Monday, December 30, 2019

2020 New Year's Kerouac-olutions and a report on 2019's

Last year I made 10 New Year's Kerouac-olutions and below is my report on success or failure in each instance.

1. Drink a bottle of 21-year-old Bushmills single malt Irish whiskey (with help from Crystal)
FAIL. It's almost gone but not quite. Maybe by actual 2020 we'll have finished it. If that happens, I'll update this post.

2. Finish reading the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (already started - very good book!)
SUCCESS. I recommend it.

3. Use the treadmill at least twice a week, preferable three times (30 minutes per)

4. Lose a little bit of weight (10 pounds would be a good start)
SUCCESS. I lost about that much from annual physical to annual physical (November 14 to November 14). What did I do to accomplish it? Less carbs and switching to Michelob Ultra for my main beer intake. Yuk.

5. Successfully complete training with Crisis Text Line (already started) and start volunteering with them 4 hours/week
SUCCESS. I still owe hours to make my commitment of 200 but I'm getting there. I recommend volunteering if you're interested in helping people on-line from home.

6. Read Kerouac (no particular titles or amount)

7. Work back up to being able to do 30 push-ups in a row (what a weakling I've become)
FAIL. I'm about at 15-20.

8. Identify and purchase the best healthcare I can afford
SUCCESS. Went with Maine's Community Health Options at $870/month. They upped their premium for 2020 to $970 so I am going with Harvard Pilgrim instead.

9. Buy Crystal flowers at least 6 times (monthly was a fail in 2017)
SUCCESS. It still counts if she reminds me and it's part of my grocery shopping trip, right?

10. Acquire a camper in time to attend some bluegrass festivals this coming summer
SUCCESS. On June 6 we took possession of a new 2019 Winnebage Travato and made it to two festivals plus did a couple of 2-week trips around the Maine and as far south at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
You can find a link to past years' Kerouac-olutions by clicking here and clicking the link provided. Now, on to the future.

2020 New Year's Kerouac-olutions

In 2020, I hereby resolve to:

1. Drink a bottle of 14-year-old Glenlivet single malt scotch (with help from Crystal)
2. Read Be Here Now by Ram Dass (who just died)
3. Use the treadmill at least twice a week, preferable three times (30 minutes per)
4. Lose some more weight
5. Stay off anti-depressants (which I recently weaned myself from)
6. Buy Crystal flowers at least 6 times
7. Read Kerouac (no particular titles or amounts)
8. Continue blogging in remembrance of the birth and death dates of real-life characters in Kerouac's world and works
9. Fulfill my 200-hour commitment to Crisis Text Line
10. See the California Dales in person

There you have it. Nothing earth-shattering, but all do-able. Let us know yours in a comment.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

What shall we do to celebrate ONE MILLION PAGEVIEWS?

We are 4,127 pageviews away from a total (since we began counting) of one million pageviews for this blog. That's small potatoes compared to mainstream blogs, but we think it's a milestone for this  Kerouac-obsessed blog.

At our current pace, we should hit that milestone in January, which raises the question: What shall we do to celebrate?

I have a couple of ideas but anxiously await your suggestions. Please comment if you have some.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Remembering Al Hinkle

Al Hinkle (R) with Jack Kerouac

We remember Al Hinkle today, who died on this date -- December 26 - last year (2018). He was represented in Jack Kerouac's works as follows: Big Ed Dunkel in On The Road; Slim Buckle in Desolation Angels and Visions of Cody; Ed Buckle in Book of Dreams; and, Al Buckle in Lonesome Traveler. Al was a childhood friend of Kerouac muse Neal Cassady, and was along for the ride on certain legs of the Cassady-Kerouac road trips made famous in On The Road.

Al was one of the last living original Beat Generation characters, and one of the only ones I met/saw in person (David Amram and Michael McClure being the only other two I can think of -- I haven't ever seen Gary Snyder). I interviewed Al in 2012 for The Daily Beat. Click here for my post from last year on the occasion of his death -- there you can find links to my interview and our meeting. A little Googling will reveal several sources of info about this well-known Beat Generation figure where you can read up on his interesting life.

RIP, Mr. Hinkle.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Happy Birthday to Kenneth Rexroth

Poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth was born this date -- December 22 -- in 1905. We have opined about him several times here on The Daily Beat (e.g., click here).

Most notably for Jack Kerouac fans, Rexroth was portrayed as Rheinhold Cacoethes in The Dharma Bums, my favorite Kerouac novel. To wit, a couple of excerpts (Penguin Books, 1976):
We got to his little shack as it grew dark and you could smell woodsmoke and smoke of leaves in the air, and packed everything up neat and went down the street to meet Henry Morley who had the car. Henry Morley was a be­spectacled fellow of great learning but an eccentric himself, more eccentric and outré than Japhy on the campus, a librar­ian, with few friends, but a mountainclimber. His own little one-room cottage in a back lawn of Berkeley was filled with books and pictures of mountainclimbing and scattered all over with rucksacks, climbing boots, skis. I was amazed to hear him talk, he talked exactly like Rheinhold Cacoethes the critic, it turned out they'd been friends long ago and climbed mountains together and I couldn't tell whether Morley had influenced Cacoethes or the other way around. (p. 39)
"My Buddhism is nothing but a mild unhappy interest in some of the pictures they've drawn though I must say some­ times Cacoethes strikes a nutty note of Buddhism in his mountainclimbing poems though I'm not much interested in the belief part of it." (p. 46)

Happy Birthday, Mr. Rexroth.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Remembering Denise Levertov - UPDATED 12-27-19

Poet Denise Levertov died on this date -- December 20 -- in 1997. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels as Alise Nabokov.

We said happy birthday to Levertov back on October 24, and you can click here to read that post (which includes some biographical info and links).

I was going to post a relevant quote from Desolation Angels here, but in thumbing through my copy I just couldn't find a reference to Alise Nabokov. Maybe a sharp-eyed reader can post a comment pointing us to the appropriate chapter and we can edit this post. UPDATE: NOTE DAVE'S COMMENT BELOW.

