The Beat Museum, City Lights

City Lights swag: Howl

I had to take some time off from blogging, as you could tell. The car theft left me emotionally drained and I really didn’t have any reserves left in between work and real life obligations to take it back up again. Surprisingly – or maybe not so – I’ve had several nightmares about having things stolen from me since it occurred. I wouldn’t even call them nightmares because I don’t wake up scared or fearing for my life or anything like that. I wake up pissed off, and it reminds me all over again that it happened. Not that I want to forget because that means I would be letting my guard down and letting my guard down is what got us into that mess in the first place. But I think its my brain’s way of working things out that I’m clearly suppressing from reality.

In an effort to try and get back to square one, I took myself on an Artist’s Date into the city. My Artist’s Dates have always been going to museums, not sure why. They’re not particularly creative but they do satisfy my wanderlust. I went to The Beat Museum and City Lights. It’s ridiculous that I’ve been in the Bay Area for almost a year and I’ve never been to either.

If you don’t know me, the Beat writers have been a heavy influence on my life, particularly Jack Kerouac. There’s an inkling in me that wants to shed my privileged life and run off into the wild blue yonder but I couldn’t do that. I live vicariously through their writing. “On the Road” changed my life. I don’t want to say it propelled me to be a writer because I’m one of those people who believes they were born to be a writer. Sorry not sorry! But I’ve always felt an affinity for their beliefs as a literary movement.

When I sat back and thought about what I was about to do, I looked at my dog. I realized how universal his name is. The name he was given at the adoption center was Jack, or maybe that’s what he was surrendered with. I don’t recall. I looked at him and knew immediately he was a Jack. One of the first things I bought was his name tag. Mom reminded me, “you can change his name!” I shook my head and said, “nope he looks like a Jack!”

Jack, the cuddlebug
Jack, the cuddlebug

His body colors make me laugh if I think on it. He looks like the cookie side of an Oreo: black with white on his chest. He’s missing the cream and another cookie! I’m tempted to get him a brother or sister (most likely a sister) to complete the cookie, but he’s a very jealous boy. When he wants my attention, he paws at me like “hello! Pet me now!” He’s a masterful cuddler and is too smart for his own good. He saved my life in more ways than one.

I stopped and thought to myself about all the famous Jacks I knew today. Jack Daniels (I’m not a lush, I swear!), Captain Jack Sparrow (which is where I tell people Jack got his name when they ask why his name is Jack), Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who/Torchwood and the aforementioned Jack Kerouac.

I’ve never not known or met a Jack that wasn’t insanely cool. So many names out there have been tainted by uncool folks. Here’s to hoping I don’t meet a bad Jack. I will be very unhappy if I do.

The Beat Museum was sparse, all things considered. It was educational, for sure. It had two levels. One part was 3/4 of the first floor, which included the movie theater that showed a lovely documentary on Jack. The second level is where all the goodies were at. They told the story of the Beats through presentations and all that, although that felt kind of haphazardly put together. It didn’t flow. It could have easily been done by the year or by author, but I felt like everything was set up to maximize the space. I didn’t know where one section started and another began. I’d be reading one sign and then it would jump to another author. They had a very small section on the females in the movement. All in all, it could have been better. But then again, what can you really have in a museum about a literary movement? It’s not something you visit, it’s something you read and soak into your veins like water.

I felt like their main draw was the gift shop, which was cool. It took up most of the first floor. It screamed hipster. Vinyl records, vintage Playboys, and a small selection of new and used books, as well as bags and t-shirts. If you look at the gallery below, you’ll see three postcards. I got the one with Kerouac’s face on it as poster as well. I can’t wait to hang it up in my room in Vegas! The typewriter t-shirt ached hipster, so I had to buy it. The gentleman that rang me up said they sell a lot of them. I’m buying it ironically, of course. I would never dream of typing on a typewriter in this day and age!

You don’t go to City Lights for the first time and not buy something, so I bought “Howl” by Ginsberg, the Penguin Classics version of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and a fascinating book on Locke. I’ve been meaning to write a story that takes place in Locke so I think it will help my research. I wasn’t even looking for it but that’s the best thing about bookstores, am I right? The right book falls into your hands when you least expect it.

Being in City Lights reminded me of when I worked at the Reading Room. That musty book smell, the cramped space filled to the brim with books, trying not to step on people as you’re both looking at titles on the same shelf, the staff picks. That is one past life of mine that I miss a ton. Independent bookstores are a dying breed. There’s some fighters out there. Plus there’s heavyweights like City Lights that won’t ever go away as long as humanity survives.

The only bad thing that happened the whole day was that I had some yummy fettucine Alfredo for lunch at a cute little place I found on the way, and it leaked all over my bag. I didn’t think that putting the leftovers in my bag would hurt. I was also sweating, surfing the crimson wave and not thinking straight. Normally when I put food in my backpack I have plastic Zip-Lock bags to catch drips. Guess who forgot her Zip-Lock? This guy! Dripped all over my things and now my backpack smells like grease! I’m going to wash it tomorrow but damn do I feel like a dummy.

I got lost quite a few times because the apps I use weren’t very good at telling me where to go. I didn’t want to look like a vulnerable tourist, so I didn’t ask for directions. But that’s the joy of Artist’s Dates, isn’t it? Carve some time out, get out of your comfort zone, and explore. I do feel energized.

I walked 4.5 miles too, and not once did my legs or feet hurt until the very end of the day. All that training with Jack this past month and a half or so has prepared me for this! I love it. I didn’t even wake up with my legs aching today. Yay!

You gotta celebrate dem small victories, you know what I’m saying?

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