I’m reading On The Road, the original scroll.
Of course mine doesn’t look like that, it’s a book and not so biblical, however you can’t avoid the imagery of the ongoing block of endless writing. In my mind the scroll was one continuous piece of paper, obviously however it is each piece of paper being taped together as it was written. A note of comfort, there is punctuation.
It’s not my first rodeo with this book, although this is a different book to the one I read in the dim and distant past, this is the book that became Visions of Cody eventually. I’ll get to re-reading the originally published version when I am done. Currently I am in Bakersfield with Bea and Jack heading out to New York from L.A. Chino’s and work shirts and pretty Mexican girls listening to be-bop and drinking pints of whiskey.
I have driven I5 to L.A. twice, once as newly weds raging our way south from Portland after the wedding, sleeping in cheap motels and drinking Budweiser in the afternoons watching the sunsets. The joys of the intimacy of the road trip, the music, reading aloud from books, stopping at that weird looking shack at the side of the road to eat. Creating memories, heading out into Joshua Tree with a gallon of water, some chips, sunscreen and two sleeping bags. Watching the world turn around us as we were the center of the universe.
Stopping at Disney to laugh at the pirates and Goofy, meeting Andy who had lost his shoes and his sanity somewhere at the Whiskey on Wednesday night. This was a long way from Wood Street and the Freewhelers. He was wearing jeans, a vest and the huarache’s he had bought as replacement for his hi-tops, totally unprepared, dehydrated with a stare into the middle distance. His long red hair in a pony tail as he tried to make sense of the insanity he had fallen into. And then the laughing as we drove out to Palm Springs in the middle of the night to crash at the Roman themed vacation home we had been gifted along with pool boy and maid and the ever full drinks cabinet. Floating in the pool during a thunderstorm and watching the lightning set fire to the palm trees as the Byrds Greatest Hits Vol II played out of the artfully disguised underwater speakers. We were insane, two boys from Liverpool and the girl from Oregon laughing as we drank and ate and shouted at the lighting as McGuinn captured his Chestnut Mare. We new it had to end, Andy was jumping a plane back to Liverpool and we were driving the 1000 miles back to Portland and then the flight home.
Later with two children and two parents to the horrors of Disney and the joys of Legoland. Sleeping in overpriced hotels and finding, “family” restaurants to eat in, the tensions of riding together for hours in a vehicle all of us on top of each other endless straight lines between stops and then the stops were not what you wanted. Staying in the fortress of a house in L.A gifted to us. Concrete and heat and staying indoors as it was too hot outside to breathe. The silences as we drove on and on endlessly. 24 hours doesn’t seem too far until you have to drive it, never enough leg room and hardly enough space for suitcases, wishing we had flown, late night truck stops and endless white lines. A different insanity, pose for a picture, smile for the camera eat that hamburger.
At one point we sat on a bench in front of the Best Western and wondered what had happened. Holding hands as we watched the trucks and cars pass. The constant hum of traffic and the neon lights blocking out the stars. We were heading north and you can drive I5 for 24 hours or head out on 101 for four or five days. Shit my parents had no idea where they were so what the hell.
Pulling out of the Best Western heading north we took a left just as the Byrds Greatest Hits Vol II started.
“The river flows, it flows to the sea
Wherever that river goes that’s where I want to be
Flow river flow, let your waters wash down
Take me from this road to some other town”
Heading north on 101, stopping in San Francisco and hugging the coast it’s only 200 more miles but its a slow road that makes you talk and laugh and sing. Stopping at those funky diners, watching the wales and dragging your feet through the sand every couple of hours so the boys don’t go crazy. Suddenly we were reading aloud in the car and laughing, my Mum sang those songs I remembered as a child and my Dad snored his way north, a weight was lifted and L.A. and Disney was forgotten as we watched the waves and smelled the salt air. Hitting the Redwoods we were dwarfed by nature and it’s bounty and suddenly those irritations as we set out were insignificant and in the past. The end of the road was more satisfying than the beginning and it was a jolly rolling van that pulled into the driveway at the end of the road rather than a van full of malcontents.
6 thoughts on “one of America’s great national pastimes…”
Love the 101. Thanks for this one.
Terrific piece. About to go on a long car trip. Might pack ‘On the road’. Or perhaps settle for Canned Heat.
Well both would make for good company.
Loved this. This book changed me at 18, I have a big poster of the original cover in my front room.
Been ages since I read this (I was always more of a Dharma Bums guy), so I’ll dig out my copy and see if it hits me. Fantastic writig in this one. Just beautiful.
Thanks, I have never bought into the whole Kerouac thing too much, I really enjoyed the scroll and City and the City has always been a good read.