Great! You are free to choose! But always remember that. Do not blame your parents, your past, your mate, your children, events, places, or anything else for your troubles. You choose! Freedom....

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Get “Live Free or Die” tattooed somewhere on your body.

Soon after my book was published, my friend Bob walked up to me and handed me 5 bucks and said a book told him to do it. And November's book winner has reported a number of Kerouaccomplishments based on The Beat Handbook. Crystal's done some, too! At a book-signing, I was asked if I planned on completing all the Kerouactivities. I said that some of them aren't intended to be taken literally, but I was working on it. I can't very well expect my readers to follow advice in the book if I don't. It's called "walking your talk." I figure getting a tattoo is pretty strong evidence of commitment to a principle.

As you're completing Kerouactivities, please keep us all posted on your progress here at The Daily Beat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Charles Dickens factoid

I learned from yesterday's USA Today that Charles Dickens could not find a traditional publisher for A Christmas Carol, so he published it himself! One reason he couldn't find a publisher was the length: less than 30,000 words.

The lesson: self-publishing a short novel is not necessarily the path to oblivion.

There are current stories about self-published books making the jump to traditional publishers. I'll report on some of them in a future blog.

Happy snow, New England.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kerouac, Krishnamurti, Burroughs, and the number 23

It struck me yesterday that my two biggest literary influences, Jack Kerouac and Jiddu Krishnamurti, have the same initials: J.K.

I don't know where thoughts like that originate, or where they go necessarily, but this particular one went to more thoughts about synchronicity and connections and then I found myself playing around with the number 23 enigma.

2 = the # of authors
10 = J's number in the alphabet
11 = K's number in the alphabet
23 = the total

So I did some net-surfing and found out that the "23 enigma," as it's called, may have first been noticed by beat author William S. Burroughs! How weird is that?

According to Wikipedia, Robert Anton Wilton, co-author of the Illuminatus! trilogy, credits Burroughs "as being the first person to notice the 23 enigma: Wilson, in an article in Fortean Times, related the following story:

I first heard of the 23 enigma from William S Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, Nova Express, etc. According to Burroughs, he had known a certain Captain Clark, around 1960 in Tangier, who once bragged that he had been sailing 23 years without an accident. That very day, Clark’s ship had an accident that killed him and everybody else aboard. Furthermore, while Burroughs was thinking about this crude example of the irony of the gods that evening, a bulletin on the radio announced the crash of an airliner in Florida, USA. The pilot was another captain Clark and the flight was Flight 23."

Read all about it here: 23 Enigma.

I first learned about the "23 enigma" from the Jim Carrey movie, The Number 23. Notice that the initial sounds of Jim and Carrey sound like "J" and "K"? Never mind, let's not go there.

I'm not a believer in numerology, per se. In fact, thanks to J.K. #2, I think beliefs are the source of all conflict on this planet. If people didn't "believe" that things are supposed to be a certain way, what purpose would violence serve in the first place? Should is a much more evil word than most people realize. Especially but not exclusively regarding religion. Like my beat friend Charlie told me yesterday about the time two LDS evangelists accosted him on the street and he pointed his finger in one's face and stridently asked, "Why do you need some fictitious person up there to tell you to love him [pointing now at the other proselytizer]?" They walked away.

For sure, humans seem to have some innate bent toward beliefs. And we love to be told what to do. Or have some external authority to blame for our actions.

All that said, I'm not so sure we aren't given clues from time to time about what our purpose is. Jack's purpose had to be writing On the Road and becoming the voice of the beat generation. The world notices individuals who find their purpose and live it.

At the bar yesterday, someone brought up Tiger Woods with the usual awe I hear whenever he's mentioned. I said something about how he was just one of those people who happened to be lucky enough to figure out what he was "born to do." I think we all have something we're "born to do." The sad thing is, most of us don't seem to figure out what it is. We stop looking somewhere along the way, beaten down by "schooling" and authorities of every stripe and the well-meaning discouragements of others whenever we dream big.

What were you born to do?

Maybe the number 23 holds a clue.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The unbearable obsequiousness of posting

WARNING: This post is a commercial for my book. If that bums you out or whatever, please feel free to check back tomorrow. Otherwise, read on!

Crystal told me last night she was going Christmas shopping at Amazon, and, of course, since she is brilliant, I thought that was a brilliant idea. So that is what I intend to do today. But it struck me that time's a-wastin' if you want to order from Amazon and have the order arrive by Thursday next.

Therefore, a reminder is in order. If you're planning to give The Beat Handbook for Christmas, today is the time to order it. Below is a very appropos excerpt from the book(s) you're fixin' to purchase.

Day 65
Today’s Kerouaction: On Books

You simply cannot have enough books. They are the one material possession that doesn’t count as a material possession. That is, they don’t count towards the earlier advice to be able to fit everything you own in your vehicle (see Day 10). And books are easily acquired these days. Libraries hold sales to clear room for the thousands of new books that assault them yearly. Sometimes you can buy a whole bag of books for a dollar (or some similarly cheap arrangement). And don’t forget to take advantage of buying used books from yard sales or old bookstores or even on-line! Why buy anything new if you don’t have to? It’s cheaper and better for the environment. And if you do acquire thousands of books, you can always give them away as gifts. When your place is full of books, and birthdays or other gift-giving holidays approach, just look around for a suitable gift, wrap it in anything but gift wrap (i.e., spare the environment and re-use something, like an old newspaper or a paper grocery bag), write the obligatory To and From and something unique directly on the paper (gift tags are for Martha Stewart wanna-be’s), and honor the giftee with an original and meaningful present! A used Kerouac book, of course, would be best. A dog-eared, written-in tome of Edward Abbey’s would do, also, as would a beat-up copy of Fight Club. Or anything from the References at the end of this book. Or this book!

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Start planning this very minute to give the gift of a book the next time you will be giving someone a present. Write down the name of the person, the occasion, and the title of the book below. Then get busy acquiring the book.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Beat Generation blog

Many thanks go out to my friend at The Beat Generation blog for suggesting The Beat Handbook as a great gift for the "holidaze." I encourage readers of this blog to pay his blog a visit and check it out: The Beat Generation. He'll appreciate it and so will I. He collects and posts news pieces, articles, and photos about the beats that you won't easily find anywhere else. Hell, it's one of the only blogs I follow!

Oh, one more thing. Don't forget to dig the ride this holiday season! On Christmas Eve, climb up on your roof and yell "Harumph and diddly-i-do, yass, yass."

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Jack Kerouac poem

The following poem was posted on December 5 at Shadow of Diogenes. I really liked it and obtained consent from the author to share it here. Check out the rest of his blog if you get a chance!

Jack Kerouac

Where have you gone mon ami?

