Archives For 2014

The Kid from Red Bank

“Count Basie’s swing arrangements are not blaring, but they contain more drive, more power, and more
thrill than the loudest gang of corn artists can acquire by blowing their horns apart.” i
Jack Kerouac

Count, bink-bink!
The Kid from Red Bank
On the River Navesink
Red Bank Boogie
One O’Clock Jump
Stomp and stamp and stump the band
Give the man a mighty hand
Tinkling keys
Fats Waller knees
William Basie’s simple swing
Keep your flashy bling-bling-bling
Count will swing and swing and ring
Timing
Elegant and clean
Flowing rhythm
Jumping beat
Meet you on Mechanic Street
Lobster twitching up a leg ii
Mobsters in old Kaycee days
Billie,
Lester,
and Jo Jones,
Thad and Mr. Quincy Jones,
Frank (The Kid from Hoboken) once but skin and bones

i McNally, Dennis. Desolate Angel: A Biography, Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. (New York:
Random House. 1979). p. 38.
ii Horricks, Raymond. Count Basie and His Orchestra: Its Music and Its Musicians. (New York: The Citadel Press.
1957). p. 23.

The Beat Generation at War

 

From Beatdom #15 – Available now on Amazon as a print and Kindle publication:

Beat Generation War Quotes

The Beat Generation is often viewed as apolitical, apathetic, selfish, and borne out of the post-WWII era of prosperity. They are viewed as rich kids who chose a bohemian lifestyle as a matter of fashion, as part of a teenage rebellion that went on too long, and inspired too many imitators, and eventually morphing into the beatniks and hippies of the fifties and sixties. Getting to the heart of the Beat ethos isn’t easy, as this is a literary grouping of rather different individuals, over a long period of time, with entirely different philosophies and styles relating to their art. That “post-WWII era” label, then, is important in defining them. If we must group them together, we can define them by opposition to the oppressive society in which they lived. They supported sexual freedom, opposed big government, and pondered to what extent madness was a path to genius. Continue Reading…

Tristessa

Tristessa
Black tresses
Dirty dresses
You mess-a
Mucha lucha,
Muchacha, señorita
Esperanza
Junk is a drag
“It is a way of life.” i
Just ask BOOL
No gains, all loss
(Not everyone as smart as old Harvard Lee, anthropologist)
Junk is called junk because it is junk
“They all looked like junk.” ii
Hope is gone, Esperanza
Replaced with junk
Sickness
Hopelessness
Tristessa
Junk is a drag
Junkies are a drag
Goodbye peachy coffee complexion
Black satin hair
Madonna ways
Adios, Tristessa
“ . . . I don’t like what it does to people.” iii

i Burroughs, William S. Junky: The definitive text of “Junk.” (New York: Penguin Books. 2003), p. xxxix.
ii Burroughs, William S. Junky: The definitive text of “Junk.” (New York: Penguin Books. 2003), p. 25.
iii Burroughs, William S. Junky: The definitive text of “Junk.” (New York: Penguin Books. 2003), p. 59.

Melvillian Flat

There’s something about this second-floor Red Bank flat that hints of Melville, poor Bartleby scribbling away at his lonely desk, (or Kerouac when he took the job in the Hartford filling station and typed away gloomy hours). Maybe it’s the curve of the rounded windows or the rectangular window facing the street with its late nineteenth- century commercial buildings or the hardwood flooring with its long planks or the kitchen stool I use at the little desk, perched there like a Wall Street scrivener. There is a New England feel to this town on the Navesink River. Actually, when we came to see this apartment on a deceptively quiet Sunday morn, the first thing we noticed was the wharf-like building next door and the narrow street leading to the boat yard and yacht club and silver twinkles on the river blue, and I thought, this is like Portland, Maine.
We’ve been everywhere, man, sailing New England waters: New London, New Bedford, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Cutty Hunk, Newport, Blue Hill . . . everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. You might say our heart is in the sea, all salty and brined and gray-green-blue, and wouldn’t you know, right down the street in our lovely waterfront gardens park, this week’s feature movie is Jaws. Jaws and all those great Neptunes of the sea and Moby-Dick and you and me. Melville was a sailor, and Jack was a sailor, and me, too, a sailor. Right now, like those doomed sailors of the whaling ship Essex, I’m sailing The Doldrums, right into Obscurity Sea, see, sì. My heart breaks when I check out the local music store window and see my little book still on the shelf there. Don’t people read anymore? Melville sold less than four thousand copies of Moby in forty years . . . the book was ignored. i
Oh, this White Whale life, and watching as my family stops speaking to each other after the enormous pain of horrible neurological disease and trauma and unexpected death and all its sad aftermath and how it capsizes this Pequod called life and plummets one into black depths of deep, deep
sorrow, shark-infested waters, only to be knocked down by immense Jonah-like waves ii again and again and again . . . and as Jack said, and as Bartleby Melville said, in so many words, what is the point? But we have to go on, and keep living, and do our best, and go to the sea, through Fair Havens and rummy rum Rumsons with estates and monies and unaffordabilities and open mics and closed doors and seek refreshment for our souls in the vast sea, sea, sea, beyond the Atlantic . . . and into eternity.
i Philbrick, Nathaniel. Why Read Moby-Dick?, (New York: Viking. 2011). p. 6.
ii Kerouac, Jack. Road Novels 1957-1960, (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 2007). p. 735.

