September 5, 2007
Today, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road, we’re wondering if there is a traveler out there who hasn’t fancied himself a Kerouac character at one time or another. IgoUgo’s Paradise pilgrims divulge where to pay tribute to the fictional hitchhiker and his creator.
It’s difficult to mention San Francisco, and nearly impossible to describe City Lights Bookstore, without talking about Jack Kerouac. This is partly because one of the store’s cross streets is Jack Kerouac Alley, and partly because, along with the surrounding watering holes, the independent bookseller and publisher was one of the author's favorite hangouts. CalvinMitch says that this “living memorial to the beat writers” is a must-see, and that “if you ever read On the Road—and liked it—the bookstore takes on a Mecca-like importance.” Overcome by the site’s history, Simon Morley says he “felt the urge to grow a beard, scratch out some poetry on the back of a brown paper bag, and kick off my establishment shoes.” The place is still relevant today, though; Grendelb and pstar_craze both call it the city’s best bookstore. While you’re in the neighborhood, drink the Kerouac Kool-Aid at Vesuvio, a bar that mfs reports is a treat for anyone, “history and literature aside.”
The history lesson and happy hour continue to the north at Seattle’s Blue Moon Tavern. Part-time resident El Gallo says the pub’s literary chops are the real deal; it is “a totem, a lifestyle, a mecca, a legacy,” and it’s where he’s run into beat laureates Ken Kesey, Alan Ginsberg, and Tom Robbins.
To the east, look for Kerouac inspirations in Denver: grab a seat at My Brother’s Bar, where the author, along with the real-life Dean Moriarty, Neal Cassady—and IgoUgo member John Lamb—threw back a few more drinks. Somewhat ironically, our own winetraveller enjoyed visiting the bar as part of the Great American Beer Festival.
New York City has no shortage of Jack Kerouac stomping grounds, and IgoUgo travelers have explored a hotel he lived in, a bar he frequented, a tavern he got thrown out of, and a bookstore that celebrates his legacy (at a discount). Hotel Chelsea guest pj1465 recommends checking in there, pointing out that the rooms’ Kerouac and Sid-and-Nancy pasts are balanced with a Wi-Fi present.
The last stop—Kerouac’s first—is his birthplace in Lowell, Massachusetts. RV Momma enjoyed it, as will you, if you stop in during this year’s Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Festival from October 4-7. If you can’t make it, try flagging down the original On the Road manuscript—a scroll—as it hits the open road.