Tag Archives: George Koumantzelis

Schedule for Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2016

15 Sep

The annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is just around the corner. This year the event will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s Satori in Paris.

Here is the full schedule:

Thursday, October 6

6:00 pm: Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour. From the Old Worthen, 141 Worthen St. to Ricardo’s to Ward Eight to Cappy’s Copper Kettle. Led by Bill Walsh.

8:00 pm: Traditional LCK Kick-off: Music and Readings. Cappy’s Copper Kettle, 245 Central St. Performances by Alan Crane, George Koumantzelis, Colleen Nichols, and local readers. Joined by special guest David Amram. Always a kick! Hosted by John McDermott.

Friday, October 7

9:30 am: The Annual Jack Kerouac Poetry and Prose Competition. Held at Jack Kerouac’s alma mater. Lowell High School. Students will read their poetry and prose entries. David Amram will share his memories of collaborating with Jack Kerouac. Lowell High School Theater. LHS is located at 50 Father Morissette Boulevard. [Note: This is a Lowell High School event, and not open to the public at large.]

2:30 pm: Talking Jack. Readings and conversation. Using the Satori in Paris Anniversary motif, we’ll start off with the topic of “Jack and His Ancestral Roots” and see where it leads. Bring your favorite passage that speaks to Jack’s ongoing quest to answer the “Who am I?” question—it’s one we all have to confront at some point in our lives.
Hyper-Text Cafe. 107 Merrimack St.

4:00 pm: Festival Wine Opening Reception: “Be in Love with Your Life—every minute of it.” An exhibit by artist Barbara Gagel that explores the deep emotional impact of words from Jack Kerouac’s literary language.

Ayer Lofts. 172 Middle Street.

8:00 pm: Jack Kerouac Tribute Concert to Benefit the Proposed New Jack Kerouac Cultural Center. As of this posting plans are still in the works for a special concert to promote a proposed Jack Kerouac Cultural Center in Lowell, which the concert proceeds will go to support.
This event is being sponsored by Lowell’s Coalition for a Better Acre. The CBA will rebrand the building, currently known as the Smith Baker Center, as a performance hall and community center honoring Jack Kerouac with concerts, film festivals, speakers, plays, public debates and theater productions.
Check the LCK website for further details as they become available for ticket purchases.

Saturday, October 8

9:30 am: Commemorative at the Commemorative. “Honoring Jack’s Search for his Roots.” In keeping with the Satori in Paris anniversary observance, we’ll offer some readings from his writings that point to the importance for Jack of finding his identity and ancestral roots. Led by Steve Edington and Roger Brunelle.
French and Bridge Streets.

10:15 a.m. Bus Tour: The Jack Kerouac Tour of Lowell. This tour takes participants to as many Kerouac places that can be covered in a long itinerary, and within a limited time. Included are visits, with interpretative readings, to the author’s birthplace, the schools he attended, the churches and shrines at which he prayed, and his grave. Led by Roger Brunelle.
Leaves from the Commemorative. $10.00 donation requested. Reservations at 978-970-5000.

10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Marathon Reading of “Satori in Paris.” This is being coordinated by Sean Thibodeau, Coordinator of Community Planning for the Pollard Library. Sign up to read a passage by contacting Sean at sthibodeau@LowellLibrary.org, or just show up ready to read.

2:00 pm: Annual Parker/LCK Lecture. “Jack Kerouac: Speed Demon.” Presenter this year is Jay Atkinson. By any standard Kerouac was a remarkable athlete. He was a champion sprinter, a speedy baseball outfielder, and a gridiron phenom. In this talk, Jay sheds some light on Kerouac’s athletic prowess and its influence on his work.
A former two sport college athlete, Atkinson is the author of two novels, a story collection, and five narrative non-fiction books. He teaches writing at Boston University.
Lowell National Historical Park Visitors Center. 246 Market St.

3:30 pm: Kerouac’s Library Haunts and Hooky Tour. The tour includes a visit to the Library’s recently dedicated “Kerouac Corner,” so named to honor the time Jack spent here during high school days—sometimes playing hooky in order to expand his own literary horizons. Led by Bill Walsh.
Pollard Library. 401 Merrimack Street.

4:00 pm: Open Mike at the Old Worthen. Lead off with Brian Hassett, author of “The Hitchhikers Guide to Jack Kerouac.” Bring your favorite Kerouac passage to share, or a Kerouac inspired passage of you own. Emceed by Cliff Whalen. 141 Worthen Street.

