Today is Jack Kerouac’s birthday, one of the original beat writers, whose most famous work, On the Road, provided the voice for an entire generation. By all accounts he favored margaritas when drinking, and was quoted as saying “Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” After his premature death at 47, he’s continued to be hailed as a great writer. In 1987, John Montgomery compiled and published (through Fels & Firn Press), The Kerouac We Knew, of which only 1500 copies were printed.
It’s a collection of remembrances, essays and photographs about Kerouac, one of which was entitled “Footnotes from Lowell.” It’s apparently written by the Kerouac family’s paperboy, who was only in his teens when Kerouac died. His (or possibly her) mother worked at the local newspaper, the Lowell Sun, and apparently when she worked the night shift, would occasionally give Kerouac a ride home. The author reminisces with the following tale about one of Kerouac’s beer pranks.
One evening, he persuaded them to stop off at Droney’s Pub on Broadway, his favorite, prior to Nicky’s: maybe in December, 1953. At one point he got off a stool and collected all the empty Harvard Ale bottles (brewed in Lowell, now defunct: Kerouac’s favorite beer, in green bottles with a cork). When he had gathered an armful, he re-stoppered them and one by one and slipped them into the old wood-burning Franklin stove in the center of the floor. The few people who did notice him figured he was just stoking the fire (the only source of heat). After he had filled the stove with 15 or 20 bottles he left the lid off and resumed his silent seat at the bar. Within minutes the pub was transformed into a diminutive Pearl Harbor. Kerouac just sat on his stool, surveying his work, laughing like a madman. This is the kind of escapade for which Jack is remembered in Lowell; escapades that poked fun at Lowell people in a loving way.
Apparently Jack Kerouac was known for his pranks, and this was a favorite one. The author speculates that this was his favorite beer, too, but I can’t find any other evidence for that, so who knows? Still, a fun little story.