Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 Kerouac-olutions

I don't know why I do this to myself and commit Kerouac-olutions to writing at the end of the year just to revisit the list a year later and admit defeat. Nevertheless, it's become a tradition.

Herewith are my Kerouac-olutions for 2014, starting with how I did on 2013's.

Update on 2013 Kerouac-olutions (click here for original post):

1. Read Visions of Kerouac: The Life of Jack Kerouac by Charles E. Jarvis.
Done. I liked it.

2. Read Surviving on the Streets: How to Go Down Without Going Out by Ace Backwords.
Fail (although I've browsed it a few times).

3. Read Neil Young's autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace.
Mixed. I gave it the old college try but it was tedious beyond belief. One narcissist cannot bear another.

4. Read The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson.
Done. I liked it.

5. Read Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation, and America by Dennis McNally.
Done. I liked it.

6. Read Beat Generation: Glory Days in Greenwich Village by Fred and Gloria McDarrah.
Fail. Didn't even start it.

7. Buy Crystal flowers once a month.
Fail. I think I came close but my little adventure that began in February sidelined me for a while.
8. Start a second book.

9. Write 12 poems.
Fail. I wrote a whopping 7.
10. Visit Pennsylvania.

So, I achieved about 35% of my 2012 Kerouac-olutions. That's pretty weak. Now it's time to make some for the approaching new year.

2014 Kerouac-olutions:
1. Breathe more.
2. Move more.
3. Eat less.
4. Think less.
5. Love more.
6. Judge less.
7. Appreciate more.
8. Give more.
9. Worry less.
10. Create more.

Happy (early) New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Kerouacian Christmas

Wishing everyone a Merry Kerouacian Christmas. Click here for last year's post containing an important thought from Jack himself.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

USPS rejects Jack Kerouac stamp idea

Back on July 8 I attempted to rally support for a Jack Kerouac postage stamp. Click here for my original post.

This week I heard from the U.S. Postal Service. The news is not good, although they do suggest looking into a "pictorial or souvenir cancellation." I will look into that. I have a sneaking suspicion that, at least at our little podunk post office, the response will be, "What?"

Here's the bad news letter from the USPS. I redacted my mailing address to avoid the millions of letters that would otherwise be forthcoming.

Sorry, Jack. I tried.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jack Kerouac, resting from his labors

Jack Kerouac's grave, Edson Cemetery, Lowell, MA (photo taken October 11, 2013)
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
Coiner of the phrase "Beat Generation," author Jack Kerouac died at age 47 on this date in St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL, in 1969 (44 years ago), of internal hemorrhaging. The coroner’s report said that Jack died from "gastrointestinal hemorrhage, due to bleeding gastric varix [probably meant "varices"] from cirrhosis of liver, due to excessive ethanol intake over many years." Yes, one could say he drank himself to death. Some speculate that Jack's death was complicated by an untreated hernia and a beating he took several weeks earlier in a local tavern, The Cactus Bar. I have speculated about this in the past here on The Daily Beat (click here). Were he still alive, Jack Kerouac would be 91 years old.

There was a poorly attended wake for Jack in St. Petersburg, but a second was held at the Archambault Funeral Home in his hometown of Lowell, MA. Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Peter Orlovsky attended along with a number of other friends and family members. The funeral took place at St. Jean Baptiste Church, where, according to Kerouac biographer Tom Clark, Father Armand “Spike” Morrisette read from the Holy Bible's Book of Revelation: “They shall rest from their labors for they shall take their works with them.”

Pall-bearers included Joe Chaput, Tony Sampas, Billy Koumantzelis, Harvey Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. Having died the husband of Stella Sampas, Jack was buried in the Sampas family plot in the Edson Cemetery in Lowell. Jack spoke of his burial in Visions of Gerard when  he mentioned “that crew of bulls – The particular bleak gray jowled pale eyed sneaky fearful French Canadian quality of man . . . . Lay me down in sweet India or old Tahiti, I don’t want to be buried in their cemetery . . . ” (as cited in Tom Clark in Jack Kerouac: A Biography, 1984, Thunder's Mouth Press, pp. 217-220).

Who will be talking about you and me on the 44th anniversary of our deaths?

For your convenience, here are links to all my annual posts about this auspicious date:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Never-before-published book by Jack Kerouac available March 2014

You can pre-order a never-before-published book by Jack Kerouac on Amazon by clicking here. It's called The Haunted Life and Other Stories and is being edited by Todd Tietchen, a professor at UMass Lowell.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Installment #1 of "The Saga"

Something is afoot. I can't talk about it because it's in the early going and there are legal implications. All I can say is that it's totally relevant to this blog, it was predicted by a friend, it could turn out to be a huge bummer for me (huge!), and it's yet another example of the little guy getting crushed by the "powers-that-be" for no other reason than that they can (and it's likely a petty vendetta to boot).

Sorry to be so mysterious but maybe now you'll keep visiting this blog in order to catch the next installment. I'm not signing any nondisclosure agreements so you'll get all the juicy details sooner or later.

Broke, dead, famous, rich, sainted . . . how will it all turn out? Oh, how will it all turn out . . . ?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2013

Every October, a committed group of Keroucians organize a multi-day fantastic celebration of Jack Kerouac's life and work in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. Called the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival, this year's events started with a pre-festival event - the Jack Kerouac Road Race on September 29 - and will culminate with a post-festival event, Waking Jack: Jack Kerouac Memorial Walk and Wake on October 20. The meat of the festival this year, as always, was a 5-day marathon of events starting on Thursday October 10 and  running through today, Monday October 14. Once again, Crystal and I were lucky enough to attend some of the events, and following is my annual report.

2013 was our fifth time at the LCK! Festival since 2008, having missed it in 2010. It always takes place in October, the month Jack Kerouac died in 1969. Daily Beat readers will know that October is widely acknowledged as Jack's favorite month, and, as he said in On The Road, "Everybody goes home in October." Since we both work, the earliest we could leave was Friday, which meant we missed the Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour and the LCK Celebrates Amram! kick-off event on Thursday night. Some say a pub tour in honor of someone who drank themselves to death is in bad taste. The couple of times I've been able to attend were worth the ironic angst.

