Thursday, December 28, 2023

Kerouac-olutions for 2024 and an update on 2023's

Here is last year's Kerouac-olution:

2023 New Year's Kerouac-olutions

I am maintaining my last year's resolution to practice kindness this year. We'll see how I do. I wish I could quantify what this resolution looks like in action, but I am bereft of ideas. Maybe you have some? One thing I want to do to buttress my kindness behavior is to practice breathing meditation more often.

UPDATE: I think I consciously practiced kindness more often this past year. For one example, I stayed away from politics on social media to a large extent. There is no point in making negative comments about "them," since "they" thrive on such and are too stupid and ignorant to carry on a rational discussion anyway. That was an example of the kind of statements I am trying to eschew.

As to practicing breathing meditation, I increased the number of times per day when I spend a minute or so consciously breathing and watching my thoughts. I did not practice dedicated sitting meditation more than a handful of times.

2024 New Year's Kerouac-olutions

I will maintain my last year's resolution to practice kindness this year. It will be especially hard given the state of the world, and thus especially important. I will make an effort to practice breathing meditation more often. Even though I do it sporadically through the day, I would benefit from practicing sitting meditation for 15-30 minutes daily. That's a reasonable goal because I'm retired.

Wish me luck. And good luck to you and yours in this upside-down world.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Remembering Al Hinkle


Al Hinkle (R) with Jack Kerouac

Today we remember Al Hinkle, who died on this date -- December 26 - in 2018 (bonus trivia: wrestler Gorgeous George died on this same date in 1963). Hinkle 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 cross-country 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 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.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Happy heavenly 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)

Rexroth and Kerouac were not each other's fans, but we will leave that drama behind in honor of Rexroth's birthday. Click HERE for a brief bio and some of Rexroth's poetry. 

Happy birthday in heaven, Mr. Rexroth.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Iron Claw


The Von Erichs in real life: Kerry, Fritz, Kevin, Chris (front), Mike, and David (L-R).

In days past I have written about pro wrestling on this blog. There is a Kerouac connection. To wit, click HERE.

Today I wanted to point out -- to all you pro wrestling fans out there -- that tomorrow The Iron Claw hits theaters. (UPDATE: It['s on our local theater today!) It is the story of the famous wrestling family, the Von Erichs, who were very, very famous and popular in the 70s and 80s out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Kerry went on to solo fame in the WWE.  The father, Fritz, had been a wrestler and promoter and found his stride with his sons entering the business. Only Kevin remains alive as I type this.

The family is said to have been cursed, as five of six brothers died young. The firstborn son, Jack Jr., was electrocuted at the age of six in 1959 in a household accident. In 1984, David Von Erich (25 years old) died in Japan from an unconfirmed cause, although it is widely believed he died from a drug overdose (Kevin says it was a heart attack). Mike (23 years old), Chris (21 years old), and Kerry (33 years old) committed suicide in 1987, 1991, and 1993 respectively.

That's some bad juju going on in one family. I'm glad they made a movie about the Von Erichs and I hope it's good. It's by a known director and studio (Sean Durkin and A24), and stars well-known actors Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White (Lip from Shameless plays Kerry -- I can't really see it because Kerry had a bodybuilder's physique), so it holds promise. Given my lifelong love of pro wrestling, if it's playing nearby I may sneak out and see it tomorrow. (UPDATE: I'm going today at 4 PM. Got ticket through Fandango,)

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Remembering Denise Levertov


Poet Denise Levertov died on this date -- December 20 -- in 1997. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels as Alise Nabokov. We wished her a happy birthday in heaven and posted some additional information about her HERE.

RIP, Ms. Levertov.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Birthday thoughts

Being as it's my birthday, I thought I would post something here to mark the occasion. First of all, I am blessed to have wonderful people in my life, and you know who you are. I received more than my share of gifts today as well as many warm wishes on Facebook and via text message. Second, I am grateful to have lived this long, albeit I have my age-related problems, not the least of which is Parkinson's Disease. The latter is progressing but slowly so I am thankful for that.

This particular age hit me kind of hard as it is on the downward slope between 65 toward 70. If that doesn't make sense, let me say it like this: I am closer to 70 than to 65 now (making me 68).

I don't feel 68. Mentally, I feel the same as I did in my young adulthood, just with a few more scars and maybe a little more wisdom. And I outlived Jack Kerouac by a good number of years (and counting). There's your connection to Kerouac.

December is a sparse month for Kerouac-related birth and death dates, and there hasn't been one yet (that I track at least). The first one to hit will be Denise Levertov on the 20th. There are only 3 the whole month.

