Kerouac House Backstory Byte

photo of Cl by Michael Robinson
photo of Kerouac House, by Michael Robinson

Since I’ll probably be indulging plenty of praise on my temporary digs over the next few months, I figure it’s reasonable and considerate to present a little shapshot of where the heck I am. This is the house where Jack Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums. It’s where he was living when On the Road changed his world. It’s on a beautiful tree-lined street in the College Park neighborhood of Orlando, where butterflies and lizards and Spanish moss co-chill in the humid Florida sun. The Kerouac Project website explains:

The house was merely part of the lore of College Park, a cozy northwest Orlando neighborhood. But, very few people knew where it was, and nobody knew of its historical significance. … It turned out that Kerouac and his mother shared this home, during the time Kerouac evolved from anonymous writer, to the foremost voice of the Beat Generation. He also wrote or worked on numerous pieces from the time he moved in (July of 1957), until he continued on his peripatetic journey in the Spring of 1958. Therein lies the home’s historical value on a local and national level.

You can read more about it in Bob Kealing’s excellent book, Kerouac in Florida: The Road Ends Here, available from Shady Lane Press:

Now we can see Jack Kerouac in a context that evokes memories of Florida’s past: sleeping in a moonlit yard with sweet aroma of orange trees all around, straining to hear the velvet whisper of the wind and his brother Gerard in the piney Orlando night, embarking on a sunrise hitchhiking journey along Orange Blossom Trail, returning with his rucksack full of manuscripts and dreams…No one can say Kerouac only came to Florida to die.

No one, indeed—although Kerouac himself did write this about the place:

Ah, shit, I feel dreary, I’m telling you there are NO VIBRATIONS in Florida or anywhere in the south, the people are DEAD. Now I’m entering a period of mingling with human beings again, and leave the quiet night of woods awhile, I want to be back in the Nation of People, which is New York.…I’VE changed tho, not Florida.

Having in lived in and loved New York to bits and pieces, I argue that there are vibrations a-plenty shot straight down the coast—or up, perhaps… or, more likely, vibrations a-plenty all of Orlando’s own. With these live oaks and sinkholes and storms and Florida cicadas that don’t give a damn about 17-year cycles, they just come out whenever they feel like it, really. The vibrations, I argue, are alive and well, indeed.

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