Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Does Where You Live Determine Your Education?

22 Feb

Doesn’t it seem sometimes like life imitates art? That the same issues that were being written about — class, education, nationality — in the books of previous centuries can still be written about today?
Does where you grow up determine your education? Does it depend on coming from the “right” type of family who signed you up for extracurricular coursework? Or, is education self-determined? Can you embrace the autodidact tendencies of Massachusetts-raised Jack Kerouac, who skipped school to read voraciously in library?
Education was paramount in my family. My father especially believed that getting a good education was my job. It was his job to have a job, to have a career in which he could earn money to provide for his family. This would allow him to put me through the best and most expensive college so that one day I could have a reputable, well-paying job. Consequently, as a teenager, I could babysit occasionally, but I was not allowed to hold a regular after-school job when instead I should be studying. From what I observed growing up, that was common among the class of immigrant families in my hometown. Parents who had pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps worked tirelessly so that they could provide their children with a good education that would enable us to live better, easier, more fruitful lives.
Yahoo Real Estate recently came out with its annual list of most educated states in America. It didn’t surprise me at all to see my home states of New Jersey and New York on the list. I attended a Blue Ribbon high school in Bergen County, New Jersey, and my classmates and I went on to attend some of the highest-ranked colleges in the country. Not only that, almost every single friend from my childhood that I’ve kept in touch with went on to grad school as well—and that includes people that were in honors and AP classes and people who were never really into academics.
I mention friends first because I didn’t grow up with extended family nearby. My cousins—those from my father’s side, first generation; those from my mother’s side, here just a few generations longer—were in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these states as well were all in the top ten most educated states in America!
That’s not to claim that my family is the most well-educated or that we use our education to further traditional, high-paying careers. Some of us have master’s degrees, others of us just graduated high school. Some of us have careers, others of us are homemakers. Some of us read for pleasure, some of us play video games. Still, we have the foundations and the options to choose what we want to do. I’m reminded of the eighteenth-century British novels I read about women of a certain class, who were well educated even though they were never going to use their education outside the home. They would surely study French and Latin and learn to play the piano and paint frescos because it made them more interesting, more desirable, more well-rounded. They enjoyed learning for the sake of learning.
I think there’s something to be said for living in a state that values education. Even if one prefers to work with her hands or to be a stay-at-home father, both of which are noble, being well educated provides options and allows one to enjoy a rich interior life. One of my friends lived in a state that did not value education. Rather, when her daughter raised her hand to answer questions in class, her classmates mocked her for being interested in school. The girl began to shut down, to stop raising her hand, to stop caring about school. Fortunately, my friend recognized what was going on and was able to get her out of that situation. Now her daughter reads and writes even outside the classroom.
I go through phases where I get lazy and watch a lot of Netflix. Right now, though, I’ve been reading and writing a lot again—and it feels so good! I can’t believe I ever got so distracted and lazy to stop doing what I love. Suddenly my life feels richer. I feel like I’m doing what I’m called to do. And part of me has been thinking about furthering my education again. I’ve been missing the structure and challenge of academia. I’ve been wanting to be exposed to new ideas, to be challenged by books I’d never think to read on my own. I wonder if it’s worth it to get my PhD. University costs are so outrageously expensive, and when you work in the arts, where little money is the norm, it’s hard to justify going into debt. That’s why I’m glad I live in New York. New York is a university unto itself. There are so many great readings, lectures, and panels I can attend—and often for free. I can go to the library and check out books at random or I can do a little digging and find recommended reading lists like Allen Ginsberg’s Celestial Homework.
In descending order, the most educated states in America are:
  1. Minnesota
  2. New York
  3. Vermont
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Virginia
  6. New Jersey
  7. Connecticut
  8. Maryland
  9. Colorado
  10. Massachusetts
No matter where you’re from in America, though, you can educate yourself by seeking out mentors and reading good books. Even if one is illiterate, a lot of libraries and churches offer volunteers who can help.
You might also be interested in:::

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2015 Is Underway

8 Oct

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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! is officially underway, kicking off on Monday with a reading by Michael McClure. As if McClure alone wasn’t enough to draw a crowd, Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Manana Means Heaven, and David Amram will be there, along with lots of other special guests and a great crowd of Beat scholars and fans. You can view the whole 2015 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! line-up here.

