Our trip started Thursday around 2 PM as we left in the Subaru Legacy (license plate DHRMABM - there's a direct Kerouac connection, which reminds me of Richard's friend George who we first met along the street in Northampton with him walking along shouting "Jack Kerouac sucks!" having seen my license plate at Richard's house and of course doing this good-naturedly) for our friend Richard's house in Northampton, MA. That's about a 4-hour drive.
|Richard's house in Northampton|
At Richard's (for the first time in fact) we got to visit with him and Michelle and we met Mr. Poo W. Bah (Jack loved cats so there's another direct connection). He is an awesome cat and 18 years old!
|Mr. Poo W. Bah|
It was Richard's birthday so we brought him a bunch of Maine beers and this card which I made by hand.
Richard and Michelle gave us a brief walking tour of Northampton and we ate at the Northampton Brewery (great beer made on the premises and tasty food) where I took this selfie using a feature on my phone (for the first time - Crystal had been using it inadvertently and we were figuring it out) which inserts a postage stamp image of the view from the other direction (that's Richard in the postage stamp).
|Me with Richard in the postage stamp|
|Bad selfie from the brewery|
As with virtually every place we went to eat the entire trip, we got a great seat in a busy place. In this case, outside on the deck near the big neon brewery sign that reminds me of the Kettle of Fish sign to be discussed later but that I forgot to take a picture of.
Three caveats: First, I acknowledge I ended that last sentence with a preposition. Second, this account in no way accurately captures the wonderfulness of this trip nor the chronology. My memory is not what it used to be and in order to enjoy myself, I did not take a lot of pictures or notes. Third, I haven't yet gotten pics from Crystal's camera and may be adding some to this post later on.
We turned in relatively early and ate breakfast at Richard's on Friday morning before packing Michelle's car for the drive to Darien to catch the train into the city. The rationale there is that parking at the Darien station is free on the weekend, the train ride is pretty reasonably priced and only takes about an hour, and parking/driving in NYC is not that much fun. It was an uneventful ride and we got to see some NYC sites on the way into Grand Central Terminal. I snapped a pic of the ceiling in the Maine Concourse, but it doesn't do it justice.
|Crystal and me at GCT|
We hailed a cab outside GCT and all went to our Airbnb apartment at 6 Charles Street in the West Village. I forgot to take a picture but here is one from Google Maps streetview (isn't the ability to do this amazing?). We were on the second floor left of the fire escape.
|6 Charles Street|
We toured the apartment (the owner had mailed us the keys so we got right in), dropped our stuff, and headed to Richard's and Michelle's Airbnb apartment on Bleecker. They had to meet someone there at a specific time to get the keys. It was about a 7-minute walk, but of course they had their bags and we didn't.
|Making our way to Bleecker from Charles|
The Bleecker Street apartment was up 5 flights of narrow stairs (Richard said it was 52 steps, I think) so needless to say we didn't hang out there much over the weekend. It was smaller than ours and not as nice. In fact, our apartment was rather fantastic and priced very reasonably, all things considered. We recommend Airbnb, and our place at 6 Charles Street in particular.
Richard gave us a strolling tour of the West Village as we made our way to lunch at the White Horse Tavern. I think along the way we stopped back at our apartment for some reason or other and while we were there we checked out the rooftop and the views. These pics show how the sky was the entire weekend and it wasn't humid by NYC standards. We lucked out weather-wise.
|I think that's the Empire State Building|
|Richard and Michelle|
|The Freedom Tower|
Somewhere in our Friday strolling we visited Washington Square Park.
|Selfie on a Washington Square Park bench|
The White Horse Tavern, of course, is one of Jack's haunts. There's not much mention of him in there except on the menu, but there is a whole room dedicated to Dylan Thomas. I looked in the bathroom for where someone once wrote "Kerouac, go home!" to no avail.
