Archive for Jack Kerouac

Visions of Me, Reading Visions of Cody

“Ah the mad hearts of all of us.” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

I have ran through many places, many times, worn many faces, I have started, stopped, and restarted time on several occasions, all in the daunting task of completing a read-through of Visions of Cody. At times, the days were cold and sent shudders to the very marrow of my bones, other times, the sun scorched my neck, reminding me of nature’s raw beautiful power and its indifference to my speck of functioning in the world. Jack Kerouac is my ultimate muse author, and having read nearly two dozen of his books, I still was not ready for the wild, free-flowing, at times seemingly disjointed and nonsensical writings that make up Visions of Cody, or at least I was not at first, second, or even third try. Visions of Cody, in all its 400 plus pages of spontaneous (I mean really meandering and spontaneous) prose, is a moment in my life, an accomplished feeling of having experienced an admired writer’s most experimental and complex piece. And in the end, I am better for it.

So what is this piece I am writing now? Well, it is not so much a book review, as it is a momentary snapshot glimpse view back into my experiences with Visions of Cody…my visions of me, reading Visions of Cody.

The first two sections, and approximately one-hundred pages, visually resemble the original scroll version of On the Road, long blocks of small type-font, with little room for paragraph breaks, a true stream of consciousness, and spontaneous prose tale. I was hooked right away. I went into the book knowing of its legendary (in a hip underground beat sort of way) reputation, but was still left in amazement by the hyper-stream of consciousness, and the beautifully, and often tragic, acute attention to detail, so much detail for even the most mundane of situations, that painted vivid imagery in my mind, transporting me back to this bygone era of America. Consider this, there is probably an easy one and a half, to two pages wholly dedicated to describing a countertop and chairs in a skid-row diner. This is part of what Visions of Cody did, it brought you so close to what would in any other situation be considered the dull and mundane, and transformed it into a passionate and somber look back at Americana, as it once existed from coast to coast.

“I can’t think of anybody…who knows the sum and substance of what I know and feel and cry about in my secret self all the time when I don’t feel strong, the sorrows of time and personality, and can therefore on all levels make it all the way with me” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

The next two sections, and nearly two-hundred pages,  of Visions of Cody goes even further down the experimental and avant-garde rabbit hole of writing,  transcribing, word for word, a series of tape recordings between Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, and other various Beats. It needs to be noted that these recordings are painstakingly random, at times incoherent, confusing, and are the result of much intoxication by all involved. It is in this stage of the book, that I am conflicted, torn between my love for self-expression, spontaneity, the “out there”, avant-garde, and the generally askew from the norm, torn between all this, and my ultimate takeaway, that while the intent of transcribing tape recordings of people in true naked conversations is bold and exciting (in theory), the end result is disjointed (and not in a good way) and lacking in true Kerouac storytelling depth. It lacked heart.

Countless cups of coffee, seasons of the year, and a kaleidoscope of people, places, and things came and went in my life as I read this book- my ever-present companion, Visions of Cody. There was some sort of bayou hoodoo spell conjured up within the pages of Visions, for each time I read a segment, my mind raced with intrigue, icons, lost visions, teleportation, and a heart-warming fondness for the less than glamorous side of America, the hard-working, the down-trodden, the people who will not show up on any billboards, wont star in a Hollywood movie, and would not even make a footnote in their local paper. This is the true America, the one Jack Kerouac saw disappearing, that he thought worth saving, the Americana of the blues, of railroad yards, late nights in bars, road trips across the country, a seemingly simpler time that was fading fast. This is just as poignant today as it was then, that is the beauty of Jack’s writing.

The remaining pages of Visions of Cody continues in the stream in which the book started, forgoing the tape recordings, and holds some of the most powerful and beautiful sections of prose I have ever read. I am not one for hero-worship, but I will say that there are some brilliant flashes of storytelling tangled within the stream of consciousness behemoth that is Visions of Cody.

