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Kerouac's On the Road

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On the Road just gave me the itch. The itch to abandon the glum and ho-hum life set before you for a life on the road, tackling the wondrous world and getting your kicks. I believe Kerouac would agree that being on the road is more about being a madman for your dreams than actually hitchhiking your way to Frisco and back just to hear some maniacal pianist shake and quiver as he pounds the keys into sawdust in a broken down saloon off Market Street. It’s the itch that drives you to seek out and experiment and explore whether it’s that wide crazy world around you or just those thick books written by Wolfe and Hemingway you’ve got but never had the courage to tackle.

Kerouac and his road buds rode up and down the Eastern Seaboard, through the Midwest and California to escape the whole dull life that had been put in front of them. Jack and Dean and Carlo Marx just wanted to feel the beat, that jazz they loved so much and the road beneath them. The crazy wild-eyed excitement, the raging energy of Dean Moriarty, tears at your soul and makes you want to be like him ⎯ even though he’s one tragic cat. Maybe you don’t want to find yourself still on the road when you’re forty-five ⎯ dying of alcoholism ⎯ but you never want to lose that mad-eyed fervor you felt way back when.

I can see a life ahead of me. One Kerouac would have been proud of. I can see myself in the back of that old Greyhound bus coming out of Port Authority. I’ve got my beaten battered copy of On the Road in one hand, a one-way ticket in the other. I can see the Hudson River lit by a sad orange dusk out of the corner of my eye ⎯ it flows polluted, the water swelling and shrinking like the crescendos and decrescendos of some lost jazz musician’s trumpet singing sweet “EE-yah”s and “EEE-de-lee-yah”s into the hollowed out subways. The bus grumbles varoom and roars out into the deep dark highway, bound for ole Chicago, the dividing point of East and West, my past and future. But then if I followed that road I wouldn’t be myself, just another Kerouac wannabe, wishing I were growing up with those young Beats. ⎯ So I guess I’ll just have to take in Kerouac’s uncontrollable passionate soul and leave out the hitchhike to Frisco, the ragged clothes and nights spent in the back of a flatbed staring up at the big skies of Wyoming.

As Kerouac hooted ⎯his eyes nearly popping out of their sockets⎯ in the midst of one of his mad conversations with Carlo Marx, “I had nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.” I could tell you that Jack was right but it wouldn’t matter. Kerouac’s confusion is a beautiful confusion that in its own chaotic way gives you the clarity to do things you never thought possible. One day, I will find myself looking out into that deep dark highway ⎯ that endless stretch blanketed by the shadowy unknown ⎯ I’ll carry my copy of On the Road like a bible and I will know that Kerouac gave me the feverish energy to keep traveling out through the night. On the Road is more than a book to me ⎯ it’s a muse.





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