Monday, February 29, 2016

On the Road is a holy book

(c) 2014 Cat de Leon, Used with Permission
From her show, Up You Go, Little Smoke -- The Holy Hipness of Jack Kerouac
View her other pieces at

On the Road is a holy book. Why do I say that? Simply put, the book is replete with spirituality (a theme that director Walter Salles largely ignored in the movie version). As Jack himself said, it's really "a story of two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him" (from a May 1961 letter to Carroll Brown; also see this Newsweek piece). In addition to its obvious spiritual quest (for IT, I would say), in On the Road we find multiple references to visions (see P.S. below), mystical figures like the Shrouded Traveler, specific references to God ("...and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear?"),  a search for one's biological father (symbol for God?), and, not the least important in making this argument, a number of usages of the word "holy."  

How many times do you think the word "holy" appears in On the Road (the classic edition)? I have a number in mind from my own research, but I thought I'd make this a scavenger hunt. Leave a comment with your answer. If we come to some agreement I will take the time to cut-and-paste all of the relevant passages into this blog post.

If "holy" means "dedicated to a religious purpose," as the dictionary tells us, then On the Road is certainly a holy book, both by design and in effect. It's about the main character's search for meaning, which, after all, is a search we all undertake -- in our own ways -- to find the God that's in each of us.

Next time you re-read On the Road, be attuned to its holy essence. Look for passages like this: "... in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word...." Jack would dig that.

As faithful readers will know, last March we identified all of the passages in On the Road that had the word "vision" or "visions" in them (click here). I quoted a total of 14 passages that contained either or both of those words.

Taken at the Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Lowell, MA, Kerouac's hometown
(c) 2015 by Rick Dale

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jack Kerouac 2016 Birthday Celebration in Lowell, MA

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac has planned another rollicking birthday celebration for its hometown hero, Jack Kerouac. This year it's a one-day event occurring on his birthday, March 12. It happens to be a Saturday, making it possible for working stiffs like me to attend. Click here for the schedule, but I have also posted it below for convenience.

This is literally  less than 3 weeks away, yet I have not made up my mind about attending. It's only a thought percolating in my mind right now.

FYI, the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center has no vacancies on that date. This has become a typical scenario during LCK events and is a major drag since it's the only option in downtown Lowell. Your next best bet is the Courtyard by Marriott in Chelmsford. It's close but not walkable to LCK events. The solution is to cab into the city or drive and park for free at the National Historical Park Visitor Center.

If I do attend, I will have a copy of my book with me and will award a signed copy to the first person who comes up to me and uses the word "lackadaddy" (stand-alone or, better yet, in a sentence). Prior winners are not eligible. If I don't attend, you can always click here and get a copy directly from Amazon.

Jack would have been 94 on his next birthday. Come celebrate with like-minded Kerouacians in beautiful downtown Lowell this coming March 12!

Schedule of Events:
2016 Jack Kerouac Birthday Celebration
March 12, 2016 

10:00 am: Downtown Walking Tour of Lowell Kerouac Sites.
Begins at the Kerouac Commemorative at Bridge and French Streets and ends at
the Pollard Memorial Library. Led by Roger Brunelle.

12:30 pm: Pollard Library Tour.
This Library played a pivotal role in shaping Kerouac’s literary consciousness, and
now houses a “Kerouac Corner.”  Led by Bill Walsh. The Pollard Library is located

2:00 pm: “Woody and Jack: Two American Icons.”
A presentation comparing the lives and legacies of Jack Kerouac and Woody Guthrie by Steve Edington. Steve is a member of the LCK Committee and the author of The Beat Face of God
and Bring Your Own God—The Spirituality of Woody Guthrie.

Books available for signing following the presentation.

Visitors Center Theater at the Lowell National Historical Park.  246 Market Street.

4:00 pm: Open Mike at The Old Worthen.
141 Worthen Street.

8:00 pm “The Moody Street Sound” at the UnchARTed Gallery. 
With Special Guest David Amram. 103 Market Street.

A $5.00 donation is requested to support Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Kerouac Crater on Mercury

Kerouac Crater on Mercury
Did you know they named a crater on Mercury after Jack Kerouac? Click here for the official information from the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. The crater was officially named by the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature on October 12, 2015.

I don't know if it's significant, but October was Jack's favorite month. "Everybody goes home in October."