Of the Beautiful Alene Lee

It was Paradise Alley so long ago
In the alphabet downtown east
Lived a subterranean in clouds of strong dark tea
By the name of Alene Lee
San Fran or New York City
Names, places changed but ‘tis the same
Heavenly Lane and hipster games
Pillow talk and pushcart walks
Of the beautiful Alene Lee
Of the beautiful Alene Lee
He was young and drunk and jazzed
She younger and cool and sweet
High cheekbones and velvet slacks
She was brown and blue and black
Nineteen fifties USA
What would mother, sister say?
Of the beautiful Alene Lee
Of the beautiful Alene Lee
He was sad
She was sad
Angels, seraphs, poets mad
Poor back courts and gray sheet pads
Love was doomed
In urban gloom
Modern, new, small, and thin
A writer writes of soft rose light
Of the beautiful Alene Lee
Of the beautiful Alene Lee

Setting Kerouac to Music: An Interview with Kubilay Uner

This article originally appeared in Beatdom #14 – the MOVIE issue.

 

Kubilay Uner is the composer for the 2013 movie, Big Sur, based on the Jack Kerouac novel of the same name. He has worked with Michael and Mark Polish – the brothers behind the movie – on various projects, as well as performing live scores in concert halls. I spoke to him about setting Kerouac to music for the big screen. Continue Reading…

From Albion to Shangri-La

From Albion to Shangri-La consists of collected excerpts from Peter Doherty’s journals, circa 2008 to 2013, with an added selection from his tour diaries, all rounded off with a previously unpublished interview with editor, Nina Antonia – the rock journalist’s rock journalist, no stranger to the darker excesses of some of rock’s more elegantly wasted sons – whose sharp eye and clear ear have been called upon to assist in this literary distillation, as explained in her Introduction. Continue Reading…

“To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing” i

The title of the William Butler Yeats poem “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing” makes me cringe. Is it kind to encourage a friend whose talent may be nonexistent, or is it kinder to speak plainly, in other words, tell the truth? Friend, it’s my unfortunate obligation to say you have no talent in this area and must give this up, the sooner the better, because you‘re wasting everyone’s time and making yourself crazy and are playing the fool on the world’s stage.
Then, there is the other friend who may be the most talented man at the open mic, and this poor soul just can’t catch a break. He’s got looks, lyrics, musicality, but he’s a shy boy and doesn’t know how to promote himself. He spends years writing elegant, intelligent songs that go way over everyone’s head, but those few who hear these songs recognize his heartbreaking talent, unknown, as Yeats writes, that comes “to nothing.” Shy boy knows the world’s great poets. He actually reads Wallace Stevens and can recite Yeats and deeply loves Robert Frost and all those dusty, bearded New Englanders. He stays home year after year in the quiet of his lonely room and writes notebooks worth of lyrics and records songs on a little recording device and spends long evenings with his acoustic guitar in hand. I say perhaps Yeats is being a bit harsh? Maybe shy boy encourages others, maybe just one or two others, and from those two, perhaps good will come from what seems barren. And, hope upon hope, maybe someday shy boy will crack the glass ceiling and rise in “Triumph.”

Perhaps I’m more optimistic than Yeats. Yes, the writer, the musician, the artist, the creator, desires recognition, desires to leave something of herself behind, as a memento of a life lived. “Now all the truth is out,” whose truth, Yeats, the world’s truth, the money men’s truth, the truth and inner depths of the artist? “Be secret and take defeat,” go in the corner and quietly lick those wounds; take it like an adult. “How can you compete,” yes, you unknown writer, how can you compete with, say, a television personality who writes one book after another and then gets to promote it every night on HIS television program, quite brazenly and without any shame at all? Or that rock star sitting in the corner at the party listening to his own records, how can you compete? Yes, “turn away,” turn away from the things of this passing world, and let the creation of your own work bring you inner joy, ah, easier said than done. Yes, it’s difficult to labor away, year after year in oblivion, but what else is there to do? Who can decide: should you keep this up or give it up? Only the one, you. Be joyful in the creation of your good work.
This is a true story, and I don’t want to give hope to the hopelessly untalented. I had a cousin in Cape Cod who was married to a musician for years and years. I imagine she thought he was hopeless; she was frustrated, resentful, discouraged. They got divorced. Musician moved to Australia . . . and became a big time recording artist. Cousin is all alone and sad, reminiscing of younger musical days.
Yeats, methinks your poem is sweetly supportive. The artist is brave, whether successful or not. He stands naked in front of the world and must accept the world’s rejection, silence, indifference, scorn, jealousy, mockery, criticism, harsh and ill-formed opinions for everyone to read on Internet reviews. But
the great thing, the brave thing, is that he gets up there and does his art, and does it again, and again. What say you Professor Mark Van Doren so many years ago at Columbia University with your own mad “hot blood of youth” students of English literature “Out naked on the roads” ii who turned the world upside down and faced rejection, scorn, and trials, too?

 
i Yeats, William Butler. “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing.”
ii Yeats, William Butler. “The Cold Heaven.”

