Thursday, September 06, 2007

"On the Road" Turns 50 Today

I didn't read "On the Road" until I had already become a bit of a bohemian road bum myself. I probably read the book as an undergraduate, around about 1978 or so, just a little over 20 years after it first appeared. Now, the book is turning 50, and it is apparently still going strong. I remember the copy I had and may still have somewhere: the mass market paperback with the blazing sun on the mostly orange cover.

In a few months, I'll be turning 50, but I don't feel 50, not by a long shot. I've never been married, chose early on not to have kids, and I'm just not invested in the conventional culture like so many people my age. All of these things, and an ongoing hunger for wandering, meandering road trips have kept me young for my age, if not in every way "young at heart."

What does that mean, "young at heart"? It means showing some stubborn adolescent streaks. It means not "settling down." It means hungering openly for ideals and experiences and tastes and taboos and satisfactions. The irony is, then, that some of the classic satisfactions escape us or do us little good. Some friends of mine have encouraged me to stay unfettered, free, loose, uninhibited, non-committal, saying the world needs more of us, that there are plenty of conventional, settled down people already raising families and keeping the juggernauts of normalcy running at near full capacity.

Jack Kerouac was indeed young at heart. He never let go of a particularly boyish adolescence. Even in his last years, he oogled girls like a horny and clumsy 19 year old, and he wrote like he was fondling his own friends or his own romantic blue id. He put it all out there, and some of us still envy him that, even if in so many ways he seemed immature. Oh, to be immature and write a masterpiece, a CLASSIC! Oh to be a sufferer of mad joy and to feel so much. And so that is the crux of being young at heart: feeling the flowing juices of passion and the rhythms of music and the love of life, however bittersweet but never bland, and for the lucky few, getting it all or even just some of it down on the page.


At 9/11/2007 11:55 AM, Anonymous LYONSPOTTER said...

After all the time that has passed since 911, things can get distorted and out of perspective. So on a day like this, 6 years to the day of the horrific attacks against the US, we need reminders. We should watch videos like this:

It puts things into the proper perspective.


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