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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part VI: Jack Kerouac

Scuzzy Son-of-a-Bitch #6:


Jack Kerouac

My Future Be-Bop Boyfriend

(2004)

My high school boyfriend bought me a poster of Jack Kerouac during our senior year.  I had never even read any Jack Kerouac — I was more into Allen Ginsberg’s homosexual rages and Charles Bukowski’s drunken stupors.  Nonetheless, he found a Jack Kerouac poster and thought of me.

He brought it to me one night when all I wanted to do was sit around and feel sorry for myself.  The school year had begun with a bang, to say the least.  I was Drama Club President (go ahead and laugh at me), as well as Co Editor-in-Chief of the high school newspaper (laugh harder).  I had to prepare for our school’s upcoming “Cabaret Night,” as I was hosting the prestigious event and I wanted to do a good job.  There was also the issue of mandatory play rehearsal until 5pm on top of writing a Goddamn play for the spring Murder Mystery Dinner and performing in improv shows every other Friday night.  Add to all this the horrible fucking reality of college applications and yeah, I was one angsty 17 year old.

I was sprawled on my bed moping about how I was losing touch with my friends and blah blah when I heard the familiar knock at the door.  My boyfriend always knocked — he never ever rang the doorbell.  My mom let him in, and he came upstairs and presented me with this awesome fucking poster.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“Cost Plus,” he said.

“What were you doing at Cost Plus?”

“They have the coolest chocolate,” he said.

He then procured a small tin of green tea chocolate and offered me a piece.  I didn’t fall in love with it, but I could understand why he did.  It was the same reason he chewed clove gum and ginger gum and got excited whenever he was in a place that carried Beeman’s.  He dug the weird sodas at BevMo and always opted for anything infused with chili powder or licorice.  He loved used record stores and antique stores and was always giving me dusty old Tom Jones albums because he knew my friends and I thought Tom Jones was funny.

I thanked him for the poster and told him why I was sad.  He gave me a back massage while I laid on my stomach, my bedroom door wide open for my parents’ peace of mind.

During Christmas vacation, I tried to read On the Road.  I got as far as Sal Paradise’s affair with the beautiful Mexican woman and their adventures in cotton-picking.  It was all very beautiful and very Beat, but once school started and it was time to focus on the next project, I had to put Jack down.

(2006)

During my freshman year of college I nabbed a brand new boyfriend who also gave me cute presents.  On Christmas he gave me ceramic figurine of a hummingbird, which was an inside reference to my very first panic attack — an event he got to witness one morning before the sun was even out.  On Saint Patrick’s day he gave me a ring that he had found when he was in middle school and vowed he would one day give to a special girl.  On Easter he sneaked into my room and hid candy eggs for me to find, which made some of the other girls in my dorm “Ooooh” and “Eeee!” and “You lucky bitch!”

He had never heard of Jack.  He didn’t read poetry.  He didn’t read.  I tried and tried to at least get him to read “Howl,” but he always refused.  One night, I finally got him to lie down with me and listen to a recording of Ginsberg reading it.  When it was over, the only comment my boyfriend offered was, “I liked the part about the watches.”  I tried to talk about societal revolutions and war and change, but the conversation didn’t last long.  I refused to give up, so I tried showing him Easy Rider.  When the movie was over all he had to say was, “You’re such a hippie.”

He also didn’t want to watch all the Beat Generation documentaries I rented on Netflix that year.  I couldn’t even get him to watch No Direction Home, even though his roommate had exposed him to Bob Dylan’s music, which my boyfriend claimed to like.  For the most part, anything having to do with poetry or music or counterculture was anathema to him.  This led to many nights of,

“You should come hang out downstairs.”

“No.  I wanna watch my movie.”

“Well come down afterward.”

“Nope.  I’m sleepin’ in my own bed tonight.”

“But I wanna see you.”

“Then watch the movie with me.”

“But I hate hippies.”

“The Beats weren’t hippies.”

Eventually he would go to his room and I would go to mine.  I would watch something about The Beats and he would do something else.  When the movie was over I would lean over to turn on the light, and Holy Metaphors!, I would be face to face with the Jack poster.

