Saturday, January 31, 2009

Desolation Peak

According to this website, below is a picture of the "mountain shack" (that's what Jack called it) Kerouac lived and worked in as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascades in 1956. He writes about that experience in Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums.

This website has a bunch of cool pictures of the shack and the surrounding beauty, accompanied by text from Jack's novels. The latter site says the shack is 14' by 14', was built in 1933, and is still used by the forest service.

Sign me up for a month this summer! I'm taking June. Crystal wants July.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy 2,500

As of today, this blog has had over 2,500 visits (according to Sitemeter) since October 25, 2008. That's over 600 in November, 700 in December, and 1,100 in January. Looking at that data on a graph shows a significant (perhaps even statistically significant?), steady increase in visits over time. I also have 16 followers now, which tickles my heartstrings.

Maybe I'm doing something right, at least where blog readership is concerned.

I really do appreciate each and every one of you who stop by for a visit, and I promise to keep blogging if you'll keep visiting. To say thank you for your patronage, here's a website that generates random Jack Kerouac quotes.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jack Kerouac's On The Road: The Bible of the Beat Generation

The front cover of my new (old) 1957 copyright softcover of Jack Kerouac's On The Road proclaims it "THE WORLD FAMOUS NOVEL THAT BECAME THE BIBLE OF THE BEAT GENERATION." Faithful readers will know that I snagged this particular copy of OTR on ebay. Here's a picture with the book it inspired me to write:

Jack's book: inspired, perfect, hard-lived.
My book: derivative, quirky, obsessed.

Here's the back cover:

It says:

ON THE ROAD captures--as no other novel has ever done--youth's frenetic search for Experience and Sensation.

     Wild drives across America, buying cars, wrecking cars, stealing cars, dumping cars, picking up girls, making love, all-night drinking bouts, jazz joints, wild parties, hot spots

Most of that sounds tame in 2009. Most of that sounds like a typical Friday night in Hallowell to Crystal and me.

The cover announces the price: 75 cents.

I guess that's what they call inflation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review of The Beat Handbook "Coming Soon"

Time for posting is a bit constrained this week. Without going into details, let's just say that, because of a nonroutine work situation, I'm "busy busy busy."*

Nevertheless, I have found time to post the news that The Beat Handbook has moved from "Pending" to "Coming Soon" on Reader Views. That means it has been assigned a reviewer and we should see a review in the near future. I'm a little anxious about that, but only for egotistical reasons. A great review or a bomb is unlikely to matter in the grand marketing scheme of things.

I'm hoping for the former, of course. But if it's a bomb, there's always the bottle (after all, what would Kerouac do?).

*A beat movie reference. Think Peter Stormare and maybe you'll figure it out.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Jack Kerouac Cryptoquip?

Crystal and I collaborate on completing the Jumble, Sudoku, and Cryptoquip every day in the Kennebec Journal. It's fun and we figure it helps stave off Alzheimer's. I often do the Crossword as well.

Yesterday's Cryptoquip may be of interest to readers of this blog (except Jack might take offense - see my earlier post).

Below is the Cryptoquip. Answer tomorrow.


H equals T

Hint: There are two reasons this might be considered a Jack Kerouac Cryptoquip.

Good luck!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sitemeter and StumbleUpon mysteries

Yesterday's blog, about The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke, garnered the most visits in a single day since I started tracking with Sitemeter on October 25, 2008. Interestingly, 99 of the over 130 visits happened in one specific hour (1-2 PM).

I think I can account for the overall traffic: The Wrestler is a hot topic right now and Crystal gave my post a thumbs-up on Stumble, and Stumble is where most of the additional traffic came from (I had been averaging 37 visits per day). But why 1-2 PM? That remains a mystery. Does a site given a thumbs-up rotate through Stumble more frequently immediately after it's first given that thumbs-up? Do 3/5 of Stumblers do their Stumbling only between 1-2 PM? I doubt the latter, so I guess the recency of a thumbs-up on Stumble is the key.

Toward that end, if you're a Stumbler, I'd appreciate a thumbs-up any time you read my blog. It sure increased traffic exponentially, and we authors want readers.


Oh, and if you're not a Stumbler, consider checking it out at StumbleUpon. You'll have to install a toolbar in your browser, but it's pretty simple and it's a really cool way to surf the web. Stumble learns what you're interested in and customizes what you see when you Stumble. Plus it acts like a social networking site as well, giving you a blog and allowing you to message other Stumblers. My page is at thebeathandbook.

