Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Kerouac-olutions

Below are my New Year's Kerouac-olutions for 2010 A.D.:

1. Read Atlas Shrugged
2. Read The Subterraneans
3. Lose 20 pounds
4. Read Dr. Sax
5. Read Vanity of Duluoz
6. Read Maggie Cassidy
7. Use the Versaclimber or hike an equivalency 3 times per week
8. Attend Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! 2010 with Crystal
9. Get tenure at UMF
10. Have my second book well under way
11. Build a woodshed and a deck (or cause them to be built)
12. Visit Arkansas
13. Write 100 poems
14. Wrap up mom's fiscal affairs
15. Upgrade to a better camper situation
16. Win the songwriting competition at Podunk
17. Win the band competition at Podunk
18. Meet Helen Weaver in person
19. Collaborate on a piece of music with David Amram
20. Figure out how to use my Blackberry as a modem for my laptop
21. Clean out and organize my office
22. Wash my car at least once during the year
23. Buy Crystal flowers at least once a month
24. Drive cross country along Jack's route
25. See Jason
26. Get my stock portfolio back to at least even
27. Go rock climbing with Keith at least once
28. Try acupuncture for my right hand dystonia problem
29. Consciously appreciate the Hell out of every day the temperature is
        above 70 degrees and it doesn't rain
30. Make it to 55 years young with no major health events

FYI, below were my New Year's Kerouac-olutions for 2009 A.D. with the outcomes (in parentheses):

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

Let's hope I can do better than a 40% success rate in 2010.

Happy New Year everyone. Dig the ride!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Visions of Cody - Jack Kerouac - Ayn Rand

Faithful followers of The Daily Beat will notice in the sidebar that I have now "read" Visions of Cody. I put "read" in quotation marks because I've never read anything like it in my life. Literal comprehension was impossible. Kerouac's style left me reading for the pleasure of reading, for the rhythms and sounds, and not for comprehension in the traditional sense. I won't try to explain it beyond that. Try it and you'll see what I mean.

You'll note that I have moved on to a non-Kerouac book, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I have an on-again/off-again fascination with Rand, and since I've never slogged through any of her tomes (I read For the New Intellectual, which contains lengthy sections from several of her books), I decided it was time. Atlas is over 1,000 pages. Wish me luck - it will be the longest book I've ever read.

Very faithful readers will remember that on February 22, I postulated that Kerouac and Rand had an affair. Check that post out for some insanity on my part.

Neither estate has sued me for libel. Yet.*

*I can see the headline now: "Professor Sued By Estates of Jack Kerouac and Ayn Rand." There go sales of The Beat Handbook through the roof. Let's see, shall I go on The Today Show or Good Morning America first? Oops! Sorry - my narcissism just reared its ugly head for a minute. Gag . . . .

"What's your favorite Kerouac book?" poll results

Here are the results of The Daily Beat’s (very unscientific) latest poll, “What’s your favorite Kerouac book?” The number after the title is the number of votes the book received, and the number in parentheses is the percentage of votes (n=31) the book received.

As you can see, the top three were The Dharma Bums, Desolation Angels, and On The Road, in that order! This is surprising but gratifying to me as that is how I would rate the top three as well.

The Dharma Bums 10 (32%)
Desolation Angels 8 (25%)
On The Road 6 (19%)
Big Sur 2 (6%)
Tristessa 2 (6%)
Vanity of Duluoz* 1 (3%)
Dr. Sax* 1 (3%)
Lonesome Traveler 1 (3%)
Visions of Gerard* 0 (0%)
Visions of Cody 0 (0%)
Maggie Cassidy* 0 (0%)
The Town and the City* 0 (0%)
The Subterraneans* 0 (0%)

I will admit that I voted without having read all the listed books (I starred those I have yet to read, and I do own them all so only time stands between me and my goal: to read everything Kerouac ever wrote). I'm guessing there's a correlation between the number of votes a book received and how relatively well-known it is. Not all of Jack's books get as much press as, say, On The Road does, so not all of Jack's books enjoy the same level of readership. That's too bad, because all of his books are worth reading (in my humble, Kerouac-obsessed opinion).

Monday, December 28, 2009

An end-of-year thanks to my readers

It's that time of year when one takes stock of things, counts one's blessings, sets down goals for the future, and the like. I particularly wanted to say thank you to everyone out there who reads my blog rantings and ravings about Jack Kerouac. While my book about Jack has garnered no great commercial success (which I honestly didn't think it would), it has allowed me to meet and interact with a host of interesting people, both in person (e.g., David Amram) and via e-mail (e.g., Helen Weaver), and especially on-line, which has connected me to folks all around the world, from India to Great Britain to . . . I cannot even remember all the places. I truly appreciate you, my blog readers, and I promise to keep blogging (maybe not daily like I did for a while) in 2010.

Who knows what the new year will bring? I hope to get to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac again, and I hope to keep meeting interesting people, and, yes, I hope to keep selling a book now and then (yesterday numbers 46 and 47 sold on Amazon - that is not insignificant, at least to me). I've sold about that many in person, and probably have given away an equal amount, so there are about 150 copies floating around out there, from the U.S. to Europe to Asia.

My hope? That once in a blue while moon someone picks up The Beat Handbook and gets a chuckle, or has a deep thought, or decides to read some Kerouac, or, best of all, just decides to live while they're alive, which I often forget to do, and I suspect that goes for most of us.

When's the last time you just headed out (driving, hitchhiking, whatever) with no plan, no destination, no supplies, no cares? With nothing but the urge to go go go? With nothing but the desire to experience what's around the next corner?

As Jack put it, "What's in store for me in the direction I don't take?"

Yair! Happy New Year and thanks to everyone who has enriched my life through our mutual connection to Jack Kerouac. And thanks, Jack; without you, I'd have never written a book.

Which reminds me: I think it's about time to start work on my second book. The hardest part (for me) is settling on an idea (and, of course, getting started).

Got any ideas?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shameless self-promotion

FYI, I don't just write books and blog about Jack Kerouac. I also play in a bluegrass band which just released its first CD. It's available on-line at Bull Moose Music.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Steal This Book!

You might remember Abbie Hoffman's famous counterculture work, Steal This Book, and now, according to The New York Times, it seems that shoplifters are taking Hoffman's advice, in particular with titles by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

What would Jack think about people exercising a little "five finger discount" with On The Road? Well, that's an interesting question. On the one hand, he details frequent pilfering during his road trips; however, it was often a matter of survival (food, for example). I'm guessing he wouldn't be a big fan of people shoplifting his books (and taking royalties out of his pocket - or his estate's pocket at this point). It would violate his fiscal sense and perhaps his Catholic upbringing to boot.

I wonder what he'd think about my reverse shoplifing copies of The Beat Handbook into various bookstores around the country (so far, San Francisco & Venice Beach, CA; Augusta, ME; Lowell, MA; Corning, NY)?

Speaking of which, it's not too late to get your hands on a copy in time for Christmas: buy The Beat Handbook on Amazon. I wish you could steal one from a bookstore, but they won't carry it. After all, it's self-published, and nothing good has ever been self-published (that was sarcasm - check out Famous Self-Published Books).

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Defending Kerouac redux again

I always appreciate defenders of Jack, especially when they put forth a reasoned argument. Check out Accusing Dead Writers of Bigotry.

Jack Kerouac's FBI files Part 2

Here is Part 2 in the on-going saga regarding my attempts to determine if Jack Kerouac has an FBI file (and get copies if one exists) under the Freedom of Information Act. As you can see by the above letter, my request to the Boston field office (contacting multiple field offices was recommended at Get Grandpa's FBI Files) was forwarded to FBI Headquarters, which I had also contacted directly. The FBI has assigned the same FOIPA number to both my requests. Perhaps one letter to FBI Headquarters is sufficient in such matters.

