Sunday, April 23, 2017

Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades by John Suiter

Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades

A few months ago, this book arrived in the mail unexpectedly -- a surprise gift from my Kerouacian friend and brother, Richard Marsh. I started reading it immediately but got side-tracked, and yesterday -- a lowery Maine day -- I spent a little more time with it. I am in the beginning section about Gary Snyder's fire lookout time on Crater Mountain in the North Cascades. Author John Suiter's pictures are a great supplement to the very detailed information. I can't wait to get to the Kerouac section (another good thing about retirement being 38 days away!). Here is part of the description on Amazon:

Based on scores of previously unpublished letters and journals, plus recent interviews with Snyder and Whalen and several others, Poets on the Peaks creates a group portrait of Kerouac, Snyder, and Whalen that transcends the tired urban clich├ęs of the "Beat" life. Poets on the Peaks is about the development of a community of poets, including the famous Six Gallery reading of October 1955, and contains unexpected cameos by fellow poets and mountain-climbers Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Rexroth, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. Poets on the Peaks is also a book about Dharma and the years of Dharma Bums--from the 1951 roadside revelation in the Nevada desert that led Gary Snyder to drop out of academia and head for Japan, to Kerouac's lonely vigil with The Diamond Sutra on Desolation Peak, to Philip Whalen's ordination as a Zen priest. Finally, Poets on the Peaks is the story of the birth of a wilderness ethic, as well as a photographic homage to the Cascades landscape, a landscape virtually unchanged since these men journeyed there thanks to the environmental protections they helped inspire.
On a related Kerouac note, sending your friends unannounced gifts for no particular reason is a very Beat thing to do. I can think of several times in Kerouac's novels where he gives or receives without expectation of anything in return. Can you?

Oh, and here's the Amazon link if you want your own copy: . Yes, it'd be better to buy it from a local used bookstore, but just in case that's not possible....

Monday, April 17, 2017

Jack Kerouac's Stations of the Cross and the Grotto protected in perpetuity

The Grotto at the Franco American School in Lowell, MA
(c) 2015 Rick Dale
Stations of the Cross at the Franco American School in Lowell, MA

For those readers wondering about the fate of Lowell's Stations of the Cross and the Grotto that Jack Kerouac lovingly wrote about, it seems from a recent article in the Lowell Sun that they will be protected "in perpetuity."

Here's a link to the article:

So mote it be.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?

Here are some recent newsy pieces related to Jack Kerouac. The first is a story about the future of Kerouac's St. Petersburg house. The second is a related story which indicates that John Sampas' nephew, Jim Sampas, will be running the estate as opposed to his adopted son, John Shen-Sampas, who had been rumored to be the successor. The third is a weird little piece about Renault using artificial intelligence to get an electric car to write Jack Kerouac fan fiction.

Whither Kerouac's St, Petersburg house?

Whither the Kerouac estate?

Whither human intelligence?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Jack Kerouac on Reddit

Screenshot of the Jack Kerouac subreddit

I've mentioned this before on The Daily Beat (circa 2012), but for new readers and also for faithful readers who may have missed it, here's a plug for Reddit, particularly the Jack Kerouac subreddit.

What is Reddit? That's a little hard to answer because it's sort of a combination social media site/discussion board/messaging service (according to this Pew Research Center article). The section titled "Understanding Reddit" in Part 1 is especially good as a brief overview.

Who uses Reddit? According to the Pew Research Center, users tend to be young, male, and self-identify as liberal. Seems like a perfect place for discussions about Jack Kerouac, n'est-ce pas?

To wit, I created the Jack Kerouac subreddit (subreddits are pages in Reddit devoted to certain topics) several years ago and just noticed that there has been an uptick in activity lately.

If you want to explore Reddit, just click here. If you're like me, you may have to play around a bit to figure out how to navigate the site. I don't find it intuitive (but young, male, liberal, digital natives do -- according to my partner's sons).

If you want to go directly to the Jack Kerouac subreddit, click here.

Once in a while I will post a link to my blog in the Jack Kerouac subreddit, but I try to avoid that as I am the moderator and I guess doing so violates Rediquette.

There's also a Beat subreddit here and you may find that interesting (although, like the Jack Kerouac subreddit, it is not very active).

It seems to me that a Jack Kerouac subreddit is a natural for Reddit given the demographics of Reddit users, and I am glad to see some activity there of late. There's nothing in it for me other than the satisfaction of providing another place for people to share about Jack Kerouac on-line.

Check it out and please feel free to post a question or a link -- or just say hi.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

I was just looking at stats for The Daily Beat and noticed that a fairly recent post (December 4, 2016) has crept up to #7 on the all-time pageviews list. I can't explain it like I can other posts in the top ten list (e.g., the one titled "Kristen Stewart Topless in On The Road" continues to be the top pageview-getter of all time -- duh).

This particular post doesn't have a salacious title, and the content is homegrown. That is, it's just some original Kerouacian musings on a Sunday morning titled, "Jack Kerouac and the Tao of fried eggs."

