Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jack Kerouac, war, world events, miasmic torpor

I'm beaten down by world events and can't think of anything original to say about Jack Kerouac today, so here is a random Kerouac quote from one of his works that is a favorite of mine (the work, not the quote). Maybe it has some relevance to the messed up world we find ourselves in.

A VICIOUS WAR with all the American infantrymen continually blasting away with their rifles but I'm the Company Joker Imbecile who's always losing his gun and looking for another that works so in the midst of battle (on ramparts, hills, in copses, against enemy soldiers hiding) you hear me yelling "Where's my gun, hey?" and everybody too busy to pay attention or even laugh--My sadsack soldier role--But at one point I look up and realize the vast ruin of a  European town we're in, the architecture of the town clearly seen in the rubble--I'm lost and cant find my company, no one cares, it's a huge new war-- (Book of Dreams, 1981, City Lights, p. 138)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Beat Generation, Donald Trump, Republicans, GOP Convention, Hippies, Google, Apple, Facebook, Burning Man, Millennials, and Jack Kerouac

Here is a link to a recent article by Jerry Cimino, founder and curator of The Beat Museum in San Francisco:

Titled " An Open Letter to the Tech Industry" and published by The Huffington Post, it makes the argument that other tech giants should follow Apple's lead and not support the GOP Convention in Cleveland in July. Why? Those tech giants wouldn't be flourishing in the Bay Area if it weren't for The Beat Generation. You can read the article and see if you agree with Jerry's logic.

I know, I know....we have now waxed political here on The Daily Beat and some of  you are going to stop following us as a result. If that is how closed-minded you are -- that is, an opposing view causes you to retreat from social interaction -- then you don't understand Beat values enough to be a regular reader in the first place. Autodidacticity is in order.

Some will argue, "But Kerouac himself expressed conservative views in his later years." He was a raging drunk, too, but I wouldn't use that to justify alcoholism. 

Find me a well-written piece arguing for GOP values based on The Beat Generation and I'll gladly post a link to it. Or write one and ask to be a guest blogger. We're an equal opportunity offender!

Peace out....

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Joan Anderson letter doesn't sell at Christie's auction: UPDATED 6-26-16

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to the famous Joan Anderson letter, the once-thought-lost-but-recently-found letter that Neal Cassady wrote to Jack Kerouac and Jack called the greatest piece of writing he ever saw. If you need background, here's a good piece on Beatdom to bring you up to speed:

Anyway, the letter went up for auction at Christie's today, and according to Neal's daughter, Jami, on Facebook:
The Joan Anderson Letter.....did not get ONE BID!!!! IT DID NOT SELL AT Christie's this morning....
I don't know why it didn't sell or what happens next. If I learn anything I'll update you.


It seems that there were bids made at the auction, but they didn't meet a pre-established minimum of $400,000. According to Brian Hassett on Facebook:
It opened at $240,000, then went $260,000, then $280,000, then $300,000, then $320,000, then $350,000, then $380,000....
I'm not sure of next steps but will update this post as I find out anything.

In the meantime, here is a picture of Gerald Nicosia with Jami Cassady and husband Randy Ratto viewing Neal Cassady's Joan Anderson Letter at the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco on June
3, 2016. Photo by Rowland Weinstein.

(c) 2016 Rowland Weinstein

Monday, June 13, 2016

America is a Gun by Brian Bilston

I saw this poem on Twitter just now and hope Brian won't mind my reposting it here. I wonder what kind of poems Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and other beats would be writing today.

America is a Gun
by Brian Bilston

England is a cup of tea.
France, a wheel of ripened brie.
Greece, a short, squat olive tree.
America is a gun.

Brazil is football on the sand.
Argentina, Maradona's hand.
Germany, an oompah band.
America is a gun.

Holland is a wooden shoe.
Hungary, a goulash stew.
Australia, a kangaroo.
America is a gun.

