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....

Friday, October 21, 2016

Jack Kerouac died 47 years ago at age 47

Michael White's book

"I wish I was free of that slaving meat wheel and safe in heaven dead."

The above closing passage from Jack Kerouac's "211th Chorus" in Mexico City Blues comes to mind today, as it always does, on this the anniversary of his death in 1969 (read the whole poem here). There is a book by Michael White titled, Safe in Heaven Dead: Interviews with Jack Kerouac (see above), which I don't own but it's sure a great title (and would make a great birthday or Christmas present for yours truly -- hint, hint).

At least I made it to Jack's grave this month (his favorite: October) if not today. If you're into the whole numerology thing, Jack died 47 years ago at the age of 47. That's only gonna happen once, so let's raise an extra glass to the greatest American writer who ever lived.

RIP, Jack.

Rick Dale at Jack Kerouac's grave, October 6, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums: A great gift from a great friend

It's wonderful to have great friends in life, the kind who send you presents like the above out-of-the-blue because they know Bums is your favorite Kerouac novel and they know you don't have this particular cover in your collection.

I don't know who Cindy Wolkin is, but I assume she was the previous owner. Cindy, if you're reading this, let us know some history of this book!

The first page
Below is the copyright page for you bibliophiles. Such pages always confuse me. For example, can one determine from this info when this book was actually published? I assume it is the 9th printing (i.e., the lowest number in the row, harking back to typesetting days when they'd just remove the numbers per printing instead of resetting the whole line). But I'm sure it wasn't printed in 1959.

Copyright page

Oh, I almost forgot. Thanks, Richard!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Memory Babe": A wonderful addition to Jack Kerouac's "Lowell books"

The Unknown Kerouac, available at Amazon

Many are brought to Kerouac by On the Road, but those who stick with the man's oeuvre eventually make their way to what are called "the Lowell books": The Town and the City, Dr. Sax, Maggie Cassidy, Visions of Gerard, and Vanity of Duluoz. These feature heart-wrenchingly accurate and detailed descriptions of growing up in the classical New England mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts in the early twentieth century (Kerouac was born in Lowell in 1922). They are magnificent works, and many say they comprise the best of Kerouac. I cannot argue the point.

If you count yourself a fan of the Lowell books, you are in for a treat. Recently published, The Unknown Kerouac: Rare, Unpublished, & Newly Translated Writings, features a 53-page piece titled "Memory Babe."* The piece is from a 20-foot long scroll and a revised 22-page typescript from that scroll of a work that Kerouac began in earnest soon after On the Road was published in 1957 but, after periodically working on it along with the The Dharma Bums (1958), abandoned the effort to focus on other works such as Lonesome Traveler (1960). The story takes place when Kerouac was "not yet 14 years old" on the two days before Christmas in Lowell (according to my math, that would be 1935).

As editor Todd Tietchen notes in the introduction to the piece, the Lowell books "remain the most comprehensive literary ethnography of French Canadian life in the 1920s and 1930s New England, mapping and preserving a lost world in a way consistent with Kerouac's aesthetic of memory" (p. 250). "Memory Babe" adds to that ethnography in every sense, capturing not only the ethos but also the ambience of that time and place in a way that pulls the reader deeply into Kerouac's world -- so much so that, sometimes, the reader wonders if it weren't one's own childhood being described.

There's much more in The Unknown Kerouac I have yet to explore, but for me, "Memory Babe" alone makes it worth the price.

* Not to be confused with Gerald Nicosia's Kerouac biography of the same name. "Memory Babe" is what Kerouac claims his friends called him because of his excellent memory.

Lowell Sun pics from the Jack Kerouac Commemorative

Click here for a set of 34 pictures taken by Lowell Sun reporter Caley McGuane at the Commemorative at the Jack Kerouac Commemorative on Saturday during the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival.

Crystal and I show up in several shots, including the one below (with Ken Morris to the left).

(c) 2016 Lowell Sun

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2016

For the 8th time in 9 years (having skipped 2010), Crystal and I attended the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) Festival in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. This year got interrupted by a family wedding on Friday in another part of Massachusetts, so we didn't get to as many events as usual, and we left Saturday afternoon. Indeed, while I write this the festival is still going on (click here for the festival program, which continues into tomorrow, Monday October 10). What follows is my traditional report from LCK. As a special bonus, at the bottom of this post I have included links to all my past LCK reports, starting in 2008. You will notice that I used to report each year in parts, but in 2011 switched to just one report per year. There are a lot of pictures and stories in the below links, and I hope you will take some time to peruse them.

