Lowell Celebrates Kerouac kicks off next week, and this year the literary festival features a full week-long schedule of fantastic events with an incredible lineup of authors and poets, musicians, and filmmakers. Perhaps most exciting of all, Jack Kerouac’s play “Beat Generation,” written the same year that On the Road was published, will also have its premiere during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.
Roger Brunelle will also be leading his guided tours of Kerouac’s old haunts, which in the past have been my favorite part of LCK. Brunelle has firsthand experience of Lowell and injects his tours not only with fascinating historical knowledge but also personal stories and warmth from his own life.
Visiting Lowell and seeing the Merrimack River and walking the bridges gives readers of Kerouac better insight into the landscape he describes in his Lowell novels and his upbringing in this Massachusetts mill town. For the first-time visitor, LCK is an opportunity to encounter Kerouac’s hometown. Many people return year after year to the festival, though, because LCK is also about community. You meet people who grew up around the same time as Kerouac, and you meet fresh-faced pilgrims eager for experience. You meet people who have read every single one of Kerouac’s books, and you meet people who are new to Beat literature and simply curious. You meet people who come every year to LCK, and you meet people who just happened to stumble upon it.
Here are a couple tips if you decide to go to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac:
How to get to Lowell by public transportation — There is a Greyhound bus that goes to Lowell, however service is not frequent. The easier option is to take the commuter rail from Boston to Lowell. You can take the train from Boston’s North Station. It runs about once an hour during the weekday and is only about an hour long.
Wear your walking shoes — If you’re on any of the tours you’ll be doing a bit of walking. Lowell is a very walkable city, so if the tour or event is meeting anywhere in Lowell you can probably walk there without much difficulty from the center of the city. It’s usually easier to walk than to catch a cab. Unlike in major cities, taxis aren’t easily flagged down in Lowell; if you want a taxi, you should call for one in advance. There are a few sections of Lowell that get a little eerily quiet at night, so after dark it is best to not walk alone, which is commonsense for any city.
Take time out to eat — There will be so much to see and do at LCK that you may forget to actually eat! Many of the locales you’ll visit during the pub crawl offer food, and there usually is time on the tour to get a bite to eat at the pub, but chances are you’ll be so absorbed in conversation you will neglect eating. That or maybe pub food just isn’t your thing. An inexpensive, quick, light, and conveniently located alternative is Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus, which offers delicious bagel sandwiches and other fare. It’s a particularly good choice if you’re traveling solo since there’s often live acoustic music, so you can just sit back and read one of the free magazines and listen to some great music without the awkwardness of being in a sit-down restaurant by yourself or being in a takeout joint. They also have great vegetarian options.
Skip an event or two — You’ll want to attend most events, but you don’t have to attend every single event at LCK. Lowell has a rich history outside of Jack Kerouac, and discovering the city itself can help you understand the environment in which Kerouac grew up. Visiting Boott Cotton Mills Museum, for instance, can lead to a great understanding of immigration in Lowell and Kerouac’s desire not to be a “mill rat.” Meanwhile, the Whistler Museum is a great place to discover another one of Lowell’s great artists.
Here’s the complete schedule from LCK.