As The Daily Beat readers know, an epic Kerouac event occurred at the end of July in 1982. Held in Boulder, Colorado, "On the Road: The Jack Kerouac Conference" took place at the University of Colorado's Boulder campus and was sponsored by The Naropa Institute. The conference, in celebration of the 25-year anniversary of the publication of On the Road, featured almost every living Beat celebrity/scholar and Kerouac-related person of note (as evidenced by the posters below).*
But you knew all that. However, you may not have seen the following picture from the conference. It was recently sent to me by attendee Gerry Nicosia, author of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (he's in the front row with legs crossed, two over from Burroughs).
Group photo of the speakers at the 1982 On the Road 25-year-anniversary Kerouac conference. Photo by Lance Gurwell, courtesy of Gerald Nicosia. Click here to purchase an original from the photographer.
Gerry provided the following key to the photo. If you can fill in any blanks, let us know.
Back row: from left: Paul Jarvis (son of Charles Jarvis from Lowell, who wrote Visions of Kerouac); unidentified man (with face partially obscured); Clark Coolidge (with glasses); Jack Micheline; Ann Charters; Sam Charters; Paul Krassner (standing slightly forward of Sam Charters); Timothy Leary; unidentified woman; unidentified man (tall, with glasses); Abbie Hoffman
Middle row: from left: Anne Waldman; Lawrence Ferlinghetti; Fernanda Pivano (Italian translator of Kerouac and Ginsberg); John Clellon Holmes (seated); Robert Creeley (seated); Peter Orlovsky (seated) ; Allen Ginsberg (seated); Al Aronowitz (journalist who did the first major 12-part series on the Beats in the New York Post) (seated)
Front row: Larry Fagin (seated cross-legged on floor); Fran Landesman (seated on long sofa); Carolyn Cassady (seated on lap of Fran's husband Jay); Jay Landesman (with sunglasses, holding Carolyn); Gerald Nicosia; Regina Weinreich; William S. Burroughs
Gerry plans on writing up his memories of the conference for a future post here at The Daily Beat. We can't wait.
*Attendee Brian Hassett even wrote a book about the event titled, The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac (available at Amazon).
I was thinking just now that this might be my last post before December 25, which is known by some as Christmas Day. Others don't acknowledge this except to say that it is an affront to non-Christians to wish someone "Merry Christmas." Nevertheless, we feel duty-bound to extend some sort of holiday greeting in advance of the big day, so let's look at it through a Kerouac lens.
Here at The Daily Beat we try to stay away from conflict as much as possible, but one does wonder how Jack Kerouac would view the "war on Christmas." This metaphorical war is not as new as you might think if you believe Politico, which points out that Henry Ford complained about it as did the John Birch Society as far back as 1959 (when Jack was still alive).
Some argue that the abbreviation, "Xmas," is part of that war, a blatant effort to remove Christ from Christmas (never mind the historical reality that Jesus was likely not born anywhere near December 25). Well, Jack used that abbreviation (e.g., see his letter to Lucien Carr postmarked December 14, 1957). But, he also spelled it out (e.g., see his letter to Philip Whalen dated December 16, 1960). Some will point to our lead-in graphic as part of the war on Christmas, Santa Claus being a secularization of the holiday.
There is no dispute that Jack was a Catholic (a Christian) through-and-through. In his piece in the New York World Telegram on December 5, 1957, "Not Long Ago Joy Abounded at Christmas," he writes that "Christmas was observed all-out in my Catholic French-Canadian environment in the 1930s" (click here for an excerpt or read it all in Good Blonde & Others). But also in that piece he bemoans the loss of celebrating Christmas with a "naive and joyous innocence" as it had been before World War II.
No doubt Jack was raised quite Christmas-observant, and it is certain that he wished others a "Merry Christmas." In a December 18, 1966 letter to Jim and Dorothy Sampas, he wished them a "pretty Christmas in Iceland." In a December 13, 1967 letter to Nick Sampas, he concluded with "Merry Christmas."*
The latter is pretty solid evidence of Jack's practice. And so, as is our wont, we shall defer to this question (the thesis of my book) -- "What would Kerouac do?" -- in figuring out how to convey holiday greetings to our readers. We wish you a Merry Christmas, with the understanding that we intend no offense to atheists, Buddhists (like Jack), Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus. or followers of the other 4,200 religions in the world. Our thing is Kerouac, and we bend to that reality to a fault.
We'll leave you with a teaser. Given this post, if we post between December 25th and 31st we will have posted at least once a week for a year. That will make a good "streak" for us, and we hope to keep it up in 2017. Thanks for your readership, and look for a year-ending post next week. What a year it was....
*We avoided getting into Jack's novels for evidence for obvious reasons: roman à clef novels cannot be depended on for accurate reporting of facts. Letters, on the other hand, are quite dependable as representative of a person's actual words. By the way, if you have other examples, written or recorded, of Jack saying "Merry Christmas," let us know in the comments.
I think I have posted at least once a week for the entire year (so far), and there aren't many weeks left in 2016. Thanks go to my friend, Kathleen Thompson, for inspiring me with her motivational book, The Project-Driven Life: How To Figure Out What You Want To Be When You Grow Up (click here to buy it). While you're at Amazon ordering Kath's book, think about ordering my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions (click here). They both make great gifts -- something to think about for the approaching gift-ridden holiday.
I guess for this to count as a post and not a self-serving advertisement, I need to include some content of one sort or another. Hmmm.... Let me think.
Well, how about a screenshot of the first few things that come up on Google when I search for "Jack Kerouac." Keep in mind that Google searches are customized to the user, so if you search for that term your results will likely vary. Anyway, here is what my results look like. How are yours different?
Interestingly, I went 20 pages in on this search and still hadn't seen a single result from this blog, which I claim is the most Kerouac-obsessed on the planet. And that is despite over 22,000 pageviews last month. But perhaps blogs don't typically rise to the top of Google searches.
