Tag Archives: Yuko Otomo

Jamming Jack

7 Nov

Friday night at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac we all headed over to the White Eagle Pub, a dive bar on Market Street.

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The evening started off with a viewing of Brent Mason’s documentary Grave Matters. The thirty-minute film got off to a riotous start when one of the people in the crowd fell or fainted off their chair! The film had to be stopped, but after it was determined she was okay, the documentary started rolling again. Whew, what excitement. Canadian musician and filmmaker Brent Mason explores Jack Kerouac’s life and legend by documenting his visit to the author’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. Complete with interviews from people like Kerouac’s friend and eventual pallbearer Billy Koumantzelis.

Billy was there in the audience and afterwards he introduced me to Brent–who was there with his teenaged son–and Jim Sampas. Jim played some recordings of Jack reciting his work.

David Amram led Jamming Jack and was magnificent as always. I’ve seen him play a few times now, and each time feels unique.

He also invited people up to read and perform in what turned out to be an inspiring evening.

Jerry

Here Lowell’s very own actor and screenwriter Jerry Bisantz, of Image Theater, performs as Jack Kerouac.

Steve

Christopher Barry and his youngest brother Stephen Barry each performed their poetry. Stephen (pictured above) had flown all the way from California to be at the event. I’ve met Chris a few times, and it’s always a pleasure hearing him read. It was nice meeting his brother and seeing that talent obviously runs in the family.

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Jazz-poet Steve Dalachinsky, whom I’d heard read at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac two years ago, was back to read more poetry! He is brilliant. His wife Yuko Otomo was in the audience, and I wish she’d read too.

Drummer

Throughout the performances, David was playing the piano. He also selected some wonderful young musicians to accompany them. I believe the drummer and the guy on the tambourine were local students. The guy on the box-drum came from further away and was at LCK two years ago. If anyone has their names or contact info, please do pass it along. They were phenomenal.

Toward the end of the evening, David starts talking, says something about an author who wrote a new book, and that she doesn’t know he’s going to call her stage, and then calls out my name! The last time I read with David I was so nervous I could barely eat the entire day. I didn’t have time to get nervous this time around! I read one of Kerouac’s prose-poems. So beautiful! I don’t know that I did it justice, but it was such an honor to get to read Kerouac’s own words in his hometown and with so many phenomenal musicians and writers there.

The event made me kind of sad… It was so fun and inspiring, and I wish that Kerouac would’ve gotten to see that his literature continues to be appreciated to this day by people who are willing to come from far-flung locales of Canada and California and from people in their teens to people in their 80s.

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

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Confessions of an Awkward Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Attendee

5 Nov

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I hit the road last month to attend Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!

Confession time! In most circumstances I feel like a hanger-on if I’m in the company of whomever is the man or woman of the hour. Maybe it’s related to the Imposter Syndrome Sheryl Sandberg talks about in Lean In. Who am I to talk to someone of great stature? I never want to bother anyone, make it appear that I’m trying to get something out of them, or come out as some zealous fan. So, my typical response is to just keep to myself.

The first year I attended LCK I went alone and barely talked to anyone. I had been studying Kerouac’s literature for more than a decade and was fascinated by everything around me. It felt so surreal to be in Kerouac’s stomping grounds, to see his birth home, the Grotto, the Pawtucket Falls, the mill town he’d loved and written about. Roger Brunelle gave excellent tours, and I was enthralled by every moment of it. I loved every moment of it, and even though I had no one to share it with I didn’t really mind.

This year was completely different. My friend Julie Parker let me crash at her beautiful home outside of Boston, which was brimming with books and paintings and so full of inspiration. She’s a design consultant who does package design, marketing, and brand identity, so when we weren’t at the festival we had endless conversations about publishing and self-promotion.

I got to meet Paul! Oh my gosh, I was so nervous. Paul and I have been collaborating together for almost two years, and I probably spend more time talking on the phone with him than anyone else except maybe my mom when she’s in the States (when she’s in Greece, it’s difficult with the time difference), but we’d never met in person. I guess I was worried by meeting in person, something would change. It ended up being awesome. He gave Julie and me a tour of Lowell, and since he himself grew up there, his insight and stories were really personal.

