Touring Peyton Place

March 2023. Grace Metalious was the author of Peyton Place, a title and a phrase that immediately found a place in the American lexicon. The real Peyton Place is Gilmanton, New Hampshire, a town lost in the woods between Concord and Lake Winnipesaukee. Grace led a troubled life—fame made things worse—and if she was looking for a quiet place to spend eternity, she found it in the woods of Gilmanton. 

The Meeting House Cemetery where she is buried is covered in two feet of old snow. I’m the only one who has been here recently. There are no footprints about. Even the deer and rabbit tracks are days old. As I moved from grave to grave and stone to stone, it occurred to me that if I dropped dead here no one would find me until the spring melt. With that happy thought, I trudged back to my car on the side of a road that had no traffic. It was peaceful. No one is going to bother Grace. At least until August.


Hey, Jack Kerouac!

Apologies to Natalie Merchant. I’m in Lowell, Massachusetts, an old mill town that still looks like an old mill town. The only reason to stop here is because you have to: there seems to be a traffic light every block. So I finally stopped and got out to look at the Jack Kerouac Park. It’s a small spit of land beside the Eastern Canal on Bridge Street. The polished granite monoliths that make up the memorial are inscribed with quotes from his novels, including On the Road, The Town and the City, Big Sur, Doctor Sax, and others. Unfortunately, the polished surfaces make it hard to read the inscriptions in strong sunlight. 

The house he grew up in is on the other side of the Merrimack River, but I didn’t go looking for it. Most of the houses in Lowell are old mill town structures of steeply-angled roofs against the New England snow and now sprouting enough satellite dishes to get whatever channels the current residents miss most from their home countries. 

It’s a town of brick mills, stone churches, and wide canals that once carried water to the waterwheels and steam engines that powered the textile industry here. The canals could use a good flush and maybe then they might make for an interesting kayaking venture through town. But not yet.