Before we went in, Crystal snapped the below awesome and colorful shot, and Richard took me around the corner to see the apartment where the "two Helens" lived (see Bill Morgan's book, The Beat Generation in New York, pp. 64 and 65). I took a great picture of the Helens' apartment but my phone absolutely will not send it in a way that I can access it from my computer. It won't e-mail and it won't post to Facebook or Instagram or Google Drive but I can see it on my phone. Very spooky. I think it's haunted. To prove I took a picture, I took a picture of the picture on my phone using my iPad.
|Me outside the White Horse|
|Picture from my iPad of the "two Helens" apartment on my phone|
|Lunch at The White Horse|
|The Flying Cannoli|
We strolled around after dinner looking for some good music but just didn't find something that really suited our collective fancies. We did pay a small cover and checked out the Victor Gould Sextet at the Village Underground (I think - my memory's a little foggy on this one), but it was so noisy in there from a thousand people playing table games like shuffleboard and pool and ping pong that we couldn't hear and didn't stay long.
|Victor Gould Sextet|
Somewhere during our strolling we saw the Minetta Tavern, where Jack and the boys hung out.
Also somewhere in our strolls we passed the former location of the San Remo, one of the locations made famous in The Subterraneans as the Black Mask.
|Sam Remo plaque|
No trip to Greenwich Village is complete without a stop at the Stonewall, famous landmark of the gay rights movement.
|Crystal, Richard, & Michelle outside The Stonewall|
|Jack and Joyce Johnson outside the old Kettle of Fish|
|The famous sign inside the new Kettle of Fish|
We got to see the smallest property in NYC.
A place we saw along the way at some point was a store based on a favorite movie of mine, The Big Lebowski. Unbelievable. It was night-time and closed so we couldn't go in. Sigh.
Another place we went by at some point was Cafe Wha?, site of Bob Dylan's first NYC performance and no stranger to Kerouac et al.
|Front of the Cafe Wha?|
|Side of the Cafe Wha?|
Saturday morning we ate at Cafe Reggio (another Richard and Michelle favorite). It's a fantastic space and the food was great. Richard and I were looking around and speculating that it probably looked pretty much the same as when Jack frequented the place.
Afterwards we cabbed to Tompkins Square for one of the essential Kerouactions of the trip: recreating my favorite Kerouac picture.
Try as we might, we couldn't get the perspective quite right, and of course the statue is too in focus. There are other efforts I may post later.
|Photo of me by Richard Marsh|
|Photo of Richard by me|
|One of me taken by Crystal|
|One of Richard by Crystal|
Since it was NYC, we didn't even get strange looks from passers-by when making those faces. Once we accomplished our mission, we cabbed to Central Park. We started at the John Lennon memorial, Strawberry Fields.
|Crystal and me at the Imagine Mosaic|
I left a copy of The Beat Handbook on the bench near the mosaic. Hopefully, someone will have given it a good home by now (before it got rained on). Pardon my hairy leg.
|Me scrambling up a rock in Central Park|
|Me on a footbridge in Central Park|
We walked the perimeter of the park for a bit and then everyone indulged my need to stand directly at the base of one of midtown's skyscrapers. I forgot to take a picture from the very base but this is the one.
|The skyscraper we walked to|
|Midtown shot by Crystal|
Crystal, Richard, and Michelle posed for me outside Central Park. It was tough walking around the city with two beautiful women and we had to fend off a lot of mashers, but it was worth it in the long run.
|Crystal, Richard, & Michelle outside Central Park|
From there we cabbed to McSorley's, another non-Kerouac location but, being Irish, a necessary stop for me. They have two kinds of beer - their own - dark and light. And you get two (but you can have two darks, two lights, or one of each). We did that a couple of times while we ate lunch. The floor is covered with sawdust and the waiter had a brogue (and nicely took our picture).