Carousel Gone

“I hitch-hiked to Asbury Park . . . when I got there, I was exhausted—” i

Carousel gone
“No plans, lady, just making the building stable.
Keep away from the machine.”
Enable me, construction man, to see beyond coarse gritty sand
Mermaid vamp and debauch
Rests upon a tarnished couch
Where goest dream place childhood?
Face the ocean where once we stood
Soggy foggy July morn
Hung over and still forlorn
Parking deck hangs undone
In the midst gray cold no sun
Hope rises with the waves
Knocked down by greedy knaves
And the power of those in power
Ebbs and flows

i Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Cody. (New York: Penguin Books, 1993).

Goetleib and the Path of Least Pleasure

Goetleib, the undisputed arbiter of taste and opinion, was sitting cross-legged in his armchair with a book clamped open in his left hand. He licked at his elongated snout with the thin whip of his tongue. His brow wrinkled suddenly, severely, and he mused out loud

– Gah! I wish Mancuso hadn’t used dashes instead of quotation marks, no, oh my, no, no, no, no…

He turned another page in the book with a flick of his foreclaw and turned to type up what he just said aloud – ‘I WISH MANCUSO HADN’T USED DASHES INSTEAD OF QUOTATION MARKS…’

Very soon (20 pages in, in fact) he became bored of Mancuso’s book, distracted by more of his own puerile thoughts, thoughts about tearing open termite mounds and feasting on the juicy worker bugs inside – and then he remembered he wasn’t allowed to eat insects anymore and the mudhook of sadness sunk itself deep within him.

He sniffed his hose-nose hungrily and braced the book shut before tossing it on the crackling hearth. Goetleib then went about justifying himself to the empty room.

– Poorly copy edited, too much supernaturalism, yes, no unity of effect, no sense of the swelling, impending terror or suspense I’ve come to expect, and then there’s the dashes instead of proper punctuation, no, no, no Mancuso! But the main problem with this book, yes I’d say its main fault, above all else, is that it isn’t written the way I wanted it to be written…

He gave a leonine stretch and was left amused and content by his own corrosive tone – after all, his career was over before it had even begun and he had nothing to lose.

Goetleib had an urge to interfere with himself but remembered that he wasn’t allowed to masturbate anymore either. He suffered from a retrograde disorder that meant when he ejaculated his bladder-sphincter would contract and release semen through his urethra, the path of least pleasure. Goetleib’s dry orgasms were frustrating and made him irritable and rather irrational. This went some way in explaining his scathing condemnations of almost everything he was asked to review.

There was a colony of ants obstructing his ejaculatory duct. They’d survived digestion and set up camp in various pockets of Goetleib’s lower abdomen. The irony was not lost on him, the near-constant pelvic distress serving as casual reminder.

It seemed poor Goetleib wasn’t allowed to do any of the things he enjoyed most, apart from ruining the reputations of writers and musicians that is! He was left cooped up in his deciduous forest home. It was a tragic life in a way.

He often felt the insects milling around inside him and when he thought about the amorphous domes and the supercolony of undigested ants, the desire to masturbate subsided.

He strolled around the grasslands of his estate still very pleased with how he’d dismantled Mancuso’s book so clinically. The anticipation of seeing his critique published gave Goetleib a strange rattle of joy in his testicles. He went up to an easel where he’d been painting non-descript images with his own smeared faeces and took in a smug lungful. His eyes were bathed in tears. Goetleib knew he was a genius.

 

****

 

Around mid-day, his frustration would intensify. It would become too great to ignore, Goetleib decided he would go about committing suicide. Killing himself at this stage of his career would set him in good stead for the future. People might even come to the conclusion that Mancuso’s book had driven him to self-eradication. Goetleib hoped that this would be the case.

He hurried to the drawer in his kitchen and pulled out a long wire extension. He lassoed one of the overhead beams and yanked on the chord until it went taut. Goetleib then mounted his chair and placed the wire over his head. It drooped loosely around his neck. He tightened the ligature and kicked away the chair.

Old Goetleib hung for around 20 seconds, swinging back and forth like an insane ant-eater shaped chandelier, but his hardwood neck refused to break. He felt his penis hard and was suddenly very aware of just how hard it had gotten, before the weak slipknot in the wire unfastened and sent the desperate critic crashing to the floor.

He nursed his garrotted throat for a moment then felt something happening between his legs. Goetleib felt lactescent sperm rise in him, through a different tunnel, a different path – a path of pleasure! – and he collapsed again as it gushed forth in an ridiculous cascade. The ants had been dislodged from his ejaculatory duct and were now parachuting from the widened and raw japseye. Goetleib looked at the puddles of screaming ants in their milky pools of DNA. He leaned over a tiny troupe of disorientated insects and sucked them up through his hose-nose. He sat on his rump and savoured the taste of the ants and cherished his voided testicles. Goetleib found that now he couldn’t stop thinking about Mancuso’s book…