Archive | Travel RSS feed for this section

What’s Your Sign, Man?

3 Sep

I went to Philly the other day and visited the site of printer and author Benjamin Franklin’s house. To get there, I had to pass through this little tunnel:::

franklin

The sign made me laugh. Imagine being so famous that historians noted not just the site of your house but the little passageway you walked through to get there! His house is no longer standing, but excavations show aspects of the infrastructure. The signage there is equally humorous, as it seems to reveal a strange relationship between Franklin and his wife, Deborah Read. He seemed very concerned about her ability to manage the household and seemed to think she might burn the whole place down. I was so fascinated by his strange letters to her that when I got home I did a little digging into their relationship. It turned out that our Founding Father wasn’t in a traditional marriage! Apparently, he had proposed to dear Deborah but her mother didn’t approve of him so while he was traipsing through merry old England, Deborah married some rake who took her money and ran, never to be heard of again. Ben and Deb technically then entered into a bigamous, common-law marriage. They had two children together and also raised Franklin’s illegitimate child. They don’t teach that in the history books in school!

* * *

Maybe one day Lowell will put up a bunch of signs pointing out where Jack Kerouac went to church and where he wrote while he drank. My friend George Koumantzelis, who is the nephew of Kerouac’s friend Billy Koumantzelis, recently brought Grant Welker’s article “Is Lowell missing the Kerouac beat?” for The Sun to my attention. Welker writes:

Lowell has a small park with a memorial on Bridge Street dedicated to Kerouac and has a walking tour organized by the National Park Service, but it doesn’t have a permanent center — a museum, library or open-to-the-public childhood home — dedicated to the writer, whose popularity continues to grow here and abroad more than 45 years after his death.

In the meantime, we can still laugh about the signs Constantine Valhouli made!

* * *
What books on Benjamin Franklin would you recommend?

 

Advertisements

Friday Links: For the Literary Traveler

27 Jun

Happy Friday! I’ve rounded up a bunch of Buzzfeed articles that feed my need to travel. Hey, if you’re a starving artist and not traveling anywhere this summer at least you can read!

The Trainspotting Guide to London

12 Literary Spots in London That Every Book Lover Needs to Visit

17 Bookstores That Will Literally Change Your Life

23 Beautifully Bookish Places to Explore This Summer

26 Real Places That Look Like They’ve Been Taken Out of Fairy Tales

40 Books That Will Make You Want to Visit France

 

 

Link Love: Travel Tattoos

25 Apr

plane-tattoo-x2-via DCER

Would you ever pull over to the side of the road and get a tattoo while out on a road trip? Would you ever get a tattoo for each trip you took? What about a compass or the coordinates to your favorite place? A literary-inspired quote about travel?

Here are a few travel-inspired tattoos. What’s your favorite?

Man’s Tattoo Tracks World Travels

The lines in the middle of the road

Road Trip temporary tattoo by Kyle Steed

Tattoo from a road trip experience with lyrics from Fall Out Boy’s “Alone Together”

Miles to go

43 Rad Tattoos to Pay Tribute to Your Favorite Place

Plane tattoo

Walk on the world

This map almost blends in

Kerouac-inspired tattoo

Muir-inspired tattoo

 

#AmtrakResidency Politics Makes Me Laugh

19 Mar

Amtrak-01-800x482-235x141

During my lunchtime reads, this headline, via Poets & Writers, made me laugh:

“Republicans Denounce Amtrak Residency”

The link round-up led to The Atlantic’s article “Shocker: Conservative Republicans Hate the Amtrak Writer Residency.

I’m not one to blog politics, but I will talk copywriting: these two headlines grabbed my attention and made me actually laugh out loud. It sounded like an Onion article! I kind of love the fact that they’re so outlandish and made me think about politics and the media.

Are some Republicans seriously against writers getting to use a seat that would’ve otherwise gone empty on a train? Of all the things going on in the world, is Amtrak’s residency really worth the political hubbub? Did the “liberal media” exaggerate and twist what Republican senators actually said? Are the senators’ concerns that the taxpaying public has subsidized Amtrak services with $1.5 billion and yet are giving away free tickets legitimate? Should the government help fund writers and those in the arts as a means toward furthering our cultural heritage?

When the Amtrak Writers Residency was announced a few weeks ago, friends came out of the wood works to urge me to apply. After all, writing and being on the road is my literary jam.

Then the official application was released. Thousands of people applied. And, I started hearing murmurs about the fine print.

No matter what your politics are and your stance on copyright, Amtrak’s certainly made headlines. Someone in their marketing department is doing something right!

Happy 155th Birthday, Theodore Roosevelt!

27 Oct

HuntingTheGrisly

Ten years ago — wow, time flies! — I had the pleasure of penning an introduction to Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt’s adventure memoir Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches. As part of my research, I toured his birthplace, a gorgeous brownstone right here in New York City. I loved hearing the inspirational story of how he was a sickly child whose love for reading and nature led to him becoming an advocate for conservation. Just like Jack Kerouac later would, Roosevelt read Leo Tolstoy and dime-store westerns, traveled America, dreamed of ranching (Roosevelt actually did ranch; Kerouac was a lot of talk), became associated with hyper-masculinity, and created a legend out of himself through his writing.

Today marks the 155th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s birth.

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Granta Publishes Travel Issue

2 Jul

My inbox got a recent happy surprise with the subject header:

‘The Road Is Life’ Celebrate the launch of Granta 124: Travel

In case you don’t recognize the quote, it’s from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. In part 3, chapter 5, he writes:

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.

The lit mag will have its New York launch for the issue on July 24th at 7pm at Bookcourt (163 Court Street; Brooklyn). Granta editor John Freeman will supposedly be there–despite May’s news that he is leaving the lit mag. Contributor Phil Klay will also be there. Readings, drinks, and conversation to ensure!

If you’re not in the New York area, you should be! But even if you’re not, Granta also has launches in San Francisco and London.

Book Court has a plethora of other events coming up that include poetry, nonfiction, fiction, photography, and music.

In case you missed it, here’s my recap of hearing Freeman speak about Granta.

Lucky Peach Launched Travel Issue Last Night in NYC

27 Jun

lucky peach 6-26 _0

Right after graduating from college, I embarked on a backpacking adventure across Europe. I made so many wonderful memories. My nerdy English-degree self sought out Oscar Wilde’s lipstick-stained tomb and visited the church where satirist Jonathan Swift was dean. And of course, I hit beaches from Nice to Greece.

What I didn’t make memories of was the regional foods. I had a meager budget, as did my travel companion, and we stayed in hostels and ate foods like trail mix and potato chips that we bought from the grocery store. We were hungry but it was worth it to see so many spectacular sights and meet fascinating people along our journey.

But that’s not how everyone travels. Lucky Peach has devoted an entire issue of their delicious food journal, founded by chef David Chang and Peter Meehan, to travel. And they do travel right.

The issue launched last night at McNally Jackson in New York City.

What country would you like to eat your way through?

Kristen Stewart Hits the Road

19 Jun

Kristen-Stewart-On-the-Road

Kristen Stewart, who played Marylou in the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, is reportedly on a summer road trip in the South. According to several sources, she’s been hanging out at bars and shooting pool in Amarillo, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee, and is on her way to New Orleans, Louisiana. Among the hotspots stops on her visits: Coyote Ugly Saloon.

Prior to filming On the Road, Stewart had taken a four-week Beatnik Book Camp and taken a road trip. According to Hollywood Life, at a 2012 screening at SVA, she told reporters she avoided the “grimiest” aspects of road tripping.

In March of this year, she and then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson were planning a road trip in Europe for this summer. They were talking about traveling around Italy, Germany, and France in a van. So will they or won’t they? The rumor mill can’t decide.

