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.