Which leaves me to wonder whether I have anything else to say about Kerouac this month. Maybe I will mount a Christmas-related posting later in the month.

My shopping is nowhere near done, and my birthday always kicks me into full shopping mode. I use Amazon too much, but the convenience outweighs any anti-corporate animosity I feel. Tension between competing values is a fact of life.

Which brings me to the state of the world. Ever the pessimist, I intentionally started this post with things I am grateful for. But I can't leave two things unsaid. We as a country are in big trouble domestically and in foreign affairs. I see no good outcome of our 2024 election nor in the Middle East snafu. I won't opine more on those two things except to say character matters in our leaders and that we ought to be able -- as thinking creatures -- to find ways to get along without killing each other,

Finally, there are many families and friends grieving over lost loved ones -- either from war or the stupid gun crazy culture in this country (e,g,, Lewiston, Maine with a body count of 18 in basically one incident). I'm desperately sad over such things and wish there were something I could do to change the situation.

Which brings me to a book I am reading (a gift from my friend, Jim Perkins). It is by famous physicist (he worked on the Manhattan Project and won a Nobel prize) Richard Feynman's autobiography, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman": Adventures of a Curious Character (1985, W.W. Norton & Co.) Two passages struck me in particular as related to my despair over the state of the world.

And [John] Von Neumann gave me an interesting idea: that you don't have to be responsible for the world that you're in. So I have developed a very powerful sense of social irresponsibility as a result of Von Newmann's advice. It's made me a very happy man ever since. (p. 154)

You  have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing. (p. 199)

Now spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti would disagree with Dr. Feynman, saying that we are indeed responsible for war and such because we are in conflict within ourselves and it manifests outwardly.

So I am left to ponder what it means to be socially irresponsible and at the same time maintaining some level of empathy for others in this wonderfully fucked up world we find ourselves living in.

Birthdays cause me to think about such things. I hope yours do as well.

Until next time . . . . Rick

Thursday, November 30, 2023

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.

Jack wrote about Natalie in Some of the Dharma:
(About this time Natalie Jackson committed suicide----I tried to tell her everything was empty, including her paranoiac idea that the cops were after her & all of us---she said O YOU DON'T KNOW! then the next day she was found dazed on the roof and when a cop tried to catch her she jumped, off Neal's tenement roof) (Penguin Books, 1999, p. 346)
Regardless of specifics, Natalie died tragically and too young, one of several Beat figures to do so (e.g., Bill Cannastra and David Kammerer).

RIP, Ms. Jackson.

P.S. If you or someone you know has thoughts of killing themselves, you can text 741741 or call 988 to talk free to someone who can help.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to poet, 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 married Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums) in Kyoto, Japan on February 23, 1960.

Kerouac mentioned Kyger in several published letters (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969). In a December 6, 1959 letter to Gary Snyder, Kerouac wrote:
We missed [Philip] Whalen by a day. At that thumping mad 1713 Buchanan house where Joanne K. clobbered Jay Blaise with a half-gallon jug of port which decided us not to wait for Thanksgiving turkey there but take off. However I must say in very honesty with absolutely no bullshit that Joanne is the most sensitive woman I've met since Joan Adams (Bill Burroughs' dead wife). But Joanne needs a good man to put her in her place, in the sack. (Ibid, p. 259)
I'm only reporting what Kerouac wrote, not endorsing misogyny.

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

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Ms. Kyger.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Happy 93rd Birthday to Kerouac pal, David Amram


Trading books with David in Lowell in 2011

Musician and Jack Kerouac close friend David Amram turns 93 years old today, November 17. David (I call him that having met him and talked with him a number of times at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! and having traded books with him there -- click HERE) wrote a book titled Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac (curated HERE) and was an intimate acquaintance of Jack Kerouac's, yet I don't think he appears in any of Kerouac's works, under pseudonym or otherwise. He did appear in and write the music for the Beat film narrated by Kerouac, Pull My Daisy, which you can watch HERE and read David's thoughts about it in an Evergreen Review piece HERE.

There is an official David Amram website with a ton of information -- click HERE

If you know David or know about him, you know that he is an amazing force of nature, consummate musician, and all-around nice guy. It's good that such a fine human being has enjoyed such a long life and I wish him many more years.