Here’s my review of the film adaptation of On the Road.

John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and Jack Kerouac Write about Nature

23 Apr

muir

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”

~ John Muir

It was conservationist John Muir‘s birthday over the weekend and yesterday was Earth Day. A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of editing a reissue (not the one pictured above) of his My First Summer in the Sierra and writing the flap copy, and I quickly became absorbed in the poetic language he used to described the beauty of the earth. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might have caught on that even though I absolutely love the glittering sidewalks and Art Deco skyscrapers of New York City, I am just as comfortable out in nature. (It’s the suburbs I can’t stand!)

Muir was an early advocate of nature preservation and founded the Sierra Club. He used to hang out with Teddy Roosevelt, whom I’ve also written about, and they’d go off exploring Yosemite. Can you imagine any of our recent presidents going off into the woods with someone we’d today probably label a hippie? It was this very friendship between Roosevelt and Muir that led to America’s natural beauty being preserved. Interestingly enough, Muir and Roosevelt were both rather talented writers, and their works are travelogues through nature.

Jack Kerouac referenced John Muir in The Dharma Bums, a novel that makes you want to drop everything and go sit in the woods for a great long while. He also wrote about Muir in an essay entitled “The Vanishing American Hobo“:

John Muir was a hobo who went off into the mountains with a pocketful of dried bread, which he soaked in creeks.

Kerouac was incredibly well read and would often read history books about America before or during his road trips. As “The Vanishing American Hobo” indicates, Kerouac saw the landscape and economy of America changing before his eyes as he traveled. The era he lived in was the beginning of the great highway system, and he saw why Muir’s conservation efforts were so important.

We tend to associate road tripper Jack Kerouac with cars and bars, but he actually loved nature. On the Road is essentially a glowing account of America’s landscape, the melon patches, the sun-drenched sky, the ragged mountains. In Big Sur, we see him sit out and just stare at the ocean, absorbed in nature. His obsession with animals gives us a poignant insight into his psyche.

We often put labels on people, and to see literature through critics’ lenses. What if we read John Muir’s work as literature instead of viewing it as nature writing? What if we read Jack Kerouac’s work as nature writing instead of counter-cultural novel?

What if we saw a story in a blade of grass? What if we listened really hard to the call of a bird?

You might also be interested in this article I wrote a few years about John Muir for Burnside Writers Collective:

And in this clip of me reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful about Jack Kerouac’s empathy toward animals.

Sneak Peek of Burning Furiously Beautiful: Early Version of “On the Road” Tells Kerouac’s Mom’s Story

8 Jan

528764_288645227899680_240973182_n

From chapter 1 of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr.:

In an unpublished prose fragment, Jack Kerouac incorporated his mother and father’s French-Canadian heritage into one version of his road novel. It was centered on his mother’s birth using the pseudonym of Gaby L’Heureux. Gaby’s pregnant mother unwisely took a long journey by train to visit relatives in St. Pacome in the Quebec province of Canada. Gaby’s mother, though poor, was pure at heart, according to Kerouac. She gave birth to a set of twins before dying in her bed. Gaby survived but her twin did not. Gaby’s widowed father, Louis L’Heureux, who stayed home in Nashua, tended a gloomy bar. Outside, staring at the canopy of stars reeling over him, he adjusted his collar, securing himself unwittingly for one more cruel “blow” to his life.

The mother’s body was brought back to Nashua accompanied by her Aunt Alice and the infant Gaby. Kerouac captured in this bit of wrtiting how the train moved through the New England countryside, and how the Merrimack River wended its way through New Hampshire, a land once inhabited by Algonquin Indians waiting for “life.”

Gaby’s piercing cries irritated the travelers, and she was unaware of the life all around her. At the train station, her father took her in his arms, and he looked down to her adoringly. Alice predicted that they would never be without troubles: “Life is sad, O my love….”

This was first posted on the book’s Facebook page. For the latest, check out our page!