Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jack Kerouac

Abby, Mark and I drove up to Lowell in October, 2007, to see the original scroll manuscript of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, displayed at the National Park there in honor of the 50th anniversary of the novel's publication. Lowell is where Kerouac grew up. Then we went to Edson Cemetery to visit his grave. It was a perfect autumn day. It was a day right out of that Lou Reed song where he sings: Oh it's such a perfect day, I'm glad I spent it with you.

I wrote a long account of our trip and made it into a little book for my niece Cindy's 50th birthday because, like On the Road, she was born in October 1957. Cindy's daughter had arranged with 50 people for Cindy to get one gift on her birthday and one on each of the 49 consecutive days.

As we were looking for the grave we saw two guys lounging at the back of a pickup truck parked near the grave. They were smoking big cigars. At the grave, the location of which they had kindly pointed out to us, I noticed two odd brown "pebbles" left on Kerouac's stone. (It's a Jewish custom to leave a pebble behind when one visits a grave; I like this idea and always mean to adopt it but also always forget to bring a pebble and seem never able to find a suitable one nearby.) Just as I picked up one of the supposed "pebbles" I realized it was the snipped end of a cigar. The guys from the pickup truck approached us. The two "pebbles" were the snipped ends of their cigars of course. They were Andrew and Jay. Well, they still are Andrew and Jay. They're professional photographers from Boston. We chatted and laughed with them for about half an hour; they were friendly and interesting and fun and easy to talk with. It was like that Beau Brummels song from the sixties laugh laugh I thought I'd die, seemed so funny to me except that I didn't think I'd die. What I did think was: Well, it'd be fun to move to Boston and hang out with these guys for a while. But they had things to do I supposed and we had things to do too. Like go to our jobs the day after tomorrow, and, when we left the cemetery, head for the nice new motel in Chelmsford where we'd made a reservation.

Just when we were ready to leave the motel in the morning there was a fire alarm. I watched the guys jump out of the truck and jump out of their leather boots and into their Wellington-like rubber boots. There was no fire though. It was a false alarm. We put our luggage into our car and got on the road, headed for another perfect day as it turned out but I'll save that for some subsequent post.

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