Just for fun, I Googled a specific blog post title (Jack Kerouac and the Tao of fried eggs), and it was the first search result. Specificity helps.
The top four search results -- Jack's Wikipedia entry, UMass Lowell's Kerouac page, The Academy of American Poets, and The Beat Museum -- make sense earning top search honors. Hell, they have Jack Kerouac in their URL. That can't hurt. Plus there are other mystical and magical things that web managers do -- all unknown to me -- to move their sites' search rankings to the top. It's called Search Engine Optimization, and it's a business. Everything is a business. In today's economy you could monetize used toilet paper with the right inside knowledge.
Which brings me to an idea: I think I'll add a permanent section to the sidebar of this blog that contains links to what I consider to be authoritative Jack Kerouac websites. That is, places to go for information about Jack that you can depend on (mostly -- there is no certainty in this life).
That's it for today (or this week). If you haven't done it yet, Google "Jack Kerouac" and see what comes up. Let us know in a comment.
QUASI-POLITICAL RHETORIC APPEARS IN UPCOMING PASSAGES.
I was eating fried eggs for breakfast Saturday morning and I caught myself thinking about how much I liked the yolk. Next thought (a question): Why couldn't an egg be all yolk -- wouldn't that be perfect?
Answer: Of course not. It's a yin/yang thing. No good without evil, no light without dark. No love without hate. No yolk without the white.
Which brought me to Kerouac -- as Kerouac seems to be my religion -- and speaking of religion and Kerouac I decided to page through Some of the Dharma (Penguin, 1997), a book one does not simply sit down and read straight through (at least I don't, or can't). Quite a few passages jumped out at me in my skimming and I thought I'd share them.
I don't want to be a drunken hero of the generation suffering everywhere
I want to be a quiet saint living in a shack in solitary meditation
of universal mind--- (p. 63)
What Jack aspired to and what he did were in conflict, but weren't they just the yolk and the white -- party-mad boozehound and ascetic religious hermit -- in one person?
The following seemed instructive:
Only 2 things to do and 1 to be:
3, Be kind (p. 73)
Not a bad credo and of late we could certainly use number 3, at least in America.
Speaking of America, this passage resonated:
If, as Burroughs insists, "Buddhism is not for the West," then I get a great vision of the whole Western World filled with the ignorant and simple-minded (p. 101).
I'll let that speak for itself in light of recent events here. Later on, Jack says, "BOYCOTT IGNORANCE." Twice (on p. 166).
How about Jack's "A B C' s of Truth"?
A Creamy thighs of beautiful young girl =
B Baby crying because it doesn't want to be born =
C Corpse decaying in the grave (p. 159)
Ouch. We're born just to die.
Speaking of death, on p. 257, out of the blue, Kerouac says, "Walkin in Jerusalem, just like John...". I assume he was thinking about the old spiritual (which I know from the bluegrass genre), but, specifically, was he thinking about John's exhortation to be ready for judgment day when the New Jerusalem comes down from above (foreseen by John in Revelations)? Or was Jack thinking about where Jesus walked on his final day, and of the Stations of the Cross in Lowell that he prominently featured in some of his writing? In any case, it's an odd bit to appear suddenly within the context of Buddhist teachings unless one understands the yolk of Catholicism and the white of Buddhism that made up Jack's spiritual essence.
Like the yolk and the white, there's life and there's death. Hope and fear. Knowledge and ignorance. Kindness and it's opposite, whatever that word may be.
We get to choose what we focus on. Do we focus on the negative or on the positive? This is a bitter pill for me to swallow right now as I am admittedly seeing the glass half full. What I particularly need to do is make sure I don't drift toward depression and end up with the black dog following me around again.
Toward that end, I will seek refuge in loved ones, friends, and things that make me smile like cats and beer and books and music and I will seek to limit my exposure to the dark stuff. Limit, not exorcise completely as there is work to do and one must be informed in order to do it.
Love is all! Whoever said that must have been a pretty smart person.
If you're looking for a place in cyberspace that is all-Kerouac-all-the-time, think about joining the Jack Kerouac Group on Facebook. You'll see pictures like the above (allegedly Jack drinking outside the Kettle of Fish in the West Village on MacDougal Street in the fall of 1957). You'll see tributes to Jack. You'll see pictures of places Jack used to live. You'll see discussions of various Kerouacian matters that range from the academic to the sublime. You'll see a video archive, a photo archive, and a files archive, the latter including a variety of informative documents such as a Kerouac discography and a guide to Lowell places. You'll see over 8,000 members!
Dave Moore, Kerouac scholar extraordinaire from the U.K., is the main administrator of the group, and he contributes frequently. Other respected names in the Kerouac community are likewise well-represented.
Lee Marvin as hobo "A-No. 1" in Emperor of the North, a classic that may have been loosely based
in part on Jack London's The Road
Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no edification on the connection between Jack Kerouac and hobos (or hoboes, if you like -- both terms are acceptable). Back in 2010 we published a post containing a link to The Hobo Code, the hobo visual language used to communicate important information to each other (click here). That blog post also contains a list of hobo lingo. The former is from the National Hobo Museum and the latter is from Wikipedia. I have investigated the veracity of neither. Nevertheless, both may provide interesting glimpses into hobo culture.
I recently ran across this piece on Open Culture: The Hobo Ethical Code of 1889. It sets forth 15 rules for hobo living that were supposedly adopted by the Hobo National Convention (they still have one in Britt, Iowa -- click here). Jack, in his travels, certainly lived some of these rules. I'm thinking in particular about #1, "Decide your own life; don’t let another person run or rule you." Jack certainly marched to the beat of his own drummer. And #15 -- "Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday." -- reminds me of the time he gave a shirt to a fellow hitchhiker (in On The Road) or selflessly shared his cigarettes, grub, booze, etc. with fellow travelers.* Jack lived other items in The Hobo Code as well. Can you identify them? For sure, Jack ignored #6: "Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos."
