Near the end of the evening, I felt like posting something. I looked at my book case and grabbed Kerouac’s On the Road. I’ve been wanting to read it for years. But there it sits, untouched. Occasionally, I pick the book up and roll the soft cover over in my hands, take my time running through the bio; I never read the book.
Tonight started out the same. I ran across a quote I liked and was going to post. But then something strange happened. I opened the book to a place near the end, the beginning of Part 4, and started to read.
He’s got my attention. I’m listening. And I think I might just finish the book.
“That’s only Ed Dunkle. He came back from Galatea, they’re gone to Denver now. They spent a day taking pictures.”
Ed Dunkle, his compassion unnoticed like the compassion of saints. Dean took out other pictures. I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance. “Good-by, good-by.” Dean walked off in the long red dusk. Locomotives smoked and reeled above him. His shadow followed him, it aped his walk and thoughts and very being. He turned and waved coyly, bashfully. He gave me the boomer’s highball, he jumped up and down, he yelled something I didn’t catch. He ran around in a circle. All the time he came closer to the concrete corner of the railroad overpass. He made one last signal. I waved back. Suddenly he bent to his life and walked quickly out of sight. I gaped into the bleakness of my own days. I had an awful long way to go too.
The following midnight, singing this little song,
Home in Missoula,
Home in Truckee,
Home in Opelousas,
Ain’t no home for me.
Home in old Medora,
Home in Wounded Knee,
Home in Ogallala,
Home I’ll never be,
I took the Washington bus; wasted some time there wandering around; went out of my way to see the Blue Ridge, heard the bird of Shenandoah and visited Stonewall Jackson’s grave; at dusk stood expectorating in the Kanawha River and walked the hillbilly night of Charleston, West Virginia; at midnight Ashland, Kentucky, and a lonely girl under the marquee of a closed-up show. The dark and mysterious Ohio, and Cincinnati at dawn. Then Indiana fields again, and St. Louis as ever in its great valley clouds of afternoon. The muddy cobbles and the Montana logs, the broken steamboats, the ancient signs, the grass and the ropes by the river. The endless poem. By night Missouri, Kansas fields, Kansas night-cows in the secret wides, crackerbox towns with a sea for the end of every street; dawn in Abilene. East Kansas grasses become West Kansas rangelands that climb up to the hill of the Western night.
-excerpt from On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Part Four, end of 1, beginning of 2, p. 254-255, Penguin Books
In my old age, I intend to collect all my work and reinsert my pantheon of uniform names, leave the long shelf full of books there, and die happy.
- Jack Kerouac
Submissive to everything, open, listening.
- Jack Kerouac, from Belief & Technique for Modern Prose
-related to post, Kerouac Goes To War
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007