Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jack Kerouac and the Tao of fried eggs


I was eating fried eggs for breakfast Saturday morning and I caught myself thinking about how much I liked the yolk. Next thought (a question): Why couldn't an egg be all yolk -- wouldn't that be perfect?

Answer: Of course not. It's a yin/yang thing. No good without evil, no light without dark. No love without hate. No yolk without the white.

Which brought me to Kerouac -- as Kerouac seems to be my religion -- and speaking of religion and Kerouac I decided to page through Some of the Dharma (Penguin, 1997), a book one does not simply sit down and read straight through (at least I don't, or can't). Quite a few passages jumped out at me in my skimming and I thought I'd share them.
I don't want to be a drunken hero of the generation suffering everywhere
   with everyone---
I want to be a quite saint living in a shack in solitary meditation
   of universal mind---  (p. 63)
What Jack aspired to and what he did were in conflict, but weren't they just the yolk and the white -- party-mad boozehound and ascetic religious hermit -- in one  person?

The following seemed instructive:
Only 2 things to do and 1 to be: 
      1. Necessity
      2, Teaching
      3, Be kind (p. 73)
Not a bad credo and of late we could certainly use number 3, at least in America.

Speaking of America, this passage resonated:
If, as Burroughs insists, "Buddhism is not for the West," then I get a great vision of the whole Western World filled with the ignorant and simple-minded (p. 101).
I'll let that speak for itself in light of recent events here. Later on, Jack says, "BOYCOTT IGNORANCE." Twice (on p. 166).

I wish.

How about Jack's "A B C' s of Truth"?
A    Creamy thighs of beautiful young girl =
B     Baby crying because it doesn't want to be born = 
C     Corpse decaying in the grave (p. 159)
Ouch. We're born just to die.

Speaking of death, on p. 257, out of the blue, Kerouac says, "Walkin in Jerusalem, just like John...". I assume he was thinking about the old spiritual (which I know from the bluegrass genre), but, specifically, was he thinking about John's exhortation to be ready for judgment day when the New Jerusalem comes down from above (foreseen by John in Revelations)? Or was Jack thinking about where Jesus walked on his final day, and of the Stations of the Cross in Lowell that he prominently featured in some of his writing? In any case, it's an odd bit to appear suddenly within the context of Buddhist teachings unless one understands the yolk of Catholicism and the white of Buddhism that made up Jack's spiritual essence.

Like the yolk and the white, there's life and there's death. Hope and fear. Knowledge and ignorance. Kindness and it's opposite, whatever that word may be. 

We get to choose what we focus on. Do we focus on the negative or on the positive? This is a bitter pill for me to swallow right now as I am admittedly seeing the glass half full. What I particularly need to do is make sure I don't drift toward depression and end up with the black dog following me around again. 

Toward that end, I will seek refuge in loved ones, friends, and things that make me smile like cats and beer and books and music and I will seek to limit my exposure to the dark stuff. Limit, not exorcise completely as there is work to do and one must be informed in order to do it.

Love is all! Whoever said that must have been a pretty smart person.

You. Happy Sunday to you,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Jack Kerouac Facebook Group

If you're looking for a place in cyberspace that is all-Kerouac-all-the-time, think about joining the Jack Kerouac Group on Facebook. You'll see pictures like the above (allegedly Jack drinking outside the Kettle of Fish in the West Village on MacDougal Street in the fall of 1957). You'll see tributes to Jack. You'll see pictures of places Jack used to live. You'll see discussions of various Kerouacian matters that range from the academic to the sublime. You'll see a video archive, a photo archive, and a files archive, the latter including a variety of informative documents such as a Kerouac discography and a guide to Lowell places. You'll see over 8,000 members!

Dave Moore, Kerouac scholar extraordinaire from the U.K., is the main administrator of the group, and he contributes frequently. Other respected names in the Kerouac community are likewise well-represented.

If you want to be a member, and I hope you will, just visit this page and request to join:

If you're already a member, I give you the Kerouacian secret salute.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jack Kerouac and The Hobo Ethical Code of 1889

Lee Marvin as hobo "A-No. 1" in Emperor of the North, a classic that may have been loosely based
in part on Jack London's The Road

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no edification on the connection between Jack Kerouac and hobos (or hoboes, if you like -- both terms are acceptable). Back in 2010 we published a post containing a link to The Hobo Code, the hobo visual language used to communicate important information to each other (click here). That blog post also contains a list of hobo lingo. The former is from the National Hobo Museum and the latter is from Wikipedia. I have investigated the veracity of neither. Nevertheless, both may provide interesting glimpses into hobo culture.