On a related note, if reading about life on the road -- particularly hobo life -- appeals to you, I recommend you read Jack London's The Road and Jack Black's You Can't Win. We've mentioned these books in previous posts. They are fascinating firsthand accounts of the hobo life, and were influential on Kerouac and other Beat writers. You can get London's book here. I didn't find a free version of Black's book on-line, but it's pretty cheap on Amazon and I'm sure other sites. I've read that the Robert Aldrich film, Emperor of the North, was loosely based on London's book and one about London by hobo author, Leon Ray Livingston, who went by the name A-No. 1. I haven't verified the latter beyond Wikipedia. We now live in a post-truth world anyway, so I'll be forgiven if I am perpetuating misinformation. Anyway, here's the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jn-ZS7g8xs. It's probably not an accurate representation of real hobo life, but I remember seeing it when it first came out and it made an impression on me, mostly because of the testosterone-fueled acting by Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine.
Note that some distinguish the term "hobo" from "tramp" and "bum" in that they see hobos as impoverished migrant workers, tramps as those who work only when they have to, and bums as those who don't work at all. From my readings, I'm not sure those distinctions hold water in reality. I try to explain that to my students all the time: we're a species that lives to categorize and yet those categorizations and resulting labels are not as precise in the real world as they seem in theory.
In any event, Jack Kerouac -- if not a hobo himself - lived a hobo-esque lifestyle at times and was not averse to hanging out with these itinerant masters of living on the cheap, beholden to no one and nothing except The Hobo Code.
*I know, I know. One should not assume that because Sal Paradise does something in On The Road that it actually happened in real life. However, in this case I think we an be confident that this or something like it was a Kerouaction (see The Beat Handbook).
Let the word go forth from this time and place that someone, depending on the timing of things, needs to make sure that my collection of Kerouac and Beat items (mostly books) doesn't get boxed up and given to Goodwill or the like when I leave this mortal coil. There are a number of items in there that are worth holding on to or at least selling. I guess I need to amend my will in that regard.
To wit, on the left above is my recently acquired (thanks, eBay) copy of New Editions 2, which is what Jack Kerouac was reading from at the Village Vanguard in 1957. It contains his piece, "Neal and the Three Stooges." This was printed by Pinchpenny Press in Berkeley and was limited to 1,000 copies. It's in rough shape, so it's worth less than a mint copy would bring, but it's worth a lot more than the $1.00 it cost in its day.
Jack Kerouac reading from New Editions 2 at The Village Vanguard, NYC, 1957
On the right above, and don't tell my grandson Hugh because it is a Christmas gift this year (which means it is still adding to the Dale Kerouac collection), is the KinderGuides version of On The Road. It is pretty neat the way they de-adult Jack's classic -- removing all the drinking, drugging, and sex -- and focus on the friendships, travel, and adventure. KinderGuides has a number of "early learning guides to culture classics." See https://www.kinderguides.com/.
Oddly, this KinderGuide credits the illustrator, Rose Forshall (who did a nice job) but not whoever wrote the adapted text. See the example below.
Neither is there anything about permissions from the Kerouac Estate for publishing this. Interesting....
If you have a young one on your shopping list, I recommend this KinderGuide. It's not a perfect re-telling, but it's good. And it's always cool to hold a little piece of history in your hand such as New Editions 2.
P.S. I know I need to stop buying books and downsize for retirement, and I plan to do that at least with non-Kerouac items. I'm even reading a book on Kindle right now. Oh, the humanity....
This is my post for the week. To keep up my streak. It's free-form, unplanned, rather stream-of-consciousness. Squeezing words out of nowhere. Maybe they'll take the shape of a Western haiku...
Jack Kerouac reading at the Village Vanguard jazz club in NYC, December 1957
I don't know what that haiku means. But it means something, if not everything, if not blue resonant human. Someone may pick up on that. I furthermore don't know why I posted that particular picture of Jack, or why it magically placed itself mid-blog instead of where I thought I put it (the beginning). Mysteries....
As I often say, what does this have to do with Jack Kerouac (the raison d'être for this blog)?
To wit, it's writing. Jack was a writer. It was the reason he was put on this earth, the reason beyond reasons, beyond relationships, fame, accomplishments, joy, kicks, darkness. Beyond fatherhood.
And it's my writing. No one else's. It may be read and it may not. But it made its way into existence by force of will and a few calories expended at the keyboard.
I wonder...what happens to a blog when the author dies? Or one's book on Amazon? I wonder these things not because I think I'm going to die anytime soon, but it is definitely the fourth quarter of the game and one thinks about such things. Was Jack thinking about his legacy as an author during his last conscious moments? Or was he thinking about the things most people think about at that juncture such as words left unspoken to loved ones, worries about those left behind, or regrets over wrongs unatoned?
I've often said we regret opportunities not taken more than past actions. Maybe that's idiosyncratic. I don't know. I do know I hope that on Wednesday you don't regret what you did or didn't do with your vote in tomorrow's Presidential election in the U.S. I hope you deliberated and then chose wisely.
And with that brief noncommittal foray into politics, I will take my leave on this autumn Monday in Maine, golden leaves blowing and the sky a cerulean blessing.
With the holidays and associated gift-giving frenzy approaching, and stores starting to gear up for the season, I thought I would remind readers that my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, continues to be available at Amazon. Here is the link: goo.gl/cHL36S.
It's getting a bit long in the tooth, but I'd like to think that its message is universal and eternal, given that it is based on the thesis that to be beat one need only look to Jack Kerouac's characters in his novels. In this particular instance, I used On The Road and The Dharma Bums.
Inside my book you will find advice on everything from eating to romance to parking to careers to spontaneity to sex to hitchhiking to spirituality to . . . well, there are 100 entries based on the actions of Kerouac's characters. Each entry includes a brief description of a Kerouaction (that's what I call the answer to the question, "What would Kerouac do?") and then a suggested Kerouactivity that exemplifies or edifies that action.
