Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Group photo from the 1982 On the Road Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder WITH UPDATED KEY 1-3-17

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).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Did Jack Kerouac say Merry Christmas?

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.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jack Kerouac and Search Engine Optimization

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.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jack Kerouac and the Tao of fried eggs


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
   with everyone---
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: 
      1. Necessity
      2, Teaching
      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).

I wish.

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.

You. Happy Sunday to you.