Sunday, October 12, 2014

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2014

We just got home (to Maine) from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) and I thought I'd file my annual report before memory fades. We left Thursday morning (October 9) around 11:30. We stopped once: at the New Hampshire liquor store (conveniently located right off an exit on I-95) to stock up on some of the wine we like at very good prices. When we arrived at our hotel (UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center) around 2:30 our room wasn't ready so we waited in the lobby. Our good friend, Richard (who we only know thanks to LCK), had already checked in so we hung out with him while we waited. We also met Rich, another LCKer, and re-connected with Nancy (from Texas), who we see every year.

After we got checked in, we made our way, with Richard, to the gravesite for our annual visit. Thankfully, no one was there and we got to spend some private time with Jack. A couple of us, who will remain unnamed, were not too enthused by the new gravestone. It's a bit too Hollywood and we thought things were fine as they were.

Here is an excellent picture that Richard took (with his iPhone!) of Crystal reading from The Town and the City.

Crystal is at the gravestone that's always been there, and the new one is behind her.

Here's one of the gravestone as it looked when we got there (with the addition of a copy of my book, which I always leave behind, and the rose from Crystal).

Click on the links below to watch the videos we took of each of us reading from one of Jack's books. It was windy so the sound quality is sketchy.




From the grave we returned to the hotel and then headed out on foot for an early dinner at The Worthen just in time for the pub crawl that started there at 5:30. 

Bill Walsh (pub crawl leader and Lowell/Kerouac docent) looked back as we crossed the street and pointed out what he called one of Lowell's best views. Here's pic.

After The Worthen we stopped by a gallery (whose name I have forgotten) as well as an exhibit of artists' interpretations of various haikus by Jack (this was at the Lowell Telecommunications Corp. across from the National Historical Park Visitors Center entrance on Market Street). By the time we got to the next pub stop, Ricardo's (Nicky's in Jack's time), we were flagged and decided to go back to the hotel and rest a bit. We're sure the pub crawl went on without a hitch despite our absence. They were slated to stop at Ward Eight and end up at Cappy's Copper Kettle. We met up with them there in time for the traditional LCK kick-off of music and readings. 

I neglected to take pictures (as I pretty much did all weekend), but it was a fun night, kicked off with music by Alan Crane and George Koumantzelis and highlighted by David Amram's musicianship and great story-telling/philosophizing. It culminated with a belly dance by Meg Smith with David playing a traditional wind instrument (whose name escapes me). Meg is the widow of the recently late Lawrence (Larry) Carradini, past President of LCK.

Friday was a low-key day as Crystal wasn't feeling quite up to par. We did make the "Talking Jack" session in the hotel at 3:30. It was well-attended and we got some good discussion going courtesy of enthusiastic attendees. One thing that stuck with me is the bumpersticker that Roxanne (from New Jersey) described having made for her car: "Sometimes only Jack Kerouac understands me." Nancy (mentioned previously) pointed out how Jack was capitalizing on archetypes, and . . . well, she's an English professor and I would go astray if I tried to go further with it here. Kurt (another friend I'd never have if it weren't for LCK) added his usual poignant observations as did Nomi (the facilitator). I chimed in that we forget that loving Kerouac is a pretty small club, really, and that makes connecting with fellow Kerouacians at LCK extra special. By the way, check out the "Kerouac in Lowell" Twitter feed by clicking here.

Crystal, Kurt, and I ate dinner at Ricardo's. Yummy. Kurt said it was the best steak he ever ate, and Crystal's lobster ravioli and my mushroom ravioli with scallops were both very good. As was the bottle of wine.

Crystal and I said goodbye to Kurt, who was headed to an LCK event, as we made our way to the Jolie Holland concert at the Luna Theater at Mill #5, sponsored by UMass Lowell. This is a new place in Lowell with a number of shops and it is a very cool space. Before Jolie started they screened the Andy Warhol film, Couch, featuring Kerouac and Corso and Ginsberg et al. Then they played a number of Warhol's "screen tests" behind Jolie's band. Jolie has a great voice and her band is very good and it was an interesting juxtaposition of media. Here's a pic from the audience point-of-view.

We headed back to the hotel before the end of the show. That's the kind of thing that happens when, as I heard Roger Brunelle say, you are in the "afternoon of the trip."

Saturday was a full day. We made it to the Commemorative at the Commemorative, which wasn't at the Commemorative because of rain. We parked on French street and walked to the rain location, the Boott Cotton Mill Museum. Below you can see my DHRMABM license plate and the Commemorative in the background.

The Commemorative was dedicated to Larry Carradini, and featured his wife and friends reading his works or his favorite Kerouac passages. It concluded with David Amram reading the penultimate chapter from On the Road.

Many attendees then left to go on the birthplace-to-gravesite bus tour with Roger Brunelle. We chose to attend a presentation on Japanese haiku and its connection to Jack Kerouac given by Yuko Utomo. It was an excellent talk, followed by artists reading the Kerouac haikus that inspired their pieces mentioned earlier (we were in that same gallery space for the talk).

We ate lunch at The Athenian across the street. Crystal has moussaka and I had pastitio, washed down with Greek beer, Mythos. Tasty.

I saw a stage at The Athenian with musical equipment and asked about music there. The waitress said they have music three nights a week - with a belly dancer. Just FYI.

From there it was over to the Parker Lecture by New York poet Steve Dalachinsky. He's always great to listen to and this was no exception. Sorry for the crappy picture quality.

After Steve's talk we took the car back to the hotel and rested a bit before catching a cab to The Worthen for open mike. It was well-attended and a lot of fun. I especially got a kick out of Roxanne's rendering of what On the Road would sound like from the point-of-view of Jack's rucksack, and there were several other notable readings as well (I'm terrible at names and don't want to slight someone). I read three of my poems available at my poetry blog: "Rosemary's Hike," "Empty Dreams," and "Falling Thoughts." I thought the latter was too pornographic for the venue but went with it anyway.

From The Worthen we walked to Cobblestones for dinner. Italian Wedding Rehearsal Soup (sausage not meatballs) and petite filet with crabcake. We split the latter entree, which is a good thing because we learned when we got the check that the soup was 10 bucks a pop. But we knew from past experience that this is an expensive place. We like it there and have made it a regular stop during LCK. After finishing our meals we were so full that . . . guess what? Correct. Back to the hotel and there we stayed for the night.

We did have an "incident" on the way back to the hotel. We walked, and it was night-time in a city, so I am always a little on my guard. We passed a recessed storefront on Merrimack Street and I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up to see a  young man standing back there facing the store. He turned around very suddenly and sped off. Fortunately, I looked down to see a river running across the sidewalk. I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go. We both missed stepping in it, thankfully, but it was not a pleasing encounter. Don't judge Lowell by this one incident, but do be careful where you walk at night.

Sunday morning we headed out to eat and I took this shot from the hotel parking lot. Except for some of Saturday the weather was perfect the whole time! What's that song Jack sings in On the Road? Something about "blue skies" . . . .

We ate at Jameson's, a place that's very walkable from the hotel and was recommended by the desk clerk.

I had Irish Benedict. Bagel not English muffin. Home-made hash not Canadian bacon. Awesome. And an excellent waitress. We'll go back there.

Below is a view from our walk back from breakfast.

As usual, we missed a lot of events. The "Serious Amram Jam" was starting at the Lowell Beerworks a little after we left for Maine, and there were more Sunday and Monday events as well.

Crystal is a real trooper about my Kerouac obsession, and it's good not to push it too hard. Plus what Roger said.

We made it back to Maine without incident. All in all, it was another great trip. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but, honestly, sometimes feeling an obligation to take pictures gets in the way of my enjoying what's going on.

If you're a Kerouac fan (which I assume is a pretty good bet if you are reading this), a trip to Lowell in October for Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is something for your bucket list (unless you've already done it, in which case you should do it again). You can also help the cause by donating at the LCK website (click here).

Sadly, this year no one whispered the secret word in my ear to win a free copy of my book. The secret word was Caroline (or Nin). See my blog entry from August 8 (click here) for background. I should have given a copy to Cliff Whalen, who introduced himself and said he reads The Daily Beat. Cliff, I'll save you one for next year!

I'm inspired from LCK this year on two fronts. One is to learn more about the art of haiku and write a few based on that learning. It's way more than three lines of 17 syllables (5-7-5).

Another is to read The Haunted Life, which I think someone got me for Christmas and I never picked up. If you're reading this, Todd, sorry it's taken me so long . . . .

That's my report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in the Year of our Lord 2014. Long live Jack Kerouac.

P.S. If you spot inaccuracies, omissions (given my memory of late), and the like in my report, please let me know and I'll make corrections.

P.S.S. I have decided that next year everyone in Dave Moore's Jack Kerouac Facebook Group must come to LCK. No excuses. Let's make it more epic than ever.


Crystal said...

One of my favorite parts of LCK for me is meeting new people and reconnecting with the folks we’ve met in previous years. Richard, Kurt, Nancy, and others, including the guy from Maine whose name I’ve now forgotten. And though I’m not the biggest Kerouac fan I have to say that listening to some of the discussions on Kerouac this year has inspired me to want to read more of his works which hasn’t happened so much in the past. So I’m resolved to read at least one more Kerouac book before next LCK. Probably one of the Lowell books.

_jamxiis said...

Interesting. Thank you for making me "part" of it. Wish I could cross the pond and join the event next year :)
Yuliyana Todorova
Varna, Bulgaria

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Crystal, I think you'd like Maggie Cassidy. Zhana, hope to see you in Lowell some year!

Anonymous said...

Rick and Crystal, thanks for the friendship and companionship. You helped me recapture the spirit of the festival for the first time in a long time. Richard Marsh.