ON THE ROAD ROAD
Yep—I’m not making regular entries and, if you’ve been reading this, you know why.
As most of you know, literate enough to be reading a blog and not listening to some music on it or just wanting to see movin’ pitchurs [sic], this month we been celebrating the 50th year since Jack K’s great book, On The Road, was published in 1957. So I’ve commenced givin’ it my fifth or sixth read in my life, counting in that first read I give it back in my 20s, in the sixties sometime ago. This passage is near the beginning of Jack’s first trip West and it rings two bells with me. The photo below is out of Newsweek.
First, he’s stopped in Des Moines, Iowa to spend a night in a cheap hotel down by the rail yards. Well—I was a child in Des Moines when the Second World War ended. My stepmom, dad and I was living in a motel by a highway and I was out on the grass in front, playing, when all the car horns on the highway started to honking, and I ran in to ask my stepmom what was going on, and she was the one to tell me that the war was over. I must’ve been about eight years old I guess.
But more interesting to me is Jack’s state of mind in the following passage. I’ve experienced the same feeling more than once, and I know I’ve got friends that have also. And some who still do too. Most recently for me was just in the past few months. In Jack’s case, it’s cause he’s halfway between psychic places in himself. For me, the same. I’m still adjusting to this move from Spokane to Vancouver after 31 years in Spokane. And just two weeks ago, I had this feeling that I no longer knew who I was. Who am I here in Vancouver, all my friends back in Spokane, what’s left of family in Dayton, Ohio or down in Florida? Me being the oldest still alive in my family, the oldest of all the cousins, me next to step off the diving board into permanent unconsciousness. Also I’ve given up AA and Codependents Anonymous because my spiritual program just isn’t spiritual enough to fit anymore. So for the briefest of moments, I shared Jack’s feeling in the following paragraph. When I was adrift, I often didn’t know what I was feeling when I felt this stuff. This time, I wasn’t so shook up, and I realized that I had to get busy getting myself involved back into my life. So I’ve started writing a novel. That’s familiar. And working on poetry, also familiar. Then I’ve gone and joined the Portland area Humanists so I got a place to go have lunch with people I feel comfortable around on Sundays, and, soon, I think I’ll become a volunteer with the Vancouver library system, also familiar, as I was a friend of the library back in Spokane.
Anyhow, here’s Jack’s take on that certain feeling.
“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 half¬way 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.” —Jack K.
PS: When you realize how often Jack went back and forth, he was always between one future and another, East or West, during his lifetime. He died in the same city my birth mother died in, St. Petersburg, Florida, of alcoholism. Like so many of my favorite authors.