Monday, January 19, 2009

We were, "On the Road"

Throughout the '90's, I, along with 12 other young men, was involved with many different things. These things are a part of life that I am both proud and embarrassed of. Some of us were friends from grade school and we all got together with each other our sophomore year of high school. That is when we began our almost decade long streak of hunting and fishing for fun, racing cars and motorcycles for money and fighting other guys just for the thrill of fighting. With any, or all, of the before mentioned activities, booze, drugs, music or women were almost always involved.

So, for this post, I have decided to rekindle my past and compare the most memorable event of “my group” with some of the events that Sal and his boys endured in Jack Kerouac’s
On The Road.

“On The Road is a novel of experience: it tells tales of madness played out by all kinds of strange characters, in settings as diverse as a Virginia small-town diner, A New York jazz-joint and a Mexican whore house. What connects these adventures is the characters’ refusal to miss out on life and their determination to get the most out of now.”
-Anne Hassapi,

I couldn’t have started this any better way. What Hassapi has done is made the realization that all of the characters of On The Road, are different, but alike, at the same time. And I have made the realization that the guys that I made a trip to Arizona with in a rented mobile home in 1999 were all different but the same also.

For instance, Dean Moriarty was the antagonizer of the group and always seemed to be the one who came up with half-baked ideas that led his group to trouble. In the trip that we took, this character was my buddy Doug. His ideas usually found us either being delayed in towns because we couldn’t find him or staying an extra day or two because he lost most of the groups money playing cards.

Carlo Marx was a poetic-bum who was amazed by Dean. On our trip West, this character was Glenn. Glenn had no job at home and lived in his parents basement working on anything mechanical. The only time that he came out of that basement was when the group was camping (which was every weekend, rain or shine) or whenever Doug needed his help in the garage. He was Doug’s wing man I suppose, because when we fought, they always stood side by side.

Salvatore “Sal” Paradise, the stories main character, was also intrigued with Dean. The two didn’t have a very solid relationship, filled with un-truths and lies. But Sal dismissed Deans flaws and strove to be just like him. Sal would have to be Jeremy. Jeremy always looked up to Doug and wanted so badly to be desired by women like Doug was. By the end of our trip to Arizona, Jeremy would never talk to Doug again.

Old Bull Lee was the head drug guy in the book. And, as embarrassed I am to say it, I, was Old Bull Lee. I liked to smoke a lot of pot back then and it wasn’t uncommon that I would drop a little acid from time to time and play guitar for hours and hours while sitting around the fire on one of our camping trips.

Now, enough with the introductions, time to start the trip

Just like Sal and Dean, my friends and I had been discussing a trip out to Arizona to see an old friend who had moved there at the end of our senior year to work as a guide at a dude ranch in Phoenix. After a year and a half of discussing...and debating...and saving the money that we needed to go, we finally settled on a date and secured a mobile home camper to make the trip.

We started Westward down old Route 6, where Dean and Sal had passed years before. (We grew up five miles West of Joliet in a small hick town) We made our first stop for fuel in Davenport, Iowa and grabbed some food at a bar across the street. As we sat digesting our meal of greasy burgers and fries, Doug shot a game of pool with some local yokels. Before long, the locals had invited the four of us to play poker with them later that evening. Glenn, Jeremy and I all said that we should keep heading West because we had a long voyage still ahead of us. But Doug, that Doug, assured us that he would play smart and win us extra money for the trip. The three of us knew that we shouldn’t have let him play but we all figured, “It’s early in the trip, let him have some fun.”

We left the guys house who was hosting the game around 1 in the morning while Doug was up about $300. He crawled into the camper at 4:30 in the morning down $700. We had forgotten that Doug was holding all of our money. Now, we had several states yet to drive through before reaching Arizona and only $1,300 to do it with.

That morning, after we had started our voyage again and jumped onto Interstate 80, Doug awoke and crawled up to the front of the camper. The three of us said nothing to him until we reached Omaha, Nebraska where we re-fueled once again and grabbed a late breakfast at a gas station diner.

As we sat at the table, we watched a semi pull into the lot and another kid, about the same age as all of us, climbed out the passenger side of the cab. He walked into the diner and grabbed a seat at the counter. He looked at the menu and ordered a water. The way that he looked, we could tell that he had no money. He was hitchin’ with the truck driver. And since the semi had rolled out, he was without ride. Jeremy asked us if we could give him a ride. We thought it would be fine and invited him to go to Arizona with us.

The boys name was Tommy, and was only going to Lincoln which was just down the road. Tommy jumped in with us and we took off, blaring down the road. About half way to Lincoln, it was decided that it was about time to have some smoke and lit up. It was passed completely around the camper and it seemed that Tommy was very appreciative of the ride.

