Tag Archives: Jack Kerouac

Alaska Daydreaming?

Some ponderings on a snow-threatened evening in Lexington…

I recently passed my two-year anniversary of my time with the Canadian-owned Liquor Barn. It has since returned to being a Kentucky-owned business.

The anniversary prompts me to meditate.

My last two years with the very large group that owned Liquor Barn involved a lot of travel. It probably wasn’t that much travel compared to other hardy folks, but to this fixed-foot Lexingtonian, it was too much travel. Boston, Mobile, Tampa, Montana, Chicago, San Antonio, Phoenix, Washington…and Alaska required visits. These are all places that have interest for me, but for a business trip…meh.

I hated the travel. For those who know me you know I use the word “hated” rarely and deliberately. The air travel that was a delight in the 60-70’s has decayed from delight to ordeal. Hotels are amazing…but not my home. They try to substitute free breakfast, daily clean linens, and tiny plastic bottles of shampoo, for my wife, my critters, and my trusty roster of pizza delivery partners. LOUD BUZZER; thank you for playing.

Given that, I generally enjoyed my times in Alaska. There were things that stirred me to think;

  • Alaska’s young. They just recently celebrated their 100th anniversary. We have neighborhoods in Lexington twice that age. There are whole periods of architecture not present in Alaska because of that youth. To quote one of my favorite songwriters; “It feels like something’s bein’ born.” There were no buildings in Anchorage that didn’t scream; “We think this is the way to be, but check with us tomorrow, we may change our mind.”
  • Anchorage is often suffused by an “end-of-the-continent Western light.” I’m paraphrasing Jack Kerouac’s description of a late 1940’s San Francisco. When this happened in Anchorage, I felt like I was walking in a nickel postcard from the 1950’s, a fantasy ideal, again quoting Kerouac; “What will happen! Hey!!”
  • Alaska is young but it lives in the shadow of instant destruction every day. Earthquakes and tsunamis…we don’t let those things affect our days in Kentucky.
  • The color pallet of Alaska seems to only include 12-14 shades of green, not the 1,248 we have in Kentucky. That’s a serious problem for me.
  • High humidity lingers for 15 minutes in Anchorage, not the four generations we occasionally live through in the Bluegrass State.
  • The distances that are part of Alaskans’ lives dwarf ours. No, they double dwarf ours. Their state capitol is a 750-mile flight over water away from their home, not a twenty-minute drive from my house. On clear days, Anchorage citizens can see Mt. Denali. That’s the equivalent of me walking out on my front porch and seeing Indianapolis. Damn!
  • Their mountains are towering, jagged, snow-covered, around the corner, and intimidating as hell. Ours are round, green, womb-like, enveloping, and seductively on the horizon.
  • Their nights are sharp and invigorating, challenging us to plunge ahead into the night’s adventures. Ours are soft, narcotic (thank you, Tom Waits), and contemplative, inviting us to go for a stroll.

All that being said, let me be clear; I enjoyed being in Alaska, not going to Alaska. It was a lo-o-o-ng journey for this geezer.

Rowdy and Petulant

Movie night!

One of the commentators on last night’s broadcast from this week’s political convention described a speech as “Clint Eastwood without the chair”. That prompted me to pull out PLAY MISTY FOR ME for the 384th time.

My experience with Clint Eastwood begins with his rowdy and petulant portrayal of Rowdy Yates in the TV cowboy series; “Rawhide”. He had a great squint even then.

Later, I loved his spaghetti westerns; A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the monumental and rambling THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. Mr. Eastwood’s character in these films had no name so I just assumed it was an older Rowdy Yates in need of a shower. I wore a poncho myself for several years. I’m not proud of that but I did shower regularly.

Then he created Harry Callahan in the “Dirty Harry” films; talk about rowdy and petulant! But this time, he packed a lot more firepower. For you conspiracy fans, notice that Dirty Harry and Rowdy Yates have the same number of letters in their names. Hm-m. A clue?

The 1992 flick; UNFORGIVEN is a great western. In it, Mr. Eastwood’s character is once more rowdy and petulant, but now also older and slower. He’ll either break yer face or break yer heart – you choose.

These films make me feel as if I’ve watched Rowdy Yates’ entire adult life in movies and enjoyed the hell out of it.

PLAY MISTY FOR ME is not part of that experience. This character (Dave) is not rowdy and petulant, he’s selfish and bewildered.

Random synapses firings from MISTY;

  • It strikes me how similar Clint Eastwood’s radio show in the film is to “Chris in the Morning” on the TV show; “Northern Exposure”. Of course there’s a degree of difference – about 70 degrees of difference.
  • I also wonder if Adrienne Barbeau’s radio show in John Carpenter’s THE FOG might be inspired by Mr. Eastwood. In my travels by car around Kentucky, I’ve caught myself scanning radio channels searching for Clint, Chris, and Adrienne. A little poetry on I-65 would relieve the pounding of the semi convoys.
  • Donna Mills is luscious in her cuter’n-pup-turds pixie haircut. But I cannot get her “Knot’s Landing” character out of my head and I keep weighing who’s truly more dangerous; her or Jessica Walters?
  • I have the similar issues with the amazing picture postcard shots of the Monterey Peninsula director Clint Eastwood employs in this film. Yes, the images are beautiful. Yes, I’ve visited the area AND read Kerouac’s tone poem in BIG SUR and know for certain the beauty of Monterey is not a trick of movie-making, it’s there. But the cumulative effect of these shots keeps summoning the croonings of Rod McKuen recordings…not so good in a film of terror.

Unlike Rowdy Yates, this film doesn’t age well, but I love it.