As I described on Facebook, the other morning I stopped at the post office on my way to work. A big black SUV pulled in after me and parked behind me in a perpendicular fashion, blocking my exit unless I made a wide swing around it. It was still there when I exited the post office, and a bald man was sitting in the driver's seat apparently talking on the phone through an earpiece. I pulled around the SUV and headed for work. The SUV pulled out right after me and stayed within sight behind me the entire way - 20 miles. About a mile from my office, I turned off and it went straight.

I bet I have an FBI file now, but at least I know how to find out.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jack Kerouac bobblehead

For readers who noted my earlier mention of the Jack Kerouac bobblehead, here's a picture and a little history. As a promotion in 2003, the Lowell Spinners (a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate) gave Jack Kerouac bobbleheads out to the first 1,000 attendees at a game. Then the Jack Kerouac estate made them break the mold to prevent counterfeiting and unauthorized copies. These go for as high as $350 on eBay.

One of these is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. If you don't know why that is, you don't know Jack.

This pic is from a current listing on eBay (I won't mention that I am currently the high bidder).

Obsession is a beautiful thing to behold.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jack Kerouac's FBI files Part 1

I got this idea from a Charles Bukowski website where his FBI files are posted. I wondered if Jack Kerouac has an FBI file, and some Googling didn't get me anywhere. Crystal turned me on to this website - Get Grandpa's FBI Files - where you can generate letters to the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act to get copies of any dead person's FBI file.

I sent requests for Jack Kerouac's FBI files to the FBI offices in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Winchester, VA (the main records office). Today I received the acknowledgement letter below.

I probably have an FBI file now!

I'll keep you posted as this story unfolds.

Top Words of 2009

Jack Kerouac loved words, and according to the Global Language Monitor, these are the top words of 2009:

1. Twitter
2. Obama
3. H1N1
4. Stimulus
5. Vampire
6. 2.0
7. Deficit
8. Hadron
9. Healthcare
10. Transparency
11. Outrage
12. Bonus
13. Unemployed
14. Foreclosure
15. Cartel

Thursday, December 10, 2009

6 Degrees of Separation: Jack Kerouac and the White House crashers

I don't know what leaves me drier, the Tiger Woods saga or the White House crashers, but I must admit that I never thought someone would find a way to invoke Jack's name in a story about either situation. Nevertheless, NBC Washington has figured out a way to connect Kerouac with the White House wedding crashers. See the story here.

If only I could get my hands on one of those Jack Kerouac bobblehead dolls, but they are going for hundreds of dollars on eBay!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beat Poetry Contest 1st place winner

First place in the Beat Poetry Contest goes to Marjorie J. Levine for her poem, "What Way To Go Today." Congratulations, Marjorie! You've won a copy of The Beat Handbook. I'll be contacting you via e-mail to get a mailing address.

by Marjorie J. Levine

Almost dusk:
Last summer on one Wednesday, in July,
I sat on a bench, a grey wooden tired
Bench on a boardwalk out at old Long Beach.
In the sky a lonely and lost grey kittiwake tipped
As the hot pink sun set in blazing technicolor over
Hot pinkish sand and the fading blue ocean water.

That morning:
I had thought about seeing great art...
Vermeer, or Courbet, or maybe Monet.
But, I drove to the beach instead to think
To think about everything creative that had been
Created before I got here, and when I was here,
And what will be created when I leave this place.
When one day I leave my place and all places in my
Consciousness that is now in this time and was
At a past time and will be in some next time;
Maybe all time exists at the same time.
The great minds of theoretical physicists search
For the "Theory of Everything" as they sit
In their cluttered rooms, their great thinking rooms.
In universities, they ponder the mathematical equations
And Schrodinger's cat and all those mysteries.

In the evening:
It is during the quiet and still and sad night when
I miss most the people I never met:
Edie Beale, and the Rat Pack, and even Rod Serling
Who made me want to time travel: to go back to simpler places
Like Nedick's, or the Belmore, or Bickford's, and Willoughby.
Then the longing, a longing when distant sounds and faraway
Foghorns drive thoughts to reflect on a life visible through some
Smoky cracked mirror, a haunted and haunting steamy mirror.
As I am sort of old now and getting older
There is a vague and odd feeling that I,
Like the kittiwake, somehow must have lost the way.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beat Poetry Contest 2nd place winner

Second place in the Beat Poetry Contest goes to Nicole Taylor for her Bukowski-inspired poem, "Sunny Disposition Now." Congratulations, Nicole!

Sunny Disposition Now
by Nicole Taylor

Sat sunning last Wednesday,
while a neighbor across
said hello and
complained of dog disturbances
and squawking crows.
I can agree
to this
and enjoying
the spring chirpies.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beat Poetry Contest 3rd place winner

Third place in the Beat Poetry Contest goes to Thomas S. Ferland for his poem, "Smiling At the Moon." Congratulations, Thomas!

Smiling At the Moon
by Thomas S. Ferland

What now tonight?
Who is it? the guilty man-
the word man-
the one who stands aloft with the moon
The word makes it full like the the moon-
it misleads- misspeaks- mistakes-
but it's always - always the moon.

How wholly fooled ?
fooled and thinking –
idle- ideal- idealized normality-
Nonsense, these senses deceive-
We're all enamored by this material-
but there is no we, no it, no fool
Only the moon.

They all want to be strapped into some helpless hopeless box
Spinning in the void.
No one is looking, or hearing, but all they want is the sound and sight-
Think no more-
Only smile-
For if it stops the world will cease to be,
But not the moon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Beat Poetry Contest winners

The Beat Poetry Contest has come to a close and we'll be announcing the winners by publishing the top three poems over the next three days. We had 12 poems submitted, and choosing the top three was quite a challenge. Trying to imagine what poems Jack would dig is a daunting task.

Nevertheless, decisions have been made and tomorrow we'll publish the third place winner. Wednesday we'll publish the 2nd place winner. Finally, on Thursday we'll publish the first place winner, who'll receive a copy of The Beat Handbook.

Thanks to everyone who submitted poems, and please keep on writing. That's what Jack would do!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks, Jack Kerouac

Here's a short little piece on Jack by Carolyn Kellogg in the LA Times: Thanks, Jack Kerouac. It includes lines like "when Kerouac imagined something grand and unnameable and just out of reach, he could be electrifying" and provides a link to Jack singing "Ain't We Got Fun."

Let's give thanks today for many things, Jack Kerouac included.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"What's your favorite Kerouac book?" poll ends soon

Our "What's your favorite Kerouac book?" poll (see right hand sidebar) ends in 4 days. So far, The Dharma Bums has a convincing lead. Let's see if we can push the total number of votes over 30!

Exercise your right to vote!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Magnetic Beat Poetry

If you want to play "magnetic poetry" on-line with the words of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, or even Bukowski, click here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bloodstream City

Every once in a while I happen upon a new blog with a post that really speaks to me. Bloodstream City is one of those. Well, at least the post about Kerouac certainly left me saying "Right on!" Click here to read the post - it will remind you why you love Jack.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

City Lights links to The Daily Beat

I just learned that City Lights has linked directly to my interview with Helen Weaver on their website. You can view City Lights' website here.

This is pretty big news for The Daily Beat! City Lights is the biggest name in beat publishing, and has been since Kerouac's time, so getting some recognition from them is very validating.

Granted, I had to hitch my wagon to Helen Weaver's star to get it to happen, but you know the old saying: "Put me in, coach."

Is that a bunch of future book sales I'm smelling...?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Interview with Helen Weaver

Hot off the press, here is the e-mail interview granted me by Helen Weaver, author of The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifies. I owe Helen a huge "thank you" for giving me the opportunity to interview her, and, as you'll see, for her care in answering with such enthusiasm and detail. I hope this interview inspires readers to order a copy of The Awakener and revisit some of Jack's writings.


Rick Dale: How would you describe your approach to writing? For example, do you have a special place and time when you write? Do you use a word processor or do you write by hand? Do you pre-write (outlines, visuals, etc.)? Do you have any techniques to overcome “writer’s block”?

