Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · On the road, revisited
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On the road, revisited

Robert Downes - July 26th, 2007
On the Road, Revisited
I’m always amazed by how many high school and college students have read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. The rambling, stream-of-consciousness book celebrates its 50th anniversary this September.
Of course, these young people tend to be those who enjoyed studying literature in school. But still, it seems pretty cool that “On the Road” still has some legs 50 years after it was written.
I read “On the Road” three times at a similar age, from 17 to 19, and couldn’t make a lick of sense of it. It’s America’s version of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is a completely unreadable book about a single day’s events in Dublin.
“On the Road” is much the same. It’s basically an autobiography of Jack Kerouac’s seven years of bumming around America in the 1940s in search of a new “hip” way of life, inspired by poetry, jazz, drugs, casual sex, and living rough on the streets.
Give it credit, the book provided a sequel to the ending of “Huckleberry Finn,” with its impulse to head west into the great unknown of America’s underground. It spurred a generation of young Americans to take up the travel lifestyle. God knows how many copies of “On the Road” are floating around Afghanistan today, left there 40 years ago by idealistic young American backpackers following the “Hippie Trail” to India.
Practically everyone has heard of “On the Road,” yet I imagine that few have had the fortitude to wade through its dense, ricochetting prose, which was meant to copy the be-bop rhythms of jazz. So here’s the gist of it -- the Cliff Sticky Notes version, if you will.
The book’s narrator is Sal Paradise (a stand-in for Kerouac), who worships Dean Moriarty. “Dean” is the real-life Neal Cassady, whose sex & drugs exploits with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and the hippies were further chronicled in “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe. Another character is Carlo Marx, a pseudonym for the poet Allen Ginsberg. Famous beatniks, writers and poets are sprinkled throughout the book under other guises.
Sal Paradise worships Dean Moriarty because this “son of a wino” and “sideburned hero of the snowy West“ is a modern-day outlaw, living outside the “square” world. “Dean set a Denver record for stealing cars, gunning for girls coming out of high school in the afternoon, driving them out to the mountains, making them, and coming back to sleep in any available hotel bathtub in town,” Kerouac writes.
Dean spends most of the book trying to nail high school girls as he rambles around the country, stealing cars and surviving on petty theft and crappy day jobs. He speaks a form of hipstereze along the lines of “Dig it, daddy-o,” that seems corny today.
He and Sal bounce from one sordid situation to another, trying to break free of the uptight side of America while exploring the hipster underground occupied by cool “spades,” jazz musicians and Mexicans. They are the prototypical beatniks, and out of their writings and experience comes the Beat Generation, which in turn, played midwife to the Swinging Sixties.
It’s an odd book, because although he was married a couple of times, Kerouac and his pals were notoriously bisexual, or gay in Ginsberg’s case. Yet much of the book is about their burning lust for “making” chicks. Yet, the unspoken subtext of the book is that Sal is in love with Dean. The result is a psychosexual circus that gives “On the Road” much of its power.
The book also purports to celebrate the nonstop good times of life on the road, but ultimately, it‘s a sad, unhappy book with a theme of disillusionment. Like Dorothy, Sal learns that there‘s “no place like home.“
After a few years of rambling, Sal starts to sour on the life of a bum and the fact that he’s always letting people down, including the women unlucky enough to live with him. After the book reaches a crescendo with a trip to Mexico City, Sal is deserted by Dean in Mexico. Dean abandons him, even though Sal is sick with dysentery, fever and hallucinations. “When I got better I realized what a rat he was,” Sal reflects.
The book peters out from there. A year later, Dean rides the rails from San Francisco to New York to make up with Sal. But Sal has a Duke Ellington concert to go to and no time for his old friend -- the bloom is off the rose. Dean simply turns around and heads back out West into the great unknown. The book ends with Sal sitting on an East River pier, looking at the sunset and moping about his old pal, Dean. All that’s missing is a rose to sniff.
According to legend, “On the Road” was written in three weeks of nonstop typing on a single roll of paper. But, as noted in an article on Wikipedia, much of the novel was written in advance on notepads during Kerouac’s travels. He also spent years of rewriting and self-censoring to keep his nervous publishers happy.
Kerouac claimed that the true ending of “On the Road” was eaten by his cocker spaniel. He also had to tone down the language and use fake names. This year, Viking Press plans to publish Kerouac’s original uncensored version of “On the Road.” The book is also being made into a movie.
Bitter irony: Kerouac died in Orlando, Florida in 1969 -- a place that was soon to become one of the most uphip towns in America. He was 46 years old.
Are you going to read the uncensored version of “On the Road” when it comes out? Me neither. But the movie, that should be a trip.
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