Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kerouac's Mattapan

Jack Kerouac spent a week in Boston in April of 1967. Naturally, he made his way to Mattapan, taking the Red Line with a bottle of his favorite cheap tokay in his pocket. It was dusk and he was making time with Rosemarie Pontchartrain behind the Sunny Cigar Store. Their business concluded, Miss Pontchartrain headed to the supermarket Market off River Road. Kerouac headed the opposite direction. He was rounding the corner onto Blue Hill Avenue adjusting his zipper (of his jacket) when he bumped into a charismatic fellow.

Bleary eyed and slurry, Kerouac begged the gentleman's pardon. The stranger said it was no problem and headed past Kerouac. Kerouac called after him, saying there was no one in the direction in which this man was heading. The man, who had a jacket slung over his shoulder and was wearing a rumpled suit with his tie outside his suit jacket, replied that he was visiting constiuents.

"Constiuents, you say?" Kerouac slurred. "What kind of man are you?" The gentleman returned to Kerouac's location and introduced himself. He was none other than Kevin Hagan White, Mayor of Boston, "The People's Mayor." The two exchanged a firm, hearty handshake.

Latter-day beatniks along the lines of Maynard Krebs still visit the Sunny Cigar Shop at 1635 Blue Hill Avenue. The establishment is a kind of local pilgrimage for college students who have fallen under the spell of this American master of letters (Kerouac, not White). What was true in 1967 is true today. You never know who'll bump into in Mattapan.

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