6:00 pm: Opening Reception: “Satori in Paris/Le Jazz Hot.” Artists creations based on Kerouac’s novel Satori in Paris and Le Jazz Hot, Jack’s favorite music. Coordinated by Judith Bessette. Music provided by David Amam.
The UnchARTed Gallery. 103 Market Street.

8:00 pm: Buddha and the Blues with Rev. Freakchild and Willie Loco Alexander. An exploration of transcendence through music, musical styles, musical traditions, and musical improvisation with emphasis on the crossroads between the American Blues tradition and the Bodhisvatta Path in one of Lowell’s Acre neighborhood’s Greek establishments.
Olympia’s Zorba Music Hall. 439 Market Street. A $10.00 donation at the door requested.

Sunday, October 9

10:00 am: Mystic Jack: Visions of Jack and Gerard. Walking tour begins at the Saint-Louis-de-France Church and moves along Beaulieu St. to the convent and the school, featuring a look inside Jack’s parish school and ends inside his childhood church. Tours is based on “Visions of Gerard,” the mystical story of Jack’s brother who died at nine years. He is portrayed by Jack as the universal symbol of brotherhood and kindness, with emphasis on Gerard’s tenderness and dreams in his Catechism class and Friday afternoon Confession. Led by Roger Brunelle. $10.00 donation requested.
St. Louis de France Church. 241 West 6th Street.

1:30—4:00 pm: Annual Amram Jam! Our annual event featuring David Amram performing with a cast of many readers, poets, and musicians. You can feel the spirit of Kerouac moving here. Special guest readers Jason Eisenberg and Don Ouelette. Hosted by Peter Eliopoulos.
Upstairs at the Old Worthen. 141 Worthen Street.

6:00 pm: “Ghosts of the Pawtucketville Night” Tour. An evening walk through the streets of the Pawtucketville neighborhood where Jack spent his adolescent years, as he describes them in Doctor Sax and Maggie Cassidy. Readings from his talk-writings at the cottages and tenements where Jack lived when he attended the Bartlett Junior High School and Lowell High. Tour ends at the Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc Church where Jack saw a vision of the BEATific Generation.
Begin at Cumnock Hall. University of Massachusetts at Lowell, North Campus. 1 University Avenue. Led by Roger Brunelle. $10.00 donation requested.

Monday, October 10

10:00 a.m. Kerouac’s Nashua Connection Tour—By Passenger Van. A tour of the Kerouac sites of Nashua, New Hampshire. Leave from the LNHP Visitors Center at 246 Market Street. Led by Steve Edington. (Will connect with the Loop Walk in progress—see item below—for those who wish to join it upon returning to Lowell.) A $10.00 donation requested. Reservations at 978-970-5000.

10:00 a.m. LCK Loop Walk from the Kerouac Commemorative. Walk goes from Bridge Street to the St. Louis Church in Centralville, past Kerouac homes and landmarks in Centralville and Pawtucketville, finishing at the Old Worthen Tavern. Led by Bill Walsh.

For more information, visit Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.

 

 

What’s Your Sign, Man?

3 Sep

I went to Philly the other day and visited the site of printer and author Benjamin Franklin’s house. To get there, I had to pass through this little tunnel:::

franklin

The sign made me laugh. Imagine being so famous that historians noted not just the site of your house but the little passageway you walked through to get there! His house is no longer standing, but excavations show aspects of the infrastructure. The signage there is equally humorous, as it seems to reveal a strange relationship between Franklin and his wife, Deborah Read. He seemed very concerned about her ability to manage the household and seemed to think she might burn the whole place down. I was so fascinated by his strange letters to her that when I got home I did a little digging into their relationship. It turned out that our Founding Father wasn’t in a traditional marriage! Apparently, he had proposed to dear Deborah but her mother didn’t approve of him so while he was traipsing through merry old England, Deborah married some rake who took her money and ran, never to be heard of again. Ben and Deb technically then entered into a bigamous, common-law marriage. They had two children together and also raised Franklin’s illegitimate child. They don’t teach that in the history books in school!

