Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 37 Kerouaction: On Pick-Up Lines

The below passage from On The Road contains the quintessential beat pick-up line: "What do you want out of life?" Jack even uses it again later in the novel (a gold star if a Daily Beat reader can identify the passage).

In The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, I describe the two purposes behind this question. You'll have to buy, borrow, or steal my book to see what I think they are.

Tomorrow: On Courting.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 36 Kerouaction: On Bars

Day 36 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions references the below passage from On The Road.

This passage points out an important aspect of bar etiquette. Many local bars are frequented by "regulars," who may or may not be too friendly to new faces ("tourists," as Jack refers to them). If you're lucky enough to become a regular somewhere (and the exact process for doing that - if it is even possible - varies from bar to bar), I hope you'll remember that you weren't always a regular, and maybe you'll choose to be compassionate toward newbies.

As with everything, it's up to you.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 35 Kerouaction: On Parties

As described on Day 35 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, which references the above passage from On The Road, if you want to party the beat way you only need three things:

1) The opposite sex
2) Booze
3) Simple food

Drugs are optional, of course. Interestingly, you can dance without music, so there's no need for iPods and the like.

With party preparations this simple, you can concentrate on important things like interacting with other human beings!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 34 Kerouaction: On Wow!

Jack Kerouac uses a variety of interjections in his work, some of which are not in the dictionary, making them "neologisms" (a word you can look up). In the above passage (discussed on Day 34 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions), Jack (Sal) has only one word for the situation: "Wow!" This is an interjection meaning "an exclamation of surprise, wonder, pleasure, or the like" (

However, he is also known to use "Yair!" This isn't in the dictionary, but in beat lingo it is used as an emphatic "Yes!" I suggest you start using it.

Another beat interjection that's not defined in the dictionary is "Yass." It's often used twice in a rows, as in "Yass! Yass!" I suggest you start using this word as well.*

What other beat interjections can you identify from Jack's works? If you find some, please let me know in a comment or via e-mail to thebeathandbook at gmail dot com. Include the source if it pleases.


* Note that neither yair nor yass are in The Beat Generation Dictionary which I salvaged from on-line extermination.

Tomorrow: On Parties.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 33 Kerouaction: On Taking Action

I have long held the position that the things we'll really regret in life are the things we didn't do, versus the things we did. I arrived at this conclusion experientially, and don't remember ever reading about the concept. Synchronistically, just yesterday I ran across this quote:

"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."
~Sydney J. Harris

The source of this quote is BrainyQuote, which I can't vouch for, and as best I can tell, Sydney J. Harris was a Chicago-based journalist.

In the below passage from On The Road, Jack Kerouac describes his elation at his success in making it to Longmont, Colorado, close to his goal of Denver.

Jack's elation is infectious. "Damn! damn! damn! I'm making it!" Wouldn't you love to have something to yell that about?

William Blake said, "Better to strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." Goethe said:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that 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 incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

If you desire to do something, do it! (I would caution you here to heed the Wiccan motto, "And it harm no one, do what thou wilt.") You have choices. Always. You can't stand your job? Quit. Your husband cheats on you? Leave him. You're tired of shoveling snow where you live? Move.

Here come the excuses. I can hear them now. "I can't quit my job because I have to support my family." My friends, there is only one thing you have to do: die. Everything else is a choice. It would be much more empowering to say, "I am choosing to stay in this job I can't stand because it meets my need to support my family." At least that way you're not a sniveling, disempowered mess. But the bottom line is this: You don't have to stay in your job because you don't have to support your family. That is just a story you are telling yourself. I'm suggesting that it is an unhealthy story. It makes you a pawn. Take your power back! Recognize that you make choices! If you stay in a job you can't stand, it's a choice! You've decided that it's the best strategy for meeting your needs at this point. But it's not a have to.

Are you about to graduate from high school and your parents are making you go to college? Bullshit. No one can make you go to college. No one can make you do anything. If your dream is to put on a rucksack and head out the door for San Francisco with $70 in your pocket (like Beat Hero #1, Travis Tribble), do it!

Have you been writing poetry and everyone tells you it's a waste of time so you hide it away and never share it with others? Post a poem at dVerse Poets on Open Link Night (each Tuesday). You'll get all kinds of feedback from other poets and you can give other poets feedback as well. No one can make you hide your poetry. If your dream is to be a poet, do it!

It's starting to sound like a Nike commercial up in here. Just do it! Take action. Take a risk. Dare to live your dream. What's the worst that can happen? Failure? So what? You'll learn through failure, and you'll have experiences, and meet people, and go places you've never been.

I self-published my Kerouac-obsessed book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions because I got about 20 rejections from publishers. It's been an epic fail where selling it is concerned. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Because of writing my book, I've read with David Amram backing me up on keyboards, I've interviewed Jack Kerouac's lover Helen Weaver, I've sent books all over the world, I receive free books in the mail from City Lights for my review, and I routinely meet interesting "mad to live" characters through this blog. I took an action and I'm damn glad I did it, just like Jack in making it to Colorado on his way to Denver.

Whatever your dreams, take action. Now. Then somewhere along your own road you'll be able to yell, "Damn! damn! damn! I'm making it!"


Friday, August 26, 2011

Newly discovered Kerouac blog

Click here for a Kerouac blog by John J. Dorfner that I just discovered. I dig it and think you will, too.

Day 32 Kerouaction: On the Rules of the Road

The above passage from On The Road is the subject of Day 32 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions. It's titled, "On the Rules of the Road."

A lot can be gleaned from this short passage.

When you are "on the road," keep these suggestions in mind:

1) Keep moving. Don't dawdle for long in one place. Remember that it's the journey that matters, not the destination. As Jack advises, Go go go! But don't forget to smell the roses all along the way. Alan Watts teaches about this in this great clip from the South Park creators.