Is your old worn out Beat ghost

Haunting those back roads

And those desolate Cascade peaks.


The road has changed a lot

Since you left it -

It's gotten mean

And the country is tired

And bored.

We've gotten stale.

Those Mexico City Blues still touch me

Down deep.

Beat to the end,

Jack Kerouac.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hippies use side door: The Rack at Sugarloaf

Actual sign outside the main entrance to The Rack at Sugarloaf, where my band, The NitPickers, played last night.

For sure I used the side door.

What would Kerouac do?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Jack Kerouac School at Naropa

Do you know about The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics? It was founded at Naropa University in Boulder in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman.

Naropa is a way beat place to go to school. The below is directly from Naropa's website:

Classical Greece and Classical India hosted two of the most revered traditions of education the world has known.

One wonders what might have happened if these two historical giants of academia had been able to combine their wisdom, to see the world from each other's perspective, and finally arrive at a place where East and West truly met, exchanging valuable ideas and insights.

The fact is, this very phenomenon is unfolding today at Naropa University, a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian liberal arts institution dedicated to advancing contemplative education.

This approach to learning integrates the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions, helping students know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others. By combining these two storied pedagogies, East and West are indeed meeting every day at Naropa University and the resulting sparks of inspiration are flying.

The below is directly from The Jack Kerouac School's website:

The Jack Kerouac School was founded at Naropa in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. Besides the Department of Writing & Poetics, which includes the MFA in Writing & Poetics and the BA in Writing and Literature, the school is comprised of the Summer Writing Program and MFA Creative Writing, our low residency degree.

Our programs emphasize traditional and experimental approaches to creative writing in Poetry, Prose and Translation within a variety of genres. Literature courses and the thesis requirement of a student’s final manuscript also emphasize the development of critical writing.

All classes are taught by active, published writers, giving a practitioner's insight into literary art. Our curriculum includes opportunities for students to learn how to teach their craft, exercise performance skills, and develop as practicing writers in the world.

The Kerouac School educates students as skilled practitioners of the literary arts. Its objectives include embracing a disciplined practice of writing, and cultivating a historical and cultural awareness of literary studies.

The next summer writing program is June 15 - July 12, 2009.

Hmmm.... What would Kerouac do?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Heavy snow...bucketfuls of rain/ice...flooding...electric out...sump pump stops...basement floods...utilities in danger...shovel shovel shovel...get out of (slide?) to home gas...return home...assemble generator...fill with gas...start...plug in sump pump...

Problem solved...for now....

Enjoying my pepperoni and cheese omelet in the warm glow of the burning hearth. Gas stoves rock. And battery-powered laptops with Verizon Wireless broadband internet cards.

Fireplaces, too.

What's this got to do with Kerouac?

Making do, my beat friends, and accepting what is.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Today's post is all about me. It's my birthday!

If you go to Brainy History, you'll see that nothing too spectacular seems to have happened on this date in history.

Well, Joe DiMaggio announced his retirement from baseball on this date in 1951. I imagine that Jack Kerouac paid attention to that news, given his love of baseball.

From Douglas Brinkley's Windblown World, below is Jack's journal entry from December 11, 1947 (referencing his work on The Town and the City):

At 5 A.M. wrote 1500-words. Spent most of the night typing and re-working 3,000 words in the manuscript, and thinking of the structures. The world is a structure of souls, nein? And so on --

I have now officially outlived Jack by 6 years. However, life expectancy when Jack was born was around 57 years. For my birth year - 1955 - it was about 69. So Jack fell short of his life expectancy by about 10 years. I'm not trying to emulate Jack in this regard! That would only give me about 6 more years this go-around.

Oh-kay, enough morbid talk.

What do I want for my birthday? Well, Jack Kerouac books are always a winner. Books of any kind, in fact, as The Beat Handbook points out, make excellent gifts.

Speaking of my book, a fantastic gift would be for you to go to Amazon today and purchase one (or several)! Or, if you already own my book, a 5-star review on Amazon would be Kerouac-tastic! Or, give this blog a thumbs-up on Stumble (and a positive review). Or, I'd be equally thrilled with a happy birthday posting right here on Blogger. Your choice!

Happy Birthday to me! 53 years young today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Six Degrees of Jack Kerouac: Robert De Niro

I love actor Robert De Niro. How couldn't I? I don't really consider him a "beat" personality, although he's played a couple of beat roles in his time. I've never connected him to Jack in any way.

Until last night.

I've been reading Lonesome Traveler (admittedly, for the first time). It's a collection of unrelated short stories rather than a straight-through novel. It's the source of this quote:

Am known as "madman bum and angel" with "naked endless head" of "prose" (1960, p. vi).

That's one of the phrases engraved on a pillar at Kerouac Park in Lowell. Crystal really likes that one. Me, too.

For sure, Lonesome Traveler epitomizes that description. It's more poetry than prose. As is much of Jack's prose, I think.

But I digress.

In the chapter, "New York Scenes," Jack is describing how he and his friends spend time in the city. On p. 116, Charley Mills is

walkin down the street with bums drinkin bottle of wine singing in twelve tone scale.

"Let's go see the strange great secret painters of America and discuss their paintings and their visions with them--Iris Brodie with her delicate fawn Byzantine filigree of Virgins--"

"Or Miles Forst and his black bull in the orange cave."

Or Franz Klein and his spiderwebs."

"His bloody spiderwebs!"

"Or William de Kooning and his White."

"Or Robert De Niro."

Robert De Niro? Couldn't be the actor, I thought to myself. A little Internet research reveals that Robert De Niro, Sr. (1922-1993) - born same year as Jack - was an abstract expressionist painter who lived in the Village and went to Black Mountain College and was bisexual and .... Well, a beat character!

And father of actor Robert De Niro! I had read that De Niro's father was a painter, but I never went beyond that simple factoid.

So, what is actor Robert De Niro's Kerouac number?

1. Jack wrote about painter Robert De Niro, Sr. in Lonesome Traveler.

2. Actor Robert De Niro is painter Robert De Niro's son.

Actor Robert De Niro's Kerouac number is 2.

Now I have to go do some surfing and look at his dad's paintings.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Warning: Kerouac myth #1 spoiled

The #1 myth about Jack Kerouac it seems to me is that he wrote his most famous novel, On The Road, in a caffeine-fueled nonstop 3-week typing frenzy in April 1951.

On the contrary, Kerouac had been preparing notes, text, key phrases, etc., for years - ever since his late-40's cross-country travels with Neal Cassady. Here is an actual April 1949 entry from one of his journals, courtesy of Douglas Brinkley's Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 (2004).