Helen Weaver: I like to write early in the morning, fresh from dreams. Afternoons are mostly for revision. My Grandma Hemenway said she could never initiate anything in the afternoon, and my mother always wrote letters in the morning. So I guess I’m a chip off the old block.

Occasionally I take notes in a journal; but my journal keeping has declined considerably over the years as I take pity on my executors. (As it is, my archives of letters, journals, and photos, though well organized, are a bit excessive.)

My usual procedure is to compose on the computer (I love Word Perfect, have resisted switching to Word) and revise by hand, sitting up in bed with a clipboard and a red Pilot Precise Rolling Ball pen (fine).

I don’t write every day. But once I’ve begun work on a book, it tends to take over my life and I sometimes find myself writing all day, and neglecting other business. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and take notes. I’ll mull over the wording of a sentence in the shower. So I like to tie up any loose ends before I get started on, or resume work on, a book.

Right now I’m three quarters of the way through my next book, which will be about my scientist father and our dialogue about astrology. I already have the title: Translation of Light. I had to put that aside when I signed the contract for The Awakener, and I intend to take it up again after this flurry of promotional activity calms down a little.

Except for my self-published book The Daisy Sutra, I’ve never had to do promotion before. As a rule, translators keep a low profile; their job is to be invisible. So this is all new to me, and pretty heady stuff.

Hmmm. . .writer’s block. I’m not sure that what I had–off and on during the nineteen years the Kerouac book was in the works–was writer’s block or not. I think I was just plain not ready to write it. As Allen Ginsberg said (quoting the Bard), “ripeness is all.”

Back in 1970 I began work on a book–I thought it was a novel–which I eventually had to abandon. At the time, the subject was very controversial: the whole May-December thing from the point of view of a woman who falls in love with a teenage boy. I sat down and read it one day and said, This doesn’t work! and put it in my files. I still haven’t given up on that book; it just wasn’t the right time, and not because it was controversial: I wasn’t ready.

So what I think is, if you’re stuck, if you can’t write it, there’s probably a good reason. You’re probably barking up the wrong book, or the wrong genre. So write something else. Write letters, write in your journal, write down your dreams. Warm up your voice.

Rick Dale: What are your thoughts on how Jack portrayed you (as Ruth Heaper) in Desolation Angels?

Helen Weaver: Desolation Angels was one of the unfinished manuscripts Jack had in his rucksack the day we met in November 1956. When the book was finally published in 1965 I felt honored to be included in it and I was touched by his portrait of me.

Jack was very hurt when I asked him to move out but he had obviously forgiven me by the time he finished the book.

I have always been amused by his choice of name for me. Very biblical! The first time we made love, Jack quoted The Song of Songs to me: “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies,” and so on. That’s how he came up with the name Ruth Heaper.

Rick Dale: What is your greatest regret and what is your greatest satisfaction about your career as a writer?

Helen Weaver: I’m not sure I have any regrets, except perhaps that it would have been nice if I had made the transition from translator to writer a little earlier. I have at least three more books to write, and I’m pushing eighty!

At the moment I take great satisfaction in having finished my book about Jack. Just the fact that it’s no longer in my files but out in the world is a tremendous relief. Aldous Huxley lost his papers in a fire, and Jimmy Carter lost half a book when his computer crashed. I was lugging this book around for years, always worried that something would happen before I finished it.

I think my greatest satisfaction comes when people tell me that after reading my book, they want to go back and read Kerouac again–or for the first time. Or that they feel they know him better. Then I know I’ve done my job.

Rick Dale: Of the several biographies written about Jack, is there one you recommend?

Helen Weaver: My favorite book about Jack is Joyce Johnson’s memoir, Minor Characters. To my delight, she’s now writing another book about Jack that I know will be wonderful. As a novelist and memoirist herself, Joyce is particularly concerned with carefully tracing Jack’s development as a conscious artist–something he has not been given nearly enough credit for.

Rick Dale: Do you have a response for when people accuse Jack of being a sexist and a misogynist and therefore wonder how you, as a woman, can defend him?

Helen Weaver: I don’t think I defend him; I simply describe him.

If you go by the dictionary definition of misogyny–“hatred of women”–that would be going too far. Jack loved women, beginning with his mother, who was the great love of his life. But he came of age in the forties, when sexism was the order of the day. He was raised Catholic, a religion that denies women both the priesthood and reproductive freedom, and he was capable of saying things like “women must be guided by men.”

But Jack was a mass of contradictions. He was also drawn to Buddhism, and there was a side of him that wasn’t sexist at all: that was deeply compassionate toward, and respectful of, all sentient beings.

That Jack was incapable of having a sustained relationship with any woman (other than his mother) was something he freely admitted. In Windblown World he wrote, “Maybe I’m too wild for protracted love affairs. It’s the world I need most. . . .I want to live. . .and see more of the world, and God knows why, a woman’s love is only one of many wild loves.”

Rick Dale: What actors can you see playing Jack and Neal in the (hopefully) upcoming movie adaptation of On the Road?

Helen Weaver: My dream cast for On the Road–which is a complete fantasy, as you will see–would star the young Mel Gibson, who is the only actor who actually looks like Jack. (If you think I’m crazy, check out a scene in What Women Want where Mel Gibson dances by himself in a sort of forties musical sequence. He looks so much like Jack, it’s uncanny.) Alas, Mel Gibson is too old to play the young Jack, even if he wanted the part. It’s also too late for my choice for Neal: the young Paul Newman, who looked like photos I’ve seen of Neal.

(For the movie version of The Awakener, I’d be Julia Roberts and Joyce would be Renee Zellweger. Dream on, Helen!)

Getting real: In the recently released documentary One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur, passages from Jack’s novel are read by John Ventimiglia, the actor who played Artie Bucco in the HBO series The Sopranos. Ventimiglia catches the rhythm of Jack’s unique speech pattern but sounds a bit hoarse, and doesn’t quite nail those Massachusetts vowels, as Johnny Depp does in an earlier film called The Source.

That was a real eye-opener: Johnny Depp on voice-over read Jack’s words with such devoted fidelity to the Kerouac timbre, accent, and rhythms that until Johnny’s image appeared on the screen, I thought it was Jack.

Either Depp or Ventimiglia would probably do an outstanding job of playing Jack. I don’t have a clue who should play Neal.

Rick Dale: You didn’t speak of Neal Cassady much in The Awakener. Could you elaborate on him from your own perspective? Did you ever meet?

Helen Weaver: I never met Neal Cassady, and frankly, I never had any desire to meet him. From all reports, and from the portrait Jack paints of him in On the Road, he sounds like a sexist and a misogynist of the first order!

Rick Dale: Have you read Visions of Cody? If so, what are your thoughts on it? (I’ve been finding it a difficult read.)

Helen Weaver: You’re not alone. I had a hard time with it too; when I worked briefly as an editor at Chelsea House, I actually rejected it. Even Allen Ginsberg had found it “incomprehensible” on first reading. Later he changed his mind and when it was published in 1972–it was Joyce Johnson who published it as an editor at McGraw-Hill–Allen wrote the introduction.

Joyce says it’s full of some extraordinary prose–difficult, yes, but brilliant, in a Joycean way. Between the two of you, you have convinced me to take a second look.

Rick Dale: We know Jack took meticulous care of his writings, letters, etc. You describe him digging manuscripts out of his rucksack. How did he keep them from getting torn and tattered in there? Were they in portfolios or manila folders, or were they just crammed in there “as is”?

Helen Weaver: That was fifty-three years ago! It’s true I do remember many details of that first meeting vividly, but I’m going to have to pass on that one.

The interesting thing is that at the end of his life his letter files, anyway, were apparently in apple-pie order. Ann Charters would know all about that, as she worked with him on a bibliography. When I met John Sampas in 1994, I was amazed to learn that Jack had kept every one of my letters to him in a folder marked with my name.