* * *

Maybe one day Lowell will put up a bunch of signs pointing out where Jack Kerouac went to church and where he wrote while he drank. My friend George Koumantzelis, who is the nephew of Kerouac’s friend Billy Koumantzelis, recently brought Grant Welker’s article “Is Lowell missing the Kerouac beat?” for The Sun to my attention. Welker writes:

Lowell has a small park with a memorial on Bridge Street dedicated to Kerouac and has a walking tour organized by the National Park Service, but it doesn’t have a permanent center — a museum, library or open-to-the-public childhood home — dedicated to the writer, whose popularity continues to grow here and abroad more than 45 years after his death.

In the meantime, we can still laugh about the signs Constantine Valhouli made!

* * *
What books on Benjamin Franklin would you recommend?

 

Kerouac’s Hometown Inspires Charles Dickens

23 Dec

p112sIllustration (not of Mill Girl, fyi) by Marcus Stone, R.A., from Charles Dickens’ American Notes for General Circulation

Many authors have penned Christmas stories, but perhaps the most celebrated is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which has spawned Broadway musicals, a Disney cartoon, a Muppet retelling, a United Nations special by Rod Sterling, a Star Trek version, among so many others.

Is it possible that the inspiration for this Victorian novella came from Jack Kerouac’s hometown?

Natalie McKnight, a dean at Boston University, conducted research with student Chelsea Bray that suggests Dickens was inspired by the stories of the Mills Girls when he visited Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1842.

On one of my trips to Lowell to research Kerouac, my friend George Koumantzelis had given me a stack of newspapers, magazines, and flyers to aid in my studies. Among these was information on UMass Lowell’s seven-month-long celebration of Dickens’ trip to Lowell. I had edited new editions of the British author’s stories including his work American Notes for General Circulation, about 1842 trip to America. About to turn thirty years old, he had traveled from Liverpool (later home to the Beatles!) aboard the RMS Britannia and arrived in Boston, where he then visited mental hospitals, orphanages, and prisons around the country and visited with President Tyler.

Among the dots on his map was Lowell … also known as Mill City. Lowell was founded about twenty years prior to Dickens’ visit, as a center for textile manufacturing. Dickens came about two years after the height of the Industrial Revolution, when there were about 8,000 women working in factories in Lowell. If Dickens was inspired by their stories, it should go without saying that their existence was one of strife. About 80 women were packed into a noisy room from 5 am to 7 pm, working under the direction of two men. However, Dickens actually seemed to think well of the mills.

Dickens wrote:

These girls, as I have said, were all well dressed: and that phrase necessarily includes extreme cleanliness.  They had serviceable bonnets, good warm cloaks, and shawls; and were not above clogs and pattens.  Moreover, there were places in the mill in which they could deposit these things without injury; and there were conveniences for washing.  They were healthy in appearance, many of them remarkably so, and had the manners and deportment of young women: not of degraded brutes of burden.  If I had seen in one of those mills (but I did not, though I looked for something of this kind with a sharp eye), the most lisping, mincing, affected, and ridiculous young creature that my imagination could suggest, I should have thought of the careless, moping, slatternly, degraded, dull reverse (I have seen that), and should have been still well pleased to look upon her.

The rooms in which they worked, were as well ordered as themselves.  In the windows of some, there were green plants, which were trained to shade the glass; in all, there was as much fresh air, cleanliness, and comfort, as the nature of the occupation would possibly admit of.  Out of so large a number of females, many of whom were only then just verging upon womanhood, it may be reasonably supposed that some were delicate and fragile in appearance: no doubt there were.  But I solemnly declare, that from all the crowd I saw in the different factories that day, I cannot recall or separate one young face that gave me a painful impression; not one young girl whom, assuming it to be a matter of necessity that she should gain her daily bread by the labour of her hands, I would have removed from those works if I had had the power.

Though he clearly recognizes that the girls work long and hard, he describes the mills as well as the girls’ dorm rooms in a somewhat positive light, mentioning pianos and libraries.

It would seem that the mills girls were of a literary mindset. Beyond just mentioning the library, Dickens goes on to say:

Of the merits of the Lowell Offering as a literary production, I will only observe, putting entirely out of sight the fact of the articles having been written by these girls after the arduous labours of the day, that it will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals.  It is pleasant to find that many of its Tales are of the Mills and of those who work in them; that they inculcate habits of self-denial and contentment, and teach good doctrines of enlarged benevolence.  A strong feeling for the beauties of nature, as displayed in the solitudes the writers have left at home, breathes through its pages like wholesome village air; and though a circulating library is a favourable school for the study of such topics, it has very scant allusion to fine clothes, fine marriages, fine houses, or fine life.