But that's just thinking about the book as a gift for someone who reads! It has millions of other uses as well. There's white space for journaling. It can serve as a conversation piece on your coffee table. Its pages can be ripped out and crumpled up for starting a fire. It can be used to stabilize a table with a short leg and it's extremely adjustable in that regard (from the thickness of one page to 3/4 of an inch). You could use it for toilet paper (but I don't recommend it unless it's a true emergency). The cover makes for good target practice, darts or otherwise, especially if you hate long-hairs. It can provide a small amount of ballast in a backpack that might otherwise flop around empty. You could throw it at a burglar. Use it as drink coaster to save the top of your coffee table. Grab some duct tape and patch a hole in the wall with it. Make it a drinking game (open up to a Kerouactivity at random and do it or drink). Deploy it to discourage a spider from building a web in the corner of your kitchen.
Finally, it's perfect for that Yankee Swap* gift exchange, especially if you are looking for something that is going to cause a groan of despair when opened. "OMG, a book about Jack Kerouac by someone I've never heard of!"
The best way to remember to buy a copy this holiday season is to click on the link above and order it now. Then store it in your bottom dresser drawer along with the other stuff you think your mate doesn't know about, and when you hit a snag trying to think of a gift, voila! Problem solved.
On Friday I scored the above copy of Visions of Cody at Twice-Sold Tales, the used bookstore in Farmington, Maine. I went in there on the anniversary of Jack's death and was surprised to find several Kerouac items (in the past my visits there have been fruitless). The owner, I learned, is a Kerouac fan and typically scarfs up items before they hit the bookshelves. I turned down buying Mexico City Blues and Good Blonde & Others because I have those editions. I bought VOC because it's different from my Penguin edition: it has a more interesting cover plus it included Allen Ginsberg's introduction, "The Great Rememberer." Plus it's considered by many to be Jack's magnum opus, and I thought it was fitting to find it on October 21, 47 years to the day that Jack died at age 47. Here's a quote from page 47:
Around the poolhalls of Denver during World War II a strange looking boy began to be noticeable to the characters who frequented the places afternoon and night and even to the casual visitors who dropped in for a game of snookers after supper when all the tables were busy in an atmosphere of smoke and great excitement and a continual parade passed in the alley from the backdoor of one poolroom on Glenarm Street to the backdoor of another -- a boy called Cody Pomeray, the son of a Larimer Street wino.
While I was at the bookstore I also picked up Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I'm embarrassed to say I've only seen the movie....
On a completely different subject (still Kerouacian), I was out and about the other night and was chatting with a casual acquaintance who turned out to know quite a bit about Kerouac. This once again proves what my Lock Haven State College physical education professor and renowned wrestling coach, Dr. Ken Cox, used to say: "You never know."
Which reminds me of a great movie quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: "You never know what's comin' for ya."
But there's something I do know that comin'. Kerouacian extraordinaire Richard Marsh has agreed to do an interview for The Daily Beat. Look for that in the near future. Richard, I teased my readers about this to put pressure on both of us to "get 'er done."
There you have it: random Kerouac tidbits for a Sunday morning....
"I wish I was free of that slaving meat wheel and safe in heaven dead."
The above closing passage from Jack Kerouac's "211th Chorus" in Mexico City Blues comes to mind today, as it always does, on this the anniversary of his death in 1969 (read the whole poem here). There is a book by Michael White titled, Safe in Heaven Dead: Interviews with Jack Kerouac (see above),which I don't own but it's sure a great title (and would make a great birthday or Christmas present for yours truly -- hint, hint).
At least I made it to Jack's grave this month (his favorite: October) if not today. If you're into the whole numerology thing, Jack died 47 years ago at the age of 47. That's only gonna happen once, so let's raise an extra glass to the greatest American writer who ever lived.
Rick Dale at Jack Kerouac's grave, October 6, 2016
It's wonderful to have great friends in life, the kind who send you presents like the above out-of-the-blue because they know Bums is your favorite Kerouac novel and they know you don't have this particular cover in your collection.
I don't know who Cindy Wolkin is, but I assume she was the previous owner. Cindy, if you're reading this, let us know some history of this book!
The first page
Below is the copyright page for you bibliophiles. Such pages always confuse me. For example, can one determine from this info when this book was actually published? I assume it is the 9th printing (i.e., the lowest number in the row, harking back to typesetting days when they'd just remove the numbers per printing instead of resetting the whole line). But I'm sure it wasn't printed in 1959.
Many are brought to Kerouac by On the Road, but those who stick with the man's oeuvre eventually make their way to what are called "the Lowell books": The Town and the City, Dr. Sax, Maggie Cassidy, Visions of Gerard, and Vanity of Duluoz. These feature heart-wrenchingly accurate and detailed descriptions of growing up in the classical New England mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts in the early twentieth century (Kerouac was born in Lowell in 1922). They are magnificent works, and many say they comprise the best of Kerouac. I cannot argue the point.
If you count yourself a fan of the Lowell books, you are in for a treat. Recently published, The Unknown Kerouac: Rare, Unpublished, & Newly Translated Writings, features a 53-page piece titled "Memory Babe."* The piece is from a 20-foot long scroll and a revised 22-page typescript from that scroll of a work that Kerouac began in earnest soon after On the Road was published in 1957 but, after periodically working on it along with the The Dharma Bums (1958), abandoned the effort to focus on other works such as Lonesome Traveler (1960). The story takes place when Kerouac was "not yet 14 years old" on the two days before Christmas in Lowell (according to my math, that would be 1935).
As editor Todd Tietchen notes in the introduction to the piece, the Lowell books "remain the most comprehensive literary ethnography of French Canadian life in the 1920s and 1930s New England, mapping and preserving a lost world in a way consistent with Kerouac's aesthetic of memory" (p. 250). "Memory Babe" adds to that ethnography in every sense, capturing not only the ethos but also the ambience of that time and place in a way that pulls the reader deeply into Kerouac's world -- so much so that, sometimes, the reader wonders if it weren't one's own childhood being described.