Rick Dale: Do you have any advice for us aspiring writers? How did your publishing contract with City Lights come about?

Helen Weaver: Read constantly. Read the classics, read detective stories, read about wizards and vampires and dragons, but read! Harry Potter and Marcel Proust sit side by side on my fiction shelf, just waiting for the next time through.

I don’t know anything about writing fiction, but if memoir is your bag, keep a journal. Take notes on your life. Don’t assume that a subject that has already been written about–say, addiction–is no longer of interest. Every life is different. Every voice is different! Your authentic voice is unlike anyone else’s, as is your experience.

If you have a dark and guilty secret, explore it. Respect obsession: it’s the foundation of art.

The life really is in the details. The weirder your experience, the more idiosyncratic, the more personal the stuff you put out there, oddly enough, the more universal will be its appeal. And, of course, the worse the experience, the better the copy.

When writing, if you come to a place where you can’t decide between two ways of saying something, put them both down and decide later which to use. As Yogi Berra put it: When you come to a fork in the road–take it!

I first contacted City Lights in October of 2007. I didn’t know anyone there so I wrote a letter to Lawrence Ferlinghetti which, not surprisingly, went unanswered. He was eighty-eight!

In June 2008, Joyce Johnson urged me to try again. She said to contact her friend Nancy Phillips at City Lights. I turned out Nancy had retired, but she spoke to Bob Sharrard, senior editor there. He agreed to look at the book, he liked it, and that was it.

Unfortunately, in today’s publishing world, it does matter who you know. Especially if, like me, you don’t have an agent.

Join the National Writers Union. Their free contract service alone is worth the price of admission. Keep in touch with your colleagues.

Above all, keep writing. If you’re a writer, you don’t need to be told to write. You have no choice. You’re in good company. Enjoy the process!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Notre Dame scholars weigh in on Kerouac and Lowell

You'll recall my blog from October's Lowell Celebrates Kerouac event mentioning the keynote address from a Notre Dame Kerouac scholar, Benedict Giamo. Here's a letter he co-wrote with Louis Pignatelli (who I have to assume is "Lou" from my post of October 6) to the community of Lowell about their visit, with a response from David Amram.

Click here for the letter.

Kerouac is everywhere

Jack's name shows up even in the most unexpected places, like The Huffington Post (click here).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Supporting poetry and poets

Jack Kerouac was a poet, even in his prose work. Indeed, as Helen Weaver says in her fantastic memoir, The Awakener, "Jack always said that his books were poems." Try reading On The Road aloud and see what she means.

I think Jack would want us to support poetry, and to do that we need to support poets.

This coming Friday night at 6:30 PM, at A1 to Go in Gardiner, ME, there will be a poetry reading open to any poets who want to come and read their work. Crystal and I are going. I know I plan to read some of my original poems. I hope you'll consider coming out and supporting poetry!

Another way to support poetry is to buy the work of contemporary poets. For example, my good friend Charlie James just published a fantastic collection of 201 poems titled Life Lines. It's available at Amazon (click here).

Another contemporary poet is Rod Farmer, a colleague at UMF. He just published a book titled Fingers Pointing at the Moon and it's also available via Amazon (click here) or directly from Finishing Line Press (click here).

Thanks in advance for supporting poetry and poets! Jack says "Thanks!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review: Helen Weaver's The Awakener

On October 28 Hannah Edber from City Lights Publishers sent me an e-mail query about my interest in reviewing Helen Weaver's new book, The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties (2009, City Lights Books). I instantly agreed, and the book appeared in the mail November 6 (see, being a somewhat dedicated blogger can pay off - free books!). I started reading it Sunday night and finished it last night. If you knew my life right now, you would know what that means: it means I simply couldn't put it down! 260 pages in three days just doesn't happen for me anymore unless I am mesmerized. And Helen's memoir mesmerized me, to be sure.

Yes, The Awakener focuses on her relationship with Jack Kerouac and so, being the #1 Kerouac fan alive on planet Earth right now, a book about Jack would have to be pretty bad for me to dislike it. On the other hand, it has to be pretty damn good for me not to want to put it down. I even stayed up well past my bedtime (important at my age) last night just because I didn't want to stop reading.

But enough about me. Let me throw some adjectives at you. Helen Weaver is not only a writer who knew Kerouac, she is an excellent writer! Her prose is clear, straightforward, and candid. It is at varying times funny, poignant, heart-wrenching, and insightful. Most importantly for me, it is engaging! It's like sitting down with an old friend and hearing all about her life. I really feel like I know Helen Weaver. And I feel like I know Jack better as well.

Jack dropped into Helen's life in November 1956, showing up at her (and her friend Helen's) apartment in the Village with beat poet friend Allen Ginsberg, Ginsberg's lover Peter Orlovsky, and Lafcadio (Peter's brother). They were a ragtag bunch, having hitchhiked nonstop from Mexico. Jack and Helen fell in love instantly and he lived with her for a short time.

This is how the memoir starts, creating anticipation in the reader for more Kerouac details, but then it switches gears - appropriately - to how Helen, a "girl from Scarsdale with a strict and even repressive middle-class upbringing" (p. 21), ended up living in Greenwich Village and experiencing the many aspects of bohemian living that she did for many years, running in the same circles as the beat writers and even having an affair with comedian Lenny Bruce. We learn of her sexual awakening, her success as a writer translating French books, and her spiritual quest. Her description of being one of the main organizers of the cause supporting Bruce's efforts to beat his obscenity rap is a certifiable, unparalleled piece of 60s history. She also spins some fascinating stories about the famous comedian.

For example, right after John F. Kennedy was killed, she went to see Bruce perform, knowing he would have to say something about the assassination and wondering how he would find humor in it. At the time, famous Mainer (go, Maine!) Vaughn Meader had a hit record called The First Family "satirizing JFK to perfection" (p. 131). Lenny walked out on stage and said nothing for a time, shaking his head as if in sad disbelief.

Then he said, "' Vaughn Meader fucked? Whew!" And the audience roared.

That is just one of many priceless stories that Helen (I can call you Helen, right?) weaves in The Awakener. There's quite a bit about Jack, of course, and her memories of him are specific, detailed and, best of all, unique to her own experiences. You won't read these stories anywhere else, and definitely not from someone with such an authentic voice.

Toward the end of the book, Helen describes how she rediscovered Kerouac after his death through his writings, leading to welcome healing and even a sort of reconciliation with his place in her life. She came to realize what a gifted writer he truly was, and her defense of his place in American literature is both pointed and scholarly.

I am absolutely convinced that anyone with an interest in the beat generation or even the 50s and 60s in general will fall in love with The Awakener, and with Helen Weaver.

Helen, thank you for persevering and finishing this masterpiece. You are a true American treasure.

Daily Beat readers - buy this book (here's the link)! You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Howl biopic: Actors playing Ginsberg, Kerouac, & Cassady

According to, the biopic Howl, depicting the obscenity trial of Allen Ginsberg, will be released in 2010. James Franco is playing Ginsberg, Todd Rotondi is playing Jack Kerouac, and Jon Prescott is playing Neal Cassady. I leave it to you to determine the appropriateness of the casting, but I think two of the three picks are right on, maybe all three. I'll reserve judgment until I see the film.

James Franco

Todd Rotondi

Jon Prescott

Monday, November 9, 2009

Getting a copy of Beat Scene 60

I've been in touch with Kevin Ring of Beat Scene magazine in the U.K. and have figured out - with his help - how to order a copy of Beat Scene 60, the Kerouac special, here in the U.S. Go to Beat Scene and scroll down a bit until you see the picture of Ruth Weiss. The "Buy Now" button right above her picture sends overseas customers to a Pay Pal site for ordering the Kerouac issue.

Mine should be here in the near future and I'll let you know what I think!