Stumble on, fellow beats.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Wrestler: Mickey Rourke's redemption

Crystal and I went to Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville last night to watch The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. He has always been one of my favorite actors, ever since his small but mesmerizing role in Body Heat, the film noir that launched Kathleen Turner's career and established William Hurt as a leading man. Since that film, Rourke's life has epitomized the promising career compromised by lifestyle choices. But he has always remained eminently watchable, even in lousy movies. There's just always something . . . real about him. Convincing. You forget he's acting.

The Wrestler capitalized on that talent. With it's handheld-camera minimalist style, it draws you in to the gritty world of a has-been professional wrestler living in New Jersey, trying to eke out an existence in his hovel of a trailer by wrestling on the weekends in low-paying, non-televised events at VFWs and the like and working during the week at a supermarket. He's estranged from his daughter - played convincingly by Evan Rachel Wood - and trying to court a stripper, Marisa Tomei in a . . . er . . . revealing role.

The wrestling portrayals are spot on. I can say that because I've watched professional wrestling since I was 10 or so when my friends and I waited all week to watch Championship Wrestling with Johnny Powers on Saturday afternoons. That's the kind of wrestling portrayed in the movie - not the soap opera, special-effects, sex-crazed WWE of today. I've been to the small venue events and the movie absolutely captures the absurd rawness of it all, from hiding razor blades to open up "fake" wounds to using whatever is handy to demolish the opponent. In the film, a fan in a wheelchair hands Rourke's character an artifical leg and begs him to hit his opponent with it. He does.

Even the pseudo-relationship with Tomei and the seedy atmosphere of the strip club scenes carry an air of authenticity. You'll just have to trust me on those two scores without elaboration.

During the previews, we heard people behind us in the theatre complaining that they were only watching The Wrestler because Revolutionary Road was sold out. I heard them go from mocking the early locker-room scenes where the wrestlers were choreographing their matches (like that's a surprise?) to laughing genuinely and, I'm guessing, choking back some tears later on.

This is a tour de force for Rourke. It parallels his own life, so the realism oozes from his hard-living bloated face and his boxing-ravaged body.

If you're one of those people who harbor huge disdain for professional wrestling, I highly recommend that you don't let that keep you from seeing The Wrestler. It's not a film about professional wrestling. It's a film about life, relationships, loss, choices, and perseverance. Professional wrestling just happens to be the context. Crystal hates wrestling, and she loved the movie (disclosure: she's a Mickey Rourke fan).

Rourke's last line left me wincing. As he's about to go back into the ring for the big career-rejuvenating rematch against the stern advice of his doctor, he tells Tomei, "The only place I get hurt is out there," referring to the world outside the ring.

Soon after that, cut to black and Springsteen singing "have you ever seen a one-trick pony . . . ?"


Put another checkmark in director Darren Aronofsky's win column.

And Mickey, enjoy your upcoming Oscar. You deserve it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My evening with Allen Ginsberg

Once upon a time I attended a reading by Allen Ginsberg. It was in a high school auditorium, of all places. I was lucky enough to be in the front row, but now that I think about it, it wasn't luck at all but just a poorly attended event.

Ginsberg, wearing a brown corduroy jacket over a dress shirt and scraggly tie, was formally introduced by a local arts community muckety-muck. He ambled up on the dais and took a position behind the podium, carrying a few papers with him.

He spoke for a while, read some poetry, and seemed to be somewhat annoyed by the tepid response he was getting from the audience.

"How about this?" Ginsberg asked. "Why don't you ask me some questions?"

None were forthcoming. Ginsberg strode from behind the podium and off the dais, coming right down to the front row and standing directly in front of some twittering young girls.

"Go ahead, ask me anything. You know I'm not shy."

His last sentence was accompanied by a wink and him loosening his tie.

Knowing his past antics, I knew what was coming.

Yup. He stripped naked right in front of everyone and stood there, unabashed.

Then, to my amazement, several other men from the audience followed suit and walked up and stood next to him!

As if having an out-of-body experience, I looked down and saw I had taken off all of my clothes except my underwear! A show of beat solidarity?

And at that point, I awoke from this very strange dream - which took place Thursday night past.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Goethe and Jack Kerouac

The following is credited to W.H. Murray:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!"

Toward that end, I have boldly entered The Beat Handbook in the 17th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Competition. It ain't cheap, but it's legit and, from what I can tell, is one of the only sure ways to get the attention of major review houses.

