Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Part 3

Once again picking up where we left off, on Saturday we ate breakfast at the Radisson, got cleaned up, and drove into Lowell to attend the 11 AM "Commemorative at the Commemorative." The event was to be held at Kerouac Park in honor of the 70th anniversary of Jack's graduation from Lowell High School, 50th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Sax, and the 40th anniversary of his death on October 21, 1969 at age 47.

We finally found the Park (between the two of us Crystal and I can't navigate worth a farthing), but no one was there and Crystal spotted a paper taped to one of the memorial's pillars. It said the event was moved to the Lowell National Historic Park Visitor Center. We made our way there, late, but the event hadn't started.

Two things of significance happened there (in addition to the event itself). First, I got to talk for a while with David Amram, famous composer and Kerouac friend. David is a powerhouse of energy and talent - inspiring, and at 79 years old! He said he's writing another book, titled "David Amram: The First Eighty Years." He gave me his book, Offbeat, and wouldn't take any money for it but accepted a copy of The Beat Handbook in return (actually gave it to him at a later event). Here's a pic (that's Notre Dame prof Dr. Giamo in the background - more on him later):

About that time a young man came up and shook my hand and said, "Rick?" He proceeded to tell me that he picked up my book from the grave last year and had held onto it for an entire year and was now going to pass it along (which is what I wrote in the book that I hoped would happen). He had it all wrapped up in plastic to leave at the grave again. Here I am with Anestis from Boston:

A little later on, Anestis told me he decided not to leave the book at the grave but passed it on to a young man named Lou, who was there from Notre Dame University with one of his professors, Dr. Benedict Giamo, who was giving an afternoon lecture on Dr. Sax! Lou loved my idea of having that copy of the book pass from person to person with each one writing in it as a way of marketing. "Kerouac goes viral," he said. Who knows where it will end up next? Here's a picture of Anestis, Lou (middle), and me:

We ate lunch at Fortunato's in downtown Lowell (Greek soup and then fried pasta chips with shredded meatballs, mozzarella, and tomato sauce), and then attended Dr. Giamo's lecture back at the Visitor Center. He is a true Kerouac scholar and I was impressed with his interpretation of Dr. Sax as well as the depth of knowledge he demonstrated during a Q & A afterwards. Right before the lecture I was able to get Steve Edington, author of The Beat Face of God, to sign my copy, a gift from my friend Kath in Pennsylvania and Crystal (no, they didn't go in together on it, I got two copies for Christmas!).

After the lecture, we went on a walking tour of downtown Lowell with Roger Brunelle, another fount of Kerouac knowledge, especially the French connection (no pun intended). It rained hard most of the tour, but we persevered, getting some of Roger's insights about Lowell High School, Jack Kerouac Park, the church where the author of the Canadian national anthem was married, etc. We ate dinner in the Village Smokehouse. Ribs and beans and cornbread. Mmmm....

After dinner we attended the big event of the weekend, a concert by David Amram and his trio along with the New England Orchestra and the Lowell Youth Orchestra at the Lowell Presbyterian Church to honor Jack and his boyhood friend, Sebastian Sampas, who was killed in WWII. Several "dignitaries" did readings during the event, including members of the Sampas family, a past-President of LCK, and the list goes on. It was wonderful. I hadn't realized what an accomplished composer David Amram is, and even if that style of music isn't one's cup of tea, it is hard not to recognize the beauty involved. It was uplifting to say the least. There is good stuff in the world.

The after-concert tour was canceled - the tour guide was too pooped to do it and I don't blame him - so we headed back to the Radisson. We got an early start back to Maine on Sunday and that's pretty much the story on another LCK weekend.

If you're a Kerouac fan and haven't made it to Lowell for LCK in October, mark your calender and stay tuned. When next year's dates and schedule comes out, I'll post it here.

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