In the end, Visions of Cody made me feel accomplished, rewarded for having made it through. It also left me inspired, inspired to continue writing, seeking adventure, living life on my own terms, and focusing on the little things in life, for they are what make up our memories (stories) we take with us forever. Perhaps, even more than any of those takeaways, Visions of Cody showed me a new level of pride in America (Americana), in the simple hard-working truth of the nation, and the unmolested beauty that still remains down every back-road, if we are just willing to let go, travel, and see what we have flown by blinded for too long, and for that, I am grateful that Visions of Cody is here.

“…the great black bird broods outside my window in the high dark night waiting to enfold me when I leave the house tomorrow only I’m going to dodge it successfully by sheer animalism and ability and even exhilaration, so goodnight” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Rucksack

Upcoming…

  • Reflections on keeping momentum going in writing
  • Opening up about inspiration and attachment

 

I remember it all, the dream, the anticipation, that unknown beautifully terrifying feeling in the bottom of your stomach. It was time. I seemed ready to conquer, to make it happen, to transform. I sat and starred at the still newly worn green rucksack, the perfect item I had selected to hold my writing necessities. A sacred vessel in which within would hold the treasures allowing me to transform. I selected the green rucksack (and called it rucksack versus backpack) because of him, because of Kerouac. A nod to his wandering, dharma bum, traveling within the void, my inspiration and closest known author to what I strive to do. I am sentimental in that way, placing special meaning on a rucksack, an attachment to help inspire me (the attachment to an object alone would upset the dharma bum- sorry Jack). So there I sat, staring at the pack, feeling lost, lost and disappointed. The writing adventure started off a glorious blaze of hope and inspiration, settled into a groove, and over the past few weeks has nearly fallen by the wayside. Why? Did I not care anymore, had I lost the passion? No, quite the opposite as a matter of fact. I have been missing it- pining for a block of time to write, pick up the pen and let it all spill out, my soul escaping through vestibules of life’s cement jungle, each crack filled with an endless stream of wordy waves of liquid night fueled passion words. This is my struggle. I (again) have let the distractions of life get in the way. Then it hit me- I felt despair- I felt loss- loss for the dream I had felt grow closer, that now had receded deep into the void, a faint twinkle tempting and eluding me daily.

Tonight has been good. This has been good. The pen is active, the mind sharp, and the flame still burning- time to dust off that old green rucksack and get on the road Jack.

 

Looking Back…

It takes strong focus and sometimes recommitment to achieve success

Writers Today vs. Writers of Old (Part 1)

Upcoming…

  • Writer of today compared to that of yesteryear
  • Traits of the historical writer
  • Quips on modern society
  • A promise for more to come

 

Being a writer- prior to twenty years ago (give or take), it meant basically the same thing throughout the ages, creative spirit holed away somewhere, isolated, banging out page after page on a typewriter. I imagine Jack Kerouac sitting at an old wooden desk, not old in that classy antique sort of way, but old in that just plain old, beat-up, and forgotten by time sort of way, the luster gone, wood splitting and rough, the legs uneven and wobbly, the surface barely suitable for a family to eat at, years of abuse- but perfect for the true writer, for the artist who cares not for the luxuries or even sometimes the bare necessities in life, but rather is so laser focused on their craft that they will sit in a skid row motel, at an abused desk, eyes blurry from countless hours of straight typing, just being what they are. I pick Kerouac as he is an inspiration for me, a lighthouse that has guided me in my writing; but while the scenario may change from skid row motel, it is the same for the writers of history and legend- simplicity in their craft.

Artist, paper, pencil/pen/quill (you get it), typewriter, and whatever ambience/setting they need, mixed in with a little inspiration (the indulgences), and you have the skeleton of a writer’s life. Sprinkle in some poverty, heartache, struggles, pains, misery, with a sense of adventure, excitement, inspiration, and you have the perfect storm for so many of the writers that have etched their names in history’s library.