WED. 27--Started "On the Road" with a brief 500-wd. stint of 2, 3 hours duration, in the small hours of the morning. I find that I am "hotter" than ever--tho on closer examination afterwards I figure I may only be over pleased with words, and not structurally sound yet (after a long layoff). My interest in work is at a high pitch. My aim is to have much of "Road" done, if not all, by the time T & C is published next winter. I quit school today so I can do nothing but write.--Now I want to expand the original 500 words which, in the heat of work, 'discovered' an important opening unity.

Brinkley includes photocopies of certain pages from Jack's journals, the above entry being one of them.

Jack, I love you, man, but this is one myth that needed to be busted.

The truth is out there.*

*Gratuitous pop culture reference.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Here's a picture Crystal took of me at The Lazy Lab Cafe during my book-signing on Saturday during Christmas stroll:

Proof positive I was there.

Where were you?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Take me back to Kerouac's technology?

I am so so so very frustrated with my computer right now that I contemplated not posting today. But that would break quite a streak of daily postings and let the virus-creating buggers get the upper hand. Therefore, despite an incredibly annoying and useless toolbar (Mirar) installing itself in my Internet Explorer and refusing to be uninstalled, and losing all display of images on webpages (related to the toolbar I do not know), and my computer restarting itself repeatedly at random times, and Automatic Updates for Windows being disabled without my knowedge--despite all of that, I am posting from this laptop today. So there. But tomorrow I may be without said laptop since it needs to go to the computer emergency room and I don't know when I'll get it back. If necessary, I will post tomorrow night from the home desktop or C's laptop. Maybe a picture from the booksigning last night.

Sometimes I contemplate life before the Internet, before word processors. I think about typing my culminating Master's paper on a typewriter, and compare that to writing my dissertation on the word processor. Honestly, while pecking away on a manual typewriter is a romantic notion, I'm sold on word processing. Just in writing this post I have corrected probably a dozen or more typing errors as I typed. Of course, were I using a typewriter, I would not be going at the same high rate of speed (speaking of which, thank you to whoever talked me into taking a semester of typing in high school and learning to touch type). Nevertheless, as a writer, I'll take a word processor over a typewriter. Jack and Papa, forgive me.

I also think about the instantaneous, worldwide communication that the Internet allows. Jack painstakingly typed his manuscripts on a manual typewriter, often retyping entire novels, and waited months and months to see his work in print. There was no such thing as an electronic version of one of his novels - the only way to access them was via hard copy. Today, I can type something, press a button, and within hours people as far away as Australia have read it (I still marvel at the international traffic this blog gets).

Indeed, with progress come new challenges. I struggle to understand how the strategy of creating malicious computer viruses meets human needs, but the conspiracy theorist in me thinks perhaps it's all part of a grand scheme to prop up the business of fixing computers after they've been rendered useless by a virus. So the virus creators are being paid, and money is a powerful strategy for meeting a number of human needs: food, water, shelter, and the list goes on. I also acknowledge that creating a malicous virus and seeing it render people helpless may meet needs for power, control, and recognition. I don't agree with the strategy, but I understand the underlying human needs.

In a conversation at The Wharf Friday night I mentioned my computer woes and wished evil on the virus creators (in a most violent way), and my friend reminded me that putting that kind of vibe out there is never a good idea. He knew I knew that, and I was just expressing frustration, but I still wish I had kept that thought trapped in my mind. Better, I wish I didn't have such thoughts--die you evil hackers!--occur to me at all. Sorry. One escaped again, but I moderated it from its original version. That's progress, right?

If you're a virus-creating computer hacker reading this, rest assured that you or your ilk have royally screwed me over and I am going to be without my computer for some period of time while people more accomplished than I attempt to remove your evil seed from my creative womb. Feel better? More powerful? In control?


Now, would one of you please teach me how to infect the main page of every blog on the planet with a direct link to my book on Amazon?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jack Kerouac timeline

I've been thinking about how nice it would be for the Kerouac-obsessed (or maybe it's just me) to have a timeline of Jack's life, but I haven't searched for one before today. His biographies - as biographies do - jump around (a technique to keep the reader interested) or have so much information that comprehension of what happened in what order is difficult. I want a visual organizer of his life!

Today I found an amazing (and I cannot vouch for its accuracy) feature on Google: a Jack Kerouac timeline. I guess Google has these for all famous people? I tried to give you a hotlink to it here, but Blogger won't allow a direct link to it because the URL contains tags of its own. Google owns Blogger, right? So why they can't overcome this limitation is beyond me. (But then, so is my laptop, which has picked up yet another viral infestation, leaving me without it until I can take it to IT on Monday and who knows how long it will take to fix it. Grrr!)

So how do you get there? In Google search, type: Jack Kerouac. Scroll down and click on: Timeline results for Jack Kerouac. You're there! Notice that you can click on any of the decades at the top of the screen and produce a year-by-year timeline.

I hope you'll pay the timeline a visit, but allow yourself some time because each entry is "Google-icious" (my way of saying it can send you off in many directions).

Way cool! Way beat! Thank you, Google. Hours of I-surfing await me. And blog ideas!

But not today: I'm off to a birthday party and then to my book-signing (see yesterday's post).

Au revoir les enfants!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jack Kerouac-inspired book: Reading/signing tomorrow

Tomorrow, Saturday December 6, is the annual "Christmas Stroll" in Belgrade Lakes, ME. It's an evening of holiday magic! Luminaries light your way as merchants along the quaint village nestled between Great Pond and Long Pond (inspiration for the movie On Golden Pond) stay open between 4-7 PM.

Bonfires warm hearty shoppers, carolers meander the street, horse-drawn carriages offer rides, cider warms the spirits, and . . . this year, from 5-7 PM, I'll be reading from my Jack-Kerouac-inspired book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, at the lovely Lazy Lab Cafe. I'll be cozied up near the fireplace, reading from my book as well as from On The Road and The Dharma Bums, and, of course, signing copies of my book. They make great Christmas presents for your beat friends!

Given this information, what would Kerouac do?

Well, this I know: He wouldn't use excuses like "But I live in Pennsylvania" or "I have to work" or "It's too expensive to get there from here" or "The economy's bad" to keep him from attending. He'd make up his mind and then go go go. Consequences be damned. He'd dig the ride!

I'll tell you what. If you attend, hand me a piece of paper with your name and address on it. At the conclusion of the event I'll figure out who came the farthest and I'll send them a free book.

How's that for an incentive?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You never know . . . .

It’s interesting what we remember.

I remember the name of the man who played the robot on the TV show, Lost In Space (which, by the way, was on from 1965-1968, meaning Jack Kerouac may well have been watching new episodes on TV at the exact time I was watching them, he in his waning years, me in my waxing).

I remember being yanked out of class in elementary school and being interrogated by the state fire marshal, bursting into tears and admitting to playing with matches in the basement of the hotel my dad managed (hey, I lived there and it was a dirt floor).

