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.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Blogger, Google thyself

If you're reading this post, you are a "blogger." You may not post blogs, but you read them. In my book, that makes you a fellow blogger.

Today's post, fellow bloggers, is both an admission and an exhortation.

The admission: blogging every day is goddamned hard work. I think of cartoonists, or columnists, or fellow bloggers, who routinely crank out new work for each rising of the sun. It's inspiring to witness. Daunting to undertake.

Since September 20, when I started blogging here in earnest, an effort triggered by my book - The Beat Handbook - becoming available on Amazon, I've only missed one day of blogging: Oct. 9. I was traveling, and just didn't "get 'er done."

Inspiration to keep blogging here is sporadic. Very few readers - I know I have some thanks to Sitemeter - post comments. Is it too hard on Blogger (Crystal finds it cumbersome)? Are my posts uninspiring? Is the notion of winning a free book just too hard to fathom for some reason (the pressure of competition)?

So there was the admission: I find this daily blogging effort difficult. But what is the exhortation?

The exhortation is to persist! I offer this exhortation to you, as a fellow blogger, but also to myself as a reminder that persistence pays off. Very few huge accomplishments come about in one short ejaculatory spasm: they result from dogged determination and persistence over time. That is how I learned to play the banjo. That is how I earned a doctorate. That is how I published a book.

And that is how I blog. One day at a time.

One small inspiration, for me at least, is ego-surfing on Google. Nowadays, when I put "Rick Dale" in a Google search, I come up third (on the other hand, if you go to the "more" dropdown on Google and search for "Rick Dale" under Blogs, it comes up as the first hit). Hell, I did't use to come up at all in either place. And "The Beat Handbook" is the first hit on a regular Google search.

All in all, the reinforcement - on an intermittent schedule (<---that was for all my behaviorist friends) - is sufficient to keep me going. For now. I appreciate Elizabeth's admonition to keep going. And Crystal supports my crazy efforts to be a "successful" author (I put successful in quotes to acknowledge that it is a socially-constructed, other-oriented, mindstuff, bullshit-comparison-to-others concept with no real meaning). Which I appreciate a lot!

So, a heartfelt thanks for reading my posts! All joy and honor to you, fellow bloggers.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An excerpt from The Beat Handbook

Day 28
Today’s Kerouaction: On Clothing

In Jack’s kindness to Eddie, a fellow hitchhiker, we get a hint at a piece of clothing one might choose in order to follow the beat path: wool plaid shirts. In other places Kerouac calls them “lumberjack shirts.” You know the kind: red, plaid, the kind Paul Bunyan probably wore. Many pictures of Jack confirm his love of the wool plaid shirt. Now it is possible that Kerouac would approve a wool “blend” or even cotton. We don’t know for sure. We do know that while cotton flannel shirts feel better on our skin, there is nothing like wool for durability and warmth. Get over the itchiness. Use it as a meditation. When you feel the itch, it can remind you to be fully aware in the present moment.

One also gets a hint at the kind of bag to use in carrying one’s possessions while on the road: canvas. The hell with all this newfangled ripstop breathable nylon earth-polluting resource-depleting synthetic crap!

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Get yourself a good old-fashioned canvas bag. Land’s End still makes them, don’t they? Or how about the Boy Scouts? Or how about visiting your nearest used clothing store [32] and scrounging around? That is almost always a worthwhile idea and you never know: you might find a wool plaid shirt to boot. And while you’re at it, drop off something you haven’t worn or used in a year.

[32] Or “vintage apparel” store, the euphemism for used clothes, according to George Carlin.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What I believed in the 1960s by P.J. O'Rourke

I think the following piece from The New Republic by P.J. O'Rourke is pretty damn funny, especially given all the references to beat behavior.

What I Believed in the 1960s
by P.J. O'Rourke (in The New Republic)

Everything. You name it and I believed it. I believed love was all you need. I believed you should be here now. I believed drugs could make you a better person. I believed I could hitchhike to Calfornia with 35 cents and people would be glad to feed me. I believed Mao was cute. I believed private property was wrong. I believed my girlfriend was a witch. I believed my parents were Nazi space monsters. I believed the university was putting saltpeter in the cafeteria food. I believed stones had souls. I believed the NLF were the good guys in Vietnam. I believed Lyndon Johnson was plotting to murder all Negroes. I believed Yoko Ono was an artist. I believed Bob Dylan was a musician. I believed I would live forever or until 21, whichever came first. I believed the world was about to end. I believed the Age of Aquarius was about to happen. I believed the I Ching said to cut classes and take over the dean's office. I believed wearing my hair long would end poverty and injustice. I believed there was a great throbbing web of psychic mucus and we were all part of it. I managed to believe Gandhi and H. Rap Brown at the same time. With the possible exception of anything my parents said, I believed everything.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama, Kerouac, & Me

Driving to campus this morning, I was thinking about two things: 1) that we have elected a man who is African-American (or Black - I never can be sure which term is least divisive) to be our next President (Huzzah!), and 2) that I want to say something about it in The Daily Beat.

