Pumpkins, large and small, adorn nearly every window box and doorstep in my neighborhood. Along with the usual ghosts and witches, we here in the Bay State have easy access to the ultimate Halloween spectacle. Salem may be a quaint New England town steeped in history, mythology, and magic – but Salem in October is way too touristy for me.
Instead, I take a day trip to Lowell to visit the grave of one of my literary heroes – Jack Kerouac.
The first time I visited Kerouac’s grave, it was just before Halloween, and the anniversary of his death. I arrived at Edson Cemetery with a crudely drawn map that a kindly gentleman at the Chamber of Commerce had given me and, as I made my way along the neat little rows of tombstones and markers, I marveled at the extraordinary shades of yellow, orange, and red leaves underfoot and overhead. Kerouac’s grave was an unassuming flat slab that was flush to the ground. This is what it said:
JOHN L. KEROUAC
MAR. 12, 1922 – OCT. 21, 1969
– HE HONORED LIFE –
STELLA HIS WIFE
NOV. 11, 1918 – FEB. 10, 1990
There had been many recent visitors to the grave, fans, and writers perhaps, because they’d left unopened bottles of imported beer, packs of Camel cigarettes, flowers, and sheets of poetry, some handwritten and some typed, in several different languages.
I sat on the ground and took out a bottle of champagne and my worn paperback copy of On the Road. I purposely shook the bottle so that when I popped the cork, the bubbly came gushing out just like it does in the winning team’s locker room. I took a small drink before pouring the entire bottle onto the grass, letting it soak right into the ground so he could enjoy it.
Then I opened my book to a random page and started reading. There in that graveyard was all the history, mythology, and magic I needed.