There's much more in The Unknown Kerouac I have yet to explore, but for me, "Memory Babe" alone makes it worth the price.
* Not to be confused with Gerald Nicosia's Kerouac biography of the same name. "Memory Babe" is what Kerouac claims his friends called him because of his excellent memory.
For the 8th time in 9 years (having skipped 2010), Crystal and I attended the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) Festival in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. This year got interrupted by a family wedding on Friday in another part of Massachusetts, so we didn't get to as many events as usual, and we left Saturday afternoon. Indeed, while I write this the festival is still going on (click here for the festival program, which continues into tomorrow, Monday October 10). What follows is my traditional report from LCK. As a special bonus, at the bottom of this post I have included links to all my past LCK reports, starting in 2008. You will notice that I used to report each year in parts, but in 2011 switched to just one report per year. There are a lot of pictures and stories in the below links, and I hope you will take some time to peruse them.
We left for Lowell on Thursday and made our way immediately to Jack's grave. While I think this visit should be an official event, even if it were (and it was one year), we like having some private time with Jack where we feel comfortable reading and videoing and lifting a bottle in his honor.
The grave had more "stuff" on it this year than we've ever seen.
Rick at Jack Kerouac's grave October 6, 2016
Crystal at Jack Kerouac's grave October 6, 2016
As usual, I left a copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, at the grave -- neatly tucked in a sealed plastic bag in case of rain (on which I wrote Steal This Book). Some years people have taken me up on that! In the pictures you can also see a copy of the newest publication of Jack's works, The Unknown Kerouac, edited by Todd Tietchen. Since I had it with me I thought Jack would appreciate seeing it.
Here's the video of my reading from Satori in Paris, Jack's novel that was published 50 years ago this year. We videoed Crystal, too, and once we get that uploaded I will include a link to that here as well. There's an upcoming spooky synchronicity about the passage I chose.
While we were at the grave a flock of geese flew over, honking at eternity.
From the grave we made our way to check in at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, after which we visited one of our favorite restaurants in Lowell, Cobblestones (more on that later), for dinner. We had a nice table looking out on the Lowell streets lit by the redslant sun and a satisfying meal.
Next on our agenda was the Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour led by Lowell/Kerouac docent Bill Walsh. It began at the Worthen House Cafe (which is still called the Old Worthen by locals). I really like that place. In the picture I am holding up a Narragansett. It's New England's version of a PBR.
LCK revelers at the Worthen House Cafe
Right away at the Worthen, Phil from Indiana (just to the right of me above in the green vest) said the secret word, "satori," and got himself a signed copy of my book. Thanks, Phil, for reading my blog!
The pub crawl made its way to Ricardo's Cafe Trattoria, which used to be Nicky's (Sampas) and a regular haunt of Jack's. Then it was on to what used to be Ward 8 but is now known as Thirsty First. The evening culminated at Cappy's Copper Kettle for the traditional LCK kick-off of music and readings by a host of familiar faces like George Koumantzelis and Alan Crane and Roger Brunelle and Bill Walsh and, of course, Kerouac friend and musician extraordinaire, David Amram.
David Amram at Cappy's Copper Kettle
Cappy's is a short walk from the UMass Lowell Inn. I don't remember that or going to bed. We'll leave it at that.
Friday was a relative's wedding in Newburyport. It was a lengthy and extravagant affair, and by the time we got back to Lowell Friday night we were too bushed to catch the Jack Kerouac Tribute Concert at Mill No. 5. We missed one of my favorite LCK events, Talking Jack, that afternoon.
Saturday began with the Commemorative at the Commemorative, with readings by the usual suspects and some words and music from David Amram. If you've never been to Lowell, when you do visit it is a requirement to visit the Commemorative (Jack Kerouac Park).
David Amram addressing a good-sized gathering at the Commemorative
Kerouac docent Roger Brunelle explicating about the quote from Lonesome Traveler
Kerouac docent Steve Edington addressing the Commemorative gathering
Keroucian Ken Morris looking dapper next to the Mexico City Blues pillar
During the Commemorative, Brett, a doctoral student from Minneapolis asked me if anyone had said the secret word. Apparently, he knew the secret word the last two years but missed connecting with me. I made an exception and took his name and address and promised to send him one. As it turned out, we saw him later and I had made a point to retrieve a copy from the car just in case that happened. So a copy of my book is not only making its way to Indiana but also Minnesota. Good luck with that dissertation about Kerouac, Brett!
After the Commemorative we went back the Inn to check out. They were very accommodating and let us leave our car there even after checking out so that we could attend more events, the next being the marathon reading of Satori in Paris at the Pollard Library, where Jack often played hooky in order to read and actually learn something he was interested in versus attend Lowell High School. Apparently, a similar marathon reading was happening in Paris at the same time.
Rick Dale reading from Satori in Paris
Which brings me to an interesting synchronicity. I didn't intend to read at the marathon reading because we only had a little time to spend there before the Jan Kerouac memorial at nearby St. Anne's. However, they needed readers, and when the sign-up sheet was passed to me by Don Olderen with encouraging words I put my name in the next available slot. I did this without looking at which chapter I had signed up for. When it was my turn, I borrowed a copy of the book and took my place at the podium. I opened it to Chapter 14 and started reading, quickly realizing it was the chapter I had read at the grave on Thursday afternoon. Creepy (in a good way).
Now I need to figure out what the universe is telling me from that particular chapter in Satori in Paris. It's a short chapter in which Jack bemoans his travel plans -- including clothing not worn -- going awry but concluding thusly:
Yet this book is to prove that no matter how you travel, how "successful" your tour, or foreshortened, you always learn something and learn to change your thoughts.
As usual I was simply concentrating everything in one intense but thousandéd "Ah ha!"
