When I was 22 I went on a pilgrimage to Lowell, Massachusetts to visit Jack Kerouac‘s home. It was ill planned, we were walking in the snow, there were no signs, and what was worse, no one had even heard of him! I would have given anything for a map with directions of where to go and what to do. Well, The Beat Museum and The Contemporary Museum (CJM) did just that. They partnered together to create a walking tour based around the history of the Beat Generation in North Beach, San Francisco, in honor of Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg at the CJM. More than fifty years after On the Road and Howl were published, a large group of people gathered to listen to their stories and to see their historical geography.
We met at Jack Kerouac Alley, outside of City Lights Books and were given handouts created by Kathryn Jaller, (architect of the event) that included maps designed by Brandon (The Beat Museum) and illustrated by Kathryn. We followed Jerry as he guided a group of over 80 people through the crowded streets and alleys of North Beach. He told stories, grand stories of the Beats. Stories that made me shake my head because although I was familiar with the history, there is an art to storytelling, and Jerry is an artist.
The Marketing Department, minus our Director, took some portraits on Gibb Street, home of the former Bell Hotel, where Kerouac often stayed.
Jerry carefully curated the walk to give us great stories and beautiful photo opportunities.
After that was a quick question and answer session with Jerry and this humble narrator.
Jerry studied history in college and discovered the Beats a week after his graduation. He had a successful career in the corporate world for many years. But something was missing and so he decided to found The Beat Museum with his wife’s support. His love of history, American history precisely, provides him with a new point of entry for Beat history. His sense of humor creates a new perspective to the Beat stories. His authenticity has allowed him to form friendships with so many people in and involved with the Beat Generation. He is the perfect source for all things Beat.
Being a book nerd is great; books take you to places and times you cannot experience. But sometimes, they keep you indoors, solitary, and quiet. So it’s great when books bring you outside of your home and into the world. This walk, which ended up with around 90 people, was generated through literature. Ginsberg and Kerouac’s writing created a community of people years after their works were published. And this particular subset community interacted with one another, which as Jerry pointed out, the Beats encouraged. And that’s what’s so amazing about the Beats, they continue to inspire us to try new things and get out of our heads and enter the world.
For more on Jerry Cimino and the history of The Beat Museum, check out the CJM blog later this week.
While this tour was created specifically for the CJM’s Photowalk, The Beat Museum offers tours every Saturday and Sunday which can be tailored to fit your needs. Check out The Beat Museum and go on a tour.