I remember the name of the girl I promised to write a poem for every single day of the summer of 1972, I remember doing it, and I remember giving them to her and never seeing them again.

I remember we called one of our high school teachers “Bill Swing” behind his back, but to this day I’m not sure why.

I remember what U.N.C.L.E. stands for.

And I remember a phrase that one of the profs at my undergraduate university used when teaching class: “Y-y-you never know.” We used to count how many times he’d say that in one class period. And mimic him (behind his back - he was the wrestling coach and even the superheavyweight feared him).

And you know, he was right.

You never know.

Today I received an e-mail from an actual book publisher, Softskull/Counterpoint, saying they had seen this blog and offering to send me review copies of beat generation-related books to review.

To quote professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin (more on professional wrestling in an upcoming blog), "HELL, YEAH!" I’ll gladly accept books about the beat generation and review them on my blog. Bring ‘em on, man.

Here’s their Spring Catalogue, in case you’re interested.

Hmmm . . . . I said at the outset of publishing my book that there was no way of telling what would happen, who I'd meet, where I'd go or do, etc. Who knows where this venture will lead? Other publishers? More blog readers? A publishing deal for The Beat Handbook?

You never know . . . .

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jack Kerouac & Emily Dickinson

I've loved Emily Dickinson since high school. I "got" her poetry. And that was an oasis of wonder amidst all the prescribed writing we had to suffer through (yes, suffer - because neither did we understand it nor were we interested in understanding it). But her poems "got through." I connected.

I had forgotten about a possible Kerouac-Dickinson connection until the other day when I was researching whether Kerouac had ever met Alan Watts. I knew they were contemporaries who opined about each other, but I couldn't remember a meeting.

Anyway, while thumbing through Gerald Nicosia's Kerouac biography, Memory Babe, I saw a passage I had marked up in which Nicosia was speculating about influences on Jack. In particular, he was focusing on Jack's use of a motif: "the slanting red light of afternoon sun" stirring "wonder in man" (1983, p. 312). Nicosia postulates that Jack may have learned to express this motif from the following Dickinson poem:

There's a certain slant of light
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything.
'Tis the seal, despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 'tis like the distance
On the look of death.

Jack Kerouac and Emily Dickinson. Can you imagine them collaborating? I know. Jack would fall in love with her and want to take her to bed. But afterwards, after all the fol-de-rol, when they got down to writing, wow . . . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Caution: Kerouac alert

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strengthh.

~Jack Kerouac

Monday, December 1, 2008

November's free book winner!

November saw a number of posts that were eligible to win a free copy of The Beat Handbook. I hope you'll go back through the archives and read them all.

However, without a doubt the "beatest" post had to be the one by "the bootch" on November 2.

So, bootch, e-mail me ( your snail mail address and I will ship you a free copy ot The Beat Handbook, no strings attached (except my request for a 5-star review on Amazon).

Everyone else - today starts a new month so get your beat on and post a comment this month to put yourself in the running for December's free book giveaway.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Whither goest thou?

For my fellow 50-somethings with 50-something eyesight, the quote in the above image (sent me by a fellow Stumbler), is:

"Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?"
~Jack Kerouac

This morning on Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw asked Ted Turner about starting CNN. Turner said it was like Columbus*: he didn't know where he was going when he left, didn't know where he was when he got there, and didn't know where he'd been when he got back.

Do we ever know where we're going, or what it will be like when we get there, or have a true understanding of where we've been? Perhaps not. But perhaps, too, that is one of the wonderful things about the dance of life. And perhaps it's why Buddhist author Pema Chodron wrote Comfortable With Uncertainty (recommended).

As Kerouac might put it, "Dig the ride!" No matter what, the road ahead holds surprises we can't anticipate. See it as an adventure!

We don't know when or if the economy will rebound, or if Barack Obama will construct a successful Presidency, or if it will snow hard this winter (like the last one!) or even if we'll wake up to another morning. And if we did, what a drudge life would be.

So dig this sad happy ride we're all on. Dean's drivin' and there's no tellin' exactly where we'll end up but it'll for sure be somewhere else (haw haw haw).

*Leave it to politically insensitive Captain Outrageous to use as an example a white European male native-slaughtering genocidal slave trader about whom secular schoolchildren are lied to in public schools every October.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jack Kerouac and the diamondcutter of mercy

Today's post is a reminder - in a society where materialism runs so rampant that you can get trampled to death by shoppers crowding into a Wal-Mart - that what matters is not what you own, the job you do, where you live, what clothes you wear, or what car you drive. I'm not about to tell you what does matter. That's for you to figure out. If you can't figure it out simply by looking at the above image and pondering it for about two seconds, then my advice is to drive to the nearest Wal-Mart and the rest of us will hope for a stampede.

Sorry to be so negative, but between the absurd event at Wal-Mart yesterday and the death-dealing going on in India - not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, and too many other places to mention - I just want to scream:


It doesn't have to be like this. It doesn't.

Be peace. Start right now. Show compassion in the next interaction you have with a person, animal, tree, stone, whatever. Show compassion to yourself. In fact, start there.

I need that reminder. Every day. Every second. Several paragraphs ago I let my anger turn to a violent wish. No! Choose kindness. Compassion. Mercy. It starts with you. Not Bush. Not your boss. Not your significant other. Not this or that government. It starts with YOU! Until you end violence in yourself, there will be violence in the world.*

In The Dharma Bums, Ray (Kerouac) gives Japhy (Gary Snyder) a going-away gift:

The next day I figured to give Japhy some kind of strange little going-away gift and didn’t have much money or any ideas particularly so I took a little piece of paper about as big as a thumbnail and carefully printed on it: MAY YOU USE THE DIAMONDCUTTER OF MERCY and when I said goodbye to him at the pier I handed it to him, and he read it, put it right in his pocket, and said nothing (1976, pp. 214-215).

So that's my beatific wish for myself and for every other human on this planet:


*For more on this, read anything by Jiddu Krishnamurti, but especially Beyond Violence.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Google Book Search

Did you know about Google's Book Search? At the top of the main Google screen, just above the capital G, you'll see the word "more" with a down arrow to the right of it. Click on that down arrow and a drop down menu appears. If you select "Books," it will take you to Google Book Search. Now type in the name of a book. For example, Treasure Island. You'll get many hits. The first one is the entire book, which you can read on-screen or download it as a PDF! How about Call of the Wild? Yup! Full view on-screen and PDF-able. War and Peace? It's there - full view and PDF-able. How about On The Road? Nope. Limited view only. Same with many newer books.

But still . . . pretty amazing, huh? Especially for us bibliophiles.