For example:

ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER will be awarded $3,000 cash and promotion in Writer's Digest and Publishers Weekly. The editors of Writer's Digest will endorse and submit 10 copies of the Grand Prize-Winning book to major review houses such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. In addition, Book Marketing Works, LLC will provide a one-year membership in Publishers Marketing Association, guaranteed acceptance in a special-sales catalog providing national representation through 1800 salespeople selling to non-bookstore markets, guaranteed acceptance by Atlas Books (a top distributor to wholesalers, chains, independents and online retailers), six hours of book shepherding from Poynter Book Shepherd Ellen Reid and guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review.


10 FIRST-PLACE WINNERS will receive $1000 cash and promotion in Writer's Digest. In addition, Book Marketing Works, LLC will provide a guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, a one-year membership to Book Central Station, the eBook Beyond the Bookstore, a Publishers Weekly book by Brian Jud and a copy of Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers by Shel Horowitz.


Plus, all Grand Prize and First Place winners will receive book-jacket seals to promote the award-winning status of their book, promotion on the Writer's Digest Web site at, a copy of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 4th Edition by Tom and Marilyn Ross, $100 worth or Writer’s Digest Books and a Notable Award Certificate.


HONORABLE MENTION WINNERS will receive promotion at, $50 worth of Writer's Digest Books and a Notable Award Certificate.

And finally:

All other entrants will receive Certificates of Participation, a brief judge's commentary and a listing with a link on the Writer's Digest Web site, provided an accurate URL is provided.

I'm kind of shooting for Honorable Mention ('cause I know I'll at least get the bomber swag "all other entrants" receive).

What would Kerouac do? I'm honestly not sure.

I know this: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Self-publishing encouragement

Here's some encouragement for anyone considering self-publishing. Last night I was preparing data for our annual meeting with the accountant to file income taxes. Given publication of my book in September 2008, under law I must report expenses and income related to that endeavor. Yes, income tax is statutory. It's in Title 26 of the United States Code, despite the wailing of stupid tax protesters who claim otherwise. They probably mean it's not in the Constitution, which is correct. But you can Google and find arguments that it's not lawful or it's not in the law. Wrong. You may not agree with the law, but it's the law (until it isn't - which of course is the solution).

But I digress. . . . I'm proud to report that I spent $2761.29 on publishing, marketing, and promotion of The Beat Handbook in 2008.

During that same period I earned a whopping $468.12 on sales (that includes Amazon sales, personal sales, Amazon referrals from my website and blog, and Google Adsense).

That's a net loss of $2,293.17.

Not bad for less than four months work.

You should see how my stocks did in 2008! I'm a money maven for sure.

At this rate I'll be as broke as Jack was.

Hmmm . . . . can that be a bad thing?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Unpublished haiku by Allen Ginsberg?

I'm reading The Selected Letters of Alan Ginsberg and Gary Snyder. Somewhere along the way I seem to remember running into some advice by Ginsberg that following the 5-7-5 syllable format makes no sense in English. Indeed, he developed an American haiku format called the "American Sentence": seventeen syllables, not split into three lines, maximum condensation. There's more to it than that, and you can read more here and here.

During my googling I discovered this post on Yoga for Cynics. The author claims that Ginsberg wrote the following impromptu "haiku" at an event at Naropa in '90 or '91. It doesn't follow the American Sentence format, being 23 syllables by my count, but that is a much more mystical number than 17.

Just wandered in from
the void for a poetry
reading, the next morning
I was hung over.

Here's my first ever American Sentence:

Bluejays crowd sparse limbs, squeaky cries reminding me of rusty hinges.

Try it - it's fun. Post yours here as a comment if you wish.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sleeping in airports

When writing The Beat Handbook, I wish I'd known about The Guide to Sleeping in Airports so I could have referenced it (in particular, for Days 77 & 96). It's definitely an example of traveling on the cheap and "beating" the system.

I especially like the Airport Sleeping Tips. However, forget item #2 (16 items for an "emergency airport survival kit"). A real beat travels with little preparation and very few material goods. All you need are the clothes on your back (to avoid getting arrested), your canvas rucksack (for bread and Cheez Whiz), a notebook and pen (for taking notes and writing down the occasional "pome"), some cigarettes (for the psyche), and a book (maybe The Beat Handbook, in which case the notebook is moot). Anything else you need can be begged, borrowed, or stolen (the latter only if you're willing to face the legal consequences).