I recently ran across this piece on Open Culture: The Hobo Ethical Code of 1889. It sets forth 15 rules for hobo living that were supposedly adopted by the Hobo National Convention (they still have one in Britt, Iowa -- click here). Jack, in his travels, certainly lived some of these rules. I'm thinking in particular about #1, "Decide your own life; don’t let another person run or rule you." Jack certainly marched to the beat of his own drummer. And #15 -- "Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday." -- reminds me of the time he gave a shirt to a fellow hitchhiker (in On The Road) or selflessly shared his cigarettes, grub, booze, etc. with fellow travelers.* Jack lived other items in The Hobo Code as well. Can you identify them? For sure, Jack ignored #6: "Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos."

On a related note, if reading about life on the road -- particularly hobo life -- appeals to you, I recommend you read Jack London's The Road and Jack Black's You Can't Win. We've mentioned these books in previous posts. They are fascinating firsthand accounts of the hobo life, and were influential on Kerouac and other Beat writers. You can get London's book here. I didn't find a free version of Black's book on-line, but it's pretty cheap on Amazon and I'm sure other sites. I've read that the Robert Aldrich film, Emperor of the North, was loosely based on London's book and one about London by hobo author, Leon Ray Livingston, who went by the name A-No. 1. I haven't verified the latter beyond Wikipedia. We now live in a post-truth world anyway, so I'll be forgiven if I am perpetuating misinformation. Anyway, here's the trailer: It's probably not an accurate representation of real hobo life, but I remember seeing it when it first came out and it made an impression on me, mostly because of the testosterone-fueled acting by Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine.

Note that some distinguish the term "hobo" from "tramp" and "bum" in that they see hobos as impoverished migrant workers, tramps as those who work only when they have to, and bums as those who don't work at all. From my readings, I'm not sure those distinctions hold water in reality. I try to explain that to my students all the time: we're a species that lives to categorize and yet those categorizations and resulting labels are not as precise in the real world as they seem in theory.

In any event, Jack Kerouac -- if not a hobo himself - lived a hobo-esque lifestyle at times and was not averse to hanging out with these itinerant masters of living on the cheap, beholden to no one and nothing except The Hobo Code.

*I know, I know. One should not assume that because Sal Paradise does something in On The Road that it actually happened in real life. However, in this case I think we an be confident that this or something like it was a Kerouaction (see The Beat Handbook).

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Two new additions to the Jack Kerouac collection

Let the word go forth from this time and place that someone, depending on the timing of things, needs to make sure that my collection of Kerouac and Beat items (mostly books) doesn't get boxed up and given to Goodwill or the like when I leave this mortal coil. There are a number of items in there that are worth holding on to or at least selling. I guess I need to amend my will in that regard.

To wit, on the left above is my recently acquired (thanks, eBay) copy of New Editions 2, which is what Jack Kerouac was reading from at the Village Vanguard in 1957. It contains his piece, "Neal and the Three Stooges." This was printed by Pinchpenny Press in Berkeley and was limited to 1,000 copies. It's in rough shape, so it's worth less than a mint copy would bring, but it's worth a lot more than the $1.00 it cost in its day.

Jack Kerouac reading from New Editions 2 at The Village Vanguard, NYC, 1957

On the right above, and don't tell my grandson Hugh because it is a Christmas gift this year (which means it is still adding to the Dale Kerouac collection), is the KinderGuides version of On The Road. It is pretty neat the way they de-adult Jack's classic -- removing all the drinking, drugging, and sex -- and focus on the friendships, travel, and adventure. KinderGuides has a number of  "early learning guides to culture classics." See

Oddly, this KinderGuide credits the illustrator, Rose Forshall (who did a nice job) but not whoever wrote the adapted text. See the example below.

Neither is there anything about permissions from the Kerouac Estate for publishing this. Interesting....

If  you have a young one on your shopping list, I recommend this KinderGuide. It's not a perfect re-telling, but it's good. And it's always cool to hold a little piece of history in your hand such as New Editions 2.

Happy reading!

P.S. I know I need to stop buying books and downsize for retirement, and I plan to do that at least with non-Kerouac items. I'm even reading a book on Kindle right now. Oh, the humanity....

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jack Kerouac: Thoughts and whimsies

This is my post for the week. To keep up my streak. It's free-form, unplanned, rather stream-of-consciousness. Squeezing words out of nowhere. Maybe they'll take the shape of a Western haiku...

Thunderline cosmos
Small consolation
For losing

Jack Kerouac reading at the Village Vanguard jazz club in NYC, December 1957

I don't know what that haiku means. But it means something, if not everything, if not blue resonant human. Someone may pick up on that.  I furthermore don't know why I posted that particular picture of Jack, or why it magically placed itself mid-blog instead of where I thought I put it (the beginning). Mysteries....

As I often say, what does this have to do with Jack Kerouac (the raison d'être for this blog)?

To wit, it's writing. Jack was a writer. It was the reason he was put on this earth, the reason beyond reasons, beyond relationships, fame, accomplishments, joy, kicks, darkness. Beyond fatherhood. 

And it's my writing. No one else's. It may be read and it may not. But it made its way into existence by force of will and a few calories expended at the keyboard.

