Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘On the Road’

Greetings from Artesia, folk art on the roadside in
southeastern NM town of Artesia,  November 2008,
photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.












folks in artesia
so friendly they’ll fall over
to lend you a hand















Postscript: Artesia, NM, a town named for the Artesian wells found at the turn of the 20th century, is, oddly enough, an oil and gas town today. Driving in from the north, you’re greeted by the sight of a huge blackened oil refinery, its tall stacks discharging clouds of steam. The air has a headache-inducing odor of natural gas, and if you ask locals how they manage to live with it, they’re likely to say, “Oh that? That’s the smell of money.”

But there is also a part of Artesia that looks and feels like 1950 small-town America. Brick department stores whose signs remind you of driving to Fedways downtown with your mom (before Fedways became Dillards), and a sense that time stopped.

One of my dearest friends is from Artesia, and I can tell you that there’s a lot of goodness in this place. Generosity is produced here.


-related to posts PRACTICE: Roadside Attractions – 15min, WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, and haiku 2 (one-a-day).

Read Full Post »

It’s warm outside, the kind of day I can imagine getting into a car, our bags packed in the back, and setting out on the road. A bit of a breeze in the air, wind is never fun when you’re driving the highway, but the temperature’s just right.

Jim and I get into air-conditioner fights on the road. He’ll turn the fan on high, and I’ll point all my vents toward him, close the one on the far right, so that even he gets chilled enough to turn the thing down. I can withstand heat in a car, will in the winter sometimes sit in the driveway listening to the radio and absorbing the sun trapped inside.

Last road trip we went on was to Carlsbad, Thanksgiving weekend. We stopped at the UFO Museum in Roswell, walked up and down Main Street, pointed out all the big-headed, big-eyed creatures that adorned almost every storefront, except for the Mexican panadería where we bought pan dulce for the last leg of the trip.

At the bottom of the road winding up to Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, there’s the completely abandoned White City. That was once one giant Roadside Attraction, an Old West movie-set-looking place. It had a saloon made of wooden slats, complete with swinging doors, and a series of white adobe casitas, which is where workers used to live.

White City went on the market last July, I think, and I’m trying to remember if we found out who’d bought the place or whether it was still for sale. It must have been a popular destination decades ago, or so the series of weathered billboards on the highway wanted you to believe. Best food around! Cheap gifts!

I can’t imagine anything thriving there now, especially not a junky souvenir shop. Seems the gift shop and restaurant at the National Monument visitor center satisfy most tourist needs, and once you finish winding through those gentle Guadalupe Mountains and finally hit the bland highway back to Carlsbad, you’re kind of happy to be back in the privacy of your own car.

On the drive back to Albuquerque Jim noticed a piece of art, if you can call it that, parked on the shoulder of the road outside Artesia. There was an old RV, on its roof a male mannequin, falling head over heels as he helped a female mannequin up the RV’s metal ladder. We pulled over, snapped a shot, then sped away before the owners of the house came out to see what we were up to.

It seems people still get into the act of entertaining road weary travelers. Some don’t even try to make a dime from it, although I think the main reason Dad never stopped at Roadside Attractions was because we’d all end up wanting to buy something like tumbled rocks in a little fake suede pouch or Mexican jumping beans. I don’t think we ever stopped at the teepees outside of Holbrook, Arizona, the old Wigwam Motel. They had rattlesnake eggs, you can still turn ’round and see ’em, I remember passing the last sign and feeling like we’d lost our chance forever.

We did stop at Stuckey’s, got a box of peanut brittle with the purchase of a tank of gas. My whole family loved peanut brittle. It was long gone by the time we got to California.




-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Read Full Post »

        On The Road, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

On The Road, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


In September 2007, I finished reading On The Road. It was the day the book turned 50. I have this thing for Kerouac. I consider him the James Dean of writers. I guess I’m easily swayed by myth.

