5169 10th Ave N

I drove down to St. Pete this morning to find Jack Kerouac’s house. In all my years of living in Tampa I had never gotten around to going there. I stood on the front lawn for a couple minutes to snap some pictures, noticing how quiet it was on that corner, just a few blocks away from traffic, strip malls and the endless pavements of suburban Florida. Kerouac bought the house in 1968 and it’s supposedly still owned by his brother in law. He lived there until his death in 1969 after renting the house next door for two years. It’s a street with quite a few old oak trees that hang over the houses offering some nice silence.

Part of what led me to finally go see his house is that I’m reading Visions of Cody for the first time right now. It’s a wonderful book, with its imperfections brought to the surface for the reader to stumble on as you move through its lush pages. There’s a sense of prophecy in his precise observation of mundane city details, dusty windows, odd cafeteria signs, anonymous pedestrians walking by, Manhattan and her boroughs as cosmic striations.

As always when I’m back in Tampa, I feel like a ghost passing through certain physical and emotional landscapes tied to various labyrinths orbiting through & around the years 1989 to 1995. Having just finished Jennifer Moxley’s engrossing memoir of her undergraduate years in San Diego, The Middle Room (Subpress, 2007) – on which more later –, I’m particularly attuned to Tampa as a place where I began an apprenticeship, the city where I first encountered poetry and made a choice to pursue its avenues. Moxley’s San Diego in the mid to late 80s reminds me in some ways of my early 90s Tampa. And Kerouac was a central component of that process I underwent what feels like centuries ago.

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