What is it all? Simple- it was simple. Life was simple, if not a challenge for the writer. The term starving artist is there for a reason. What made the memorable ones memorable and countless more that time has forgotten is singular focus- Writing. They wrote because that is who they were, and they shut out much of the rest of the world (unless it suited them to engage with the world for their writing).

So what is the writer’s life like today? There is no way to marginalize all the unique personalities and life paths that the pantheon of today’s writers have, yet I will (forgive). Today’s writer still has all the characteristics I described earlier, the simple mad crazy driven desire to do their art, a willingness at times to forgo anything else, and the need for the right setting, but with all of that (which was enough and often too much for writers of yesteryear) they have modern (last twenty years) society. The internet, social networking, self-publishing, celebrity obsession, technology entwined into EVERY component of life, and looking out- a world that would seem like science fiction and make a good many of the writers of yesterday shed a tear for humanity.

How pure and how true it must have been to have been the writers of a long gone era, just to write and experience life. Thoreau never had to worry about how many Twitter followers he had, whether he should self-publish or not; he never overthought about a photo he was taking and what filter to use before it went up on Instagram. Critique today comes from the anonymous, the obscure, the virtual masses so quick to destroy your passions with hateful words spewed out over a laptop’s keyboard.

There is a lot of greatness, exposure, possibilities and new mediums that come with this modern age (more for another post), I acknowledge that- but for today, for right now, I am on the idea of the writer’s life as it exist in its simplest form- one individual- writing. Modern benefits aside, one cannot deny that the scope of the writer, the need to stay connected, and the overexposure at times, has taken away from much of the simplicity that has always been at the core of being a writer.

Leather bound journal and pencil have been replaced by laptop, tablet, smart phone, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc…and for many, that is pure bliss, exactly what they want, what they need. But there are throwbacks out there. The writers who prefer to stay low-tech, carry paper and pen as they stomp throughout the world in search of their next inspiration- Thoreau at Walden pond, Kerouac at Big Sur. It is for those that I write.

As I said, there is much more to be said for the modern era of writing, and I will, just not right now. For now, I am going to pack up the computer, turn off the music, not obsess over Twitter or Facebook- for now I am going to disconnect and go out into the world. I encourage you to do the same.

 

Looking Back…

  • I generalize and romanticize the writer, but it was different, simpler before
  • The modern day writer must be plugged into social networking, the media, the age of technology
  • While this is a godsend for many modern writers today, there are throwback writers (old-school)

Author’s note…

  • This topic could be written about for hours and days, endless in its length of discussion. This is a snippet, a quick thought burst from one modern day writer.

I will do a companion (part 2) piece that highlights the benefits of the modern era. Stay tuned…

The New Blog Site and Me

Upcoming…

  • I explore my mind-state on the night of my blog go-live
  • Glimpse into why I write

 

On the eve of the go-live for my blog site, I sit with mixed feelings- excitement, apprehension, joy, wonder, unease, apprehension (wrote that twice- mean something?), but mostly, I am on edge in the greatest way possible. I have always been a writer and artist, since I can remember as a child. I remember creating my own versions of the story of the Alamo and of the cinematic Aliens series; both done in word and picture. I believe I still even have the Alamo story. Writing for me has always been a release, an escape, a way to try to not only understand the world, but especially myself- what makes me tick, why I feel the way I do, why I am the way I am. Who I am…

