On the road with Jack Kerouac

When I was younger I read 'On the road' by Jack Kerouac.
I don't know if I understood it.

Around that time I also read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance and Steppenwolf. I was seventeen and it all meant just about everything to me. And diddlysquat at the same time.

I had no idea what they were all about or on about.

Kerouac had been the darling of the beat poets. But it beat me.

Herman Hesse had a European sensibility that seemed strange and mysterious. I loved the idea of a traveller. In Hesse it is often the character who drifts from town to Town - an outsider - knapsack on his back. I could imagine a Bavarian greensward, I could project my self there.

Kerouac promised much the same, No knapsack but maybe a Buick or a Chev, knackered but functional.

Zen and the Art satisfied my craving for conversation - Chautauqua…

I loved them all but my late adolescent brain didn't join the dots. All I knew was that they resonated with me. I could feel the boom in my chest in the same way I felt music (I will never forget the pulse of Paul Simonen of the Clash's bass syncing with my own elevated heartbeat at their concert - Logan Campbell Centre in the very early 80s).

It all just resonated with me. have you ever felt that way?

I was left with the idea that life is a journey - a road trip if you will.

While I was reading one of Hesse's books I worked for a plastics factory. Afternoon shift (after school - I was still in the 6th form). One night I set off for work on my motorbike - a 500cc Norton Dominator - I had bought a new front wheel from Dave White. He said "This is much more powerful than the old one which looks great but is hopeless. Whatever you do…don't…yank…on…the…anchors". Which is exactly what I did.

A car came around the bend at the bottom of my street on my side of the road. I overreacted. Pulled on the brake and flew over the handlebars.

I landed hard on my back against the kerb. There were no outward signs of injury but I couldn't move.

When the ambulance arrived they palpated my tummy and were horrified - it was as hard as rock. They assumed I had ruptured something and was bleeding internally.

I was rushed to hospital. When the nurse cut off my jeans and unzipped my leather jacket she found…the frozen boil-in-the-bag dinner I had stuffed down the front of my pants to transport to work.

I was sent home.

The ironic twist was that I had actually ruptured my kidney and had to be rushed to hospital the following day - hard and bloated with internal bleeding - a peritoneal haematoma.

I had many long, meaningful conversations with a junior doctor on the night shift about Herman Hesse.

A fellow traveller.

Like us.


Thanks to Bad Banana for the heads up - My favourite blog right now.

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