Bret's Reviews > On the Road

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
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Sep 22, 07

Recommended for: high school + college grads
Read in January, 2000

Crammed into the seat of a college lecture hall, I daydreamed about 'Semester at Sea', a floating college campus that carries students from different schools to places like Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Africa etc. etc. I begged and pleaded for enrollment but my penny-pinching father forbid me and refused to fund the trip. I swore that I would break loose the very instant I bubbled in the letter 'C' on my last final exam at Penn State.

At the end of the summer of '97, I roadtripped from Connecticut to the West Coast in an '89 Ford Escort Wagon. My travelling partner was 'Styles'(I honestly can't remember his real name), a breakdancer from the British Channel islands who worked with me as a summer camp counselor after my college graduation in May. He wanted to see the country after being cooped up in a swampy, mosquito infested summer camp in the middle of the woods in Connecticut--basically a dump for neglected rich kids on ritalin. We had just been fired from the camp for drinking booze on our overnight (the first and only time we drank on the premises), with our campers deep-sleeping in a cabin nearby our celebratory, raging bonfire. Some ultra-conservative counselor snitched on us after I stumbled into the girls quarters to invite them to our little party. With my fraternity bonds still intact apparantly, my pecker did all the talking.

Anyway, we woke up the next morning without jobs and fled the director's meeting room for the Wild West. Styles brought a videorecorder so he could showcase his American adventure to friends and family back home, to all the 'blokes' and 'birds'. Our first stop was the Grand Canyon. Hours away from our destination, dark skies crept in so we slept for a couple hours in the car, too broke to afford a hotel room. We woke up to the Arizona sunrise, glowing beet red against a foreground marked by shadows of scattered boulders. I never felt so awake on two hours sleep. We drove onward toward the Canyon.

When I first gazed over the Grand Canyon, I felt strangly aware, for the first time in my life, of the presence of the native tribes who still live among us and consider the earth more of a home than we ever will: pure, raw, undisturbed and wild, yet accomodating. That night, we pitched tent in the Grand Canyon's state park campground and survived an extremely windy ice storm that nearly tore the stakes of my Coleman 3-man tent clear out of the sandy floor. The gusts roared through the vinyl fabric and burrowed into our ears, but we snored like babies, exhausted from seemingly endless hours of driving without sleep.

On to the beaches of Los Angeles, starting with Venice and then Malibu and Laguna. 'Styles' was sure to take plenty of footage of all the American 'birds' on the beach. Every few seconds he'd turn to me with his jaw dropped, as if he suspected that I knew of this paradise all along but preferred to stay trapped in a musty cabin, nagging 8 year olds to brush their teeth before 'lights out'.

"On The Road" brings me back to a time when I wanted to do everything before I was sure what I really want to do. I just took off and stopped when I couldn't go any longer but continued as soon as I could not bear to sit still another moment. Jack Kerouac captures the spirit of youth in "On The Road" and reminds me how incredible life can feel when I'm not busy making plans.

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Ashley i loved your story. i bet you have many more! i'd love to hear them!! :)


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