Friday, October 21, 2005


October in the Railroad Earth.
Jack Kerouac.
Safe in heaven , dead.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Albany N.Y. and The Beat Generation

Cultural icon Jack Kerouac referred to the month of October as the time of year when everything returns to the earth. It's also the month in 1969 that the celebrated literary
figure died.

Since his passing, his work, along with the contributions of contemporaries William
Burroughs and poet Allen Ginsberg, is recognized every October in communities around the country with concerts and readings from their work.

Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg form the cornerstone of the "Beat
Generation," a literary movement that would influence the counterculture's seismic influence
of the 1960s and '70s. Today, their legacy can be felt with a new generation that has reinvented the poetry reading and the coffee bar.

Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg also have their own histories with the Capital Region.

Delmar Connection

Jack Kerouac's second wife, Joan Haverty, was born in Queens in 1931 and later relocated upstate with her family to 7 Bothwick Ave. in Delmar.
Haverty and her brother grew up in a single-parent home, supported bytheir mother,
Violet, who worked as assistant floor manager at a men's clothing store in downtown Albany.

As a teen, Joan befriended Schenectady resident William Cannastra, one of two sons
born to a wealthy, aristocratic mother and a machinist-by-trade father who had emigrated
from Italy.

The Cannastras lived on Schenectady's Pennsylvania Avenue, a tree-lined street in the
shadows of the Mount Pleasant ballfields.
Young Bill, who had the yearnings of a career in the art world, insteadplacated his parents
by studying at Harvard Law School.
In the summer of 1949, when he moved to New York City to further pursue his studies,
Haverty went with him.

The pair shared an apartment in New York's Chelsea District, where serious daytime studies were said to alternate with wild and raucous post-midnight parties with other young friends that included Kerouac and Ginsberg.

After one particularly wild night of drunkenness in October 1950 that included Kerouac
and Lucien Carr, Cannastra's horseplay in the wee hours at the Bleeker Street subway station resulted in his death. Dangling precariously outside the window of a moving subway car,
he was unable to get back inside as the train rumbled into the tunnel. He was struck by
a girder and killed instantly.

Cannastra was later immortalized in a number of works by those who knew him, including a poem by Allen Ginsberg titled "In Memorium: William Cannastra, 1922-1950";
in his legendary "Howl"; and by Kerouac, who identified him as "Finistra" in "Visions of Cody."

Shortly after Cannastra's death, Kerouac moved in with Haverty, and the two soon wed on Nov. 17, 1950. For Thanksgiving, they hitchhiked from Manhattan to Delmar to share the happy news of their coupling with Haverty's mother.

Upon his return to Manhattan, Kerouac resumed working on the story of his road travel journeys with friend Neal Casady. During an especially frenetic three-week creative spell
fueled by benzedrine, Kerouac sat at his typewriter in February 1951, and banged out
his epic novel "On The Road."
He did so at the couple's West 20th Street apartment on a 120-foot roll of Cannastra's
old tracing paper that he had scotch-taped together, piece-by-piece so as to be
unencumbered with the mind-dragging thought of changing paper.

Kerouac and Haverty's marriage dissolved months later, and in late 1951, the 21-year-old Haverty, pregnant with Kerouac's child (one that he would always publicly deny was his), returned to her mother's Delmar apartment.

"A baby girl born in Albany, New York, says `Mommy' for the first time," wrote
Jan Kerouac in her 1981 novel, "Trainsong."
Father and daughter met only twice, briefly. Jack died in 1969 at age 47. Jan died in 1996
in New Mexico, succumbing to recurring health problems. Joan died in 1990.

Burroughs and Loudonville

Burrough's wife, Joan Vollmer, grew up at 21 North Loudon Heights, just off Route 9 in Loudonville. Vollmer's was a privileged existence, growing up among English Tudor-styled homes and rose- manicured lawns.

She attended St. Agnes school in Albany, and left home in 1942 to attend Barnard College
in New York City.
Vollmer roomed with Edie Parker, who would become Kerouac's first wife. She met
and quickly married a law student, Paul Adams. After he was drafted into the service,
she had an affair with a Columbia student that resulted in a child, Julie, born in 1943.