I know what someone will say: Jack didn't fly. We agree, but air travel has become much cheaper and available than in Jack's day, so, in the spirit of inclusivity, I thought I'd offer a beat travel resource for those of us who choose to fly.

Sleeping in airports: a very beatific thing to do!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and Jack Kerouac

There really is something about Slumdog Millionaire in this post, but mostly it's a few odds and ends thrown together.

1. In my January 6 and January 11 posts I discussed the Hemingway archives at Finca Vigia which have recently become available. I wondered if Kerouac and Hemingway had ever conversed by letter and whether those archives might shed some light on that subject.

I wrote to the museum, and learned from the director, Ada Rosa Alfonso, that one would need to travel to Cuba to access the archives. Since then, she has written me back and told me that they searched the archives and found no references to Kerouac. How nice! I had no idea they were going to do that. Mystery solved.

2. December's free book winner, Ronid from India, posted the following on January 16:

Hi Rick!
I have received your beautiful book, the Beat handbook. I have been planning to make a short film on Beat Generation in India and your book will help me immensely. I'm still reading it and enjoying every word!

thank you; first, for writing this book and second, for giving me one.
lets keep the "beat" kicking! dig the ride

I'm hoping his film makes it as big as Slumdog Millionaire and the film credits mention The Beat Handbook! Hey - I can dream, can't I? You go, Ronid!

P.S. It's way gratifying to me to think that there is a copy of my book in India. It truly is a small world.

3. That same day, Jonny Darko suggested this article about On The Road in Kotori Magazine. Check it out!

4. Here's a blog where someone posted a February 28, 1974 interview with David Bowie and William Burroughs - interviewed together!

5. Sold another book on Amazon January 17. That makes 25 total. Not setting the world on fire, but it's something. Here's a breakdown of sales by month:

September = 8
October = 6
November = 3
December = 2
January = 6

Don't know what happened to the trend (but I'm glad it happened or January would likely have been a big fat ZERO). That's one thing that's difficult to figure out - why sales happen. Was there a stimulus in January? A specific blog post on The Daily Beat?

Yes, I've sold a few in person, too, but that's between me and the IRS.

Cash is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Snagged on eBay: 1957 edition of On The Road

I just found out I was high bidder on a 1957 (the original publication year) paperback edition of On The Road. Here's a picture:

Pretty cool. I know - it's just a "thing." Nevertheless, it's pretty damn cool.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Andrew Wyeth and Jack Kerouac and John Stewart

Andrew Wyeth died yesterday at the age of 91. You may not know this about him, but he spent every summer of his life but one in Maine. According to an article in today's Kennebec Journal, in 2005 he told the Portland (Maine) Press Herald:

"'I paint the things that emotionally mean a lot to me. One goes as far as one's heart takes him. Anything else to me is just a technical trick.'"

Wyeth went on in that interview to say he "hoped to be remembered for the ability to paint what he felt -- 'that I tried to put down the feeling of the objects that meant a great deal to me, put them down as clearly and as naturally as possible.'"

I've had Wyeth's "Master Bedroom" (a print, of course) hanging in my last three bedrooms: Mansfield, PA, Gardiner, ME and now Belgrade Lakes. It speaks to me. I first saw it in my dentist's office in Harrisburg, PA. My wife at the time didn't like it. A divorce took care of that roadblock (among several).

Wyeth's approach to art reminds me of Kerouac's. Their emotions were inextricably part of their art, and they focused on what meant the most to them: Wyeth his landscapes, Jack his travels.

Wyeth was born about 5 years before Jack, but sure outlived him. Perhaps drunkenness lends itself more to writing than painting. Sorry, Jack, but the truth hurts sometimes.

In some quick web-surfing today I found this article about folk legend John Stewart, who died in January 2008. Rolling Stone said his "California Bloodlines" album was one of the top 200 albums of all time. According to the article, "'When I left the Trio, I was reading [Jack] Kerouac and [John] Steinbeck with Andrew Wyeth prints hanging on my wall. All that somehow took me to the songs on that record.'"

So there's a Wyeth-Kerouac connection for you.

I don't know if Wyeth and Kerouac ever met or corresponded, but they sure had a cultural impact and left this world a better place for having been here.

That's not a bad legacy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Literary Kicks

Literary Kicks (e.g., this page is a very well-written article about the On The Road scroll in Chicago) is a website that beat aficionados will want to check out. As it says on their About Us page:

We've gone through a wide variety of different looks in our thirteen-year history. LitKicks began as a very simple set of text pages about the Beat Generation, supplemented by Beat News, which future archeologists may someday identify as the earliest literary blog.