Helen Weaver agrees to an interview

Helen Weaver (Ruth Heaper in Kerouac's Desolation Angels) has graciously agreed to an e-mail interview! As soon as I finish reading her memoir, The Awakener, I'll send her a set of questions and then publish the interview here on The Daily Beat.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Awakener by Helen Weaver

I just received a copy of Helen Weaver's The Awakener from City Lights to review here on The Daily Beat. I'm excited to read it and have contacted the author to see if she would be interested in granting me an interview. Weaver was a contemporary of the beat writers and knew Jack intimately (more on that after I read the memoir!), so it promises to be a very interesting read.

Stay tuned for the review (and maybe an interview).

Beat Scene

The magazine Beat Scene published a Jack Kerouac special in October. Since it's a U.K. outfit, I'm not sure how ordering and getting a paper copy of the magazine will work, but I'm going to make an attempt and I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm also going to see if they're interested in mentioning The Beat Handbook.

Ruling in Kerouac estate case

Here's an update on the Kerouac estate case unfolding in Florida: Legal battle over Jack Kerouac estate.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Being in the initial stages of settling my mom's estate (she died two days after Jack's death anniversary), this article about the on-going legal battles over Jack Kerouac's estate caught my eye: Get Your Sordid Kerouac Estate Details Here.

The lesson? Have a will. Make sure it is clear, legal, and current. Provide a copy to your attorney, personal representative, and beneficiaries (don't forget to be specific about who gets your collection of Jack Kerouac books and memorabilia).

But only if you care about your wishes being followed after you head out on your last road trip.

You might also want to prepare a document containing details like social security number, bank account and investment information, insurance policy and retirement information, and other stuff it might be hard for those left behind to pull together or find out about (e.g., usernames and passwords, safe deposit boxes, outstanding loans). Oh, and a concise directive about what to do with your body and how you'd like us all to go about your send-off would be very helpful as well.

And no, it's not morbid. It's called being responsible and considerate.

Jack Kerouac: Blogger

I ran across a piece on that, if nothing else, makes me want to read Why Kerouac Matters, which has been on my list of books to read for a while (hint: my birthday approaches).

Here's the link: On the Road to the Bloggers' Hall of Fame.

Art show on Friday

Don't forget to attend the art show in Richmond this Friday night. It's the first one featuring Crystal's pottery. Details are on the postcard above.

Thanks for supporting the arts (and my love)!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

RIP: Lenore Kandel

Some of the beat writers were women, and one of them, Lenore Kandel, just died in San Francisco at age 77. She was the character Romana Swartz in Kerouac's Big Sur (I hope she got a chance to see One Fast Move Or I'm Gone). Here's a link to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Any poet who gets a book banned is on to something.

Dig the ride, Lenore.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

RIP: Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac died October 21, 1969 in St. Petersburg, FL at St. Anthony's Hospital. Dr. Kerouac (he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters posthumously by UMass Lowell in June 2007) was only 47 years old (synchronistically, on may way to campus this morning I saw, for the first time in memory, a casket company vehicle - it said "Matthews International Casket Division" on the side).

What were you doing on October 21, 1969? It was a Tuesday, so I would have gotten up first thing - did I take daily showers then? - and walked up the hill to the Wellsboro Junior High School where I attended 9th grade (yes, 9th grade wasn't considered high school then). I don't remember my 9th grade teachers, but they may have been some combination of Ms. Millier (who we all had the hots for), Mr. Griscavage, Mr. Schwab, Mr. Daugherty, Mr. Cruttenden, Mr. Mills, Mrs. Davis, etc. We were past Miss Snyder's - "bless her gizzard" - obtuse geography classes (thankfully) and Mrs. Siemens' Latin classes (helpful on the MAT). I think the principal was Mr. Deibert – it always scared me just to look at him. I was probably in the beginning stages of a wicked unrequited crush on Cindy that lasted a while into my high school years (note to self - read Maggie Cassidy). My group of friends was changing as I became more confident academically. And, of course, I had my share of teen angst. I could be wrong about any of the above “facts.” They called Jack Kerouac "memory babe," but I fall way short on that score.

After school I would have walked back down the hill - perhaps lingering just off school grounds for the daily fight between two testosterone-influenced brutes - and probably hung out in the hotel (where we lived) until dinner in the formal dining room with mom and dad (after a cocktail in the bar – them, not me). I would have excused myself early, allowing my parents some alone time, and maybe that was one of the nights I snuck over to Gus' Candy Kitchen and bought a 25-cent bag of Jax Cheese Curls to bring back and eat while watching a new episode of Jonny Quest.

In any case, I was 13 years old and wrapped up in my own adolescent trivialities while Jack Kerouac - literary giant - was dying in a Florida hospital (murdered, actually, but that is another subject on which I’ve written previously). I was a long time from learning about Jack, but he was already inside me in some sort of weird osmotic way I can't yet explain. Maybe it was all the beat characters who worked at or stayed in the hotel (Mr. Rifkin, until this moment I hadn't thought of you in years - damn, were you beat!).

Jack, we miss your spirit. I’ll lift one to you later tonight.

Rest well….

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Free passes to Kerouac documentary screening

Back on October 13 I posted about a contest to win free passes to the screening of the new Kerouac documentary, One Fast Move Or I'm Gone, in Pittsburgh. Guess what?
I won!

Two things. First, they changed the date to October 28. Second, I don't yet have details on how to pick up the passes.

I said in my earlier post I'd sell them to the highest bidder (since I can't travel 800 miles), but I've decided to give them (i.e., tell how to pick them up) to the first person to respond to this post with a legitimate-sounding commitment to actually attend the event. In other words, someone from the Pittsburgh-ish area.

You can help by spreading the word! Do you know a Kerouac fan in the Pittsburgh area? Maybe they'd be up for free passes.

I've seen the documentary, and it's very well done.

The clock is running....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tangiers: An exotic Kerouac fan destination

If you want to put an exotic Kerouac fan destination on your list of Kerouactivities, perhaps you might want to check out Tangiers. You can still stay where Jack stayed (Hotel El Muniria) and drink where Jack drank (Tanger Inn). Read Desolation Angels for Jack's experiences there. For a few travel-important details, check out The beat moves on.

Of course, there are any number of additional reasons to visit Tangiers: history (espionage), culture (mrouzia), geography (ocean, mountains, and deserts), etc. James Bond seemed to hang out there a lot; that, in itself, speaks volumes. And if you're a Casablanca film fan, you could always check out the real city while you're over there. I did see a travel alert regarding land mines in the Western Sahara, and Casablanca experienced a suicide bombing as recently as April 2007.

So ... be an adventurous but cautious traveler!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jack's Desolation Peak cabin in the news

I've posted the above picture in the past - it's the fire lookout cabin where Jack spent three months or so in 1956 and his experience there is featured prominently in his novels The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. Here's a recent article from the Ottawa Citizen: Beat goes on at Kerouac's Cascades cabin.

It's definitely a Kerouac fan destination. Just the travel logistics to get to the trailhead are daunting, so only diehards make the visit.

I'd love to see it, but may have to settle for the photograph.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goodbye "Captain" Lou

Flamboyant - and legendary - professional wrestling manager (and wrestler) "Captain" Lou Albano died yesterday at age 76 in NYC. He was known to the world outside of professional wrestling for a role he played in the Cyndi Lauper video "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." The Captain was in his heyday when my son, Jason, was very young and we used to watch pro wrestling just as I did growing up when the big attraction was Championship Wrestling with Johnny Powers on Saturday afternoon (along with Monster Movie Matinee where we saw all the great B horror movies like Them and The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Another World where Scotty concluded with "Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!," etc.). Here's the CNN article on Lou: Lou Albano dies at 76.