I also got to catch up with David Amram and Billy Koumantzelis. I first got to know each of them from interviewing them about their friendship with Jack Kerouac, and since then I’ve been careful not to assume they’d remember me or talk to me beyond that. I completely understand that they’d have other, more important, people to talk to. But I didn’t want to go to my default of keeping my distance for fear that would make it seem like I didn’t want to talk to them. Ugh. My head gets so mixed up sometimes! Anyway, I did end up getting to spend time with both of them, and they’re both so gracious and fascinating individuals. For all the negative things that have been said over the years about Jack Kerouac, I have to say that he sure knows how to pick friends. These guys are stand-up gentlemen. Even though I first got to know them because of their friendship with Kerouac, that doesn’t even matter to me anymore. I just like talking to them and hearing their perspectives. When I had first interviewed Billy, I was curious about who he is, and at one point he stopped me and said, “Aren’t you here to ask me about Kerouac?”

Through one of David’s concerts at Cornelia Street Café, I’d met the poet Christopher Barry. He was at LCK too and introduced me to his brother, Stephen Barry, who is also a poet. Chris is a great guy, and it was fun chatting with him and his brother. David also introduced me to Steve Dalachinsky and Yuko Otomo, who are these amazing poets from New York City. Seriously. Probably among the best I’ve ever heard read—and I’ve heard a lot of poets read over the years. I probably would’ve been too shy to ever introduce myself if it weren’t for David. Billy also introduced me to Jim Sampas. You know, the guy behind One Fast Move or I’m Gone and the new film Big Sur. I sat there kind of stunned, saying, “I’m a big fan of your work.” I gave him a postcard for Paul’s and my book, Burning Furiously Beautiful, and Jim said, “I think I’ve heard of this.” Wow. I also got to meet the documentary filmmaker (Grave Matters) Brent Mason. Super nice guy. I met Stephen D. Edington, the organizer of LCK. He’s given sermons at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, which I’ve read online and found quite interesting.  And, I got to meet Roger Brunelle and his wife, both of whom were so warm. I don’t know why I get so nervous to introduce myself and talk to people sometimes….

Another highlight, though, was meeting people from the Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page. I was so touched when they came up and introduced themselves. I am so thankful for the network we have on that page, and it’s been great meeting like-minded people offline.

I guess I write all this to show that even if you sometimes are predisposed toward awkwardness, shyness, and over-thinking things, good things happen when you step out of your comfort zone. A colleague of mine recently posted on Facebook about how his daughter was having trouble with good greetings, that it took her a while to warm up to even people she knew when she’d see them again. I feel a lot like that little girl sometimes. Although this is supposed to be a recap of my time at LCK, I think it’s important that I share my true story. I’ve gotten the impression sometimes that people think if you read Kerouac, you’re trying to be cool. I never really had the impression of Kerouac as the cool guy. I always thought of him as the guy shambling after his friends. I think if you really read and study Kerouac, you understand that he too battled shyness, that although he had a lot of successes he also had a lot of failures, that he was prone to both self-assurance and worry. I think that if we just be ourselves and use our gifts and if we are open to opportunities and push ourselves little by little out of our comfort zone, we will surprise ourselves by what we can do. The key though is that it’s not about being in the spotlight or about others in the spotlight; it’s about the blessings of creating art, doing what we love, and fellowshipping with others.

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

2013 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival Lineup Announced

13 Aug

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac recently announced the 2013 festival line up! It’s tentative at the moment, but this is what’s listed:

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival

2013: 50th Anniversary of Visions of Gerard and 25th Anniversary of Kerouac Commemmorative

“Everybody goes home in October.” –Jack Kerouac, On the Road

[Draft schedule, 26 July 2013]

Pre-Festival Events

Sunday, September 29

Jack Kerouac Road Race
Time: 12:00 pm
Location: Old Worthen House, 141 Worthen St.
For more information and race registration: jackkerouac5k.com

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Festival

Thursday, October 10

Traditional Kerouac Pubs Tour
Time: 5:30-8:00 pm
Location: Start at Old Worthen House, 141 Worthen St.
Old Worthen to Ricardo’s Café Trattoria (110 Gorham St.) to Ward Eight (280 Central St.) to Cappy’s Copper Kettle (245 Central St.).