In July 1968, Kerouac wrote the following on a postcard to David, who had sent him phonograph records and a musical setting of a section of Lonesome Traveler;

Dear Dave--

You must have a secretary to be able to turn out so much work and at the same time mail records to people--I just sent you this little note to thank you for the beautiful records--I have no piccolo but (picolo) I had the nextdoor Lutheran minister play me the Lonesome Traveler piece and of course I found it beautiful--I have just signed your Peters contract [permission to quote the text] and it will be in to you soon, a week or so--That's the main thing--I wish you success with this land of ours oratorio--I'll buy a picolo next year and play the other records too--So, vell, kidsel, see you in N.Y. sometime next year . . . .Excuse the postcard but I have so much mail and not time to buy envelopes ugh, fame is a drag to anybody who wants new work done . . . . as you know already . . . stick to guns . . . I'll do same

                                                                                                                    Jack (Kerouac)

(Source: Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 516.)

Happy 93rd, David!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Remembering Alan Watts


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

I've read and listened to Watts a lot, and he continues to impress me with his ability to make Eastern spirituality understandable. We are lucky that we have his books, videos (see YouTube), the official website (, and even phone apps where we can access his unique ability to entertain and teach at the same time. Click HERE for one of my favorite Watts short lectures animated by the creators of South Park

I posted about Kerouac and Watts on July 24, 2011 (click HERE).

RIP, Mr. Watts.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Remembering Alan Ansen (Rollo Greb in On The Road)


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. HERE is a nice remembrance of Ansen along with a sample of his poetry.

Jack (Sal) 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.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Stella Sampas Kerouac


Jack and Stella

Jack Kerouac's third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, 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. (1994, Penguin Books, 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. Jack was dismissive of her input into his business affairs in a September 27, 1968 letter to agent Sterling Lord, saying, "I think she oughta mind her own business and wash her dishes" (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 520). He did share with her his inner thoughts, though, as evidenced by this excerpt from an October 1957 letter to Stella:

Every night I thank God that's it's only a show in his mind. Since thought is unthinkable, and the world a thought in God's mind, what world is there? Think of your dead ancestors, now did they really truly appear and disappear? Twould seem to me that the nature of appearance and disappearance is in conformity with the nature of non-appearance and non-disappearance . . . . Go to the source for your spiritual comfort. The world is a primordial mystery and never even happened. Five falling stars every minute on a dark night mountaintop I saw. The name of the mountain was Desolation Peak. I was in bliss. (p. 520)

Since it's Stella's birthday, we won't get into the Kerouac estate controversy that swirled (swirls?) 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.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Remembering Arthur Rimbaud


French poet Arthur Rimbaud died on this date -- November 10 -- in 1891 at the young age of 37. He influenced many other poets, including a young Jack Kerouac and the other early Beat figures like William S. Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, and Lucien Carr. You can read a bio of Rimbaud and some of his poetry HERE.

Elbert Lenrow, who had lectured on American writers at classes Jack had taken at the New School, said of Rimbaud after publication of On The Road, "'I suppose he would have liked your people, 'the mad ones.' And you've got their quintessences'" (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 105). Time magazine invoked Rimbaud to criticize Jack's The Subterraneans, writing that Kerouac "'is not Rimbaud but a kind of latrine laureate of Hobohemia'" (p. 137). Jack himself cited Rimbaud's influence thus: 

Finally I entered a romantic phase with Rimbaud and Blake which I called my "self-ultimacy" period, burning what I wrote in order to be "Self-ultimate." (p. 248)

Don't you wish you could read what Jack burned?

In 1958, Jack wrote a poem titled, "Rimbaud." It was published as a broadside by City Lights in 1960 after originally appearing in LeRoi Jone's (Amiri Baraka's) underground poetry magazine, Yugen 6  in 1959 (p. 265). HERE is a link to the poem.

RIP in Heaven, Mr. Rimbaud. 

Thursday, November 9, 2023

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 in the past (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 Birthday in Heaven, Mr. Frank. Give Jack our regards.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to "Wildman" Bill Cannastra


Recently, on October 12 (click HERE), we noted that it was the date when William "Bill" Cannastra died in 1950. 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 in Heaven, 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.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Remembering Edie Parker, notable Beat Generation figure


Edie Parker died on this date -- October 29 -- in 1993. She appeared in several of Jack Kerouac'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.

You may have fallen into the trap of thinking of Edie Parker as simply Jack Kerouac's first wife, and you would be wrong. Indeed, her apartment shared with Joan Vollmer around Columbia University in the 40s was the hub for gatherings of early Beat Generation figures and she was an active participant in the many nascent literary conversations with Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, et al.

