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On the Beat Trail with Bill Morgan

BeatAtlas2.jpgSummer travel in the United States? The Dresser has the guidebook for you, whether you can afford the gas for a car or not--Beat Atlas: A State by State Guide to the Beat Generation in America by Bill Morgan. This handy book in glossy cover measuring 8.5 X 4.5 inches definitely puts the fun in funky. Take this tidbit from the section on Baltimore, Maryland. You can call this fun fact: why Jack Kerouac never got a driver's license:

WHO WAS DRIVING?

"After getting lost somewhere along U. S. Route 1 on one of their On the Road trips, Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac reached the outskirts of Baltimore. There Neal insisted that Jack take the wheel and make his way through the heavy rush-hour traffic... except Neal and his wife LuAnne insisted on steering while Jack operated the pedals. Adding to the excitement, Neal turned up the radio volume to the maximum and beat on the dashboard of the Hudson Hornet as if it were a drum set." [p. 131 and the Dresser repeats Morgan's bolding of the prominent Beat figures and the road name]

If, Dear Reader, you don't know who Neal Cassady was, there are 45 citations in the index to help you discover the man Jack Kerouac immortalized as Dean Moriarty in the novel On the Road. Eeny meany miny mo, try page 58 in the New Jersey section which tells how Cassady "married his third wife, model Diana Hansen, in Newark's City Hall at 920 Broad Street on July 10, 1950." Allen Ginsberg was one of their three witnesses but only two hours later, Cassady "went back on the road to San Francisco, where his second wife, Carolyn, was waiting for him." Yes, Cassady was a bigamist, but he got Diana pregnant and wanted to do the right thing. Pages 74-75 New York (North Tarrytown) explain how Cassady told Diana that he would spend six months in New York with her and six months with Carolyn.

Did the Dresser mention that Cassady's first marriage to a 15-year old LuAnne Henderson [see page 109, Nebraska section] was annulled? Give a guy a break! He was just out of a Denver prison, that's the town where they were married. Then they went to Sidney, Nebraska, to stay with LuAnne's aunt and uncle. When picking potatoes, washing dishes for a restaurant, and cleaning house for a wealthy lawyer didn't work out, LuAnne stole $300 from the lawyer and Cassady stole a car from LuAnne's uncle to make their way to North Platte where they ditched the car, hopped on a New York City-bound bus and there in the City That Does Not Sleep, they met for the first time Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

SAILING THE ICY CAPE WITH ALLEN

Morgan's geographically comprehensive guide, published by City Lights Books, includes short vignettes in Alaska and Hawaii. In the sub-section Arctic Ocean of the Alaska section, Allen Ginsberg is depicted as the yeoman aboard a freighter that brought provisions to the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line along the northern coast of Alaska. "On July 27 [1956] he passed through the Bering Straight and anchored off Icy Cape. In memory of Naomi, his Russian-born mother, who had died a few weeks earlier, he tossed some coins from the deck as his ship, the USNS Sgt. Jack J. Pendleton, passed within a few miles of Russia's coast." [pp. 238-239]

Included with this anecdote is an alluring snapshot (looks like the kind taken in self-photo booth) of a young Ginsberg sporting a black sailor's beret on his neatly groomed black hair (standard man's haircut) and wearing white undershirt. With eyes opened wide behind his oval shaped glasses and petulant full lips, he looks off to one side as if a commanding officer had called him to attention.

SAN FRANCISCO TEASE

And who is that man on the book's cover? -A young William Burroughs, photo by Allen Ginsberg! The guidebook contains numerous photos shot by Ginsberg and since Morgan has written other books on and about Ginsberg, (including I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg), Beat Atlas has many juicy morsels about the man who woke up the world to the Beat Generation when his poem Howl and his City Lights Books publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti were taken to court in San Francisco. However, if you want to know all the details about the Beats in San Francisco, page 229 provides only a list of five places to visit (City Lights Bookstore, Cassady's house, Ginsberg's apartment, Ferlinghetti's apartment, and Six Gallery). For the rest, Morgan says refer to his book The Beat Generation in San Francisco.

OTHER SIDE SHOWS

If you think you might get bored reading about the decadent Beats, Morgan has covered that too by including such folks as Truman Capote [see p. 153 Alabama section subsection Monroeville] who, according to Morgan, "will be forever linked with the Beats by an insulting quip he made about Kerouac's Road book on David Susskin's TV show 'Open End.' 'It isn't writing at all, it's typing.'"

So, whether you hop in your car for an On the Road tour or not, this guide with practical rounded page corners promises to enliven your summer. The Dresser thinks the stories in this state-by-state book will make great cocktail patter come the fall.

Here's a poem by Kerouac that depicts not only Nebraska but also other places in America.


NEBRASKA

April doesnt hurt here
Like it does in New England
The ground
Vast and brown
Surrounds dry towns
Located in the dust
Of the coming locust
Live for survival, not for 'kicks'
Be a bangtail describer,
like of shrouded traveler
in Textile tenement & the birds fighting in yr ears-like Burroughs exact to describe & gettin $
The Angry Hunger
(hunger is anger)
who fears the
hungry feareth
the angry)
And so I came home
To Golden far away
Twas on the horizon
Every blessed day
As we rolled And we rolled
From Donner tragic Pass
Thru April in Nevada And out Salt City Way Into the dry Nebraskas And sad Wyomings Where young girls And pretty lover boys
With Mickey Mantle eyes
Wander under moons
Sawing in lost cradle
And Judge O Fasterc
Passes whiggling by To ask of young love: ,,Was it the same wind Of April Plains eve that ruffled the dress
Of my lost love
Louanna
In the Western
Far off night
........Lost as the whistle
........Of the passing Train
........Everywhere West
........Roams moaning
The deep basso
- Vom! Vom!
- Was it the same love
Notified my bones As mortify yrs now
Children of the soft
Wyoming April night?
Couldna been!
But was! But was!'
And on the prairie
The wildflower blows
In the night For bees & birds And sleeping hidden Animals of life.
The Chicago
Spitters in the spotty street
Cheap beans, loop, Girls made eyes at me And I had 35 Cents in my jeans -
Then Toledo
Springtime starry
Lover night Of hot rod boys And cool girls A wandering
A wandering
In search of April pain A plash of rain
Will not dispel This fumigatin hell Of lover lane This park of roses Blue as bees
In former airy poses
In aerial O Way hoses
No tamarand And figancine Can the musterand Be less kind
......Sol -
......Sol -
Bring forth yr Ah Sunflower - Ah me Montana
Phosphorescent Rose
And bridge in
......fairly land
I'd understand it all -

By Jack Kerouac

Copyright © Jack Kerouac

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 29, 2011 5:49 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Angel of the Amazon: A New Music Drama.

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