This behavior led to writing sentimental journal entries and scribbling short poems in the margins of my lecture notes and drinking way too much coffee and hoping that one day I would meet someone who really got me.  We’d go to San Francisco on the weekends and eat seafood and drink red wine and wander the streets tossing dimes to the bums and scat-diddly-dat-dat-datting back and forth in crazy love.

In August, one month before sophomore year started, I gave all the cute presents back and called the whole thing off.   One day, I came across some old CD’s of Jack reading his poetry with Steve Allen playing piano in the background.  I knew that we owned the CD’s because I had seem them in my mother’s bedroom before, but I had never thought to steal them.  Newly single and newly inspired, I brought them up to school with me in September and listened to “October in the Railroad Earth” while I pinned pictures of Johnny Depp to my bedroom walls.

Soon after school began, my mom took a trip up to Santa Cruz to visit me.  Well, okay, she wanted to check on me.  The split with the hippie hater had been a tough one, and my mom didn’t want me to spend my first weekend back in Santa Cruz sitting in my room and crying about some guy.  She drove up on Friday and spent the night, and the next morning she drove us to San Francisco.  We stayed in a small room at the Hotel Bohème in North Beach, and mom took me to City Lights and bought me Beatnik postcards.  We wandered into The Beat Museum, where we were given a tour by the owner.  He also showed us THIS:

On Monday morning, when mom drove home and left me to get on with my life, I felt absolutely cured.  I didn’t give a shit about boyfriend or ex-boyfriends.  Everything was going to be fine.  Everything was fine.  All I wanted to do was write poetry, and all I needed was my Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen CD.

(2012)

A few months ago, I quit my job and went on a road trip up north.  Before I left, I checked out an audiobook of On the Road.  I listened to it all the way to Santa Cruz, then a few days later I listened to it on my way to Menlo Park.  When it was time to drive to Alameda I put on The Dresden Dolls, and then when it was time to drive to San Francisco I listened to my new copy of Let Love In.

In San Francisco I ate dim sum in Chinatown and wandered around North Beach drinking Espresso and taking pictures of graffiti.  I had drinks at Cafe Vesuvio and scribbled in a notebook I bought on Valencia.  I was alone, and I was free, and I was happy.

One evening I crashed into the Beat Museum and asked the guy behind the counter if he had access to the Poet of the Month archives.  I told him that I had won Honorable Mention twice in 2007, and that I would like to have copies of my poems.  He explained that he didn’t have physical copies, but he could try to find them for me online.  He worked on his computer for about ten minutes before saying, “I found your poem from April.”  I said, “There’s one from May, too.”  He looked at his computer, then said to me, “That page has been corrupted.”  My face fell.  He said, “I can recover it.  Give me a second.”

About twenty minutes later, he announced that he had fixed the problem and I now had web access to my poem.  I thanked him profusely and bought some merchandise so I wouldn’t seem like a total asshole.

I was never able to find my poem online, but it’s okay.  Somehow, I feel that if I ever found it and read it, I would only see the stupid mistakes and the dorky word choices.  I would criticize myself, and I don’t want to do that.  Instead, I prefer to think that a perfect poem written by a romantic 20-year-old girl is somewhere out there floating around in the informational abyss, never to be seen by human eyes.  I think Jack would like that.

And I never finished listening to On the Road.  I think Jack would like that, too.

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The Beat Goes On III, or: I Think I Get It Now.

What’s there to live for?
Who needs the peace corps?
Think I’ll just DROP OUT

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco.  Progressive Grounds.  I had two mugs of black tea when I woke up this morning; I don’t need this giant cup of coffee.  This stuff is SERIOUS.  I’ve been nursing it for nearly an hour and I haven’t even finished 1/4 of the thing. With every little baby sip my heart starts racing like I just broke bread with George Jung.

I’ve been away from home for 11 days.  (Wait, Holy Cow, really?  I’ll have to celebrate…)  I’ve been in Santa Cruz, Menlo Park, Alameda, and, now, San Francisco.

