Archive | November, 2012

Road Trippin’: Fashion by Chance

29 Nov

I always discover the most lovely photos on Katie Armour’s blog The Neo-Traditionalist.  One of her posts a while back was about the clothing line  Chance’s new California collection.  The inspired photographs of California’s breathtaking landscape and close-up shots of cars made me think it would be a great collection to rummage through for a road trip!  As it turns out, founder Julia Leach gets her inspiration from the design of the classic car the Citroen DS, among other “artful classics.”  Just goes to show you that inspiration is everywhere and that cars have had a lasting impact on our culture.

I particularly like the red thread detail of the straw-stitched sun hat and of course all the striped shirts!

Katie oftentimes posts about the 1950s so her blog is a fun read.

Where Is Knowledge Inherent?

28 Nov

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth….”

~ Luther Standing Bear, Lakota tribe

I read this quote in The Sacred Wisdom of the American Indians by Larry J. Zimmerman and thought it was just lovely.

Blues.Gr Interviewed Me about the Beats and Greece!

27 Nov

What mistakes of the Beat Generation would I most like to correct?

What role did Greek immigrants play in Jack Kerouac’s life?

How would I spend a day with Gregory Corso?

What does Greek philosophy have to do with Beat writing?

Am I a Beat??

Find out my answers at Blues.Gr!

Athens-based writer Michael Limnios has been interviewing people associated with the Beat Generation for Blues.Gr.  He has an impressive catalog of interviews, featuring such names as Amiri Baraka, Helen Weaver, Levi Asher, Dennis McNally, and so many other fascinating figures.  I don’t know how I ever got lucky enough to be even remotely associated with these people, but I’m honored.  Michael asks unique questions so the interviews touch on aspects of the so-called Beat Generation that aren’t always addressed.

Next time I’m in Greece, I’ll have to see if he’s available to sit down in the platea and chat about the Beats and jazz and rembetiko over a glass of ouzo!

Road Trip: Hitchhiking to the Mission

24 Nov

 

By the time my poor bus rolled into Carmel, the day was fading and the shops had closed their adorable doors.  Music from a live concert rose up out of the heart of the main shopping plaza, and the moon made his appearance even though the sun hadn’t quite set yet.  I was a little disappointed not to be able to stop into the cheese shop that the wine guide back at the winery had recommended, but I was intent on getting a little culture out of the trip.  Man cannot live on cheese alone.  I set off to visit the Carmel mission.

I was a little annoyed that I’d paid all this money for a tour that basically amounted to the driver talking over the intercom as he drove the bus and then sleeping while we wandered off on our own into the unknown.  That was the point when I actually needed a tour guide.  I didn’t need someone to tell me to look out the window because by golly there’s a strawberry field.  I needed someone to physically walk me to locations because I’m for someone who loves to travel I’m notoriously bad with directions, and I hate wasting time getting lost when there are things I want to see!  I asked the driver to point me in the direction of the Carmel mission, and he told me the twosome up ahead of me were also headed there and honked the bus horn at them so they’d wait for me.

I awkwardly approached, not knowing if I was encroaching on some romantic rendezvous.  As it turned out, they were ex-brother and sister-in-law.  The woman had married and divorced the guy’s brother.  They couple had been divorced for many, many years now, but the woman and the brother had remained good friends and travel companions.  Hm… was there maybe something more there?  No.  He’s gay and in a committed relationship, and she is currently in a serious relationship.  They just like to travel together.

Alrighty then!  Onward ho!  (Actually, I found the relationship backstory out on the return trip.)

The woman once been given a beautiful painting of the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and always wanted to visit it.  We set off down the road, the driver having told us it was only about a ten-minute walk.  That was a lie.  As we were trying to figure out which way to head, a woman in an SUV pulled up and asked us if we wanted a ride.  Now, if you’ve read my “Nightmare of a Trip” post, you know that I’m well versed in the dangers of hitchhiking, but I figured I was with two other people.  Plus you had to have seen the woman in the SUV.  She was skinny with bleached blonde hair and wore these ginormous heels and what may have been a dalmatian-fur coat.  I couldn’t tell if she was actually old or if her skin was damaged from too much suntanning.  We were grateful to her, though, as she took time out to give us strangers a ride.

The San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, like all the shops, had already closed, so we could only peer in over the fence.  It was a beauty!  Established in 1771, the Community of the Carmel Mission is a working church.   The Basilica Church is a registered National Historic Landmark and there are five museums on the grounds.

Of course, the bus also made a stop at the Carmel mission when we left the area, but we didn’t have time to get off the bus at that point, so I’m glad I ventured off to enjoy its peaceful presence.