2) Save some money for later in the trip, despite the temptation to blow it all in order to "make" someone as Jack (Sal) did. Hide a $20 bill somewhere in your purse or wallet and try to forget it's there. You'll remember it when things get desperate.

3) If you're going to spend time trying to "make" someone, avoid the sullen types. Better to go without. In this case, do as Jack said, not as Jack did. Stick with the "mad ones . . . ."

Jack had the uncanny ability to pack a lot into very few words, yet he was prolific. That's a reason why Tana Wojczuk, in her excellent essay, concludes by saying she is a student of Jack Kerouac whether she likes it or not because "all roads lead to him."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 31 Kerouaction: On Finding Someone for the Night

The above passage from On The Road is the subject of Day 31 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

In a nutshell, Jack is advocating the "direct approach" with the opposite sex (at least when seeking something more than a platonic relationship). In my book, I discuss meeting two street hustlers in New Orleans, Tommy and Todd, who showed me the possibilities of the direct approach taken to extremes. After watching their success on Bourbon Street a couple of nights in a row (outside The Snake Pit), I tried it at a pizza place on the way back to the hotel at about 2 AM (with a flight to catch at 8 AM). The waitress behind the pizza counter was quite comely, and, uncharacteristically, after ordering a slice, I said, "How come I've been in New Orleans for three days and never saw you before?" She gave me a big smile and said, "Because I've been in here working!" To my utter surprise, she proceeded to tell me when she got off work, and, sadly, I told her I had a flight to catch. In hindsight, I should have missed the flight.

My New Orleans experience showed me the benefit of the direct approach. Personally, I prefer a more subtle direct approach, such as Jack (Sal) models in the above passage. I left a waitress a note on the back of the bill one time, but chickened out and left before she came and collected it. It wasn't a poem, but said something about how beautiful she was. I like to think that at least I made her day. I went back a few days later to see if she was working, but no luck.

These days, I have a great romantic partner and have no need for the "direct approach," but it's definitely a Kerouaction if you're looking for someone for the night. Try it! Statistically, sooner or later it will work.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Great article on Jack Kerouac

Readers of The Daily Beat will appreciate this article by Tana Wozcjuk on The Rumpus.

She asks:
Why is Kerouac the man other men can crush on?

Is that what is going on here? Hmmm....

Day 30 Kerouaction: On Fun

The below passage from On The Road is the subject of Day 30 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, which is titled, "On Fun."

I'm plum bereft of creative energy today, so I'll leave you with what I say about it in my book (in the hope that you'll want to go to Amazon and buy it right away):
Read about "pisscall" on p. 31 of On The Road (1976).[32] Isn’t that a great and fun passage? I wrote something I thought was scholarly and profound for this admittedly long entry, but decided after reading it that it was best said like this: goof on your friends whenever possible and pee wherever you happen to be when the urge strikes.[33] That is, live! And have fun while you’re at it. If your friends can’t take a goof, get some new ones. If you can’t bring yourself to pee except in dumb white bathroom machinery, perhaps you might ask yourself why.

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Go outside and pee. Now.

[32] Sorry. I just couldn’t leave you to your own devices for finding this one because you absolutely have to read this passage as part of your beat education.
[33] Or pee on a jellyfish sting to ease the pain (a gratuitous pop culture movie reference).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 29 Kerouaction: On Generosity

Day 29 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Generosity" and references the below passage from On The Road.

Part of the "beat code" is generosity, especially to a fellow traveler. In this case, Jack (Sal) gave away all his cigarettes to Gene and his boy, his hobo compatriots. This generosity extends to more than material things, such as offering someone a place to flop for the night. Or picking up hitchhikers.

Remember, it's not true generosity if you do if out of a sense of duty, or because you're trying to score karma points. It's only genuine if you do it out of love for your fellow human being, with no fear about or hope for any particular consequence.

My behaviorist friends would say that all behavior serves the function of either escaping something unpleasant or gaining something pleasant. I suppose the good feeling that comes as a result of giving to another counts as the latter, but I like to think that we can function on a higher plane and be more than rats in a maze. As Einstein said:
A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear and punishment and hope of reward after death.

That is, the empathy felt by an educated person in relationship with another will yield right behaviors, such as generosity. If that's behaviorism, so be it.

We're all connected, all part of one big juicy, messy game that's much more fun when we share. Some socialist rebel who got crossways with the man a couple thousand years ago was on board with that whole sharing thing, even when it meant giving all one had. Maybe he was hip to something worthwhile.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jack Kerouac and poutine

Click here for an interesting treatise on Jack and poutine.

Day 28 Kerouaction: On Clothing

Day 28 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Clothing," and references the below passage from On The Road.

If you want to dress like Jack, this passage contains two big hints: 1) wool plaid shirt; and, 2) canvas rucksack. You've seen lots of pictures of Jack in his famous wool plaid shirt. Here's an example (definitely plaid, maybe wool).

I posted a picture of Jack's actual rucksack (below) with advice on where to get one on March 25, 2009.

One important point here (that I reinforce repeatedly in my book) is that the beat way to acquire such items is to scrounge for them, either as hand-me-downs or from a store that sells used clothing/items. It's better for the environment and cheaper on the wallet. And the items will already have a beat appearance.

Happy scrounging.

Tomorrow: On generosity.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

News on The Movie from a favorite website

Probably my favorite Jack Kerouac-obsessed website is DHARMA beat. If you haven't checked it out before, you'll definitely want to put it on your "to-do list."

For instance, here's a great page that pulls together all sorts of information on The Movie.

I apologize in advance to those of you who spend the next two hours addicted to surfing DHARMA beat when you had planned to do something else with that time. You were forewarned.

Day 27 Kerouaction: On the "Beat" Character

Day 27 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On the 'Beat' Character" and references the below passage from On The Road.

On September 30, 2008, I pontificated about "What is a beat?"