Santa Cruz was a lot of  fabulous silliness that was briefly interrupted by an afternoon of dismal introspection catapulted by the misunderstanding that the bastards who stole my iPod from my car also stole my most prized nostalgic possession.  After Santa Cruz came a brief, much-needed low-key interlude in La Selva beach, where I got to spend two nights in an actual bed.  I also spent a lovely afternoon in Monterey taking pictures of headstones and crying underneath cemetery trees.  (Did anyone else just think of this song?)  Menlo Park was a brilliant afternoon and evening of Chinese Food and Catch Up.  I was back on the couch, but the couch was a comfy one.

When I got to Alameda I was ready to get silly again.  I stayed with a friend I hadn’t seen since July of 2010.  She studies Molecular Biology and she loves Judas Priest and Bridget Jones’s Diary.  She took me out for bratwurst and sauerkraut and I stole a drink coaster.  After lunch we bummed around downtown for awhile and eventually walked into a psychic shop.  We asked how much it would cost to have our palms read.  The cost was super cheap.  I went first.

The woman took me into a little room and sat me down.  She asked me my full name and date of birth, and then she looked at my hands.

“You have a long, full life ahead of you,” she said.

I was unimpressed.

“I don’t see any death or tragedy in your family.”

Cool.  Still, I was unimpressed.

The woman paused for a moment, and then her voice took on a more serious tone as she said, “I will say this: you’re procrastinating.”

I looked at her.  She was younger and prettier than I usually imagine psychics to be.  She had all her teeth and her skin was perfect and there wasn’t a single gray hair on her head.

“You’re creative,” she said.  “Every thought that comes into your head is creative.  But you’re procrastinating when it comes to work and school.  I don’t think you’re done with school.  But what you need to be doing now is focusing on your writing.

I stopped breathing.

“I definitely see a book in your future,” she continued.  “You already have it completely planned in your head — you just need to get to work writing it down.

I took a breath.  I whispered, “I know.”  My eyes welled up with tears.  I apologized for being emotional and laughed at the contrived profundity I seem to encounter everywhere I go.

To give me a break from the heaviness she was layin’ on me, she talked about my love life.  She didn’t have anything monumental to say — she basically confirmed my suspicion that I’m actually completely fine with the fact that I’m single.  Once that was out of the way, she went back to the main issue.  She said, “Take a creative writing class.”

I held my breath again as I remembered an email I received a few days before my trip.  An author I met in December wrote to me and said she would love for me to participate in a creative writing class she was going to be starting.  I didn’t respond to her.  Why?  Apparently I’m a procrastinator.

The psychic asked me if I had any questions.  I asked about my location, and she said, “I’d like you to be closer to the water.”  Totally not weird.  Because, ya know, I never EVER fantasize about moving to Santa Cruz or San Francisco or Seattle…

She ended her reading by saying, “Write your book.”  I ended by saying, “How the HELL did you know all that?”

She only asked me for my full name and date of birth.  I didn’t show her my ID, tell her where I was from, tell her that I do, in fact, want to write a book and that I do, in fact, spend less time working on my writing than I should and that I do, in fact, want to live near water.

I don’t think I can continue to distract myself from doing what I really want to do.  Why it took a psychic to convince me that it’s time to get serious and declare myself a fucking writer is something I will never understand.  We’re all different, I guess.

Intermission.

That night my friend and I got in trouble at a Tikki Bar for causing a ruckus.  We were mainly disturbing the bartender, Jared.  At first we both thought he was a total babe, but at some point in the night when we asked him for more drinks, he told us he’d have to ask his manager first.  “Why can’t we have another drink?” asked my friend.  Jared gave us a list of things “polite customers” — customers who deserve their handcrafted Tikki cocktails! — don’t do.  He said that polite customers “don’t steal.”  My friend and I fell silent.  You see, I’d been sneaking pieces of pineapple when no one was looking, and I also had a purse full of Tikki God cocktail stirrers.  Jared then added that polite customers, “don’t say ‘The F-Word.'”  We fell even more silent.  You see, my friend had been saying “The F-Word” quite loudly, and quite a lot.  When the lecture was over, she said, “Fuck you, Jared.”  I took another stirrer.

We still got our drinks, and we still stole shit and swore.  It was all in good fun, and no one else at the bar seemed to be annoyed by our shenanigans.

