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.