LCK Celebrates Amram! Traditional LCK kick-off
Time: 8:00-???? pm
Location: Cappy’s Copper Kettle, 245 Central St.
LCK kick-off music-and-readings event. Alan Crane and friends will perform with David Amram. Readers of Kerouac passages will do the interludes. Always a kick!

Friday, October 11

Annual Jack Kerouac Poetry & Prose Competition
Time: 9:30 am
Location: Lowell HS Freshman Academy theater, 40 Paige St.
“The Annual Jack Kerouac Poetry & Prose Competition” at Jack Kerouac’s alma mater, Lowell High School. Students will read their poems and prose entries. David Amram will share his memories of collaborating with Jack Kerouac while the judges deliberate. All are welcome.

A Walk in Doctor Sax’s Woods
Time: 12:30 pm
Location: Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest
“A Walk in Doctor Sax’s Woods” through the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest or at your leisure throughout the weekend. Maps will be available via the LCK facebook page, LCK website, and at merchandise tables. Contact leader Nomi at nomi1219@verizon.net or 617-775-8155 for car-pooling info and alternate times.

Talking Jack readings and discussion
Time: 3:30 pm
Location: UML Inn & Conference Center lobby, 50 Warren Court

The Divine and Perfect Ecstasy
Time: 5:00 to 8:00 pm
Location: Ayer Lofts Gallery, 172 Middle St
The Divine and Perfect Ecstasy: encaustic paintings and prints inspired by Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Gerard; artist Barbara Gagel; exhibition opening at Ayer Lofts Gallery, 172 Middle St. Exhibition will be open on weekends through November 3. Hours for the LCK weekend are 11 to 4; on other weekends, 12 to 5.

Grave Matters
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: TBD
Showing of Grave Matters film with director Brent Mason, 30-minute film explores Kerouac places in Lowell, culminating at his gravesite.

Jamming Jack
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: White Eagle Pub, 585 Market St.
listen to Jack himself read and sing in recordings with interludes by David Amram, Steve Dalchinsky, and friends.

Saturday, October 12

Commemorative at the Commemorative
Time: 9:00 am
Location: Kerouac Commemmorative, corner of French and Bridge Streets
This year will focus on “Early Memories.” Join us at the Jack Kerouac Commemorative, an internationally renowned literary landmark that is 25 years old this year. Early founders and leaders of LCK will speak about their first encounters with Jack Kerouac’s work and share their personal inspiration to create and support “Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!” over the last 25 years. We will read from Jack’s letters about his earliest memories of his hometown of Lowell, accompanied by David Amram.

Kerouac’s Lowell
Time: 10:15 am
Location: Leaves from Kerouac Commemmorative, corner of French and Bridge Streets
“Kerouac’s Lowell” birthplace-to-gravesite bus tour, visiting his homes and other important Kerouac sites, finishing at gravesite. Led by Roger Brunelle. Leaves from Commemorative. Required $10 donation. Reservations at 978-970-5000.

Welles Emporium’s Kerouac Open House
Time: 10:30 am to 12:00 noon
Location: Welles Emporium, 175 Merrimack St.
For those not on the bus tour, come by the shop to browse Kerouac and LCK merchandise while enjoying music, readings, and discussion with coffee and pastries.

Homage to “Ti Jean” at Kerouac gravesite
Time: 12:00 noon
Location: Edson Cemetery, 1375 Gorham St.
All commemorators of Kerouac are welcome to share his spirit and readings, especially from Visions of Gerard on its 50th anniversary!

