Saturday, September 18, 2010
"On the Road" with Jack Kerouac and The Cemetery Traveler
"On the Road," Kerouac epitomized wanderlust for an entire generation. He continues to do so now, years after his death. You simply cannot read "On the Road" without wanting to just drive recklessly off into the sunset in search of Meaning. I read it, and bought a convertible.
So why would I want to visit his grave? Why would anyone want to visit a celebrity's grave? Some of us do this because it enables us to get closer to the person than we could possibly have gotten in real life. For me, I think it was to get closer to the spirit of Kerouac's writing (which was a maddening stream of consciousness style further popularized a decade later by Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Kerouac isn't exactly a role model for me, its just that his writing touched a nerve: "Somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me."
I think I was driving back from a ski trip in New Hampshire, when I decided to stop in Lowell. Lowell is a mill town, the nation's textile epicenter during the American Industrial Revolution. A workingman's town, and Kerouac's hometown. He was born there in 1922--Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac. He was French-Canadian, his parents had immigrated from Quebec, Canada. You'll notice the stone says "Jean," not Jack.
Edson City Cemetery is a relatively large, yet flat and plain looking cemetery. The woman at the gatehouse is happily prepared to give you a map showing how to get to the grave (it is arguably Lowell's most popular tourist attraction). Otherwise it would be rather difficult to find as the grave marker is flush with the ground. Let me rephrase that - its actually easy to find if you just take note of the several cars lined up waiting near the grave. This was the oddest thing! No one would bother you as you paid your respects, lit your candle, or left your token offering. As you drove away, the next car would drive up almost religiously, people would get out, walk to the grave, and spend some quiet moments. What were they reflecting on, I wondered? And why such reverence?
Read about Hollywood's bizarre Grave Line Tours
Visit Lowell, Massachusetts
Purchase On the Road and change your life for a mere ten bucks!