I have to be honest. Before moving to Florida in 2013, I have never heard of Jack Kerouac nor any of his work.
When I learned that the author once lived in a house only less than 30 minutes from me, I became more curious about visiting it, especially since it’s a historical landmark.
Then I heard about a nonprofit that offers authors residencies at Kerouac’s former Orlando home, where he lived 1957-1958 with his mother, at the time his landmark novel “On the Road” was published and where he wrote “The Dharma Bums.”
For a long time I intended to visit the house, at 1418 Clouser Ave., Orlando, FL, when they had either the welcome potluck for the new writer-in-residence or the author’s farewell reading that comes a few months later.
(Note: There’s another Florida house Kerouac lived in, in St. Petersburg, FL. He died in that city in 1969 at 47 years of age).
I finally had the opportunity to go to an event on Saturday, November 17, for the farewell reading of Ellie Matthews.
It’s one thing to roam the halls of a historical or literary figure’s house. Many times, homes once belonging to such persons have been converted into museums, with their artifacts on display and signs saying not to touch them.
However, it’s another thing to sit in a chair of a literary legend, place my fingertips on his typewriter, and skim the manuscript for “The Dharma Bums” — all which I and anyone else could do at 1418 Clouser Ave. I have to note that the manuscript is a photocopy with a binding spine keeping the pages together, not the original version.
To be able to touch Kerouac’s belongings was a pretty surreal experience.
I was told there will be a welcome potluck for the new writer-in-residence Saturday, December 8, at the Orlando house starting at 7:30 p.m. To get an update on this and future events, visit the Kerouac Project of Orlando Facebook page.