That night we went to a house party in Oakland to see a band.  They played “DARK FOLK.”  They also wore long, black cloaks, which looked a good deal like long, black Snuggies.  I kept screaming, “YOU LOOK LIKE NICK CAVE!” at one of them.  The sight of their guitars made me miss my ukulele and I cursed myself for not lugging it with me.  Lord knows I could have at least busted out a mediocre rendition of “Creep” and made a few nickels on Pacific…

The next day we went to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and bought CDs and ate Indian Food.  I also bought a Rolling Stones T-Shirt in a thrift shop (and I’ve been wearing it for the last two days).  That night we went downtown and drank dark beers and I stole another drink coaster.

The next day we drove to Oakland to check out Lake Merritt.  We rented a paddle boat and rode around in the lake chasing seagulls and fantasizing that the pieces of wood we saw floating around were actually sea monsters.  Every time we saw a piece of trash floating by, we vowed to one day return to the lake with a giant net.

After one last meal together my friend made it clear that it was time for her to face the fact that she had homework to do.  This meant it was time for me to hit the road.

I’ll go to Frisco
Buy a wig & sleep
On Owsley’s floor

I had bought a copy of Let Love In by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds while I was at Rasputin on Telegraph.  I was so amped while listening to “Loverman” that I drove right passed the toll booth when I crossed the Bay Bridge.

Can You Blame Me?

My first night here was spent watching Mad Men with my cousin and eating Chinese take out.  The next day, yesterday, I walked around Valencia and bought a coffee mug and a t-shirt and a note pad.  I grabbed a taxi to North Beach and got out on Columbus avenue.  I turned the corner to Chinatown and got some Dim Sum, which cost $1.30.  I was good and full, so I bought a book at City Lights and sat down inside Cafe Vesuvio to chill out.  Two guys sitting at the bar were singing “Ghost” and I felt completely at peace.  When they were done singing some freaking Decemberists song came on and Good God I will always be team Aeroplane.

Walked past the wig store
Danced at the Fillmore
I’m completely stoned

I was broke so I went across the street to The Beat Museum.  I asked the guy behind the counter if they were still doing the “Poet of the Month” contest, and when he said “No” I asked if there was any way I could check out the archives.  I said I was awarded Honorable Mention twice in 2007, and that I could only find one of the poems online.  He was really sweet and spent a long time searching for the May 2007 results, and when he found that the web page was corrupted (or corrupt?) he fixed it for me.  I felt bad for making him do all that work, so I bought some Allen Ginsberg poetry and was even more broke.

I tried searching for the poem earlier this afternoon.  I still can’t find it.

I’m hippy & I’m trippy
I’m a gypsy on my own
I’ll stay a week
& get the crabs
& Take a bus back home
I’m really just a phony
But forgive me
‘Cause I’m stoned

When I got back to my cousin’s place we went out for Vietnamese.  We ate garlic noodles and prawns with spicy green beans and more garlic.  Then we went back to her house and watched the last four episodes of the third season of Mad Men.  That show only gets better every time I watch it.  This time I enjoyed it all so much I was almost impressed with January Jones’s acting.

Still, it’s always been about this big hunk-o-gangsta.

I had a bizarre sex dream last night, and when I woke up this morning I kept my eyes closed so I could remember all the crazy details.  They’re still a bit fuzzy, but I do know that at one point in the dream I was very mad at the young man I had just spent the night with because he was ignoring me during a screening of Lawrence of Arabia in 3D.  This confused me, because he was more than willing to skip the screening of Cat People the night before just to be with me.  I think that the preposterousness of it all demonstrates a new all time high in Dorky Dreams.

When I got out of bed I thought I’d maybe go to Haight Street…

Every town must have a place
Where phony hippies meet

Buy another mug or three…

Psychedelic dungeons
Popping up every street

Instead I got up and went to a donut place near my cousin’s house, where I ate a maple bacon apple donut.  And It Was Good.

I never made it to Haight Street.  Instead I creeped inside a tiny coffee shop and did some writing.  And ya know what?  I had a great time.  It was fun and challenging and I feel like it’s time to take a walk.

I definitely see more writing in my future.  I also see Don Draper.  And an ice cream cone.

GO TO SAN FRANCISCO
How I love ya, How I love ya How I love ya, How I love ya Frisco!

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