What Dean McKnight and Bray suggest is that Dickens lifted ideas from these girls’ stories. Kevin Hartnett at The Boston Globe writes:

Now, new research is suggesting that the book may have borrowed—quite liberally—from the amateur writings of the millworkers he visited.

After reading an obscure literary journal published by Lowell textile workers and comparing it to Dickens’s novella, a Boston University professor and student are arguing that some of the most memorable elements of Dickens’s story—the ghosts, the tour through the past, Scrooge’s sudden reconsideration of his life—closely resemble plot points in stories by the city’s “mill girls” that Dickens read after his visit.

They propose that the ghost trope of A Christmas Carol stems from several selections in The Lowell Offering. Comparing the Mills Girls’ stories with Dickens’, they have found several parallels that they believe go beyond mere coincidence or literary tradition.

Their research has created quite a stir online, and they haven’t even written their paper yet, let alone published it.

It’s well worth visiting The Mill Girls and Immigrant Exhibit at the Morgan Cultural Center to find out more about the fascinating lives these factory workers led.

The Morgan Cultural Center also happens to be where one of Kerouac’s typewriters reside. While Kerouac began writing about a hundred years after Dickens’ visit, he too was inspired by the Mill Girls. He didn’t want to be a mill rat. He wanted to get out of Lowell, to do something more with his life. As a struggling writer, he did eventually end up working for a short time at a mill in America, but he continually worked on his writing. While Dickens had come over to Boston by ship from Liverpool, Kerouac went to Liverpool as a merchant seaman. Like Dickens, Kerouac toured America, writing his own travelogue full of social commentary.

 

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Friday Links + More Than a Thousand People Like Our Book!

16 Aug

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Paul emailed me the other day that we’d crossed the thousand-“like” threshold on our Facebook page for Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I wrote him back: “!!!!!!!!!” …Give or take a few exclamation points.

I cannot thank all of you enough for your support. It means so much to me and for so many reasons. I’m not really a numbers person. Friends have asked me about my writing in the past, and I’ve said that all those Friday nights I spent at home in front of my computer instead of hanging out with friends and all that time I spend frustrated as I edit and rewrite will all be worth it if I reach just one person with my writing. I wasn’t speaking specifically about this book, but it holds true in the sense that if I can enlighten even one person on the fact that Jack Kerouac was a literary artist and not just some beatnik cartoon or if I can give hope to one writer out there who is struggling with yet another draft and thinks they’re rubbish because they mistakenly believe the myth that Kerouac wrote On the Road in just three weeks then I know I’ve done my job. Having a thousand people excited about the book, though, now that’s cake with a whole lot of icing on it!

I feel fortunate to have Paul as a coauthor. He’s so knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to writing about Jack Kerouac. He’s also really easygoing, and I think we’ve been able to work together well. Sometimes we get sidetracked and talk about things like woodland creatures and hot dog vendors and really bad sitcoms, and it’s all quite fun.

We also lucked out to have Igor Satanovsky as our cover designer. We get so many compliments on the cover. It’s usually the first thing people see when it comes to our book, so it was really important to us to have a strong cover and Igor nailed it.

We’ve been really privileged to have some people who have rallied around us and inspiring, encouraging, supporting, and even promoting us.

Most importantly, our families have given us time and space to write. My sister has attended almost every single reading I’ve ever given, Kerouac-related or not. My mom goes around sticking the postcards for our book anywhere she can. My father always made sure I got the best education I could get, which furthered my writing skills.

Many moons ago, before I even began working on this book, David Amram spent time talking to me about Kerouac and dispelled the whole idea of the so-called Beat Generation mythology. Since then, he’s invited me to read with him, has promoted my work in his own shows, and continually pushes me to think about life and art in new ways.

George Koumantzelis has gone out of his way to support our work. Oftentimes getting people to agree to an interview is like pulling teeth, but George actually invited me and arranged for me to interview his uncle Billy, who was Kerouac’s pallbearer. Billy and George have been tremendously gracious toward me. George often sends me helpful news links and posts my blog entries on Facebook.

The first time I ever got to read from Burning Furiously Beautiful was thanks to poet RA Araya, who invited me to read at The Sidewalk Café. He has since invited me many more times to read at various venues, and even when I haven’t read he’s passed out postcards for the book. He also frequently posts my work on Facebook.