P.S. This is the kind of thing you can learn on the Jack Kerouac Facebook page. In this case, it was a post by group member Tony Marshall. I'd never heard of it before today when I read Tony's post.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Jack Kerouac and social media and the one-inch dash

We had an interesting discussion in my class the other day about whether Kerouac would use social media if it existed during his lifetime. Opinions varied. Some thought he would eschew it in favor of live interactions. Some thought he would take advantage of its ability to facilitate such live interactions (remember, the Beats were often arranging get-togethers via mail and letters sometimes arrived after they were relevant). Some thought he would take full advantage of being able to journal electronically. What are your thoughts?

Which brings me to LiveJournal, a blog platform I used to use and which I can't seem to link to so readers can access it. To wit, one of my friends asked me to post a particular entry in The Daily Beat titled, "The one-inch dash." I posted it in LiveJournal on 10-13-06 and was prompted to revisit it by a Facebook post featuring this image:

Faithful readers know I am rethinking my vision for this blog. It may be that it will start to include musings like the below, although as per my blog's mission I will connect it to Kerouac. The connection here? Jack lived a lot in that one-inch dash (1922-1969). Will you be able to say the same?

Here you go, Kath. From LiveJournal 10-13-06...with no editing....

The One-Inch Dash

One thing is for sure, no matter what you accomplish or don't accomplish, no matter what you accumulate or don't accumulate, no matter what you learn or don't learn, no matter what behaviors you engage in or don't engage in, no matter how passionate you were or how lifeless, no matter what . . . for sure and without any question whatsoever the YOU that you are so carefully protecting and creating and fussing about WILL BE REDUCED TO A ONE-INCH DASH BETWEEN TWO DATES ON A PIECE OF GRANITE. Bill Gates. Einstein. Buddha. Brad Pitt. Osama bin Laden. Hitler. That guy in the other car you flipped off the other day. NO MATTER - they and we have one thing in common. That one-inch dash. So do you want to fuss about all the things that are wrong and all the things on your plate and how awful other people act and how your "friends" screwed you again and what a fool George Bush is and how the world let you down again and how your car let you down and how it wasn't supposed to be quite like this and some day you will be happy when [fill in the blank] happens? Or do you want to spend your life as if each second is a precious gift and just be present in THIS moment, which is all we ever have. Comparison is the mind's delusion. Comparison to others people, places, times, events, things. It's all just so much mind-made delusion. Relax into being who you are, as you are, this moment and every moment. It doesn't matter what you do or don't do. It matters HOW you do it: consciously or unconsciously. Fully in this moment or trapped in your mind, endlessly agonizing over what was and wishing for what will be.

"But you don't know what it's like! You're not me and you don't have to suffer with [fill in the person, place, thing, event, lack}!" you scream back at me. Then please feel free to suffer. With enough pain, you will eventually discover the enlightened being that is you. Maybe in this lifetime. Maybe not. My words are just pointing to a way to speed things up for this go-around. If you wish.

But remember the one-inch dash.

Jack Keroauc, On the Road, and vocabulary

The version of On the Road used for this post - see References below

There are several kinds of words that might throw off your comprehension when you read Jack Kerouac's On the Road (or any of his novels, for that matter). This post will give you examples of each and encourage you to do a little "outside" reading to boost your understanding.

First, you will run across actual English words that are not used that commonly today. For example, on p. 41 Jack uses the word, lugubriously. It means sadly, and I remember needing to look it up in the dictionary when I first ran across it in On the Road. On p. 86 he uses the word hincty, which means snobbish. On p. 105 he uses the word visage, which means face. Maybe you didn't need to look these up when you first read On the Road, and kudos to your vocabulary if that is the case. I suspect at least one of these three is not commonly known to all readers. In any event, if you come across an unfamiliar word, fire up and see if it's there. If not . . . .

. . . a second kind of word you will run into is a made-up word, or a neologism, and you won't find the word in the dictionary. Jack loved to invent words and, of course, he loved the sounds of words (remember, he was often "writing jazz"). One example is on p. 101 when he says goodbye to Terry, the Mexican girl: "Well, lackadaddy, I was on the road again." The word lackaday is an adjective expressing regret, so I am guessing that lackadaddy has the same meaning in this context, and Jack just jazzed it up a little. Maybe it was a popular slang phrase at the time, but I can't find evidence of that.

A third kind of word you will encounter is a literary reference. Jack was a voracious reader, and he loved to make connections to favorite authors. For example, on p. 80, talking about Fresno, CA, he says, "Yes, yes, Saroyan's town." To decipher this takes a bit more than A little Googling will reveal that Jack is referencing William Saroyan, an author Jack read in his teen years. Saroyan wrote The Human Comedy, and Ithaca, CA in that novel is based on Saroyan's hometown of Fresno.

And so it goes (with apologies to Kurt Vonnegut).