So what did I learn? More on that later, but it must have something to do with learning....
From the marathon reading we made our way over to Edson Hall at St. Anne's Church for the Jan Kerouac event in honor of the 20th anniversary of her death. The event was not sanctioned by LCK, yet there was a respectable sized crowd gathered to hear various speakers, most of whom knew Jan. It was good to see Brad Parker for the first time in many years, and Jacques Kerouac, who I'd met in Farmington when Gerry Nicosia spoke to my Kerouac class in 2013. We had just seen Gerry in Mill Valley, CA, in July. Here are a couple of pics from the event.
I didn't take pictures of all the speakers, as I was trying to concentrate on their words. Jan was definitely an inspiring figure to those who knew her personally as well as to those who only knew her through her writing.
We were getting road-weary by the time this event ended and decided to head for Maine. We stopped for a quick bite at Fuse Bistro on Palmer Street. It used to be Cafe Paradaiso, which I wrote about in my 2008-4 report below. I had an excellent burger (helped in its excellency by a fried egg and bacon) and Crystal had a yummy steak tips pita sandwich. When I went to pay the bill, I opened my wallet to find my credit card missing.
If you know me, you know that I am what an unkind person might call "anal" about things having a place to be and always returning them to that place. Especially credit cards and keys. So this was unusual. I had enough cash to pay the tab and then we starting thinking about where I'd left it. Another place in my wallet? Unlikely -- if I'd returned it to my wallet it would be in its "assigned" spot. We figured out that the last time I used it was Thursday at Cobblestones and decided to walk there (it was the wrong direction from the Inn and very near St. Anne's where we'd just been). We asked the hostess if they'd found a credit card on Thursday night and she made a phone call to someone upstairs. In a few minutes someone came down the stairs with my credit card.
Thank you, Cobblestones. I really dodged a bullet on that one.
On our way back to the car, we passed the Ayer Lofts art gallery on Middle Street, which was hosting artist Barbara Gagel's exhibit of encaustic paintings that were inspired by quotes from various Kerouac works. We were impressed, so much so that we would have bought the one titled, Tristessa, but it was already sold.
As usual, we had a great time in Lowell, in no small part thanks to the dedicated members of the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee who put together the event, but also because it's great to re-connect with others who love keeping Jack Kerouac's spirit alive. If you've never been to LCK, think about putting it on your calendar next year.
So, back to what I learned (re: the Satori reading above). I (re)learned not to borrow trouble about anticipated stressful situations. I learned that I'm probably getting too old for pub crawls. I learned that I'm not too old to learn. I (re)learned the importance of being present ("Ah-ha!). I learned that there are mysteries afoot that we don't understand. I learned to make reservations at the UMass Lowell Inn sooner (we had a heck of a time getting in there this year). I learned that some businesses can be trusted to hold on to your credit card if you unintentionally leave it there.
And, I (re)learned that Crystal is a great traveling companion and that she is right about matters of the heart more often than not.
Enough said for this year. 2017 is coming, but in the meantime you can enjoy past prose and pictures below....
The annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, MA, kicks off in earnest today with a pub crawl starting at 6 PM at The Worthen House, 141 Worthen Street. The pub crawl ends at Cappy's Copper Kettle at 245 Central Street for the traditional LCK kickoff of music and readings at 8 PM.
No visit to Lowell in honor of Jack is complete without a visit to his grave in Edson Cemetery at 1375 Gorham Street. It's not in the official itinerary (click here), so you'll have to fit it in around the official events. Jack's grave is on Lincoln Avenue between 7th and 8th. There's a relatively new memorial that's hard to miss compared to the original tombstone (which is still there).
Also not on the official itinerary is an event honoring the 20th anniversary of the death of Jan Kerouac, which you can read about here in yesterday's Lowell Sun.
To repeat myself, the secret word this year is "satori" in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Satori in Paris. The first person to come up to me in Lowell and whisper it in my ear gets a signed copy of my book. This has proven to be a fool's errand on my part in the past, so I won't be disappointed if once again it doesn't happen.
Edited by Todd Tietchen, Associate Professor of English at UMass Lowell, The Unknown Kerouac: Rare, Unpublished & Newly Translated Writings, offers "a substantial and vital enlargement of the Kerouac canon...." (p. xv).
For extreme Kerouac fans who've read every novel, poem, essay, and letter by the man and ache for more, this is an essential volume for their collection. The same goes for Kerouac scholars, who will appreciate both the content and thoughtful introduction by editor Tietchen as well his set-ups that put each piece into historical and literary perspective. The casual reader, too, should find something of interest here, at least in the fiction pieces if not the essays and journal entries.
Since it arrived this week -- a busy one -- I have not had time to peruse the book yet, but I have thumbed through the 466 pages in an effort to start prioritizing what to read first. It's a hard choice, but I may start with "Journal 1951," which received high praise in the Kerouac Facebook group (which you should ask to join if you have not already done so). Or maybe the interview with Kerouac by his friend John Clellon Holmes. Or maybe ... oh, never mind. It's an impossible task to prioritize the readings, and. actually, I did take time to read a very short entry -- the first one - titled "On Frank Sinatra."
'49 Hudson used in the movie version of On The Road and displayed at San Francisco's Beat Museum
It seems like readers of The Daily Beat might enjoy the below article from a couple of days ago about a guy who explored America's highway system for two years in a 1949 Hudson, similar to the car Jack Kerouac described using for one of his cross-county jaunts in On The Road.
Once upon a time, a colleague of mine - knowing of my Kerouac obsession - gave me this book that she had been holding on to since her college days. It's copyrighted 1970 by John Montgomery and published by The Giligia Press in Fresno, CA. I think I've mentioned this before.
Regular readers of The Daily Beat will know that John Montgomery was Henry Morley in The Dharma Bums, Alex Fairbrother in Desolation Angels and the expanded version of Book of Dreams, and himself in Satori in Paris.
