Sunday, October 9, 2016

Report from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2016

For the 8th time in 9 years (having skipped 2010), Crystal and I attended the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK) Festival in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. This year got interrupted by a family wedding on Friday in another part of Massachusetts, so we didn't get to as many events as usual, and we left Saturday afternoon. Indeed, while I write this the festival is still going on (click here for the festival program, which continues into tomorrow, Monday October 10). What follows is my traditional report from LCK. As a special bonus, at the bottom of this post I have included links to all my past LCK reports, starting in 2008. You will notice that I used to report each year in parts, but in 2011 switched to just one report per year. There are a lot of pictures and stories in the below links, and I hope you will take some time to peruse them.

We left for Lowell on Thursday and made our way immediately to Jack's grave. While I think this visit should be an official event, even if it were (and it was one year), we like having some private time with Jack where we feel comfortable reading and videoing and lifting a bottle in his honor.

The grave had more "stuff" on it this year than we've ever seen.

Rick at Jack Kerouac's grave October 6, 2016
Crystal at Jack Kerouac's grave October 6, 2016

As usual, I left a copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, at the grave -- neatly tucked in a sealed plastic bag in case of rain (on which I wrote Steal This Book). Some years people have taken me up on that! In the pictures you can also see a copy of the newest publication of Jack's works, The Unknown Kerouac, edited by Todd Tietchen. Since I had it with me I thought Jack would appreciate seeing it.

Here's the video of my reading from Satori in Paris, Jack's novel that was published 50 years ago this year. We videoed Crystal, too, and once we get that uploaded I will include a link to that here as well. There's an upcoming spooky synchronicity about the passage I chose.

While we were at the grave a flock of geese flew over, honking at eternity.

From the grave we made our way to check in at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, after which we visited one of our favorite restaurants in Lowell, Cobblestones (more on that later), for dinner. We had a nice table looking out on the Lowell streets lit by the redslant sun and a satisfying meal.

Next on our agenda was the Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour led by Lowell/Kerouac docent Bill Walsh. It began at the Worthen House Cafe (which is still called the Old Worthen by locals). I really like that place. In the picture I am holding up a Narragansett. It's New England's version of a PBR.

LCK revelers at the Worthen House Cafe

Right away at the Worthen, Phil from Indiana (just to the right of me above in the green vest) said the secret word, "satori," and got himself a signed copy of my book. Thanks, Phil, for reading my blog!

The pub crawl made its way to Ricardo's Cafe Trattoria, which used to be Nicky's (Sampas) and a regular haunt of Jack's. Then it was on to what used to be Ward 8 but is now known as Thirsty First. The evening culminated at Cappy's Copper Kettle for the traditional LCK kick-off of music and readings by a host of familiar faces like George Koumantzelis and Alan Crane and Roger Brunelle and Bill Walsh and, of course, Kerouac friend and musician extraordinaire, David Amram.

David Amram at Cappy's Copper Kettle

Cappy's is a short walk from the UMass Lowell Inn. I don't remember that or going to bed. We'll leave it at that.

Friday was a relative's wedding in Newburyport. It was a lengthy and extravagant affair, and by the time we got back to Lowell Friday night we were too bushed to catch the Jack Kerouac Tribute Concert at Mill No. 5. We missed one of my favorite LCK events, Talking Jack, that afternoon.

Saturday began with the Commemorative at the Commemorative, with readings by the usual suspects and some words and music from David Amram. If you've never been to Lowell, when you do visit it is a requirement to visit the Commemorative (Jack Kerouac Park).

David Amram addressing a good-sized gathering at the Commemorative

Kerouac docent Roger Brunelle explicating about the quote from Lonesome Traveler
Kerouac docent Steve Edington addressing the Commemorative gathering

Keroucian Ken Morris looking dapper next to the Mexico City Blues pillar
During the Commemorative, Brett, a doctoral student from Minneapolis asked me if anyone had said the secret word. Apparently, he knew the secret word the last two years but missed connecting with me. I made an exception and took his name and address and promised to send him one. As it turned out, we saw him later and I had made a point to retrieve a copy from the car just in case that happened. So a copy of my book is not only making its way to Indiana but also Minnesota. Good luck with that dissertation about Kerouac, Brett!

After the Commemorative we went back the Inn to check out. They were very accommodating and let us leave our car there even after checking out so that we could attend more events, the next being the marathon reading of Satori in Paris at the Pollard Library, where Jack often played hooky in order to read and actually learn something he was interested in versus attend Lowell High School. Apparently, a similar marathon reading was happening in Paris at the same time.

