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!