Whether you’re attending LCK or living vicariously through others’ reports, here are a few links to get you in the spirit:::

White Trash Uncut: The Resource Magazine Interview with Christopher Makos

20 Mar

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Around the same time that Jack Kerouac packed his rucksack and went on the road, Christopher Makos was born into a Greek American family in Kerouac’s hometown. In the June 2013 issue of That’s, Ned Kelly reported:

Christopher Makos was born in 1948 in Lowell, Massachusetts, the birthplace of pioneering Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac; a heritage he was oblivious of in his youth. “Growing up in Lowell, I wasn’t aware of anything, except how to leave,” he says. “How to grow up fast and figure out how to leave.”

Sounds pretty Beat to me!

Makos went on to live in California and then, after high school, moved to New York and, later, Paris. It was there that he became an apprentice to the esteemed Man Ray. Back in New York City, he photographed the scene on the Lower East Side—Beat writer William S. Burroughs, the Ramones, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Debbie Harry are just a few of the icons who ended up in his book White Trash. Though it was the ’70s by this point, it’s got it’s Beat Generation connections. (If you’re interested in reading up more on this, I’d recommend Victor Bockris’ Beat Punks.)

Makos became friends with Andy Warhol, who called him the “most modern photographer in America.”

The latest incarnation of this seminal punk photography book, White Trash Uncut, is coming out in May 2014 (published by Glitterati Incorporated), and Resource Magazine’s Aria Isberto caught up with the Greek-American photographer to talk about the underground scene, what it takes to get published, and what kind of camera he uses. You can read it here.

Interested in my writing for Resource Magazine? Check out:::

Read more of my Lowell posts here. Among my favorites are:::

Read about other Greek Americans I’ve written about on my blog. Here’s a few selections:::

Which Greek American do you want to see me write about next?!

Limited Time Offer: 10% Off the Paperback of Burning Furiously Beautiful

10 Oct

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Exciting news!

Pop the champagne! The paperback edition of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now on sale.

Limited-time offer

We’re giving you an extra 10% off now through the end of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac. (Unfortunately, the books won’t arrive in time for us to sell physical copies at the festival, but at least you’ll get a discount!)

What’s the book about, you ask?

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is the most up-to-date and accurate account of the development of American writer Jack Kerouac’s groundbreaking 1957 novel, On the Road. Using archival resources as the foundation of this book, Kerouac scholars Paul Maher Jr. and Stephanie Nikolopoulos have fashioned a gripping account of the internal and external experiences of Kerouac’s literary development.
Fueled by coffee and pea soup, Jack Kerouac speed-typed On the Road in just three weeks in April 1951. He’d been traveling America for the past ten years and now, at last, the energy of his experiences flowed through his fingertips in a mad rush, pealing forth on a makeshift scroll that he laboriously taped together. The On the Road scroll became literary legend, and now Burning Furiously Beautiful sets the record straight, uncovering the true story behind one of America’s greatest novels.
Burning Furiously Beautiful explores the real lives of the key characters of the novel—Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty, Carlo Marx, Old Bull Hubbard, Camille, Marylou, and others. Ride along on the real-life adventures through 1940s America that inspired On the Road. By tracing the evolution of Kerouac’s literary development, this book explains how it took years—not weeks—to write the seemingly sporadic 1957 novel. Through new research and exclusive interviews, this revised and expanded edition of Jack Kerouac’s American Journey (2007) takes a closer look at the rise of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation, giving insight into Kerouac’s family roots, his time at sea, the shocking murder that landed Kerouac in jail, his romances, and his startlingly original writing style.
Who is my coauthor?

Paul Maher Jr. is the author of the critically acclaimed biography Kerouac: His Life and Work and Empty Phantoms: Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac
Check out my exclusive interview with Paul here.
You can judge our book by its cover
We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on our cover. Credit goes to Igor Satanovsky. He’s an award-winning cover designer that I’ve worked with for many years now on various publishing projects. Igor also is a poet (buy his book here!) and studied with Allen Ginsberg.

