Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kerouac Sunday

If you Google "Kerouac Sunday," you will get a number of search results.

The first result I get is my blog post from July 3 which you can read here:

The second result I get is for a piece of clothing called a Sunday Best Kerouac Jacket. You can see it here: I wonder if they got permission from the Kerouac Estate to use his name?

The third result for me is this quote on Goodreads: I recommend Goodreads, by the way. It's a place to keep track of books you have read and want to read, and to connect with other readers.

Further results range from a Sunday event at The Beat Museum to a FeMMFest Sunday evening at Kafe Kerouac to a Google Books result for Subterranean Kerouac.

Here's a Sunday quote from Chapter 16 of my favorite Kerouac novel, The Dharma Bums:
And that's what I said to myself, "I am now on the road to Heaven." Suddenly it became clear to me that there was a lot of teaching for me to do in my lifetime. As I say, I saw Japhy before I left, we wandered sadly to the Chinatown park, had a dinner in Nam Yuen's, came out, sat in the Sunday morning grass and suddenly here was this group of Negro preachers standing in the grass preaching to desultory groups of uninterested Chinese families letting their kiddies romp in the grass and to bums who cared just a little bit more. A big fat woman like Ma Rainey was standing there with her legs out­spread howling out a tremendous sermon in a booming voice that kept breaking from speech to blues-singing music, beau­tiful, and the reason why this woman, who was such a great preacher, was not preaching in a church was because every now and then she just simply had to go sploosh and spit as hard as she could off to the side in the grass, "And I'm tellin you, the Lawd will take care of you if you re-cognize that you have a new field . . . Yes!"— and sploosh, she turns and spits about ten feet away a great sploosh of spit. "See," I told Japhy, "she couldn't do that in a church, that's her flaw as a preacher as far as the churches are concerned but boy have you ever heard a greater preacher?"
I suspect Sunday was a sacred day to Jack, given his bent for Catholicism. I count 9 instances of Jack using the word Sunday in Bums. I'll share some others in the future.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reading Kerouac at Big Sur and more

We just got back from a trip to the West Coast where we got to spend time with my son and his family in California and a few days with some friends near Portland, OR. We flew to California but drove to Oregon, so, naturally, we chose to drive the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur, where we stayed two nights.

That drive is amazing, and no pictures could do it justice. I highly recommend it. As you probably know because you're reading this blog post, Jack Kerouac wrote a novel, Big Sur, about a period of time he spent -- supposedly drying out -- at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin in Bixby Creek Canyon (called Raton Canyon in the novel).

On our way to our lodgings in Big Sur we took these pictures at an overlook, thinking it was Bixby Creek Canyon Bridge. It turned out to be the Big Creek Bridge. Bixby Bridge is north of that. As such, we didn't get pictures of the Bixby Bridge, but there are plenty on line to look at.

Our first view of the Big Creek Bridge

A closer view

My copy of Big Sur on the informational sign at the Big Creek Bridge overlook (the picture of Bixby on the sign threw us off)

Crystal holding my copy of Big Sur with Big Creek Bridge in the background

Me in the same spot
Where we stayed in Big Sur

Our room at the Big Sur River Inn

For sale in the Big Sur River Inn gift shop

On our second day at Big Sur we decided we wanted to dip our toes in the Pacific, so we went to Andrew Molera State Park where it's about a mile walk to the beach from the parking lot (all level). As I write this, the park is closed because of nearby wildfires burning out of control.

Crystal crossing the Big Sur River on the way to the beach in Andrew Molera State Park

Me at Andrew Molera State Park (11 miles south of Bixby Bridge)

Crystal at Molera
Me at Molera

It was so windy that day that we were literally getting sandblasted. Nevertheless, Crystal took a video of me reading from Big Sur. Click here to watch it:

That night we had drinks and an appetizer at Nepenthe, which Jack mentions in Big Sur and is the title of a book Crystal recently read. It's an architectural marvel of a restaurant perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean.

