Memories of Kerouac from a Relative named Raymi
Award-winning Canadian blogger Lauren White, aka Raymi, was kind enough to take us up on our request to write a few things about Jack Kerouac on his most famous book's birthday.
My great grandfather was Jack Kerouac’s first uncle, so my grandfather is his first cousin or would be if Jack were still alive today.
All my life I overheard mention of this fact, Jack Kerouac, famous beat writer, poet, artist, revolutionary – it was not until I grew up some, did I begin to investigate it.
So I attempted to read the Dharma Bums when I was in grade six, I got to the cross-legged poncho drug digging it part and was like, NEXT. It wasn’t until my last year of high school did I finally give Kerouac’s work a try again.
For our final assignment in my OAC (grade 13) English class we were to select any author with the same initial as our surname, my last name is White, my father’s last name, my mother’s maiden name is Kerouac so I plead to my teacher that I wanted to use this opportunity to read Kerouac and said my mom’s last name was Kerouac blah blah he was impressed and said sure. So we were to read two books by our chosen author and cross-compare them, fine.
I chose On the Road and Big Sur, took them out of the school library and off I went.
I started with On the Road and plowed right through it, marking it up to shit, underlining this and that, making notes, I have total respect for books but I am far from one of those uptight collector fucks who don’t like to dog-ear or make creases – I feel books should have history, the more beaten up a book, the more I want to read it and share it – moving on.
I never finished Big Sur, ran out of time, it sucked in comparison to On the Road, it had heart and soul but basically dude is going crazy with isolation, I thought it cute the crucial details of an SOS pad, but that long poem at the end? Come on. That’s like the year 2003 in my blog archives, avoid them. And speaking of blogging, I had been blogging for just seven months at this point (though journaling my entire life), trying to figure out what my voice was, and picking up On the Road (don’t blow your head off when you read how pretentious this is going to sound) was like, holy fuck, this is me, that’s me, this is me.
And not some tea head having a revelation in a fucking Amsterdam cafe, not a delusional sycophant worshiper applying all of what Kerouac embodies to myself, his voice, his manic non-stop run-on fuck you grammar, was my manic non-stop run-on fuck you grammar I had been getting in shit for my entire educational career.
And the ironic thing was, I had to write a structured essay now, describing all this crazy I was thinking and feeling, I had to get across to a bunch of snarky jock loudmouths I always felt smarter than, the simplicity what is Kerouac’s unique madness.
I wrote it the night before it was due, and it turned out alright, I think I received a 90 or so. I hung out in beat chat rooms and message boards and then out of sheer desperation said I was a relative, someone who has read Big Sur contact me. Some shit kid did and once he was done virtually blowing me, I shook him of his Big Sur personal synopsis, not that it was needed really, all I had to do for the essay was find some quotes and then interpret them, yawn etc etc.
Ok so, I’m not a hardcore beat groupie, I don’t argue with a beret on my head over Burroughs and all that shit (though I totally loved Junky), what I know is this, Jack Kerouac may be dead, but for me he isn’t, and I don’t mean in the Elvis is still alive sense, I mean, I have been writing my life out for seven years now, through blogging, years more if you count pen and paper, and if not for a guy like Jack Kerouac, a relative of mine no less, would the spiel I hammer out daily be alright? Would the world accept me? Would they call me crazy more than they already do?
The point is, Jack was a revolutionary, I doubt at the time it occurred to him the effect he would have on the world, the inspiration city’s, country’s over, that would arise. That’s part of the beauty, he was doing it for himself, not for a Pulitzer, just for some traveling money.
On the Road was the first book of its kind to make you want to drop everything, no possessions type-deal, dirty jeans, hitch across America with nothing more than a few bucks in your pocket. No other book has ever come close to instilling a desire so strong in its reader since. That’s why we “dig” him, everyone has one thing they are really good at. Jack’s was travel and bringing us along with, and realizing oh yes, this makes sense.
I have never been inspired to write so much before in my life.
Happy 50th Jack.
top photo via AP, bottom photo via PX