Literary Kicks was founded in 1994 by Levi Asher. I sent him a copy of The Beat Handbook to review, but have heard nothing. That was months ago. I guess it's too "lowbrow" for him.

Oh, well . . . . Maybe some of my minions will e-mail him at and ask him to review it.

Whether he reviews my book or not, positive review or negative, I still like the blog - I visit it every day to see what's doing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tips for coping with the recession

Here's a little piece about coping with the recession - Tips for coping with the recession - that reminded me a little bit of my November 18, 2008 post about hard times and the answer to "What would Kerouac do?" The author suggests a road trip and scoring stale leftover bagels for free.

As I pointed out in the aforementioned post, there are any number of techniques Jack would employ in order to thrive in our awful economy. Here's a new example that just came to mind: I bet communal living is on the rise - or soon will be - and he would likely take full advantage of such situations in order to live on the cheap in different places.

And, as The Beat Handbook points out, the beats were green before green was cool. See, for example, my November 20, 2008 post.

And the list of beatitudinal strategies for coping with recession could go on.

Sorry for recycling some ideas of mine, but then . . . recycling is "in."

Another Kerouac fan destination

Here's another destination to add to your travel itinerary.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Erasure poetry

Poetry seems to be an emerging thread here at The Daily Beat (see the post on 1-12-09 about cleave poetry). To me (uneducated poet that I am), cleave poetry is a new form, and so is erasure poetry.

Wikipedia says "Erasure poetry is a form of Found poetry created by erasing words from an existing text in prose or verse and framing the result on the page as a poem. The results can be allowed to stand in situ or they can be arranged into lines and/or stanzas."

I first read about erasure poetry in Poets and Writers Magazine (Jan/Feb 2009). The article cited someone who did an erasure poem using the 9/11 Commission Report!

I wanted to try writing an erasure poem (the form kind of reminds me of visual or concrete poetry, the discipline of my friend Robert), and what better existing text than something from my hero, Jack Kerouac?

I decided to use the last paragraph from On The Road. Below is what the result looks like in situ:

Here is what the result looks like in traditional form:

The old river sense
      that all children know
The coming of rivers
      knows what's going to happen:
           Growing old

I think that's a pretty damn good poem as a first effort. I may dabble some more with this style.

Try it - it's fun! You could use a policy from work. Or the fine print that comes with a credit card statement. Or language from the No Child Left Behind Act. Or your favorite author's work (as I did).

I'm thinking it would be very beat to use something like credit card policy and create something beautiful and freeing. Paradoxical, n'est-ce pas?

If you write one, please share it with us here at The Daily Beat!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pending Book Review!

The Beat Handbook has been accepted for review by Reader Views (scroll down to see it in the list). It's "waiting for an available reviewer." I'm not sure what that means, and I don't know how much traffic Reader Views gets, but it seems like a fairly developed site.

Anyway, it's something.

I'm trying to decide whether to fork over $100 and enter my book in the 17th Annual Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards. It's certainly a marketing opportunity.

It all makes me wish I had an agent like Sterling Lord.*

*Obscure reference intended for Kerouac-obsessed fans only.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cleave Poetry

I recently discovered Cleave Poetry, created by Phuoc-Tan Diep. On that website, he says:

In 2006 I came up with an idea for an experimental poetic form called the Cleave Poem.

One of my aims was to examine how something can be more than the sum of it’s [sic] parts and can be 3 in 1: synergy, fusion, co-operation, dialectics, marriage, interdependence, teamwork and The Trinity.

How to read a Cleave poem?

1. Read the left hand poem as a first discrete poem.
2. Read the right hand poem as a second discrete poem.
3. Read the whole as a third integrated poem.

I found the site because there is a Jack Kerouac poem there.

I decided to try my hand at Cleave Poetry and submitted a poem. It was published January 10, 2009. It's called Immortality.

Check out Cleave Poetry and maybe try your hand at writing a cleave poem. It's tougher than it looks!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

U.S. citizens may travel to Cuba

On January 6 I blogged about archives at the Hemingway Museum at Finca Vigia in Havana becoming available digitally to researchers. I speculated that "Papa" and Jack Kerouac may have conversed by letter, and I said I'd look into the process for accessing the archives.