We left for Lowell on Thursday and made our way immediately to Jack's grave. While I think this visit should be an official event, even if it were (and it was one year), we like having some private time with Jack where we feel comfortable reading and videoing and lifting a bottle in his honor.

The grave had more "stuff" on it this year than we've ever seen.

Rick at Jack Kerouac's grave October 6, 2016
Crystal at Jack Kerouac's grave October 6, 2016

As usual, I left a copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, at the grave -- neatly tucked in a sealed plastic bag in case of rain (on which I wrote Steal This Book). Some years people have taken me up on that! In the pictures you can also see a copy of the newest publication of Jack's works, The Unknown Kerouac, edited by Todd Tietchen. Since I had it with me I thought Jack would appreciate seeing it.

Here's the video of my reading from Satori in Paris, Jack's novel that was published 50 years ago this year. We videoed Crystal, too, and once we get that uploaded I will include a link to that here as well. There's an upcoming spooky synchronicity about the passage I chose.

While we were at the grave a flock of geese flew over, honking at eternity.

From the grave we made our way to check in at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, after which we visited one of our favorite restaurants in Lowell, Cobblestones (more on that later), for dinner. We had a nice table looking out on the Lowell streets lit by the redslant sun and a satisfying meal.

Next on our agenda was the Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour led by Lowell/Kerouac docent Bill Walsh. It began at the Worthen House Cafe (which is still called the Old Worthen by locals). I really like that place. In the picture I am holding up a Narragansett. It's New England's version of a PBR.

LCK revelers at the Worthen House Cafe

Right away at the Worthen, Phil from Indiana (just to the right of me above in the green vest) said the secret word, "satori," and got himself a signed copy of my book. Thanks, Phil, for reading my blog!

The pub crawl made its way to Ricardo's Cafe Trattoria, which used to be Nicky's (Sampas) and a regular haunt of Jack's. Then it was on to what used to be Ward 8 but is now known as Thirsty First. The evening culminated at Cappy's Copper Kettle for the traditional LCK kick-off of music and readings by a host of familiar faces like George Koumantzelis and Alan Crane and Roger Brunelle and Bill Walsh and, of course, Kerouac friend and musician extraordinaire, David Amram.

David Amram at Cappy's Copper Kettle

Cappy's is a short walk from the UMass Lowell Inn. I don't remember that or going to bed. We'll leave it at that.

Friday was a relative's wedding in Newburyport. It was a lengthy and extravagant affair, and by the time we got back to Lowell Friday night we were too bushed to catch the Jack Kerouac Tribute Concert at Mill No. 5. We missed one of my favorite LCK events, Talking Jack, that afternoon.

Saturday began with the Commemorative at the Commemorative, with readings by the usual suspects and some words and music from David Amram. If you've never been to Lowell, when you do visit it is a requirement to visit the Commemorative (Jack Kerouac Park).

David Amram addressing a good-sized gathering at the Commemorative

Kerouac docent Roger Brunelle explicating about the quote from Lonesome Traveler
Kerouac docent Steve Edington addressing the Commemorative gathering

Keroucian Ken Morris looking dapper next to the Mexico City Blues pillar
During the Commemorative, Brett, a doctoral student from Minneapolis asked me if anyone had said the secret word. Apparently, he knew the secret word the last two years but missed connecting with me. I made an exception and took his name and address and promised to send him one. As it turned out, we saw him later and I had made a point to retrieve a copy from the car just in case that happened. So a copy of my book is not only making its way to Indiana but also Minnesota. Good luck with that dissertation about Kerouac, Brett!

After the Commemorative we went back the Inn to check out. They were very accommodating and let us leave our car there even after checking out so that we could attend more events, the next being the marathon reading of Satori in Paris at the Pollard Library, where Jack often played hooky in order to read and actually learn something he was interested in versus attend Lowell High School. Apparently, a similar marathon reading was happening in Paris at the same time.

Rick Dale reading from Satori in Paris

Which brings me to an interesting synchronicity. I didn't intend to read at the marathon reading because we only had a little time to spend there before the Jan Kerouac memorial at nearby St. Anne's. However, they needed readers, and when the sign-up sheet was passed to me by Don Olderen with encouraging words I put my name in the next available slot. I did this without looking at which chapter I had signed up for. When it was my turn, I borrowed a copy of the book and took my place at the podium. I opened it to Chapter 14 and started reading, quickly realizing it was the chapter I had read at the grave on Thursday afternoon. Creepy (in a good way).