Discovering Jack’s Vision
Time: 1:00 pm
Location: Ayer Lofts Gallery, 172 Middle St.
Roger Brunelle will lead a discussion of the visual interpretation of the abstract work of artist Barbara Gagel, using Jack Kerouac’s words from Visions of Gerard

Parker Lecture: Celebrating Kerouac In Film and Word
Time: 2:00 pm
Location: Visitor Center Theater, 246 Market St.
Parker Lecture: Celebrating Kerouac In Film and Word with Lowell native Jim Sampas, the founder of Reimagine Studios. Among his numerous film and recording projects are several that relate to the life and work of Jack Kerouac. They include the audio CD set of Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake, and the widely acclaimed documentary One Fast Move or I’m Gone which highlights Kerouac’s experience at California’s Big Sur and the novel of the same name. Jim was also a part of the production team for the new movie Big Sur, also based on the Kerouac novel. Another current project is his tribute, Kerouac—Joy, Kicks, Darkness. His work has gained him the citation by the Los Angleles Times as “The thinking man’s producer who has a reputation for sticking out of the pack.”

Kerouac’s Library Haunts and Hooky tour
Time: 3:30 pm
Location: Pollard Memorial Library, 401 Merrimack St.
Kerouac’s Library Haunts and Hooky tour, led by Bill Walsh. Meet at the Merrimack St. entrance.

Open Mike at the Old Worthen
Time: 4:00 pm
Location: Old Worthen Upstairs, 141 Worthen St.
Poets, musicians, and readers are welcome!

Merrimack and Moody Street Regulars
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Location: Starts from City Hall, 375 Merrimack St.
“Merrimack and Moody Street Regulars” walking tour led by Roger Brunelle. Visit sites that Kerouac visited and walked past almost daily along Moody and Merrimack Streets with some remnants of Little Canada.

Jack’s Roots: From Canada to Lowell
Time: 8:00 pm to ???
Location: Old Court Pub upstairs, 29-31 Central St.
Jack’s Roots: From Canada to Lowell, with Michele Choiniere, Brent Mason, Bob Martin, David Amram, and poet Steve Dalachinsky. Kerouac-influenced musicians from Canada, Lowell, and New York will perform individually and jam together in exploring his cultural roots. There will be poems and readings mixed in from Kerouac’s novels.

Sunday, October 13

Kerouac’s Nashua Connection tour
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Meet at Visitor Center, 246 Market St., Lowell
Visit the Kerouac family sites and graves in Nashua, NH, led by Steve Edington, author of “Kerouac’s Nashua Connection.” Meet at Visitor Center, 246 Market St., Lowell, to ride in van or car pool. $10 donation requested. Reservations at 978-970-5000.

Serious Amram Jam!
Time: 1:00 to 5:00 pm
Location: Lowell Beerworks, 203 Cabot St.
Featuring David Amram performing with a cast of many volunteer readers, poets, and musicians. You can feel the spirit of Kerouac moving here!

Sun Sets over Jack’s Bridge
Time: 5:30 pm
Location: University Ave. between VFW Highway and Pawtucket St.
Adieu Again to Textile Memorial Bridge, Moody Street Bridge, Watermelon Man Bridge, University Ave. Bridge; to be demolished SOON! Poems, readings, flowers, and a watermelon will be dropped from the bridge. Group walk from Amram Jam at Beerworks starting at 5.

Ghosts of the Pawtucketville Night tour
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Group leaves from Textile Memorial Bridge, University Ave.
Ghosts of the Pawtucketville Night tour, led by Roger Brunelle. Visit Kerouac sites in Pawtucketville neighborhood and possibly the mystical Grotto.

A Night of Poetry and Music
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: 119 Gallery, 119 Chelmsford St.
Featuring LCK guest poet Steve Dalachinsky with Yuko Otomo and friends.

Monday, October 14

LCK group walk from Kerouac Commemorative
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Leaves from Kerouac Commemmorative, corner of French and Bridge Streets

Mystic Jack tour
Time: 10:30 am
Location: St. Louis Church, 221 W. 6th St.
Led by Roger Brunelle. Visit the church, school, and home that were so important in his early years as described in Visions of Gerard.

Walking Jack
Time: 12:00 to 4:00 pm
Location: St. Louis Church, 221 W. 6th St.
Continuing the Kerouac Loop Walk from St. Louis School past Kerouac homes and landmarks in Centralville and Pawtucketville, finishing at Old Worthen Tavern for toasting to Jack.

Post-Festival Events

Sunday, October 20

Waking Jack: Jack Kerouac Memorial Walk & Wake
Time: 4:00 pm to ???
Location: Meet at Grotto behind Franco-American School, 357 Pawtucket St.
LCK group will walk with volunteer readings from the Grotto, music & readings to follow Upstairs at the Worthen; in memoriam of the death of Jack Kerouac on October 21, 1969.