As I tell my students, when you run across a word (or phrase) that's unfamiliar, look it up! You have the power of the Internet at your disposal, and it will certainly come in handy when reading Jack Kerouac.

Unfamiliar words = learning opportunities! Have fun with them!


Kerouac, J. (1976), On the road. New York: Penguin.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rethinking the mission and vision of The Daily Beat

In my New Year's Kerouac-olutions for 2016 (click here for the whole list), number 2 was:

Rethink the mission and vision of this blog and act on it

I've been pondering this Kerouac-olution and realized that I wasn't sure what the mission and vision of this blog were at inception. I needed to go back to the beginning of my posts and do some research. All I really could come up with was in the "Description" of my blog, which is as follows (I don't know how readers access this description):

Rick Dale's blog, the most Kerouac-obsessed on the planet!

I would call that a mission statement because, in my view, mission statements should be short, broad, and unchanging. They provide a direction but not details. Mine is definitely short and broad, and upon review, I see no reason to change it. That's the nice thing about a good mission statement: it should be a lasting statement about one's purpose (or an organization's or blog's purpose), answering the question, "Why do I exist?"

Vision statements are different. They always support the mission but they are changeable. They may need to adapt with changing times. Vision statements are more detailed, more concrete (they paint a "vision" of the future, something you can "see"), and they answer the question, "What kind of person (or organization or blog) do I want to be?" 

I have not put time into developing a vision statement for The Daily Beat, but that is the next step. Once I develop one, I will share it with readers. In the meantime, if you have suggestions, hit me up. 

Bernie Sanders' success is Jack Kerouac's fault

Texas Republican Congressperson Louie Gohmert (no relation to Private Pyle, despite the obvious connection), recently opined that the reason Bernie Sanders is doing so well is
because we let some of the hippies from the ‘60s who created such chaos then start teaching the teachers, and teaching them how great socialism is and just rewriting history and keeping them from realizing socialism has never worked, it will never work in this world, in this life, because if you’re going to pay everybody the same thing then they’re going to quit working.
Click here for my source.

Now, here is my reasoning for saying that Bernie Sanders' success is Jack Kerouac's fault.

1. Jack Kerouac was the Father of the Beat Generation. This is axiomatic.
2. The Beat Generation influenced the hippie movement. This is likewise axiomatic.
3. The hippies paved the way for a socialist like Sanders to succeed. This has to be true because a U.S. Congressperson from Texas said so.

There you have it. A tight syllogistic explanation of why Jack Kerouac is responsible for Bernie Sanders' success.

You go, Jack!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy 90th Birthday to Neal Cassady

Neal Cassady, the fast-moving western hero immortalized in Jack Kerouac's On the Road and Visions of Cody and Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, was born this date in 1926. That means he would have been 90 years old today.

Can you picture Neal at 90? It boggles my mind to try. Anyway, Happy Birthday, Neal!

For past birthday posts at The Daily Beat, you might want to learn how to force Google to search a website. It's simple. To find every mention of the word "birthday" on this blog, just use this URL:


To get more specific, you could try:

Neal Cassady birthday

You can search any website using this format. That is:

search term site:URL

Pretty cool, huh?

Remember there's no space between the colon and the URL.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Happy 102nd Birthday to William S. Burroughs

I just realized that it's William S. Burroughs' birthday today. He would have been 102, having been born in 1914. Older than the rest of the Beat triumvirate, he still outlived them in age (Burroughs = 83, Kerouac = 47, Ginsberg = 70) as well as calendar date (Burroughs = August 1997, Kerouac = 1969, Ginsberg = April 1997).

Burroughs' birth date was one day after Neal Cassady died in 1968.