I see the softcover version (like mine) going for $45 on eBay, $112.50 for the hardcover. To inspire you to get your own copy, below are some snippets:
On Jack outfitting himself with camping gear after the Matterhorn climb in Bums:
"This was what gave his writing impetus--his anticipation of adventure" (p. 5).
Along the way to the Matterhorn climb:
"On the way to the mountains Jack did a lot of talking on the subject of his visions. He said that he had read a life of the Buddha and had practiced celibacy for four years as a result. Of course. a lot of credit needs to be given to the distrust of women which he had. I doubt if this was a result of his first marriages" (p. 9).
On Jack's imbibing (and practicality):
"I would imagine that if his bank failed that Jack would say that after all it should not interfere with his drinking" (p. 11).
Comparing Jack to F. Scott Fitzgerald:
"In some sense he may be compared to Fitzgerald; they lushed; had unsatisfactory times at college; tried pretty hard to measure the pulse of their own young generation trying to find itself" (p. 14).
Those are just to tease your fancy. Lots more where that came from in this little (16-page) book(let).
Nevertheless, the original review helped launch Kerouac to fame and he is now a permanent part of the American literary canon because of not only On the Road but also his other masterpieces like Visions of Cody, Dr. Sax, Visions of Gerard, The Subterraneans, and the list goes on....
Below is a passage from On the Road in celebration of its anniversary. This is from near the end of Part One Chapter 1. It explains the protagonist's fascination with Dean Moriarty, real-life Kerouac muse Neal Cassady.
Yes, and it wasn't only because I was a writer and needed new experiences that I wanted to know Dean more, and because my life hanging around the campus had reached the completion of its cycle and was stultified, but because, somehow, in spite of our difference in character, he reminded me of some long-lost brother; the sight of his suffering bony face with the long sideburns and his straining muscular sweating neck made me remember my boyhood in those dye-dumps and swim-holes and riversides of Paterson and the Passaic. His dirty workclothes clung to him so gracefully, as though you couldn't buy a better fit from a custom tailor but only earn it from the Natural Tailor of Natural Joy, as Dean had, in his stresses. And in his excited way of speaking I heard again the voices of old companions and brothers under the bridge, among the motorcycles, along the wash-lined neighborhood and drowsy doorsteps of afternoon where boys played guitars while their older brothers worked in the mills. All my other current friends were "intellectuals"--Chad the Nietzschean anthropologist, Carlo Marx and his nutty surrealist low-voiced serious staring talk, Old Bull Lee and his critical anti-every-thing drawl-or else they were slinking criminals like Elmer Hassel, with that hip sneer; Jane Lee the same, sprawled on the Oriental cover of her couch, sniffing at the New Yorker. But Dean's intelligence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, without the tedious intellectualness. And his "criminality" was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea-saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). Besides, all my New York friends were in the negative, nightmare position of putting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or psychoanalytical reasons, but Dean just raced in society, eager for bread and love; he didn't care one way or the other, "so long's I can get that lil ole gal with that lil sumpin down there tween her legs, boy," and "so long's we can eat, son, y'ear me? I'm hungry, I'm starving, let's eat right now!"--and off we'd rush to eat, whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, "It is your portion under the sun."
Happy Anniversary to On the Road! Next year will be 60 years. We'll have to do something special. Yair!
I just learned that there will be an event during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac this October to memorialize the 20th anniversary of the death of Jack Kerouac's daughter, Jan Kerouac. It will take place at Edson Hall of St. Anne's Church on Saturday, October 8, from noon to 1:30 PM.
St. Anne's is a 5-minute walk from the Visitors Center of the Lowell National Historical Park (which has free parking during the day), so this will not conflict with the Parker Lecture at 2 PM that day. It does overlap with a portion of the marathon reading of Satori in Paris (10:30 AM - 1:30 PM), but since that is a 3-hour reading, it is possible for you to catch part of the reading and still come to the memorial event (or at least some of it).
There will be several speakers at the event who knew Jan, including Gerry Nicosia, Brad Parker, Jacques Kirouac, and others to be announced. I suspect there may be other members of the Kirouac Family Association in attendance in addition to Jacques, founder and first president of the Kirouac Family Association (of which I am a proud member). I spent some time with Jacques back in April 2013 and detailed it here: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-week-with-beat-legend.html. He's a very charming and interesting man!
Jan was an accomplished author in her own right, publishing two excellent books, Baby Driver and Trainsong (pictured above) during her lifetime and writing a third, Parrot Fever, which remains unpublished.
We have a family wedding to attend that dropped right in the middle of LCK weekend this year, so our plans are a little up-in-the-air right now. Tentatively, we hope to spend Thursday night in Lowell, and then return late Friday night after the wedding so we can get up on Saturday and attend the Commemorative at the Commemorative (here's the LCK schedule in case you haven't yet seen it: http://www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org/festival) and make it to the Jan event at noon.
I encourage you to attend. It's a unique opportunity to honor Jack's daughter and hear from people who knew her. See you there (I hope).
On September 3, Joe's Pub in NYC is holding a benefit concert for The Kerouac Project of Orlando, a writer-in-residence program that has been home to nearly 60 writers since 2000. It's a worthy project and makes its home in the former house of Jack Kerouac at 1418½ Clouser Avenue in College Park.
Below is a poem by George Lenker of Northampton, MA, a friend of my great friend and Kerouacian brother, Richard Marsh. It fits the spirit of this blog nicely. George wrote this poem while walking down the above road in the Meadows. It was inspired by Lucinda Williams when he was interviewing her about being on the road (George writes for the local newspaper).
Thanks for letting me post your poem here on The Daily Beat, George.
by George Lenker
We will die on road. For road is all there is. Endless asphalt, urgent dirt Paths between the suncows.