Japan is a thermal spring.
Scotland is a highland fling.
Oh, better to be anything
than America as a gun.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Spontaneity, travel, NYC, and the Beat Generation: A brief tale of Kerouacian adventure in The Big Apple

My great friend, Richard Marsh, got an idea on Sunday to make a whirlwind trip to NYC on Tuesday to catch a bit of the Beat & Beyond event at the Howl! Happening arts center at 6 East 1st Street. The event ran from Friday June 3 to Wednesday June 8. You can read about it here:

Our plan evolved thusly: On Monday I would drive to Richard's house in Northampton, MA, and spend the night. That's a good 4-hour drive. Then, we would get up early Tuesday morning and Richard would drive us to the train station in Darien, CT, about a two-hour drive. It's about an hour train ride from Darien to Grand Central Station in NYC. Richard found us a reasonably priced Airbnb apartment for Tuesday night at 341 West 30th Street (Chelsea).

When I got to Richard's house on Monday, an adult beverage awaited me.

That's Michelle pouring herself some wine, and behind her is the grill that caught on fire as Richard cooked delicious hamburgers and hot dogs (no harm done -- I did the same thing over Memorial Day at our house -- it was just grease on the catch tray). After dinner Richard and I took a walk around Northampton, especially making our way past the new house he and Michelle are buying (congratulations, Richard and Michelle!). Richard and I had a beer at Joe's Cafe, his regular haunt, where I met some of his friends including Roisin, who was born in Ireland. Then we made our way back to his house for some conversation and a little catching up on politics given the big primary the next day (my addiction, not Richard's).

We caught a night's sleep and were up early Tuesday. After an uneventful drive and train ride, we made our way to the East Village. I can't remember if we walked or took the subway, but I think it was the latter.

We encountered a unique spelling of Bleecker Street as we walked in the village.

We were planning to catch the noon showing of a film by Chris Felver, but we walked the wrong way on Bowery looking for the Howl! arts center and ended up cabbing back (it was hot!) and being late enough that we decided to grab lunch. We ate at Slainte, an Irish pub at 304 Bowery where we met bartender Conor who was born in Galway and still has the fantastic Irish brogue. 

We wanted to see the Poetry Jukebox we'd read about on-line that is installed in the alley behind the former CBGB, so we checked out the amazing CBGB memorabilia and then walked 3/4 of the way around the block to find the jukebox (it's a one-way alley). It has a single button you push and it begins to play various "beat" writers reading their work. It was at Corso reading "Marriage" when we hit the button. I put beat in quotations because the line-up included Bukowski, who, while I love his work, was most definitely not a beat writer.

We had time for a bit more walking in the village and then made our way to the Howl! Happening arts center. It's a bright space and artist Mark Turgeon was working on a two-wall mural during the event. It was impressive and I wish I had a way of showing you all of it (of course, you could make a trip there and see it for yourself).

The 2 and 3 PM events were panel discussions. They were very informal and I wish there had been a facilitator to give introductions and keep things a bit more focused. All through the event, a slide show of beat generation pictures played. Here are a couple of pictures of the panels.

That's the back of Hettie Jones' head. Then, L to R: Jerome Rothenberg, Bob Holman, Margaret Randall, Michael McClure, Ann Charters, Chris Felver, and David Henderson.

L to R: Hettie Jones, Jerome Rothenberg, Michael McClure, Ann Charters, Amy Evans McClure

As you can imagine, a lot of great discussion ensued, some of which was very "insider." I wasn't keeping notes, but I did write down a Voltaire quote offered by Ann Charters: "Once a philosopher, twice a pervert." Look it up for context. I was pleased to be able to shake hands with Michael McClure (looking very frail) and Ann Charters, two names I've read for years but never ran into in person. When I met Ann, I said something stupid like "I've been reading your work for a hundred years so it's great to finally meet you." I added, "That was a reflection on my age, not yours." McClure told Richard he was impressed with how Richard paid such close attention during the presentation. Little things. 

After the second panel (both included basically the same members), we walked a bit more while waiting for the 5 PM presentation by Bob Rosenthal. I snapped these two pictures for Crystal.

