Kerouac’s Biographer Reads at (Where Else?) Kafé Kerouac

Yet again, I have to kick off an entry by apologizing for my absence from this blog.  Several consecutive weeks of 56-hour work weeks does that to you.  (I thought my latest gig at the bookstore would end with the Winter Quarter rush, but that was not the case.  I emailed my supervisor to let him know I had a new cell phone number, and he replied by asking if I could work nights Monday through Thursday “until further notice.”  I need the cash too much to decline, so I accepted.)

This past week broke the repetitious cycle of get up-work at Job #1-walk to Job #2-go home-collapse, at least temporarily.  Gerald Nicosia, author of the definitive biography of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe, made a brief trip to Columbus, as a part of a trip to Oberlin.  He and I have corresponded (by snail mail, and less frequently by email) for the past seven or eight years.  While researching my near-completion-for-the-past-few-years memoir of Robert Lowry, There Are No Promises Here, I wrote Nicosia to ask him for information about Lowry’s publishing a short excerpt of Kerouac’s book of Buddhist meditations, Some of the Dharma in 1958.  (I go into more detail about this in this 2007 blog entry.)  I thanked him for his help, he wrote back, I wrote back, and we have been writing almost non-stop since then.

When Gerry began planning for a trip to Oberlin, he suggested flying into Port Columbus, renting a car, driving up to Oberlin, and then spending time with Susie and me before flying back to the Bay Area around San Francisco.  Since he and I had never met in person, I was crazy about the idea.  He has long been “the best friend I have never met,” since our entire friendship had been one of correspondence.

He was sitting in his rental car on my street as I walked from the bus stop Wednesday night, after the bookstore job.  (He had heard me talking to someone as we walked up from the bus, and recognized my voice from the taped letters I had mailed him.)  He was staying in a motel near Riverside Methodist Hospital, but wanted to meet Susie and me, and spend some time before shaking off the jet lag and retiring for the night.  When Susie came home a little while later,  we headed for the Blue Danube for a late dinner.  (That’s the first place that I take guests when they come to visit.)

When the plans for Gerry’s visit to Columbus began to solidify, my next move was to email Mike Heslop, who has owned and operated Kafé Kerouac for the past eight years, and suggest that Gerry do a reading there.  Gerry and Mike emailed back and forth a few times, and then Mike emailed to let me know he had arranged a reading for Friday (last night) at 7 p.m.

I would have wanted a larger crowd, but the people that did come were genuinely interested in Kerouac, and were familiar with On the Road and Kerouac’s other writings.  (One person asked questions about Satori in Paris.)  Gerry brought several trade paperback copies of his newest book, One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road, which appeared in November.  This is the story of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady’s madcap trips back and forth across the United States, as told through the eyes of Cassady’s first wife, Lu Anne Henderson (known as Marylou in On the Road.)  Gerry spoke of his friendship with her and with Kerouac’s daughter Jan (who wrote the novels Baby Driver and Trainsong, and who died of renal failure in 1996), about his co-author on One and Only, Anne Marie Santos (Lu Anne’s daughter), and about his role as a technical adviser on the On the Road movie, which began production in 2010.

Gerald Nicosia answering questions at Kafé Kerouac, February 10, 2012.

After living for many years in the Bay Area, Gerry was a little startled to see snow–the first in weeks–begin to fall in Columbus when he returned from Oberlin yesterday afternoon.  It’s been a mild winter so far, and there have been several days when I was completely comfortable walking around in a hoodie or a sweatshirt.

Not the case now.  Normally, except for rush period, I do not work at the bookstore on Saturday.  Today was an exception.  A co-worker of mine is sweating blood about a calculus midterm that he has next week, and he wanted to spend the weekend studying for it.  Since it would mean a fatter paycheck for me, I agreed to fill in for him.  It was quite difficult to leave the warm confines of my bed and house to venture to the bus stop, especially when it’s 17 degrees F. outside.  I had planned to go to the Adult Talent Show at church tonight, but once I’m indoors, I’m there to stay.  I think Susie and I will order in and watch a DVD of Young Frankenstein.
Gerry reading from One and Only.  I introduced him at the beginning of the presentation, but the flash on my camera didn’t work when Susie took the picture of me at the microphone.