Monday, January 30, 2017

Bill Cannastra: Death by Defenestration?

Bill Cannastra

One never knows how or when the muse will strike. The trigger for this week's post is a connection I made between the last name of a Beat Generation figure and a new vocabulary word I just learned.

Every work day -- as long as we catch up with each other -- the maintenance person in my building and I share a new vocabulary word (new to the person offering up the word). After we reach a list of 20 new words, I build a vocabulary test (matching format) and we both take it. It's not completely fair since I am the test maker, but suffice to say that we are up to test #15 tomorrow (that's 300 words!) and he has scored 100% on the previous 14 tests, whereas I have 13 perfect scores and one score of 13/15.

Here's the list for tomorrow's test to give you an idea of the level of words we are dealing with:


If you can define even half of those words without study, you are way smarter vocabulary-wise than either of us. But we enjoy the challenge.

Part way down the list you see "defenestration," which means "the action of throwing someone or something out of a window." Two things struck me about that word. First, its definition reminded me of how Bill Cannastra died on October 12, 1950, hanging out a moving NYC subway car window as a gag and getting struck -- and pulled out of the window -- by a pillar. Some reports say he was decapitated.

Second, given that definition (which isn't quite what happened - Bill wasn't thrown out the window), it seems weirdly synchronistic that the word sounds similar to Bill's last name.

So could one sort of say that Bill Cannastra died of defenestration? Probably not, technically, but it has a certain consonant appeal to my ear.

They say Bill was the wild man of the bunch, eating glass at cocktail parties and running around the Village naked (with Kerouac, who modestly kept on his boxers) (Source: click here.). Of course, our regular readers will know that Jack married Cannastra's girlfriend, Joan Haverty, on November 17, a mere several weeks after Cannastra's death. Who knows what would have happened if Bill hadn't been killed and Jack had never married Joan? For one thing, there wouldn't be a Jan Kerouac as we knew her, and that could have had interesting ramifications for Jack's psyche as well as his comings and goings (i.e., not having to worry about Joan finding him for child support payments).

Wild Bill Cannastra, whose death by defenestration may have affected the trajectory of Jack Kerouac's life in ways we can only speculate about.

And there you have the weird Kerouacian blog post of the week, courtesy of a brain that always finds a way to make something about Jack. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Has Trump been reading Kerouac?

I made a connection today while re-reading On the Road for the umpteenth time (this time, again, in preparation for my Kerouac class tomorrow: reading assignment = PART ONE Chapters 1-5). I was at the beginning of Chapter 4 and these words resonated (Kerouac is describing the hitchhikers on the flatbed truck driven by two young blond farmers from Minnesota -- "the greatest ride in my life"):
I looked at the company. There were two young farmer boys from North Dakota in red baseball caps, which is the standard North Dakota farmer-boy hat, and they were headed for the harvests;.... (Penguin, 1976, p. 24)
Of course, given current events, the image of a red baseball hat representing heartland America was already burned into my brain by media coverage of Trump rallies. And a question arose in my Kerouac-obsessed brain: When the Trump campaign was looking for the perfect hat on which to emblazon its motto, "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN," did they pick a baseball hat for its ubiquitousness among the disenfranchised middle class and the color red for their anger?

Or, had somebody been reading On the Road?

We  know it wasn't the President because he's never read a book, let alone a Kerouac novel. But it could have been a staffer tasked with coming up with something to capture the zeitgeist of the campaign in an American wardrobe staple.

We'll probably never know if there was a Trump-Kerouac connection here, but I wish I could un-know the possibility.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Life-size Kerouac sculpture and a lesson in news accuracy

Blake Neville works on his father's sculpture of Jack Kerouac at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA this year.

I often forget to search the Internet for Kerouac news, but this morning I remembered and a Dec. 29 article in Sky-Hi News out of Granby, CO, popped up (click here).

It's about Grand County sculptor Howard Neville and his work on creating a life-size sculpture of Jack Kerouac. As you can see above, Howard's son, Blake, is helping, and the project is in collaboration with writer Dawn Matthews, who is writing a book titled, An Ode to Jack Kerouac and Highway 40.

