Downtown Northport, Long Island, just a week ago. Gunther’s Tap Room, Jack Kerouac’s famous watering hole, burned down not too long ago (and Pete Gunther, the bartender who served him, died suddenly too). Gunther told me in an interview that Ti Jean once paid his tab with an autographed copy of Tristessa, his 1960 novella about his Mexico City junkie girlfriend, which Gunther attempted to read and then quickly discarded, perhaps to the trash. While Kerouac and his bartender are both now gone, someone has affixed Jack’s ghostly image to the bar, anticipating his inevitable future Christ-like return.
Kerouac’s mother Gabrielle owned a home in Northport in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The town is referenced in his 1962 novel Big Sur (page 5, “so I had sneaked into San Francisco as I say, coming 3000 miles from my home in Long Island (Northport) in a pleasant roomette on the California Zephyr train watching America roll by …”) The writer complained about beatnik wannabes climbing over the backyard fence. This was a good two and a half decades before I started school at Saint Philip Neri, just up the hill from Gunther’s on Main Street, unaware of the drunken literary great who had walked its ways.