Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ode To Jack

Today marks the official release of my poetry chapbook On a Road by Unsolicited Press. It was a release planned around this date, as it marks the 49th anniversary of the death of Jack Kerouac, the beat generation author of the classic book, On the Road. The chapbook was written stylistically in part to pay homage to On the Road, but also because it recounts a trip that reminded me of the book.

As I've mentioned before, the chapbook is a series of poems that chronicles a road trip two buddies and I took from Minnesota to California in a rental car in 1984. It was a long strange trip with the destination being a friend's house in suburban Los Angeles.
Jack Kerouac, 3/12/1922 – 10/21/1969

The description of the book explains that it is the story of youths heading west to see what "life in fast lane" was all about. What we discovered was that our Midwestern practicality and sensibilities were not cut out for life in Cali. We came back to Minnesota with great memories but the realization that California living was not our style and likely never would be. Once a midwesterner, always a midwesterner.

I've always had a thing for road trips. It's in my blood, I think. As a kid, it was trips to campgrounds and cabins that I looked forward to most every summer. As high school seniors, we once took a trip to Kentucky for spring break (because it's such a destination!) in my friend Pete's Ford Pinto. And in College, it was spontaneous road trips up to Saint Cloud, Minnesota with my friend Pat that I remember most. There were some disastrous ends to a couple of those trips, both involving Volkswagen Beetles - stories for another time.

After I moved to Wisconsin, my travelling became much more frequent as I had to make trips back to Minnesota for holidays and special occasions. To further complicate matters, I married Donna whose family lives in New York, so there were countless trips cross country for that. Long trips with kids, and Goldfish crackers, and whiteout snowstorms and near-death encounters with falling asleep at the wheel.

Being on the road meant music in different forms over the years. As a boy, it was listening to my stepfather's car radio playing elevator music or the crackle of trying to pull in the distant Viking football game. As a teenager, it was cassette tapes of Jackson Brown's Running on Empty, or George Thorogood's Move It On Over. In college and beyond I moved to CD's of REM and Talking Heads.

Now, as an adult, empty nester, we are travelling as much as anything. In the past week I have gone to Sturgeon Bay, I am currently in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, as I writer this and am headed to Presque Isle, 5 hours north of the cities next week for musky fishing. As I said, being on the road is in my blood.

But I think the trip out to California may have been the one that whet my appetite for it all. There's something reckless and irresponsible about driving 2000 miles straight through to get to a place. At the same time, I saw so much of the country and ultimately learned something about who I was to become and where I ultimately wanted to live in the process.

So the chapbook tips my hat to Jack Kerouac, but as much as anything it is a series of vignettes about chasing a dream only to find out that the fast life of Southern California in the eighties was only thinly veiled superficiality.

But that doesn't mean I don't like being...On a Road.

Copies will be available from me at all future book signings or via mail. Contact me here.

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