|Our eye candy outside McSorley's|
|Hoisting a few at McSorley's|
After McSorley's we rested a bit at the apartments and then Crystal and I made our way to Smalls Jazz Club, a place that was having a jam from 4 to 7 PM. She wanted to get there early so we arrived prior to 4 but a guy sitting outside playing guitar (with only 4 strings) said they weren't open until 4 (contrary to what it said on-line). He proceeded to serenade us with an a capella song and then accompanied himself on guitar as he sang Friend of the Devil using chords that have never been used with that song before. We excused ourselves to the Riviera across the street and had sangrias while we waited for 4 PM. At 4 we got great seats at the short bar (Crystal got the corner, which I sampled later and it was the best seat in the house) and drank while we waited for music to start. Richard and Michelle joined us later. While we waited, the guy from outside was talking to us (we were about the only people in there except for some musicians setting up), and he is a very interesting character. We had a very strange conversation about Chuck Connors and the TV show Branded.
At one point, I said to Crystal, "It'll probably turn out that guy is the owner." The bartender heard me and smiled and said, "Welcome to Smalls." Oops. Some post-trip research reveals that the guy was Smalls' founder, Mitch Borden. Click here for an interview with him.
|Photo by Crystal|
|Crystal in her corner at Smalls|
|We loved the Satchmo print, and this trombonist|
This turned out to be a trip highlight (and Jack would have dug it). While it was indeed a "jam," with multiple musicians playing different instruments (piano, stand-up bass, sax, trombone, guitar), the quality was outstanding. OUTSTANDING. Click here for a taste of what we experienced. Pardon the video quality - it's from my phone - but listen to that (and it only got more varied with additional instruments)! On top of the music, the space is amazing. I love "cellar bars," and this is a true one. The bartender was friendly, the drinks were good (unlike some places in the city, they have a full complement and not just wine and beer), and we had 3 hours of fun fun fun. This is a must-see NYC venue. Thanks, Mitch. Oh, and that autographed copy of The Beat Handbook that mysteriously showed up on the shelf behind your bar? Crystal did that.
|Me and my sweetie at Smalls|
From Smalls we made our was to Las Ramblas, a tapas bar, We ordered 8 different plates and shared. We had my favorite kind of table - right in the open window - and the food was excellent. Good friends, good food, good drink, attendant waitstaff, people-watching . . . what more could you ask for? Check out Las Ramblas if you are in the city. Crystal took pictures of our food but I will let her post them at her blog (and they're on her Facebook page).
We went our separate ways after dinner and Crystal and I got ice cream around the corner from our place at Van Leuven (a recommendation from our Airbnb host) and ate it on our front steps. I had vegan peanut butter chocolate chunk with hot fudge topping and she had a vanilla cone. Yummy.
Sunday morning Richard and Michelle checked out of their apartment and stowed their stuff at our place while we went to breakfast at the Hudson Diner. We had a little incident that morning but I'm not telling tales -- you'll have to ask Richard about it. We went back to our place and did final packing and I made an Uber request to get us to GCT. Gregory showed up in 3 minutes and he drove (some would say "flew") us to the station in about 10 minutes for a grand total of under 12 bucks. Cheap as a cab and we got picked up at our doorstep. It turned out that Gregory was the grandson of a very famous jazz drummer, Al Foster.
We reversed our travel steps (train to Darien, car to Northampton) and had beer and chocolate cake (Michelle had made it for Thursday but we didn't get to it) before going to the Northampton Brewery where Irish band Banish Misfortune and some other players were in sessiun. Great stuff and it got me weepy, but then real Irish music always does that to me. Just this past week I had posted some concertina footage on Facebook and, sure enough, the sessiun included a really good concertina player. We had some good eats and drinks there and retired to Richard's for the night.
|Richard and me at the Northampton Brewery listening to Banish Misfortune|
|Banish Misfortune in sessiun|
We said our goodbyes and got on our way Monday morning for an uneventful drive back to Maine. We ate a late lunch at Robert's Grille in Kittery. Karma was quite happy to see us when we got to the house and I told him about Mr. Bah.
And, as they say, that was that (at least what I can remember of it). When are we going again?