By Tenzin McGrupp © 2010
I hailed a taxi driven by a guy with an authentic Cajun accent. He told me how he hitched across America on old Route 66 when he was my age.
"I was almost killed by a serial killer, but escaped at the last possible second," was the one line that stuck out the most.
The Cajun cabbie fixed motorcycles in his spare time, but never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I suggested that he read the book but scoffed at the notion because he said he knew everything possible about motorcycles. I didn't argue. By the time we got to the airport, he had convinced me that I was foolish to fly to California because I'd miss out on all of the experiences of being a young man on the road.
"Sell your ticket and hitch a ride," he told me. "Like the real adventurers used to do."
I enjoyed the complexities of the big cities and the hustle and bustle instead of gazing out across the prairies at the hazy clouds listening to the thunder claps miles away. Since I was looking for a different path in life, my scattered visions of modest possibilities convinced me to drive out West and seek out adventures, just like Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, except without the gay sex and all that jive talk and hip-cat jargon.
I got a refund for my ticket minus the $100 change fee. I hopped aboard one of the free airport shuttle to the closest car rental agency and I secured a one-way rental. $300 for the week. Would it take me a week? Maybe more? I had no idea. I'd probably want to make a couple of spontaneous stops along the way. My new life in California would have to wait a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks. Who knows, maybe I wouldn't even end up there at all. My entire plans changed with one conversation.
"You miss out on all of that living when you're up in the air flying," the cabbie's words echoed throughout my brain.
In On the Road, Kerouac wrote about his sojourns navigating through America while he only ate apple pie with mountains of vanilla ice cream. I could eat that every day, although I preferred cherry pie with chocolate ice cream.
Kerouac and his raspy nature loved the dismal wilderness and simplicities of Middle America -- fantastic bloom of spring flowers, the anthology of life on the edge of fading towns, suspicious long walks by unfaithful wives, pool hall hustlers robbing johns in no-tell motels, country folk with warm backyards, endless railroad tracks without any trains, raging torrents draining out into the Mighty Mississippi, stained spittoons in saloons, tragic gestures of the death of rural America, rickety gates on termite-infested picket fences, nurses with horrible bedside manners, mud-caked pickup trucks full of tools, elm trees with lovers' initials carved into the trunk, the delegation of the seekers of the holy ghost, the outlaws in shambles riding that frantic rush of homemade speed, saw dust soaking up the swill of the lushes, chubby bankers stuffing their faces with Omaha steaks, and queers in purple scarves belting out Madonna songs at karaoke bars trying to drown out the dull roar of laid off factory workers wondering what to do when their unemployment runs out.
Time to get living.
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer originally from New York City.