I wasn't able to find the information online, but I did find the museum's website; however, it was entirely in Spanish, which I do not read or speak. Undaunted, I sent an e-mail in English. Ada Rosa Alfonso, director of the museum, wrote me back promptly and said that the archives are only available at Finca Vigia, meaning that one would have to travel to Havana and access the materials in person. Also, a researcher would need to request permission in advance, with the request including an official letter from the researcher's institution and including the research proposal, goals, etc.

The second part - institutional sponsorship and a research proposal - would not be too difficult to orchestrate for many researchers. The first part - travel to Cuba - is a topic fraught with myth.

I have long been functioning under the impression that a U.S. citizen may not travel to Cuba. After doing some research at the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control, I have discovered that, indeed, there are a number of situations in which a U.S. citizen may travel to Cuba. They are as follows (quoting directly from an OFAC document):

The following travelers are authorized, under OFAC general license, to engage in travel transactions while in Cuba:
• Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel (regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities).
• Official government travelers (traveling on official business).
• Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).
• Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to professional research in their professional areas, provided that their research 1) is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.
• Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. The organization, institution, or association sponsoring the meeting or conference may not be headquartered in the United States unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor the meeting. The purpose of the meeting or conference cannot be the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba, or to foster production of any bio-technological products.
• Travelers who have received specific licenses from OFAC prior to going. Specific licenses are described below.

The document then lists the following specific licenses:

• To visit immediate family members in Cuba
• For educational institutions
• For religious organizations
• Other specific licenses (humanitarian projects, freelance journalism, professional research and meetings, religious activities, public performances, athletic or other competitions, etc.)

In a nutshell, there are any number of avenues for a U.S. citizen to travel to Cuba, although traveling there for "vacation" is not one of them.

I'd love to go, but the cost and logistics currently outweigh my desire. Maybe that will change at some point.

In the meantime, now we all know that travel to Cuba by a U.S. citizen is quite possible. And we all know about yet another wonderful government agency - the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control - that's improving our lives through regulation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday, January 9, 2009

T.H.E. Cat

Some of you older hipsters may remember a TV show from 1966 titled T.H.E. Cat. It starred Robert Loggia as Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat, ex-circus acrobat/ex-cat burglar turned professional bodyguard. He wore black turtlenecks ("beatnik," not beat wardrobe), drove a black 'Vette, swooned the ladies, and hung out at a cafe called Casa del Gato (House of the Cat). Great character actor R.G. Armstrong was in it as a recurring character. R.G.'s a very beat actor. I think he only had one hand in the show (reminiscent of The Fugitive?).

It was a favorite show of mine. Hey, I was 14! Robert Loggia continues to be a sought-after actor, and he's 80! I guess I had good taste in actors way back when.

The above ramble was brought to you courtesy of a tangential thought process related to cats. I was thinking about my two cats, Karma and Emma. Karma is cool. He loves to sit in my lap, sleeps next to me every night, lets me rub his belly, tolerates being held upside down, and I could go on. Emma, on the other hand, is deranged. She's aloof, flighty, shits on the rug, and hisses at the slightest provocation.

What's the difference? Emma was a rescue. I raised Karma from kittenhood.

Which got me thinking. As I say on Day 72 of The Beat Handbook, I think you can tell a lot about a person by their attitude toward cats:

...if a person doesn’t like cats, they are not beat. Period. In fact, I distrust anyone who claims to hate cats. They are either lying or they have some deep psychological trauma preventing them from seeing the truth: cats are cool. And no, that is not a reference to a song by the band Squeeze.

But that's too generic. The Karma/Emma situation got me thinking that you can tell a lot about a person by their cat's personality - but only if they raised the cat from kittenhood.

Psycho cat = psycho owner.

I have some experience with this from my past. It's not worth going into, but trust me: there's something here.

So when you're getting to know someone, ask them if they like cats. If they say no, call it off. If they say yes, find out if they have one. If they have one, ask them if they got the cat as a kitten. If they did, pay close attention to the cat's personality as a bellwether for the owner's true nature. I was going to call this the C.A.T. (Cat Attitude Test), and that reminded me of T.H.E. Cat. So there's the connection.

Anyway, ignore this advice at your will, but don't say you weren't warned.

Remember, Jack and Papa both loved cats!

By the way, the cat on Hemingway's table looks like Emma. Hmmm....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Friends and scholars recall Jack Kerouac

By Kerouaccident I just stumbled upon this 2007 piece in Slate Magazine.

I think my fellow Kerouac-obsessed fans may appreciate it.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kerouac, Hemingway, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and more at The Paris Review

During my research on the Kerouac-Hemingway connection, I discovered that all The Paris Review's writer interviews since 1953 are available online for free!