We left Maine around 9:00 AM Friday morning and were able to drive straight-through to Lowell (3 hours) without even a pit-stop. Our first stop was the Old Worthen (that's what locals call it but you can see by the picture I snapped below that it's actual name differs) to meet our friends Richard and Michelle for lunch.

Worthen House, Lowell, MA
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
Note the sky - it turned out to be one of the most beautiful October days in history. We had a great visit with our friends and then headed out to the Edson Cemetery for our annual visit to Jack's grave. When we got there, surprisingly, the gravestone was almost empty of its usual items left in Jack's memory (poems, books, beer/wine/whiskey bottles, flowers, joints, etc.). All we saw was a penny and a nickel. There were some leaves on the gravestone which I brushed aside but later realized they may have been purposely arranged there. Sorry. The wind would have done the deed anyway.

Here's what the grave looked like that day - we added the bottle of 10-year-old single malt Bushmills and a copy of my book, The Beat Handbook. You can see the nickel in the upper left and the penny in the lower left (and the pile of leaves I unthoughtfully moved).

Jack Kerouac's grave on October 11, 2013
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
Crystal and I snapped each other's pictures.

Crystal at Jack Kerouac's grave on October 11, 2013
(c) 2013 Rick Dale

Rick at Jack Kerouac's grave on October 11, 2013
(c) 2013 Crystal Bond
Our tradition each year (one I started in 2005 on a solo trip to Lowell on my way from Pennsylvania to see Crystal in Maine) is to video ourselves reading something at the grave and drinking a toast to Jack, usually of some Bushmills (my father's favorite). You can find past years' videos on YouTube or in this blog's archives.

Click here for Crystal's 2013 video tribute to Jack. Listen carefully and you will hear workmen sucking up leaves into a big truck and then driving right past us. Crystal cleverly incorporated that interruption into her reading.

I tried something different this year. Instead of a reading, I attempted to recite from memory the last paragraph from On The Road. I made a couple of mistakes, but since I was already a little buzzed from lunch at the Worthen, I decided to leave it as good enough. Click here to see my attempt. Get out your copy of On The Road and follow along  - you'll note where I went astray. 

We felt like lingering at the grave that day because it was so bright and sunny and warm, but we had promises to keep and so we said goodbye to Jack and headed over to the Courtyard by Marriott to check in. It was literally a 2-minute (or less) drive from the grave. We usually stay at the UMass Inn and Conference Center in downtown Lowell, walking distance from many events. This year there was "no room at the Inn," so we settled for a place that's a 10-minute (or less) drive or taxi ride from Lowell.

We missed a morning event, The Annual Jack Kerouac Prose & Poetry Competition at Lowell High School. We always hear good things about the students' performances and some year we want to attend that event. We also missed A Walk in Doctor Sax's Woods led by Nomi Herbtsman, but we chose lunch with our friends and a private visit to the grave instead.

After checking in, we took a taxi into Lowell to attend Talking Jack at the UMass Inn & Conference Center. This was a session led by Steve Edington and Roger Brunelle. It was well-attended and held out on the patio by the canal because of the gorgeous weather. I got a chance to say hello to my friend John Wight (The Daily Beat's Beat Hero #2 - click here) and give him a signed copy of my book for his friend, Richard.

Talking Jack at the UMass Inn & Conference Center
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
After this session we did our own Jack Kerouac pub tour - all on foot - with our friends Richard and Michelle. We started at Cappy's Copper Kettle, a stop on the official tour.

Cappy's Copper Kettle in Lowell, MA
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
I seem to remember the bartender there telling us that the owner - who wasn't there - had known Jack.

From Cappy's we walked to Major's. Major's used to be on the official tour, but it has moved locations. I forgot to snap a picture. Our next stop was to be the White Eagle Cafe because it was the site of the last two LCK! events of the day. It's walkable, but both our taxi driver and the bartender at Cappy's warned us against it because one needed to walk right through "the projects." We walked anyway.

Our intention was to eat dinner at the White Eagle, but as it turned out it had a limited menu. We had pizza. It was edible. The events that night were a showing of Grave Concerns, a film by Brent Mason, and then Jamming Jack, a cornucopia of music and readings by Kerouac friend David Amram, noted NYC poet Steve Dalachinsky, and others. I met Steve for the first time and had a fun conversation with him. Crystal bought two of Steve's books.

White Eagle Cafe in Lowell, MA
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
We left the last event before it was over. I had imbibed entirely too much, starting at lunch, and in fact woke up at early at the Courtyard with my first hangover in a long time. After indulging in the Courtyard's breakfast buffet I was feeling better and we drove into Lowell to attend the Commemorative at the Commemorative, which took place at Jack Kerouac Park on the corner of Bridge and French Streets. The Commemorative was dedicated 25 years ago and so the event featured reminiscences from past LCK! Committee members. I snapped this picture of Crystal when we first got there.

Jack Kerouac Commemorative in Lowell, MA
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
A bus tour led by Kerouac docent Roger Brunelle left the ceremony and was to culminate at the grave, where I was asked by LCK! President Mike Wurm to facilitate the Homage to "Ti Jean." We drove back to the Marriott and I rested my weary head for an hour before making the short drive to the grave for the noon ceremony.

It had nothing to do with me, but I thought the ceremony went well. Before it started we had a chance to visit with Vickie and Melissa, two fellow Mainers who were in Massachusetts for another reason but swung by the grave for the ceremony. Small world.

I started the homage by having those in attendance tell us their names and where they were from. At this point the bus hadn't arrived yet but we felt it was important to get started. Just as we finished with names we saw the group from the bus approaching on foot (I guess the bus driver decided not to negotiate the narrow roads in the cemetery). Once everyone was there, I made a few brief remarks about the Edson Cemetery (my namesake since my middle name is Edson), where Jack's relatives are buried, and his funeral. Then I turned it over to Richard Marsh, who asked to read the opening section from Visions of Gerard. We focused on VOG because it was the 50th anniversary of its publication. Roger Brunelle read a section from the book. My friend Kurt Phaneuf read the heart-wrenching section that concludes with a beautiful poem and the sentence, "Unceasing compassion flows from Gerard to the world even while he groans in the very middle of his extremity."