"And that's all I have to say about that."*

*A movie reference, something Jack would endorse.

Day 26 Kerouaction: On Enthusiasm

Day 26 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled. "On Enthusiasm", and references the below passage from On The Road.

This passage is about a fellow hitchhiker (see yesterday's post) that Jack (Sal) starts hitching with in Des Moines. Right away, Jack realizes he likes him because he is someone who is mad to live.

I am convinced that Jack's affinity for such characters is one of his traits that made him such a great writer. He hung out with people who gave him something interesting to write about. In "How to write like Jack Kerouac," I expanded on this notion.* If you're going to write fiction, unless you have an amazing and vivid imagination (like George R.R. Martin, for example), you have to amass experiences to write about. Go places. Talk to people. Participate in events. Put yourself out there and see if that doesn't give you something worth writing about.

Here's some advice from Sylvia Plath which puts a different spin on my point:
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.

Jack wrote his life. That practice, combined with an incredible memory and jazz-like improvisational skills, yielded this great American novel.

Tomorrow: On the "beat" character.

*Click here for Part 2 of that post.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 25 Kerouaction: On Hitchhiking

Day 25 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Hitchhiking," and references the below passage from On The Road.

I've mentioned hitchhiking 6 times in previous posts here on The Daily Beat as follows:

November 2008
March 2009
December 2009
June 2001
August 2011
August 2001

Looks like a pattern to me. That's because hitchhiking was a big part of Jack's journeys, so it has to play a central role in any Kerouac-obsessed writing. In addition, hitchhiking has a certain mystique about it that's easy to have an affinity for if you're interested, like Jack was, in the "mad ones...."

Here's some info for you if you plan to head out across America: Legendary Rob's Hitchhiker's Guide to North America.

Happy trails.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Great portrait of Kerouac-Ginsberg

I love this!

Day 24 Kerouaction: On Food

Day 24 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Food," and references the below passage from On The Road. I tried to collapse the two images using Paint, but I just couldn't figure out how to get the size correct. So, we'll go with the two images from my phone.

This is one of six entries in my book about the "beat diet." In this case, Jack (Sal) ate apple pie and ice cream all the way across the country on his first cross-country trip. He claims that it's nutritious and delicious.

It's tough to argue with the delicious part, but what about nutritious? As a meal, according to the new "Nutrition Plate" (which replaced the "Food Pyramid"), it's a fail because it's got too much dairy and no vegetables or protein, being all fruit, grain, and dairy.

Well, I never said the "beat diet" was healthy, and besides, the "Nutrition Plate" is just the latest in the government's attempts to figure out how to eat healthily. It's probably a conspiracy anyway, and what we're after here is answering the question: What would Kerouac do? To do that, we'll take our lead from the characters in his novels. Regarding diet, as I said in the entry for Day 1: Eat what you want.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 23 Kerouaction: On Friends

Today starts our foray into On The Road! Day 23 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Friends," and references the below passage from On The Road. It is probably the most oft-quoted passage in Jack's most famous novel.

Certainly, a lot of different themes can be extracted from this one passage, but the one I focused on in my book was "friends." This passage in particular refers to Dean Moriarty (real-life Kerouac friend Neal Cassady) and Carlo Marx (real-life Kerouac friend Allen Ginsberg*).

The Kerouaction? Look to the company you keep as friends. Are they passionate about life or complacent? Unpredictable or boring? Do they make you feel more alive when you're with them or are they energy vampires who drain your life essence?

Reevaluate who you spend time with, and make sure that your choices in this regard enrich you and enhance your mental and physical well-being. This sounds judgmental, and perhaps it is, but the practical truth is that the people you hang out with affect your quality of life. Crystal and I know someone who we appreciate in a lot of ways but who is toxic for us to be around. So we act accordingly and never hang out with that person. We'll say "Hi" on the street, but we don't socialize beyond that. It's not "healthy" for us to do otherwise. On the other hand, we have another friend who we hang out with and probably get judged by others for doing so because this person is very much like Kerouac describes and doesn't ascribe to many of the current social norms. To which we say: Get over it. We'll choose who we hang out with and you do the same.

If someone brings out the best in you or makes you happy about life or challenges you in a good way, spend time with them! And vice versa. But love them anyway. That's how to kick the judgment trap. Being "nonjudgmental" doesn't mean you have to be a doormat and spend your life doing things that don't meet your own needs. It means being compassionate toward all sentient beings, extending them empathy. You can do that by connecting with the common human needs that underlie the strategies they use to meet those needs. As Jack says in The Dharma Bums, "MAY YOU USE THE DIAMONDCUTTER OF MERCY."

In conclusion, I'll leave you with a quote from Mary Oliver's amazing poem, "The Summer Day":

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?**

Hopefully, you'll choose your friends wisely.

P.S. By the way, I think "mad to live" is an excellent idea for a tattoo. The only question is: Where to place it?

* Horror of horrors: I just realized I spelled Ginsberg as Ginsburg in this entry of my book. It's a typo I missed and no one has pointed it out in three years! Sorry, Allen.

**Horror of horrors #2: I just realized that I misquoted Oliver in this entry in the book, and, again, no one has called me on it. Sorry, Mary.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Edition of On The Road we'll be using

In preparation for our venture into On The Road, here is the dog-eared cover of my many-times-read 1976 edition published by Penguin Books. It's the edition I will be showing excerpts from over the next 78 days, and which makes the best companion to my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

Reading my book works best if you read the relevant passage from The Dharma Bums or On The Road, and that is why I have been posting excerpts from Bums over the last 23* days. Tomorrow I'll start posting excerpts from On The Road that my book references.

Tomorrow's topic: On Friends.

*Don't get me started on the number 23 phenomena, which was first identified by beat legend William S. Burroughs and which I posted about here.

