Tag Archives: Jack Kerouac

Love letter

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Take me back to San Francisco
take me to climbing up city mountains
they call Bernal Heights
with sidewalks made of staircases
and lined with pink flowers
I have never seen so pink
in my life.
Climb until your calves ache.
Take me to the feelings and the hip
take me to the tacos of the Mission.
Take me to the towers to the tourists
to the scrappy figures and tempting touches
along Ocean Beach
to the baths of the too fancy Cliff House
to midnight diners
bike rides
and convertibles.
Take me back to seeing the Pacific
on the other side of the world
for the first time
to the ghosts of hippies to flowers in hair
to dream-laden dusty golden merry-go-rounds.
To sunshine city lights and fog.
Take me back to standing on top of Angel Island
State Park and walking along with my soul.
Take me back to getting lost.
Take me to those feelings
to breathing in the ghosts of Kerouac and Ginsberg
in the heavenly stacks of City Lights
and waiting
hoping
and holding your breathe
that Ferlinghetti would
walk out of his
too high secret office and take me with him.
Take me back to cappuchinos
and Washington Square.
To camping on top of the World
at Steep Ravine on Mount Tam
fear of sliding into the sea
or rather
the sea would come and take me right downstream
towards the glow
under the big glistening bridge
and straight to Jack Kerouac’s heart.

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Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums

I nudged myself closer to the ledge and closed my eyes and thought “Oh what a life this is, why do we have to be born in the first place, and only so we can have our poor gentle flesh laid out to such impossible horrors as huge mountains and rock and empty space.”

Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, 1958

Oh, what a life this is, indeed. 

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Saturday mornings never slumber

Saturday mornings with Jack Kerouac-
that Jazz tone and tremble still ringing
in your ears from the night before,
a beatness that never slumbers.
“It’s strange what long trips people take in their lifetimes…”
It’s strange what a long trip a lifetime is.

Real Saturday mornings are dull brown coffee
and bacon-laced kisses,
wrapped up in Woody Guthrie flannel
bright light peeking out from behind
too cold curtains and hearts.

I try to picture Kerouac here today,
what he would look like, smell like, sound like:
I imagine him as some mix between my friend Gabe
and Elvis, caring and strong and crazy.

Kerouac would be dancing around the kitchen
with all of us,
socks sliding on the wood floor
the spatula a microphone
stopping the next minute to scribble down his dreams
from the night before
of train rides
and his late father.
Glowing like the desolation angel he was,
and we’d glow too.

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Beat streets of ghostly lives

Kerouac’s ghost:
an homage to the beat life adventure
that lickity split moment
thumb out run
dust rising down the road
no soles on your shoes
but God, is there a soul in your heart,
open car door
throw bag down, just
ssssllllide right in.

The “King of Desolation” and
an angel among thieving society,
loved the trip love the road
loved the people the desolation souls
the mad men the beautiful ladies
loved it all so hard.

Wrote more honestly
than many other people care to think when they die
thoughts clothed in truth
and actions led on by what would make him happy,
as it should be.
Seek happiness always first.
Love life, he sure did.

The ghost of Kerouac is no doubt
huddled down in some dark
smells like whiskey and cheap beer
basement bar on Skid Row
the old Times Square, ‘Frisco, between the peaks of
some Colorado Mountain town,
jazz on stage so hard so loud
it shakes your glass on the table
hands clap, dresses shake, cigars and cigarettes
burn away the night.
And next to him is Cassady’s ghost,
Bourroughs, Ginsberg, all the beat life
on the beat streets of ghostly lives.

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These stories are pieces of your mind

IN JANUARY, I FINISHED READING JACK KEROUAC’S Lonesome Traveler and got swept up with life things and haven’t had the chance to sit down and write something since. I also finished another book last night, as I previously admitted to you that I was cheating on Kerouac but alas I’m so glad that I did. I’ll tell you about John Williams’ unbelievable novel Stoner soon.

As I was walking home today, strolling down H St NE from the bus stop to my little brick DC row house, one of the mini homes with the elongated living rooms that stretch from the front door to the kitchen sink, I thought something neat. I was passing by the row of hip and up and coming spots, mostly bars with a few restaurants, speckled in between the run down and shelved forgotten store fronts that have been deserted and lonely and falling apart for years, all with FOR LEASE signs on them that are wearing thin. And I thought: “Everything’s always becoming something.” And isn’t that true? Whether it’s a storefront in a soon to be gentrified neighborhood of DC where I admit that I felt a little awkward getting looks from people on the bus as the only little white girl in sight, with the crazy man talking to himself sitting across from me, or whether it’s your own life and your own personality moving and shaking and every day becoming a little bit of something else and losing a little bit if what you were. It’s pretty spectacular.