If you haven't read it, click here to do so.

I wish I knew why it got so popular compared to my other 1,296 posts since 2008. I'd like to think it's because of decent writing and not just the quirky title, but that's probably not how pageviews happen. It's more about how Google indexes a particular post and its title, how much the link to the post gets shared by others and where (e.g., social media), and other obscure reasons, I'm sure.

Maybe in retirement I will spend some time learning how to optimize a blog for readership, and get a million followers, and monetize The Daily Beat, and become rich, and . . . well, after all, it is April Fool's Day.

Happy Saturday, dear readers.

And Happy Birthday to my son, Jason, born this date 37 years ago.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Jack Kerouac: On Death

I've been thinking about death this week as I had traveled back to Pennsylvania last weekend to attend a good friend's funeral. Here is what I wrote about him on Facebook on March 12 when I found out the news. He was only 62 years old.

I just learned that a long-time close friend of mine, Tom Hoover, died yesterday. We became friends in high school, both being in band and playing trumpet. I looked up to him as a role model (he was a year ahead of me in school). I'll always remember his shenanigans at band camp in the summer. Tom and I and Dave Fisher and Jim RJ Dunham and Karl Frantz et al. lifted weights together in the basement of the Penn Wells Motel for years way before it was even a generally acceptable practice. Tom always outdid everyone. I don't talk about this much, but I more or less followed him to college, Lock Haven, to major in physical education. His going there for that major played a big role in my decision. He left before I got there and went in the Army. I still have a card he sent me right before he got out of the Army and signed it, "Happy Tom." In 1978 or so we were both living in Wellsboro and we started playing bluegrass together in a band called Cold Spring with Steve Belcher and Danny Shipe. That band morphed into North Fork, which stayed together with Tom and me and Bob Rubin as a core for over 25 years. Over those years Tom inspired me to learn to play the guitar. I never would have played out solo without his inspiration. Indeed, anything decent I play on the guitar is directly from Tom's playing. And my guitar is Tom's old 1973 D-28 that I bought from him when I was first learning to play when I lived in Mansfield. The case still has all the stickers on it he put there (I'm looking at it through misty eyes as I type this). When I was heating our old farmhouse with wood and Jason Dale was just a glint in my eye, Tom and his dad Ray and I cut a shitload of firewood on state forest lands and brought it out in Ray's old Dodge Powerwagon. Suffice to say, a lot of who I am today is directly related to being friends with Tom, and while we didn't stay in touch much after he moved away except for the occasional e-mail, I've always considered him one of my closest and dearest friends. I miss him already and the news hasn't even sunk in yet. RIP, brother. You're out of pain now but the world is a lesser place.

You could say that Tom was my Neal Cassady, as I shambled after him like a dingledodie from the time I met him in high school.

But I titled this piece "Kerouac: On Death," so what gives there? Well, as any true Kerouac fan knows, Jack was obsessed with death. The deaths of his older brother, Gerard, and of his father, Leo, had a great impact on Jack and he wrote about both in his novels. He wrote an entire novel as an homage to Gerard titled, Visions of Gerard, and started his opus, On The Road, with the words, "I first met Neal not long after my father died...." (scroll edition, not the classic).

Then there's this famous passage from Visions of Cody (you know, the passage Jack read on the Steve Allen show while appearing to read from On The Road):
I'm writing this book because we're all going to die--In the loneliness of my life, my father dead, my brother dead, my mother faraway, my sister and my wife far away, nothing here but my own tragic hands that once were guarded by a world, a sweet attention, that now are left to guide and disappear their own way into the common dark of all our death, sleeping in me raw bed, alone and stupid: with just this one pride and consolation: my heart broke in the general despair and opened up inwards to the Lord, I made a supplication in this dream. (Visions of Cody, Penguin, p. 368)
Speaking of religion, Jack's Catholic roots and Buddhist studies certainly influenced his views on death, but I've run out of time for more thoughts today. Suffice to say that Jack Kerouac was no stranger to death or to thinking and writing about it. In beautiful ways. To wit, here's an oft-quoted passage and one that gives me comfort when I think of my friend, Tom. It's from the 211th Chorus of Mexico City Blues:
I wish I was free
of that slaving meat wheel
and safe in heaven dead.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On The Road: Chapters in One Sentence

Each time we've read On The Road in my Kerouac class at the University of Maine at Farmington (every spring since 2013), I have had students work in groups to craft what I call, "Chapters in One Sentence." It's a way to summarize the narrative and leaves us with a concise overview of the novel. I don't edit their content, but I do try to correct major grammatical and spelling errors. Some of the entries are my own, as we don't have enough time in class to do all the chapters.

You may find what you think are inaccuracies or omissions, but keep in mind this is a first-year class and it's only an in-class activity to get the students talking about what they read. I think it's interesting to see what they find important.

Here's a link to the document:

One of these days I may undertake to create the whole document myself from scratch just to see what it looks like. If I do, I'll share it with readers of The Daily Beat.