Read her excellent memoir, You'll Be Okay: My Life With Jack Kerouac, to learn more about this influential Beat Generation figure. Click HERE for a brief bio.

RIP, Ms. Parker.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

A "two-for-one" Kerouac date

 Today is a date on which one Kerouac-related figure had a birthday and another passed away.

Caroline, in uniform, with Jack Kerouac and their parents, Gabrielle and Leo

Jack Kerouac's sister, Caroline ("Nin"), was born this date -- October 25 -- in 1918. 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.)


Diane di Prima

Poet Diane di Prima died on this date -- October 25 -- in 2020.

If you click HERE, you will arrive at last 2020's birthday post -- it includes links to several other posts we've made about di Prima.

If you haven't read any of her poetry, it's great stuff and it would honor her if you sought some out to read today. That birthday post above includes a link to some.

I don't think she appeared in any of Kerouac's works, but Jack appeared in a graphic sex scene in her book, Memoirs of a Beatnik. I liked that book a lot despite her admission that she wrote it to pay the bills and the sex was intentionally gratuitous.

RIP, Ms. di Prima and Happy Birthday in Heaven, Nin.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to poet Denise Levertov


Denise Levertov

Poet Denise Levertov was born on  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 (e.g., click HERE), mentioning that she was an influence on my poet friend, the late 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 in Heaven, Ms. Levertov (who would be 100 today!).

Monday, October 23, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to poet Philip Lamantia


Poet Philip Lamantia was born on this date -- October 23 -- in 1927. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Francis DaPavia in The Dharma Bums and as David D'Angeli in Desolation Angels. Lamantia read at the famous event at the Six Gallery in 1955 that many point to as kicking off the San Francisco poetry renaissance. (He didn't read his own work, but rather that of his dead friend, John Hoffman.)

Reading some of Lamantia's poetry would be a Beat thing to do today in honor of his birthday. A brief bio and some of his poetry can be found HERE.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mr. Lamantia.

P.S. It's the 12-year anniversary of my mom's death, so this date has special significance for me.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Jack Kerouac safe in heaven dead


Jack's grave on April 13, 2022

Each year I try to opine about Jack Kerouac's death on this date, October 21, in 1969 at the young age of 47. So much has been said already that it becomes hard to find new words with which to remember the person without whose life this blog would not exist, nor would my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

So I owe that guy a lot, for a lifetime-and-then-some's worth of reading, for friends made, for opportunities given and taken. 

Given his love for the world -- as evidenced in his writing -- I wonder what Jack would have thought of the situation we are in, with half the country hating the other half. We can only guess, but what I'm sure of is that, were he still around, he would shake his head at all the hate.

Someone famous guy with long hair and a beard once said, "Love one another." Keeping in mind that the hardest people to love are the ones who need it the most, I think we need to get back to the garden on this one or we're fucked as a species.

Enough for today. We remember you, Jack Kerouac. RIP.

P.S. For past musings on or about this date, see my blog post from three years past HERE.

Jack Kerouac

Friday, October 20, 2023

A triple Beat Generation birthday


      Poet #1                         Poet #2               Poet #3

On this date, October 20 -- the eve of Jack Kerouac's death date -- three well-known poets with Kerouac connections were born. The first two were in part identified as Beat poets and were contemporaries of Kerouac, while the third was an important Kerouac/Beat influencer. Poet #1 was born in 1932, Poet #2 was born in 1923, and Poet #3 was born in 1854.

Poet #1 appeared in several Kerouac works: as Ike O'Shay in The Dharma Bums; McLear in Big Sur; and, Patrick McLear in Desolation Angels. Poet #2 appeared in several Kerouac works: as Warren Coughlin in The Dharma Bums; and Ben Fagan in Desolation Angels and Big Sur. Poet #3 died in 1891, before Kerouac was born, and thus was not fodder for a Kerouac character.

Your job today is to be first to identify all three poets and name them in a comment on this post.

If you give up, you can click on the below for biographical information and sample poetry:

Poet #1

Poet #2

Poet #3

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Remembering Lenore Kandel


Poet Lenore Kandel died on this date - October 18 - in 2009. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur as Romana Swartz. We provided some details about her previously (click HERE).