Rick Dale reading from Satori in Paris

Which brings me to an interesting synchronicity. I didn't intend to read at the marathon reading because we only had a little time to spend there before the Jan Kerouac memorial at nearby St. Anne's. However, they needed readers, and when the sign-up sheet was passed to me by Don Olderen with encouraging words I put my name in the next available slot. I did this without looking at which chapter I had signed up for. When it was my turn, I borrowed a copy of the book and took my place at the podium. I opened it to Chapter 14 and started reading, quickly realizing it was the chapter I had read at the grave on Thursday afternoon. Creepy (in a good way).

Now I need to figure out what the universe is telling me from that particular chapter in Satori in Paris. It's a short chapter in which Jack bemoans his travel plans -- including clothing not worn -- going awry but concluding thusly:
Yet this book is to prove that no matter how you travel, how "successful" your tour, or foreshortened, you always learn something and learn to change your thoughts. 
As usual I was simply concentrating everything in one intense but thousand├ęd "Ah ha!"
So what did I learn? More on that later, but it must have something to do with learning....

From the marathon reading we made our way over to Edson Hall at St. Anne's Church for the Jan Kerouac event in honor of the 20th anniversary of her death. The event was not sanctioned by LCK, yet there was a respectable sized crowd gathered to hear various speakers, most of whom knew Jan. It was good to see Brad Parker for the first time in many years, and Jacques Kerouac, who I'd met in Farmington when Gerry Nicosia spoke to my Kerouac class in 2013. We had just seen Gerry in Mill Valley, CA, in July. Here are a couple of pics from the event.

Gerry Nicosia

Jacques Kirouac

Brad Parker
I didn't take pictures of all the speakers, as I was trying to concentrate on their words. Jan was definitely an inspiring figure to those who knew her personally as well as to those who only knew her through her writing.

We were getting road-weary by the time this event ended and decided to head for Maine. We stopped for a quick bite at Fuse Bistro on Palmer Street. It used to be Cafe Paradaiso, which I wrote about in my 2008-4 report below. I had an excellent burger (helped in its excellency by a fried egg and bacon) and Crystal had a yummy steak tips pita sandwich. When I went to pay the bill, I opened my wallet to find my credit card missing.

If you know me, you know that I am what an unkind person might call "anal" about things having a place to be and always returning them to that place. Especially credit cards and keys. So this was unusual. I had enough cash to pay the tab and then we starting thinking about where I'd left it. Another place in my wallet? Unlikely -- if I'd returned it to my wallet it would be in its "assigned" spot. We figured out that the last time I used it was Thursday at Cobblestones and decided to walk there (it was the wrong direction from the Inn and very near St. Anne's where we'd just been). We asked the hostess if they'd found a credit card on Thursday night and she made a phone call to someone upstairs. In a few minutes someone came down the stairs with my credit card.

Thank you, Cobblestones. I really dodged a bullet on that one.

On our way back to the car, we passed the Ayer Lofts art gallery on Middle Street, which was hosting artist Barbara Gagel's exhibit of encaustic paintings that were inspired by quotes from various Kerouac works. We were impressed, so much so that we would have bought the one titled, Tristessa, but it was already sold.

As usual, we had a great time in Lowell, in no small part thanks to the dedicated members of the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee who put together the event, but also because it's great to re-connect with others who love keeping Jack Kerouac's spirit alive. If you've never been to LCK, think about putting it on your calendar next year.

So, back to what I learned (re: the Satori reading above). I (re)learned not to borrow trouble about anticipated stressful situations. I learned that I'm probably getting too old for pub crawls. I learned that I'm not too old to learn. I (re)learned the importance of being present ("Ah-ha!). I learned that there are mysteries afoot that we don't understand. I learned to make reservations at the UMass Lowell Inn sooner (we had a heck of a time getting in there this year). I learned that some businesses can be trusted to hold on to your credit card if you unintentionally leave it there.

And, I (re)learned that Crystal is a great traveling companion and that she is right about matters of the heart more often than not.

Enough said for this year. 2017 is coming, but in the meantime you can enjoy past prose and pictures below....

Past Reports from Lowell Celebrates Kerouac:
2010: Didn't attend
2009 Part 3:
2009 Part 2:
2009 Part 1:

1 comment:

Roxanne said...

I was so happy to see you and Crystal! I wanted to go to the marathon reading, but the bus tour took three hours.

Also, I thought I was the only one to lose credit cards in other states.