I visited Jack Kerouac’s grave site. I spent a few minutes walking up and down rows of grave stones, searching – eerily and pleasingly, I could hear New Orleans Jazz playing off in the distance, celebrating another’s life. I had been in the Boston area for several days, and when I noticed the freeway exit sign for Lowell, I knew I had to complete a mission before coming home.
Jack’s writing is exciting, musical and lyrical. When I read his work, I get antsy, I read faster, and I want to hit the road, too; He feeds my wanderlust. Velocity! Here’s a passage from On the Road (within Part Three, chapters 8-10):
“Where we going, man?”
“I don’t know, but we gotta go.” Then here came a gang of young bop musicians carrying their instruments out of cars. They piled right into a saloon and we followed them. They set themselves up and started blowing! There we were! The leader was a slender, drooping, curly-haired, pursy-mouthed tenorman, thin of shoulder, draped loose in a sports shirt, cool in the warm night, self-indulgence written in his eyes, who picked up his horn and frowned in it and blew cool and complex and was dainty stamping his foot to catch ideas, and ducked to miss others — and said, “Blow”, very quietly when the other boys took solos.
I want to listen to those boys blow; I want to feel their sweat and power. That passage falls within a larger story, hilarious, about getting a gig from a travel bureau to drive a 1947 Cadillac limousine from Denver back to its home in Chicago—the car’s owner had been driving up from Mexico, got tired of his family, and put them all on a train. You can hear the velocity in Jack’s voice! He mixes the madness, the unknown, and the joy of being on the road with the exuberance of Chicago jazz.
Anyway, I visited Jack’s grave site. I’d attended a series of meetings, great stuff, but now I was on vacation. My time was my own. It was supposed to be pounding down rain on Friday morning, but I awoke to bright sunshine and broken clouds; I had an early breakfast and set out. Found the grave.
I failed to buy a rose. I reached down and picked a bouquet of buttercups, 3 tiny little flowers, and laid them upon his stone. Ti Jean. I spoke some words, little incantations, thanking him for his work, telling him how I loved him; admitting his work inspired mine, thus those little buttercups were a small allegory, my tiny contributions to the writing pantheon owed much to his great catalogue.
Maybe my reader begins to see the musical quality in Jack’s writing, and why I’m interested in pursuing works from the Beat Generation as part of my music collection, my music blog, and my greater understanding of harmony and composition. Listen to him recite “San Francisco Scene”; you can hear his halting voice, turning his pages of poetry, his mind is working faster than he can speak it. He has an expressive, musical, something something; rhythm and fluidity. I can hear the jazz accompaniment in my head – nobody’s actually playing, but its right there. Tremendous!
That’s a sweet pome, by the way; “simple skirt with pockets; her hand in there”. Those little gestures – hands in pockets – little mannerisms what attracts me to someone. One girl’s hand gestures can send me over the moon.
Let’s close with a full album, Jazz of the Beat Generation. I’d actually always dreamed of this album existing, but never found it until preparing this piece. It features tracks of Jack reading pomes, interspersed with some of his favorite jazz players laying it down. This is a gem!
© Community Noise 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.