At Nepenthe
Nepenthe has an old school telephone - and it works (good thing: little to no cell service in Big Sur)

We had a great visit to Big Sur and the only downer for me was misidentifying the Bixby Bridge. But it's a lesson for you kids out there: when you make a mistake, own up to it. Next time we visit I'll snap some pictures of the real thing.

Here are some things to keep in mind when visiting Big Sur. Cell phone reception is spotty to nonexistent. Lodging is expensive, but the Big Sur River Inn is a good choice. They have a restaurant/bar and general store right there so you don't have to leave the property for food or supplies. The road is very curvy so don't be in a hurry (use the turnouts to let the dangerous drivers pass you). Molera State Park has fairly easy public access to the ocean. Big Sur refers to the area, so don't expect to find a specific place by that name (although there is a post office just south of where we stayed).

As to visiting Bixby Beach where Jack listened to the plowsh of the waves and wrote "Sea," I had no intention of doing that but I suppose if you are not averse to trespassing on private property you might be able to walk to it. This 2011 blog post has some info you may want to consider:, although as recently as 2005 it was possible as evidenced by Jerry Cimino, Steve Edington, and John Cassady making it:

Which reminds me, if you haven't watched the 2008 documentary, One Fast Move Or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur, I recommend it.

Peace out....

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Big Sur!

Here's a picture of me holding my copy of Big Sur with the Big Creek Canyon bridge in the background. Taken July 18, 2016.

(c) 2016 Crystal Bond

Sunday, July 17, 2016

On the road post

I'm mobile and without a laptop (arrive Big Sur tomorrow). Here's a random picture posted by Lowell Celebrates Kerouac on Facebook.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jack Kerouac and the "Bradley standard" on race relations

Given the events of the past week, I felt compelled to say something about race in America, acknowledging that I am white and can therefore never understand what it's like to be a person of color in this country. This morning I saw Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson on Meet the Press. Moderator Chuck Todd mentioned a controversial article Dyson had written this week. I read it. You can read it here: It's pretty strident, but I can't really argue with his points.
At birth, you are given a pair of binoculars that see black life from a distance, never with the texture of intimacy. Those binoculars are privilege; they are status, regardless of your class. In fact the greatest privilege that exists is for white folk to get stopped by a cop and not end up dead when the encounter is over. 
Those binoculars are also stories, bad stories, biased stories, harmful stories, about how black people are lazy, or dumb, or slick, or immoral, people who can’t be helped by the best schools or even God himself. These beliefs don’t make it into contemporary books, or into most classrooms. But they are passed down, informally, from one white mind to the next.
It is very difficult to see our own white privilege, and even more difficult to acknowledge it. White Americans who spewed hate in the comment section of Dyson's column make his case for him.

But what does this have to do with Jack Kerouac? I'm getting there. 

Also on Meet the Press this morning, they played several clips of politicians, past and present, talking about how we need to have a "national conversation" about race. What struck me was former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley who, not surprisingly, made it real. I can't find the clip, but it was along the lines of this quote attributed to Bradley: "If you haven't talked to someone of a different race about race in the last 30 days, you are part of the problem."

I think this speaks to the intimacy issue that Dyson raises. And that brings us to Kerouac. Without a doubt, Kerouac often met the Bradley standard during his road years. He often went out of his way to interact with disenfranchised groups in America: drug addicts from Times Square, bums on skid row, farm laborers in southern California, musicians and patrons at black jazz clubs. He wrote an entire novel, The Subterraneans, about his real-life love affair with a black woman, Alene Lee, in New York City (Mardou Fox, transported to San Francisco for the novel).

What did Kerouac write about race? In On the Road he describes going to Denver in the spring of 1949, thinking of settling down there. He describes walking around Denver thusly:
At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night. I stopped at a little shack where a man sold hot red chili in paper containers; I bought some and ate it, strolling in the dark mysterious streets. I wished I were a Denver Mexican, or even a poor overworked Jap, anything but what I was so drearily, a "white man" disillusioned. All my life I'd had white ambitions; that was why I'd abandoned a good woman like Terry in the San Joaquin Valley I passed the dark porches of Mexican and Negro homes; soft voices were there, occasionally the dusky knee of some mysterious sensual gal; and dark faces of the men behind rose arbors. Little children sat like sages in ancient rocking chairs. A gang of colored women came by, and one of the young ones detached herself from motherlike elders and came to me fast--"Hello Joe!"--and suddenly saw it wasn't Joe, and ran back, blushing. I wished I were Joe. I was only myself, Sal Paradise, sad, strolling in this violet dark, this unbearably sweet night, wishing I could exchange worlds with the happy, true-hearted, ecstatic Negroes of America. The raggedy neighborhoods reminded me of Dean and Marylou, who knew these streets so well from childhood. How I wished I could find them.
Based on this passage and others in On the Road, some have criticized Kerouac for being naive and patronizing about racial issues (we won't take issue with his use of the term, Negro, as it was the term of the times in which Kerouac lived and wrote). And perhaps he was, at least in part. Certainly, he romanticizes the life of blacks and other non-whites in America in his wish to exchange worlds with them. We must remember, though, that Kerouac was French-Canadian and knew from personal experience the plight of the "other." Nevertheless, he wrote and thought from a position of white privilege. But, at least he acknowledged it: "All my life I'd had white ambitions; that was why I'd abandoned a good woman like Terry in the San Joaquin Valley." Terry was Mexican, and Jack admits here that race was a factor in his abandoning her. How could he ever take a Mexican girl home to
Others smarter than me, with more credentials and valid points of view, can further parse this passage from On the Road. I'm going to leave it that, while Kerouac was white and fell into the same privilege traps that Dyson talks about, at least he acknowledged it and, even more importantly, he met the Bradley standard of interacting with people from a different race. Bradley specifies talking about race in that context, and I don't know if that always happened with Kerouac, but the interaction is a start.

When's the last time you talked with someone from a different race about race? For me, it's a damning question to have to answer.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Sunday haiku for Jack Kerouac

I'm no expert on haikus, or Kerouac, or anything -- really! -- but I was thinking about haikus this morning for some reason. Lately I've gotten so I journal in haiku, a practice which has yielded several hundred over the last few months ( about 370 to date).

Now, you might take a peek at my journal and say that what I have been writing are not haikus because, while they are three lines, they do not follow the traditional 5-7-5 syllable format. Jack Kerouac would beg to differ with that observation, saying:
I propose that the "Western Haiku" simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western language. Above all, a Haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture . . . . (source:
For some on-line examples of Kerouac's Western Haikus, click here: Notice how they follow Jack's description above: three lines, simple, no worries about syllabication. Notice also how this form differs from Allen Ginsberg's "American Sentences": one sentence, 17 syllables. See

Here's an example of a haiku I wrote while sitting at The Dugout, my regular bar in Farmington, ME, on April 6:
I see a hobo
but she's really
a queen for the day
Now that haiku may not stand-alone very well, but when I re-read it (remember, this is my journaling technique) it brings back memories of that particular moment -- for me! And that's the point of a journal.

And so, per this post's title, here is a Sunday haiku that I just wrote this very moment:
Friends visit
windchimes tinkle
summer happens anew
What does that have to do with Jack Kerouac? Well, it's a Western Haiku. And besides, everything connects to Kerouac. But you already knew that.

Write a haiku today and don't worry about syllables. Just create an image or a feeling in as few words as possible in three lines. You can do it! You might even like it enough to try it as a journaling technique and end up with hundreds of haikus. Next you'll think about publishing them, and a Pulitzer is not far behind. Think big, right?

Happy Sunday, everybody!