Back to Kerouac.

Let me tell you what I learned from his collection of stories, almost like diary entries, moments and occasions reminisced from his dreamy mind, that he put together in Lonesome Traveler and published in 1960.

The stories that I remember, several weeks now after throwing the book to my bedside are the tales about his travels in Mexico and California and the beautiful women he saw and the drugs he smoked. I liked that story and I recall distinctly underlining a paragraph he wrote describing a couple of field hands making love in the field. It was magnificent in how innocently and secretly it was written. I remember his story of working on the ship and washing dishes or something like that, but I found that pretty boring. My two favorite stories were the one about Kerouac traipsing around Times Square in New York City and about his time spent working at the fire outlook on top of a mountain and how it brought him so close to God.

Going back through Lonesome Traveler now, the last story, “The Vanishing American Hobo” about his rambles with hobo friends, I had forgotten all about that, but that’s what inspired my writing Hobo Dreams.

It was Kerouac’s story “The Railroad Earth” that wrote that unforgettable scene of sex and the powerful railroad:

“Along comes the tired field hand Jose Camero and he see her in the vast sun red in the fruit field moving queen majesty to the well, the tower, he runs for her, the railroad crashed by he pays no attention…Switches rush up and melt into the rail, sidings part from it like lips, return like lover arms.—My mind is on the brown knees of Carmelity, the dark spltot between her thighs where creation hides its majesty and all the boys with eager head do rush suffering and want the whole the hole the works the hair the seekme membrane the lovey sucky ducky workjohn, the equaled you, she never able and down goes the sun and it’s dark and they’re layin in a grape row, nobody can see, or hear, on the dog hears OOO slowly against the dust of that railroad earth…”

Oh and it goes on and Kerouac tells some even more dirty details, but I’ll leave that for you to explore.

“New York Scenes” made me want to get up right then and take the next bus to New York City and a find a bum on the streets or an old crippled half deaf gentleman in an up-city nursing home who actually remembered what Times Square was like in the 40’s and 50’s. Probably wouldn’t have known Kerouac or any of the beatniks the original beats, but he would have known THE TIMES.

I loved Kearouac’s line “Men do love bars and good bars should be loved.” That’s the kind of man for me. Kerouac buzzed from place to place in this story, dramy places like Grants, the Automat, Bickfords… So many places famous of their time that they frequented, loved, lived in practically. And what is it all now? Some sleezy bright light pigeon hopping Broadway lurking tourist attraction that does nothing for humanity. I want to go there and find what those places… Grants, the Automat, Bickfords… what they really used to be like, what happened to them, and find old photographs of what they used to be like and side them next to the monstrosity of what stands there today.

The Garden Bar. The Cedar Bar. I bet those were bars to be loved by men. “Jazz belongs to the open joyful ten-cent beer joints, as in the beginning,” Kerouac said. And when he ended that story with the words, “This is the beat night life of New York ,” I had to write down just below it in my copy of the book, “Is there any beat left in New York City?”

And then what shocked me when I started reading “Alone on a Mountaintop” was that Jack Kerouac, THE Jack Kerouac, was writing with sentence structure! He was using periods and ending sentences in appropriate places!… for a bout half a page. And then it was back to his normal self. It was surprising and a little funny. I bet he had added that or his editor advised he throw in some introductory sentences to frame his experience. Funny though.

This story is where the name of the collection comes from. As Kerouac is en route to his mountain top, he asks his guides where it is.

“ ‘Where’s Desolation Peak?’ I asked, meaning my own mountain (A mountain to be kept forever, I’d dreamed all that spring) (O lonesome traveler!)”

O lonesome traveler! It was a proclamation he felt of excitement and exuberance in the life of adventure and going somewhere he didn’t know. He wasn’t afraid of it. And he surely wasn’t scared of being alone. He greeted the solitude with a strong embrace and probably something like a grinning smile.

O lonesome traveler! I say, if only we all felt that passion and lust when we were alone in any circumstance for we’re all travelers through our own lives.