Vollmer convinced Adams the child was his, and after spending the summer in Loudonville, Vollmer moved back to New York and resumed rooming with Parker.
Through Parker and Kerouac, Vollmer met Burroughs, whom she became immediately
involved with and would settle into a common-law marriage. They had a son, Billy Jr.
They also shared a literary bond and a penchant for addictive drugs.

William was addicted to heroin, Joan to benzedrine. In September 1951, while living
in Mexico City, the couple indulged in a dangerous game.
Sitting on a couch with gun in hand, William attempted to shoot a champagne glass
off of Joan's head. The gun misfired and she was killed instantly.

Two days later, the Times Union headline read "Ex-Loudonville Girl Shot To Death
at Mexico City Party; Husband Accused."
The article featured an innocent looking Joan, draped in an old St. Agnes graduation cap
and gown.
A sinister looking Burroughs appeared in a separate photo in a dark suit.

Burroughs was detained in Mexico City for a year by authorities but never confined to jail.
Two years after the incident, Vollmer's death was ruled accidental. The children were split up.

Julie went back to Loudonville, where she was raised by her maternal grandparents, and
Billy went to St. Louis to live with his father's parents.
Billy, whose life would be plagued by alcohol and substance abuse throughout, penned two novels: "Speed" and "Kentucky Ham" in the 1970s.
He died in 1981. Julie was raised in the Capital Region, and her whereabouts are unknown.

As for William Burroughs, who died in 1997 at age 83, the death of his common-law wife
was a determining factor in his career:
"I would never have become a writer but for Joan's death," he said, "(it) brought me
in contact with the Invader, the Ugly Spirit, in which I have no choice except to write
myself out."

Ginsberg in Albany

"Albany throwned in snow. It's winter, Poe, upstate New York scythed,"
begins Ginsberg's 1969 poem "To Poe: over the Planet, Albany-Baltimore."

He spent a considerable time journeying through the Capital Region en route to his four-bedroom farmhouse outside Cherry Valley, 80 miles west of Albany.

While on his way to Kerouac's funeral in 1969, as the entourage passed by Colonie's
Memory's Garden Cemetery, Ginsberg scribbled:
"Cemetery near Albany Airport glimpsed on way to Jack Kerouac's funeral in Lowell."

It was published as Ginsberg's farewell poem to his friend, "Memory Garden."

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in the Albany Times Union, Oct 25, 1998.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Kerouac in Queens

These works first appeared in the literary zine: Chronicles of Disorder (1995-2000)

Letters From Readers:

Dear Sir,
I am in possession of different items that belonged to Mr. Kerouac like photos, pens,
eyeglasses and a typewriter. The time involved in gathering these items again are
not available to me. Even some unfinished works are stored away, but my time is not able.

I would be willing to sell you Jack Kerouac’s typewriter for $2,000.
I have no use for it really. The pictuires and manuscript will stay in my posession.
If you are interested, please send the money and I will ship you the typewriter.

Yours Truly,
(Name Withheld)
Ozone Park, Queens, NY. April 13, 1996.

Dear Sir:
I only knew Jack in high school but he was two years ahead of me. I can only say he
was the male star of the school the one year we were in high school together.
At that time he was primarily idolized as an athlete – excelling in football and track –
and all the girls though he was very handsome, which he was.

I can only say that during this time he showed little, if any literary talent that would prognosticate his later meteoric literary rise. I believe it was in college that his literary talents burst like a gusher.
If I remember, he had gone to Columbia on an athletic scholarship. I do not know if he graduated.

- John Tatsos
Port Richy, Fla. Aug. 8, 1996.

Jack rented a second floor apartment from my grandfather. The only thing I remember
is my grandfather calling him a bongo-drum playing hippie.
I was told he would play the bongos in the apartment all the time.

-Dot Bergeron
Lowell, Mass. July 30, 1996.



June, 1943.
Kerouac joins his parents at their new apartment at 133-01 Crossbay Blvd., Ozone Park.

I came home in civvies to their new apartment over a drugstore in Ozone Park
on a hot June morning.
(VD, p.173)

Outside, cars pass by on the multi-laned boulevard that leads north, into the center of Queens and south, to Jamaica Bay.

Red sun in June, the cars shizzing by on the boulevard, the smell of exhaust but a nice wind all the time from the nearby sea immediately blowing it all away, and also nice trees around.
(VD, p. 174).