So what's the Kerouac connection? Well, it turns out that Jack's dad, Leo, managed some semi-pro wrestlers according to author Barry Miles in Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats:
Leo did well in Lowell. He left L'Etoile to set up his own print shop, Spotlight Print, where, in addition to handbills and other such work, he published his own little newspaper, the Spotlight, which featured his own reviews of local theatrical productions. He was a well-known figure in the town though not necessarily well-liked: muscular, short, stocky, overweight, loud, verbose, opinionated, bigoted, leaving a trail of cigar smoke behind him as he stamped from place to place. He was a sporting man who followed the horses and managed a few semi-pro wrestlers and boxers, promoting the occasional fight. He was a classic small-town personality. A big fish in a small pond.

Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!

It's fun to be alive.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Favorite beat writer survey

A whopping 9 people took the "Who's your favorite beat writer?" survey on The Daily Beat and the results are in:

Kerouac 66%
Ginsberg 22%
Snyder 11%

With that small of an n, the results mean bupkis.

Win passes to Kerouac DVD premiere

You can win passes to the premiere of One Fast Move Or I'm Gone at WYEP. I'm entering. If I win, I'll auction them off (since I can't be in Pittsburgh on October 20--much as I'd like to given PA is my home state and all) to the highest bidder. Then I'll use the cash to buy a poorboy of Tokay and we'll celebrate in our own special way up here in Maine (maybe upta camp - that's Mainerese for "at our seasonal cottage").

Kerouac DVD Release

According to The Canadian Press, the new documentary chronicling Jack Kerouac's time at Big Sur, One Fast Move Or I'm Gone, is scheduled for release the week of October 18. Crystal and I saw this at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in October 2008, and it is definitely one for the collection.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Still another Kerouac fan destination

I've been to Cape Cod National Seashore, but never knew that there were primitive structures called "dune shacks" hidden among the dunes that have served as roosts for various artists, including Jack Kerouac! Here's the article: Dune Shacks. Sounds like another Kerouac destination to me. I have not triangulated that Jack hung out in one of these, but it sounds like something he would do.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Beat Poetry Contest

I've now received the first entry in the Beat Poetry Contest. The contest is on!

For details and contest rules, see the sidebar (for Facebook readers, you must visit the source of this post by clicking on the title of the post, or you can go directly to my blog at The Daily Beat).

Kerouac named 1 of 5 sexiest writers in history

Jack would be proud. See 5 Sexiest Writers in History.

If you're not familiar with Sylvia Plath, read Lady Lazarus.

What a closing line!
"And I eat men like air."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Beat Handbook sales

Here's what we've accomplished on Amazon from September 2008 to September 2009.

If you want to help October's sales enjoy an uptick, please feel free to click away at

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Advice for the road

Another example of my efforts to bring you all things Kerouac from the web: Know the rules of the road trip.

Rejection - again

I entered the following poem in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's 123 LIT Contest, whose 10 winners were announced today. Entries had to be 123 words. Mine was untitled as I sent it, but I am calling it Jack's Ghost (I read it at the open mike on Saturday night at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac).

Jack's Ghost

I trippled down Adler
hoping to meet Jack’s ghost
but ended up sitting on the floor
upstairs in City Lights
reading the blues
when a sexy gone voice behind me
said who’s your favorite?
and without looking to see
my angel in waiting
I wrote “Kerouac” on a blank page
in my little black notebook
stuck my pen in the fold
and passed it behind me
without looking
I felt it taken out of my nervous hand
an eternity fell on my shoulders
before a giggle
a sweet silky titter of a laugh
too afraid I still didn’t look
Something touched my shoulder
I reached up, felt my notebook
under Jack’s name was written
“I was here”
I turned around
she was

If you want to read the 10 winning entries, click here.

I don't get it. I really, really don't.

But I am not disheartened, for, after all, I was cut from the high school varsity basketball team twice, which is twice as many times as Michael Jordan was cut from his.

Anniversary of the first public reading of Howl

The most famous poem associated with the beat generation writers, "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg, was first read publicly at The Six Gallery in San Francisco on October 7, 1955, 54 years ago today. In 1957, customs officials seized copies of the book containing Howl, leading to obscenity charges against its American publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of City Lights Bookstore. Ferlinghetti prevailed, with Judge Clayton W. Horn ruling that the poem was not obscene because it was of "redeeming social importance."

Read Howl here and the Footnote to Howl here (couldn't find it all in one spot).

WARNING: Do not read Howl if you are homophobic or prissy. Your brain will start to boil, blood will spurt out of your ears, and you will likely soil yourself. We don't want that, now do we?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where they wrote "Jack, go home" above the urinals

Add to your list of upcoming beat travel destinations the White Horse Tavern, a bar in NYC's Greenwich Village where patrons used to write the following message to Kerouac above the urinals: "Jack, go home."

Read about it here.

Ultimately, Jack did (as will we all).
Gravestone rubbing by Charlie and Chris of Michigan
("Say yah to da U.P., eh?")

Neologism of the day: beatspiration

I'm trying to type this with my cat, Karma, sprawled on my stomach and the laptop perched on my thighs (Jack would be proud, both of the practice and of my choice in cat appellations). In a fit of inspiration wherein I combined a line from a recent episode of Californication and a neologism inspired by Steve Edington's inscription to me in his book, The Beat Face of God, I have decided to inscribe future books I sell or give away with:

May words be your drug of choice and may at least some of them in this book further your beatspirations.

Or something like that....

And yes, when my cat misbehaves I can say, "Bad Karma!"

One-man play about Kerouac

See The End of the Road. Too bad we don't live near St. Petersburg!

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Part 3

Once again picking up where we left off, on Saturday we ate breakfast at the Radisson, got cleaned up, and drove into Lowell to attend the 11 AM "Commemorative at the Commemorative." The event was to be held at Kerouac Park in honor of the 70th anniversary of Jack's graduation from Lowell High School, 50th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Sax, and the 40th anniversary of his death on October 21, 1969 at age 47.

We finally found the Park (between the two of us Crystal and I can't navigate worth a farthing), but no one was there and Crystal spotted a paper taped to one of the memorial's pillars. It said the event was moved to the Lowell National Historic Park Visitor Center. We made our way there, late, but the event hadn't started.

Two things of significance happened there (in addition to the event itself). First, I got to talk for a while with David Amram, famous composer and Kerouac friend. David is a powerhouse of energy and talent - inspiring, and at 79 years old! He said he's writing another book, titled "David Amram: The First Eighty Years." He gave me his book, Offbeat, and wouldn't take any money for it but accepted a copy of The Beat Handbook in return (actually gave it to him at a later event). Here's a pic (that's Notre Dame prof Dr. Giamo in the background - more on him later):

About that time a young man came up and shook my hand and said, "Rick?" He proceeded to tell me that he picked up my book from the grave last year and had held onto it for an entire year and was now going to pass it along (which is what I wrote in the book that I hoped would happen). He had it all wrapped up in plastic to leave at the grave again. Here I am with Anestis from Boston:

A little later on, Anestis told me he decided not to leave the book at the grave but passed it on to a young man named Lou, who was there from Notre Dame University with one of his professors, Dr. Benedict Giamo, who was giving an afternoon lecture on Dr. Sax! Lou loved my idea of having that copy of the book pass from person to person with each one writing in it as a way of marketing. "Kerouac goes viral," he said. Who knows where it will end up next? Here's a picture of Anestis, Lou (middle), and me:

We ate lunch at Fortunato's in downtown Lowell (Greek soup and then fried pasta chips with shredded meatballs, mozzarella, and tomato sauce), and then attended Dr. Giamo's lecture back at the Visitor Center. He is a true Kerouac scholar and I was impressed with his interpretation of Dr. Sax as well as the depth of knowledge he demonstrated during a Q & A afterwards. Right before the lecture I was able to get Steve Edington, author of The Beat Face of God, to sign my copy, a gift from my friend Kath in Pennsylvania and Crystal (no, they didn't go in together on it, I got two copies for Christmas!).