You can search by topic, author, or title. There are advanced search options, as well as help pages.

The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is there. It required me to send a physical copy of the book to Google for them to scan because I do not have the PDF file (that's in BookSurge's possession - I suppose I could get it but it was easy enough to send Google a book). I decided to do it as a marketing effort, so I chose limited preview. But there are links next to my book to buy it, review it, or add it to your library!

Yass! You can build a library of books right on Google! If you're interested in genres, just click one on the left side of the main Book Search screen. For example, if you click on "Philosophy," you'll get 1,717 books, including Thomas Paine's Common Sense, Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, Thoreau's Walden, and the list goes on and on.

Check out Google Book Search. It's a way beat on-line adventure. Happy reading.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jack Kerouac, Thanksgiving Day, football

During his senior year at Lowell HS, according to Kerouac legend, Jack scored the winning touchdown against rival Lawrence in the "Turkey Day Classic" on Thanksgiving Day 1938. In researching this little tidbit of trivia, I found this website, which is a concise compilation of details about Jack: Jack Kerouac: Safe in Heaven Drunk.

That's all for today. We are giving thanks in our household for family, friends, love, health, food, warmth, shelter, and the freedom to assemble and give thanks unfettered by government interference in the first place. Not everyone on this planet can say that. My heart goes out to them.

I hope your holiday is everything you wish.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jack Kerouac's On The Road: The Movie (finally?)

After multiple false starts dating clear back to when Jack Kerouac was alive - he frequently mentions potential movie deals in his letters* - it seems that a film version of On The Road is finally in the works. According to an article in The National, "Literary friction," screenwriter Jose Rivera and director Walter Salles, known for the Oscar-nominated The Motorcycle Diaries, "are facing Kerouac’s meandering prose head-on, transforming it into workable production pages (the film is scheduled for a 2009 release)."

To which I reply: YAIR!**

I'll be in line opening day. With low expectations, of course. That way I won't be disappointed. But Fight Club adapted pretty damn well to film. And Into The Wild. And even Peaceful Warrior wasn't unwatchably awful (I'd watch Nick Nolte in his later years in anything). Who knows? Maybe it will be a cult classic, giving birth to thousands of new Kerouac fans.

But I agonize over casting. They have to get Jack and Neal Cassady right! Who will play Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty? I'm sorry to blast other bloggers, but while Edward Norton and Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt and Thomas Jane (he'd make a great Neal) would seem to be in the running, they are too old. Kerouac was 27-ish during his "Road" travels, and Cassady was younger still. Norton is 39. Depp is 45. Pitt is 44 (almost 45 - his birthday is a few days after mine). Jane is 39.

Someone suggested Billy Crudup for Sal (Jack). Yup. I can see it.

But he's too old, too! He's 40.

One thing Jack agonized over was that by the time On The Road was published, he was no longer the svelte, vivacious, 20-something hepcat in the novel. Yet that was the Kerouac fans wanted to see, not the bloated, drunk, anxiety-ridden neurotic he'd become (sorry, Jack, for all the labels, but they're not disputable). Which, of course, drove him madder than he already was and deeper into the bottle.

So Jack and I both say: You have to cast Sal and Dean with actors who are about the same ages as Jack and Neal in the late 40's. Speaking of Into The Wild, how about Emile Hirsch? He's about the right age. Or Scott Mechlowicz of Peaceful Warrior?

There are many younger actors who would be perfect. My plea to the casting director (unless the decision's already been made) is to be very, very careful and deliberate.

Ask youself, "Who would Kerouac cast?"

No matter, though. I'll be watching it.

*In particular see Ann Charters' wonderful Kerouac: Selected Letters Volume 2.

**That's beat for an emphatic, "Yes!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jack Kerouac's Tristessa: A review (of sorts)

In an interview on The Lehrer Report I heard Kerouac scholar Audrey Sprenger praise Jack Kerouac for being a profoundly disciplined writer who was brave enough to write his life. In her writings about Jack, I've gleaned another important twofold insight: that Jack's writings makes us both want to live our lives as adventures, and they encourage us to see our lives as something worth writing about.

I'm glad I discovered Audrey because she put words to things I've felt about Jack for a long time and simply couldn't express. And reading about her work inspired me to finish Tristessa last night.

Not that it was a hard book to finish, being only 96 pages - making it a novella, or perhaps a novelette, depending on which egghead one wishes to believe - and epitomizing Jack's spontaneous and fluid prose that sends the reader on a flume ride, sometimes fast sometimes slow but always flowing, even to the point of not caring if comprehension suffers for fear that getting out of the boat would interrupt the total experience of digging the ride.

In Tristessa, Jack writes his life in Mexico: prostitutes, junkies, disease, poverty, chickens in the house, crime, flea-ridden cats, pimps, squalor, drug dealers, hucksters - all juxtaposed against love, beauty, friendship, lust, spirituality, big questions, even rants against god (like the Cool Hand, like Lieutenant Day-un).

By the end you understand how you could live in abject poverty and fall in love with a drug-addicted, anorexic prostitute. Maybe more than that. Maybe by the end you fall in love with Tristessa.

And the world doesn't seem so ugly anymore.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hybrid is in

Hybrid. I like that word. Did you ever think about it? Perhaps the Toyota Prius comes to mind: a car that runs on both the evil black stuff and electricity (the latter frequently generated by burning the evil black stuff or torturing atoms and creating permanent toxic waste so what's the real difference?).

But we've had hybrids for centuries. Think mythology. Remember the minotaur? That was a hybrid creature, part-man and part-bull.

And what about biology? We've been cross-breeding plants commercially for agricultural purposes since the 1930s.

Words? I offer the hybrid word hyperactive, which combines Greek (hyper) and Latin (activus). Tangential note: Thank you Mrs. Seaman for teaching us Latin in 7th and 8th grade. We hated it then. We hated you for teaching it. And now we're thankful because we can figure out the meanings of a shitload of English words without looking them up. Docendo discimus.

Music? I give you Dancin' Knuckles, a bluegrass punk band.

People? Well, we don't use the term hybrid (for a perjorative example, watch the excellent Steve McQueen movie, Nevada Smith), but let's face it: humans are prolific in mixing ethnicities, religions, cultures, you-name-it. We even mix up gender! And no, I'm not putting a link to a pre-op tranny porn site here in my blog!

And what about books? Do some Googling and you will find many examples of the term "hybrid book" out there in cyberspace.

However, I find no examples of the kind of hybrid represented by The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions! It's a book (nonfiction Kerouacian advice)! It's a journal (lots of white space to write in and writing assignments to boot)!

So when you gift The Beat Handbook for the holidays (and I know you're fixing to do that), remember to point out that you were thoughtful enough to give a hybrid book.

Hybrid is in.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Daily Beat becomes "blog-worthy"

I haven't met too many people who aren't Seinfeld fans, so you may remember the phrase "sponge-worthy" from a particular episode. I can co-opt the brilliance behind that phrase to my own ends because the show featured a very beat character: Cosmo Kramer. In fact, he might become the subject of a future Six Degrees of Kerouac post.

But I digress. The point of today's post is to brag a little bit about how The Daily Beat blog - thanks to you readers! - is starting to become "blog-worthy." What I mean is that it now has some characteristics that it didn't have at first: followers, links on other sites/blogs, and growing statistics.

The Daily Beat has followers! Three Four of them! And I don't even personally know any of them! But thanks go to them for following. I hope my readers will click their icons (scroll down over on the right) and give those fellow bloggers some traffic in return!

The Daily Beat is linked to at two (so far) other sites/blogs: Matt Gibson and The Beat Generation Dot Net. Again, I hope readers of The Daily Beat will click on these links and give them some traffic!

The Daily Beat has had 525 visitors since October 25! And that includes visitors from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Ireland, Canada, Phillipines, Greece, India, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Taiwan, and a whole bunch of the states. It averages about 20 visits per day, with a high of 37 on November 16 (my How to write like Jack Kerouac post).

The above developments represent how the Internet works - like a virus (thanks to Elizabeth for pointing that out) - spreading slowly but surely by contact and connections until (maybe) a "tipping point" occurs and the growth becomes exponential.

What can YOU do to spread the word about The Daily Beat (and thereby promote The Beat Handbook)? Think like a virus. Ask yourself, "What would a virus do?"

Here are a few ideas:

1. "Infect" other websites with The Daily Beat (and its URL). Mention it in your blog, on your website, in your postings on other blogs and websites, in your MySpace/Facebook/LiveJournal/Twitter/StumbleUpon, etc.

2. Give my blog a thumbs-up on StumbleUpon and review it there.

3. Use Technorati and Digg and similar sites to spread the word about my blog.

4. Give my book a 5-star review on Amazon and mention my blog in your review.

5. Seek out on-line news items that have anything to do with Kerouac or the beat generation and post a comment, mentioning The Daily Beat.

6. Post reviews of my YouTube videos (Reading at Jack Kerouac's grave and The Big Lebowski...) and mention The Daily Beat.

And the above are just Internet-based ideas. Word of mouth works, too.

Anything you can do to spread the word about my blog would be appreciated. In return, I pledge to blog every day and try to give you a reason to visit. And if you're a blogger or website owner and want to play quid pro quo, let me know.

If all my readers today took just one of the above six actions, think of the effect. Imagine a pebble dropped in still water . . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Beat Generation Dictionary redux

Dear fellow hepcats,

Back on October 23, 2008, I posted a link to The Beat Generation Dictionary ( That link went dead in October because of some mind-numblingly brilliant corporate bullshit decision by AOL. I haven't figured out where the content went.

Thankfully my sweetheart Crystal figured out a way to salvage the content, and I have reposted it into that original entry: The Beat Generation Dictionary. So now you can make yourself a hotlink directly to that posting and fall by whenever you wish to access your favorite beat terms. Dig?

P.S. There is similar content out there. For example: Jive Dictionary.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A beat haiku

Lazy sun at last
Peeks through whisper silent clouds
Squirrels eat the bird seed

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Associated Press supports The Beat Handbook

"Thrift makes a huge comeback," announced the headline of an AP wire story in today's Kennebec Journal. The author, however, forgot to mention a primary resource in the battle for thrifty living: The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

The beats were thrify by nature and by necessity. A number of entries in The Beat Handbook address thriftiness, an extremely relevant practice in these hard times. For example:

Day 6: On Materialism
Day 10: On Freedom and Materialism
Day 25: On Hitchhiking
Day 28: On Clothing
Day 29: On Generosity
Day 35: On Parties
Day 41: On Stealing
Day 58: On Possessions
Day 59: On Barter
Day 64: On Eating When Broke
Day 67: On Money for Gas
Day 68: On Gasline for Free
Day 71: On Recycling
Day 75: On Trip Necessities
Day 78: On Gas Money and Birthday Presents
Day 79: On Energy Conservation
Day 80: On Improvisation
Day 81: On Making Do
Day 90: On Cheap Transportation
Day 99: On Barter

Wow! Maybe I should have titled it The Thrift Handbook?

In any event, it's clear to me that the Associated Press would support your buying a copy of The Beat Handbook for yourself and everyone on your holiday gift list. Just click the link on the right side of this page. It'll help you be thrifty, check off names on your gift list, and stimulate the economy all at the same time. A triple-whammy! Yass! Yass! Yass!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fiscal progress

I hope you'll excuse my rather dry post, but my creative juices are just not flowing today.

For those of you who have been following from the outset of this blog on September 20, you know that it is focused around my authorship of The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions. One recurring theme has been keeping you abreast of my marketing efforts (book-signings, guerilla marketing, attending Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! 2008, etc.). When you self-publish, marketing falls entirely on your own shoulders. I am hoping that some of my experiences may be helpful or motivational for aspiring self-published authors to read about.

In keeping with that theme for today, I thought you might be interested to know that, as of yesterday, I have sold enough books to recoup approximately 20% of my original capital investment (publishing costs, copies of books, and website design). So it took about 2 months.

Does that mean in 10 months I will recoup all my capital expenditures?

I doubt it. I'm not being negative, but let's face it - there is an initial groundswell of sales regarding a book. Once all your friends and acquaintances and colleagues have bought one, that market dries up. There hasn't been a sale on Amazon since October. And book-signing has a life span - how long is a book "new" enough to keep having signings?

Not that I am giving up. I am blogging daily and making connections and thinking of other ways to market my book.

I am happy to reach the 20% recoup point and looking forward to 50%!

Your mission - if you choose to accept it - is to visit Amazon and buy copies of my book for everyone on your holiday gift list! I think it makes a great gift - fun, unique, quirky, and economical.

If you wish, of course.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hard times

The chorus of Stephen Foster's song, "Hard Times," goes:

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times, come again no more

We are facing some hard times ahead. Or "heavy traffic ahead," to borrow from the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe.

Home foreclosures are on the rise. Jobs are scarce. Vehicle repossessions are becoming common. (A loved one of mine is facing that less-than-desirable option out of desperation. I had a car repossessd once and, believe me, it sucks - especially on the ol' dignity). The stock market is in its worst decline in decades, only rivaled by the crash in '29.

What's a person to do?

I honestly don't know. I think all the "survivalists" are chuckling in the mirror when they shave in the morning, thinking about all the food and water and soap and tobacco and guns they have stashed away for that time they've been predicting for years. Anarchy. Chaos in the streets. Looting. People doing whatever they have to in order to survive.