Writing and all other forms of art have always been amateur for me, something I just did for pleasure, in my spare time. Thing is, there was always spare time, ample amounts, when I was younger; but as the years went on and I sank further and further into the typical American suburban life, that time for art, that time for writing seemed to all but disappear outside of neatly pocketed manic bursts. It is in those moments that I would feverishly write as much as I could, until my arm cramped and hand felt numb. The pulsating agony and joy of a blur of spontaneous writing.  In a way, it is what I have always done, but it took discovering my now Holy Grail author Jack Kerouac, to discover and find acceptance in this method. Jack called it spontaneous prose, and he was the unwilling master and ambassador. A style of writing that says that first thought is best thought- no need to rewrite- no need to ponder- no editing, going back, scratch that, use this instead- total trust in one’s instincts and inner voice. Autonomous writing in a way.  To use a contemporary example, it is akin to the hip-hop artist of today who do not write their lyrics down, they just rap from their mind and one-take it in the studio. But my muse is Kerouac, (again) unwilling leader and ambassador of the Beat generation, a group hell bent on freedom of expression, adventure, and a willingness to go for it in writing, life and in every sense. This is what I try to also do. This will come through as very diverse, sometimes chaotic, occasionally brilliant, and followed by a few misses, in my work. I am not about polished, I am not about the boundaries, the rules, the expectations, and trying to ensure my work fits a mainstream idea.

My work is simply me, through and through. This means it will not be for everyone. For some will not get it and dismiss is; while others will see truth, similarity to themselves and understand why I do this. I am very open, frank and introspective in my works.  Acting as my harshest critic and as my biggest advocate, I wind and snake my way through life via written word- each moment captured for record, understanding, retrospection, and discovery. The ever illusive search for the eternal truth, the ultimate reality hidden just beneath our noses, just existing in godly glory just beyond our eyes.

As I said, I have always written and considered myself at my core and artist; but this has not been able to play itself out in what is commonly referred to as my professional life, my career. That is until now. No, I am not a published author, nor a blogger who has so many followers, so many visits that a generate money. I do not have a job in the writing industry; in fact I do not have a conventional job at this moment. That is the short version of a long story behind this new career path. I have spent the past ten years at the same corporate entity, in various roles, most recently as a corporate compliance Director- about as far away as possible from being an artist/writer. Those ten years culminated in me being one of many rifted in a massive company-wide layoff.

That is the catalyst for this, the chance to find a new direction, to retake hold of my life, to make myself happy, find true joy and purpose in what I do. My chance to write.

In some way, everything I will post on the blog will be about my new path. Some more obvious than others- yet all being true glimpses into my mind, my life, my view of the world- for better or worse.

What do I hope readers get out of my work? Who knows…how can I truly answer that without sounding cliché? I would be lying if I said I did not care if anyone enjoyed it, found meaning, found some level of truth. And in another sense, I am doing this as my own therapy- my own truth being peeled back from my innermost psyche and jettisoned into the world.

I have put a lot of work into getting this blog page up and running, and the initial spattering of posts are not a representation of my favorite work, best work, worst work, or anything down the middle; they are simply some of my most recent work. Like I said, I have been writing all my life and have the vast majority of those works hand written locked safe away. How would one who has been on this earth the better half of thirty years as myself go about handpicking his best or favorite works at this juncture? An exercise in futility. I will go back. I will resurrect some of the works from the vault.

For now, take a look into me through my written word at this juncture in time. As I continue to post more for the world, hopefully the intricacies of my world and my mind will become living entities out there, and I will find truth, meaning and oneness with my true-self and the ultimate reality.

Ready for the journey?

 

Looking Back…

  • I am a writer, always have been
  • I am taking a leap to see how far down the rabbit hole I can go

The Intent Observer

FullSizeRender_1Upcoming…

  • Afternoon drinking
  • Observing society
  • Kerouac and Van Gogh

 