On The Road didn’t sweep me off my feet like James Baldwin’s Another Country or Giovanni’s Room. And it wasn’t understated and elegant like John Williams and Stoner. The book dragged in places. The relationships were passionate but doomed. And I couldn’t understand why Sal clung to the inconsiderate, egotistical Dean like the stabilizing, wagging tail of a kite.

The story didn’t find ground for me until I found myself sweeping across the yellow prairies of Nebraska, pounding through the arid, western Colorado desert, and driving over the mountainous Continental Divide. I like Kerouac because he was a boundary buster. He helped other boundary busters – the artists, writers, poets, and musicians of his time – find their voices. He changed the definition of writer.

There has been a lot of hoopla over On The Road in the last year. Primarily because the 120-foot, $2.4 million dollar scroll he wrote it on (over 20 days in April of 1951) is touring the country. But Jack didn’t write On The Road in 3 weeks. He’d been gathering, composting, scribbling in a pocket notebook, and dreaming about it for years. He was a disciplined writer who sat down between travels and wrote with a vengeance. He had been living this story a long, long time.

On the eve of the book’s publication, Kerouac was so poor he had to borrow money for a bus ticket to New York from Joyce Johnson, his girlfriend at the time. When the book became famous, he’d been done with it for several years. And after he hit it big, Johnson recalls mobs around him at parties: “Women wanted him to make love to them and all the men wanted to fight him.”


         Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.     Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.     Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.     Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

One of the best Kerouac accounts I’ve seen is the Audrey Sprenger interview by Jeffrey Brown that aired on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, September 5th, 2007. Sprenger takes an honest look at Kerouac, beyond the myth, to see the writer as he was:

I think the continuing popularity of the book stems from the fact that Jack Kerouac was brave enough to defy social convention and comfort to do quite a radical thing, which was to simply be in the world and write about it. He was a deeply, deeply disciplined writer who was committed to documenting America every day as it was lived by people, and I think that he really captured the ways that people lived and spoke. And that is what he was committed to as an artist, trying to develop a new way of American writing which would be evocative of how people actually lived, whether or not it followed the rules of grammar or literary convention.

  -Audrey Sprenger, Sociologist, interview from On The Road, Kerouac’s 50th Anniversary Celebrated

Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.   Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.   Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.   Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

Kerouac died young, in 1969, at age 47. Was it alcohol, stress, Benzedrine, fame? Perhaps a deadly combination. We may never know. But On the Road continues to sell over 100,000 copies every year. I count myself among the minions.

Not all reviews are favorable. Suzanne Vega wasn’t a big Kerouac fan even after her Book Of Dreams. Herbert Gold didn’t give On The Road a good review at its release in 1957. But I tend to fall in the same camp as Kerouac scholar Douglas Brinkley, and can get behind what he says in a 2002 NPR article by Renee Montagne, Kerouac’s On The Road:


If you read On the Road, it’s a valentine to the United States. All this is pure poetry for almost a boy’s love for his country that’s just gushing in its adjectives and descriptions. You know, Kerouac used to say, ‘Anybody can make Paris holy, but I can make Topeka holy.’

I’m saving the best for last. Like the writers before him, Kerouac wrote haiku. He loved to do readings in Jazz clubs in New York. You can hear him recite Some American Haikus (a few of my favorites: the bottoms of my shoes, nightfall, in the morning frost) and read the history of his recorded haiku at Kerouac Speaks. It’s a gift to hear a writer step inside his own voice.

Jack Kerouac, On The Road, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved. 

After decades of never making it past the first few chapters, I’ve finally completed On The Road. And discovered Kerouac’s haiku in the process. It only took me 30 years. Who knows what my blocks were to reading it. Every book has its time.





I’ll end with an excerpt from Part III:


In the spring of 1949 I had a few dollars saved from my GI education checks and I went to Denver, thinking of settling down there. I saw myself in Middle America, a patriarch. I was lonesome. Nobody was there – no Babe Rawlins, Ray Rawlins, Tim Gray, Betty Gray, Roland Major, Dean Moriarty, Carlo Marx, Ed Dunkel, Roy Johnson, Tommy Snark, nobody.