Yup! They interviewed Jack - in 1968. See The Paris Review Interviews 1960s. You'll find an interview with Allen Ginsberg on that page as well. And William Burroughs. And William Carlos Williams. All of them beat writers or of interest to a beat aficionado (which means "a fan of bullfighting," a Hemingway connection).

If you jump to The Paris Review Interviews 1950s, you'll find an interview with Hemingway.

For each decade, there are a couple dozen interviews.

It's an amazing resource. Robert Frost is there. Kurt Vonnegut.

You'll get to read James Dickey, author of Deliverance, say about Allen Ginsberg:

I certainly hope so. I think Ginsberg has done more harm to the craft that I honor and live by than anybody else by reducing it to a kind of mean that enables the most dubious practitioners to claim they are poets because they think, If the kind of thing Ginsberg does is poetry, I can do that. They damn themselves to a life of inconsequentiality when they could have been doing something more useful. They could have been garbage collectors, or grocery-store managers.

Dickey's entitled to his opinion. And so am I. The high point of his entire career was playing the hard-ass sheriff in the movie version of his novel, wherein he sneered at Jon Voight:

Don't ever do nothin' like this again. Don't come back up here.

But I digress. As you will once you start reading the writer interviews made available by The Paris Review! Huzzah to them!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kerouac + Hemingway = opportunity

Ernest Hemingway was an important literary influence on Jack Kerouac. Indeed, I've loved Hemingway since high school, long before I'd ever read Kerouac.

They both loved cats.

As of yesterday, over 3,000 Hemingway documents from the Hemingway Museum at Finca Vigia in Havana (read more here) are available digitally to researchers and fans.

It got me wondering if the two ever corresponded. According to Gerald Nicosia, in Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (1994), they did meet in late 1943:

At one cocktail party in the Village Jack met Ernest Hemingway. After addressing him as "Papa," Jack proved too tongue-tied to make much of an impression on his formal idol (p. 112).

Perhaps a letter ensued?

There is a fee for accessing the Hemingway archives, but I'm going to look into it. You never know . . . .

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Kerouac favorite word: fellaheen

I haven't counted how many times Jack uses the word "fellaheen" in his novels, but it's often enough to trigger my curiosity and, maybe, yours.

First of all, what does it mean?

Here's my favorite definition and one that I think Jack would like (from CD Baby about this musician's CD): "the great mass of peasants who adapt and survive from one civilization to the next without becoming part of any, thus remaining separate from the great movements of history."

The Free Dictionary defines it as "a peasant or agricultural laborer in an Arab country, such as Syria or Egypt."

Although the word definitely has Arabic origins, Jack uses it a number of times in his references to Mexico.

Indeed, Chapter 2 of Lonesome Traveler (which I recently finished) is titled, "Mexico Fellaheen." The chapter contains this passage:

...but you can find it, this feeling, this fellaheen feeling about life, that timeless gayety of people not involved in great cultural and civilization issues (p. 22).

Part of Jack's ethos involved keenly observing but not becoming involved in great cultural issues. As indicated in a previous post, he didn't appreciate the way the media propped him up as the cultural hero of the "beatnik" culture. And in later years he distanced himself from Ginsberg because of the latter's anti-war activities. He just wanted to be a writer.

We may not be peasants but we can adopt a "fellaheen" attitude. It seems like an Eastern philosophy, in particular Buddhist, involving presence, awareness, and nonattachment.

It's being in the "world" but not being part of its unconscious, conditioned foolishness. Rather, when you are brushing your teeth, eating, showering, talking, driving, gardening, or reading, or what-have-you, your entire attention is on that one thing. That one ultimately important thing. Which is everything.

As opposed to suffering over who won the football game yesterday. Or whether your clothes are "stylish." Or you listen to "popular" music. Or your car sports the "correct" bumper stickers. Or you give to the "proper" charities. Or worship the appropriate god. Or went to the "right" school. Or married "well." Or have a "good" job.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Several notable Kerouac resources

In my Internet ramblings, I recently stumbled across this essay written by David Widgery soon after Kerouac's death in 1969. It gives us a then-contemporary view of Jack's contributions and also mentions the famous "Joan Anderson letter" written by Neal Cassady that some say was singularly influential on Jack's style (on p. 161 of Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac, author Ellis Amburn calls this letter "the greatest literary influence on Kerouac").

If you're a true Kerouac fan, check out Widgery's essay as well as the Joan Anderson letter. They're a necessary part of your "Kerou-education."