I’d look out the window at the darkness of the Queens night and feel a nauseating gulp to see those poor streetlamps stretching into the murmurous city like a string of woes.(VD, p. 272).

The nights would be filled with journeys to Manhattan to meet with friends Allen Ginsberg
and William Burroughs, among others, before returning in the morning to Queens,
where his parents Leo and Memere waited, sitting by the window for hours watching
for Jack to come walking home.

I brought Johnnie home to meet them and we had beers in the German tavern on Liberty Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard (VD, p. 197).

Beneath the second-storey apartment, at the drugstore downstairs, Kerouac receives long, rambling phone calls from Neal Cassady, and works there briefly as a soda jerk.
There are visits as well at the apartment where Cassady would sometimes take refuge and inspired the early dialogue of the friendship that would later fuel Kerouac’s book,
“On The Road.”

In 1947, when we planned to go West together I formed a vision of you…in fact, if you can remember, we took a long bus from my house on Crossbay Blvd., Ozone Park, for a short ride to that little old library half-mile away, and talked on the way about wranglers in the West. (JKL, “Letter to Neal Cassady,” p. 306).

Kerouac’s father, Leo, died in the apartment in Spring, 1946. Over the next two years,
Jack sat at the typewriter on his mother’s kitchen table, grimly struggling from morning
until late at night to recite the history of the Kerouacs and America. The result would be
his first published book, “The Town and the City.”

September, 1949.
Jack joins his mother at the new Richmond Hill home at 94-21 134th St., a few blocks away from the chugging locomotives at the embankment of the Long Island Railroad.
Kerouac had a small bedroom upstairs in the two-storey house, a small front yard, their own telephone, # JA6-7843, and a TV where Jack would entertain himself watching baseball games. Here he would also begin his study of Buddhism, and type the notes that would later become part of a number of his books.
It was where “The Subterraneans” was written in three full moon nights in October, 1953,
and a month later, in response to a request from friends William Burroughs and Allen
Ginsberg, Kerouac would put together his Essentials of Spontaneous Prose. The family
would remain at Richmond Hill until February, 1955.

At this time, my mother was living alone in a little apartment in Jamaica Long Island…she had a tiny bedroom waiting for me…I settled down to long sweet sleeps, day-long meditations in the house, writing, and long walks around beloved old Manhattan a half hour subway ride away.
(LT, p. 104).

After one of their many journeys together, Jack and Neal end up at the newly-painted apartment in Richmond Hill.

We were so used to traveling we had to walk all over Long Island, but there was no more land, just the Atlantic Ocean, and we could only go so far.(JKL, p. 128).

Yes, 23 years after these dusty incidents of olden day, you and I arrived in Richmond Hill
in a ’50 Chrysler in the company of a meek man from Detroit on a cool Autumn day,
to 94-21 134th Street, my mother’s new apartment (and) unpacked our filthy gear we’d lugged all the way from a crooked little door in Russian Hill, San Francisco; climbed the stairs…talking and yelling up to my mother.

(JKL, p. 303)

In the ever more exciting big-traffic-all-of-it-pouring-into-New-York night we zoom down Queens Boulevard for the hundredth time in our friendship. (VOC, p. 13).

On Kerouac’s scroll of “On the Road,” a barely legible address appears in pencil that reads: 94-21 134th St., Richmond Hill, NY.

(VD) “Vanity of Duluoz,” by Jack Kerouac (1968)
(JKL) “Jack Kerouac Selected Letters,’ edited by Ann Charters (1995)
(LT) “Lonesome Traveler,” by Jack Kerouac (1960)
(VOC) “Visions of Cody,” by Jack Kerouac (published in 1972)
Kerouac: A biography, by Ann Charters (1975)
Memory Babe: A critical biography, by Gerald Nicosia (1983)
Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac…, by Dennis McNally (1979)
Jack’s Book: an oral biography…, by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee (1978)
“Dharma Beat,” issue #6, Attila Gyenis and Mark Hemenway, editors

Notes from Queens, summer 1996

LOOK UP AND SEE the fragmented sun through the zipperteeth exposures
of the overhead EL, flanked below by newsstands and Italian bakeries and cars
rattling through the intersection of Rockaway and Liberty, where Woodhaven pours
into Cross Bay Boulevard, crowned by the long symmetrical girders supporting the BMT line.