Day 22 Kerouaction: On Gifts

Day 22 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Gifts," and references the above passage from The Dharma Bums.

It's one of my favorite passages in all of Jack's work. The paradoxical imagery of using a "diamondcutter of mercy" just slays me. As readers of The Daily Beat know, I got a tattoo of that phrase a couple of weeks ago. Even though I find it to be a gem of a phrase, a Google search reveals very few hits relevant to Jack, and most of them are from this blog! I find that very weird. And cool at the same time.

The point of the entry in my book, though, is about gift-giving. In this case, Jack gave from his heart and gave something that was uniquely his to give: words.

What is it that can uniquely come, that can only come, from you to another? That is something to ponder carefully the next time a gift is in order.

Tomorrow: We leave The Dharma Bums behind and venture into On The Road, which has a total of 78 entries in my book (22 + 78 = 100). If we get damn lucky, the series will still be going when The Movie comes out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quote of the Day: Sylva Plath on writing

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
~Sylvia Plath

Interview with Travis Tribble: Beat Hero #1

Readers of The Daily Beat will recall my June 25, 2011 post about Travis Tribble, who arrived in San Francisco with $70 in his pocket and is living such a beat lifestyle that I dubbed him, "Beat Hero #1." I reached out to Travis and he said he'd be happy to participate in an e-mail interview.

Below is that (unedited) interview. Interviews with interesting people are so much fun! I found Travis' answers fascinating and I think you will, too. I especially love his advice! And I want one of those tattoos!

Thanks, Travis, and good luck with your beat dreams!


The Daily Beat: What has been the reaction to the article about you on SFGate?

Travis: The Barista at Cafe' Trieste Has Re-Named me "Hella Famous". All around this city people have been looking for this kind of notoriety, but its just like catching a stray bullet. Some of the older folks that hang around north beach were pissed. Other's thought it was grand. One guy offered to record my album.

TDB: What led to your decision to come live in San Francisco with $70 in your pocket?

Travis: If I had waited another day it would have been $20 in my pocket.

TDB: Was Jack Kerouac, or any other beat generation writer, an influence on you? If so, how?

Travis: When was kicked off of the boat i lived on 2 years ago in Seattle i couldn't sleep because it was too cold. I had to break into the laundry room and there was on the road. I related so well to the actions of those characters that i found out what the beat generation was. I suppose thats why the book is so famous. My dearest friend told me San Francisco was "all about" the beat generation when i told him about my experience. He was correct.

TDB: Describe any memorable experiences you’ve had in San Francisco related to Jack Kerouac or the beats.

Travis: Well, I get to use all the resonant energy left by them here. That's a damn fine experience

TDB: The pic on SFGate was of you in front of Vesuvio’s. What can you tell our readers about the place?

Travis: Vesuvio's is a beautifully funky bar thats mostly swarmed by tourists because the beats used to meet there and you can feel why when your there. It might be very touristy but it's not swathed with gimmicks like the Fishermans Wharf. They have great whiskey soda's. Go on a Tuesday.

TDB: You called San Francisco “the city of my dreams.” Why?

Travis: Whatever you want is here and more of it and better. Unless you want snow.

TDB: Do you write poetry? If so, is there a poem you could share with our readers?

Travis: Yes.

TDB: How would you describe your musical style?

Travis: "Babylonian Folklore Music"- Robert Racine.

TDB: Tell us about the Liguria Hotel (where you are staying).

Travis: Tat's Giving day was july 15th where eight out of now twelve people got the address of the hotel Liguria tattooed somewhere on themselves because as far as Brandon (who has been there for 6 years now) says, there has never been such an incredible force of creativity at that hotel. We all just get along like fresh lovers.

TDB: What advice do you have for young people reading this interview?

Travis: Hit the road when you get board or tired or desperate or stuck in dugs. It's not as scary as you might think.

Day 21 Kerouaction: On Impermanence

Day 21 in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Impermanence." It references the below passage from The Dharma Bums.

For me, the essence of this passage is a central teaching in Buddhism: the law of impermanence. It is an inescapable, eternal truth. Nothing lasts, neither good nor evil. Click here for a short treatise on the concept which includes the following:

Shoud [sic] we understand and recognize the Law of Impermanence, we could change our perspective toward life. We would admit life as it is, no matter what kind of change or adversity we encounter. That is the teaching of Buddha. We would be brave and wise in any circumstance, and more sympathetic to others. Never again would we cry when facing a mishap, an illness, or even death.

A dangerous misinterpretation of the law of impermanence can lead to a nihilistic view of life. If nothing lasts, then fuck it. Since it's all meaningless, since everyone and everything I care about will be destroyed, why give a shit about anything? On the contrary, understanding the law of impermanence brings great meaning to one's existence; as described above, it allows us to change our perspective and face adversity bravely and wisely and become more sympathetic (I would change that word to empathetic) to others. Understanding the law of impermanence is an important step toward ending our own suffering.

In The Matrix, the Oracle tells Neo: "Everything that has a beginning has an end." That goes for the good stuff and the bad stuff in your life. Knowing this, we can fully appreciate the good stuff while it's happening, and bear the bad stuff because we know it will end.

My mom always said, "This too shall pass." I think she usually said this about bad stuff, but it still sums up the law of impermanence pretty well.

Of course, the concepts of "good" and "bad" emanate from judgments we ourselves make, and if we would simply observe without the "me" involved (see yesterday's post), we'd end conflict right at the source.

Some will say, "If Jack understood all this stuff, why did he end up a disillusioned, bitter alcoholic?" My retort: That says a lot more about the speaker of such a statement than it does about Jack. If you want to change the world, start by changing yourself. If you're going to wait until others are perfect, you'll wait for an eternity. Jack was pointing at the moon, but he wasn't the moon and never claimed to be. He gave us the terrible beauty of the world in his words, and for that, those of us who "get" him are eternally thankful.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 20 Kerouaction: On Walking Meditation

Day 20's Kerouaction in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions is titled, "On Walking Meditation." It references the below passage from The Dharma Bums.

