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Listening to On The Road…

May 14, 2006

Today is perhaps the last full day I get to spend in my apartment for a while. For the next few, I will be teaching classes in our Netherlands office, as well as in Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, Oslo, Bangkok, back to Singapore, then off to Denver, Seattle, Calgary, and Tucson. In preparation for that long trip, or joined set of three, I am listening to another trip from 60 years ago. A trip taken by Sal Paradise through the US. Its the Matt Dillon recording of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Listening to the story, I wonder how much of it is true, how much is just made up. I wonder because I don’t have the types of experiences that Jack’s characters have. I wonder if this is because I am mostly going for work, or if Sal is just of collection of many people’s experiences. I wonder if a trip like that is possible today, or limited to 1940’s America. It’s interesting listening to the stops he makes as I have seen so many of them. From his start in Patterson and New York City. Up to Bear Mountain to catch the beginning of Route 6. Over to Chicago and Denver. A brief glimpse of Truckee, a place I have spent a bit more time in, particulary dinners at Rosies and the other restaurants nearby. The recording is just getting through Sacramento and on to San Francisco as I write this. So far, the road’s traveled are as much a character as Sal, his friends, and the cities they encounter. The roads like routes 6 and 66 are the parts that are completely foreign to me. When I have seen much of the US, it has been by the major highways that were built a decade after this book, or flying 30,000 feet above. If I have been on ‘the road’ it has been in my own car, not in the borrowed seats of a friendly passer-by. I was always taught that putting my thumb out on the road was a quick way to dying a horrible death. I don’t think that this is making me want to try that mode of transport, but I am longing to see that part of America. The crossing of middle America, and through the small towns forgotten by the major interstates. But such a trip is a little further away from me now that I am living in Europe. Is that trip possible here? Was it done in Kerouac’s time? Is there a ‘On the Road’ of France, or Germany?

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