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

Hot Tip: 7 Kerouac-Related Places to Visit in Lowell Not Covered by Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

10 Oct

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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) has done another fantastic job creating an itinerary that explores the town in which Kerouac was born and where he was laid to rest. If you’re spending time in Lowell and want to explore a few places off the beaten track, though, there are still many Kerouac-related places to check out. This is by no means an inclusive list, but it’s a few options if you’re staying in Lowell longer, creating your own tour, or looking to dig deeper into Lowell’s history.

1.  Kerouac’s typewriter is on display at the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit at the Morgan Cultural Center … unfortunately, due to the government shut down you probably won’t be able to see it right now.

2.  It seems fitting that the National Streetcar Museum is in the hometown of the author of On the Road. Visiting the museum will give you context to the transportation history that played an important role in Kerouac’s life and literature.

3.  The  Pow-Wow Oak Tree is believed to have stood for 300 years! It was a sacred meeting place for Native Americans. Given Kerouac’s Native American ties, this may be a unique stop on your tour. Unfortunately, the tree was cut down just this year, but you can still visit the place where it stood.

4.  Kerouac’s birth home, which is on the LCK tour, has yet to be made into a museum, but painter James McNeill Whistler’s birthplace has been owned by the Lowell Art Association since 1908 and is now a museum. Kerouac would have walked past it and known about this famous artist. In 1993, John Suiter showed his photographs Rumors of Kerouac here.

5.  The Sun is important to Kerouac’s legacy. Kerouac worked for the newspaper, and journalist Charles Sampas reviewed Kerouac’s work in its pages. It used to be located in Kearney Square, but more recently moved to the American Textile History Museum.

6.  Visit Monument Square, and you’ll pass by the same statues Kerouac once did.

7.  Dana’s Fruit & Confectionery has been around since 1914. We all know Kerouac had a sweet tooth, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he stopped in here. …Just don’t try to take any pictures inside!

You may also like:

My photographs of places in Lowell from Kerouac’s time that are still around today

 

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

5 of the Most Famous People and Things to Come Out of Lowell

9 Oct

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You already know that Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell and set many of his books there, but the Massachusetts town is also the birthplace of several other famous people and inventions. With Lowell Celebrates Kerouac going on this week, I thought it would be fun to explore 5 fun facts about Lowell:

1.  The first AOL instant message was sent by a Greek American from Lowell

2.  Remember the drink Moxie? It was invented in Lowell. You can buy it here and visit the roadside attraction the Moxie Bottle House in Union, Maine

3.  The son of a railway engineer, painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born in Lowell and there you can visit the Whistler House Museum of Art

4.  The brilliant Greek American photographer Christopher Makos is from Lowell

5.  Lowell is also the birthplace of Bette Davis

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

Jonathan Collins’ Beat-Inspired Paintings on View at the Paterson Museum

2 Sep

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Remember a while back when I did an interview with painter Jonathan Collins, who created stunning works of art featuring Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts? Well, starting this weekend, he has an exhibit up at the Paterson Museum!

Here’s the press release:::

The Paterson Museum is pleased to present “Beat Traveller: New Landscapes By Jonathan Collins.” This collection of works will be his first solo show at the Museum. The opening reception of Beat Traveller will be held the museum on Sept. 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibition will be on view through Oct. 6.

The works of Beat Generation novelist Jack Kerouac and poet and Paterson native, Allen Ginsberg, inspired the paintings. Collins journeyed to San Francisco, California, Lowell Massachusetts, and Paterson, New Jersey and returned depicting striking landscapes, glowing in bold sunlight, hazy sunsets, and moody night scenes.

According to Collins, “Both Ginsberg and Kerouac spawned from supposedly dreary mill towns, but I found each place to have areas of great natural beauty, vast historical interest, and even mystical qualities. Also, my father was from New England, my mother from Paterson, and they met at the foot of the Great Falls in 1951. Consequently these areas have great familial and artistic significance for me.”

Collins’ paintings are highly detailed watercolors that have won him numerous grants and scholarships, enabling extensive travel throughout the United States and Europe.