It probably wouldn't hurt to stock up on food and water and other essentials while you have the money. And it might not be such a bad idea to start conserving your money, hard. That includes energy conservation (the beats were green before green was cool). And put your money in a fireproof safe in your house. It's not safe in any investment and I'm not so sure about banks anymore, even FDIC-insured ones. Of course, if the latter all goes to shit it means we're in a world of hurt that defies preparation. Short of hardcore survivalism.

What would Kerouac do?

I imagine he would not be that concerned. He lived frugally, often royalty check to royalty check. He knew how to travel, eat, and party on the cheap. A number of entries in The Beat Handbook address that very aspect of beatness.

The beats depended on each other. Here's a passage from my book:

Day 29
Today’s Kerouaction: On Generosity

Riding on the back of a flatbed truck driven by two young blond farmers from Minnesota who were picking up every hitchhiker possible on a whirlwind trip to L.A., Kerouac freely shares his cigarettes with Gene and his boy, two fellow hobo travelers. Another traveler, Montana Slim, had his own but never passed the pack. It seems that part of the beat way is to recognize a fellow traveler when you see one and take a “what’s-mine-is-yours and vice versa” attitude, with a hope of reciprocity (or karma?). Besides, shirts and cigarettes and booze are just material goods, comforts along the way, nice to have but not necessary, not “IT” (more on “IT” later – see Day 85).

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Next time you are at the bar, buy a round for the house. Or next time you go through a toll booth, pay the toll for the person behind you. Describe the reaction on this page.

I think we're all going to have to depend on each other a whole lot more in the coming months and years. A "what's-mine-is-yours" attitude might serve us pretty well in what I think will be significantly worse economic times than the pundits are predicting. If you're doing okay, maybe there's somebody you could invite over for Thanksgiving dinner. Or perhaps you could surprise someone with a delivery of fuel oil. Or just send someone a check out of the blue. It all comes back - karma's real, you know.

May you never take a careless step.*

* Another line from a famous, classic bluegrass song. Bluegrass ain't jazz, but it's not a whole lot different, and bluegrass musicians - Hell, musicians in general - are pretty beat characters as a whole.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Living the answers - Kerouac style

In Gerald Nicosia's wonderful 1994 biography of Jack Kerouac - Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac - he says:

"The liberal-radical quest to 'find the answers' would get one irretrievably lost. Jack's way, like that of pioneer America, was to live the answers" (p. 155).

As I state at the outset of The Beat Handbook: "Jack Kerouac was a man of action. When in doubt, he did something (p. 10).

Live the answers! The road beckons! There are people to meet and places to see and adventures to live. And every single bloody juicy second is an adventure. Do you see?* It's not about materialism at all.


I'll close with some of my favorite quotes.

"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."
~Albert Einstein

"To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle."
~Walt Whitman

"May you live all the days of your life."
~Jonathan Swift

*A creepy line from a great movie. Figure it out if you can. It has to do with William Blake, poet/painter extraordinaire.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to write to like Jack Kerouac

I cannot teach you to write like Jack Kerouac! The title of this blog post was just to get your attention and push it up the Google rankings. I hope you'll forgive my crass commercialism.

I do have something to say about writing. It struck me while posting a comment on another blog. It comes from my background with assistive technology for people with disabilities, where we learned that communication only takes three prerequisites:

1. Having something to say
2. Having someone to say it to
3. Having a way to say it

Where working with communication disorders is concerned, people with disabilities are people first, and therefore they have something to say. No intervention necessary. Having someone to say it to is usually a naturally occurring phenomenon, and, when it's not, it's easy enough to orchestrate. Which takes us to the third point: having a way to say it. Many people with disabilities need alternative or augmentative communication systems in order to express themselves to others. At this point in time, we have technologies that allow us to put an assistive technology solution in place for people with even the most severe disabilities as long as they have one voluntary movement. And we're close to commercially available systems wherein thought alone will control a computer, vocal output device, mobility system, and devices in the environment (lights, heat, doors, windows, drapes, appliances, etc.).

Amazing, huh?

But what does that have to do with writing?

Well, my friend Keith called me yesterday all excited about a book idea he recently hit upon and he was picking my brain about the whole publishing thing. He was also seeking my general input about his idea, and I told him it seemed like he had passion for it, expertise (something to say), and an audience (someone to say it to - I can't get into that here for confidentiality reasons). And writing is his way to say it - he is a skilled writer. Self-publishing gives him the vehicle for reaching his audience, if he doesn't find a traditional publisher.

So here's the writing advice, in a nutshell:

1. Have something to say

What is it that you have to say that can only come from you? What do you know more about than anyone (in Jack's case, it was his own life and travels)? What are you passionate about? Are there new stories - real or fictionalized - that you are aching to tell? Do you have a unique spin on an existing topic that begs to be spun?

2. Have someone to say it to

Think about your audience (in Jack's case, it was a broad cross-section of people). Who will want to read what you write? What need will your writing fill? Information? Entertainment? Social connection? Change?

3. Have a way to say it

Obviously, writing is your way to say it (in Jack's case, it was often spontaneous prose). But what form will it take? How will you reach your audience? In a novel? Short story? Internet blog? Poetry chapbook? Nonfiction book? Magazine article?


There you have it. Writing advice. We all have something to say, there are plenty of people to say it to, and there are plenty of ways to say it.

One last piece of advice. Persistence. After love, it's the most powerful force there is. Day-by-day, the cumulative effect of persistence pays off. Hell, it carved the Grand Canyon. Writers write. That is what makes them writers. Not fame. Not fortune. Kerouac said the "greatest satisfaction in life is writing."

There's a story about a famous writer who was asked to speak to a group of aspiring writers. I cannot remember who it was or the exact quote, and Google failed me. The gist of it was that his whole speech consisted of asking the audience, "If you are all writers, why aren't you home writing?" Then he walked off stage.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Six Degrees of Jack Kerouac

This is the first in an occasional series of posts (occurring on a variable ratio schedule) wherein I will be linking Jack Kerouac to another person in 6 or less steps. This is based on the trivia game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which is based on the theory of Six Degrees of Separation.

We will be establishing Kerouac numbers, similar to Bacon numbers. A Kerouac number quantifies the separation a person has from Jack Kerouac.

The difference is, we will not be limited in our connections as in the Kevin Bacon version. That is, any connections I think of are fair game - they are not limited to people, but could be events or things. At the same time, I will be connecting Jack to unlikely people, as you will see. And the connections cannot be trivial (for example, having read a Kerouac book does not give you a Kerouac number of 1). Maybe it will be fun. Especially if it becomes interactive and you suggest some unlikely people to connect to Jack.

For our first subject, we will be taking up professional wrestler Kevin Nash.

1. Kevin Nash resides in Venice Beach, CA.
2. My son Jason is streethawking copies of The Beat Handbook at Venice Beach.
3. The Beat Handbook is a daily reader devoted to Jack Kerouac.

So, Kevin Nash's Kerouac number is 3.

Okay. That was kind of lame. But it struck me this morning while watching TNA Wrestling on television* and they introduced Kevin Nash as being from Venice Beach. So I went with it.

I wonder what Barack Obama's Kerouac number might be. Anyone want to tackle that?

*If all you can think of right now is why does Rick watch professional wrestling, get over your bad self. "And ye harm none, do what ye will." Wiccans have it about right.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reflection on my first book-signing

About 10 brave souls ignored the interminable, depressing, stultifying Maine rain last night and attended my first ever book-signing! That's not counting the 3 from the bookstore who dutifully sat through my reading. I'm not going to name names - you know who you are if you came - but I want to say THANK YOU one and all for not leaving me hanging in the breeze. And thanks to Kenny for taking a chance on me. I doubt he made enough money to offset staying open late.

I read for about 15-20 minutes, answered a few questions afterwards, and sold 9 books!

From the audience reaction and my conversations afterwards, I think my descriptions of "guerilla marketing" my book were the hit of the evening, even moreso than hearing excerpts from by book. My latest idea in that regard is that I have started putting a bookmark (which directs the reader to my website) inside postage paid envelopes that come in junk mail and mailing them back. Just since I thought of it I've mailed out 4. And today I decided to start including a bookmark with any bills I mail. In all instances, a human being opens the envelope, so who knows - that person might visit my website. In the former instance, they'll likely be pissed when they open the envelope their company paid the postage on, only to find an advertisement. But, hey - they sent me their crap without permission! In the latter instance, perhaps they won't start out hostile since I am indeed paying a bill.

Although, when I think about it, that job must be tedious beyond belief. So perhaps in neither instance will the human on the other end of my scheme be too receptive. However, after a year goes by, and I have sent out hundreds of bookmarks, statistics would likely indicate that one of them would actually follow up.

Before the signing, a guy introduced himself to me who lives in Weld, knew Ginsburg and Corso, managed Earth Opera, and on and on. His name is Robert Zachary. INTERESTING GUY! Seems like a beat character. Why is it I keep meeting beat characters named Robert in Maine (this one makes 3). I suspect Robert #3 and I have some interesting things to talk about and learn from each other.

Speaking of which, cooler heads prevailed today when I stopped at the vet for cat food and didn't bring home a cat (his name is Kobe, abandoned outside the animal shelter, just had surgery on his left ear from digging it raw getting after earmites, all black, friendly). Kerouac loved cats. I love cats.

But you know that . . . .

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My first book-signing is tonight!

Tonight is my first ever book-signing event – at Devaney Doak & Garrett in Farmington, ME (see yesterday’s blog for details). I don’t know what to expect. How many people will show up (especially since the weather is supposed to suck)? How many of those who show up will be there because they are my friends, versus people I don’t know who will come because they saw the advertisements or the piece in the Sun Journal (audience matters in a presentation – doesn’t it likewise matter for a book reading)? What reactions will I get from the selections I have chosen to read? Will I sell any books? If I do, what will I write in them?

That last question dogs me. Since I am an “author,” it would seem that my inscription in a copy of my own book ought to be . . . clever? Witty? Profound? Relevant? Memorable? Certainly it must be concise – at least at a book-signing.

What would Kerouac do?

First, he would show up at the event drunk. I will not do that. I may have a couple of beers at dinner, though (at the Dugout down the street). Just to take the edge off.

Second, he would not pre-plan what to write. He would depend on the art-form he developed and therefore would write spontaneously whatever happened to be going on “innerwards” – that was a neologism - at the very moment of signing a book.

I cannot call on that skill at will. Once in a while I can. But I cannot depend on it.

Where does this leave me with the big question: How shall I “sign” my books?

I do not want to just sign my name. That is lame. I considered a number of possibilities. “Go go go” came to mind, but that is too obscure unless you are a real Kerouac fan. The same goes for something about “IT.” I definitely want something “beat.” Something from my book. Something relevant.

As I pondered all these variables on the drive to campus this morning through the crisp fall air (Mount Blue looked like a plateau, its signature promontory obscured by clouds), it came to me.

“Dig the ride.” Kerouac said it in On The Road. So it’s beat. It’s the subject of Day 97 of The Beat Handbook. So it’s from my book. It’s about living life passionately in the now, and also a reference to go go go, the road, travel, etc. So it’s relevant.

Yes. I will write the person’s name, and then “Dig the ride!” Then my signature. But should I date it?

What would Kerouac do?

He would date it. He was compulsive about organizing everything related to his work out of concern for his legacy.

I am not anticipating a “legacy” related to my being an author. But Kerouac would date his inscription in a book, and so will I.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poetry and other thoughts

I love poetry. I think I would rather be known as a "poet" than a "writer." It just sounds more . . . beat. Yet I guess poets are writers, and of course Jack Kerouac and his compadres blurred the line between prose and poetry. Proesy?

Google brings up no definition for "proesy." But see Proesy. (This will drive some traffic to a fellow blogger's blog, a beat thing to do. Quid pro quo anyone?)

I especially love certain poets. Emily Dickinson (ever since high school). e e cummings (ever since high school). Edwin Arlington Robinson (ever since high school and by the way I've journaled about him - see EAR.

Hmmm . . . . It would seem I had a kick-ass high school English teacher who exposed me to some good stuff. His name was (is) Brian Stahler. Any kudos to me about my writing are due him. Thanks, Mr. Stahler. Best teacher I ever had. Hardest, too. Probably a correlation there. Had one of his teachers at Lock Haven State College. Learned that the acorn doesn't fall far from the oak.

Who have I appreciated lately? Charles Bukowski for one. Check him out.

How does one "become" a poet? Well, first of all, one cannot become anything. One just is. So let's rephrase. How does one "be" a poet?

One is a poet when one writes poetry. Daily. Which reminds me of my beat poet friend, Charlie, for whom I am serving as compiler/editor of a collection of his poems. He writes every day. Not all of it is "worthy." But it's about the discipline of the craft!

Seems simple enough. But it is hard, my fellow prisoners, damn hard. One has to go mad to write good poetry.

Let the madness begin . . . .

Monday, November 10, 2008

All things Kerouacian

In my daily quest to bring you something Kerouacian, or at least beat, I invite you to pay a visit to this blog: Pictures of Jack Kerouac.

There you will see pictures such as:

While you're there, I wouldn't be opposed to your leaving a comment about The Beat Handbook.