Off the Road and Into the Past

*This is one article out of a three-part serial, come back next week for part two*

When you give it an honest glance, you will see that most elements of life run cyclically. Fashion comes then it goes, only to come back again.  The weather fluctuates seasonally. Always leaving you with something that you’ve seen before.  Or something that you have forgotten.  A lost mystery of the mind.

Those were all large-scale examples, so let’s deflate towards something more finite.  The wheel.  No matter if secured to a unicycle, bicycle, tricycle, or the good ole fashioned awe-tow-mow-beel; the resemblance is clear.  A rubbery base with pointy black antennas searching for movement of earth, or cracks filled with dirt.  A wheel is a wheel, and each of these rubbery sections has it’s own relationship to the ground.

In the process of propulsion the tire moves up and over, hangs in rarified air, and comes back down to kiss the pavement.  This occurs repeatedly until the journey is complete. Luckily for wheels and passengers, objects eventually cease to move.  All parties return to their eternal nature, their purest form; in alignment with the desires of the seasons.


 

This cyclical nature reminds me of an interesting man who went by the name of Jack Kerouac.  I met him in 2015, the year of his 92nd birthday.  A man 45 years dead.  A death too soon, thanks to the bottle that so many drown in (especially writers).  Luckily, we can still meet those that have passed on, if they were dedicated enough to leave something behind.  At his death Jack had written sixteen novels unpublished novels, and a plethora of other published works, most of which he intended to fit intoThe Duluoz Legend”.

The majority of his work placed Jack himself as the narrator, or as he liked to say, “the watcher”.  In addition to himself all of the other characters were authentic to the events, but the publishers would not allow stories so close to the edge of the current social order to be published in such a way in fear of lawsuit.  This left Jack with volumes of literature and a key of characters that he hoped to align into one long book with the characters names uniform.  In reference to Marcel Proust, the author who recollected his adolescence in aristocratic France by penning In Search of Lost Time, Kerouac said to his editor, ““everything from now on belongs to The Duluoz Legend.  When I’m done, in about 10, 15 years, it will cover all the years of my life, like Proust, but done on the run, a Running Proust.”

Since legends live forever, this leaves us ample time to pick them apart.  Their physical time spent with us often breeds a pause for question and sharp judgment.  Especially when the subject questions the conventional nature of society in its current form.  After their departure, they spread wings that transcend time, as they now speak for all generations.  Through the metaphysical nature of artistic exploration we have been gifted the ability to travel with the great artists of old.  

The iconic book that catapulted Jack into literary immortality was On the Road.  It acted then and now stands as a precursor to and influence of the counterculture revolution of the 1960s.  A group of humans that would rip themselves out and up from under from the belly of white picket fences and the notion of an American Dream.  The dream we were all fed that most now view as an American Nightmare drowning in materialism and expectations of a life promised, attained by some, but ultimately not given.


 

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In February of 2015 and I was preparing for a year out west with the corporation of Americorps.  I told many that I was leaving for California.  This contained elements of truth and deception, it was the short answer that saved me time and energy.  In reality my training would last for three weeks, after which I would be shipped off to a place of mystery among these United States.  A country that I had not yet explored in much depth, but would soon be familiar with.  The remainder of my year ended up including homesteads in New Orleans, Denver, Seattle, New York City, Chicago, and North Carolina.

Every one of these locations matched of settings of Kerouac’s classic novels from Dharma Bums, to Desolation Angels, and the prior mentioned On the Road. I was not sent to them in search of his history,  I was driven by the vehicle of service. My journey being chosen through organizations trading bodies and time.  This exchange resulted in a grand experience that changed my life in many ways.  I found in my experience proof that the wheel does turn in odd ways, and we always come back to where we started.


 

Like so many others have reported, I was off on an adventure fueled by the happenings of On the Road.  With the book in my right hand, and a journal in my left, to which I promised my grandmother I would fill with my experiences, I took off.  At this point I did not consider myself a writer.  It was simply a daily meditation held tight by a dear promise to someone that I love.  This promise stayed true, even after a cleanly shattered back window left my belongings vulnerable on a dark San Francisco street.  It was my first night in the city and I had lost my words, the words I promised to keep.  It was the nail in the coffin of a tiring night, with nowhere to sleep and not much money in my pocket I was almost at my breaking point.

Then I hopped into an Uber where suddenly the vibe had changed.  The music was flowing and the air freshener just right enough to get me to open up about what just happened.  The driver was a smooth guy, and he shared a similar situation he once went through with something personal to him and we both shared one of those moments.  Those moments when the wheels slow down just enough for you to realize to we all breathe the same air and walk on the same ground.  There was a moment of silence, and then this man delivered some advice that I have not forgotten to this day.

 

He said, “maybe whoever took them words off ya just needed ‘em more”.

 

I thought about this in the hotel room that night with my lady, and continued to think about it the next morning, when we walked out into the wild Saturday morning hustle of Frisco.  Streets complete with bongo drummers, crab for sale, and the crisp ocean air blowing from the Golden Gate.  In a time of personal despair I felt like I had found my home.  


 

This was the first of many experiences on a trail of synchronicity.  Jack’s jaunting cross country trips mixed with precisely uncalculated prose filled my brain and caused me to wonder.  Wonder about what I was doing out here in these strange lands, nothing familiar but everything exhilarating.  Prose to me is the raw photograph, the raw words, the raw material frozen in time to be loved by the masses.  Words strung together, every bead hanging doing its own part to shake up traditional conventions.

Hiking through the mystique of Muir Woods up and out of the forest and shooting down towards Stinson Beach. Zigging through the alleys of Chinatown, zagging out into the vibrant darkness of North Beach.  Slowly I began to feel what my eyes saw in the pages of these books.   It was unknowing to me that Kerouac and his band of writer friends known as “The Beat Generation” congregated in this very streets, alleyways, and trails.  Digging the scenery in a lustful way.  A lot has changed since then, but the vibrations still exist.  The ones of inspiration for those literary or for those seeking.  For me it was strange, as I did not know specifically what I was looking for.  I guess it just happens to catch one.

*This is one article out of a three-part serial, come back next week for part two*

 

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