Things have changed since we were young. But road remains the same. Inviting but unloving arms That never quite embrace
Road is silent, yet it speaks With rumbles of combustion and Clanks of pancake platters Long, lone whistles, barrel fires The flutter of a midnight train
Road is just an endless dream With no destination Road is only you and me The space that burns between us.
Every once in a while it is fun to Angelina Jolie with Google search trends data, sort of a Caster Semenya approach to the Brazil v. Germany rivalry over which NASCAR racer to root for. Notice how I worked the terms from the post title into that sentence? It probably won't fool the Google bots, but let's see how many pageviews this post gets compared to a typical day when I don't try to cheat the system.
As long as you landed here, first of all I extend my apologies if you're not a Jack Kerouac fan and was fooled by my use of top trending Google search terms. If you're a regular reader, here's some content for your trouble (and maybe it will turn the former into the latter). By the way, be warned: this is inane content at best....
Let's play "What does that have to do with Jack Kerouac?"
Angelina Jolie: It seems like she is trending because of either a recent death hoax or stories about her divorcing long-time husband Brad Pitt. It was no hoax that Kerouac died October 21, 1969. Here is a link to his obit in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/books/97/09/07/home/kerouac-obit.html. And speaking of divorces, Jack was no stranger to that ordeal, having divorced first wife Edie Parker and second wife Joan Haverty before marrying third wife Stella Sampas.
Caster Semenya: I assume she is trending for winning gold in the Rio Olympics 800 meter race amid controversy over her being "hyperandrogenous." Kerouac was a sports fan, especially baseball, and so he might have been generally interested in the Olympics. He certainly might have found the controversy over Semenya's possible hyperandrogenous condition an interesting one since pushing and blurring societally-constructed sexual mores were staples of the Beat Generation.
Brazil v. Germany: This is trending for being the gold medal match in women's beach volleyball. Like Semenya, Kerouac may have had an interest in this as a sports fan. I'll avoid the inappropriate and pruriently obvious connection one could make.... NASCAR: A weather delay at Bristol probably pushed this search term to a top ranking. The Kerouac connection? I'm not familiar with Jack being a NASCAR fan; indeed, races weren't televised much until the 70s, so he would have been mainly relegated to reading about NASCAR in the newspaper or attending a race in person (which I don't think he did). Were he alive today would he be a NASCAR fan? He might have a passing interest, but my guess is no.
There you have it: tenuous connections between Jack Kerouac and top-trending Google search terms. After some time has passed I'll let you know if including such terms in this post seems to have influenced pageview numbers.
In preparation for Lowell Celebrates Kerouac this October, over the last two days I re-read Jack Kerouac's Satori in Paris. Widely acknowledged as a lesser of his works, the novel still contains enough of Jack's spirit -- albeit a somewhat alcohol- and age-affected and therefore diminished spirit -- to keep a Kerouac fan interested. At least it kept me interested enough to finish it in a couple of sessions (it's not that long).
As with many of Jack's works, there is a lot to take in, especially with all the place names, historical allusions, and other references he so frequently drops amidst his prose. Don't look for the soaringly poetic prose Jack is known for in his more famous works because it doesn't make much of an appearance.
If you're attending LCK this October, it would be a good idea to re-read Satori in Paris in honor of its 50th anniversary that is being celebrated there. That suggestion is just my opinion and to my knowledge there will be no "extreme vetting" to see if you've done so.
Even if you're not attending LCK this October, I recommend reading Satori in Paris, especially if you fancy yourself a Kerouac fan and have not already done so. It's part of the oeuvre and is therefore essential reading.
Here are a couple of quotes from the book that you may have seen before:
Methinks women love me and then they realize I'm drunk for all the world and this makes them realize I cant [sic] concentrate on them alone, for long, makes them jealous, and I'm a fool in Love With God, Yes. (p. 25)
My manners, abominable at times, can be sweet. As I grew older I became a drunk. Why? Because I like ecstasy of the mind. I'm a Wretch. But I love love. (p. 28)
Some time this morning, August 14, 2016, according to Google stats for this blog, the 500,000th pageview took place. I have no way to know who it was or from whence it emanated, but nevertheless . . . it happened. Huzzah and yair!
Thus, as announced previously, the first person to respond to this post will win a signed copy of The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions. Remember, even if it's not your cup of tea, you can re-gift it, use it as a paperweight, shim up a crooked coffee table, or even start your next campfire with its pages. It's a very useful thing to win!
I'll inscribe it to you or whomever you wish, and I'll indicate its significance (i.e., a celebration of hitting half a million pageviews). Once I confirm a winner, we'll communicate by e-mail about a mailing address.
So don't wait! Respond directly to this post and you might win a signed copy of The Beat Handbook! UPDATE: We have a winner! See the comments below....
Happy Half a Million Pageviews Day! Now, on to a million.
P.S. This offer is open to anyone, even if you've won a copy before, already have your own copy, or are posting from a far-off land. As long as you have a mailing address on Planet Earth, you're eligible. We've sent copies of The Beat Handbook literally all over the world.
As I type this, The Daily Beat is at 499,998 all-time pageviews. That means later today we will likely hit the half million mark. That's not a big deal in the grand scheme of blogs, but it's a big deal in my world. I started this blog in 2008 (July 15 to be precise), coinciding with the publication of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions(available at Amazon). I don't remember when I started counting pageviews with Google's built-in stats, but it wasn't at the very beginning so the current number is low.
For a long time I was posting something daily, but life got in the way and the best I've done in recent years has been my weekly posting since the beginning of 2016 (a "streak," to use the terminology of my friend Kathleen Thompson from her book, The Project-Driven Life, also on Amazon).
To celebrate, when we hit half a million pageviews I am going to post an alert about it and offer a signed copy of my book to the first person to post a response to that post (not to this one).
For perspective, half a million dollar bills stacked neatly atop each other would be approximately 358 feet tall, about the height of a 30-35 story building. Half a million pageviews, all thanks to Jack Kerouac's genius and my persistence.