Kerouac and Zeno and maybe next time
New podcast w/Dean Haspiel, on the road and off the rails, & more
My dad bought me a Hyundai Excel when I was in college. I ate a guardrail with it a few months into my ownership — missed a car in my blindspot on 91 in Springfield, MA, swerved through 3 lanes of traffic, drove another 150 miles back to NJ — but otherwise treated it okay.
It wound up doing something like 100,000 miles, and the funny thing was, it never went beyond a certain ~400-mile axis of the northeast: Amherst, MA; Ringwood, NJ; Wallingford, PA; Annapolis, MD. There was the occasional drive into NYC or DC, but the car really never traveled beyond that line, over 100k miles. The equivalent of four times around the world, without a road trip.
I finished reading On The Road this week, for the first time. Never read Kerouac before (and only a little Ginsberg, and some Burroughs), which is on me. I’d tried this once before a few years ago, was bored and put it down, but I gave more of myself to it this time, and was better able to appreciate that postwar void and longing in the narrator’s voice.
As someone who still defends Tropic of Cancer, I’m willing to recognize/concede Kerouac’s America of the late ‘40s was a different world, with a different sense of what driving and The Road meant, a different conception of masculinity (or so I hope), a different narrative fuel. After I finished, I read this 2007 piece on Kerouac by Louis Menand, which helped me frame things a bit, let me know that I wasn’t just projecting or over-reading into the narrator’s motivations, conscious and un-.
Last week, I drove up to Boston for a pharma-workshop at MIT. I hadn’t driven quite that far in years, and my body was Feeling It by the time I got home (compounded by sitting for 7 hours in a conference room). On the road I thought about On The Road, and this solitary, point-to-point driving. I thought about past drives — like New Haven to NJ in a snowstorm drive after Harold Bloom’s memorial in 2020, like the guardrail in Springfield, like the Pacific Coast Highway in a renter convertible from San Francisco to San Diego after a biotech conference — and all the idle ruminating and the snippets of lyrics or lines of poems I composed & forgot.
On the way up, I stopped in Providence, RI to see Paul Di Filippo & Deb Newton. Paul was recovering (well) from getting struck by a car in January. I spent ~90 minutes with them, glad to see old friends, happy to share stories, bummed that I talked too much about injuries and illnesses and age, and knowing that every moment there meant I’d be facing that much more traffic when I finally reached Boston/Cambridge. But as I told Deb on the way back to my car, “The last few years have taught us that ‘maybe we’ll get together next time’ is BS.”
When I finally got off the Mass Pike, the traffic was slightly worse than Zeno’s Paradox, but somehow I got to my room, and let the thrumming of the car give way to the thrumming of the hotel HVAC. I was happy I had friends to see.
And now, on with The Virtual Memories Show!
This week, I posted Episode 529 of The Virtual Memories Show, featuring Dean Haspiel as he rejoins the show to talk about his first Kickstarter (open through 3/30/23) in support of a new comic, COVID Cop (think “unholy but hilarious combo of Judge Dredd, The Toxic Avenger, Sin City, and Marshal Law”). We get into how his approach to storytelling has changed in recent years, how he felt about the COVID-delayed debut of his play The War Of Woo, the thrill of making his short movie There Is No Try, and what it’s like to work in hyper-collaborative mediums like theater & film. We also talk about the experience of drawing Superman at Yaddo, why he needed to revisit his pitch for COVID Cop now that we’re semisorta past the worst of the pandemic, returning to his fave character, Billy Dogma, and wrapping up one phase of his The Red Hook series, his take on AI art for comics, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go support COVID Cop! (And go listen to our 2018 and 2020 conversations!)
Last week, I posted Episode 528 of The Virtual Memories Show, featuring Willard Spiegelman as he rejoins the show to talk about his amazing new book, NOTHING STAYS PUT: The Life and Poetry of Amy Clampitt (Knopf). We get into his winding history with Amy Clampitt, why he thought a biography of her would be impossible and why he decided to write it anyway, what made her poems so special, and what it was like for her to have such a late-blooming career (she first published at 58). We talk about the learning curve of writing his first biography, why he thinks Clampitt stubbornly stuck with prose instead of poetry for decades, even after an epiphany at the Cloisters started her on the path to poetry. Plus we discuss her spiritual and political engagement and how they fed her art, Willard’s look back at the 10 years since we first recorded, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go get Nothing Stays Put! (And go listen to our 2013, 2016, and 2018 conversations.)
Other recent episodes: Matt Ruff • James McMullan • Paul B. Rainey • Thomas Woodruff
Links & Such
RIP Tom Sizemore . . . RIP Hotel Pennsylvania . . .
Speaking of Kickstarters, here’s a new one for a Miscellany by John Crowley (2013, 2017, 2022)!
Pamela Smart is still in prison.
The original (mumbled) run of Æon Flux was A-W-E-S-O-M-E; I wasn’t into it once the dialogue became intelligible and it had plots & such.
Speaking of awesome, I passed Tree Trails Adventures near Mystic, CT on the drive up Rt. 95 and I WANT TO GO
AI will never replace the human (self-)touch.
Brooke Allen writes about how much more engaged her students at a men’s maximum security prison are than those in college classrooms.
V. - by Thomas Pynchon (just felt like a natural segue after the Kerouac, probably won’t re-re-re-read the whole thing)
Still making little sketches, nothing substantial or that I feel like sharing with you. Maybe I’ll start making real stuff again this week; so I keep telling myself. Below is a quick brush-pen sketch of a neat yoga-pic I took. You should go to the Flickr album of most of the art I’ve made & find something you like.
Sound Body, Fractured Mind
Because of the workshop & drive-time in Boston, I only got in 4 days of weights & yoga, Saturday-Tuesday. I did keep up with my morning stretch-yoga-plank-pushup thang even in the Boston hotel, but my body was S-O-R-E for days from all that driving & sitting.
Until Next Week
Thanks for reading this far! I’ll be back next with a new podcast, fun links, maybe some art, & maybe a little profundity or something.
Today I saw a man with a flaming 8 ball tattooed on his arm,
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