The Paterson Museum is located at 2 Market St. in the former erecting shop of the Rogers Locomotive Works in the heart of the Paterson Great Falls National Park. The Museum’s visiting hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. For more information contact the Museum at (973) 321.1260 or thepatersonmuseum@gmail.com.

Check it out!

The Great Valhouli Fauxlore: Atlantic Uncovers Truth Behind Kerouac-Burroughs Fight

9 Aug

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Those of us who devote our time studying the life and work of Jack Kerouac and yet who simultaneously spend a lot of our time on Facebook already called “hoax” on that photograph that was being circulated around about a plaque on how Kerouac and William S. Burroughs got into a drunken fight over the Oxford comma. I assumed it was a digitally manipulated photograph. As it turns out, though, it has a fascinating back story. Alexis C. Madrigal uncovered the truth behind the plaque — which actually exists — in the story “Facebook Fauxlore: Kerouac, Burroughs, and a Fight Over the Oxford Comma That Never Was” in The Atlantic.

It’s a great piece — minus the odd portrayal of the Greek American behind the plaque. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Hot on the trail of something fishy, Madrigal contacted sources Paul Marion; The Morgan Center; Martha Mayo, head of the Center for Lowell History; and Tony Sampas. Marion, author and employee at UMass Lowell Center for Arts and Ideas, had seen the plaque and knew that it was created to promote Mill No. 5 at 250 Jackson Street in Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts.

Marion referred Madrigal to Ted Siefer’s article “Mill No. 5 brings transformation to Lowell” in The Boston Globe, which explained that developer Constantine Valhouli, with business partner Jim Lichoulas III, was transforming the former textile mill into an office building:

with a kind of fun-house brio to attract the eclectic, off-beat, and hip: boutique movie theater, yoga studio, farm-to-table restaurant, a lounge/library in the style of an English manor — the whole thing decorated with architectural materials salvaged from the likes of Dr. Seuss’ house.

It would appear that Valhouli ascribes to the same Beat philosophy of improvisation as Kerouac. Siefer says:

Valhouli likens the development of the project to how jazz musicians build a song. “We’ve not built from a plan,” he said. “You play a theme, and you just keep playing improvisations over it.”

Madrigal points to the pivotal paragraph in The Globe story for proving the plaque is a fake:

And there, in the 13th paragraph, was proof that we were looked at a false sign: “Inside the entry hall will be a reconstructed early 19th-century New England schoolhouse,” the Globe wrote, “an exhibit that will be part of what Valhouli calls the Lowell Atheneum [AHA!], which will also feature a collection of hand-painted pseudo-historical plaques from New England history [DOUBLE AHA!].”

Madrigal, who went on to interview Valhouli, then explained that Valhouli and Lichoulas thought up the idea of creating “a series of plaques commemorating events that never happened” to support Mill No. 5. They hired Ould Colony Artisans‘ Robert and Judy Leonard to paint the plaque by hand. The artists had created many other historical signs in the Massachusetts area.

I found Madigral’s investigative reporting enthralling.

Still, I was put off by this aside:

I had to get in touch with this Valhouli character, who was, no doubt, swirling his mustache near some railroad tracks looking for damsels.

Okay, I’ll concede that Constantine Valhouli certainly sounded like a “character” for faking people out — although I’m not sure we generally refer to conceptual artists or those who come up with brilliant marketing schemes as “characters.” Instead, I think we tend to use terms like “inspired” and “business-savvy” to describe people who manage to get others talking about their work. A quick look at Mill No. 5’s Facebook page, and the tongue-in-cheek branding is evident:

We’re working on the bathrooms at Mill No. 5 today. Which made us think of the central question of paleontology:
Q: Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom?
A: Because the P is silent.

Brilliant Subway Panhandling Prank Flips the Script

Hahahahahaha. This. Oh this. The Hipster Logo Design Guide.

But there was “no doubt” in Madrigal’s mind that Valhouli had a mustache and that he swirled it, like some sort of old-timey Western villain? Is the mustache assumption because he’s Greek American or because The Boston Globe article referred to his work as “Disneyland for hipsters”? Where did the leap from real-estate developer to someone who hung out at a train station get made? Was this supposed to tie him closer to Kerouac — or make him sound like some sort of train-hopping hobo? He was out “looking for damsels”? What??