Many Westerners picture "meditation" as something you do sitting in a torturous cross-legged position on a special cushion (it's called a zafu, and if you really want to get comfy, you put the zafu atop a zabuton). On the contrary, meditation is a practice that is available 24/7, regardless of what you are doing. As Japhy points out, you can do it while hiking. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote an entire book on the subject, The Long Road to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation. If you Google "walking meditation," you'll get over 1.6 million hits.

I hope you will take the time to read this talk by Jiddu Krishnamurti in Santa Monica in 1974. In it, he says some powerful things about meditation. Among them:
Now here comes our difficulty. Because each one of you, I am quite sure have been corrupted - if I may use that word - by the recent fashion to meditate. The word 'meditation' means, by the dictionary, to ponder over, to consider, to go into, to explore. All that is involved in the word 'meditation' . And the gurus that have come from India with their traditional authority, with their technique, with their assertions, with their absurdities, and the Americans on the whole being rather gullible, have taken to it, paying lots of money and being fed up with the old church and old traditions, take on a new tradition of India and their mysteries and their absurdities. The word 'guru' in Sanskrit means one who resolves ignorance, takes away your ignorance. But generally the gurus impose their ignorance on you, their burden on you for so much money; or they assert they have got enlightenment. Some few years ago a very famous guru came to see us, with a few of his disciples. He was rather pompous, absolutely certain. And he said, 'I have got it, I am enlightened, I have reached, I have attained' - and we asked him what is it that he had attained. 'Oh,' he said, 'I have attained the immeasurable, it is in my heart, in my mind'. And we said, 'Can you hold the sea in your hand, can you hold the heavens in your fist, can you see the whole of the earth in observing one piece of the earth?' He was rather annoyed and left because he never wanted another to question what he had attained. So if you have gurus, and I hope you haven't, ask them what they have got, what their pretensions are. Truth is not something that you get, that you have, that you possess. It is a pathless land, nobody can lead you to it. You have to be a light to yourself from the very beginning so that you yourself stand alone, purified from all the absurdities of man's endeavour, search and explanations. And most of us like to depend on somebody and so the gurus are there to exploit people.

He says much more about meditation in this talk, and I truly think some time spent going into it with an open mind will yield new insights about meditation. It might even motivate you to read more of Krishnamurti's work. Or, perhaps you will watch one of the many videos on-line, such as this talk with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in which he says, "As long as you are held within a pattern, you must create disorder in the world."

If you watch the video and your mind is blown or confused, that's a good thing. It takes repeated exposure to Krishnamurti to "get" him.

Back to meditation. Go for a walk or a hike and see if you can leave yourself behind! Notice your breathing, feel your feet hitting the ground, smell the air, listen to the birds (or construction equipment or whatever sounds are happening), watch the scenery passing by - all without trying to make it be different from what it is ("I wish the birds were louder."), all without judgment ("Those bulldozers across the street are making too much noise."), all without the "me" involved. When thoughts occur (and they will), you'll know the "me" showed up, and that's okay. Just notice that and go back to experiencing the walk totally, observing everything about it without evaluation, analysis, and judgment.

But remember, you can meditate whenever you wish, whatever you are doing. Here's a great little video with some pointers, but keep in mind that Krishnamurti might call this a "method," and therefore it reinforces the "me." However, if you can get the hang of it by using the tips in this video, you can go beyond a "pattern" of meditation and thus meditate without all the trappings of process.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cool little film about the beats

This short film, The Beat Goes On, was a senior project about the beats in San Francisco. It's definitely worth watching.

Kerouac's "Ed Dunkel" (Al Hinkle) has a website

Beat friends, I just learned that Al Hinkle, one of Jack's friends who appeared in his books - Ed Dunkel in On The Road, Slim Buckle in Visions of Cody, Ed Buckle in Book of Dreams - has a website at Click here to check it out.

It features bios, interviews, pictures, and links. Good stuff!

Day 19 Kerouaction: On Food for the Road

A few days ago we discussed the first in what will be several entries (at least 6) on the "beat diet." If you want to eat beat, you need to eat what Jack's characters ate. On August 11 we discussed the blissful breakfast food, slumgullion. Today's entry in The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions concerns "food for the road." That is, when you're on the move - whether hitchhiking (the best choice) or driving - what should you throw in your rucksack for sustenance along the way? According to the below passage from The Dharma Bums, the answer is Ry-Krisp crackers (yup, they still make them), a wedge of good sharp Cheddar cheese, and a roll of salami.

I know what you're thinking: this stuff should be kept in a cooler of some sort, especially the salami. Wrong! We all know you can keep cheese unrefrigerated, and the crackers are a no-brainer. But what about the salami? Well, two points here. First, Jack didn't refrigerate his, and it didn't kill him. Second, note this article on, which explains which foods need to refrigerated and why. Salami has low moisture and it's cured, so it's safe to keep unrefrigerated.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Ry-Krisps, Cheddar cheese, salami. Throw that in your rucksack and go go go!

Tomorrow: On walking meditation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In praise of David Amram

If you're not familiar with David Amram, click here for a piece about him and his friendship/collaboration with Jack Kerouac.

I met him at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (see above picture), and we traded autographed books (see a picture of his inscription here), which was way cooler for me than for him. David will be performing at the Philadelphia Folk Festival next weekend (his seventh time there), and if you get the chance, definitely go see him. He has more energy at age 80 than people half his age and then some.

David is one of Jack's biggest supporters, and routinely attends Lowell Celebrates Kerouac to help keep Jack's spirit alive. He's an amazing talent and an amazing guy in his own right, and his connection to Jack just ups the fascination level.