One of the goals with our Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page was to create an inviting space for Kerouacians, those interested in Beat literature, road trippers, people who dig the history and culture of the ’40s and ’50s, writers, fans of the On the Road film, and the curious. We wanted a page that was informative and entertaining but also a safe place where people could ask questions and connect with each other. We don’t have a thousand people commenting on every single post, but we do have some regular posters as well as people who are actively engaged in leaving comments and forwarding posts. I’ve had the pleasure of even meeting a few of these people in person, which has been super fun. I never really had any friends that were into the Beats so it’s exciting to connect with others who are passionate about their literature.

There are so many people who have helped us get where we are today, in both small and big ways, specific to this book or in more general ways. The post would go on forever if I listed out each and every name, but the support is meaningful and doesn’t go unnoticed. It makes all the difference.

If you aren’t on our Facebook page yet, please do feel to join us. This isn’t some exclusive hipster club. People don’t try to one up each other on our page. We’re just super passionate and want to connect with others.

* * *

Reaching over a thousand “likes” by no means happened overnight. A lot of work goes into finding interesting things to post, responding to people’s comments, commenting on other Facebook pages, and getting lost in the time suck of social media. I’ve also done my fair share of going to talks on social media and scouring the internet for the latest hot tips. So, for today’s Friday Links, I wanted to leave you with a few helpful links for growing your social media. I’m by no means a pro, but some of these people certainly are.

 

Alt SLC registration just opened up! It’s a great way to learn about blogging

Dave Charest writes How to Get Facebook Likes for Your Page (The Easy Way!)

Author Laura Vanderkam writes about how to Grow your blog readership overnight! (or slowly over 3.5 years)

Conduit offers Ten Tips for Growing Your Target Audience Using Social Media

Photos tend to get more likes than just text, and Lark and Linen provides a Tutorial: Editing Your Photos

Samantha Murphy says that using “I” gets more thumbs up in How to Get More Likes, Shares on Facebook

In case you missed them, here are some of my previous links on social media:::

The true, true story behind the Facebook fauxlore of the Kerouac-Burroughs fight

I am one in a million

My Goodreads To-read list

How many stars should a book get on Goodreads?

Playing around on Google+ I found an article about, well, me

Why I Tweet and post on Facebook

Building your book before you write it

My takeaways from Cup of Jo’s advice on blogging as a career

Social media lessons from last year’s SWSX

I heart social media

Galley Cat’s advice for writers on Pinterest … and I’m on Pinterest

What are YOUR tips for growing your social media?

Fun Fact Friday: The First AOL Instant Message Was Sent by a Greek

26 Apr

ted

So here’s a fun fact I just read this week, via Yahoo: Ted Leonsis was the very first person to ever sent an AOL instant message.

If you don’t know who Ted Leonsis is here’s a quick run-down of just some of his achievements:

  • He was a senior AOL executive for 13 years
  • He is the co-CEO of Groupon
  • He is a founding member of the Revolution Growth Fund
  • He is the majority owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics, and the Washington Wizards
  • He’s on the Board of Directors for American Express
  • He produced the award-winning documentary Nanking
  • He is the author of The Business of Happiness
  • He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Lowell, MA
  • He currently lives in Potomac, MD, at Marwood, previously owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Al Gore
  • He mentors through the Hoop Dreams program

Successful people are often thought of as ruthless and privileged, but Ted Leonsis is a self-made millionaire who follows his heart. This is the promotional copy for The Business of Happiness:

When the plane he was on prepared for a crash landing, Ted Leonsis asked himself the crucial question, If today is my last day on earth—will I die happy?. . . and realized the answer was no. Despite having achieved massive business success—he was a self-made multi-millionaire at the age of twenty-seven—he realized he would die unfulfilled. He told God that if he survived, he would turn his life around, give back more than he took, and pursue happiness. After walking off that plane, he got to work.

And while I mentioned Nanking above, I should also point out that his other documentaries are equally about social justice. Kicking It is a documentary narrated by Colin Farrell about the issue of homelessness, and A Fighting Chance tells the motivational story of Kyle Maynard, a wrestler who was born without arms and legs.

Ted Leonsis and the stories he helps get to the public are examples that no matter what our circumstances we are all capable of achievement.