 

 

I’m not sure which mission he’s referring to, but in Big Sur Jack Kerouac writes of Cody, the character based on Neal Cassady, saying:

“Now dont walk too fast, it’s time to stroll along like we used to do remember sometimes on our daysoff on the railroad, or walkin across that Third and Townsend tar like you said and the time we watched the sun go down so perfect holy purple over that Mission cross–Yessir, slow and easy, lookin at this gone valley…”

Road Trip: Cannery Row

23 Nov

What’s a road trip to Monterey without a stop to Cannery Row?!  I had read Cannery Row during my layover in Wisconsin so I was all prepared to visit John Steinbeck country.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving and Lamenting

22 Nov

image via Burnside Writers Collective

Super impressed by all of you who were already posting photos on Facebook last night of delicious-looking Thanksgiving food.  I saw “papou’s stuffing” and “maple-glazed brussels sprouts” and pie galore.  My family was always in charge of bringing dessert and liquor.  We’d pick up the cake — no pie from us; it had to be chocolate cake — along the way.  The Glenlivet was already in the closet.  I’m carrying on the tradition.  No measuring and mixing going on over here.  I’ll stop and pick up some wine along the way to my aunt and uncle’s.

This Thanksgiving season, I’ve been seeing a lot of daily posts on Facebook on what people are thankful for, which is a great practice and quite beautiful. However, I also have a lot of friends who are going through significant struggles. It’s okay to feel sad, hurt, angry, or frustrated. It’s important that we acknowledge that our lives don’t always go as planned and that we don’t pretend that our lives are perfect. Sometimes on Facebook, it’s easy to get the impression that people’s lives are so much better than our own, but we don’t always know what’s going on behind the scenes.

I’ll confess that I was a bit “jealous” of my colleague, Emily Timbol, who wrote this article on lament and thanksgiving: “Let’s Have a Kvetch Fest.” Her writing career is going really well. She writes for the Huffington Post, has participated in radio interviews, and has made great progress with her book. I’m happy for her, but at times frustrated with my own writing. In this article, she shares her frustrations with her writing. This does not bring me joy. I think she has an important story to tell and has an engaging voice, and I want her to succeed. Her honesty, though, was a good reminder to me not to compare myself to others and not to be so hard on myself. I share all this because I believe it’s important to be thankful even in the difficult times, however I also believe that when we’re open with each other we learn that we’re not alone in our struggles, our fears, our frustrations, our sadness, our loneliness, our insecurities, and on and on.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

21 Nov

I am so excited to have been tagged by Maria Karamitsos for the The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.  Even though I’m not a mother, I love reading Maria’s blog From the Mommy Files, which is full of humor and light.  She has the gift of storytelling.  Her blog entries read like snippets of a novel-like memoir, with dialogue, reflection, and a strong voice, despite the fact that much of her writing is focused on what could be a very technical topic: molar pregnancy.  Take for instance, her post “The Influence of the Lost Child,” in which she talks to her two adorable little girls—”BooBoo BeDoux” and “Bebs LaRoux”—about the baby she miscarried.  It’s a difficult and heartbreaking subject, yet she injects humor in it through the personalities of her daughters (“it’s tough to be 3, after all!”) as well as tenderness and faith.  I’m really excited about the book she’s writing called Positive About Negative: Adventures in Molar Pregnancy.  Maria also tagged some other Greek authors for the Blog Hop, and it’s great discovering all these writers.

I’m tempted therefore to write about my memoir about being Greek American, but since my book on Jack Kerouac is coming out first my answers to the Blog Hop questions are about that book.

What is the working title of your book?  Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Where did the idea come from for the book?  Paul Maher Jr. had written a book entitled Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road” for the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s seminal work.  I had read this book one summer and some months later began reading Paul’s blog.  We began talking and decided to revise and expand his book because we knew that a film adaptation of On the Road was coming out and we wanted to provide a resource for those interested in finding out more about this famous novel.  It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative, contextual information, and new research because we wanted both the teenager turned on from the film and the literary scholar who’s read every book by Kerouac to enjoy it and find value in it.

What genre does your book fall under?  It’s literary criticism and biography.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Isn’t that the million dollar question?  There’s been a lot of talk over the years about who should play Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in the film adaptation of On the Road.  Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell, Marlon Brando, you name it, they’ve been associated with it.  I almost never go to the movies and don’t really know the young actors of today well enough to say who would be age appropriate to cast.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  Zac Efron?  These actors are too old to play the roles now but if I were casting the film back when I first read On the Road as a teenager, this is who I’d pick:

  • Sal Paradise — Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke would be excellent choices for Sal Paradise, particularly because they both have a deep appreciation for literature.  Depp is a known Kerouac fan and just started his own publishing imprint, and Hawke is a published author.
  • Dean Moriarty — Woody Harrelson would make a great Dean Moriarty.  He can play both earnest and wild so well!  Matthew McConaughey would be great as Dean too.
  • Carlo Marx — I loved James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg in Howl, but if I had to select someone else I might go with Adam Goldberg.
  • Old Bull Lee — The choice of Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee for the Walter Salles film is brilliant, but again if I had to choose someone else maybe I’d with Ewan McGregor.
  • Marylou — Drew Barrymore would be so much fun to watch as Marylou.  Do you remember her in Mad Love and Boys on the SideAlmost Famous hadn’t been made yet when I was a teenager but Kate Hudson (think Penny Lane) would be my runner-up pick.

 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Burning Furiously Beautiful tells the true story of  Jack Kerouac travels on the road and how it took him years, not weeks, to write On the Road.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  We decided to self-publish Burning Furiously Beautiful.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  The first draft, so to speak, had already been written and published as Jack Kerouac’s American Journey.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  There have been so many biographies of Kerouac written over the years, and each offers its own perspective.  Burning Furiously Beautiful uses Kerouac’s journals and letters, as well as archival material from other people who knew Kerouac during the time he was on the road and writing On the Road, to tell a the specific story of the making of a novel that continues to generate interest today.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?  Obviously, Paul Maher Jr. inspired Burning Furiously Beautiful as it was his original idea.  I, however, had been researching and writing about Kerouac since I was an undergrad many years prior to this and brought my own knowledge and skills to the project.  I was very much inspired by the fact that the film adaptation is soon to be released here in the States.  There’s a whole new generation coming to Kerouac’s literature, which is immensely exciting to me.  Reading Kerouac when I was in high school opened up so many possibilities for me as a reader and writer.  I hope that the film will pique people’s interest so that they’ll go back and read Kerouac’s books for themselves—not just On the Road  but his other great works as well—and that they’ll watch Pull My Daisy, the film that Kerouac himself spontaneously narrated.  Burning Furiously Beautiful is important because it contextualizes On the Road and provides a fascinating look at Kerouac’s life and writing process.  This is critical because there’s so much myth surrounding Kerouac and the 1950s.  I became engrossed in odd little details like the fact that the Kerouac’s didn’t have a phone and took their calls at the store below their apartment in Queens.  It’s so different than today when it seems like every middle schooler has a cell phone.  If Cassady could’ve just called Kerouac up on his iphone, he might not have written the infamous Joan Anderson letter that spurred on Kerouac’s writing style.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Burning Furiously Beautiful is a great book for an aspiring writer, regardless of whether or not you like Kerouac’s writing style.  It’s a portrait of a young writer and details how his writing voice developed (his first book has a much different style), what his writing routine was, the editing process (yes, there was one!), what his relationship with other writers and editors was like (imagine lots of parties), and the many false starts he had in writing his book.  We even talk about book signings, contracts, and press interviews.  Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated with various writing projects of mine, but realizing that Kerouac, who purported to have written On the Road in only three weeks, went through some of the same struggles and took years to find success makes me realize that it’s all part of the writing process.

I tag:

Emily Timbol

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Larry Shallenberger 

Michael D. Bobo

Check them out!  They’re each really different from each other.

10 Quotes about Persevering and Finding Your Story

21 Nov

I’ve never been intimidated by a blank page or a brand new diary.  When I was younger and in elementary school, I relished in-class writing assignments.  Inspiration and ideas came easily to me, and I wrote fast and furious.  Perhaps this is because I was a quiet student, who probably went days without speaking in class, so writing assignments gave me a chance to let loose all the thoughts that had been bottled up inside my head.

Most of the time when I sit down to write, I have little idea what will come out.  I almost never work off of an outline, and even when I have a thesis or a direction I want to take my work, the writing seems to have a mind of its own.  I feel that my job as a writer is to just let the words flow and the story will find itself.  If I try to wrestle my words down to keep to some preconceived notion of what I am expected to say, I run the risk of missing something purer and truer.

Much more intimidating to me than the blank page is a work in progress.  Are my words rebelling against my story and leading me astray?  Has everything I’ve said been gibberish?

Below are famous literary quotes about persevering and finding form and structure:

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. ~William Faulkner

There is no method except to be very intelligent. ~T.  S. Eliot

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.  ~Hart Crane

Something that you feel will find its own form.  ~Jack Kerouac

The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of an idea. ~Thomas Mann

If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtis flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy’s trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one…he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent. ~Honore de Balzac

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer. ~Ray Bradbury

It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly. ~C. J. Cherryh

Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it… ~Michael Crichton

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. ~William Faulkner

 

Do you plot out your entire work before you begin writing?

Road Trip: Wine Tasting at Bargetto Winery

20 Nov

 

 

 

Nearly 90% of American wines come from California.  While Napa and Sonoma Valley are the most recognizable names associated with California wine production, there are many other fertile regions for grape growing and winemaking throughout California.  While I was in Monterey, I stopped by the Bargetto Winery shop for a little lesson on winemaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains and, of course, some wine tasting!

Visiting the Bargetto Winery was one of the highlights of my road trip to Monterey.  It was also one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences I’ve had.  I’ve gone wine tasting in Tuscany, Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Vermont, as well as sampled wines in Oregon.  Along the way I’ve encountered some exquisite wines.  What made the tasting at Bargetto Winery stand out was the diversification of wines I samples.

The standout wine at Bargetto Winery, for me, was the the Chaucer’s Cellars apricot wine.  I was at first hesitant to try this fresh fruit wine.  Although I was intrigued, I imagined it would taste like marmalade.  What I discovered, though, was a refreshing dessert wine bursting with flavor.  It’s sweet but also light.  It’s certainly not a wine you’d want to drink glass after glass of, but it is the perfect ending to a meal.  The expert who was helping me suggested it also went well with spicy chicken cashew dishes; the website also offers recipe ideas.  As the website says:

CHAUCER’S CELLARS, produced by BARGETTO WINERY, has won gold medal winning dessert-style wines for decades. These elegant wines are produced from 100% pure fruit or natural honey without the addition of artificial flavors. The distinct taste of these wines can be enjoyed in the tradition of Medieval England. In the spirit of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, experience these unique wines as a pilgrimage in sensory delight.

“A pilgrimage in sensory delight”!

The other dessert wine I tried was definitely my least favorite of all the wines and that was Chaucer’s Mead:

Take a step back in time and enjoy the flavors of this popular Elixir. Our Mead is made with similar recipes used in Medieval Times.

The honey for this specialty dessert-style wine is produced in hives throughout Northern California. It is composed of a blend of three types of honey: alfalfa, sage and orange blossom. Each type brings a unique quality to the blend and contributes to the overall complexity of the Mead. Alfalfa is neutral in flavor but yields a dark, amber color. The orange blossom brings a floral bouquet to the nose of the wine. Sage brings subtle nuances into the blend.

I’m a big fan of all things honey, and I appreciate the blend of three different types of honey produced in California.  I’m not a huge fan of mead in general, and the particular mead I was served contained a spice packet of cinnamon and cloves.  It tasted like Christmas tea.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  I would certainly enjoy a hot cup of spiced mead on a snowy winter’s night — but no more than once a year.

I also tried a pinot grigio and a pinot noir, both of which were delicious.  The pinot noir had a sexy spiciness to it that made it perfect for drinking on its own or with a strong, peppery cheese.

Two brothers in the Bargetto family emigrated from Italy and started a winery in San Francisco that was shut down during Prohibition.  The Bargetto Winery was then established in 1933, meaning it was around during the time Jack Kerouac and his friends were road tripping along the California coastline.

Today, the Bargetto Winery practices sustainability in their winemaking:

There are three aspects to winegrowing sustainability as it applies to our winemaking operations:

  • The first is Environmentally Sound , in which we strive to produce wines in a green manner. Each month herein we post one of our winery practices like insulation of cooling pipes for energy conservation
  • The second is Economically Feasible , in which we maintain practices that will allow our winery to continue our long family tradition. Producing consistently quality wines that retain devoted customers and efficient business practices are two examples
  • The third component is Socially Equitable , in which we strive to provide a healthy and dignified work environment for our employees. Our giving back to the community , especially our LA VITA Fund is another example of this aspect to sustainable winegrowing.

The Santa Cruz Mountains is a beautiful area, which overlooks the ecologically diverse Monterey Bay Sanctuary. We believe we have a duty to do our part in maintaining and improving this natural beauty while being good business citizens of our community.

The Santa Cruz Mountains pass through San Francisco and head all the way down to Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley.  It’s worth noting that the agricultural towns of Salinas and Gilroy, which I also passed through on my road trip, are also known for their wine.  The Santa Cruz Mountains is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) that consists of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo Counties.  There are more than 200 vineyards in this area.

You can visit tasting rooms of the Bargetto Winery in Soquel or Monterey (which is where I went).

Speaking of Chaucer, you may also be interested in my earlier post:

Road Trip Writing: On the Road and The Canterbury Tales

Road Trip: Monterey

19 Nov

Most people associate John Steinbeck with Monterey.  Many of his famous novels, including Cannery Row, were set in Monterey.  Not surprisingly, there are many tributes to him in the toursity little town.

 

Steinbeck photobombing me

Jack Kerouac also wrote about Monterey.  One of the most beautiful passages about Monterey in Big Sur is:

But it is beautiful especially to see up ahead north a vast expanse of curving seacoast with inland mountains dreaming under slow clouds, like a scene of ancient Spain or properly really like a scene of the real essentially Spanish California, the old Monterey pirate coast right there, you can see what the Spaniards must’ve thought when they came around the bend in their magnificent sloopies and saw all that dreaming fatland beyond the seashore whitecap dormat–Like the land of gold–The old Monterey and Big Sur and Santa Cruz magic….