Now I need to figure out what the universe is telling me from that particular chapter in Satori in Paris. It's a short chapter in which Jack bemoans his travel plans -- including clothing not worn -- going awry but concluding thusly:
Yet this book is to prove that no matter how you travel, how "successful" your tour, or foreshortened, you always learn something and learn to change your thoughts. 
As usual I was simply concentrating everything in one intense but thousandéd "Ah ha!"
So what did I learn? More on that later, but it must have something to do with learning....

From the marathon reading we made our way over to Edson Hall at St. Anne's Church for the Jan Kerouac event in honor of the 20th anniversary of her death. The event was not sanctioned by LCK, yet there was a respectable sized crowd gathered to hear various speakers, most of whom knew Jan. It was good to see Brad Parker for the first time in many years, and Jacques Kerouac, who I'd met in Farmington when Gerry Nicosia spoke to my Kerouac class in 2013. We had just seen Gerry in Mill Valley, CA, in July. Here are a couple of pics from the event.

Gerry Nicosia

Jacques Kirouac

Brad Parker
I didn't take pictures of all the speakers, as I was trying to concentrate on their words. Jan was definitely an inspiring figure to those who knew her personally as well as to those who only knew her through her writing.

We were getting road-weary by the time this event ended and decided to head for Maine. We stopped for a quick bite at Fuse Bistro on Palmer Street. It used to be Cafe Paradaiso, which I wrote about in my 2008-4 report below. I had an excellent burger (helped in its excellency by a fried egg and bacon) and Crystal had a yummy steak tips pita sandwich. When I went to pay the bill, I opened my wallet to find my credit card missing.

If you know me, you know that I am what an unkind person might call "anal" about things having a place to be and always returning them to that place. Especially credit cards and keys. So this was unusual. I had enough cash to pay the tab and then we starting thinking about where I'd left it. Another place in my wallet? Unlikely -- if I'd returned it to my wallet it would be in its "assigned" spot. We figured out that the last time I used it was Thursday at Cobblestones and decided to walk there (it was the wrong direction from the Inn and very near St. Anne's where we'd just been). We asked the hostess if they'd found a credit card on Thursday night and she made a phone call to someone upstairs. In a few minutes someone came down the stairs with my credit card.

Thank you, Cobblestones. I really dodged a bullet on that one.

On our way back to the car, we passed the Ayer Lofts art gallery on Middle Street, which was hosting artist Barbara Gagel's exhibit of encaustic paintings that were inspired by quotes from various Kerouac works. We were impressed, so much so that we would have bought the one titled, Tristessa, but it was already sold.

As usual, we had a great time in Lowell, in no small part thanks to the dedicated members of the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee who put together the event, but also because it's great to re-connect with others who love keeping Jack Kerouac's spirit alive. If you've never been to LCK, think about putting it on your calendar next year.

So, back to what I learned (re: the Satori reading above). I (re)learned not to borrow trouble about anticipated stressful situations. I learned that I'm probably getting too old for pub crawls. I learned that I'm not too old to learn. I (re)learned the importance of being present ("Ah-ha!). I learned that there are mysteries afoot that we don't understand. I learned to make reservations at the UMass Lowell Inn sooner (we had a heck of a time getting in there this year). I learned that some businesses can be trusted to hold on to your credit card if you unintentionally leave it there.

And, I (re)learned that Crystal is a great traveling companion and that she is right about matters of the heart more often than not.

Enough said for this year. 2017 is coming, but in the meantime you can enjoy past prose and pictures below....

Past Reports from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac:
2010: Didn't attend
2009 Part 3:
2009 Part 2:
2009 Part 1:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Last Call: Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2016

The annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, MA, kicks off in earnest today with a pub crawl starting at 6 PM at The Worthen House, 141 Worthen Street. The pub crawl ends at Cappy's Copper Kettle at 245 Central Street for the traditional LCK kickoff of music and readings at 8 PM.

No visit to Lowell in honor of Jack is complete without a visit to his grave in Edson Cemetery at 1375 Gorham Street. It's not in the official itinerary (click here), so you'll have to fit it in around the official events. Jack's grave is on Lincoln Avenue between 7th and 8th. There's a relatively new memorial that's hard to miss compared to the original tombstone (which is still there).

Also not on the official itinerary is an event honoring the 20th anniversary of the death of Jan Kerouac, which you can read about here in yesterday's Lowell Sun.

To repeat myself, the secret word this year is "satori" in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Satori in Paris. The first person to come up to me in Lowell and whisper it in my ear gets a signed copy of my book. This has proven to be a fool's errand on my part in the past, so I won't be disappointed if once again it doesn't happen.

See some of you in Lowell.