So Happy Birthday, Old Bull. Here's a passage about you from On the Road that's instructively descriptive, albeit "fictional":
It would take all night to tell about Old Bull Lee; let's just say now, he was a teacher, and it may be said that he had every right to teach because he spent all his time learning; and the things he learned were what he considered to be and called "the facts of life," which he learned not only out of necessity but because he wanted to. He dragged his long, thin body around the entire United States and most of Europe and North Africa in his time, only to see what was going on; he married a White Russian countess in Yugoslavia to get her away from the Nazis in the thirties; there are pictures of him with the international cocaine set of the thirties-gangs with wild hair, leaning on one another; there are other pictures of him in a Panama hat, surveying the streets of Algiers; he never saw the White Russian countess again. He was an exterminator in Chicago, a bartender in New York, a summons-server in Newark. In Paris he sat at cafe tables, watching the sullen French faces go by. In Athens he looked up from his ouzo at what he called the ugliest people in the world. In Istanbul he threaded his way through crowds of opium addicts and rug-sellers, looking for the facts. In English hotels he read Spengler and the Marquis de Sade. In Chicago he planned to hold up a Turkish bath, hesitated just for two minutes too long for a drink, and wound up with two dollars and had to make a run for it. He did all these things merely for the experience. Now the final study was the drug habit. He was now in New Orleans, slipping along the streets with shady characters and haunting connection bars. 
There is a strange story about his college days that illustrates something else about him: he had friends for cocktails in his well-appointed rooms one afternoon when suddenly his pet ferret rushed out and bit an elegant teacup queer on the ankle and everybody hightailed it out the door, screaming. Old Bull leaped up and grabbed his shotgun and said, "He smells that old rat again," and shot a hole in the wall big enough for fifty rats. On the wall hung a picture of an ugly old Cape Cod house. His friends said, "Why do you have that ugly thing hanging there?" and Bull said, "I like it because it's ugly." All his life was in that line. Once I knocked on his door in the 60th Street slums of New York and he opened it wearing a derby hat, a vest with nothing underneath, and long striped sharpster pants; in his hands he had a cookpot, birdseed in the pot, and was trying to mash the seed to roll in cigarettes. He also experimented in boiling codeine cough syrup down to a black mash - that didn't work too well. He spent long hours with Shakespeare - the "Immortal Bard," he called him - on his lap. In New Orleans he had begun to spend long hours with the Mayan Codices on his lap, and, although he went on talking, the book lay open all the time. I said once, "What's going to happen to us when we die?" and he said, "When you die you're just dead, that's all." He had a set of chains in his room that he said he used with his psychoanalyst; they were experimenting with narcoanalysis and found that Old Bull had seven separate personalities, each growing worse and worse on the way down, till finally he was a raving idiot and had to be restrained with chains. The top personality was an English lord, the bottom the idiot. Halfway he was an old Negro who stood in line, waiting with everyone else, and said, "Some's bastards, some's ain't, that's the score." 
Bull had a sentimental streak about the old days m America, especially 1910, when you could get morphine in a drugstore without prescription and Chinese smoked opium in their evening windows and the country was wild and brawling and free, with abundance and any kind of freedom for everyone. His chief hate was Washington bureaucracy; second to that, liberals; then cops. He spent all his time talking and teaching others. Jane sat at his feet; so did I; so did Dean; and so had Carlo Marx. We'd all learned from him. He was a gray, nondescript-looking fellow you wouldn't notice on the street, unless you looked closer and saw his mad, bony skull with its strange youthfulness--a Kansas minister with exotic, phenomenal fires and mysteries. He had studied medicine in Vienna; had studied anthropology, read everything; and now he was settling to his life's work, which was the study of things them-selves.-in the streets of life and the night. He sat in his chair; Jane brought drinks, martinis. The shades by his chair were always drawn, day and night; it was his corner of the house. On his lap were the Mayan Codices and an air gun which he occasionally raised to pop benzedrine tubes across the room. I kept rushing around, putting up new ones. We all took shots and meanwhile we talked. Bull was curious to know the reason for this trip. He peered at us and snuffed down his nose, thfump, like a sound in a dry tank. (Penguin Books, 1976, pp. 143-144)

Belated RIP to Neal Cassady

Neal Cassady, Holy Goof and Beat muse, died 48 years ago yesterday at the age of 41, just 4 days shy of his 42nd birthday. Jack Kerouac would follow Neal on the night train to the big adios just 1 year, 8 months, and 17 days later on October 21, 1969 at the age of 47.

Below are some links to past postings on this subject. I was too lazy to hotlink them, but you know how to cut-and-paste, right?

Sorry I missed the actual date by a day. RIP, Neal.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Published and unpublished Kerouac work

Below is an entry I posted on Blackboard last week in response to student questions from my Kerouac class. Members of the Facebook Kerouac page can also click here for a list of Kerouac books compiled by Dave Moore.

-------Start of post-------

I received two questions on an index card from class yesterday and thought I'd answer them with some resources to check out that may have future use. That is, they may come in handy for your research paper.
Question 1: How many different published pieces did Kerouac have?
For an answer to this, check out this page from Literary Kicks, a site you might want to check out in general:
Note that the above does not include the numerous pieces Jack had published in magazines, such as this poem from Bastard Angel #2 in Spring 1974 that is unpublished elsewhere:

Question 2: How many unpublished ones (estimated) did he have?
For an answer to this, check out Paul Maher, Jr.'s (a noted Kerouac biographer) piece at Empty Mirror (another site you might want to become familiar with):

You also might want to check out the catalog of the Jack Kerouac Papers archived at the New York Public Library here: