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

8 Jan


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In an unpublished prose fragment, Jack Kerouac incorporated his mother and father’s French-Canadian heritage into one version of his road novel.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!

Christmas with Jack Kerouac

24 Dec



I spotted this festive train outside the National Streetcar Museum when I was in Jack Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Mass., earlier this month.

Looking for a Kerouac-related Christmas story? Here’s a snippet from the scroll version of On the Road in which Kerouac describes his Christmas:

“At Christmas 1948 my mother and I went down to visit my sister in the South laden with presents. I had been writing to Neal and he said he was coming East again; and I told him if so he would fine me in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, between Xmas and New Year. One day when all our Southern relatives were sitting around the parlor in Rocky Mount, gaunt men and women with the old southern soil in their eyes talking in low whining voicss about the weather, the crops and the general weary recapitulations of who had a baby, who got a new house and so on, a mud spattered ’49 Hudson drew up in front off the house on the dirt road….”

You can read the whole story beginning on page 212 of On the Road: The Original Scroll, published by Penguin Books in 2008.


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.

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…”