Put Subterranean Kerouac on your list, too (most of it's available on Google Book Search).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another 5-star review on Amazon

The Beat Handbook has garnered another 5-star review on Amazon. The below was posted on January 1 by The Bootch from Massachusetts:

Book for ALL, Not Just Kerouac Fans! A MUST READ!

I have read all that Kerouac has to offer and I can say that this book offers a Fantastic View into the lifestyle of the "Modern Beat."

Ever wonder What Kerouac would do Today if.............?

Rick Dale guides you through a fantastic maze of excerpts from 2 of Kerouacs' classic books, The Road and Dharma Bums. Rick offers up wonderful, and in some cases life changing, activities (or as Rick calls them "Kerouactivities")to participate in!

Take my advice, read the book once, take a few notes along the way, then on your second read do as many of the Kerouactivities you can!

You may find yourself doing something as fulfilling as making a list of places you need to visit, listing your life priorities, giving away your favorite material possession or doing something as fun and liberating as peeing in your backyard or eating a homemade piece of apple pie and ice cream at a great roadside diner you have never been to before!
This book is for everyone not just Kerouac Fans.
Buy this book, read it at least twice, do at least half of the Kerouactivities, and pass the book on to someone else to enjoy..Recycle this book, or do what I do and carry it with you in your new used canvas rucksack (read the book and you will know what I mean!)

Thanks, Bootch! You rock!!

The outstanding question is: Have YOU posted your 5-star review yet?

Friday, January 2, 2009

December's free book winner

Congratulations to Ronid from India for his December 3, 2008 posting. As soon as he sends his snail mail address to, I will send him a free copy of The Beat Handbook. Check out his blogs at Potato Poems or Freedom Express.

Someone already posted on the 1st, so January's contest is under way!

Good luck!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I've seen T.H. Huxley credited with saying:

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.

Huxley was an English biologist, known as "Darwin's bulldog" for his advocacy of the latter's theory of evolution.

The above quote from Huxley struck a chord with me. Learning is my raison d'etre, and I love Huxley's concise admonition of both breadth and depth in learning.

I aspire to learn everything about Jack Kerouac, and knowing it's impossible makes it a lifelong goal. And I aspire to learn something about everything, another lifelong goal.

Do I need to go back to "school" to so learn? No. Huxley is a case in point. He is considered one of the great autodidacts of the nineteenth century.

I love that term: autodidact. Read the Wikipedia entry for an amazing list of autodidacts.

Another inspiration of mine, Alan Watts, was also an autodidact, although Wikipedia neglects to mention him.

Self-directed learning has become a passion of mine, mostly inspired by my study of Carl Rogers' work (which, by the way, was self-directed).

Note this relevant entry from The Beat Handbook:

Day 3
Today’s Kerouaction: On College

Don’t go to college. It’s a waste of time and money. Lots of smart, successful people didn’t. Suggested Kerouaction: go to your local library and start reading the first book on the left hand side of the top shelf in the northeast corner of the first floor. Work your way through every book in the library, sequentially from where you started. When you are done – if that is even possible – start on the new books that have arrived since you started. In the meantime, enjoy what becoming educated feels like. (And remember that J. Krishnamurti distinguished between knowledge and wisdom and Carl Rogers my hero said that significant learning did not occur unless your behavior or attitude or EVEN personality changed.)

But if you’re at a college – either as a professor or a student – be original and don’t fall prey to institutional and societal norms and values. Follow your own path! Heed the advice of Henry David Thoreau and be a nonconformist. Kerouac admired Thoreau, and so pretty much anything Thoreau advised is a Kerouaction in waiting!

“Grooming schools for the middle-class non-identity”? Ouch! That is some indictment, and I’m not seeing that things are much better. If anything, they are worse, given the corporatization of the university and the resulting disintegration of what limited amounts of academic freedom there were in the first place (for example, see Jennifer Washburn’s book, University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education).

Your assignment:

Write down 10 people who have most influenced you over your lifetime. Put a checkmark next to those who went to college. There is no right or wrong answer here – it’s just information for you to do with what you wish.

Or consider this quote from Frank Zappa:

Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it... Rise for the flag salute.

Okay, so you know where this is going. Kerouac was an autodidact (as was author William Faulkner, a favorite of mine in high school and for whom Jack had an affinity - plus they were both drunks).


Listening to the oppressive naysaying of others didn't stop Jack Kerouac from becoming one of the most famous authors in American history.

Don't let it stop you.