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“This Songs for You, Jack”

 

The Paparazzi Greets the Beatmobile

One of Jack’s famous lines is, “Everyone goes home in October," but this year's Lowell Celebrates Kerouac started off on a somber note. See, Lowell's only 40 minutes from Boston and, like Jack, most of the locals are die hard Red Sox fans. After last year's World Series win the
whimsical hope for a "Repeat" was in the air as the Beatmobile pulled into town, but alas - Chicago beat the Red Sox three straight in the Playoffs the very day the LCK Conference began and all hope was lost.

And then the sky opened up and the rains came. And it rained and it rained and it stopped for five minutes and then the rains came for four days straight. Not only did a second World Series win go down the drain, but almost the whole town was going down the drain as the unrelenting rain took everything away. We were afraid we were
going to see the Merrimack River start to rise in a repeat of the great 1936 flood Jack so often wrote about in his books.

But the rains didn't dampen any of the celebrants spirits. We were all here to celebrate Jack Kerouac and the theme of this year's conference was "Jack's Roots" and the Academic Panels at UMass Lowell focused on these roots as did the participants at all the various events and readings all about town.

People came in from all over. Some of the Umass Lowell Panelists came in from England and even Australia. Greg, a young guy from California read our blog about "Big Sur Revisited" and came to talk about Jack's Big Sur experience.

Liam and Justin drove 52 hours straight from Vancouver British Columbia, only stopping for gas. Tina and her husband Ed flew in from Las Vegas. Brian and Amy just happened to make a pilgrimage from Maine to visit Jack's grave and chose a lucky weekend. When I met them they were soaked to the bone having just been sitting on a sleeping bag in the pouring rain at Edson Cemetery right at Jack's marker reading poetry and offering up a toast of port to Jack's memory when one of Lowell's finest rousted them. The cop was cool. He simply told them the booze had to stay in the car and then he informed them the Beatmobile was parked over by Lowell High School and that the night's events would take place at the Rainbow Room. They had no idea it was LCK weekend and were thrilled to meet everyone.

Speaking of the unending water, this made for one of my most spontaneous moments of the weekend. See, showers can sometimes come at a premium when you’re traveling in the Beatmobile because even though the RV has water and a shower you can’t always tank up. So I found myself in Lowell sleeping in the rig right outside Lowell High School in steaming muggy hot rainy weather wishing I could make it to someone’s house for a refreshing shower but knowing that wasn’t in the cards. And then it hit me – rainwater was falling in torrents off the roof of the building I was parked next to - Mogan Cultural Arts Center. So I changed in to a bathing suit and stood between the rig and the building allowing rainwater to drop on me like a waterfall. It was a spontaneous goof – hidden from all of Lowell’s citizens going about their rainy way as I took a shower like a six year old under a fire hose! I even washed the dishes in that torrent.

Than night, Steve Edington had a booksigning for “The Beat Face of God – The Beat Generation Writers as Spirit Guides”. The crowd at the Barnes & Noble was huge! John Ventimiglia (Sopranos) came to the signing and later performed with the David Amram trio (Kevin & John) and John Cassady on stage. There were open mic poetry jams and readings from writers who influenced Jack – Saroyan, Thomas Wolfe, Jack London, Dylan Thomas – many more. There were celebrations all over town.

The finale was at the Parsdiso Café in downtown Lowell – the Amram Jam – six hours of poetry readings and singings and celebration. I happened to be sitting next to a woman named Johanna who was fretting over the poetry she wrote that she was going to share onstage. When her turn came she blew the roof off the room – her poetry morphed into a scat-singing with David and his trio like no one had ever heard before. Later, as the evening drew to a close, David invited Johanna back up on stage to help him close out the night with “This Songs for You, Jack” – David’s spontaneous scat Lowell finale that Amram fans know well. Johanna joined him in belting out the beautiful noise – Amram knows talent when he sees it – and the event closed with a huge rush of excitement and joy and comradeship the likes of which won’t be seen until we all return to Lowell next year for the next Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!


The Panelists for the U-Mass Lowell Conference


David Says Hello to John & Steve


A Break Between Sessions at U-Mass Lowell


Lowell High School in the Rain


Lowell's Outdoor Shower


Brian & Amy Drove Down from Maine to Sit on Jack's Grave


Valerie and Karen Walk to the Evening's Events in the Rain


Steve is Swamped at the Booksigning


John Ventimiglia (Artie Bucco from the Sopranos) came to Steve's Booksigning


David Amram Captures the Audience's Attention


The Dean Moriarty Jazz Band Plays in Illinois and Wisconsin


Kevin, John, David, John and John


Tina Flew in from Vegas


Liam and Justin Drove from Vancouver, BC to Lowell in 52 Hours


Dave, Ed and Henri (Lowell Blues) all Live in Lowell


No One Could Resist Jacky's Legs


Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is a Family Affair


Atilla, John and Sal


Beth and Ilene


Johanna Wowed Everyone with Her Scat Singing


The Theme was 'Jack's Literary Roots' so Meg closed with Dylan Thomas


David Called Johanna Up to Close the Show with 'This Song's for You Jack'


Larry, President of LCK, Looks On as the Crowd Gives a Standing Ovation

 

 

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