After the lecture, we went on a walking tour of downtown Lowell with Roger Brunelle, another fount of Kerouac knowledge, especially the French connection (no pun intended). It rained hard most of the tour, but we persevered, getting some of Roger's insights about Lowell High School, Jack Kerouac Park, the church where the author of the Canadian national anthem was married, etc. We ate dinner in the Village Smokehouse. Ribs and beans and cornbread. Mmmm....

After dinner we attended the big event of the weekend, a concert by David Amram and his trio along with the New England Orchestra and the Lowell Youth Orchestra at the Lowell Presbyterian Church to honor Jack and his boyhood friend, Sebastian Sampas, who was killed in WWII. Several "dignitaries" did readings during the event, including members of the Sampas family, a past-President of LCK, and the list goes on. It was wonderful. I hadn't realized what an accomplished composer David Amram is, and even if that style of music isn't one's cup of tea, it is hard not to recognize the beauty involved. It was uplifting to say the least. There is good stuff in the world.

The after-concert tour was canceled - the tour guide was too pooped to do it and I don't blame him - so we headed back to the Radisson. We got an early start back to Maine on Sunday and that's pretty much the story on another LCK weekend.

If you're a Kerouac fan and haven't made it to Lowell for LCK in October, mark your calender and stay tuned. When next year's dates and schedule comes out, I'll post it here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Part 2

Picking up where we left off yesterday, on Friday we left the gravesite and headed to our hotel, the Radisson in Chelmsford. We ate in the hotel bar, The Independence Grille, and then we made our way via taxi for a tour of the Pollard Memorial Library, where Jack used to hang out when he skipped school. This building is simply breath-taking, and we were so mesmerized that we forgot to take pictures (the above is courtesy of the Internet).

This building cost only $174,000 new in 1889, yet renovations in recent years cost over $8 million! Inflation! A highlight was seeing the three large hanging murals of the Civil War (the building was originally a memorial to fallen soldiers as well as a library), reminiscent of the paintings in the Cyclorama at Gettysburg. There's a display of Jack's books and even a picture of his library card. Like I say in The Beat Handbook, you can learn a lot in your library, probably a hell of a lot more than in school. Jack is proof of that. Bill Walsh is a storehouse of Lowell history, and, accompanied by Roger Brunelle, made the library tour a highlight of the weekend.

From there, we headed into the heart of Lowell to the Village Smokehouse to hear Tex McNamara & the Bucking Broncos. We had a couple of margaritas and enjoyed the music and bought a pub crawl T-Shirt from Mike Wurm who led the pub crawl we missed the night before and bought Kerri an LCK T-shirt (already bought one at the library but they didn't have her size there) and talked with Roger and saw Charlie and Chris from the gravesite and finally had to taxi back out to Chelmsford before we got too tired to get up for the next day's events.

Part 3 (one of the best parts!) tomorrow....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Part 1

I'm going to be posting about our Lowell Celebrates Kerouac weekend in parts in order to save you from some serious scrolling.

First, some background. Lowell Celebrates Kerouac sponsors Kerouac-related events in Jack's boyhood home, Lowell, MA. A number of Kerouac's books - for example, Maggie Cassidy, Visions of Gerard, and Town and the City - were about Lowell. Here's a link to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

This was our second year at LCK and my fourth trip to Lowell, having stopped there on the way to Maine to visit Crystal (when we were long-distance dating) in December 2005 and again on a trip we made to Pennsylvania in 2007. My first trip to Lowell was to visit Jack's grave (and his memorial: Kerouac Park). During that trip, I met a couple at the grave - on their honeymoon - and the young man said he was a writer and that if he ever published a book he was going to leave a copy on Jack's grave. That gave me the idea to leave a copy of The Beat Handbook on Jack's grave, which I did during last year's LCK October event (see At Jack's grave 2008). I left a copy and it mysteriously turned up at this year's LCK! But more on that later.

Last year, Crystal and I were alone at the grave. This year when we arrived, two men were making charcoal rubbings of the gravestone. They turned out to be a couple of cool Kerouac fans from Michigan, Charlie and Chris, who were on a pilgrimage to Lowell. Here's a picture (faithful readers of my blog have already seen them in the video we shot of me reading from Dr. Sax):

Charlie and Chris gave us a rubbing, and it's sitting on the kitchen table right now, awaiting its fate (office or home? framed or just thumbtacked?).

Charlie and Chris were drinking Dow's port, and Crystal and I were drinking 16-year-old single malt Bushmills purchased on the way from a New Hamsphire liquor store. A small amount of each was dutifully poured on the ground in front of the gravestone.

Crystal read a Ferlinghetti poem, "25":

Then Steve from Ohio with his friend Barbara from New Hampshire arrived. Here's a pic of Steve:

Corey from New Hampshire soon-to-be-Boston showed up as well, but we didn't get her pic. So that was 5 states represented if you count where Corey was fixing to move: ME, OH, NH, MA, and MI.

Charlie, Chris, and Steve all bought copies of The Beat Handbook, for which I am truly grateful. And, of course, I left a copy on the gravestone, just like last year. Maybe it will find its way into the hands of someone who will write in it and pass it on like Anestis did with last year's copy, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Kerouac music video

This is pretty interesting stuff from Chris Hickey:

Watch the video.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Video from Jack Kerouac's grave

As promised, here's a link to a video we shot at Jack's grave yesterday, where we met several other Kerouac fans (representing New Hampshire, Michigan, Ohio, and Massachusetts), including Chris and Charlie who you'll see drinking port in the video!

Watch the video.

We had a great time yesterday - more later....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2009

Tomorrow we leave for LCK 2009. I'll post some pics from the trip, perhaps as it unfolds. We plan to go to the gravesite and record a video (like last year), only reading from Dr. Sax instead of The Dharma Bums. I'll leave a copy of The Beat Handbook at the grave, so if you want a free copy, get to Lowell sometime tomorrow afternoon and take a trip to Jack's grave!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Starting out a young reader the right way

Here's a mom who read The Dharma Bums to her less-than-six-months old daughter: Give your child a head start on reading.

I wonder: What Jack would think about that?

More reading....

See Prehistoric hipsters.

National Punctuation Day

It's National Punctuation Day, a day created just for us grammar prigs. See National Punctuation Day.

Which reminds me of this helpful website for those of you who have difficulty with its and it's: Its and It's.

Of course, Jack Kerouac would eschew today's celebration, as he threw punctuation to the wind. Truth be told, however, he did it consciously and very well knew how to write correctly. He just chose not to. There's a big difference between deliberately stretching the rules and doing it out of ignorance.

"The difference between the right word
and the almost right word is the difference
between lightning and the lightning bug."

~Mark Twain

Six Degrees of Jack Kerouac: Mickey Rourke

I always thought Mickey Rourke was a beat character, and now a reviewer for the Saipan Tribune makes my case. See The Wrestler.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Charlie's poetry book is on Amazon!

Charlie James' brand new poetry book, Life Lines, is now available on Amazon. Here's the link: Charlie's poetry book on Amazon. Charlie has been writing poetry and self-publishing it in chapbooks for years, and now for the first time a selection of his work is available in a professional-grade book.

Anyone who loves poetry will be delighted with this compilation of 201 poems representing nearly two decades of work by this acclaimed poet from upstate New York. I'm biased, of course, having edited and published the book for Charlie (and having written the foreword), but I'm completely confident that anyone who purchases this book will not be disappointed. And it doesn't earn me a dime! All royalties go directly to Charlie, who lives a spartan poet's existence and can surely use the income.

Charlie's about the beatest guy I know, so if you're reading this blog because you're a Jack Kerouac fan, you can't go wrong getting a copy of Charlie's new book.

If you do, Charlie thanks you, and so do I. (And don't forget to give his book a nice 5-star review on Amazon.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Daniel Suelo: A true modern-day beat?