Kandel shows up in Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 on p. 303 in a mid-September 1960 letter to poet/friend Lew Welch:

Dear Lew

I didnt want to thank you for driving me to Sur and back in front of Lenore--Couldnt sleep even that night in the skid row room except about 5 and then all went well--Spent 2 good days at Ferl's--and now I'm home and so healthy I can hardly keep my eyes open. (2000, Penguin Books)

The index of my copy of that book indicates that Kandel also shows up on p. 307, but I have read and re-read that page in vain trying to find where. Methinks it's an error. Kandel does appear again on p. 308 in a September 1960 letter to Neal Cassady:

I don't blame you for looking a little stern and mebbe a little frightened the night i barged in there for my full pack with lew welch and lenore and jacky came in etc.--what do you think about your poor old buddy now? is he crazy? is he going to the dog? to hell? is he going to heaven on the arm of someone he helped? he who  helped no one?-- 

RIP, Ms. Kandel.

Friday, October 13, 2023

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


Bea with son Alberto
Photo/Beatrice Kozera estate

On this date -- October 13 -- in 1920, Beatrice 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 (married name Kozera) 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).

Happy Birthday in heaven, Ms. Kozera.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

In Kerouac land, today is noteworthy for two reasons


(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.

RIP, Mrs. Kerouac and Mr. Cannastra.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2023 -- a brief visit and report

Crystal and I met our great friend Richard Marsh and his lovely wife, Kim, at Jack Kerouac's grave in Edson Cemetery (my namesake) on Thursday Oct. 5 as our own kickoff to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2023. It was not an official event of the celebration. We have a routine wherein we drink a shot of whiskey (or two) at the grave and video a reading (or two) from Kerouac's work. Below is the evidence.

Crystal ready to pour some Basil Hayden bourbon

Shots lined up

Some will say it is sacrilegious to drink a toast to Jack Kerouac, especially at his grave, since alcohol abuse likely killed him. My response: go pour your judgy self a shot of whiskey and chill out. We do it out of respect.

I did my usual reading at the grave, this time from my favorite Kerouac novel, The Dharma Bums. Specifically, the passage where Kerouac describes Ray Smith meeting Japhy Ryder (Gary Snyder). Click HERE to watch the video, In it you can see evidence of our other tradition, which is to leave a copy of my book on the grave. Hopefully someone will take it and read it or pass it along to someone who will. That's my great friend Richard beside me. Please pardon my voice -- it's the Parkinson's.

From the grave we reconvened at The Worthen House, a long-time main site of the festival. 

Our camper, Japhy, parked in The Worthen parking lot

The front of The Worthen

We had lunch at The Worthen and then checked into the La Quinta in Andover. There's no place left to stay overnight in Lowell since the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center stopped taking hotel guests. After a brief respite we went back to The Worthen for opening ceremonies and then Richard and I took the Dr. Sax walking tour led by the extremely knowledgeable Lowell docent, Bill Walsh. The ladies stayed at The Worthen.

Boarded up and closed St. Jean Baptiste Church where Kerouac's funeral was held
 and he was an altar boy at one time. You can see Bill Walsh's head to the left of 
the guy with the blue backpack.

Along the tour we stopped near the site of the now-destroyed Moody Street Bridge, the one on which Jack describes, in Dr. Sax, seeing a man, William F. Mulgrave, carrying a watermelon drop dead. From the new bridge we threw in a piece of watermelon in Jack's honor and in memory of Mr. Mulgrave. Click HERE for video.

Near the site of the now-gone Moody Street Bridge.
Bill Walsh is in center with notebook and Richard Marsh is on his right.

We stopped at the closed Archambault Funeral Home, site of Jack's wake.

Archambault Funeral Home

The last stop on the tour was the famous Grotto and Stations of the Cross. 


The Grotto

Richard and I ditched the tour group (it was getting near time for the next event) and made our way back to The Worthen, where we listened to poetry and music until heading back to the hotel. We ate breakfast the next morning at the Club Diner. Excellent.

My breakfast (actually Kim's -- mine was with hash instead of ham, an Irish Benedict)

Richard and Kim did a few more things in Lowell. We said our goodbyes and then Crystal and I headed to Walden Pond -- where we'd never been. Afterwards we headed home to Maine.

Replica of Henry David Thoreau's cabin

Infographic about Thoreau's cabin

All in all, a wonderful trip albeit short. We made it home to Maine safe and sound with another set of memories from Jack's hometown, Lowell, Massachusetts. The festival goes on for a couple more days -- - click HERE for the schedule.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Amiri Baraka


Noted writer Amiri Baraka was born on this date -- October 7 -- in 1934. He appeared under his actual former name, LeRoi Jones, in Jack Kerouac's Lonesome Traveler.