I walked up the long stairs in the summer of 1996 looking for a tokenbooth and slid out the
birth canal of WW II America, standing on a subway platform overlooking a hometown that
I don’t even remember.

Later, coming down from the platform, I walked through the old neighborhood.
Where were the children swinging broomsticks at a Spalding?
What happened to all the caps that used to cover the fire hydrants,
their silvercolored covers pitted with holes that made countrified waterfalls
when the water was squeezed through them?
Whatever happened to the concrete park on the avenue, the air acrid from the smoke
of old men lighting smelly cigars and rolling a bocci ball across the pebbly sawdust?

The monkey bars are still there, framed in the corner by a stone wall spray-painted
with a red heart, a broken arrow, and the initials of teenaged lovers at the bottom of which reads: Love, 4-E.

Thomas Dimopoulos
founder/editor Chronicles of Disorder

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

On the Road Hits the Road: Kerouac on Tour

SARATOGA SPRINGS - It’s been heralded as one of the most important novels of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cultural works to be born in America.

Historian Douglas Brinkley likens its original form to first edition literary documents like Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

You could make a reasonable argument that the newly opened exhibition displaying Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript of “On the Road” is the most historically significant event in the Spa City since George Washington and Alexander Hamilton visited the healing springs at
High Rock in 1783.

Approximately one-third of the 120-foot long scroll is “unrolled” and on display at the
Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. It is exhibited in a case that
was specifically built for the piece, according to a museum spokesman.

“I was influenced by the youthful, romantic notions of ‘On the Road,”‘ said Jim Irsay,
who registered the winning bid for the scroll at $2.4 million dollars at Christie’s auction
last year in New York City.
Irsay is also the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team.
As his team prepares for a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night, Irsay was waxing poetic about Kerouac.

“It’s that feeling of getting in an automobile and just traveling across the country. It’s about people who have freedom, who have the ability to dream,” Irsay said.

Shortly after its publication in 1957, Kerouac’s great American novel, “On the Road,”
defined an entire generation, as well as influencing it. The effect on popular culture created lyrical reverberations that continue to be felt and celebrated today.
Oct. 21, marks the anniversary of the author’s death.

In the late 1940s, Kerouac criss-crossed the country documenting his journey in notebooks.
In 1950, his debut novel, “Town & the City,” was published. But it was another theme and
style that was percolating in Kerouac’s creative consciousness.

“I have another novel in mind - ‘On the Road’ - which I keep thinking about,” he wrote
in his notebook in July, 1948. “(About) two guys hitch-hiking to California in search of something they don’t really find.”

It all came together during a three-week typing frenzy in April 1951. He sat down in a Manhattan apartment he shared with his wife, Joan Haverty, and began typing:

“I first met met (sic) Neal not long after my father died ... I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it really had something to do with my father’s death and my awful feeling that everything was dead.”

For the next three weeks, Kerouac did little else, other than type his manuscript and take
brief respites for sleep, pea soup and a lot of coffee.
To create a seamless flow, he taped together sheets of paper, eventually ending up with a 120-foot long, 9-inch wide scroll. Similar to the type that architects used, the paper
originally belonged to William Cannastra.

Cannastra grew up on a tree-lined street in the shadows of the Mount Pleasant baseball
fields in Schenectady. Haverty, who grew up in Delmar befriended Cannastra and the pair shared an apartment on West 20th Street in Manhattan.

Cannastra’s exploits were legendary among his friends, but his wild behavior had a deadly
result. One October night in 1950, he was killed in a New York City subway station during alcohol-induced hi-jinks.
A month later, Kerouac and Haverty were married and hitchhiked from Manhattan
to Delmar during the Thanksgiving holidays. The marriage however would be short-lived.

“From Apr. 2 to Apr. 22 I wrote a 125,000 (word) full-length novel averaging 6 thous.
a day,”
Kerouac wrote in a posthumously published letter written at his mother’s house,
dated May 22, 1951. “Of course since Apr. 22 I’ve been typing and revising.”

