January 06, 2013

I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.

So about three and a half years ago, I started reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac because of one quote I had heard and loved. However, I stopped shortly after the passage appeared, on the fifth page; I didn't think it was interesting. A new movie based on the novel is now out and I thought that maybe I'd give it another chance. I've attached myself to snippets of Kerouac's phrases as pieces of poetry I have let define me (i.e. My life was a vast glowing empty page...) and yet I've never read any of his books. I'm about 30 pages in now and, so far, I love it. Sometimes you pick up a good read at the wrong time. For whatever reason, I couldn't get into it then. And maybe it's where I am now in life, too--a time when the idea of embarking on a free-spirited adventure seems impossible and glorious.

"He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me and I knew it (for room and board and "how-to-write," etc.) and he knew I knew (this has been the basis of our relationship) but I didn't care and we got along fine--no pestering, no catering; we tiptoed around each other like heartbreaking new friends. I began to learn  from him as much as he probably learned from me. As far as my work was concerned, he said, "Go ahead, everything you do is great." He watched over my shoulder as I wrote stories, yelling, "Yes! That's right! Wow! Man!" and "Phew!" and wiped his face with his handkerchief. "Man, wow, there's so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even begin to get it all down and without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears..." (p. 4)

"Dean was wearing a real Western business suit for his big trip back to Denver; he'd finished his first fling in New York. I say fling, but he only worked like a dog in parking lots. The most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world, he can back a car forty miles an hour into a tight spot, hump, snap the car with the emergency so that you see it bounce as he flies out; then clear to the ticket shack, sprinting like a track star, hand a ticket, leap into a newly arrived car before the owner's half out, leap literally under him as he steps out, start the car with the door flapping, and roar off to the next available spot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run; working like that without pause eight hours a night, evening rush hours and after-theater rush hours, in greasy wino pants with a frayed fur-lined jacket and beat shoes that flap." (p. 6)

"I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was--I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that's why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon." (p. 14)

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