As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin’ man,
I have chalked up many a mile.
Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks,
And I’ve learned much from both of their styles.
Son of a Son of a Sailor
Though Jack Kerouac had been dead 25 years the year I graduated from college I still took him on the road with me. My goal after graduating from film school in L.A. was just to meander across the country and take it in all by myself. It was 1984 and while I was not necessarily going into the final frontier, there was an unknown factor in a day before the world was flooded with cable TV, VHS/DVD players, cell phones, and the Internet.
I had a truck, a tent & sleeping bag, a camera, ample Jimmy Buffett cassettes and a few books including Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the Bible and Kerouac’s On the Road. Though I don’t recall taking much time to read as I spent six weeks finding my way to Florida via Montana, and then back to California via a different route. But those books and music were inspiration to take in the land.
As a kid I had only been to three states in my life by the time I’d graduated from high school. Perhaps not traveling much in those earlier years fueled my desire to some day see all 50 states. But equally influential were writers who wrote about being strangers in a strange land. Words do have a way of transporting us, and at least for me I wanted to experience the land with my own eyes.
Eventually, I traveled to all 50 states over various trips over a couple decades. There is no real way to quantify any of those trips I’ve taken over the years, but I will say it has deepened my love for the land and for people. And I won’t be the first to point out that while we are now more connected than ever, we are also more disconnected than ever.
Having visited the house Kerouac lived in Orlando for a brief time has conjured up some memories so I thought I’d throw your way a well-known excerpt from On the Road to inspire you on your own journey.(And don’t ask me what it means. Kerouac was a poet and whatever alcohol/Catholic/Buddhist influence he was under at the time is beyond me. I only sense that he was searching for truth and meaning.)
“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and There all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old…”
On the Road
There is a great big world out there full of stories that need to told. Best wishes to all of you out there writing those stories—be they screenplays, novels, short stories, poems, plays or essays.