With today’s access to personal information on the Internet, it took only seconds to find Valhouli’s LinkedIn page, and — unless it too is a hoax — discover he (fittingly) received his BA in English and fine art from Georgetown University, where he went on to get his MA in interactive technology. From there, he got his MBA from Columbia University’s Business School. He received the Charles G. Koch Fellowship and was a Peter Agris Fellow. He did equity research for Morgan Stanley and was director of business development for Incogniti before becoming principal at The Hammersmith Group, which describes itself as “a boutique strategy consulting firm with concentrations in real estate and technology.” His LinkedIn summary reads, in part:

Constantine has been featured in the BBC, Businessweek, CNN, Forbes, Fortune, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal. He has guest lectured at Columbia Business School, MIT, New York University, and has served as a panelist on internet industry events and at the U.S. Department of State.

There wasn’t a profile picture to verify him peeking out of a train tunnel to leer at women. The Atlantic has created its own “fauxlore” about Constantine Valhouli. Oh, how the tables have turned.

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This post has been updated to correct the publication to The Atlantic.

Jack Kerouac Dropped Out of College. So What?

27 Jan

Is genius born or created?  By now everyone has read, or at least heard, about how Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College and went on to become the cofounder of Apple and one of the most important entrepreneurs of our time.  Perhaps less known is the fact that Jobs continued to audit classes at Reed.  He actually credited a calligraphy course he took as having a major impact on the Mac.  When I was taking a shuttle from the San Francisco airport to my hotel out in Walnut Creek, I had a midnight conversation with a businessman who had read the biography on Jobs and told me about how the computer genius’ interest in art was fundamental to his vision for building a successful brand.

Back in September, Flavorwire posted an article called “10 Famous Authors Who Dropped Out of School.”  This is what they wrote about Jack Kerouac:

In high school, Beat hero Jack Kerouac was no poet — he was a jock, star of the football team. His athletic skills won him a scholarship to Columbia University, but he and the coach didn’t get along. The two argued constantly and Kerouac was benched for most of his freshman year. Then, he cracked his tibia and, his already tenuous football career over, dropped out of school.

I love Flavorwire, and I understand that the writer was trying to keep the text short and irreverent, but I think it’s worth dissecting the often repeated line that Kerouac dropped out of Columbia University.  Implicit in remarks about his football scholarship and dropping out is the suggestion that Kerouac was neither intelligent nor studious—the same way that many critics like to point to how quickly he supposedly wrote his novels.  If he were a computer genius, like Steve Jobs, perhaps his craft would not be questioned, but because the arts are subjective, Kerouac’s dropping out of college is often reported more as a jab than as evidence toward his natural gifts.

To say that Kerouac was a jock and not a poet in high school undermines his academic achievements.  In reality, Kerouac, who didn’t even feel completely comfortable speaking English when he went off to school (he spoke his parents’ French Canadian dialect), did so well in school that he skipped a grade.  He spent a lot of time at the public library in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, voraciously reading the classics.  When he was not on the football field, Kerouac was part of a roundtable discussion group on philosophy and literature.  His father was a printer, and so even at a young age, Kerouac produced his own writing.  Like Jobs, Kerouac did not come from money, and the scholarship he earned helped him attend the university, where he studied English under the tuition of great professors.

Kerouac left Columbia, then he returned to resume his studies, and then dropped out for good.  However, like Steve Jobs, Kerouac continued his studies even after he dropped out of college.  He enrolled at The New School, where he studied literature.

 

After Kerouac moved to Ozone Park, Queens, and holed himself up writing, his friends jokingly referred to him as “The Wizard of Ozone Park.”  Do you know “The Wizard of Menlo Park” (New Jersey) was?  Thomas Edison, who after only three months of formal schooling, dropped out.

 

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This post has been updated. I wrote “college” when I meant to write “school,” when referring to Kerouac’s ease with English.

 

 

Christmas with Jack Kerouac

24 Dec

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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.