The afternoon is winding down, the air has turned from a crisp morning dew to a breathy cool breeze. The sun doing its best to stay present and accounted for amongst a stream of wispy clouds. The veranda outside of the Schaumburg Beer Market is simple, classic, and perfect for a mid-afternoon drink and write. The metal grated table and chairs increase the feeling of openness to the elements, as well as a free flow of life. The wind swirls around, clouds creep by, and I feverishly write. I have grown to love these types of locations, an outdoor seating area nested within a crowded city- evokes imagery of traveling on vacation, the unknown adventure of the living pulse of a city happening all around you- and a nod to the past writers and artists, all of which I have to believe spent countless hours and days in locales just like this- out, in the thick of life, observing, interacting, and watching the intricate dance of people going about their day, each a different story to tell-and there the artist sits- a part of it all- yet strategically removed enough to be detailed observer- Jack Kerouac at the Skid Row diner. Me, in the Schaumburg afternoon, outside patio of the Beer Market. Visions of Van Gogh sitting at a similar table outside of a (now) historic European village comes to mind. Though admittingly the scene here for me is much more subdued and commercialized (it is Schaumburg) than Vincent’s image I conjure, madman painter, inebriated on various drink and substance, genius mind swirling with beauty and inspiration. The conservative well-to-do parade down the cobblestone street, umbrellas, top hats- while he sits stoic, creating, living, taking it all in. For me it is office workers zipping by in their cars, the young family heading over to their fast-food chain of choice. Inspiring locales are still very much alive, they just take more work to find them today in the modern era. I need to find the inspiration around me- remind myself of the beauty that exists within each day.

 

Looking Back…

  • The artist needs to be a part of society, yet remain invisible

A Summer’s Day Drink

FullSizeRender

Upcoming…

  • Summer day writing
  • Patio beer garden
  • The midday crowd

Author’s Note…

  • I wrote this piece a few weeks into my new push to write on a serious level after having just left the corporate world behind. I have several writers who I admire and on this day found myself  imagining myself alongside them, observing the world.

 

Another day out to write. These days became a mecca for me, something I pine for each day (be in the moment Scott). Just a little bit past the noon hour and I find myself seated outside at a patio bar in Wheaton, Illinois. Chair and table, while comfortable and a perfect location to see the entirety of the patio and have the rays of the sun kiss my skin, are amusing to me. A rather cheap plastic (maybe not plastic- but I call everything plastic that is not metal) with a sublimated inlay to give the visual illusion of wicker furniture. Who knew wicker furniture was so sheik and something to be cheaply imitated for the masses. My drinks have arrived. The sun hits my neck in a way that I know my skin will be altered by it- the days of summer. I mention the furniture not as a knock on the establishment (although I am sure that is how it reads- do not pass judgment Scott), but simply as a unique observation (thank you Jack- the observation machine). Life is different now in this career transition, living the life of a writer on these days, the freedom, the art, the craft, the adventure. The world is different now on a Thursday afternoon, Chicago suburbs, at a local ale house. the people I see are different- a wonderful concoction of office workers out for lunch, stay-at-home parents (like me) meandering through the afternoon, latte in hand, clad in hidden mystery sunglasses, the random wanders who neither appear to be office workers escaping the day, nor stay-at-home moms and dads, but rather nondescript (to the casual observer) in their societally chosen lot (and here I am, wanting to escape that, yet I perpetuate)- entrepreneurs, like myself…or maybe they are just wanderers, wanderers in life’s infinite mystery. We’d all be so lucky. As I turn the page, the sun continues its rotation and is now absorbing not just my outer facing arm, but my entire body. Summer days. The patio at Warren’s has quickly gone from my own little slice of solitude to a near bustling party. A table of suburbanite family, followed closely by a young duo of early twenty-something girls (tea pleased, unsweetened, with a lemon). This is merely the start to my evening. Later tonight I meet brother and friends for drinks and dinner in Schaumburg.

I often wonder how the great writers (in my mind) enjoyed their days how did they spend them, in pursuit of inspiration and their art? Would they be out on a veranda, on a warm(ing) summer afternoon enjoying a few drinks, pen and paper in hand? I like to believe they did exactly that. Kerouac, Thompson, Bukowski, how were your days? Thoreau, how was your old-timey day?- Brilliant and simple? My jealously runs deep. The sun is reaching an apex on me, taunting me with its beautiful dazzlement, while scorching my flesh. Oh cruel bringer of ruin and joy- that is life.

 

Looking Back…

  • The artist exist amongst society, while experiencing the everyday happenings through a different lens