I wandered around Curtis Street and Larimer Street, worked a while in the wholesale fruit market where I almost got hired in 1947 – the hardest job of my life; at one point the Japanese kids and I had to move a whole boxcar a hundred feet down the rail by hand with a jackgadget that made it move a quarter-inch with each yank. I hugged watermelon crates over the ice floor of reefers into the blazing sun, sneezing. In God’s name and under the stars, what for?

At dusk I walked. I felt like a speck on the surface of the sad red earth. I passed the Windsor Hotel, where Dean Moriarty had lived with his father in the depression thirties, and as of yore I looked everywhere for the sad and fabled tinsmith of my mind. Either you find someone who looks like your father in places like Montana or you look for a friend’s father where he is no more.

    –On The Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, November 29th, 2007

-related to post, Kerouac Goes To War

Read Full Post »

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.


2
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

Read Full Post »

I was listening to NPR early Saturday morning on the way to a meeting. The journalist was interviewing a soldier from Wisconsin who had been shipped to Iraq for another tour of duty. In his cache, the soldier had illegally stashed a stack of books, including a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. He said he had read it as a young man and it inspired him.

Thinking he would get in trouble if anyone discovered his bivouac library, the soldier seemed pleasantly surprised when his superior was happy he had packed the literature. They now regularly swap books.

At the end of the interview, the journalist asked the Wisconsin soldier how he reconciled reading On the Road in the middle of a raging war with the Beat Generation’s anti-war sentiments. The soldier responded, “War is hell. But I’m a soldier and this is my job. It’s what I signed up for. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

When I got home last night, there was a program on PBS about the Blue Star Mothers of Minnesota. The Blue Star Mothers of America, an organization that originated in 1942 in Flint, Michigan, is a support group of mostly women whose sons and daughters have gone to war. If their children don’t come home, they become Gold Star Mothers. No mother ever wants to become a Gold Star Mother.

I watched with sad tenderness as these strong women told their stories. It reminded me of when I was about 12 or 13 and the 22-year-old boy, James, who had just married my young Aunt Emmalyne, was killed in Vietnam only months after he’d left South Carolina for the front lines. She was pregnant with a child that would never see his father. The impact on our family was immediate and devastating.

I later lost contact with my Aunt after we moved to the North. But in my 30’s, I happened to be in Washington, D.C. when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Maya Ying Lin, was dedicated. There were veterans milling around everywhere – some decorated and in wheel chairs, some in civilian clothes, most in fatigues strolling the grounds solemn and teary eyed. It was a rainy afternoon. When you walk in the mist, you get wet.

I walked the 246 feet of black granite until I found my Uncle’s name. Then I reached up on tiptoes, placed the rectangular paper over the 9 letters, and rubbed a graphite pencil across the granite. After I was done, I placed a red rose at the base. It was very powerful. The paper is tucked away with my keepsakes.

War is a horrible thing. And families are stuck in the middle. How do they keep supporting their sons, daughters, husbands, and wives in the face of the adversity, deceit, and media spin that flies at them every day?

In Taos last year, a woman in the writing retreat wrote about her two sons preparing to go off to Iraq. I think that’s when I started to see how none of this is black and white. From an emotional perspective, there are no winners. There are losses. And more losses.

I don’t support this war. I don’t support any kind of war. I believe in working toward peaceful solutions. But I do have a new empathy for families and friends who go off to fight for what they believe are the right reasons – individual freedoms. And I support every person on this planet being able to celebrate the richness and freedoms I wake up with every morning. I take them for granted. I don’t want to do that anymore.

I want to remember my Uncle James and every sentient being who has ever perished in war. My way of doing that is to write. And I know of at least two soldiers who are reading another writer, Jack Kerouac, in their downtime in Iraq as a way to lift their spirits. So this is for them.

 

BELIEF & TECHNIQUE FOR MODERN PROSE
Jack Kerouac

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven


Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Read Full Post »