After splitting with Haverty, Kerouac’s typing and revising took place at friend Lucien Carr’s loft (whose son Caleb, is a best-selling contemporary author), and at his mother’s home in the Richmond Hill section of Queens.

“He was the best mama’s boy in America,” said John Tytell, “beat” scholar and author of a pair of definitive beat generation books. Tytell will deliver a lecture on the beats at the Tang
on Wednesday.

No matter where Kerouac’s “road” took him during the 1940s and ‘50s, he would always
end up back at his mother’s house either in Richmond Hill, or in nearby Ozone Park.
Tytell was instrumental in getting a plaque commemorating Kerouac placed at the
Ozone Park location. The bureaucratic process took a decade.

The interior of the Richmond Hill home is basically “one little bedroom and a tiny kitchen,” Tytell said. “It’s amazing, given the size, that he was able to work and write at that small kitchen table.”
Today, the home is a volunteer ambulance corps, an idea that Kerouac would have been especially fond of, according to Tytell.

By the end of 1951, Haverty returned to Delmar and gave birth to a daughter, Jan.
For most of his life, Kerouac publicly denied that the girl was his daughter, although
privately he seemed to come to the realization that Jan was his.

“A baby girl born in Albany, New York, says ‘Mommy’ for the first time,” Jan Kerouac
wrote in her 1981 novel, “Trainsong.” After she began getting recognized as a word-stylist in her own right, it was difficult to deny the connection.

In Mexico, meanwhile, Kerouac’s friend and aspiring writer William Burroughs had
accidentally killed his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer, late in 1951. He was attempting
to shoot a champagne glass on top of her head. The gun misfired and Vollmer, who grew
up in the affluent Loudonville suburbs, was killed instantly.

Burroughs, Vollmer and other Kerouac acquaintances and friends appear in the scroll manuscript of “On the Road” under their real names. For the published version, their names,
as well as those of Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke and protagonist Neal Cassady have been changed for legal reasons.

Also changed is the first paragraph references to his father’s death. It was replaced for publication by inferences to his disintegrating marital status.

“Visions of Cody is probably closest to the original manuscript,” Tytell said of the book that
was published in the 1970s after Kerouac had passed away.

“It’s also the most experimental work that he did,” Tytell continued. “The spontaneous bop prosody that was ‘On the Road’ was truncated by in-house editors at Viking.” Forty feet of it are on display at the Tang.

There are approximately 15 words to each line, and across every 10th line pencil marks
correct grammatical nuances (“the” becomes “these” for example), or in some cases, delete entire sections altogether. The scroll is single-spaced with taped seams. It is without
paragraphs of any kind.

Yellowed and creased by time, it is nonetheless an everlasting testament of Kerouac’s frenzy and the times in which he lived. It was also something of a show-piece. Its author would proudly take it everywhere and share it with friends, be-bop era jazz club enthusiasts and astonishing editors, often rolling it out - like a road - for all to enjoy.

“I was influenced early on by writers,” the scroll’s owner Irsay said from his Beverly Hills
hotel this week. “Particularly Rudyard Kipling and Dylan Thomas.”
The literary lineage led him to the beats. He also has a fondness for music.

“If you trace back the influences of say a Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton, you would find Robert Johnson, or Jelly Roll Morton,” Irsay said. “Underneath it all were Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassady,” he added.

Before bidding on the manuscript, he consulted some in-the-know friends.
“We talked - Hunter Thompson and Cameron Crowe and Douglas Brinkley - about where
in the scheme of things ‘On the Road’ fits in. I think clearly it is a cultural piece
representing the Holy Grail of the beats,” Irsay said. “And you have to remember the (conservative) times of the 1950s. To me, all human beings are artists. It doesn’t matter what you do. Life is a work of art, and these people (the beats) in their time had the courage as seed planters to experience and write about their life.”

The scroll will travel fittingly on the road, making stops across the country until its 50-year publication anniversary in 2007, according to Irsay. A recently constructed case will enable future exhibitions to display all 120 feet of it, including the very last part of the scroll which has been soaked in myth and legend about a missing piece that was eaten by Lucien Carr’s dog during Kerouac’s re-typing phase in 1951.

While Irsay laughed when the mystery surrounding the allegedly chewed off bit surfaced, he acknowledged: “It’s somewhat true that he had a little bite of history.”