Kerouac Day 18: On Appearances

Today's Kerouaction in The Beat Handbook is titled, "On Appearances," and references this passage from The Dharma Bums:
...all they really should do is just build or buy an old Jap house and vegetable garden and have a place there for cats to hang out in and be Buddhists, I mean have a real flower of something and not just the usual American middleclass fuggup with appearances.

In this scene, Japhy is talking about his pending "monastery shot" in Japan and how the Americans there who are financing him spend a lot of money on appearances like
elegant scenes of gardens and books and Japanese architecture and all that crap which nobody will like or be able to use anyway but rich American divorcees on Japanese cruises....

He is bemoaning the fact that some Americans - true Dharma Bums - really "get" Buddhism and don't care about appearances. In my book, I say:
Tomorrow, throw out something you have been hanging on to for years. Throw it in the trash and laugh. Or give it to someone! That would be even better for the environment. You won’t miss it and you surely don’t “need” it. What do you need? Little. We all need the same things. Among them are shelter, food, connection, and spirituality. What does that “thing” you are going to throw away have to do with any of that?

Make a list of 10 things you are going to give away (best idea) or sell or throw out and check them off as you do so.

Tomorrow: On food for the road (more on the "beat diet").

Thursday, August 11, 2011

15 Golden Rules of Hitchhiking

As a public service to all the hitchhikers and potential hitchhikers who read The Daily Beat, I am passing along this article about hitchhiking from titled, "15 Golden Rules of Hitchhiking."

As you know, Jack was an accomplished hitchhiker. Which of these "rules" do you think he would support, and which ones would he ignore?

Kerouac Day 17: On Breakfast

As Day 17 in The Beat Handbook points out (in reference to the below passage from The Dharma Bums), Jack routinely detailed what his characters ate, and from this we can acertain the "beat diet," which I blogged about on April 2, 2009. Excuse me for not uploading a photo from the actual book, but Facebook is down right now and that is how I get photos from my camera to the 'Net.

Tomorrow morning I'll make you another nice breakfast, slumgullion, d'yever eat good oldfashioned slumgullion boy, 'taint nothin but scrambled eggs and potatoes all scrambled up together.

In this instance, Jack makes "slumgullion" for breakfast. I've tried it, and it's a tasty way to start your day!

Stay tuned for other entries about the "beat diet."

Tomorrow: On Appearances.

By the way, there are only five entries left from The Dharma Bums, and then we'll start working our way through On The Road.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An interesting KEROUinterACtion

As I was getting out of my truck today, a woman (65+) was walking past in the parking lot. She glanced at my license plate (above) and said, "Dharma Bums?"

I said, "Yes! Jack Kerouac! Not too many people get that."

Her reply: "That's because they're not old enough."

"You may be right," I offered as I walked away.

I've been thinking about that interaction (which I will label a KEROUinterACtion), and I don't really agree. Here's why. I spend some time on Twitter each day promoting this blog (and by default, my book). One of the things I do is search for any references made to Kerouac. There are many each day, and while I haven't made a formal study of it, many of the references are posted by what I consider to be young people (judging by their pictures).

So, I have hope that Jack is still relevant to the younger culture, and that I might just as well have run into an 18-year-old who knew what my license plate meant.

What do you think?

Obama as Dean Moriarty?

I try not to wax political here on The Daily Beat, but I found author Bill McLelland's comparison of President Obama to Dean Moriarty "blog-worthy." Click here for the full article on In it, McLelland says:
I was splashing around in Lake Michigan last week when the realization hit me like a wave — I was wrong about Barack Obama. I should have voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary three years ago.

At the time of the primary, the decision seemed easy. I saw in Obama the same qualities Jack Kerouac saw in Dean Moriarty in "On the Road." He was "something new, long prophesied, long a-coming."

I'm not endorsing McLelland's view, just pointing out that Jack gets invoked by writers on virtually every topic under the sun, from politics to culture to literature to travel to clothing. It shows the universal appeal of his work.

Kerouac Day 16: On Action v. Words

Day 16 in The Beat Handbook is titled, "On Action v. Words," and references the below passage from The Dharma Bums.

As the Suggested Kerouactivity for this entry says, "Words written here would be an abomination."

Do something!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Magic Trip" Director Alex Gibney interview

"Magic Trip" is director Alex Gibney's movie in which he pieced together actual footage from Ken Kesey's travels with the Merry Pranksters on Furthur. It's a "must-see" for beat fans as it includes footage of Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and our hero, Jack Kerouac. Click here to read an interview with Gibney as well as watch a trailer for the film that contains a couple short clips of Neal and a very quick shot of Jack.

The interview is not too kind to Jack, although from my own reading it appears to be accurate. By the time Jack met up with the Pranksters, he was pretty disillusioned.

On their trip that started in 1964, the Pranksters intended to visit the World's Fair in New York City. My father took me and my brother to the Fair, so I may have been there at the same time! Weird.

Kerouac Day 15: On Spiritual Power

The above passage from The Dharma Bums inspired me to write an entry in The Beat Handbook titled, "On Spiritual Power" for Day 16. In this entry, I say:
When a problem faces you, become still and pay attention to what your inner voice, your insight, your Buddha nature tells you.

I go on to suggest practicing "zazen," as time "on the cushion" can strengthen your ability to practice stillness. However, in a footnote to the entry added two years after it was written, I point out that one does not have to sit zazen to practice true meditation. This is something I learned from Jiddu Krishnamurti, and it makes a lot more sense to me than carving out special time for it. In Krishnamurti's teachings, you can meditate all the time. Certainly, time sitting zazen can strengthen your ability to do that, and I spent a good amount of time on the cushion. Maybe it's a prerequisite to enable some to follow Krishnamurti's advice, but he would disagree. If you have to do something in order to become still, then you are missing the point. Stillness is available now.

Just ask Eckhart Tolle.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kerouac tattoos and license plates

I'm trying to collect pictures of license plates and tattoos that have something to do with Jack Kerouac. If you have one, or see one, please snap a picture and e-mail it to me via thebeathandbook at We'll post it here on The Daily Beat. So far I have two license plates (one is mine) and one tattoo (mine). I don't want to simply mine the Internet for pictures! Let's get personal. Send me your pic with your name, where you're from, and a story about the picture. If you want your name and/or location withheld, let me know in your e-mail.


Kerouac Day 14: On Dogs Being Wiser Than Their Masters

Day 14 in The Beat Handbook is titled, "On Dogs Being Wiser Than Their Masters," and references the below passage from The Dharma Bums.

I'm breaking pattern here and have provided the entire entry from my book (between the asterisks). Keep reading, though, I have some more to say.

Day 14
Today’s Kerouaction: On Dogs Being Wiser Than Their Masters

Spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle says in The Power of Now (1999) that he has known several Zen masters in his life: all cats.[18] Likewise, Kerouac points out that our egos and our intellect get in the way of enlightenment. Look to animals for clues on being. Or little children. Hmmmm . . . . Become as little children? A very famous man is credited with saying that a couple thousand years ago. Perhaps he studied the dharma?

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Find a cat or a dog and watch them "be" for 10 minutes without any mental images or comments.

[18] As I edit this page on May 31, 2007, it occurs to me that a couple of days ago a friend, Heidi, gave me a little plaque with this quote on it: "If cats could talk, they wouldn’t." Which reminds me of an interchange credited to Winston Churchill. A woman said to him that if she were his wife, she would poison his coffee. He replied, "If you were my wife, I’d drink it."


Here's the picture referenced in the above footnote. I chose not to bother with graphics in my book (more expense and complication), but nothing prevents me from sharing them here.

Given today's passage, I feel compelled to point out that Jack was really more of a cat person than a dog person. We'll get to that on Day 72. In case I forget to share it 58 days from now, here's a classic picture of Jack.

It graces the cover of an excellent collection of essays about Jack, The Kerouac We Knew by John Montgomery. I paid a pretty penny for my copy and I highly recommend getting your hands on one if you get the chance.

Closing thought: Treat animals well. It's the beat thing to do.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jack Kerouac and Professional Wrestling

I just got back from a live pro wrestling event at The Elks Lodge in Augusta, Maine, and was thinking about the Kerouac connection that I blogged about on October 15, 2009. Jack's dad, Leo, managed some semi-pro wrestlers, and I always think about that when I watch pro wrestling.

There were some real beat characters in attendance at this event. A couple in front of me drove clear from Nashua, NH, and they knew everything about pro wrestling. It was great fun talking to them about wrestlers from years ago, like Tugboat and Dick Murdoch and Barry Wyndham and others I hadn't thought of in a long time. The husband said he talks to Sting (Steve Borden) on Facebook, and that he's a really nice guy. He also said he once saw Big Show (Paul Wight) act like a real asshole to a young fan and called him out on it. Generally, though, pro wrestlers are quite good to their fans, realizing that they are their bread-and-butter. And at these lower tier levels (not the big TV productions like WWE), the settings are very small and intimate and it's hard to avoid engaging with the crowd up close and personal.

This couple and I got talking about people who judge us for liking wrestling, and we laughed about the complaint, "It's fake." Like we don't know that. And like he said, what do people watch that isn't fake? Soap operas? Sitcoms? Pro sports (cut me a break if you think that isn't fixed given the money involved). At least pro wrestling doesn't pretend it's a real competition. It's an athletic exhibition with a little drama thrown in for good measure. The physical stuff they were doing today was impressive, and there was a good deal of showmanship, too. Many in attendance dutifully rooted for their favorites, seemingly with great passion even though they knew it was, at least in part, scripted.

I talked with a woman I know who worked the event and was only there for that reason. She ended up really enjoying herself. That's the point. It's entertainment. Like any kind of entertainment, for it to have its intended effect, you have to suspend belief a little bit (or a lot) and just go with it. That's why I'm enjoying reading George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I know it's not real, and that's okay. I still lose myself in it and have a good time doing so.

I will say this: it's much more enjoyable live than on television. If you've never been to a live event, give it a try sometime. Tell them Leo Kerouac sent you.

Big Sur, the movie

Big Sur, the movie adaptation of Kerouac's tortured novel, supposedly started filming in April, but the Internet's been pretty quiet about it. I posted about it previously here on The Daily Beat (click here).

Looking at the casting (click here), I actually have some hope for the film.

It's a tough one to script, I should think, but I'm looking forward to it.

Aztec Two-Step and the beats

I just read in this article from The Middletown Press that Aztec Two-Step, who I saw at the Lobster Festival in Rockland, ME, a few years ago opening for Don McLean, took their name from a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem, and a song from their self-titled debut album, "The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty," was the first song written about On The Road. The album is out-of-stock at Amazon, but you can listen to a sample of the song there.

Let's investigate these two claims. Regarding their name, Wikipedia says that it is from a line in Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind. I don't have that handy and can't find it full-text on-line, but I'll give them that one. It's all over the Internet and I did find an excerpt here.

Regarding their song being the first one written about On The Road, I find that hard to believe. The band didn't form until 1971. It took 14 years for someone to do a song based on Jack's novel? I doubt it. Here's a lengthy list of songs that mention Jack or Neal Cassady, and Aztec Two-Step's is way down the list.

Nevertheless, they named their band after a line in a Ferlinghetti poem and did a song about Dean Moriarty.

In my book, that is pretty beat.

I liked them at The Lobster Festival. Now I like them even more.

Kristen Stewart topless in On The Road movie

I wish I could give a crap about seeing Kristen Stewart topless in the upcoming On The Road movie, but I just can't. I still can't get my brain around why they'd cast her as Marylou, the lead female character in the film. I've seen her in a few movies, and I've never been that impressed with her acting. Plus, I just don't find her sexy at all, and the Marylou character ought to be sexy (if nothing else). She sure tried hard enough in Into The Wild, and it didn't work. I guess I just can't get her obnoxious role in Panic Room out of my mind.

Anyway, since it's Kerouac news, click here for a picture from the movie and some additional details from Celeb Dirty Laundry.

I can't wait for the film, of course, and I am going to watch it with an open mind. Perhaps I will become a Kristen Stewart fan.

P.S. If you happened on this post because you're a Kristen Stewart fan - particularly if she's naked - you definitely will want to own my book, available from Amazon by clicking here. There are entries on sex, women, nudity, and movies - all subjects a Kristen Stewart fan might be interested in - especially one searching for her nude pictures!

Kerouac Day 13: On The Illusion of Things

Day 13 in The Beat Handbook is titled, "On The Illusion of Things," and references the following passage from The Dharma Bums.

Expounding on this passage would require my mind stuff to interact with your mind stuff, which would ignore its profound meaning. Yes?

Tomorrow: On dogs being wiser than their masters.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kerouac Day 12: On Resisting What Is

If you're a regular reader of The Daily Beat, you know we're presenting all of the passages from The Dharma Bums and On The Road (the latter starting on Day 23) in chronological order as they relate to the daily readings in my book, The Beat Handbook. Day 12 is titled, "On Resisting What Is." I discuss, briefly (because it is ineffable in the first place), the essential teaching of all spiritual disciplines: it is our resistance to "what is" that causes suffering. Jack points this out in the below passage from Bums.

It's a short passage, but powerful:
I was hurting deep inside from the sad business of trying to deny what was.

How can we tell when we are trying to deny what is? In other words, how can we tell when we are resisting the present moment?

Not to harp on it, but one clear sign is when some version of the word "should" creeps into your spoken vocabulary or into the scripts you run in your mind.

"They should appreciate me for all I've done."
"That guy shouldn't drive that way."
"She should wear her hair a different way."

Another clear sign is labels. Maybe you hadn't thought about this before, but whenever you label someone or something, you are resisting "what is." Here's how it works.

You call someone an "idiot." What does that mean? It means you think they should be something other than what they are. See how a "should" crept in there without even saying or thinking it? Shoulds make us suffer, plain and simple.

When we make judgements, we are resisting what is. Not that making judgements isn't necessary from time to time for practical purposes. We judge a stovetop too hot to touch right now and act accordingly. That is a good use of judgement. Eckhart Tolle discusses how some interpret this teaching to mean that if your car is stuck in the mud, accepting it means doing nothing about it. Not so. If your car is stuck in the mud, you do what you need to do to get it out, like calling AAA. But you don't suffer over it. You can tell someone is suffering over such an event when they are complaining and whining and swearing about it.

On the other hand, judging that your neighbor is a douchebag because his dog is barking is resisting what is and that is the source of your suffering. Not the dog. Not your neighbor. YOU are the source of your own suffering. Krishnamurti goes further and says you are suffering. You are not separate from it. You are fear. You are envy, greed, and all the rest of it.

Once you see that, you realize you can do absolutely nothing about it, and therefore it ends.

Yes, that simple. And that difficult. Believe me, I know. Most of the examples above are from personal epic failures with the concept.

Today, when you are suffering over something, ask yourself: Is the source of my suffering resistance to what is?

You can never change the present moment. But you can always accept it.

As Eckhart Tolle says, "This is my secret: I don't mind what happens."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kerouac Day 11: On Compassion

Day 11 in The Beat Handbook is titled, "On Compassion." It is based on the below passage from The Dharma Bums.

Compassion is the heart of Buddhism.

That pretty much sums it up. We're all cut from the same mold, full of hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities. Let's have compassion for each other. Step back before you go judging someone. Maybe that guy you're about to curse at for cutting you off on the highway is taking his mother to the ER because she has chest pains, and courteous driving isn't a high priority at that moment. You never know. And if someone wants to live a life centered around "white kitchen machinery," who are you to judge?

My administrative assistant refused to maximize windows when we were working together on her PC. I showed her how to do it, and explained how it was much more efficient than constantly scrolling up and down. She explained that she doesn't like to "see all that extra stuff" on the screen. I said it was up to her, and that now that she knew she had a choice, it was hers to make. That is, now it was an informed decision. And now sometimes she does it, and sometimes she doesn't, and I need to respect her choices because she gets the task done.

We don't always know whether someone's decision is informed. Herbert Simon, guru of public administration, said all managers are constrained in decision-making by "bounded rationality." They can never know all of the possible information needed to make a decision, so they gather what data they can and make the best decision possible under the circumstances.

I think people are like that. They make the best decisions they can under their unique circumstances, the latter being something we cannot possible fathom (let alone for ourselves!). So when someone is making decisions with which you disagree, maybe it will help to be compassionate if you remember that they "have good hearts whether or not they live like Dharma Bums," and they are doing the best they can. Sometimes, maybe all they need is for someone to hear them, to show them some empathy (compassion), which can lead to a new understanding, and sometimes to a "teachable moment," for one or both of you.

Synchronicity side note: As I was re-reading this passage from Bums, I noticed that two paragraphs above it on the the same page Jack mentioned Big Easonburg Woods. I'm currently reading a passage from Book of Sketches each night, and yesterday's was titled. "SOUNDS IN THE WOODS." It concludes thusly:
            Written in Easonburg
     woods, at one point naked,
     Sunday, Aug 10 1952
  --The Sounds of the Woods

Most of Jack's works are inter-referential. He wrote life, he wrote what he knew, and he was always writing writing writing. Cross-fertilization was inevitable (and intentional). It's great to happen upon an example without looking for it. At least I think so. Maybe it's just me.