Tag Archives: Northern California

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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….

 

Road Trip: Garlic Capital of the World

16 Nov

The first road trip I ever took to San Francisco was with my best friend on spring break during college.  As we were driving up from LA, she pointed out Gilroy, telling me that that’s where all the garlic is grown.  She told me they even had a garlic festival!

Here’s a bit about Gilroy, California:

Gilroy is well known for its garlic crop and for the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, featuring various garlicky foods, including garlic ice cream. … Gilroy’s nickname is “Garlic Capital of the World,” although Gilroy does not lead the world in garlic production. While garlic is grown in Gilroy, its nickname comes from the fact that Gilroy Foods processes more garlic than any other factory in the world; most pickled, minced, and powdered garlic come from Gilroy. 

Garlic ice cream?!  Uh, no thanks.  Although I have had olive oil ice cream, and it was amazing.  I do love garlic, though.  So naturally when my recent road trip from San Francisco to Monterey and back passed by Gilroy, I had to get out and take some photographs.

 

 

If Jack Kerouac’s road trip sustenance was all about apple pie, perhaps mine was about gaaaaaaahhhhhrlic!

If you have any good recipes for dishes with garlic, let me know!

Road Trip: The Salad Bowl of the World

15 Nov

One of the reasons I was excited to travel the California coast from San Francisco to Monterey was because we’d pass Salinas.  John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac wrote about Salinas Valley.  Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was set in Salinas.  In 1960, Kerouac published a piece called “The Vanishing American Hobo” in Holiday magazine, which in part said:

I myself was a hobo but only of sorts, as you see, because I knew some day my literary efforts would be rewarded by social protection — I was not a real hobo with no hope ever except that secret eternal hope you get sleeping in empty boxcars flying up the Salinas Valley in hot January sunshine full of Golden Eternity towards San Jose where mean-looking old bo’s ‘ll look at you from surly lips and offer you something to eat and a drink too — down by the tracks or in the Guadaloupe Creek bottom.  

Kerouac also wrote about Salinas in Big Sur.  Even though it was in Selma, California (called Sabinal in the novel) — the Raisin Capital of the World — that Kerouac wrote about picking crops with “the Mexican girl,” Terry, in On the Road, I imagine it to be very much like Salinas.

The Salinas Valley, which begins south of San Ardo, and runs all the way to Monterey Bay, is known as “the Salad Bowl of the World.”  Most of the green salad produce you eat in the US comes from the Salinas Valley.  Named during California’s Spanish colonial period, Salinas means a salty lake or marsh.  The climate and growing conditions make the valley particularly fertile.

I saw signs promising 7 avocados for $1.  Do you know how much I pay for an avocado here in New York City?  $2 for a single avocado!  I was super excited — “stoked” to use the lingo I picked up while living in Cali (yes, people really talk like that there).  However, in keeping with the everything-going-awry theme of the trip, we did not get to make the stop because our bus had broken down earlier on the trip and we were already two hours behind schedule.  I took these photos from the window of the bus.

Road Trip: By Night

30 Oct

In honor of Cabbage Night and Halloween, I thought it would be fun to post some photos from my road trip that I took at night.  A midnight road trip is deliciously scary.  The moon taunting you from above.  Tree branches that look like claws.  Eerie silence.  On the bus, we watched the psychological thriller Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which was filmed in part at the 17-Mile Drive, which we traveled through on our road trip, but you could listen to an audio recording of a horror story if you have to keep your eyes on the road … and the rearview window!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip: Lone Cyprus Tree

25 Oct

We stopped real quick to see the Lone Cyprus Tree as we took a road trip along the famous 17-Mile Drive on the California Coast.  It’s such a beautiful symbol, a tree enjoying the salty ocean air.

Here’s a little bit about the Lone Cyprus Tree from Wikipedia:

Chief among the scenic attractions is the Lone Cypress Tree (36.568738°N 121.965321°W), a salt-pruned Monterey cypress (macrocarpa) tree which is the official symbol of Pebble Beach and a frequent fixture of television broadcasts from this area. In 1990 the Monterey Journal reported that Pebble Beach’s lawyer, Kerry C. Smith, said “The image of the tree has been trademarked by us,” and that it intended to control any display of the cypress for commercial purposes. The company had warned photographers that “they cannot even use existing pictures of the tree for commercial purposes.”[3] Other legal commentators have questioned the Pebble Beach Company’s ability to invoke intellectual property laws to restrict others’ use of such images.[4]

 

 

We also passed the Ghost Tree, which is a cyprus that’s turned completely white, but I missed it as we drove by too quickly.

Road Trip: Pebble Beach Is Not a Beach

23 Oct

Part of my road trip down the California coast included a stop to Pebble Beach.  As it turned out, Pebble Beach is not actually a beach.  It’s a prestigious place to golf.  I kept seeing everyone take photographs with this clock so I took one too.  I have no idea why.  I know nothing about golf and this clock means nothing to me.

 

Road Trip: 17 Mile Drive

22 Oct

On my road trip down the California Coast, we took the 17 Mile Drive.  I’d never heard of it before, but everyone talked about it as if it were the highlight of the trip even though we spend a lot less time there.  What I discovered was that California’s 17 Mile Drive is a stretch of road associated with luxury.  Millionaires build mansions that overlook the Pacific Ocean.  Golf is the sport of choice.  The art scene is thriving among the cultured citizens.

Here’s a bit about the 17 Mile Drive from Wikipedia:

At the north end, a portion of the early route through Pacific Grove begins at the intersection of Del Monte Blvd and Esplanade Street. The famous portion of 17-Mile Drive then begins a few miles south of this point. The crossing of Highway 68 (Holman Highway/Sunset Drive) and 17-Mile Drive marks the entrance to Pebble Beach.

From the Sunset Drive/Pacific Grove gate, the drive runs inland past Spanish Bay, then adjacent to beaches and up into the coastal hills, providing scenic viewpoints. Travel along the road takes as long as the traveler likes, a minimum of 20 minutes south to Carmel without stops. Numerous turnouts along the road allow stopping to take pictures, or getting out to stroll along the ocean or among the trees. Visitors receive a map that points out some of the more scenic spots. In addition, a red-dashed line is marked in the center of the main road to guide visitors, and help prevent them from venturing into the adjacent neighborhood streets.[2]

The road provides vistas of golf courses including Spyglass HillCypress Point and Pebble Beach. After reaching Carmel Way, and the exit to Carmel, the 17-Mile Drive then heads northeast to the Highway 68/Highway 1 interchange, where one can exit, or continue to loop along the higher vistas of 17-Mile Drive, some of which offer views from more than 600 feet above sea-level. The full loop will take you back to the Pacific Grove Gate at Sunset Drive — a distance of 17 miles.

 

The driver slowed down and pointed out various homes.  I was not impressed.  I grew up with parents who trapped us kids in the back seat while they drove around looking at the mansions in Alpine, New Jersey.  I’ve seen beautiful, large homes before, and it just doesn’t impress me.  Interior decorating and architecture are passions of mine, so it’s not that I don’t appreciate nice homes.  And I’m by no means against luxury.  I rather enjoy a certain lifestyle.  I’m just not impressed by it.

Do you enjoy driving around looking at mansions?

 

In case you missed last week’s road trip posts:

everything on my trip went wrong

cocktail recipe for what Jack Kerouac drank in Big Sur

writing tips from Big Sur writers

save the sea otters and sea lions