Posted by Kelli Joan Bennett
Day 204. The prose in On The Road The Original Scroll is intense. It comes at you in long, endless sentences not unlike open highway. It rarely catches its breath. Neal Cassady exhausts me with his restless energy, his incessant movement, his utter lack of grounding. Jack’s devotion to Neal and going mad and getting his kicks back and forth across the country driven by a seemingly inexhaustible urge to find what he’s looking for yet having no idea what he’s forgotten drives me mad. It also makes me nostalgic for the decade I was on the road searching literally and figuratively—in my 20s—first from Missouri to California then regular road trips all over the state—Frisco of course, Vegas all the time. I prefer planes to automobiles these days. You get where you’re headed so much quicker. Did I find what I was looking for or did I just grow tired of the quest?
The thing I marvel at the most is how in love with the land Jack is—He’s in love with America. His descriptions of the heartland and the mighty Mississippi contain the awe of a young child seeing something for the first time. He talks of Iowa and raves about the beauty and power and the history it holds.
“Iowa! … And here for the first time in my life I saw my beloved Mississippi River—dry in the summer haze, low-water, with its big rank smell that smells like the raw body of America itself because it washes it up. …It was beautiful here.”
I’m not sure I ever looked at my home state—Missouri just below Iowa—in that way. Maybe when you’re from somewhere you tend to long to experience and be somewhere else? Jack, who at the start of the book lives in New York City—one of the most incredible places on earth—certainly does. “…I’ve always dreamed of going west, seeing the country…” I know I did. As a little girl growing up on a farm in a small town I couldn’t wait to get to the big city—where life really happened or so I thought. I craved people and concrete and adventure. I wanted to see the world. It’s amazing to me that someone could possibly consider the Iowa countryside a part of a bigger world than theirs. What an amazing eye opener this book is for me! I need to look closer next time I’m back in Missouri or Iowa or anywhere for that matter—and really see the beauty, the history, the life and appreciate it with a sense of awe.
“And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach and which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the Angels dove off and flew into infinity. This was the state of my mind. I thought I was going to die the very next moment.”
Stranded in Frisco, going from ecstasy to death, I put the book down. I have to get off the road. The journey is just too much to take. I have 118 more pages to travel. I hope to finish the trip in the morning.
Until tomorrow, create from what you have…roads to travel.