Of Which I Owe Jack Kerouac
By Stacey Blood
Mar 12, 2019
I view my life in two segments. My life pre On The Road and my life post On The Road.
February 27th I attended the Corrosion of Conformity concert at The Cowan in Nashville. This was my favorite band in the mid 90’s and this reconnection was like a lightning bolt sent through me. I had seen them three other times up to 1995. But this time, in my post On The Road life, Jack was here too.
The most recognized curator of the Beat Movement, Jack Kerouac, was born on this day in 1922. Famous for his books On The Road, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody, The Town And The City, Mexico City Blues, and other masterpieces that changed my life (and ultimately watched become incinerated in a house fire in 2014), his influence progresses through the soil of our culture like roots of the Tennessee Sumac.
Of all things lost in that fire I am, perhaps, most upset about losing my original copy of On The Road. I had read it cover to cover multiple times and sent It to others who did the same and sent it back. It traveled with me. It was beat up, tattered, rained on, and became a physical momento of my life.
I learned of Jack Kerouac from Francois, the foreign exchange student from France, hosted by my family in 1995. A self-proclaimed beatnik himself, he was enamored with On The Road and urged me to explore Kerouac.
My first feeling was how embarrassed I was that I was learning about one of the greatest American authors not from Mesquite Independent School District, but from a cool stoner from France. Seriously, it was very embarrassing. But better late than never.
It was that same year I was to move from Mesquite, TX to San Luis Obispo, CA with my family as my father had a job opportunity there. It was during this move that I dove into Jack Kerouac. As a rock musician soaking up inspiration anywhere I could get it, I figure if I’m going on the road I had better read On The Road.
I finished the book not long after we arrived in San Luis and everything began to change for me including my musical needs. Where I was devoutly all about hard rock and heavy metal, I now shelved in favor of Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, The Band, Miles Davis, Beatles, Doors, and beyond to the litany of great artists who were directly downstream of Kerouac.
This led to a decades long study of the history of music going all the way back to the 19th century and then working my way back up again with a whole new outlook and context.
I knew from On The Road that Jack Kerouac passed through ‘Ole Obispo, but I never knew that he actually lived there for a time until recently when I discovered this article. It made me appreciate just how precious and mysterious the fact I found my own life at the intersection of Kerouac and Obispo at 19 years old.
Sure, I miss that old tattered copy of On The Road. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the endless gifts it has given me and the lesson it’s author taught me about how to break the rules.
Jack’s influence is everywhere. He’s like a bad case of brown recluse where once you’re infested you’ll never get rid of them.
Here is one of my favorite videos of Jack where he discuses hippie culture with William F. Buckley while reminding me of my grandfather.
Happy Birthday, Jack.