Baraka led a fascinating life and I encourage you to read up on him. He was an accomplished poet and activist, sometimes polarizing -- click HERE for some biographical info as well as some of his poems. You can listen to Baraka reading poetry, along with Gregory Corso, HERE.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Baraka.

Today is a famous date in Beat Generation history


Allen Ginsberg

On this date -- October 7 -- in 1955, the famous Six Gallery poetry reading in San Francisco took place. It was the first public reading by Allen Ginsberg of his epic poem, "Howl." That is why some call this National Beat Poetry Day (click HERE).

Jack Kerouac didn't read, but he was an active audience member, saying this about it in The Dharma Bums (1976, Penguin Books, pp. 13-14):

Anyway I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at Gallery Six that night, which was, among other im­portant things, the night of the birth of the San Francisco Poe­try Renaissance. Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was the one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience stand­ing around in the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o'clock when Alvah Goldbook [Allen Ginsberg] was reading his, wailing his poem "Wail" ["Howl"] drunk with arms outspread ev­erybody was yelling "Go! Go! Go!" (like a jam session) and old Rheinhold Cacoethes [Kenneth Rexroth] the father of the Frisco poetry scene was wiping his tears in gladness.


Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!


HERE is the schedule for this year's Lowell Celebrates Kerouac event in Jack's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. We are planning to be there for Thursday's (October 5, 2023) activities at The Worthen.

See you there.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Gore Vidal


Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was born this date -- October 3 -- in 1925. Vidal appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans as Arial Lavalina and in Old Angel Midnight as Gore Bedavalled.

Previously, in 2019, we discussed Vidal and Kerouac having a sexual encounter (click HERE) and Jack's opinion of Vidal's writing.

I still haven't read any of Vidal's work. Any suggestions on where to start?

If you get the chance, watch the documentary, Best of Enemies. We saw it at a showing in Portland a few years ago and it's really good. It's about the debate between Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. during the Republican and the Democratic conventions in the summer of 1968. As THIS PBS blurb states, "Best of Enemies reveals the moment TV’s political ambition shifted from narrative to spectacle, forever altering the way the media — and Americans — talked about politics." We're surely watching a spectacle these days. 

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Vidal.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Happy Birthday to Joyce Johnson


Joyce Johnson was born this date -- September 27 -- in 1935, making her 88 years old today. She is a noted and award-winning author and appeared as Alyce Newman in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels. Joyce wrote about her firsthand knowledge of Kerouac in Minor Characters and in The Voice is All, both mandatory reads for any true Kerouac fan. She was there when big Beat things went down, so her point of view is firsthand. For example, Ms. Johnson was Jack's girlfriend when the rave review of his book, On The Road, was published in the New York Times in 1957. They read the review together.

In an undated 1957 letter to Johnson (then Glassman), Jack describes the time he was on a Yugoslavian freighter on the way to Tangier and experienced a big storm:

During this ordeal I heard the words: EVERYTHING IS GOD, NOTHING EVER HAPPENED EXCEPT GOD -- and I believed and still do. (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 11)

Happy Birthday, Ms. Johnson. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

RIP to my Kerouacian friend, John J. Dorfner


I never met John Dorfner but considered him a friend. We knew each other from email and Twitter and were connected by our mutual love for Jack Kerouac. I don't remember how we first discovered each other, but I suspect it was via Twitter.

I recently learned that John passed away at age 70 on February 27, 2023. Click HERE to read his obituary. We were on month 5 of an 8-month road trip around the country when he died; hence, I wasn't keeping up with Kerouac news as I usually would.

John authored three books, two about Kerouac and one a memoir of his father. We curated or reviewed them all here on The Daily Beat:

Curation of Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount

Review of Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount

Curation of Kerouac: Visions of Lowell

Review of Kerouac: Visions of Lowell

Review of Milkman's Matinee

I can't seem to find my curation of Milkman's Matinee. Maybe it wasn't on my Kerouac bookshelf when I curated the lot of it. I just conducted a cursory search of my bookshelf and it doesn't appear where I would think I had it shelved (next to his 2 Kerouac books). If I have misplaced it, that makes me sad, but it is on Amazon, so . . . .

One story about John and then we'll leave it at that. One day, a copy of my favorite Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums, showed up in the mail unexpectedly (something my great friend Richard Marsh is apt to do -- i.e., send me a book out of the blue). It was a paperback with a cover I didn't yet have in my collection. It was from John. I blogged about it HERE.

As John commented on the post about The Dharma Bums, the Road never ends.

RIP, John and condolences to your family. Say hi to Jack for me . . . .