Wednesday at the Tang, Tytell will discuss the cultural resurgence of beat interest.
He will also talk about the “movement’s” central characters, who were once little more than a community of aspiring writers sharing a common belief, that history shows, have influenced an entire culture.

“The scroll is of significant cultural importance,” said Tytell, although sadly added, “the avalanche of fame (that it brought), Kerouac was totally unprepared to handle.”

“Writers are, in a way, very powerful indeed,” Burroughs wrote in his book of essays,
“The Adding Machine,” published in the 1980s. “They write the script for the reality film. Kerouac opened a million coffee bars and sold a million pairs of Levis to both sexes.
Woodstock rises from his pages.”

Kerouac himself seemed to sense the importance of his work.
From his notebook entries dated Nov. 25, 1951: “10 years. 50 years, 100 years from now, maybe the work that I’ll do...will mean a lot.”

“On the Road” has sold more than 3.5 million copies in the United State and continues to sell tens of thousands of copies each year, nearly a half-century after its release.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
originally published in The Saratogian, Oct. 20, 2002.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Kerouac's Book of Dharma

Early in 1954, while researching Thoreau in the Richmond Hill Branch of the Queens Public Library, Jack Kerouac came across a notation of Buddhahood that sent him back
to the shelves referencing the topic.

Utilizing Ashvaghoshga's "Life of the Buddha" and Dwight Goddard's "The Buddhist Bible,"
he began documenting the Eastern texts and discovered a new philosophy of thought
that would gradually weave its way into his work.

On the long walk back to the apartment he shared with his mother, Kerouac paused
under a Hillside Avenue street lamp. Closing his eyes to shut out the outside world,
he practiced the meditation just learned and, at that precise moment, began a Western
journey into a new consciousness, the germ of an idea that would simmer over time and eventually blossom into the contemporary texts.

Beginning in the spring of 1954, in what was originally intended as a series of letters
and teachings for his friend Allen Ginsberg,Kerouac spent the better part of the next
two years studying, writing and documenting Buddhist philosophies and translating
them through the vessel of his Western mind. These notes grew into a voluminous text
that he called "Some of the Dharma."

By 1954, several years had passed since Kerouac's critically acclaimed, albeit traditionally
styled debut novel,"The Town and the City." In the interim, he had sought and discovered a
more original voice - a rhythmic language rooted in the spontaneity of automatic writing
and the "sketching" of words. Using this technique during an explosively creative period
in the early and mid-1950s, he completed several works - "On the Road," "Dr. Sax,"
"Visions of Cody," and "The Subterraneans" among them. All were unwelcomed, however,
by a publishing community that saw no place in the world for them.

Kerouac's mirror showed a man in his mid-30s, broke, depressed, living at home
with his mother after a pair of failed marriages, and haunted with frustration over
the pile of manuscripts that remained unpublished. His buddhist studies provided
a modicum of comfort in a period of rejection.

In between cross-country zigzags - to San Jose, to Mexico City, to Manhattan nights on the Lower East Side, with a now-legendary cast of cronies - he continued to fill notebooks with his Dharma notes. By the spring of 1956, he had completed a phase of two-and-a-half years of
Buddhist studies, and the carefully typed manuscript, titled "Some of the Dharma," was met, predictably, with yet another series of rejection slips.

This month, Viking Publishing, banking on the hope of a world finally ready for it, released
the work, duplicating the text in design and the formatted blocks of Kerouac's original intention.

A massive volume of verse, call it a dual-sided sword of verbiage - one from the West,
one blowing in from the East - spontaneous lightning striking a weather vane sitting atop the earth's cracked axis, and setting off a flashpot of random white heat, sparks,flashes, spinning
at the speed of light and cutting a swath of figure 8's - the checkered pattern of
inverted infinity lying on its side - into the doldrums of a rapidly decaying planet
only now prepared to receive its communion.

"Now I remember:
The state of my Mind was pure water before I was born."

It is a beautifully designed volume of exploration filled with dreams,philosophies, sketches, routines, and haikus:

"Suppose you fill the square vessel with objects and then remove the
vessel's squareness;
are you still troubled as to the existence of
shape in open space?"