Bob Rosenthal

Bob Rosenthal was Allen Ginsberg's personal secretary for 20 years until Ginsberg's death in 1997. He read from an upcoming memoir and it was fascinating. Two stories of note. One was about the time he and Allen were on a very crowded subway and Allen started screaming things like, "The Russians are coming!" just to get a reaction. Rosenthal said the passengers all moved a few centimeters away (that's all the room they had). The other story was about a cab ride where Allen asked the driver if he were Muslim (based on name, etc.). He said he was and Allen asked him what he thought of the Salman Rushdie fatwa. The driver didn't know about  it so Allen explained and the driver said that if Rushdie offended God then he should probably die. Allen screamed, "I shit on your God." Rosenthal said not much ensued from there -- perhaps the driver had his hands full negotiating the city traffic.

After Rosenthal's presentation we ate at a favorite place, historic McSorley's. We had hash with beets (and Richard had barley soup, too). And we got "two-and-two" twice. If you don't know what that means, you need to go to McSorely's at least once in your life and you'll find out. The guy next to us offered us his leftovers from the famous Saltines, cheese, and onions appetizer and we accepted. He left but his companion stayed. The latter turned out to be from Omaha and was attending a training on gas pipeline construction. The floor was particularly sawdusty that day.

From McSorley's we cabbed up to the apartment. It was walkable but we couldn't make it by when we said we would meet Tristan, the "key guy" (not the host). It was a small but clean and efficient apartment, downstairs from the street. It was the only apartment in that building with a back door to an outdoor patio!

We stowed our backpacks (that we had hauled around all day but we were traveling very light on purpose -- no coats, umbrellas, spare shoes or pants, etc.) and headed back to the village on foot. We had a beer at the White Horse Tavern (no pics -- sorry) and ended up at Washington Square Park. Richard took this shot. We were seated at the fountain, which for some reason wasn't running.

A bit beat (no pun intended), we walked back to the apartment and got a good night's sleep. We walked very close to the Empire State Building. I wish I knew how to make my phone camera take pictures at night. It's amazing how safe I feel walking around the city at night. Of course, we are in relatively peopled and safe sections, but there were some dark streets we negotiated along the way when we ventured off 5th Avenue. By my calculation we walked about 22 city blocks (approximately 8th to 30th Street,).

Empire State Building

In the morning Richard went out and brought us back some coffee and we caught up on the election primary news from the day before (again, my addiction, not Richard's). We left the apartment spic-and-span and then walked The Highline down to the village. I had never been on it before. Richard said it wasn't as well-kempt (e.g., the perennials were not weeded) and most of the artwork on buildings was gone. Regardless, it is a marvel and I recommend it. You will run into some interesting characters along the way. 

We were hoping this sign was real, but it turned out to be art.

From The Highline we made our way to Cafe Reggio on MacDougal, a Kerouac haunt, for breakfast. We ate outside. I like that place, especially their coffee. I had eggs benedict. When we left we got a block away and I realized I didn't have my backpack. I returned at full speed and it was still right where I left it (outside, no less). Since I wanted to get to Maine that same day, we caught the subway up to 42nd street and walked from there to Grand Central. Then it was a train ride to Darien, a drive to Northampton, and a drive to Maine and back to Crystal and Karma and a familiar and comfortable bed.

Which is all to say, spontaneity and travel are good things but so is home, and I suspect Mr. Kerouac would agree.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A BRUSH WITH THE GREATEST (or how Muhammad Ali almost stole my bride) by Jerry Cimino

The following was written by Jerry Cimino, founder of The Beat Museum in San Francisco. He posted it on Facebook and graciously gave me permission to re-post it here on The Daily Beat. Given my earlier post today about The Greatest, I thought this was fitting.

This is the picture Jerry included in his Facebook post

(or how Muhammad Ali almost stole my bride)
by Jerry Cimino

Muhammad Ali exploded on to the American consciousness when he won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. He was controversial to be sure. A big man with a big mouth who changed his perfectly good name from Cassius Clay to the strange and foreboding Muhammad Ali. White America didn't quite understand this guy. He hung out with Black Muslims in the radical 1960s and he defied the U.S. Government by refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War with the famous line, "Man, I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me nigger."
I met Muhammad Ali only once. My wife and I were on our honeymoon at Paradise Island in the Bahamas in September, 1981. Estelle was 24 and I was 27. We both looked great, as only people in their 20s really can.
We were walking from our room in a giant hotel down to a casino when this guy came running down the hall toward us on a mission. "Man, you seen the Champ? You seen the Champ?" Estelle and I looked at each other. "I don't know what you're talking about," I said and he ran off to continue his quest.
Thirty seconds later we learned what it was all about when a huge wave of humanity came washing over us in that same wide hallway. Forty boisterous people were having a walking party in the middle of the hall and coming our way. Suddenly, one broke from the pack and came charging right at us. He was huge, he was fast and he sped by me in a flash and scooped up my 95 pound bride off her feet like she was a doll and took off with her down the hall.
I joined the rest of the laughing and taunting crowd as we caught up with them twenty feet away. I ran up to him directly, my fists in the air. "Hey, buddy, that's my wife!" I started waving my fists in front of his face. He stood there like a mountain, holding Estelle aloft with one hand as he sparred with me rope-a-dope style with the other big hand.
"You want her, you gotta come get her," he came back. The crowd was enthralled as we danced around the hallway like we were in a boxing ring. Oh, would there have been cell phones and video cameras back then!
Finally, Muhammad Ali placed Estelle gently on the ground. I pulled out a napkin from my pocket and he signed an autograph, probably still buried today in a box in our garage.
Estelle gave him a peck on the cheek as he released her back to me. To this day she still calls him "My Honeymoon Honey." Muhammad Ali. He truly was The Greatest.

Jack Kerouac and Muhammad Ali

We lost The Greatest to eternity yesterday, so that's been on my mind and it got me wondering about Jack Kerouac-Muhammad Ali connections. Jack mentions Cassius Clay in a 1964 interview with Miklos Zsedely conducted for the Northport Public Library's oral history project and arranged through Stanley Twardowicz. The following is excerpted from Paul Maher Jr.'s Empty Phantoms: Interview and Encounters with Jack Kerouac (2015 Expanded and Revised Edition). It's in the context of talking about the real fighting skills of novelists like Norman Mailer and Ernest Hemingway.
KEROUAC: Yeah, but if Mailer comes on now, like he's in the corner of the ring in the Esquire magazine, and he's going to take on all comers, like James Jones? he's going to take on in a fight in the ring?
TWARDOWICZ: Well, you don't put it on a level...
KEROUAC: James Jones.
TWARDOWICZ: Well, yeah.
KEROUAC: Phew! Or me even. Or you!
TWARDOWICZ: You better be careful!
KEROUAC: And then, so then he writes a novel for Esquire magazine and he gets millions of dollars because he puts on this big pose, he rents out Carnegie Hall to say he's a two-fisted left winger. Left winger.
TWARDOWICZ: I think that's a very good description.
ZSEDELY: Probably he would make as good a writer as Cassius Clay a poet.
KEROUAC: Cassius Clay would take all of us here, and go out in the window.
ZSEDELY: In poetry?
KEROUAC: In fighting.
ZSEDELY: Yeah, I know, but in poetry?
KEROUAC: Hes not a poet -- he's a limericker. [LAUGHTER] I saw a girl one day/Out on the bay/She makes it fine. You know, limericks. And she had nice hair/And I was bare. Limericks. That's a limerick. He makes them up as he goes along.
From there the interview goes in other directions (which it does frequently throughout). Interestingly, Ali was bestowed the holy name Muhammad Ali by the Nation of Islam on March 6, 1964. Given that the above interview took place on April 14 of that year, it's possible that Kerouac knew about the name change but was, like many at the time, not yet in the habit of referring to Clay by his new name. As I recall, it took some getting used to.

Do you know of other instances where Jack mentions Ali/Clay in an interview, letter, book, etc.? Let us know in the comments.