RIP, Ms. Levertov.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (3rd in a series)

This is the 3rd in a series of posts where I provide a quote from one of Jack Kerouac's books and you figure out which one. Post your answer as a comment. Here's the passage:

So Cody is the Conductor of the Heavenly Train, and we'll all get our tickets pinched by him because we were all good lambs believed in roses and lamps and eyes of the moon-- 
                                     Water from the moon
                                     Comes all too soon

Good luck! Remember our policy on comments (over there on the right).

Friday, December 6, 2019

We've reached 990,000 pageviews on The Daily Beat!

We started tracking pageviews on this Kerouac-obsessed blog back in May 2010, and we have now reached over 990,000 (990,258 to be exact as I type this). As promised in the past, we will do something special when we hit a million pageviews, which should be in the next couple of months. I know it's a small number compared to real blogs and social media sites, but I'll take it.

Kristen Stewart topless in On The Road from way back in 2011 continues to lead the way on the top ten list, but the list has morphed a little bit since last time we posted about it. Below is the list. You can find the post referenced by its date and title by looking around in the archive available over there on the right.

I'm glad to see my post about The Duluoz Legend making the top ten list since I put some research and thought into that particular post (as opposed to the one about Kristen Stewart's tits). I don't know why my The Dharma Bums chapters in one sentence are popular, but two of them made the list. It makes sense that searchers land here because of the full text of On the Road post, and how to pronounce Cannes being popular makes sense.  The post about Kerouac and vocabulary makes some sense, too. The post about fellaheen surprises me that it got so many pageviews, but as with all of these, I never know who or what site shares links to particular posts, and that can make all the difference. Speaking of which, feel free to share links to my posts on your website or social media platform.

If you have ideas about how we might celebrate a million pageviews, let us know in a comment!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Remembering Natalie Jackson

Natalie Jackson
24-year-old Natalie Jackson died on this date -- November 30 -- in 1955. She was Rosie Buchanan in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums and Rosemarie in Desolation AngelsBig Sur, and Book of Dreams.

Jackson, who was a model of Robert LaVigne's, gained Beat notoriety from having an affair with Kerouac's muse, Neal Cassady. She killed herself by slitting her throat and throwing herself off the roof of 1051 Franklin Street (reached from her apartment's roof at 1041) in San Francisco, supposedly over her fear of the consequences from having impersonated Neal's wife, Carolyn, to help Neal get money from the bank for a race track betting scheme. Kerouac describes Jackson's death in The Dharma Bums Chapter 15 thus:
The musicians and I drank up all the wine and talked, till about midnight, and Rosie seemed to be all right now, lying on the couch, talking, even laughing a bit, eating her sand­wiches and drinking some tea I'd brewed her. The musi­cians left and I slept on the kitchen floor in my new sleeping bag. But when Cody came home that night and I was gone she went up on the roof while he was asleep and broke the skylight to get jagged bits of glass to cut her wrists, and was sitting there bleeding at dawn when a neighbor saw her and sent for the cops and when the cops ran out on the roof to help her that was it: she saw the great cops who were going to arrest us all and made a run for the roof edge. The young Irish cop made a flying tackle and just got a hold of her bathrobe but she fell out of it and fell naked to the sidewalk six flights below. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 112)

Note that I reported she cut her throat but Kerouac said wrists. I depended on Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac for the throat detail (University of California Press, 1994, p. 499). And it seems Natalie didn't necessarily throw herself off the roof, but may have accidentally fallen off while backing away from the police officer who attempted to grab her. It's hard to say if she would have survived cutting herself had the police been successful in preventing her fall.

Either way, Natalie died tragically and too young, one of several Beat figures to do so (e.g., Bill Cannastra and David Kammerer).

RIP, Ms. Jackson.

Monday, November 25, 2019

I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (2nd in a series)

Today's Jack Kerouac quote (from one of his books) is:
". . . I've had enough occasion to recognize this truth: women own the earth, women own heaven too--it is tyranny without words--and without swords--"
Your job is to identify the book that is the source of the above quote and post it in a comment.

I await your response. Remember to follow our comment policy (over there on the right), which includes not posting anonymously.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Kerouac-related birthday: Joanne Kyger

On this date -- November 19 -- poet Joanne Kyger was born in 1934. She was an acclaimed poet in her own right who was associated with the Beat movement but never considered herself part of any particular poetry movement, having borrowed from many. She moved to San Francisco in 1957 and became part of the literary scene anchored by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure et al. To my knowledge, Kyger did not appear in any of Kerouac's works. She was once married to Gary Snyder (Japhy in The Dharma Bums).

Read more about her and some of her poems by clicking here.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Ms. Kyger.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Remembering a Kerouac acquaintance: Alan Watts

Spiritual entertainer and philosopher/writer Alan Watts died on this date -- November 16 -- in 1973. He appeared in two Kerouac novels: as Arthur Whane in The Dharma Bums and as Alex Aums in Desolation Angels.

Here's an excerpt about Watts from Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac from when Jack was living with Gary Snyder in his shack in Mill Valley up above Locke McCorkle's house:
He [Kerouac] and Gary went to dinner at Alan Watts', and Jack and Watts got on fine, Jack liking his "sincerity." (1994, University of California Press, p. 518)
Kerouac said the following about Watts (Whane) in The Dharma Bums:
I went out to the bonfire to hear Cacoethes' [Rexroth's] latest witti­cisms. Arthur Whane was sitting on a log, well dressed, necktie and suit, and I went over and asked him "Well what is Bud­dhism? Is it fantastic imagination magic of the lightning flash, is it plays, dreams, not even plays, dreams?" 
"No, to me Buddhism is getting to know as many people as possible." And there he was going around the party real af­fable shaking hands with everybody and chatting, a regular cocktail party. (1976, Penguin Books, p. 195)
Watts has his critics, but I like how he presents Eastern concepts for the Western mind in his writing and also in his speaking (much of which is available on YouTube as well as official sites like I posted about Kerouac and Watts on July 24, 2011 (click here).