Scraps of poems, prayers, meditations, and journal entries:

"January 5, 1955: All of a sudden I learned to stop breathing (at the end of exhalations)
and was transported - as if suddenly sitting on
lotus blossoms or lily pads.
Aerial freedom, lightness, bliss . . ."

Inside the jacket cover, there is an introductory glossary of style -"Editorial Explanations
of Various Techniques" - a description of the means Kerouac used in his word "sketches," "visions," and "tics" - a resource that expounds on his original theme of the "Essentials of
Spontaneous Prose."

It is a design of language that swirls in the mind, stirring the cauldron that is the brain,
bubbling ingredients of memory and hope, of pain, of loss, of growth of soul, to open
and blossom into truth of the inner eye :

"If you were not there/ To see the world/
With your special eyes/ Conditioned eyes/
What makes you think/ It would look like that?"

William S. Burroughs once wrote that Kerouac, with his words and vision, "opened a million coffee bars and sold a million Levi's." With these transpositions of Eastern philosophies,
which also found their way into later works like "Dharma Bums" and "The Scripture
of The Golden Eternity," Kerouac, alongside other visionaries of the so-called Beat Generation, and theologians like Alan Watts, was a catalyst for opening up the consciousness of America in the search for meaning and spirituality that continues in the present day.

"Some of the Dharma" is separated into 10 "books," representing the search for epiphanies
of wisdom, truth, spirituality, and understanding.

“Some of the Dharma,” by Jack Kerouac. Viking Penguin, 1997, 420 pages, $32.95.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
originally published in the Albany Times Union, Sep 28, 1997

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Kerouac: First Verse

The other night I had a dream that I was sitting on the sidewalk on Moody Street, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Mass., with a pencil and paper in my hand saying to myself
“Describe the wrinkly tar of this sidewalk, also the iron pickets of Textile Institute,
or the doorway where Lousy and you and G.J.’s always sittin’ and don’t stop
to think of words when you do stop, just stop to think of the picture better –
and let your mind wander off yourself in this work.

- “Dr. Sax

ONCE I was young and had so much more orientation and could talk with nervous intelligence about everything with clarity and without as much literary preambling
as this; in other words this is the story of an unself-confident man, at the same time
of an egomaniac, naturally, facetious won’t do – just start at the beginning
and let the truth seep out.

- “The Subterraneans”

ALL RIGHT, WIFEY, MAYBE I’M A BIG PAIN in the you-know-what
but after I’ve given you a recitation of the troubles I had to go through to make good
in America between 1935 and more or less now, 1967, and although I also know
everybody in the world's had his own troubles, you'll understandthat my particular
form of anguish came from being too sensitive to all the lunkheads I had to deal with
just so I could get to be a highschool football star, a college student pouring coffee and washing dishes and scrimmaging till dark and reading Homer's Illiad in three days
all at the same time, and God help me a WRITER whose very 'success', far from being
a happy triumph as of old, was the sign of doom Himself.
(Insofar as nobody loves my dashes anyway, I'll use regular punctuation for the new
illiterate generation.)

- "Vanity of Duluoz"

Hopping a freight out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955
I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees
crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara.
It was a local and I intended to sleep on the beach.

- "The Dharma Bums"

before we all go to Heaven
All that hitchhikin'
All that railroadin'
All that comin back
to America
Via Mexican & Canadian borders…

Less begin with the sight of me with collar huddled up close to neck and tied
around with a handkerchief to keep it tight and snug, as I go trudging across
the bleak, dark warehouse lots of the ever lovin San Pedro waterfront,
the oil refineries smelling in the damp foggish night of Christmas 1951
and the brought-up mysteries of Sea Hag Pacific.

- “Lonesome Traveler”

THIS IS AN OLD DINER like the ones Cody and his father ate in, long ago, with that oldfashioned railroad car ceiling and sliding doors – the board where bread is cut is worn down fine as if with bread dust and a plane: the icebox (“Say I got some rice homefries tonight Cody!”) is a huge brownwwod thing with old fashioned pull-out handles, windows, tile walls, full of lovely pans of eggs, butter pats, piles of bacon – old lunchcarts always have a dish of sliced raw onions ready to go on hamburgs. Grill is ancient and dark and emits an odor which is really succulent, like you would expect.

- “Visions of Cody”