Thank you

Merchandise sales and donations by attendees help keep these Kerouac events alive and growing! Note that Kerouac and LCK merchandise can be bought throughout the year at Welles Emporium, 175 Merrimack St. Thank you for your support!

Special thanks for a variety of assistance from Enterprise Bank, Darrell’s Music Hall of Nashua, UMass Lowell Center for Arts & Ideas, Moses Greeley Parker Lecture Series, Lowell National Historical Park, and all the venues hosting LCK events.

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is a super fun festival with lots of good people involved, and this year’s line up is impressive. Steve Dalachinsky and Yuko Otomo were at LCK the first time I attended, and they are not to be missed. I think it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of David Amram’s work as well. Also, I’ve done a write up on Roger Brunelle’s tours, and recommend them. I would love to hear Jim Sampas speak! I’ve never gotten to make it to the Nashua tour, so I think that would be worthwhile. It seems important to make it to the Watermelon Man Bridge too before it is just a recorded memory in one of Jack’s books.

Are you going to LCK this year? What are you most excited for??

You can find my previous entries on LCK here.

A Ginsberg Love Fest at First Blues

22 Jan

 

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Oh, I am still on cloud 9 after the First Blues event to celebrate Allen Ginsberg’s recording!! I got there a bit late, and it was jam-packed with white-haired men who’d probably known various beat poets back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and earnest, young, bearded hipsters, and girls in leggings and berets. I spotted the incredible poet Steve Dalachinsky and poet-painter Yuko Otomo, whom I’d met at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, in the crowd. I got to talk with poet Christopher Barry. I had heard another author I know was supposed to be there but there were so many people I couldn’t find him to say hi.

 

David Amram was his usual self: inspiring. The way he transmutes cultures into music and bends the “rules” of how to play instruments floors me every time. Watching him teaches me that Art is creative and fun, which is something after years of schooling and rule enforcing I often forget. He talked about how the best university is “hangoutology,” that we learn through other people and that we too should always generously teach others.

Kevin Twigg played glockenspiel with Amram. I’d normally heard him play in a full band, but hearing just him and Amram play was special. Twigg’s music sounded like magic!

Anne Waldman, who with Allen Ginsberg founded Naropa University, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, gave an intense reading. Back in undergrad at Scripps in my 1950s Core class, I heard a recording of Ginsberg reading Howl that forever changed my understanding of the poem because of its moaning intensity. After singing a Blake poem, Waldman did a “Howl” that was transfixing. Hearing her howl live was a glimpse of what it must’ve been like to hear Ginsberg first read “Howl” at the now infamous Gallery Six reading.

Hettie Jones, who is a fantastic and generous writer, read, and I wish she would’ve read longer because it went by too, too quickly.

My eighteen-year-old self would never have imagined that not only would I one day ever-so-casually get to hear all these people read and make music and perform in a bookstore but that I’d actually know so many of them. I couldn’t find Jones after the reading, but she had graciously spent time talking to me when I met her in a class at The New School. A few years ago, I was in the same circle of conversation as Waldman at a party. Twigg asked me to sign a book, which he showed me had been signed by pretty much everyone associated with the Beats. Here he is this amazing musician with tons of covet-worth signatures, and he made me feel like a million bucks by asking me to sign too. Amram, always swamped by the masses, still made time for me, and again made me feel like I was the star. I hope that I do that for other people. He introduced me to his daughter, who was really sweet. He also introduced me to Bill Morgan, whose books have been a tremendous resource to me over the years. It’s so surreal to meet someone you’ve footnoted.

There were also other musicians and poets there, including Ambrose Bye, CA Conrad, Steven Taylor, and Arthur’s Landing, whom I’d never heard before and yet who captured my attention, making me want to explore their work.

Amanda Bullock, who plans the events at Housing Works and whom I’d heard speak about social media at the CLMP literary conference at The New School, was there kicking us all out at the end because we all kept mingling and having hurried, beautiful conversations.

I could hardly sleep from all the excitement.