Daniel Suelo lives near a cave in Moab, Utah. He's lived without any use of money or conscious barter for years after a deliberate decision to live as a sadhu in America. Some might say he is a bum. I encourage you to read about him and decide for yourself:

His blog

His website

What would Kerouac think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Best bar in America?

Jack Kerouac dubbed the M & M Cafe in Butte, Montana the ideal bar. See M & M Cafe article for information on this landmark.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Writing contest

I just sent off an entry, a poem, to a writing contest run by the SFBD Arts & Culture Blog (see details at SFBG LIT123 Contest).

Entries have to be exactly 123 words long - fiction, nonfiction, or poetry - and somehow reflect living in the Bay Area. My entry is a poem about meeting Jack's ghost in City Lights bookstore.

Write a 123-word piece and submit it! What have you got to lose except your inhibitions?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Heavy Kerouac news day

In my on-going efforts to bring you all things Kerouac, I discovered the following news pieces today:

Anne Waldman performs at UNK (We have not paid enough attention to the women beat writers.)

Baraka celebration (Amiri Baraka is another underappreciated beat writer.)

East Village (The East Village is definitely a mecca for Kerouacians.)

Big Sur Festival "09 (I drove through Big Sur in July - didn't know they had a festival there.)

Release of One Fast Move Or I'm Gone (I saw it last year at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! 2008 and it is awesome!)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Year Everything Changed: 1959

Here's a review of the book, The Year Everything Changed: 1959, by Fred Kaplan. According to the reviewer, Charles Kaiser, the book contains a particularly good description of the impact of the beat movement.

As usual, I scour the web for beat news so you don't have to!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! 2009

Once again, I am reminding you of the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! event in beautiful Lowell, MA, starting October 1 and running through Sunday October 4. For details, visit LCK! 2009.

If you're a Jack Kerouac fan, a visit to Lowell is highly recommended, and this is the perfect weekend to do it. I'll be leaving a copy of The Beat Handbook on Jack's grave (again) and video-documenting the event for YouTube (click here to see me reading there last year). This year I'll be reading from Dr. Sax, since it's the 50th anniversary of its publication. Plus we'll be participating in the tours, readings, and after hours events.

See you there!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jack Kerouac was murdered

I've been reading Empty Phantoms: Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac (see sidebar on the right). The last entry I read before falling asleep last night was a piece by Larry Vickers called "Jack Kerouac - End of the Road" from the book by John Montgomery, Kerouac at the 'Wild Boar' and Other Skirmishes. While I'd read this fact many times before (e.g., in bios), it struck me that the beating Kerouac took one night in a St. Petersburg bar preceded his death by only a short time.

The coroner's report said that Kerouac died of "gastrointestinal hemorrhage, due to bleeding gastric varix from cirrhosis of liver, due to excessive ethanol intake over many years." In an interview for Esquire in March 1970, Kerouac told Jack McClintock, "I got a goddamn hernia, you know that? My goddamn belly button is popping out."

If someone beats the shit out of a person who has a predisposition to gastrointestinal hemorrhage and an umbilical hernia, and the person dies soon after the beating - couldn't that be murder?

Makes sense to me. I say we re-open the case. Anyone want to file a complaint with the St. Petersburg police? Murder has no statute of limitations, right? I bet it'd make the news.

P.S. I came up with this theory myself, yet it's not the first time the murder supposition has surfaced. See this article.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Robert Frank's "elevator girl"

Check out this NPR story about the girl in a Robert Frank photo that Jack Kerouac wrote about in his introduction to Frank's book, The Americans.

Kerouac described her thusly: "That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what's her name & address?"

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Your favorite beat writer

Check the right hand side of this blog for a poll asking you to identify your favorite beat writer. It's just for kicks.

Defending Kerouac Redux

FYI, there's been quite a back-and-forth in response to the Providence Journal piece reviewing On The Road. Check it out at ProJo. Fun stuff! Join in the fray if you wish....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The eternal realist: Paul Krassner

Here's an interesting piece about a beat contemporary, Paul Krassner: The eternal realist. In the article he mentions meeting Ginsberg and Corso.

Here's some more info on Wikipedia.

But don't visit his own website unless you want to see a pornographic mural of Disney characters: Paul Krassner.

Defending Kerouac

Fellow Kerouacians, we have a task before us. It is two-fold:

1. Read this too-little-too-late-already-been-said yawn by M.J. Andersen of The Providence Journal: A reluctant road trip with Kerouac.

2. Write a letter/e-mail to her (or perhaps her boss) and defend our hero, Jack.

You might ask Ms. (did I get that right?) Andersen where she has been for the last 50 years that she needs to trot out the age-old critique about the "horrendous" treatment of women in On The Road (this has been dealt with to the point of nausea). Or why she perpetuates the myth that Kerouac wrote On The Road in three weeks (he worked on it for years). Or why she found it necessary to bring up how many times Cassady and Kerouac had been married (as if that qualifies or disqualifies an author's work). Or why 100,000 copies of On The Road still sell each year (I wonder if even one copy of her memoir, Portable Prairie: Confessions of an Unsettled Midwesterner, will have survived at all in 50 years - as I write this the sales rank of my non-selling Kerouac-related book on Amazon is better than hers).

Or come up with your own ideas. The point is, while Jack needs no defense, the beats defended each other when ravaged in the press by writing letters to editors, etc. So it's a beat thing to do.

Let me know if you write to Ms. Andersen (or her boss).

And, M.J.: If you're that concerned about the treatment of women, why don't you write a Pulitzer Prize winning multi-part investigative piece about how prostitution indoors is still legal in Rhode Island? THAT might do some good for women. Writing scathing essays about Jack Kerouac "the misogynist" is best left to unimaginative, uninformed college students trying to win favor with their feminist professors.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Annual Kerouac 5K in Lowell

If you're a runner and a Kerouac fan, get yourself down to Lowell on Sunday September 27 for the Annual Kerouac 5K. Here's the link: Annual Kerouac 5K.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Taking the Great American Roadtrip

Fellow Kerouacians may appreciate this September Smithsonian article: Taking the Great American Roadtrip.

Go go go!

Poetry book announcement

I wanted to let readers know that I'm editing and producing a book of poetry for a friend of mine and it is nearing completion. I anticipate seeing it available on Amazon in about a month. The book is titled Life Lines and includes 203 poems by acclaimed upstate New York poet Charles (Charlie) James, famous for being the successful plaintiff in a free speech case that went all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal and got turned down - twice).

Charlie is a true poet, certainly the most accomplished one I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He lives a writer’s life, or at least what I would call a writer’s life; that is, he lives to write. He writes every day, and he reads poetry every day. I think without poetry, there would be no Charlie.

Charlie’s inspirations are many, from the Black Mountain style – especially Robert Creeley and Denise Levertov – to Chinese culture, to Tillie Olson, to A.R. Ammons. He once told me boldly that “if poetry isn’t for the people then it’s not poetry.” I don’t think he said that as part of his Marxist leanings (he is a self-admitted Marxist). Rather, he eschews the academic obtusity of many poets, whose works require a dictionary, thesaurus, and literary encyclopedia at one’s side in order to bring meaning to a passage. If explanation is necessary, Charlie provides it, as in his occasional footnote explaining a Chinese term. Otherwise, he uses ordinary language to explore ordinary experiences in a most extraordinary way.

I wouldn't classify Charlie's poetry as beat poetry, but it's certainly got beat influences and he is about as beat a character as you'll ever find. When the book becomes available, I'll let you know. It would be a stellar addition to any beat library.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jack Kerouac and Apple Computer

Read the whole article, but the pot-o-gold is in the last paragraph: Kerouac and Apple.

Here's the Kerouac quote with which I'm familiar, although I cannot cite a source:
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

It seems to me that, when comparing this quote with the quote from the above article, one of two things is true. Either the quote above is truly not from Kerouac (as alleged on hundreds of websites, for example goodreads), or Apple Computer ripped him off big-time.

Anybody want to sue Apple?