The article is an exemplar of how inaccurate a news story about Kerouac can be. Neal Cassady's name is spelled wrong (Cassidy), a common but annoying mistake.* In addition, the article's definition of the Beat Generation lacks sufficient detail, especially for the reader with no prior knowledge.

But here is a real brain-teaser: Ginsberg and Burroughs are rightly listed as members of the Beat Generation along with Kerouac, but then the article lists Herbert Huncke and stops there. I find that an interesting fourth choice and can think of at least one competing possibility.

Here's your homework: If you had to list four Beat Generation members, who would you pick in addition to Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs? Please leave your answer as a comment.

At least the article's author spelled Ginsberg with an e instead of a u (a mistake I've made in the past). Plus it's an interesting enough topic and at least keeps Kerouac's name in the news.

If you're traveling through Colorado and find yourself near Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, stop by and see how Howard is coming along with his sculpture of Jack.

* I won't quibble about the article's author getting then and than mixed up or the several other typos in the piece -- I was pedantically priggish enough re: Cassady's name.

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Kerouac book acquisitions (thanks to Christmas)

Thanks to Crystal and Christmas, I have these new acquisitions. As if I need any more books -- my Kerouac/Beat specific shelf is full!

Top Row: Girls Who Wore Black; Jack Kerouac: Book of Haikus; Jack Kerouac: The Lost Paintings
Bottom Row: The Outsider 

I just finished The Outsider and I highly recommend it. It's not Kerouac, but I do read other stuff. I read the introductory chapter to Girls Who Wore Black and found it too academic for my mood right now, so I will get back to that. The other two are not read-straight-through kinds of books (at least for me), so I will peruse them piecemeal.

Thanks, Crystal!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Memories of the 1982 Jack Kerouac Conference by Gerald Nicosia — Part 2 of 2

EDITORIAL FOREWORD: This is a guest post by my friend, Gerry Nicosia, author of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. This is Part 2 of 2. Part 1 was posted yesterday.

Memories of the On the Road 25-year anniversary conference at the Naropa Institute,
Boulder, Colorado, July 23-August 1, 1982

Part 2 of 2

by Gerald Nicosia

          Because I had no place designated to sleep the first night, Ginsberg let me sleep in the attic of his large frame house on Mapleton.  I was not feeling well, and had a hard time getting to sleep; and as I lay awake, I listened to Allen, Peter, and Gregory talking below.  It was 1:30 in the morning, and they'd been going hard all day, but they were still full of energy, planning out the next day's activities.  I thought, Here I am, 32 years old, and I'm falling apart, and these "old guys" (in their fifties) are running circles around me! It was a moment of genuine insight for me, a realization that a big part of why the Beat Generation had happened was the enormous, almost super-energy energy of these particular individuals.

Gerald Nicosia with Allen Ginsberg and Tim Leary, On the Road conference, Boulder, July 1982. Photographer unknown.

            The next morning, making breakfast in Allen's kitchen, I burned the toast.  Ginsberg couldn't pass up the opportunity to turn the experience into a Buddhist lecture on dharma poetics.  "While you're waiting for your toast to cook," he said, "you are in a sort of dreamy state of pure existence in space.  This is nirmanakaya.  Suddenly you smell smoke and yell, 'The toast is burning!'  Now you've entered awareness of the self, consciousness of place and time in space.  This is dharmakaya.   Finally you decide, 'Oh, it's still edible'you scrape off the burnt part and go ahead and eat it.  You are able to make an intelligent comment on your situation.  This is sambhogakaya."
            It was, Allen said, analogous to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit I had been brought up with as a Catholic.  That lesson has stayed with me.  Previously, I had sat in on some of his classes at Naropa; and I have to say, Ginsberg was a natural teacher.

Picnic at "Camp Kerouac."  On the ground, from left to right: Diane DiPrima; Lawrence Ferlinghetti; unknown man; Allen Ginsberg; Nanda Pivano, the Italian translator of Kerouac and Ginsberg; unknown woman.  Photo by Gerald Nicosia.

            It was, as Abbie Hoffman dubbed it, "Camp Kerouac," and everywhere I went I ran into people I knew.   Allen sent me over to the Chautauqua Lodge to see if I could get a room there, and outside I chatted up a tourist from North Carolina and another guy from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  All of a sudden, Herbert Huncke emerged from the lodge; and as he passed us, he said in his most aristocratic tone, "Good day, gentlemen!"  I laughed to myself, thinking these wholesome tourists had no idea that they'd just encountered the most famous junkie in America.
            The lodge was old and rickety, and in what would have been my room was a clawfoot bathtub.  A morning shower is an essential part of my day, so I decided I couldn't stay there; and later I phoned Allen, who arranged for me to stay with a well-to-do Buddhist couple who had a big, modern house.  That was one of the worst mistakes I made, because it later turned out almost all the key Beats stayed at the Chautauqua Lodge, and on the rickety porch took place some of the most stimulating conversations of the conference.
            One of my last memories of the Chautauqua Lodge was the sight of Herbert Huncke running down the hall to one of the communal bathrooms in his flashy bikini briefs.
            Later, in downtown Boulder, I ran across Arthur and Kit Knight, who published a Beat journal called the unspeakable visions of the individual.  Arthur asked "where the orgies were?"  He would keep asking that for most of the conference.
            Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the resident Tibetan guru, probably knew where the orgies were, but wasn't telling.  The first night, we were required to listen to his keynote address.  Two Vajra guards carried him on to the stage at the University of Colorado (Naropa didn't yet have its own campus) and set him on a small chair, which he kept falling off of.  His disciples said he had been injured in an auto accident and had lost control of certain muscles in his body.  Others, not so enamored of him, claimed he was merely drunk.  He asked us all to look up to him "with curiosity and desire for compassion like my little dog when I feed him."  His disciples began cheering, in what I thought was a Hitleresque fashion, "We believe in the great Eastern sun!" Tim Leary made a hand sign, joining his thumb and forefingerwhich looked like he was digging the old lama.  "The answer to humanity's nuclear problems," declared Trungpa, "is milk."
            The Vajra guards, who surrounded the stage while Trungpa spoke, looked pathetic to me, like bald, potbellied wimps, and I wondered if they were actually eunuchs.  I mentioned this to my friend, the poet Janet Cannon, who replied, "Don't try anything funnythey're all packing .44's!"
            In the following days, as I wandered from event to event, I kept making new friends.  One of the most interesting was Jay Landesman.  From a wealthy Jewish family in St. Louis, he looked and dressed like a high-society WASP, and had the tall, slender, graceful body and dégagé straw hat to go with it.  Dabbling in publishing, night clubs, and theater promotion, he always seemed to be at the right place at the right time, and knew almost everyone who mattered in American artistic circles for several decades.  "Kerouac said I was 'nothing but a playboy,'" Landesman told me, "and he was right.  It's the best thing to be!"  He told me that I looked too serious, and I probably was.  Ever the scholar, I was trying to make literary sense of the conference, to glean a bushelful of esoteric truths about Kerouac.  I soon found that the conference was like a train or a Kesey bus that you just had to get on board, and then let it take you where it would.

Ken Kesey autographing Gerald Nicosia's copy of  Sometimes a Great Notion with his left hand. Kesey is holding a butterfly in his right hand, which he is about to release on stage at the beginning of the reading. Photographer unknown.

          Speaking of Kesey, I remember him in a glaring white suit and sunglasses, with a hippie kerchief over his bald head, and various other striking costumes.  He had driven to Boulder from Eugene in a convertible Cadillac with his buddy Ken Babbs, and Jan Kerouac in the backseat.  One of the most remarkable readings I heardthen or everwas Kesey reading the long piece about the death of John Lennon, called "Now We Know How Many Holes It Takes to Fill the Albert Hall."  He came onstage dressed like an Oregon woodsman, with vests and sweaters, and as he read, he would take off first one piece of clothing, then another.  Most people thought he was feeling the heat of the spotlights, but I intuited right away what he was doing.  He was pacing himself through a long performance by giving himself stop-and-start intervals.  It made me realize something about himhe was not at ease with being a public performer, but he was a good performer, because he worked assiduously at it, the way a logger might work methodically at bringing down a big tree.  Kesey's innate shyness, his enormous work ethicit was all on view there as he read.
            My friend Richard, the singer-songwriter known as R.B. Morris, had hitchhiked all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee, to join me at the conference, and one of the great amusements for me was watching the ongoing duel between him and another of my new friends, the actor and would-be poet Paul Gleason.  Gleason was a tall, good-looking man who had gone from being a professional athlete (football and baseball) to being a highly successful character actor.  Along the way, he had made friends with an interesting assortment of people, which included Kris Kristofferson and Jack Kerouac.  Richard loved Tom Waits and called him a genius; Gleason claimed Kristerofferson was the only genius in country music.  Their arguments went on for hours in the basement bar of the Boulderado.  "Tom Waits just parodies himself," Gleason said.  Richard countered, "Kristerofferson hasn't written a decent  album since Silver-Tongued Devil." 
            But what really amazed me was hearing stories of Gleason and Kerouac going to minor league baseball games in St. Petersburg.  At one point, Kerouac told him, "I prefer athletics, because if you run the 40 in 4.5, they can't say you ran it in 9 seconds.  But these damn literary critics can damn well say anything they feel like about a book, and there's no way of disproving it."
            Gleason clearly loved Kerouac, and even identified with him, but that was not true of all the conference participants.  Abbie Hoffman told me there was a long period when he out-and-out hated Kerouac.  "Kerouac didn't think much of you either," I told him.  My remark incensed him further.
            "That damn 'Deluge' article!" he ranted.  "Kerouac had no right to criticize me.  That criticism hurt our cause [of ending the war]."
            He might have been right, but I couldn't escape the feeling that he talked and acted like a little Napoleonsomebody who felt they were so morally right they were above criticism of any kind. 
            "Ginsberg was the center of the Beat Generation anyway," Abbie said. "Unlike Kerouac, Ginsberg was an activist.  He marched and joined our protests."
            "There's a need for visionaries too," I said.
            "I don't want to hear that shit," he said, waving me off.  Ginsberg, passing by just then, tenderly put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I needed a ride or anything else.  Then he turned to Abbie and said, "You've got to stop clinging to anger ... you have to go beyond winning and losing."
            Abbie walked away from both of us.
The biographers' panel at the On the Road conference, Boulder, Monday July 26, 1982. From left to right: Joy Walsh (publisher and editor of Moody Street Irregulars); Dennis McNally; Ann Charters; Gerald Nicosia; Paul Jarvis (son of Charles Jarvis who wrote Visions of Kerouac).  Photographer unknown.

         For every knock on Jack, there was a corresponding moment of triumph.  During one of my panels, the biography panel, a guy in the audience stood up and demanded, "Was Jack sexually frustrated?"  Edie, also in the audience, immediately stood up, and swaggered with her broad shoulders like a truck driver.
            "Not with me he wasn't!" she shouted, to a big round of applause.
            I got an equally big round of applause when I finished my presentation.  As I came down from the stage, Larry Fagin said, "I'm going to press a record from this panel and a few of the others ... we may even give you a chair here."
            Several people shook my hand.  One guy bowed to me at the door to the washroom.
            That all seems like a million miles away now, when my name and the title of my Kerouac biography have been removed from almost every Penguin book.
            Nevertheless, there were signs of the darkness to come too.  Jan Kerouac was having a really hard time there.  Her first novel Baby Driver had come out the year before, and everywhere she went, flashbulbs were popping and people were calling her the "Kerouac princess."  I didn't understood her new coldness toward meespecially since I'd helped her get that book published.  For the first time, I saw her enter rooms without a friendly "hello," or leave them without a friendly "goodbye."  It would take me a while before I understood that Jan was starting to see everyone as wanting a piece of her, because somehow she also provided a piece of Jack.  The Beat Generation was transitioning from a gathering of friends, a transmission of the heart, to big business, and Jan was one of the first to see itmaybe because she was one of the first to be affected by its mercenary grabs.
            This was not a free conference by any meansnot an old-timey Six Gallery-style reading.  It required a $150 ticket to get in, and one of the things I did was to score as many free tickets for my friends as I could.
            After I spoke on the religion panel, the Dharma Regent Ozel Tendzin came up to me and thanked me for my presentation.  He would end his life under a cloud too, having neglected to tell his sexual partners, who were also his disciples, that he had AIDS.

Carl Solomon, John Clellon Holmes, and Allen Ginsberg conferring at the On the Road conference, Boulder, July 1982.  Photo by Gerald Nicosia.

           I remember at the end of the conference, John Clellon Holmes worriedly asking Ginsberg if he'd found any time for fun for himself there. 
            "A cute boy came all the way from England," Allen replied, "and we're making it!"
            Janet would later tell me, "Oh don't worry.  Allen dropped him, just like he drops all the others, after he's made his conquest."
            (In fairness, Janet Cannon was not one of Allen's biggest fans.)

Press conference at the On the Road conference, Boulder, July 1982.  From left to right: Allen Ginsberg; Anne Waldman; William Burroughs; Ken Kesey.  Photo by Gerald Nicosia.

            Maybe William Burroughs had the last word on the conference, when he gave his oracle.
            "Abandon ship!" Burroughs cried in his somewhat trembling voice.  "It's every man for


---------------------End of Part 2---------------------

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Memories of the 1982 Jack Kerouac Conference by Gerald Nicosia — Part 1 of 2

EDITORIAL FOREWORD: This is a guest post by my friend, Gerry Nicosia, author of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. This is Part 1 of 2, with Part 2 to follow tomorrow. 

Memories of the On the Road 25-year anniversary conference at the Naropa Institute,
Boulder, Colorado, July 23-August 1, 1982

Part 1 of 2

by Gerald Nicosia

Group photo of the speakers at the 1982 On the Road 25-year-anniversary Kerouac conference. Photo by Lance Gurwell, courtesy of Gerald Nicosia. See 12/27/16 Daily Beat post for key. Click here to buy an original from the photographer.

Recently I was in Tacoma, Washington, visiting with my friend Joe Lee, an avid Kerouac

collector, and he handed me a photograph I’d been waiting almost 35 years to see: the group

photo taken of all the speakers at the On the Road 25-year anniversary conference at the

Naropa Institute in Boulder in 1982. I remember very well when it was taken. It was the closing

session on the last day of the conference, and we were all gathered in Fairview High School,

since Allen Ginsberg wanted us each to give an “oracle”—a prophecy of what the writings of

Kerouac would lead to in another 50 or 100 years.*

          I said, “What Kerouac teaches is that we’re all brothers and sisters, that you can travel

anywhere on this planet and you will be taken care of. The knowledge that we’re all brothers

and sisters is eventually going to spread all over this planet; it will bring an end to wars and

people hurting one another; and Jack Kerouac will be a very large part of that.”

          I was amazed to see even Allen applauding as I came off the stage. He came up to me

and kissed me on the lips—it was the only way he ever kissed people—and said goodbye and

thanked me for coming. A number of other people congratulated me on this “parting

shot”—and then we were all encouraged to gather in an adjoining room for the group photo.

Jan Kerouac reading from her mother Joan Haverty's memoir, "Nobody's Wife" (still unpublished), at the Women's panel, On the Road conference, Boulder, July 1982.  Photo by Gerald Nicosia.

          Jan Kerouac was at the oracle—I don’t remember what she prophesied—but she didn’t

stick around for the group photo. She was already running around with the “Buddhist plumber”

who would become her steady boyfriend for the next couple of years. I think Kesey and Babbs

may have left early too, on their way home to Oregon. But a surprising number of people

stayed for the photo—several different photographers snapped the group—and more than one

photographer promised to send me a copy. But until Joe Lee handed me that photo by Lance

Gurwell in the Spar restaurant down on the old Tacoma waterfront in October 2016, I had

never seen a single copy of it.

          I should add that, in a way, there was nothing unusual about this. That conference was

the first taste a lot of us had of fame—of people snapping our photographs everywhere we

went. Something like 2000 people showed up over the course of ten days and nights, and there

were media not just from the U.S. but from numerous other countries, even Japan. The first

time I was ever interviewed for National Public Radio (by Connie Goldman) was at that

conference. I never saw most of the photos or even the articles that resulted. But over the

years, the value of that one particular photo, to me, kept increasing steadily.

          Although I’m writing this piece to share some of my memories of that fantastic

conference, there is something that needs to be said here at the start. And that is, that over

the course of the past 25 years or so, there has been a massive rewriting of Beat and Kerouac

history—and a lot of that rewriting has originated with one man, John Sampas, who was not at

the 1982 conference, but who now claims a large share of the credit for the revival in

recognition of Jack Kerouac’s work. The fact is, that the 1982 Naropa conference marked a

watershed in the recognition of Jack Kerouac as an important 20th-century American writer. I

was on four key panels at that conference, including the biography panel and the Catholicism

and Buddhism panel. But John Sampas has had a vested interest in making me disappear from

the annals of Kerouac scholarship, and such is the power and pervasiveness of his influence that

in many respects he has been successful. Fortunately, he never got to Lance Gurwell’s


          Brian Hassett has written a remarkably detailed book about the 1982 On the Road

conference, The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac, which he kindly gave me a copy of when I

was in Lowell this past October (just before going to Tacoma). The truth is, I have enough

memories of that conference to fill my own book. Obviously I have neither the time nor the

space here to write that book, so it will have to suffice for me to give a sort of impressionistic

pastiche of what I saw and heard there.

          At the risk of seeming too self-obsessed, I feel the need to talk a little about my

circumstances before coming to the conference, because the situation I was in at the time had

a lot to do with how I perceived these people and events.

          For two years, 1979-1981, I had shared the rental of a house in San Francisco’s Sunset

District with my mother Sylvia Nicosia; but in 1981, she had decided to return to Chicago, and I

was left to fend for myself in San Francisco. This was at a time when the rents and other costs

of living in the Bay Area were just beginning their 30-year skyrocket, and I was having my own

career problems. First City Lights cancelled my contract for Memory Babe, and then Harper &

Row cancelled my contract for Memory Babe. Finally, thanks to the good will of Seymour Krim,

I got a third contract for the book at Grove Press. But things did not go smoothly there either.

A number of people threatened to sue to stop publication of the book, and then the putative

copyeditor Hettie Jones undertook to rewrite the book, and it took me almost a year to get her

rewriting undone before I could allow the book to go to press.

          During that period, I had to give up my new apartment in San Francisco, and I ended up

in my mom’s new rented house in LaGrange Park, Illinois. Whether any of these mishaps had

anything to do with my health, I’ll never know; but the summer of 1982, when I was invited by

Allen Ginsberg to take part in the coming great Naropa Kerouac conference, I was having

terrible heart fibrillations—the kind I never had before or, thankfully, since.

Gerald Nicosia and Edie Parker Kerouac, On the Road conference, Boulder, July 1982.  Photographer unknown.

          I also lacked money to get from Chicago to Boulder. But that summer, Edie Parker,

Jack's first wife, and I had become pretty good friends—I'd even visited her a couple of times in

Grosse Pointe, which was only half a day's drive from Chicago and even easier to reach by

train. My car was currently being borrowed by my friend, the poet Janet Cannon, to haul her

belongings from Taos, New Mexico, to her new home in the Bay Area. But Edie had a car,

wanted to go to the Naropa conference, and needed someone to help her drive there. We

made a deal—she would drive from Detroit to Chicago, pick me up, and I would drive the rest of

the way to Boulder.

          Among the accomplishments I'm most proud of—though it's not on any of my resumes—

is having traveled "on the road" halfway across the country in a big Motown gas guzzler (she

wouldn't drive any other kind) with Jack Kerouac's ex-wife! I met all of Jack Kerouac's wives,

and a whole lot of his girlfriends, but the only one who was unequivocally "hell for leather"—in

the words of Lucien Carr—was Edie Parker. Edie was not the brightest intellectually—by a long

shot—but she was certainly the most spontaneous and the most fun. She would do anything

anyone suggested if it tickled her fancy or seemed like a surefire kick. She also had a sailor's

mouth and would say exactly what was on her mind—which was something a workingclass guy

like myself could not help but admire and feel comfortable with. When I read The Sea Is My

Brother, the character of Polly was a dead ringer for her.

          If you wonder what we talked about for over a thousand miles, that's easy—her love of

Jack Kerouac and her current love life. She claimed that Jack was the only "soul mate"

she had ever had—though she had several later husbands, who married her for her money, she

claimed, and then all left her when they discovered her money had been carefully tied up in trust

funds by her family. She currently had a lover called Muggsy, more than thirty years her junior, and

she worried endlessly about whether she were betraying her love for Jack by getting involved

with him. Muggsy was an aspiring poet, and Edie was helping him out, paying to publish his

work, and so forth. They fought a lot, and she obsessed over their arguments. I tried to be

supportive, though the samples of his work she showed me were not inspiring. He had not

wanted her to make this trip to Naropa, and had warned her that she would be "crucified in a

war of egos" there. For all I know, Muggsy thought I was some kind of romantic rival trying to

beat him out.

          If you're getting a sense that Edie was a bit ditzy, or more than a bit, you're getting

a just impression. But ditzy in a fun way. She was full of life—the way I suppose Jack Kerouac was

when she met him—and there was never a dull moment with her. I'd trade her company for

almost anyone I know today—except maybe my kids, but that's just fatherly prejudice.

          We stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the night and had dinner at a fancy steakhouse.

She picked up the tab. I remember she drank several beers—didn't really get drunk, just a little

gayer and more vivacious (no wonder Jack loved her!). Because of my ongoing health

problems, I only drank one beer, and she called me a "cheap date."

          Then, thinking about saving money, I asked if we could share a motel room. Her eyes lit

up for a moment, and she said that if we shared the same room, we'd have sex. It wasn't a

come-on; it wasn't a threat, or even a warning. It was just matter-of-fact. If I took one big

lesson away from the Beats, it was how matter-of-factly they treated the sex act. It was just

something you did when the urge struck you, or if it was convenient, or if you had a need. She

asked me, "Is that what you want?"

          I quickly told her, "No," and she told me she'd pay for a separate room for me. Besides

all those health problems, I was still very much, psychologically, the "good Catholic boy from

the Midwest," and jumping into bed with a woman 27 years older than myself, no matter how

vivacious, was not yet in my sexual vocabulary.

          When we got to Boulder, Edie stayed at a nice hotel—it might have been the

Boulderado. One of her close friends was Jeanne Milner, the heir of a hotel chain; and wherever

Edie traveled, Milner found her a luxurious place to crash. In any case, we did have a big

celebratory supper at the Boulderado. The Boulderado was a gold-rush hotel, the height of

luxury in its day, with lovely dark-wood paneling and an enormous stained-glass ceiling. As

usual, Edie was paying, and we both had steaks, and this time she added a bottle of Korbel's

champagne. It was a hilarious dinner, as I remember, because there was some kind of radio

gizmo in our booth, and its red light would start blinking at random moments. Edie

immediately declared it was Jack speaking to her. "He's yelling at me for drinking too much,"

she laughed. And then, strangely, whenever she mentioned Muggsy's name, the light seemed

to start blinking again. "He's warning me not to get hurt by Muggsy," she said, this time more


----------------To be continued tomorrow----------------

I realize that my memory of where and when the photo was taken differs from that of Brian Hassettalthough it's possible there was more than one shooting of group photos.  I have great respect for Brian's detailed records of the conference, especially as he put all his notes together in a coherent and very enlightening narrative in his book The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac.  Brian says the photo was taken "Sat night, July 25th, 1982, in the press room just off the Glenn Miller Ballroom."  He may be right about the place where it was taken; but July 25th, 1982, was a Sunday, not a Saturday. There are further problems with his scenario, which is why I have kept my version herewhich was written before I read Brian's version.  I also freely admit there are doubtless problems with my scenariosince we're all dealing with the fallible memories of aging Beatsters looking back on an event that happened more than 34 years ago!  Maybe if Lance Gurwell still has his notes to this particular shooting, we'll finally know for sure.  Two things trouble me about Brian's version.  Regina Weinreich was  not invited to the conferenceshe was still in an early stage of working on her book in 1982.  She was not yet known to the Beat community.  Regina asked me to introduce her to the audience when I was on stage at the biographers' panel, which took place on Monday July 26and I did introduce her, and told the audience that she was working on a book about Jack.  From that point on, she was known to many people and included in more of the activities. I don't remember whether they actually gave her a chance to speak.  But I don't know why she would have been included in the group photo on July 25, while she was still largely unknown as someone working on Kerouac. Also, there are notable people missing from this group photo.  Edie Parker is not in it, and I don't know why she would be missing if the photo were taken on July 25.  Eventually Muggsy joined her at the conference, and they left a day or two early.  Kesey and Babbs are not in the picture, and I'm almost certain they arrived by Sunday night July 25and Jan Kerouac came with them, so they should all be in the picture if it were taken then.  I don't remember Kesey and Babbs at the oracle, so it may be they left early too, which would explain their not being in the photo if it were taken on Sunday, August 1, as I propose.  In any case, I'm open to hearing more argument on this subject.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Kerouac-olutions for 2017

Jack Kerouac (L) & Rick Dale (R) posing in front of the Samuel S. Cox statue in Tompkins Square Park, NYC

Welcome to 2017. No new year is complete without a look at how I did with my Kerouac-olutions for 2016:

1. Post on The Daily Beat at least weekly (a "streak") - ACCOMPLISHED
2. Rethink the mission and vision of this blog and act on it - FAIL
3. Read Patti Smith's M Train (a gift from my BFF Richard Marsh) - ACCOMPLISHED
4. Hold at least one Beat Poetry Contest - FAIL
5. Make a decision about a retirement date and act on it - ACCOMPLISHED
6. Stain the deck - FAIL
7. Re-roof the shed and deal with its foundation issues - FAIL
8. Buy Crystal flowers at least once-a-month (another "streak") - EPIC FAIL
9. Surprise people I care about with written letters for no particular reason beyond love - FAIL
10. See the glass half full more often - FAIL

30% accomplishment rate. Not too good. Let's see if we can do better in 2017.

To wit, here are my 2017 Kerouac-olutions:

1. Go somewhere with Crystal we've never been 
2. Buy Crystal flowers at least once-a-month (a streak)
3. Attend to home repairs (shed, deck, driveway, chimney flashing)
4. Start acting like a writer (i.e., write)
5. Read something by Kerouac I haven't yet read (e.g., Some of the Dharma, The Unknown Kerouac)
6. Keep The Daily Beat streak going for another year
7. Work out at least twice a week (three if possible)
8. Take a road trip to Pennsylvania and visit Charlie on one leg of the trip (which would satisfy #1)
9. Visit the California Dales
10. Sing and play guitar more

I know most of those sound more like goals than aspirational, life-changing resolutions, but so be it. There are some repeats from 2016 on there. Repetition is how we learn. And there are many other things to do in 2017, such as hang out with my friend, Richard, visit Lowell (Jack's grave) at least once, meditate regularly, and so on.

With the resolutions herewith communicated, what's left is to wish you the Hap-Hap-Happiest New Year ever.

Keep the Kerouac spirit alive in 2017!


And dig the ride....

For the diehards, below are links to past Kerouac-olutions. I fear I made none in 2015.
2011 Kerouac-olutions
2012 Kerouac-olutions
2013 Kerouac-olutions
2014 Kerouac-olutions
2016 Kerouac-olutions