My dilemma is how to make a connection between Obama and the subject of this blog (which is all things related to my book, Kerouac, the beat generation, etc.).

Occasionally, with some thought, a connection comes to mind: for example, my blog several days ago about why Jack Kerouac would vote for Obama. I like to think that particular blog entry put Obama over the top. Crystal says I have narcissistic delusions of grandeur. But it's nice to fantasize. And it's beat to be narcissistic (shit, Jack was). So I have no problem being so labeled.

Which leaves me at square one. Hmmmm....

Wait! The answer is so obvious: What would Kerouac do?

It amazes me that we "know" things and don't use that knowledge. (Also, that we base decisions on things we "know" that really aren't so.)

I wrote an entire book based on the premise that asking the question "What would Kerouac do?" is an excellent way to chart a course of action (or at least trigger a laugh).

When I started my recent faculty forum about my book, I began with that question. The answer of course was that I would have shown up for the forum good and drunk. Which I did not do. As I say in my book, we don't have to do what Jack would have done. But we can certainly ask the question.

So, what would Kerouac do when faced with the blank page and the idea of connecting Obama's election with the subject of this blog?

He'd just start typing.

And, my fellow prisoners -- oops -- I mean bloggers, that is what I have done. You have before you the result. No editing (well, I fixed a couple of typos and fixed some mechanics). Just what came out.

I guess in effect that I have indeed connected Obama's election with Kerouac by simply stating that I want to make the connection and then writing about it. (By the way, I was taught that effect is a noun and affect is a verb - with one exception - making it very easy to distinguish between them, yet when one looks in the dictionary one finds that effect can indeed be used as a verb and it drives me crazy that our language is so ambiguous. At least it's clear that where the English language is concerned, its main claim to fame is that it is at least clear as a bell regarding when to use it's and when to use its.)

But I digress.

Obama won. I am happy about that. I have a great hope that his election will effect a profound change in our psyches over time that we cannot fathom, that our affect regarding racial differences - hell, all differences - will turn toward the compassionate, that everyone's voice will matter in his administration (and I mean everyone - as he mentioned in his post-election speech), and, most of all, that his leadership will inspire us all to ask ourselves - routinely - if the next step we contemplate is of any use to the poorest person on the planet (M. Gandhi).


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Birthday to The Beat Handbook photographer

Crystal Bond, the famous beat photographer who took the picture of me (the author) featured on the cover of The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, was born this very day. How cool to celebrate your birthday on the day this nation finally elects someone to the white house other than a white male!

Happy Birthday, Crystal. I love you!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

10 Reasons Jack Kerouac would vote for Obama

1. Obama wants to help the "beaten down." McCain wants to help the rich.
2. Obama's favorite food is Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti. McCain's is steak.
3. Obama's favorite movie is The Big Lebowski. McCain's is Blackhawk Down.
4. Obama rides a bicycle. McCain drives a Cadillac CTS.
5. Obama is often seen without a tie. McCain is a "tie guy."
6. Obama's favorite author is Thoreau. McCain's is William F. Buckley, Jr.
7. Obama listens to Death Cab for Cutie. McCain hates music.
8. Obama owns 2 cats. McCain feeds kittens to his pet boa constrictor.
9. Obama meditates. McCain falls asleep in church.
10. Obama writes his own speeches. McCain depends on professional speechwriters driven by focus groups.

What other reasons can YOU think of? Post them here (and maybe you'll be November's winner of a copy of The Beat Handbook!).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October's free book winner!

October saw only two posts that were eligible to win a free copy of The Beat Handbook. They were as follows:

dizzy lizzy said:

This is brilliant! I wish it worked out better for you, but it's a start. Keep thinking outside the box; it'll all work out soon!

fat free milk said:

Great site! I look forward to exploring it further!

Now, I must be honest and say that neither of these posts is particularly "beat." However, I said that the "beatest" comment would win, and dizzy lizzy gets the nod because at least her post mentions "thinking outside the box," which is what a beat does.

So, dizzy lizzy, 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, which I think you already accomplished).

The Dude abides

The Dude was seen carousing in Hallowell last night, accompanied by a beautiful witch (who won the costume contest at The Wharf).

The witch:

The Dude:

Not too many people recognized the Dude, so he was handing out business cards that said "The Dude abides...". That didn't help. Not too many cult movie fans in Hallowell? The bartender at Joyce's recognized him, offering up a White Russian without being asked and later taking a picture.

Anyway, the Dude is a beat character for sure, and rumor has it that he's making a YouTube video this weekend to help with sales of The Beat Handbook. Stay tuned....