Posted at 3:33 PM on September 6, 2007
by Sanden Totten
Growing up on Long Island there were plenty of spots of literary significance to check out. Whitman's childhood stomping grounds in Huntington or the Great Gatsby house on the north shore come to mind. But I was always fascinated more with sleepy old Northport. It's a town that's about as exciting as a trip to your gandma's house. But for a period of his life Jack Kerouac called it home.
People from the town say Jack kept to himself but young rebels would come from all over the country to seek him out. They'd knock on his door and say "Hey! Is Jack Kerouac around? We've got some booze and a car and we're ready to hit the road!"
Jack would say: "I'm Jack."
And the kids would laugh and say: "Your not Jack, he's in his 20's. I read it in his book. You're an old man. Go get your son so we can take him on an adventure."
Apparently they didn't realize that it took years for Jack to get On The Road published. He was old and tired by the time the Beat craze was sweeping the country. And even though I know everyone grows up, I too have trouble imagining the tireless Jack Kerouac slumping around dull little Northport, Long Island, occasionally buying groceries or taking his mom out for lunch.
* * *
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of On The Road. Slate magazine has put together a cool article with recollections on Jack from people close to him. Are you a budding author? Here's some advice from the man himself. Some of it makes a lot of sense, but good luck trying to figure out what "visionary tics shivering in the chest" or "be an old teahead of time" means. I'm sure if you knew you'd be published by now.
But even as an old man, Jack was cool. Check out this clip from the Steve Allen show. Jack starts out nervous but when he starts his reading he finds his groove. (And speaking of cool, how cool is Steve Allen? Hosting a show while playing piano?! I wonder if we could get Jeff to give it a try . . .)
I've never seen one of these Steve Allen segments. That piano playing thing...is that cool, or distracting? Does it set the guest at ease, or on edge? It definitely seems odd looking at it now.
I'm trying to imagine applying it with a saxophone....
I don't find it distracting. There's not a lot else going on and Steve is fairly straight forward in his introduction.
It also makes me think that a few generations ago, families often sat around the piano singing songs and chatting together . . . so maybe having the host sit around a set of keys made more sense to an audience a few decades back.
Trying it with a sax may be a little too bizarre. But maybe with an accordion . . . now that would be so square it would be hip again!