This here is one of my favorite things he wrote in the whole collection:

“The stars are words and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words, and so is this world too. And I realize that no matter where I am, whether in a little room full of thought, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, it’s all in my mind. There’s no need for solitude. So love life for what it is, and form no preconceptions whatever in your mind.”

And one more story to tell you from Kerouac’s stories, in “Big Trip to Europe,” Kerouac is in England and visits a museum to look up his family history and stumbled upon his family description. The “Keroack” family motto was written out as: “ Love, work, and suffer” He wrote, “I could have known.”

Jack, these stories are pieces of your mind, and have become shambles of my imagination of what you were like. You lived such a free and adventurous life, and that I envy. I wish you were still travelling and adventuring and loving and could still write about it today. You old lonesome traveler.

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A love letter to Kerouac

MY DEAR JACK,

You will always be there for me. Your eyes dark and frozen in glimpses of still and silent mostly grayscale photographs timeless in how much wisdom and struggle I know are behind those solid eyes and I can, I can feel the sadness too.

But Jack, you can’t break my heart, can’t make me cry, can’t reach out to push me away, can’t lie to me, can’t outrun me, can’t tell me things to try to helplessly impress me…

You belong among the Big Sur mountains, among the pine needles of the evergreen trees fresh and those fallen. You are there among the golden and gray sunset in the harbor in San Fran. You’re here somewhere too. Your thoughts lining the shelves of my room, memories bound together sewn with some of my own.

I can lustfully daydream about your gentle touch the brush of the back of your hand against my cheek. You would have been a sweet, sweet heartbreaking lover. Those dark eyes, your rare smile.

You passed away many years before I was born, but I love your writing. It speaks through me. I live through it. I have never been so drawn to something before, never been so inspired and moved to act and pick up a knapsack to just GO to the woods. Not looking back.

Like a field of fresh black-eyed susan’s, a warm cable-knit scarf bundled around my neck, a hot cup of tea with biscuits and sweet marmalade still warm, you remind me of good things.

Jack. Mr Kerouac. These are my love letters to your writing, to who you were everyday of your life from the famous to the fallen, the what was then that can’t ever be now and to all you stood for and carry on to be.

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Hey Hey Woody

“HEY  HEY Woody Guthrie I wrote you a song…”

I just stumbled across this very lovely song Bob Dylan sang. It has a melody that just takes you gently by the hands and swings you around so your skirt sways out wide and swishes and flows in the breeze created by your movement. A gentle muscular shadow on your jawline cowboy boots a flask of whiskey and me with my skirt boots and probably a yellow flower in my hair. That’s how it would be.

Jack Kerouac probably would have been grande buddies with Woody if they had ever come across each other, and maybe they did. They sure had close acquaintances.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott knew Kerouac.

I actually had the pleasure of seeing Ramblin’ Jack perform at the Library of Congress during a tribute concert to Woody Guthrie last year or the year prior. It was beautiful: the old men and their guitars and harmonicas and everyone in the audience UP UP on their feet singing THIS TRAIN is bound for glory THIS TRAIN…I’m sure I had tears in my eyes.

And that worn warm smile. It STILL shines. Even after all these years and all his travels.

Ramblin’ Jack said in an interview: “like when I went to visit Woody. We just started playing music together and one day led to another. It got to be a good thing and I ended up staying at his house for a year and a half. When I left there, I rode all over Europe on a Vespa motorbike, 5,000 miles in the rain every day with British writer Herb Green, and all over the rural U.S. That was a great time in my life. Then I landed in Greenwich Village, where I was friends with Bob Dylan and met Jack Kerouac. Jack had just finished writing On the Road, and he read me the entire manuscript over three days, sitting on a floor on Bleecker Street.”

When Kerouac was, say 35 years old, that would have made Woody somewhere around 45 years old, ten years older ten years wiser quite a gap there. They may have met. I’ve not been able to track it down. I don’t think they did.

But if they had: Woody in his flannel shirts with an old brass Hohner in his pocket would have surely been like a big brother to Kerouac. Both crazy.

I can just picture it…

Kerouac and Woody would have met along a dirt road somewhere in the Midwest, sun raging no water no rain, just a lot of hot dry dust. Woody was spending some time in that town, writing songs, talking to woman and Kerouac was just passing through, probably heard from Ramblin’ Jack after his visit to New York that Woody lived there and he should stop in and ask for him at the nickel dime store where he should also buy some strawberry ice cream because it was the best that side if the Mississippi.

