For Kerouac, Off the Road and Deep Into the Bottle, a Rest Stop on the Long Island Shore

NORTHPORT, N.Y. — The King of the Beats was already a literary celebrity when he moved with his mother, Gabrielle, to this Long Island harbor town in 1958, but the locals remember him mainly as a broke barfly who padded about barefoot or in bedroom slippers.

“He never had any money, so he’d get your ear till you bought him a drink, always Schenley’s whiskey,” Bob Reid, a 69-year-old clammer, recalled of Jack Kerouac’s six years here, much of them spent in Murphy’s, a salty bar overlooking the public dock where the fishermen, lobstermen and clammers would come in still wearing their smelly hip waders.

“He dressed like a bum, wore an old ratty overcoat and always needed a shave,” Mr. Reid added. “We knew he was a writer but we didn’t know he was famous. He never talked about books, maybe because we weren’t exactly a book crowd.”

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