I wonder...what happens to a blog when the author dies? Or one's book on Amazon? I wonder these things not because I think I'm going to die anytime soon, but it is definitely the fourth quarter of the game and one thinks about such things. Was Jack thinking about his legacy as an author during his last conscious moments? Or was he thinking about the things most people think about at that juncture such as words left unspoken to loved ones, worries about those left behind, or regrets over wrongs unatoned?

I've often said we regret opportunities not taken more than past actions. Maybe that's idiosyncratic. I don't know. I do know I hope that on Wednesday you don't regret what you did or didn't do with your vote in tomorrow's Presidential election in the U.S. I hope you deliberated and then chose wisely.

And with that brief noncommittal foray into politics, I will take my leave on this autumn Monday in Maine, golden leaves blowing and the sky a cerulean blessing.

God help us all....

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Looking for that perfect Yankee Swap gift?

With the holidays and associated gift-giving frenzy approaching, and stores starting to gear up for the season, I thought I would remind readers that my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, continues to be available at Amazon. Here is the link:

It's getting a bit long in the tooth, but I'd like to think that its message is universal and eternal, given that it is based on the thesis that to be beat one need only look to Jack Kerouac's characters in his novels. In this particular instance, I used On The Road and The Dharma Bums.

Inside my book you will find advice on everything from eating to romance to parking to careers to spontaneity to sex to hitchhiking to spirituality to . . . well, there are 100 entries based on the actions of Kerouac's characters. Each entry includes a brief description of a Kerouaction (that's what I call the answer to the question, "What would Kerouac do?") and then a suggested Kerouactivity that exemplifies or edifies that action.

But that's just thinking about the book as a gift for someone who reads! It has millions of other uses as well. There's white space for journaling. It can serve as a conversation piece on your coffee table. Its pages can be ripped out and crumpled up for starting a fire. It can be used to stabilize a table with a short leg and it's extremely adjustable in that regard (from the thickness of one page to 3/4 of an inch). You could use it for toilet paper (but I don't recommend it unless it's a true emergency). The cover makes for good target practice, darts or otherwise, especially if you hate long-hairs. It can provide a small amount of ballast in a backpack that might otherwise flop around empty. You could throw it at a burglar. Use it as drink coaster to save the top of your coffee table. Grab some duct tape and patch a hole in the wall with it. Make it a drinking game (open up to a Kerouactivity at random and do it or drink). Deploy it to discourage a spider from building a web in the corner of your kitchen.

Finally, it's perfect for that Yankee Swap* gift exchange, especially if you are looking for something that is going to cause a groan of despair when opened. "OMG, a book about Jack Kerouac by someone I've never heard of!"

The best way to remember to buy a copy this holiday season is to click on the link above and order it now. Then store it in your bottom dresser drawer along with the other stuff you think your mate doesn't know about, and when you hit a snag trying to think of a gift, voila! Problem solved.

We love to solve problems around here.

*My apologies to all the Yankees I just offended.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Random Kerouac tidbits

On Friday I scored the above copy of Visions of Cody at Twice-Sold Tales, the used bookstore in Farmington, Maine. I went in there on the anniversary of Jack's death and was surprised to find several Kerouac items (in the past my visits there have been fruitless). The owner, I learned, is a Kerouac fan and typically scarfs up items before they hit the bookshelves. I turned down buying Mexico City Blues and Good Blonde & Others because I have those editions. I bought VOC because it's different from my Penguin edition: it has a more interesting cover plus it included Allen Ginsberg's introduction, "The Great Rememberer." Plus it's considered by many to be Jack's magnum opus, and I thought it was fitting to find it on October 21, 47 years to the day that Jack died at age 47. Here's a quote from page 47:
Around the poolhalls of Denver during World War II a strange looking boy began to be noticeable to the characters who frequented the places afternoon and night and even to the casual visitors who dropped in for a game of snookers after supper when all the tables were busy in an atmosphere of smoke and great excitement and a continual parade passed in the alley from the backdoor of one poolroom on Glenarm Street to the backdoor of another -- a boy called Cody Pomeray, the son of a Larimer Street wino.

While I was at the bookstore I also picked up Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I'm embarrassed to say I've only seen the movie....

On a completely different subject (still Kerouacian), I was out and about the other night and was chatting with a casual acquaintance who turned out to know quite a bit about Kerouac. This once again proves what my Lock Haven State College physical education professor and renowned wrestling coach, Dr. Ken Cox, used to say: "You never know."

Which reminds me of a great movie quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: "You never know what's comin' for ya."

But there's something I do know that comin'. Kerouacian extraordinaire Richard Marsh has agreed to do an interview for The Daily Beat. Look for that in the near future. Richard, I teased my readers about this to put pressure on both of us to "get 'er done."

There you have it: random Kerouac tidbits for a Sunday morning....