Kerouac and Watts had two major -isms in common: Buddhism and alcoholism, the latter likely killing them both although Watts made it to 58, whereas Jack was only 47 when he died.

RIP, Mr. Watts.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Remembering a Kerouac friend: Alan Ansen

Alan Ansen in 1973

Writer Alan Ansen died on this date -- November 12 -- in 2006. He appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Rollo Greb in On The Road; Austin Bromberg in The Subterraneans; Irwin Swenson in Book of Dreams and Visions of Cody; Amadeus Baroque in Doctor Sax; and, Allen Ansen in Book of Sketches. Click HERE for a nice remembrance of Ansen along with one of his poems.

Kerouac talks about Ansen (Rollo Greb) in On The Road as follows:
Everything happened. We found the wild, ecstatic Rollo Greb and spent a night at his house on Long Island. Rollo lives in a nice house with his aunt; when she dies the house is all his. Meanwhile she refuses to comply with any of his wishes and hates his friends. He brought this ragged gang of Dean, Marylou, Ed, and me, and began a roaring party. The woman prowled upstairs; she threatened to call the police. "Oh, shut up, you old bag!" yelled Greb. I wondered how he could live with her like this. He had more books than I've ever seen in all my life--two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls, and such books as the Apocryphal Something-or-Other in ten volumes. He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn't give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life. Dean stood before him with head bowed, repeating over and over again, "Yes . . . Yes . . . Yes." He took me into a corner. "That Rollo Greb is the greatest, most wonderful of all. That's what I was trying to tell you--that's what I want to be. I want to be like him. He's never hung-up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth. Man, he's the end! You see, if you go like him all the time you'll finally get it."
          "Get what?"
"IT! IT! I'll tell you-now no time, we have no time now." Dean rushed back to watch Rollo Greb some more. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 127)

Notice, in particular, that Ansen had "IT," which I write about in my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, on Day 85 (click here for a post about that particular entry).

Understanding what IT is can be a challenge, but it's important and I hope the below excerpt from my book helps:
Dean and Sal are sitting in the back of a travel bureau car at the beginning of their way back East. Dean has been going on about IT. What is IT? I can't explain it with concepts and even if I could you couldn't understand it with your mind. Maybe it's that state where you find yourself and you lose yourself, like Bodhi talks about in the movie, Point Break. Or maybe it's the state Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls "flow" (1991). Or maybe it's the state of no mind, beginner's mind, where you know everything and you know nothing and you know that this moment is everything and nothing at the same time and words don't matter at all. It is understanding without words, without thought, like when you and a friend both experience something and look at each other and words are unnecessary. 
But what's the Kerouaction, you ask? Be fully present every moment. Experience everything like you were going to die tomorrow. See, feel, smell, hear, and taste with reckless abandon whatever is in the moment. Things are fine just like they are, right this minute, right now. And there is no need to label what is. As Alan Watts pointed out, the sound of the rain needs no explanation. (p. 187)

I may be off-base on IT, but then it's an ineffable concept so even if I fully understood it, I would be incapable of defining it adequately.

So be IT.

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Kerouac-related birthday: Stella Sampas Kerouac

Stella and Jack Kerouac

Stella Sampas Kerouac, Jack's third wife, with whom he was living when he died in Florida in 1969, was born this date -- November 11 -- in 1918. She appeared once in Kerouac's works under pseudonym: as Stavroula Savakis in Vanity of Duluoz.

That particular book, dedicated to Stavroula, starts out:
All right, wifey, maybe I'm a big pain in the you-know-what but after I've given you a recitation of the troubles I had to go through to make good in America between 1935 and more or less now, 1967, and although I also know everybody in the world's had his own troubles, you'll understand that my particular form of anguish came from being too sensitive to all the lunkheads I had to deal with just so I could get to be a high school football star, a college student pouring coffee and washing dishes and scrimmaging till dark and reading Homer's Iliad in three days all at the same time, and God help me, a WRITER whose very 'success', far from being a happy triumph as of old, was the sign of doom Himself. (Penguin Books, 1994, p. 9)

True Kerouacians know that Stella was the sister of Sebastian Sampas, Jack's close friend of youth and a significant influence on his intellectual and emotional development. Stella was instrumental in providing care to Jack's mother, who lived with them, and some have suggested that was the main reason he married her. Since it's Stella's birthday, we won't get into the Kerouac estate controversy that swirled around her and her family.

Suffice to say that she played a critically important role in the Kerouac story, and we wish her a Happy Birthday in Heaven.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Kerouac-related birthday: Robert Frank

Photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank was born this date -- November 9 -- in 1924. We said a bit about Frank on the occasion of his death recently (click here), so we won't dwell on details except to say that he and Jack Kerouac were close; despite that, Frank only appeared once in Kerouac's works -- as Robert Frank, not under pseudonym, in the short piece "On the Road to Florida" which appeared in Evergreen Review in January 1970 and later in Good Blonde & Others (1993).

I hope you'll check out my other post about Frank -- it includes a link to the acclaimed film, Pull My Daisy, narrated by Kerouac and bringing to film the third act of his play, Beat Generation. You can also see Frank's silent 1959 short film of Kerouac, Ginsberg et al. in NYC's East Village by clicking here. The woman that Kerouac is having the intense conversation with around the 2:10 mark is Mary Frank, Robert's wife.

Happy First Birthday in heaven, Mr. Frank. Give Jack our regards.

Friday, November 8, 2019

I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (1st in a series)

Today's Jack Kerouac quote (from one of his books) is:
The second-hand kisses the minute-hand sixty times an hour 24 hours a day and still we swallow in hope of life.
Your job is to identify the book that is the source of the above quote and post it in a comment.

I await your response. Remember to follow our comment policy (over there on the right), which includes not posting anonymously.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Kerouac-related birthday: Bill Cannastra

Bill Cannastra

Recently, on October 12, we forgot to note that it was the date when William "Bill" Cannastra died in 1950 (see a 2019 post about his death HERE). Today -- November 6 -- we celebrate his birthday in 1921.

