I fought with myself for several days and then I figured, why not, because if it worked so well for Jack Kerouac, it just might work for me because I’m from Lowell, too, and even though I consider Kerouac’s writings the ramblings of a drunken bum, he must have done something right, because he’s held in such high regard by the literazzi not only here in Lowell but across the country, and indeed, around the world and I’m desperately trying to find his secret because I’d like to be held in high esteem some day, too, and have an entire department at UMass Lowell devoted to the study of my “work,” and somebody like Paul Marion, not Paul Marion himself, but somebody like him, could be the resident Shaughnessey scholar and I would write a 120-foot scroll without punctuation except for commas and it would be encased in glass, but instead of calling it On The Road To Lowell, I’d call it Into The Sun In Lowell, and people from all over the world would flock to see it even though they couldn’t touch it or barely read it because scholars would be poring over it with a magnifying glass to catch every cursive nuance that I have penned while crossing the country in the back of somebody’s car or on a train or a bus, drinking cheap hobo wine and popping pills and I’d have people like David Amram, not David Amram himself, but people like him, who would write songs about me and have concerts in my honor, only I think I’d like them to do this while I was still alive and not posthumously so I could enjoy it with my wife and children and grandchildren who would still be very close to me and very much a part of my life, unlike Jack, whose home life was never stable and who was married three times but I guess that’s all part of being a prolific writer because you have to experience pain and inner torment and true angst firsthand in order to write the kind of free-form prose that came out of Kerouac’s head, as in, for example, The Vanity of Duluoz, when he writes, “All right, my wifey, maybe I’m a big pain in the you-know-what but after I’ve given you a recitation of the troubles I had to go through to make good in America between 1935 and more or less now, 1967, and although I also know everyone else in the world’s had his own troubles, you’ll understand that my particular form of anguish came from being too sensitive to all the lunkheads I had to deal with just so I could get to be a high school football star, a college student pouring coffee and washing dishes and scrimmaging till dark and reading Homer’s Iliad in three days all at the same time and a W R I T E R whose very “success” far from being a happy triumph as of old was a sign of DOOM himself,” and it goes on and on but I think you get the idea that Kerouac didn’t really like working within the constraints by which the rest of us mere mortals must abide, you know, a beginning, middle and end of a story and that he didn’t spend much time editing and rewriting but his writing was spontaneous and disconnected and we hail him today as a genius of some sort when in fact, he is a tragic figure who squandered what little talent he had in exchange for Benzedrine and booze, and wrote incoherent passages that he called Scripture and were it not for the fact that he was born in Lowell and buried in Lowell, even though he spent little of his adult life here, we would dismiss him as a non-entity whose work cannot be taken seriously, and is, in fact, laughable, and of which the late Truman Capote said, “That’s not writing, it’s typing,” but we have placed this degenerate on a literary pedestal, someone to be honored and admired, an example for would-be writers who want to “think outside the box,” “color outside the lines” and break new ground, but who, when all is said and done, was just a Dharma Bum. Period.

Dennis Shaughnessey can be contacted at dshaughnessey@lowellsun.com.