We were honored to have the fantastic Franco-American vocalist, Michele Choiniere, sing a traditional song in French that Jack may have sung, "A La Claire Fontaine." Michele is from Vermont, and, like Jack, grew up speaking French and didn't learn English until she was 6 years old. Click here for a video clip of Michele singing at the grave.

Michele Choiniere singing at Jack Kerouac's grave on October 12, 2013
(c) 2013 Rick Dale
Roger Brunelle read at the grave, as did Alan Crane, and the aforementioned Brent Mason sang a brief a capella piece. Here's a close-up of the grave that day taken by John Wight. Someone had cleared away the bottle of Bushmills and my book. I just hope they are not in the cemetery caretaker's dumpster (especially the Bushmills since we left a couple of shots in it - my books are a dime-a-dozen).

Jack Kerouac's grave on October 12, 2013
(c) 2013 John Wight

After the homage we drove into Lowell and had lunch with our friend Kurt at Cobblestone's. We found parking in the high school lot just behind the restaurant. I had a tasty Oatmeal Stout and a cheeseburger. Crystal and Kurt both had fish tacos. We had a great visit and then walked over to the Parker Lecture given by Jim Sampas. We got there late and it was standing-room only. We got to hear Jim discussing his documentary One Fast Move Or I'm Gone and the new movie he co-produced, Big Sur. He concluded with a Q & A, and was asked about upcoming movie adaptations of Kerouac's novels. Jim said they don't all work as films; he never thought of On The Road as a film and hasn't even seen it. He intimated that he was currently working on the next adaptation, though, and while he wouldn't tell us which novel, he did say he hoped it would be filmed in Lowell. Earlier in his talk he mentioned that Maggie Cassidy was an example of one of Jack's novels that could be adapted to film, and it's my guess that it's the next one in the pipeline.

I would absolutely love to see one of the Lowell books made into a film. I haven't seen Big Sur, but I hear it's pretty good. Let's keep our fingers crossed for what's to come.

Crystal and I walked to the Worthen for open mike, and along the way we got a chance to meet Paul Maher, Jr., who was on the street talking to Kurt Phaneuf. Paul recently published Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which he co-wrote with Stephanie Nikolopoulos. It was good to put a face to a name I've heard over the years. I saw Stephanie at Talking Jack on Friday, but didn't get a chance to meet her all weekend.

We didn't participate at the open mike, having not prepared anything to read, and stayed for about an  hour before we drove back to the Courtyard. The next event we were going to attend was at the Old Court Pub, so we made dinner reservations for an hour earlier than the 8 PM event. Our taxi was late, but reservations weren't really necessary and we ate at the bar downstairs (the event was upstairs). I had really good bangers and mash, featuring 6 imported Irish sausages with mashed potatoes and beans. The sausages sat like little cannonballs in my stomach the rest of the night, but it was worth it.

Richard and Michelle saved us a couple of barstools upstairs, and we enjoyed an evening of music and poetry featuring David Amram, Brent Mason, Michele Choiniere, Steve Dalachinsky, and Bob Martin. We left as the finale was wrapping up and took a taxi back to the Courtyard. Our driver remembered us from taking us back from the White Eagle on Friday night (it wouldn't be hard to remember me - I get a bit loud and obnoxious when intoxicated).

We slept in on Sunday and decided to head back to Maine and the routines of life. We had breakfast buffet at the Courtyard and started out around 11 AM. We would miss the LCK! events of the day (and the next day - today), but all-in-all, as usual, we had a great time and hope to return next year. Unfortunately, this year no one said the magic word ("fellaheen") to win a free copy of my book (past winners were Melissa and Jason).

Kudos are due to members of the LCK! Committee who pull this off each year. If you've never been to Lowell for this annual event, now is the time to book your room for October 2014. Maybe we'll see you there. For information, visit the LCK! website by clicking here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2013 this coming weekend!

As a Jack Kerouac fan (or you wouldn't be reading this blog post), you know that it is a requirement to attend the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival every year. Held in Jack's hometown of beautiful Lowell, Massachusetts, the festival features five days of events commemorating Jack's life and works. For details, click here to visit the official LCK website where you can see the schedule, download a brochure, buy merchandise, and make a donation (I recommend this because the LCK organization can always use help keeping this great event going). This year's LCK Festival kicks off this coming Thursday, October 10.

As usual, I plan to attend. For sure I'll be at the Saturday noon "Homage to 'Ti Jean' at Kerouac Gravesite." It's a chance to share Jack's spirit and readings, especially from Visions of Gerard since this year is the 50th anniversary of its publication. Also, as is my custom, I will be giving away a free copy of The Beat Handbook (past winners aren't eligible - sorry) to the first person who comes up to me over the weekedn and says the magic word. This year's magic word is "fellaheen."

Jack's grave isn't hard to find. Get yourself to the Edson Cemetery (1375 Gorham Street, Lowell, MA). Go in the main gate and go straight down Third Avenue. Take a left on Lincoln Avenue. Jack's grave is a flat marker on the right side just after Lincoln's intersection with Seventh Avenue. You can likely identify it by the tributes people leave on the gravestone (books, poetry, bottles, flowers, trinkets, etc.). You can also get there by jumping on the "Birthplace-to-Gravesite Bus Tour" leaving the Jack Kerouac Commemorative in downtown Lowell at 10:15 AM. Led by Kerouac docent Roger Brunelle, the bus will finish its tour at Jack's grave. There's a "Commemorative at the Commemorative" starting at 9:15 that morning, and I highly recommend attending that event.

See you around Lowell!

Friday, September 20, 2013

RIP Carolyn Cassady

I just saw it reported by Brian Hassett that Carolyn Cassady died today at the age of 90. Daily Beat readers will know that she was the wife of Neal Cassady (aka Dean Moriarty in On the Road), the holy goof, and the real-life model for Camille in Jack Kerouac's famous road novel. She appeared in a number of other Kerouac novels as well.

As Brian so aptly put it, she's gone to "join Neal and Jack on that great road trip in the sky." Click here for Brian's blog tribute to Carolyn.

Perhaps I'll write more tomorrow, but I wanted to get this news out there. Not many of Jack Kerouac's intimates are still alive, so this news really hit my mortality button.

RIP, Carolyn.

Note: the below picture was added to this post on October 6, 2013.

Carolyn with Gerry Nicosia at City Lights
(c) 1980 Chris Felver

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Today's guest blogger: Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Manana Means Heaven

Tim Z. Hernandez
Today we are privileged to present a post by guest blogger, Tim Z. Hernandez, award-winning author whose latest book, Mañana Means Heaven, tells the story of Bea Franco, Jack Kerouac's model for the "Mexican Girl" in his acclaimed novel, On the Road. We reviewed Tim's book here on The Daily Beat on July 31, 2013. It's one you definitely want to put on your reading list.

Before we get to Tim's blog, here is some important information.

Tim's book can be easily and securely purchased online at the University of Arizona Press website:

More information about Tim and his work can be found on his website:

If you are interested in other stops on Tim's blog tour promoting his books, here is his "virtual" itinerary.

Tim Z. Hernandez Blog Tour:
Monday, September 16 | Stephanie Nikolopoulos blog
Tuesday, September 17 | The Daily Beat
Wednesday, September 18 | La Bloga
Thursday, September 19 | The Big Idea
Friday, September 20 | The Dan O’Brien Project
Saturday, September 21 | Impressions of a Reader

Below is Tim's guest blog, preceded by two pictures of Bea he graciously shared with us. Thanks again, Tim, and good luck with the rest of your tour. And thanks to the University of Arizona Press for orchestrating this opportunity and being great to work with!

Bea and sister Angie, Selma, Ca, circa 1947
Photo used by permission of the Bea Kozera Estate, copyright 2013

Note from the Author:

What follows here are excerpts from the journal I kept while looking for Bea Franco. This occurred from 2008-2010. At one point, around summer of 2009 I was starting to get desperate, and had decided I would give up my search for her and just write the book based on what little I did know. I had hired a Private Investigator named “Adreann,” and this is who I am referring to here. It would be a year after these entries that I would finally locate Bea Franco. 

July 29, 2009

Adreann wont let me give up. I emailed her with the news that I’m done searching for Bea. If I don’t stop now I’ll go crazy, I explained. I’m a writer, and this will have to be a book of fiction, connected loosely by historical facts from what I already have. I don’t need more info, I stress to her, I have enough to move forward. But she wont let up. We’re almost there, she says, so close, can’t give up now. She sends me this message in a text. She’s a private investigator, so I guess it’s her job to be persistent. In any case, the retainer fee’s already run out and last week she told me she was doing this pro bono. This book has to be published, she said, and I don’t want it to fall short because of me. I tell her I wont hold it against her. I’ll still put her in the credits. It’s done, I say, and thank you for all of your work on this, Adreann, I appreciate it, really. No problem, she replies. The next day she sends me an email; more questions, possibilities, new doors opened.   

August 15, 2009
Today I dialed every last Franco in both the Fresno and Selma Yellow Pages, starting with the only two Bea’s. The first one lived near Peach and Olive. I drove out to the shoddy apartment complex the whole time thinking to myself, there’s no way Bea would live out her remaining years in this dump. I just couldn’t see it. With its faded orange stucco and black iron gates wilting in the dry heat. My cell phone was dead so I had to call from the payphone at Lucky Liquors across the street. A woman’s soft voice answered.   
     “Hi, I’m looking for Bea Franco.”
     “I’m Bea,” she said.
     “This is gonna sound crazy, but I’m writing a book about a woman named Bea Franco.” I had to talk fast. “I know you’re not her because you sound too young, but is it possible that you are named after a grandmother? Or aunt? Or…”
     “I’m sorry, you have the wrong person,” she said politely.
     “Wait,” I said, before she could hang up. “Just in case you are related to a Bea Franco, can I give you my number?”
     I gave her the number and hung up.
     A short while after, an idea struck me. I opened the Selma phone book again and dialed the number of the Superintendent of schools. He answered, and I told my dilemma, asking him about the elementary schools that were in Selma during the early 30’s. Before we hung up he gave me two names. 
     “There are only two Franco families in this town,” he said.
     “Any chance you could put me in contact with them?” I asked.
     “Let me see what I can do.”
      The next morning there was an email in my inbox from his secretary. It read:

      Mr. Hernandez I am a good friend with both Franco families in Selma. This is why
      Mr. Scarbrough asked me to email you. Below are the phone numbers to both
      families. Good luck! –Yvette Salazar 


      Mrs. Salazar, thank you for your help with locating the Franco families. Will they be 
     expecting me to call them? Tim

     Mr. Hernandez I called them last night to ask if it was okay for you to call them. It is
     fine. They know. Good luck. –Yvette


The first number I called a young girl answered. I asked to speak with her father or mother. She said they were not there but that she would pass my message on to them. I told her about my book, and the research, to which she replied, “I don’t think we’re the Franco family you’re looking for. All of my relatives live in Texas. My family hasn’t been here that long.”
     “Still,” I said, “could you please have your father contact me?”
     I tried the second number. 
     When the woman answered the phone I could tell by her voice that she was elderly. She was reluctant to speak with me at first, until I told her I was a friend of Yvette Salazar’s. She agreed to answer a few questions.
     “I’m not the woman you’re looking for,” she assured me.
     “If you don’t mind I’d like to ask you some questions anyway, just to make sure?”
     “Go right ahead.”
     “How long have you lived in Selma?” I started in.
     “All my life.”
     “Would you mind telling me how old you are?”
     “Eighty seven.” 
     I could feel my stomach roll over. Her age was about right. “Do you have any brothers or nephews, or maybe even a son, named Albert?” 
     “Why are you asking me this?”
     “I’m sorry, ma’am, it’s just that the woman I’m looking for has a son named Albert.”
     “Well, I don’t.”
     “Are you sure?”
     “Of course I’m sure,” she said. “My boys names are George and Felipe.”
     “How about a daughter named Patsy, or Patricia?”
     “I told you I’m not the person you’re looking for. You got the wrong person.”
     I had to talk fast. “Ma’am,” I said, “can you answer just two more questions? Was there ever cotton in Selma?”
     “Are you sure?”
     “I’m sure.”
     “Okay, right, well, do you by any chance know where there used to be a labor camp here in Selma back in the late forties?”
     “I wouldn’t know that, we were truckers, not fruit pickers.”
     Her frustration was obvious. “Ma’am, if you have any relatives with these names I gave you, would you mind giving them my number?”
     “Look,” she blurted, “I just don’t want you writing about me—you hear me?”
     “Excuse me?”
     “Don’t go writing things about me, I said.”
     “No ma’am, I’m not writing about you. I mean the woman I’m writing about is…well, her name is also Bea Franco, and she was from Selma, but…” I stammered.
     “Just don’t write about me.”
     “I wont,” I said.
     Another woman grabbed the phone from her.
     “Hi,” the voice said. “Sorry about my mother, she’s tired, she’s old and tired, she hates talking to people, especially on the phone.”
     “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Look, I was telling her that I’d like to give her my number in case she remembers some of the names I was asking her about.”
     “That’s fine,” the woman said, “I’ll make sure she gets it.”
     “I’m sorry, but can I ask what your name is?”
     “Oh, I’m her daughter, Paula.”
     Paula sounded friendly. “Do you happen to have a brother or cousin named Albert?”
     “Sorry,” she said. “Now what’s your number?”
     I hung up and was left thinking about the tone in the woman’s voice. There was a sense of paranoia, as if she was hiding something. “Just don’t write about me. You hear me?” 

August 25, 2009         

Today I went into the Fresno County Hall of Records and told them I was looking for my great Grandmother’s marriage or death certificate. Either will do, I said casually. I had to wait in this long line for over an hour. The whole time feeling like an imposter. I mean here were people really going for something, a lost bit of something, and here I was, on a self-appointed mission. The clerk called me forward and after filling out some papers she had me follow her to a back room. These are all the old files, anything before 1950 would be here, she said. She pulled out a book the size of a Cadillac and opened it to the index and began looking for your name. After fifteen minutes we agreed it wasn’t there. Probably a good thing, I figured. At some point before securing the goods I would’ve had to show proof I am related to you. Last week I was at the Genealogy Department at the Fresno Library. I poked around for a couple of hours, scrutinizing all the Francos listed but none of them had the right details. As I began walking away the woman helping me asked, “Are you sure she isn’t still alive?” I chuckled and replied, “What farmworker do you know lives to the age of 90?” She agreed, but added, “It’s just that dead people are easy to find. Living people are almost impossible.” This stuck with me days after.

September 13, 2009

It’s a strange thing, calling up cemeteries for records of a woman who I’m not sure is dead or alive, and even more awkward, claiming her to be my great grandmother. I feel like such a con, but how else to get the information? So today I phoned over twenty-two cemeteries in Fresno, Selma, Fowler, Dinuba, Sanger, Parlier, Kingsburg, Hanford and a few other crumbs in between. Each conversation opened up with, “Hello, I’m looking for a family member who is deceased and I believe she might be buried in your cemetery. Can you check on this for me?” The voice at the other end usually asks for the last name, I give it, then the first name, and then some variations of it. There is a pause, long or brief depending on how quick their typing skills are or how accessible their computer files are. They return on the line, “Sorry, no one here by that name.” In two instances they asked, “Are you sure she’s deceased?” Both times I laughed. It’s funny to me. This game of dead or not. Are you sure? How sure? Yes. No. And yes. This is what I tell Adreann, because she keeps asking me if I know for sure. “Are you sure she’s dead, Tim? Alive?” I tell her, your guess is as good as mine.

Possible Answers to the Disappearance of Bea Franco

First possibility: Bea and her family were immigrants, undocumented and living beneath the radar indefinitely, no paperwork, and therefore will never be found, not in the states anyway—dead or alive. A ghost, a phantom figment of this writer’s imagination. The possibility most biographers who’ve included her name in their books have subscribed to. 

Second possibility: She was an immigrant, became a naturalized citizen on the coattails of the Bracero program, and then in ’54 was repatriated during Eisenhower’s Operation Wetback, seven years after her tryst with JK. Either died in Mexico, or still lives there. Or avoided repatriation and lives here or died here, but will be impossible to locate because all proof of her existence is lost in a political void.

Third possibility: She was a U.S. born citizen, still alive, living somewhere not so far away, the Mayfair District perhaps, or maybe Fowler, Los Angeles. Angelinos never leave, my tia Ofelia who lives in Boyle Heights once told me. They only get away long enough ‘til things cool off, then come back. The only problem is that this possibility poses more questions than answers. Did Bea leave the valley? Did she come back? Did she keep JK’s letters? Does she have at least one photo of their time together? Does her family want this story told? It was after all, an affair. Do they know? If none of this is answered, then all the paper, numbers and letters I have filed away amounts to nothing more than trees, carbon, illusion.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Guest blog by Tim Z. Hernandez tomorrow

We are scheduled to have a guest blog tomorrow by award-winning author, Tim Z. Hernandez, who wrote the recently published Mañana Means Heaven, a story about Bea Franco, the real-life Mexican Girl from Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Click here to read my review of this excellent book.

This should be a real treat for Daily Beat readers! Make sure to stop by tomorrow.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kerouac head trauma redux

Any time Jack Kerouac's hometown newspaper, The Lowell Sun, runs a story about Lowell's favorite son, it is worth checking out. Click here for another spin on the recently proffered theory in the The New Yorker (see my post of September 6, 2013) that Jack suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy brought on by football concussions (and maybe a beating or two that he took, in addition to a car accident).

Like I said in my previous piece, we could let the guy rest in peace and just enjoy his writing, but that seems an impossibility (even for myself who, ironically, brings up the point).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Did Jack Kerouac suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy?

We're awfully quick to want to diagnose people in this society. Nevertheless, this piece by Ian Scheffler in the New Yorker makes a certain amount of sense and reminds me of my pet theory - never to be proven of course - that Jack was, in effect, murdered by those who threw him a beating outside a bar in St. Petersburg not long before he died of gastrointestinal hemorrhaging.

Maybe we should just let the guy rest in peace and pay tribute by enjoying his writing instead of speculating about the cause(s) of his demise.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, On the Road

Jack Kerouac's On the Road was published this date in 1957 (56 years ago). Click here for the NY Times review that helped launch Jack's career.

Happy Birthday, OTR!

Monday, September 2, 2013

New look for The Daily Beat

Dear Readers:

I know you've gotten used to the new dynamic format I switched to a few months ago, but Google/Blogger (if you didn't know, Google took over Blogger years ago) has a bug in their software that is not allowing reader comments to appear in its dynamic view templates. On top of that, a lowly peon like me has no means to communicate directly with Google about such issues. They make it impossible. "Customer service" doesn't exist in Google's world.

So, since I value readers and their feedback, I have switched back to a simple template that does display reader comments.

I am now going to investigate seriously the potential of transferring my blog and all its content to another blog hosting site. Preliminary research makes me think that many if not all other blog hosts cost money whereas Google is free (for the moment). Sigh.

Stay tuned....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A blogger reads Kerouac's On the Road for the first time

justlaura73, author of the blog, "Leaning Forward"
I always find it interesting to read someone's opinion of On the Road after they've read it for the first time. Click here to read justlaura73 give us her take on Jack Kerouac's most famous novel in a post on her blog, "Leaning Forward."

I think she gets it....

Staying Kerouactive

Faithful Daily Beat readers may notice that I have not been posting much lately. Honestly, it’s pretty damn hard to be first to post anything “newsy” about Jack Kerouac. Between  Facebook (especially the excellent invitation-only Jack Kerouac group moderated by Kerouac scholar Dave Moore), Twitter, and various Kerouac websites, I’m usually a day late and a dollar short when it comes to scooping Kerouac news. Granted, a blog is more than news, and I could certainly find other things to blog about (and have – see my past 1,099 posts). It all comes down to having something to say (see my pretentiously titled November 16, 2008 post by clicking here).

Lately, I just haven’t had much to say about Jack, but I have no excuse. Maybe it’s just a lull because there’s plenty to be said. Certainly, I will have something to post about during and after Lowell Celebrates Kerouac this October. (I hope to see you there.) And I have a couple of interviews in the works. Maybe it’s just a slow time and I need to go with the flow. Plus I’m still mending from my flat tire in the spring, and that may have something to do with my seeming “writer’s block.” I’ve also been discouraged of late as Blogger is randomly refusing to display reader posts in this blog, and getting help from Google about Blogger is damned impossible. I'd love to leave the Blogger format but I don't want to lose all my old posts.

I am, at least, staying Kerouactive. I’m reading Book of Dreams right now (sorry , Jack, but it’s my “special thinking place” read and subsequently is taking  me a long time). I’m reading Facebook posts in the Jack Kerouac group. I’m staying in touch privately with a couple of Kerouac scholars/aficionados. I read the (few) posts on the Beat Studies List. Finally, I Google for Kerouac news on a regular basis.

Anyway, here’s a post. That’s something, I guess.

How are you staying Kerouactive?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On the Road: One drawing per page by Paul Rogers

Creating a drawing for each page of Jack Kerouac's On the Road is a cool concept by Paul Rogers and I thought readers would be interested. Click here for the fourth iteration. Previous entries are available under "Recent Articles." You have to do some digging to find the first two, but I have saved you the trouble - look under "Archive" in January and February 2013.

Or, click on the following links:

Illustrated Scroll 1-3
Illustrated Scroll 2
Illustrated Scroll 3
Illustrated Scroll 4

RIP, Bea Franco - "The Mexican Girl"

I just learned that Bea Franco, the real-life "Mexican Girl" from Jack Kerouac's On the Road, passed away last Thursday morning at age 92. Click here to read what Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Manana Means Heaven, had to say about Bea's passing.

RIP, Bea.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday, Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski would have been 93 years old on August 16, 2013. I missed acknowledging his birthday on his birthday because I was away from my computer for a couple of days. What's Buk got to do with Jack Kerouac, you ask? Well, for one thing, they were of the same generation, with Buk being born in 1920 and Jack in 1922. I've mentioned Buk in a past posting (click here), and reviewed a book about him by Linda King (click here).

Buk wasn't associated with the Beat Generation writers, but many who like Beat literature appreciate his work for its nonconformity and directness.

So, Happy Belated Birthday to a favorite author: Charles Bukowski.

If you want to read some of his work, click here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Technology, where is thy sting?

I just realized that reader comments are not appearing on my blog despite my having approved them. This is distressing and I don't know what the fix is. In any event, I really have been reading and publishing your comments - they just aren't appearing. Hopefully I'll figure this out soon . . . .

Friday, August 2, 2013

RIP William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs, one of the inner circle Beat Generation, died on this date in 1997. In his honor, read some Burroughs today, even if only an excerpt. You can find Junky for free here. Click here for some excerpts from Burroughs' final journals. If you go here you can read the transcript from a lecture he gave about writing in 1982 at the famous Jack Kerouac Conference at Naropa University.

RIP, Old Bull Lee.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review of Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Hernandez

It's not very often that an important new work about Jack Kerouac surfaces, but that is exactly what we can anticipate with the August 29 publication of Mañana Means Heaven by award-winning author Tim Z. Hernandez. I had the privilege of reading an "advance reading copy/uncorrected proof" thanks to the University of Arizona Press. In Mañana Means Heaven, according to the back cover, Hernandez "weaves a rich and visionary portrait of Bea Franco, the real woman behind famed American author Jack Kerouac's 'The Mexican Girl'" [from On the Road and also appearing as a short story by that title in The Paris Review in 1956]. We all know how book covers can exaggerate, but this is one time when it's quite accurate: Hernandez does a brilliant job crafting an engaging and creative counter-narrative, fleshing out Kerouac's self-centered story about Bea Franco (the fictional "Terry") with details from his own imagination, experience (he grew up in the same geographical area and culture as Bea), and, his research into and interviews with Bea Franco herself.

Mañana Means Heaven is a mesmerizing story. There is no need to be a Kerouac fan or know anything about Kerouac in order to enjoy the novel thoroughly. If you happen to be a Kerouac fan, you will be especially thrilled. Interestingly, Hernandez takes a page out of Jack's own handbook and writes Mañana Means Heaven in a roman à clef style, seamlessly weaving together fiction and facts to present a compelling story. Using well-honed descriptive powers, Hernandez gives us an intimate look at the several weeks (described it as fifteen days in On the Road) Kerouac spent with Bea in southern California, particularly emphasizing Bea's perspective. Having grown up in similar circumstances, Hernandez is uniquely able to paint a vivid and realistic portrait of the characters as well as the settings and culture that provide the context for the story.

Kerouac fans will know that the story consists of his meeting Bea (the fictional "Terry") on a bus bound for Los Angeles, and then embarking on a love affair leading them from Bakersfield to L.A. to Sabinal (real-life Selma) and points in-between, from sleeping in a cheap hotel to a tent in a campo, from drifting aimlessly about to working at a back-breaking job harvesting cotton (grapes in Hernandez's version). Hernandez carefully avoids inventing interior dialogue for Kerouac, leaving that to Kerouac's own portrayal. When he does need to fill in actions or comments by Kerouac, they are believable. For example, after Kerouac leaves for New York, Bea is about to write a letter to her now-distant lover:
While staring down at the blank sheet of paper she thought about what Jack once said, back in Los Angeles, how the gods had created words for every situation under the sun (p. 203).* 
I can hear Kerouac saying something like that.

Hernandez is especially adept at presenting Bea's perspective, evidenced by this passage describing their initial time together on the bus:
Over the next few minutes Bea continued to steal glances at him from the corner of her eye. She couldn't help but think of how wrong her first impression of him had been. At the diner, slumped over the counter scratching into his paper, he came across awkward, troubled almost. But now, sitting here beside him she could see that he was nothing of the sort. There was a sensitivity about him, a timidity disguised beneath a layer of denim and tobacco smoke. Nothing like the men at the campo or in the fields, who, upon hearing of Bea's troubled marriage, often tried luring her with sweet talk of money and sexual escapades. Perros. The kind of men who bunked a dozen to a tent and stayed up talking about the women they'd balled in their short and lonely lives (p. 31).
Hernandez spends 162 pages fictionalizing the time Kerouac spent with Bea, a story Kerouac presents in a scant 19 pages in my copy of On the Road.  This gives an idea of how much Hernandez embellishes the story with his own insights and experience as well as information from his research into Bea and his interviews with her. Whereas Kerouac provides no details on what happened to Bea after he left for New York City (he merely mentions her with regret a couple of times), Hernandez spends 44 pages on Bea's experience after Kerouac's departure, including her going to Denver, living in a hotel and working as a waitress in order to look for Kerouac, who had written her that he'd be there (you'll have to read the book to see if she found him). This section of the book includes four actual letters from Bea to Kerouac.

There is an 11 page Afterword describing Hernandez' fascinating odyssey researching Bea and ultimately finding her living one mile from his home! He was able to interview her multiple times with the assistance of her son, Albert, and daughter, Patricia. Bea turned 90 during the period of time when the interviews took place. This section includes pictures of Bea and Al from 1942, Al circa 1950, and Bea and sister Angie from 1947. When I first read Hernandez' description of his elation on finally finding Bea on September 11, 2010, it brought tears to my eyes. This is certainly related to my own obsession with Kerouac, but it is also evidence of some powerful writing.

One clever device employed by Hernandez was opening the book with a description of his last interview with Bea on October 13, 2010 and closing the book with a slightly different description of the same interview. The first entry acted as a teaser yet didn't give away the show, plus the two passages nicely demonstrate that narratives have an infinite number of ways to be presented, depending on the writer, the audience, the purpose, etc.

In On the Road (Penguin Books, 1976), Kerouac describes Bea using the word mañana:
"Sure, baby, mañana." It was always mañana. For the next week that was all I heardmañana, a lovely word and one that probably means heaven (p. 94).
Unless I missed it, Hernandez never makes the connection between mañana (which literally means "tomorrow") and heaven explicit like Kerouac does, but he does make it implicitly clear in the narrative.
However an adult decided to use that word, there was one thing little Albert was sure ofthe word itself carried weight. But for all the times he'd heard it uttered, spat, or mumbled, in that moment, cruising up the long, dark road, when it came from his uncle's mouth, mañana, it no longer sounded like something a person just said. No, in that moment, it sounded like a possibility, a promise of things to come (pp. 188-189).
For me, the true measure of a book is my reaction when I read the last word. In this case, mine was, "What? No more? I want to keep reading about Bea's life!" Such was my level of involvement with the story. I highly, highly recommend this book whether or not you are a Kerouac fan. With Mañana Means Heaven, Tim Z. Hernandez has created an important entry for the Kerouac canon that also stands on its own merits as a well-crafted novel about love and loss. Bravo.

*All excerpts from from Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez © 2013 Tim Z. Hernandez. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Upcoming review of Tim Z. Hernandez' Manana Means Heaven (and author guest blog)

Faithful Daily Beat followers will remember me posting on May 16, 2012 about an upcoming book (pictured below), Manana Means Heaven. It's about Bea Franco, the real-life Terry (the "Mexican Girl") from Jack Kerouac's On the Road, written by award-winning author Tim Z. Hernandez. I'm currently reading an advance copy and will be posting a review soon. In addition, Tim is going to write a guest blog for The Daily Beat in September and we may be able to orchestrate a book give-away. Based on my read so far (five chapters), I'm sure our readers would love to add it to their collection, and it's available for pre-order on Amazon.

Learn more about Tim at his website,, and stay tuned.

Jack Kerouac followed me on vacation

We've been on hiatus here at The Daily Beat while traveling in Arizona and California, making a conscious effort to leave the everyday life behind and enjoy "vacation." Nevertheless, Jack Kerouac followed me on my travels as I ran into this in a Flagstaff used bookstore and, not owning it, had to fork over the $9.95 asking price.

Conversations with Jack Kerouac was edited by Kevin J. Hayes and published in 2005 by University Press of Mississippi. Hayes was (is?) a professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma, and in this book he pulls together such various pieces as Mike Wallace's 1958 interview with Jack, a 1958 San Francisco Examiner interview, Al Aronowitz's 1959 piece, "St. Jack (Annotated by Jack Kerouac)", Stan  Isaac's "Playing 'Baseball' with Jack Kerouac" from Newsday in 1961, the Ted Berrigan 1967 Paris Review interview, and several others (10 in all).

I haven't read it yet, and most if not all of these pieces will be familiar to the loyal Kerouacian. I don't think I've read either of the Newsday interviews by Val Duncan (1959 and 1964). In addition, it contains an interesting introduction by the editor which you won't find anywhere else. The Kerouac included Kerouac chronology is standard fare.

Don't pay $9.95 (plus tax) for it unless you want to support your local used bookstore: I see a used copy on Amazon for $2.57.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


I'll be traveling for the next 10 days so it's likely I won't be posting anything here on The Daily Beat. See you when I return.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rallying support for a Jack Kerouac stamp

It's a shame that Jack Kerouac is not featured on a U.S. postage stamp despite efforts that have been underway since 1994. The most recent attempt is a letter from a couple of Massachusetts state legislator and Lowell residents to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee sent on June 10. If you want to contact the committee to lend your support, they can be reached by snail mail at:

Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501

Click here for an article from the Lowell Sun about past efforts.

Below is the text of my letter (being sent today):

Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501

Dear Committee Members:

It is my understanding that you are in receipt of a recent letter signed by Massachusetts state legislators and residents of Lowell, Massachusetts requesting that American author Jack Kerouac become the subject of a U.S. postage stamp. I write in full support of their effort.

From my review of the stamp subject criteria, it appears that Jack Kerouac meets all of them. In particular, he is without a doubt a person of “widespread national appeal and significance.” Today, 44 years after his death, his numerous books sell hundreds of thousands of copies annually. His seminal novel, On the Road, is routinely included on “Top 100” lists published by reputable organizations such as the New York Times. The novel was the subject of a recent movie featuring a number of Hollywood stars such as Kristin Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Viggo Mortenson, and Steve Buscemi.

Each year, hundreds of people from all over the country (and the world) make a pilgrimage to Mr. Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts to honor his memory by visiting his gravesite and other landmarks such as the home in which he was born and the schools he attended.  There is a strong Kerouac presence in Lowell’s National Historical Park exhibits, and Lowell established the Jack Kerouac Commemorative Park in 1988. Other parts of the country also capitalize on Mr. Kerouac’s appeal and significance. For example, in January 2013 the San Francisco Public Library held a panel discussion about Mr. Kerouac featuring celebrities such as Peter Coyote, the noted actor. Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado is the home of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, founded in 1974, and there is an on-going writer-in-residence program housed in one of Mr. Kerouac’s former residences in Orlando, FL (called The Kerouac Project).

If you walk into any bookstore in the United States, you will find Mr. Kerouac’s novels for sale. Signed first editions of his novels sell for thousands of dollars. A Google search on any particular day will yield new articles, blog posts, etc., about Mr. Kerouac. Finally, Mr. Kerouac has a strong social media presence. The Jack Kerouac Facebook group boasts almost 2,500 members from around the world and Mr. Kerouac is mentioned on Twitter many times a day.

In summary, Jack Kerouac meets the stamp subject criteria and would be a welcome addition to the roster of famous Americans on U.S. postage stamps. I hope you will look favorably on this request and I look forward to hearing about your decision. Thank you in advance for your consideration.


Dr. Richard Dale

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

UK Kerouac Convention canceled

I just read on Twitter that the UK Kerouac Convention (click here) slated for July 2013 has been canceled because of poor ticket sales.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kerouac Sunday

It's a Kerouac Sunday – as they all are, kind of like how a red-sun October day is the best – waking up in the piney wood-smell streamside camp among the red squirrels, crows, grey squirrels, herons, frogs, osprey, chipmunks, turtles, goldfinches, hermit thrushes, bluejays, eagles, muskrats, raccoons, deer, beavers, water snakes, spiders, butterflies, loons, ducks, cormorants, and other assorted sentient beings going about their business without a care about the crucifixion (see D.H. Lawrence's Self-Pity) – absalom comes to mind – don't forget the mosquitoes either or the flying squirrels who only visit at night . . . . but it's raining today and I only know most of them are here from memory as only the squirrels and crows are braving the weather – the shack's a little bigger than Jack’s on Desolation Peak and there’s no Hozameen looking over my shoulder but there's a dark feeling coming down the river carried on misty fingers and settling in my aching bones, achy from sleep, age, damp bedclothes . . . . And that's about it, about all I wanted to say today, another on “the good side of the grass” (the day's not over yet) as they say down at the local watering hole in Gardiner home of Edwin Arlington Robinson (not of the Swiss Family) who's buried there, too – found his grave once and read Richard Cory aloud after a good swig of Bushmills (as is my practice at author gravesides – Thoreau, Kerouac, Frost to date with Dickinson on the short list). It's only two days past solstice but real October's coming, that bittersweet month of crisp smells that transitions into long winter snow doldrums when I dream of todays and wonder if they'll ever come around again or soon enough to save me . . . . It's a big old mystery anyway 'cause where spirituality's concerned all systems and all beliefs are wrong – only the creatures matter and they don't care about sophistry only the moment and if we all spent more time there we'd end human suffering – who knows we’ve never tried it – ask the little ones they have it figured out and don’t even know it.Happiness visits the smallest of things. That's all I know.