Cannastra was apparently a "wild man" figure* in the early Beat days, and he appeared in Jack Kerouac's works as follows: Finistra in Visions of Cody; Cannastra Finistra in Book of Dreams; and (probably) Charley Krasner in The Subterraneans. We have mused previously (click here) that without Cannastra in the Beat story, we may not have had the same Kerouac we love and we may not have had Jan Kerouac at all (Jack married Jan's mother, Joan Haverty, a few weeks after Cannastra's death and she had been the latter's girlfriend).

Of further import, Kerouac supposedly got the paper from Cannastra on which he (Jack) typed On The Road. You can read more about that and other things Cannastra by clicking here (it's a link to a piece by Brian Hassett).

Happy Birthday, Mr. Cannastra.

*Cannastra's antics are well-documented in Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. There you can read about Bill appearing at a party dressed as a palm tree wearing only a jockstrap and enormous headdress, or the time he and Jack ran around the block naked.

P.S. This post is 98% a rehash of our 2019 post on Cannastra's birthday, but a little self-plagiarism isn't the worst thing going on in the world right now.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A Sunday haiku

Lady coming to
Look at refrigerator
I sure hope it sells

P.S. Just for the hell of it, I consciously went 5-7-5 despite Jack Kerouac routinely avoiding that constraint.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Jack Kerouac audio books on YouTube

My great friend Richard Marsh sent me a link to an audio version of Jack Kerouac's And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, and it gave me the idea for this post. Below are several links to audio versions of Kerouac's works.

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks (co-written with William S. Burroughs)

On The Road

Big Sur

The Dharma Bums (Part 1 of 2 and I cannot locate Part 2)

Lonesome Traveler excerpt ("Alone on a Mountaintop")

If you know of other Kerouac books on YouTube, let me know in a comment. I know there's other audio out there (The Northport Tapes, e.g., and Jack on The Steve Allen Show), but I am interested in readings of his written work, especially full books or at least chapters.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Kerouac Halloween

I was thinking about connections between Jack Kerouac and Halloween (beyond the obvious "jack-o-lantern") -- since today is October 31 -- and so I looked for something he has said on the subject. I didn't see anything in the two editions of his letters, and I thumbed through several novels to no avail. I have On The Road as a digital document  -- allowing for easy searching -- and I did find that Jack mentions Halloween three times as follows.

1. In Part One Chapter 9, Sal (Kerouac) is describing how Denver D. Doll (real-life Justin W. Brierly) has a habit of giving greetings that don't match the time of day or season:
Everybody knew him. "Happy New Year," he called, and sometimes "Merry Christmas." He said this all the time. At Christmas he said Happy Halloween. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 54)

2. In Part One Chapter 13, the well-known section about Terry "the Mexican girl," Sal is describing the "wild streets of Fresno Mextown":
Strange Chinese hung out of windows, digging the Sunday night streets; groups of Mex chicks swaggered around in slacks; mambo blasted from jukeboxes; the lights were festooned around like Halloween. (Ibid., p. 93)

3. In Part One Chapter 14, Sal, after leaving Terry, is "going home in October. Everybody goes home in October" (Ibid., p. 103) and says:
The bus roared through Indiana cornfields that night; the moon illuminated the ghostly gathered husks; it was almost Halloween. (Ibid., p. 103)

So there you have it: all the references to Halloween from On The Road in one spot. You're welcome.

Happy Kerouac Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Remembering Edie Parker, influential Beat Generation figure

Edie Parker (Edith Frances Parker Kerouac) died on this date -- October 29 -- in 1993. Edie was Jack Kerouac's first wife. She appeared in several of Jack's works: as Marie in The Subterraneans; as Elly in Visions of Cody; as Edna in Book of Dreams; as Edna (Johnnie) Palmer in Vanity of Duluoz; and as Judie Smith in The Town and the City.

Edie's memoir, You'll Be Okay: My Life With Jack Kerouac, is an excellent recounting of the early days of the Beat Generation (we curated it here). Her various apartments with Joan Vollmer near Columbia University were where Kerouac et al. frequently hung out and she was an active participant in their intellectual/literary forays and discussions. Thus, Edie was an influential figure in the genesis of the Beat Generation.

RIP to one of the many women of the Beat Generation whose contributions are under-valued.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Kerouac birthday: Caroline "Nin" Kerouac, Jack's sister

Caroline with her brother, Jack

Caroline "Nin" Kerouac Blake was born on this date -- October 25 -- in 1918. That made her Jack Kerouac's older sister. She appeared in several of Jack's works: Nin Duluoz in Doctor Sax and Visions of Gerard; Nin in Book of DreamsMaggie CassidyVisions of CodyVanity of Duluoz; Ruth Martin in The Town and the City; and, Carolyn Blake in Book of Sketches. The excellent Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend lists her twice for Maggie Cassidy (as Nin and Jeannette Bissonette). I asked Kerouac scholar and keeper of the key, Dave Moore, about that little wrinkle and he said (shared with permission):
Yes, it's weird. Both names are used in MC. In the first part, Jack wrote about his sister Nin, but later, when he's writing about the surprise birthday party, Nin is described as arranging it, but the hosts are described as Jeannette and Jimmy Bisssonette. (Nin married Charles Morisette in 1937.)
When I think of Nin, I always think of Jack's descriptions in The Dharma Bums (my favorite Kerouac novel) of staying with her and her husband and child at their house in Big Easonburg Woods near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Which, of course, reminds me of the excellent book by John J. Dorfner, Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount (that you can purchase by contacting the author at Click here for a piece that John wrote about Rocky Mount for the Raleigh News & Observer.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Nin.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A Kerouac-related birthday: Denise Levertov

Poet Denise Levertov was born this date -- October 24 -- in 1923. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels as Alise Nabokov.

You can read more about Levertov by clicking here (you can read some of her poems there as well). She had quite a career, editing poetry for The Nation and teaching at Brandeis, MIT, and Tufts. Levertov was associated with the Black Mountain poets and was influenced by William Carlos Williams (who influenced the Beats). And, of course, she associated with Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg.

We've said Happy Birthday to Levertov in the past (click here), mentioning that she was an influence on my poet friend, Charlie James, who turned me on to Levertov's husband, Mitchell Goodman, via his book, The Movement Toward a New America. Charlie's excellent and award-winning book of poetry, Life Lines, is available here.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Levertov (who would be 96 today).

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Another Six Gallery poet's birthday: Philip Lamantia

Philip Lamantia in 1981
Recently, we have pointed out the birthday of two poets who read at the famous 1955 Six Gallery poetry event in San Francisco (Michael McClure and Philip Whalen, October 20). Today, we wish a happy birthday to another poet who read at that event, Philip Lamantia.

Lamantia was born this date -- October 23 -- in 1927, meaning he would be 92 were he still alive today. He appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums as Francis DaPavia and in Desolation Angels as David D'Angeli.

At the Six Gallery event, Lamantia read the poems of a friend, John Hoffman, who had recently died (allegedly from peyote, to which Lamantia introduced Kerouac), but Lamantia was an accomplished poet himself.

In 1957 letters to Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen, Kerouac spoke with respect of Lamantia's visions and how they helped show the "general religiousness of 'beat'" (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969, Penguin, 1999, p. 67):
Our Second Relig., whatever it will be, will be rooted in Gothic--greatest example (I name no names) is that amazing Lamantia who was a cool hepcat and then the Angel knocked him off the chair . . . . (Ibid., 68)
That same year, in another letter to Ginsberg, Kerouac said:
Lamantia was here and had mad days with him walking 5 miles down Broadway yelling--about God and ecstasy, he rushed into confession and rushed out, he flew off to Frisco, back soon, he got in big publicity interviews with me and was full of sacred eloquence. (Ibid., 107)
 Jack mentions Lamantia more in subsequent letters, but I will leave you to search that out.

According to Gerald Nicosia (Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, University of California Press, 1994):
For Lamantia, as for Kerouac, the "beat" attitude was the only means of spiritual survival after the atom-bomb apocalypse. (p. 366)
Suffice to say that Lamantia was an influential person in Kerouac's life.

In honor of his birthday, you can read more about Lamantia and some of his poems by clicking here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Jack Kerouac: Safe in heaven dead and free of that slaving meat wheel

My first visit to Jack's grave (December 1995, I believe)

I've used that title before, but it's a good one and I am recycling it this year on the 50th(!) anniversary of Jack Kerouac's death. The line comes from the 211th Chorus of his seminal book of poetry, Mexico City Blues. Jack died this date -- October 21 -- in 1969 at age 47. He would be 97 had his predilection for drinking not robbed the world of his gifts at too early an age.

It strikes me -- perhaps for the first time but my memory is so sketchy of late that I never know -- that inner circle Kerouac fans (I mean the truly initiated, not those who've read On The Road once and think he wore a beret and played bongo drums) call him by his first name. I am not aware, although it may be the case, that this happens with other authors. Do Hemingway diehards speak of "Ernest"? King fans speak of "Stephen"? Plath devotees speak of "Sylvia"? Dickinson enthusiasts speak of "Emily"?

I think the familiarity evidenced by our calling him Jack stems from how well we have gotten to know him through his writing, which, of course, in the main was about his real life. He wrote about real characters and events, changing the names and places to avoid libel lawsuits. In literature, as we have said many times, this is called roman à clef. Jack wrote about such real people and places with brilliant honesty, and allowed us into his thoughts about them with the ultimate in transparency; thus, we can know Jack like few other authors.

On this sobering date, take a moment and read some Kerouac. Not On The Road, but something less pop culture, like The Subterraneans or Visions of Gerard or Dr. Sax. And do it aloud.

If you don't have any of those, click here for a convenient compilation of opening lines from a number of Jack's novels. Remember to read them aloud.

RIP, Jack. Thankfully, about you the old saw "Johnny we hardly knew ye" is not apropros.

Below are links to what I've said on or near this date in the past:



10/20/10 (not his death date but I posted an RIP anyway)



10/21/12 (a particularly good one, if I do say so myself)







Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Kerouac-related birthday: Michael McClure UPDATED and UPDATED

On this date -- October 20 -- poet Michael McClure was born in 1932. McClure, of course, was one of the poets who read at the famous Six Gallery reading in San Francisco in 1955. He appeared in several Jack Kerouac novels: Ike O'Shay in The Dharma Bums; McLear in Big Sur; and, Patrick McLear in Desolation Angels.

You can read more about McClure as well as some of his poetry by clicking here.

McClure is alive as of this posting and he is one of the few Kerouac compatriots I've had the privilege of seeing in person (details and pictures here).

Happy Birthday, Mr. McClure!

UPDATE #1: Today is also poet Arthur Rimbaud's birthday (1854). He was a big influence on Kerouac et al.

UPDATE #2: Jerry Cimino of the Beat Museum reminded me that October 20 is also poet Philip Whalen's birthday (1923). He likewise read at the Six Gallery event!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Remembering Lenore Kandel

On this date -- October 18 -- in 2009, poet Lenore Kandel died. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur as Romana Swartz. Kandel was born in New York City but moved to San Francisco in 1960. There she fell in with Gary Snyder et al. and became Lew Welch's girlfriend for a time. She was portrayed in Big Sur the movie by Stana Katic of  the TV series, Castle.

One of Kandel's more famous books of poetry, The Love Book, was confiscated from stores, including City Lights, for obscenity. You can read about that and more by clicking here. You can read some of her poetry by clicking here.

An interview with Kandel appears in Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee (curated here).

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Happy Birthday to Bea Franco (Kerouac's "Mexican girl" in On The Road)

Bea with son Alberto
Photo/Beatrice Kozera estate

On this date -- October 13 -- in 1920, Bea Franco was born. She was represented as Terry in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic novel, On The Road. An excerpt about Terry, titled "The Mexican Girl," was published as a stand-alone short story in Paris Review in 1955; you can read it here. Bea also appeared in Book of Dreams as Bea.

Also of note, author Tim Z. Hernandez found Bea alive in 2010 after a multi-year search and as a result wrote the award-winning novel about her life, Mañana Means Heaven, which we reviewed here at The Daily Beat (click here). We also curated the book twice (click here and here), and featured a guest blog by the author (click here). You can read an interview with Tim here.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Bea.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Kerouac "two-fer" date

(L-R) Jack Kerouac, Caroline (Nin) Kerouac, Gabrielle Kerouac, Leo Kerouac, Bill Cannastra

Today's date in Kerouac history is a "two-fer." Jack's mom, Gabrielle (Mémère) died on this date -- October 12 -- in 1973, and early Beat scene member Bill Cannastra died on this date in 1950.

Mémère was an omnipresent and potent force in Jack's life. He lived with her off and on throughout his life, and thus she often was the anchor for his footloose wanderings. That is, he always had a home to which he could return. Jack made a deathbed promise to his father that he'd look after Mémère, and in his own way he did that right up until his death in 1969. She was a strong influence on his Catholicism. Gabrielle Kerouac appeared in a number of Kerouac's works: Angie in Vanity of Duluoz and Desolation Angels; Ma in Book of Dreams; Angy in Maggie Cassidy; Angy Duluoz in Doctor Sax; Ange Duluoz in Visions of Gerard; Marguerite Martin in The Town and the City; and Sal's aunt in On The Road.

Bill Cannastra died young and in a tragic manner, which you can read about here. More about Bill's life is accessible here. He appeared in Kerouac's works as follows: Finistra in Visions of Cody; Cannastra Finistra in Book of Dreams; and (probably) Charley Krasner in The Subterraneans.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2019

The annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival kicked off last night in Jack's Massachusetts hometown. You can see the schedule for this year by clicking here.

I won't be attending. We have been on the road a lot this summer and fall in our new RV. We just got back from Acadia National Park and are heading out for Pennsylvania mid-week, so LCK just wasn't in the travel cards this year. There is only so much money and so much time.

In case you didn't already know about it, there is one Kerouac event that isn't on the schedule. It's hosted by Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia and takes place tomorrow. Below is a post from Gerry from the Kerouac Facebook group page with the details.
For all those who will be in Lowell later this week, I am putting on a legacy event for Kerouac, in honor of the 50th anniversary of his death, at Edson Hall of St. Anne's Church, 10 Kirk Street in downtown Lowell, Saturday October 12, 3:30-6PM. I will read from and discuss (briefly) my new book KEROUAC: THE LAST QUARTER CENTURY, and then I will present several people, mostly poets and artists, performing and speaking about Kerouac's importance in their life. Among the more notable who have already committed to speak, perform, and/or show their work, are poet Louise Landes Levi, musician Willie "Loco" Alexander, and painter Jonathan Collins.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Happy Birthday to Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal in 1983
Photo by Ulf Andersen

On this date -- October 3 -- in 1925, writer and bon vivant Gore Vidal was born. You can read a brief bio of Vidal at Friends of Kerouac.

Vidal appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans as Arial Lavalina and in Old Angel Midnight as Gore Bedavalled.

When one thinks of Kerouac and Vidal, one cannot help but ruminate on their supposed one-night liaison in New York's Chelsea Hotel in the summer of 1953. According to Gerald Nicosia (Memory Babe, 1994),
In the San Remo one night Bill (William S. Burroughs, who had a crush on Vidal and once planned with Kerouac to lure him to Guatemala, p. 391) finally got his chance to meet Gore Vidal, but before he could get to first base, Jack  himself started flirting with Vidal. Despite Alene's pleas for Jack to come home with her, he sent her home alone, promising to follow in a couple of hours. After kissing Vidal's hand, and showering the most abject flattery on his writing, Jack talked him into going to bed. But at Vidal's room in the Chelsea Hotel, Jack proved impotent. (p. 444)
This conflicts with Vidal's own words about the event: "I fucked him" (Ellis Amburn, Subterranean Kerouac, 1998. p. 40). Amburn goes into detail about the tryst on pages 193-194. Amburn claims that Jack bragged about blowing Vidal, yet Kerouac called Vidal a "pretentious little fag" in a November 21, 1953 letter to editor Malcolm Cowley (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956).

Kerouac often said one thing and did another where homosexuality was concerned, but there is little argument that something sexual happened between the two on that night in the Chelsea.

Regarding Vidal's writing, Jack was a critic. In a May 18, 1952 letter to Allen Ginsberg, Jack wrote:
. . . and trying to read Gore Vidal's "Judgment of Paris" which is so uglily transparent in its method, the protagonist-hero who is unqueer but all camp (with his bloody tattoo on a thigh) and craptalk, the only thing good, as Bill says, are the satirical queer scenes, especially Lord Ayres or whatever his name . . . and they expect us to be like Vidal, great God. (Regressing to sophomore imitations of Henry James.) (Ibid, p. 357)
I've never read any of Gore's novels, but doing so is on my list of things to do at some point. I'm not sure which one to try. Any suggestions?

Happy Birthday, Mr. Gore. I came to appreciate your intellect and wit from the 2015 documentary film, Best of Enemies (re: your debates with William F. Buckley, Jr. during the 1968 Presidential election). Recommended viewing, by the way.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Happy Birthday to Edie Parker

Edie Parker was born on this date -- September 20 -- in 1922. Edie was Jack Kerouac's first wife. She appeared in several of Jack's works:  as Marie in The Subterraneans; as Elly in Visions of Cody; as Edna in Book of Dreams; as Edna (Johnnie) Palmer in Vanity of Duluoz; and as Judie Smith in The Town and the City.

Edie's memoir, You'll Be Okay, is an excellent recounting of the early days of the Beat Generation figures. Her various apartments with Joan Vollmer near Columbia were where Kerouac et al. frequently hung out.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Remembering Jack Kerouac's sister

Caroline "Nin" Kerouac Blake died on this date -- September 19 -- at age 45 in 1964. She appeared in several of Jack's works: Nin Duluoz in Doctor Sax and Visions of Gerard; Nin in Book of Dreams, Maggie Cassidy, Visions of CodyVanity of Duluoz; Ruth Martin in The Town and the City; and, Carolyn Blake in Book of Sketches. The excellent Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend lists her twice for Maggie Cassidy (as Nin and Jeannette Bissonette). I need to research that little wrinkle and I'll get back to you on it.

P.S. This was posted from the road on my smartphone so forgive the brevity and any errors.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

On the road and mobile blogging

We'll be "on the road" tomorrow and for a few days. Some Beat birthdays/death dates are coming up in September. I will try to blog about them via my phone, but no promises as mobile blogging is tough on my little Android.

Here they are in case I miss a post:

September 19     Caroline "Nin" Kerouac died in 1964
September 20     Edie Parker was born in 1922
September 20     Carolyn Cassady died in 2013

Those are the ones coming up in September that I know about. Drop me a line if you can think of another Beat-related birthday or death date

Happy Birthday to William Carlos Williams

Dr. William Carlos Williams

Poet William Carlos Williams was born this date -- September 17 -- in 1883. He was a significant influence on the Beat generation writers, especially Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg discusses a 1957 visit he and Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky paid to Williams here. Ginsberg says Kerouac romanced up Williams' wife, Flossie, in the kitchen. According to Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, when the visitors asked him to impart some wisdom, the 73-year-old Williams pointed out the window and smiled, saying, "'There's a lot of bastards out there'" (Memory Babe, 1994, p. 541).

You can read a little bit about Williams on the Friends of Kerouac site here. And, of course, you can Google him for more. Williams wrote the introduction to Ginsberg's most famous poem, "Howl."

Williams was Doctor Musial in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. In Memory Babe, Gerald Nicosia says Kerouac's writing style was influenced by Williams' "attempt to write with the 'measured pauses' of speech" (1994, p. 453).

Before presenting one of Williams' more well-known poems, I want to point out that he was not just an acclaimed poet, but also a practicing physician in his hometown of Rutherford, N.J.

I love the following poem by Williams. This version is from Poetry Foundation, a comprehensive poetry site where you can read a bio of Williams here.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Williams!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

You never know . . . .

In college, I had a professor who was also the wrestling coach. Wrestling was a big deal at Lock Haven State College (now University), and Coach Ken Cox was well-known for screaming "Shooooot!" from the edge of the mat when he wanted his wrestler to "shoot" in and perform a takedown on his opponent.

Another thing he was well-known for, at least by those of us who had him for classes, was him saying -- frequently -- "Y--y-ou never know."

And you don't. You may think you do, but you are just fooling yourself by holding onto certainty when, in fact, there isn't any. The only thing for certain is we are going to die. Some day, humans -- if there are any -- won't even be able to say the sun will come up in the morning.

To wit, last night we were out and about in our usual Friday night rounds in Hallowell, Maine, taking in some live music, and an acquaintance we hadn't seen in a while came in the bar. In our conversation he mentioned how much he appreciates my Kerouac ramblings on The Daily Beat. I never suspected him to be a regular reader or even a Kerouac fan, but as Coach Cox said, "You never know."

It's gratifying to know that when I go to the trouble of spinning some Kerouac or Kerouac-related yarn here in my blog that at least one person takes the time to read it. Pageviews don't mean someone has read a post, only that they clicked to the page.

Don, you made my night so here's to you for sharing unsolicited and positive feedback in a world too full of people who only point out the worst of things. If you read this and don't already have my Kerouac book, send me an e-mail ( with your mailing address and I'll send you a signed copy to show my appreciation.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

His name was Robert Frank.

I just learned from our daily newspaper that famed photographer Robert Frank died on Monday in Inverness, Nova Scotia. He was 94.

Frank is perhaps best known for The Americans, his 1959 book of black-and-white photographs taken on cross-country road trips in the mid-1950s. After those trips, Frank met Jack Kerouac, who wrote an introduction for the U.S. version of The Americans:
That crazy feeling in America, when the sun is hot and music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral, that’s what Robert Frank has captured in tremendous photographs taken as he traveled on the road around practically forty-eight states in an old used car (on Guggenheim Fellowship) and with agility, mystery, genius, sadness, and strange secrecy of a shadow photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film.

Kerouacians may best know Frank for being the co-director, with Alfred Leslie, of the avant-garde Beat film, Pull My Daisy, which was adapted from Kerouac's play, Beat Generation. Kerouac narrated the short film -- you can watch it in its entirety on YouTube here

Frank and Kerouac were friends. Frank helped him house-hunt in Northport and then helped Jack move Jack's mom and their two cats, Tyke and Timmy, to Northport from Orlando. An essay about that trip, "On the Road to Florida," was published in Evergreen Review in January 1970 (after Jack's death). Frank appears in that essay under his own name. In a letter to Ginsberg in July 1958, Kerouac said that Frank thought Gregory Corso was the greatest poet. Jack met his lover Dody Müller at Frank's NYC Bowery loft in October 1958.

Read Frank's NY Times obit here.

RIP, Mr. Frank.

P.S. This post's title is a movie reference. Can you figure it out?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Happy Anniversary to Crystal

Regular readers of The Daily Beat see references to Crystal, so I thought it would be appropriate to give her a shout-out on our anniversary. We met 14 years ago today (online via Cupid). She's put up with my Kerouac obsession for that long, one of the many things about her that make her a "keeper."

Happy Anniversary, sweetie! YAUTMIATW! 143!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Food seriousness: A random quote from Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums

Herewith I present you with a random quote from my favorite Jack Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums:
. . . I wished the whole world was dead serious about food instead of silly rockets and machines and explosives using everybody's food money to blow their heads off anyway. (Penguin, 1976, p. 217)

Perhaps this passage was not chosen totally at random. As I was thumbing through, it spoke to me, reminding me of Bill Maher's "New Rules" segment on Friday night's show and his lament that our current eating habits in this country, which lead to obesity, are a major cause of our health problems. See

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Poetry review: Word Against the Machine by Jane 'SpokenWord' Grenier and Albey 'onBass' Balgochian

Every once in a while something comes along out of the blue that restores one's faith in humanity, and that's what I want to say about this book of poetry. Sent to me unsolicited for review by co-author Jane 'SpokenWord' Grenier, it reminded me that there are others out there who are beyond disturbed at the state of our world, from the corruption in politics to the devastation of our environment to the corporate takeover and ruination of everything holy.

I get the sense -- from Jane's nickname and from the available audio recordings of several of these poems accompanied by co-author Albey 'onBass' Balgochian  on bass -- that this poetry is meant to be experienced auditorily, such as at a slam poetry or spoken word event. Nevertheless, it stands on its own as solid poetry whether read aloud or in silence.

The themes of these poems are founded in resistance to the evils facing us in this country today, from the current occupant of the White House ("I woke up to an orange man president with a wig hat on" in "Darkness of Knight, p. 7) to the corporatization of the food supply ("those who control the food, control the world" in "Those who Control the World, p. 37) to the destruction of the environment ("I'm her to tell you that it's you that I fear, all that smell you smear on daily from your toes up to your hair" in "Anthrax and Bombs," p. 19) to the folly of religion ("as long as it's your version of god then you're happy" in "Bang your Dead," p. 28) to racial injustice ("where is your outrage?" in "Reparations," p. 36).

Co-author Balgochian lends his mysterious line drawings to the book. The last three poems are strong back-and-forth collaborations with poets Michael 'Warrior' Bonds, Art Collins, and John Sinclair. In one of them you'll see a reference to "the King Alfred Plan." I won't say more about that, but you may want to Google it.

There are connections to Jack Kerouac here. Grenier uses neologisms such as "politricks" and "deNOTcracy" in "I Write" to make her points. Jack would dig that. And her poem "I am a poet" was chosen for publication in "We Are Beat," the National Beat Poetry Foundation Anthology 2019. There's a Beat flavor to this poetry, as well as a Beat attitude toward social conventions. Finally, it's poetry, and Jack was a poet of considerable note as we've pointed out repeatedly in this blog.

Overall, this book is a wake-up call, a call to action from a devout member of "the resistance" who understands that "silence is death" (in "Winter has come to America," p. 12). As such, I can only say huzzah and encourage readers to buy the book (available at, where you can also buy the audio versions).

Remember, "you're never too old to mend your soul" (in "JIMI," p. 34).

Friday, September 6, 2019

September 6: A macabre date in the Kerouac saga

Natalie Jackson (L) and Joan Vollmer (R)

Two woman associated with Jack Kerouac died young in tragic ways and they share today's date, one because it's her birthday and the other because it's the day she died.

Natalie Jackson was born on this date -- September 6 -- in 1931. She was Rosie Buchanan in The Dharma Bums and Rosemarie in Desolation Angels, Big Sur, and Book of Dreams. She died from suicide at age 24 in 1955.

Joan Vollmer died on this date in 1951 at the age of 28 when she was killed by her common-law husband, William S. Burroughs, who was allegedly trying to shoot a water glass off her head in William Tell style using a pistol. Vollmer was Jane Lee in On The Road; Jane in The Subterraneans; June Evans in Book of Dreams, Desolation Angels, and Vanity of Duluoz; June Hubbard in Visions of Cody; Joan in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; Mary Dennison in The Town and the City; and, "my old lady" in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

It's no wonder Vollmer shows up prominently in Kerouac's works, given that she was a central figure in the early days of the Beats. The New York City apartment she shared with Edie Parker (who later married Kerouac) became the unofficial hangout for Beat figures between 1943-1944. Vollmer was an active participant in the famous marathon discussions that took place in apartment No. 62 at 421 W. 118th Street. According to Bill Morgan in The Beat Generation in New York, "Kerouac often said that the happiest days of his life were spent" there (p. 11).

Jackson, who was a model of Robert LaVigne's, gained Beat notoriety from having an affair with Kerouac muse Neal Cassady. She killed herself by slitting her throat and throwing herself off the roof of 1051 Franklin Street (reached from her apartment's roof at 1041) in San Francisco, supposedly over her fear of the consequences from having impersonated Neal's wife, Carolyn, to help him get money from the bank for a race track betting scheme. Kerouac describes Jackson's death in The Dharma Bums Chapter 15.

In summary, what links Natalie Jackson and Joan Vollmer is that they were Beat figures who died tragically and young and they share this important date, for one a beginning and for the other an ending. As the Oracle says in The Matrix, "Everything that has a beginning . . . has an end."

Here's to remembering Natalie's beginning and Joan's ending on this macabre date in the Kerouac saga.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Happy 62nd Anniversary to On The Road!

My well-loved copy of On The Road (the tabs are
from when I taught a yearly Kerouac class at the University of Maine at Farmington from 2013-2017)
which I curated here

Jack Kerouac's On The Road was published 62 years ago today on September 5, 1957. It garnered a rave review from the New York Times (the regular reviewer didn't like the book but was on vacation -- a stroke of luck for Jack) -- click here to read the review -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

I don't know what can be said about the importance of this book -- and therefore this date in history -- that hasn't already been said better by smarter folks than yours truly. Suffice to say that on today's date in 1957, Jack Kerouac started on the path of fame we all know so well, with its ups and downs, strikes and gutters (Jack would appreciate that movie reference).

It's not my favorite book of Jack's -- that honor goes to The Dharma Bums -- but it's certainly his most well-known work and, as I found when teaching it at the college level, it stands the test of time fairly well. Many students were into it (and some were not, but you could say that about pretty much any book you require a group of young people to read).

In honor of today's significance, it would be appropriate to read some of On The Road.* Just grab your dog-eared copy and open to a random section and read. If that's not possible, below is the last paragraph (which Jack read aloud in 1959 on the Steve Allen TV show mashed up with a section from Visions of Cody -- here's a link so you can read along).
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

With that, we wish On The Road a happy anniversary. Yair!

*Or read the whole book, which is do-able in several hours.