But Kerouac didn’t even have to call around. He walked from the old gas station down Main Street, past the bar past the bank past children running and playing and there Woody was. He was singing the blues, with a cigarette perched on his left knee almost burning a hole in his trousers.

“You must be Woody.”

“That I am, kid.” Woody looked him up and down, the little beat up dirty railroad bag thrown over his shoulder. Almost a younger version of himself.

“Kerouac.” He said and reached out his hand for a shake.

“Ah, Kerouac! The Great Jack Keruac, lord of the road, of the trains, and a ladies man at that.”

Hmph. Kerouac humble chuckled and would have blushed if he wasn’t already red from the heat. “Thank you sir.”

“Let’s sing a song!,” Woody bellowed.

So Kerouac plopped down next to him, dust rising into the yellow sky and they sang and they talked about their travels, time spent in New York, love for the California and the sea.

“What do you believe in kid?”

Kerouac sat looked up at the yellow dust filled sky with no clouds in sight just yellow air the bright sun burning the back of his neck and a little bit of sweat ever so often trickling down the crease in the middle of his back. He looked up and thought and responded, “I believe in adventure and freedom, spending time with people I GET,” he pounded his fist into the dirt as he said that last word,” close calls and no calls and always, always running after it till I get it and even then some…” He paused. Stood up slowly because his lower back was beginning to ache and creak, brushed off the dust from his pants, kicked his shoes, brushed down the front of his white t-shirt, and looked right at Woody. “That’s what I believe in.”

Woody just smiled back, picked up his harmonica and pulled off a joyous exuberant riff.

Yehaw!

…………..

Now, I know this didn’t happen. Sadly around the time that On the Road was published, Woody’s health was bad and he was likely in the hospital in New Jersey and we know there’s no dust there, only soot and salt.

But I do think, with their shared deep deep love of traveling and people and trying so so hard to get life right, that they would have been dear friends.

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My year with Kerouac…

JACK KEROUAC’S LIFE, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, WAS JUST ONE BIG ROLLER COASTER ESCAPE LOVE LUST RUNNING after something you just can’t quite grab with your greasy fingertips, dusty road sunsets and moonrises and evergreen tree sparkling moments filled with adventure and whiskey soaked till the morning comes running after your dirty clothes thrown on the naked floor.

This website, these stories of mine, they are my roller coaster. My moments of reflection, of study, creative escapes trying to plot through the forest of new weeds and words and ideas and madness.  This is my year with Kerouac.

Last year my mantra was… “happiness, one cup at a time.” I drank a lot of hot tea. That’s a lie. I wanted to drink a lot of tea because I thought it would make me happy. I had this crazy idea that drinking a lot of hot tea would make me happier.

That simple warmth, that honest innocent taste, it always puts a smile on my lips. I guess the mantra could apply to alcoholics too: happiness, one cup at a time. Bourbon, gin, even wine. But no, I’m not there… Hot tea. One cup at a time. Sipping up some warm peach, ginger or chamomile tea just reminds me of sunshine and dandelion weeds.  A little bit lustful and innocent. That’s why it’s happiness to me. Drunken, sunshiney happiness.

But as the year went on I discovered that teacups were an empty excuse for happiness. I’d go through all the fuss to boil water on the stove, pick out the perfect tea bag, let it steep, and then by the time I got around to drinking, the tea was cold and it upset me even more. So I gave up on tea.  Hurrah! Well, I had tried. From time to time I still make tea, ginger tea to calm my tummy.

From tea to Jack Kerouac… I know he was fond of tea, but another type…

This blog is my dedication to my writing and to the writing of the beat authors. I will write and publish here when I have inspiration or simply something to say. It will likely be poems, prose in the style of Kerouac, and essays. Maybe a few narrative interviews if I can come across some interesting characters. When I have no words and my fingers won’t type, I will read, I will listen to the soft syllables of Jack and friends. Ginsberg. Carolyn. Good ‘ol Bill Bouroughs. I hope to become so familiar with them its as if they sit around my kitchen laughing, smoking, they become my own dear friends. I know these writers are wise and have much to teach me, so I am here also to learn. Learn and write. Discover. This is my year with Kerouac.

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