Searching For Jack Kerouac

Road Trip Diaries: Searching for Jack Kerouac

Destination: Hay-on-Wye
Mileage: 200 miles round trip

Playlist for the drive:

Snoop Dogg
Bruce Springsteen
Coldplay
Billy Joel
Butthole Surfers
U2
4 Non Blondes
Arrested Development
Avril Lavigne
Live

I need some new friends, ones whose lives are not so preplanned. I’m in dire need of a posse who can pick up and go at the last minute regardless of what plans they may or may not have had. Like when we were young and full of adventure. I sent an email around to some of my friends a few days ago with the following challenge:

A Summons
In the olden days, warriors prided themselves on their ability to face the unknown. They were quick to accept any challenge that tested their courage and their metl. It is in this spirit that I summon you to a challenge. Before you give in to the treadmill functionality of your life, cast your mind back to a time when you were as wild and free as the wind. Embrace the wind again and taste the bitter-sweet taste of adventure.

The plan is simple. We leave this weekend. All you need is:

• A Passport
• £75 or less
• and a toothbrush

I need your answer before the sun sets tomorrow.

Come on, live again!!!

As it turned out, not a soul accepted the challenge. Everyone loved the idea. Then they threw in the big but… I’m sure all legitimate reasons. Now here is my but, but what has happened to spontaneity? Back in the day, before we got all mature, there would have been a half dozen of us or more piled up in the car ready to hit the open road. I remember once squeezing eight people into a little 2-door banger of a car and heading down to Mexico for some fun and mayhem. Now spontaneity has to be planned 2 months in advance.

There was nothing left to do but go solo. I had originally intended for the crew to hop a cheap flight out of Coventry to anywhere going in Europe. The general plan was to have been just general mayhem. But as Bobby Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Plan B. Go in search of the literary works of Jack Kerouac in the town of used books, Hay-on-Wye, which incidentally boasts to have the largest, used book market in the world.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”—–kerouac

I came across this quote of Kerouac’s on a weblog. While I had heard of Jack Kerouac, I had to date not read any of his material. I liked the quote, so looked him up on the Internet. I read this short biography of him:

Published in 1957, the autobiographical novel by Jack Kerouac, “On the Road” captured the spirit that was brewing underneath the conformity of the 1950s. The book was a overnight sensation; detailing a semi-fictional exploration of the freedom and longing that is a core part of human nature. It helped coin the phrase “Beat Generation” to denote the new-found rebelliousness and restlessness found in contemporaries of that era. Now, after 37 years of careful contemplation and precise planning, world-renowned producer/director Francis Ford Coppola is ready to bring “On the Road” to the theatres and treat a new generation of progressive citizens to a work of visual and intellectual splendor, extracted from the mind of the great Jack Kerouac.

I was intrigued. I order On the Road. Once I started reading it I was hooked. I hadn’t been this excited about a piece of literature since when I first discovered T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

The search was on. I scoured the bookshops of Hay-on-Wye looking for anything Jack. I managed to find five titles:

• Vanity of Duluoz
• Desolation Angels
• DR Sax
• Atop an Underwood
• King of the Beats, a portrait of Jack Kerouac.

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