Can you dig Talk Like a Beat Day?http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/sep/19/talk-like-a-beat-day
Make sure you're hip to 7 October as the swingingest day to pay a far-out tribute to the Beat Generation
OK, hepcats, can the lip, turn up the stereo and fall in for the ginchiest groove of all time ... unless you're a murgatroid from Dullsville. Would I cherry tree you, daddy-o?
In other words, you wonderful people, stop talking, start listening, and get ready for a rather exciting event. Or would you rather be an uninspiring person from a boring place? I wouldn't lie to you about this, my friend. Because we're officially designating 7 October Talk Like a Beat Day.
Why 7 October? Well, there are any number of Beat anniversaries to hang it on. On the Road, the seminal work by the King of the Beats, Jack Kerouac, was first published on September 5 1957 – but 7 October was the original "Beat happening": the date that Allen Ginsberg first recited Howl in San Francisco, Kerouac beating out the rhythm with a wine jug and shouting "GO!" after every line. The beat movement of the 1950s is so rich in its own language and terminology that it's crying out for its own memorial event. And let's face it, as anyone with an internet connection knows, today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Participants of the latter are generally limited to "arrr", but it seems popular enough. So why not put the King's Jive to one side for another day, and Talk Like a Beat?
And what better time to practice the lingo than today, when the First Lady of Beat, Carolyn Cassady, is in London to promote a new edition of her memoir Off The Road at a special screening of seminal Beat flick Pull My Daisy? Carolyn was married to Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road) and was also Jack's lover. Carolyn will be played by Kirsten Dunst when the long-anticipated big screen version of On the Road is released next year.
Here follows a simple primer to get you in the mood.
The Beat Generation, of course, comprised Kerouac, Ginsberg, William S Burroughs and all their crazy 1950s gang. It's usually accepted that Kerouac came up with the term "beat", and fellow writer John Clellon Holmes, author of Go, was the first to get it into print in an essay for the New Yorker in 1952.
For genuine Beat reading, you need look no further than the shelves of seminal San Francisco bookshop City Lights. But Beat, inevitably, spawned a huge swathe of cultural knock-offs, lurid paperbacks and movies of reefer-addicted teens rebelling against the system, which metamorphosed into the comedic Beatnik figure. The word was coined in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1958 by columnist Herb Caen, and quickly passed into use as a disparaging term for the media stereotype of the cool cat in beret and dark glasses, tapping on bongo drums and stroking his goatee beard. On the Road was published in 1957; one short year later, the Beats had passed into parody. Joyce Johnson, who also had a relationship with Kerouac, wrote in her memoir Minor Characters: "The Beat Generation sold books, sold black turtleneck sweaters and bongos, berets and dark glasses, sold a way of life that seemed like dangerous fun — thus to be either condemned or imitated."
Which, of course, we're guilty of ourselves, with Talk Like a Beat Day. But this is an act of celebration, as well as imitation. To that end, let me direct you to a wall poster that was doing the rounds a while ago, entitled A Beatnik Glossary. This should give you a working knowledge of enough off the wall rap to get you to Swingsville on time.
For starters, you're going to want to recognise other beats. These may self-identify as hipsters or cats. Cool is self-explanatory, but to "cool it" is to slow things down a tad. If a thing is "swinging" it's good; if it's "swinging like sixteen", it's even better. And if it's "crazy", then it's fantastic … so good it's almost "cool", in fact. Which is where we came in.
Feeling "hairy"? That's good too. Feeling "off the wall"? Maybe not so good. It's OK to be "far out" (pretty weird), but get too "way out" and you'll be "kookie", and that might see you visiting the head-shrinker – no explanation required.
It's pretty easy when you get into the swing of it – cast your orbs over some of these examples (take your shades off first) and practice them on a short trip to Rio (your coffee break). It ain't tough toenails, and you'll soon get tuned in.
You probably live in a "pad" (apartment, home) and work in a "cave" (office). You might drive a "rod" (car) to work and probably "stable the iron" (park the car) near the place where you go to earn your "bread" (money). You might take a break for a "kick stick" (cigarette) and go out with your "galaxy" (group of friends) for a "juice" (alcoholic drink). Don't drink too much juice or you might become a juice-head, though, and the juiceman might not serve you anymore. Then you might "blow your jets" (get angry), end up giving "knuckles to the creep" (engaging in physical violence) and attracting the attention of the fuzz.
If you forget any of these, go with the flow. It's like jazz – you improvise. And if you have to make something up or wing it every now and again, then that's hip too. Express yourself, daddy-o.
I hope you'll dig Talk Like a Beat Day and take it to your hearts. If anyone says you're bugging them or making them go ape, then just tell them to cool it. They're probably on the "swings in Squareville" anyway (have an inferiority complex).
And you know what this is, hipsters? It's only the ever-lovin' end. Later, and don't forget to blast the Edison on your way out.