We drove into Lincoln stoned, with Pink Floyd blaring out of the speakers and the town folk starring at the camper like it was something that had just rolled straight out of hell and delivered Tommy to his parents house. What was really nice about Tommy, beside being a really cool kid, was that when we got to his parents house, he asked them to give us $200 to say thanks and they did. He didn’t have to do that, but we were pretty glad that he did.

We started back down the road listening to some music, smoking some more pot and were talking like a bunch of crazy fools on the CB. Now, my father drives a truck and I knew that we weren’t supposed to be saying half the things that we were saying on the CB but, it didn’t stop me from doing it, or letting the other guys do it. We were looking for some women to meet us in Lexington, which was only a short distance down the road. We were telling the ladies that we talked to that we had weed and acid and we would share it with them if we could meet up when we got into town. There was only one gal who said that she’d meet us. And when we met her, we found out that she wasn’t really a she. That she, was really a he. We got the hell out of Lexington as quick as we came in!

It was around the Colorado state line that we realized we had no clue what day it was. We weren’t sure how many days we had been driving. (After 6 years, we figure that it was the third day of the trip but none of us are certain. We smoked a lot of weed.) We weren’t sure if we had enough money to make it to Phoenix, let alone getting back. We weren’t even sure if we were going the right way anymore. Being stoned and tripping can be a very big distraction when you are driving across the country. We finally decided to stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming and sleep away the mess we all were in and find directions in the morning.

When we woke in the morning, we walked into a truck stop diner for some coffee and directions. As we sat in a booth near the window, an elderly lady sitting across the room from us cast a stare of disapproval in our direction. Like we were all her son and she was disappointed at what we had turned into. She didn’t love us anymore and never wanted to see us again. Though none of us knew this woman, we were all hurt by her ogling eyes, checking out every inch of our dirty souls.

In the book, Sal had these same feelings about a woman that looked at him:

“No...don’t come back and plague your honest, hard-working mother. You are no longer like a son to me-and like your father, my first husband...You are no good, inclined to drunkenness (which we were) and routs and final disgraceful robbery of the fruits of my ‘umble labors in the hashery. Oh son! did you not ever go on your knees and pray for deliverance for all of your sins and scoundrel’s acts? Lost boy! Depart! Do not haunt my soul; I have done well forgetting you”, Sal thought the lady was saying by her leers.

When I read this line in the book, I remembered everything about that old diner we were sitting in that day. And everything about the old blue haired lady with the grey dress with white pin stripes and big purple shoes. And every ounce of sadness and embarrassment that I held that day. I felt what Sal felt and it was the worst memory I think that I’ve ever had.

After our meal had finished, we asked directions to Phoenix and were on our way. It seemed that we had over shot the road that we wanted to turn onto the night before as we drove passed Interstate 76. We ventured down route 25 into Denver, Colorado around 2 in the afternoon. This is when the non-truth telling SOB Doug decided to tell us all that he didn’t lose as much money as he said that he did playing poker in Davenport. In all actuality, he hadn’t lost at all, he had won. He won $650 that night. We quickly took the money away from him and told him not to touch the money again.

We made it to Albuquerque, New Mexico before re-fueling again. And when we were there is when we got into some real trouble. Glenn and I had retired to the camper parked in a truck stop lot while Doug and Jeremy had went into the pool hall across the way. Shortly after midnight, Jeremy came into the camper and told us that Doug had gotten into some trouble with a guy at the pool hall for flirting with his lady. We walked across the street and into the pool hall to see Doug being hit while two guys were holding him.

Now, where I come from, a guy always, ALWAYS, has to help when he sees a woman get hit or when he sees a buddy being beat on. Within seconds all four of us were throwing punches and swinging pool sticks at Albuquerque trash. About five minutes after the brawl had begun, the police were escorting people out of the pool hall and into squad cars. We had been arrested for disorderly conduct. At the jail, we were told that we could leave if we posted $100 bail a piece and never return to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We handed over the $400 and got out of town.

This is were we got onto Interstate 40 headed West toward Flagstaff, Arizona. We knew that we’d be there soon and just wanted to make it straight threw with no more problems. We stopped in Flagstaff a few hours before dawn to sleep and finished the trip to Phoenix in the morning,

I know that the trip that I had with my friends back in ‘99 isn’t exactly like the trip that Sal and Dean and Ed had in the book, but it was exciting to us. And reading this book made me remember the things that I was able to from that trip. I wish that I could remember more of it, but like I previously stated, there was a lot of booze and a whole lot of weed.

We did finally meet up with or friend, but only stayed two more days with him before we headed back. This trip was almost seven years ago and it was the last time that any of the guys seen that friend. He is currently working as a ranch hand at a ranch in Montana. And I really don’t think that anybody wants to drive out West anytime soon.

No comments: