Sunday, October 16, 2016

Jack Kerouac in San Francisco, 1952

From Carl Nolte's column in this morning's Chronicle:

Written back in 1952 or so when Kerouac was in San Francisco and worked as a brakeman on the railroad and lived in a flophouse hotel on Skid Row, Third and Howard. “October in the Railroad Earth” is a minor classic from the Beat Generation. Kerouac was experimenting with writing in a stream of consciousness, no punctuation, trying to catch life in the city. This was before “On the Road,” before he was famous, when he was a nobody living in San Francisco’s equivalent of nowhere.

“Nobody knew or cared who I was,” he wrote.

Gerald Nicosia, who wrote an acclaimed biography of Kerouac, thinks “October in the Railroad Earth” should be read aloud to catch the sound of it. “If you read it aloud, it’s incredible, like a jazz piece. It has amazing rhythms,” Nicosia said.

It’s possible to hear it read aloud, by Kerouac himself, with Steve Allen on piano. It’s on YouTube...

From Retracing Jack Kerouac about the events described in Dharma Bums:

...When Ray returns to California he joins Japhy, who in the meantime is living in another cabin in Corte Madera, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco in Marin County with Sean Monaghan (real-life Locke McCorkle) and his family. There they resume their former routine, having a few little parties, but are mainly engaged in preparing for Japhy’s big farewell party as he’s supposed to leave for Japan in the next few days. The party is turning out to be a big, 3-day long affair, but neither Japhy nor Ray are enjoying themselves all that much, and Japhy wants to go on a last hiking trip with Ray, who is more than happy to join him. This time they go hiking in the backcountry of Corte Madera up Mt. Tamalpais and onwards down to the Pacific Ocean at Stinson Beach (Stimson Beach in the book). The trip turns out to be a long and tiring one, but both are glad to be doing it, although Ray is so exhausted after returning he exclaims ‘no more hikes for me forever’...

Rob's comment:
I grew up in Corte Madera. If Gary Snyder and Kerouac hiked from Corte Madera to Stinson Beach, they would have been exhausted, since that's a very long hike. As kids my brother and I once hiked over the hill to play at the Mill Valley golf course, which was a lot harder than we expected. I don't remember, but I bet we got a ride back. We often hiked up The Huckleberry Trail on the Corte Madera hill---it even has a sign identifying it now---where, yes, we picked Huckleberries. But that's a short hike.

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