A post I did from last week, that was ostensibly about recent side projects by members of Death Cab for Cutie, referenced Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard’s work on the soundtrack for an upcoming documentary titled One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur.
Well, now a blogger at Wired has opened the door for me to say more about Jack:
Calling all Kerouac fans: How did On the Road and Kerouac’s other writings affect your world view?
Let’s put it this way, Jack Kerouac contributed significantly to this New Jersey native having crossed the country and settled down in the Pacific Northwest.
For me, though I love On The Road, and it was in my heart as I rode Amtrak west from New York, through Denver and westward to the Pacific, The Dharma Bums is the Kerouac book that impacted me the most. When I first read it, I was lost in the wilderness of Los Angeles. I’d moved there to hang out with friends, and decidedly NOT because I was attracted to the city. After a few years there, I was suffering badly from what a friend calls Nature Deficit Disorder, not because there were no natural areas nearby — there is great hiking in the Santa Monicas and San Gabriels — but because I was immersed in the urban L.A. lifestyle.
And then, two things happened right around the same time that changed my life forever: 1.) I read The Dharma Bums, with its wonderful passages of hikes in the Sierras and Cascades; and 2.) the first REI store in Southern California opened. This was 1991, and I was there on opening day, bought my first real pair of hiking boots, and was soon taking off regularly on the weekends to explore the surrounding mountains.
Within a year, after five years total in an urban wilderness, I packed up my belongings, only what I could fit in my Volkswagen Jetta, along with camping gear for two and a good friend, and I headed north, following Kerouac’s footsteps to the state of Washington. Jack landed atop Desolation Peak, and I landed about 90 miles west in Bellingham.
In addition to geographical and lifestyle changes, The Dharma Bums had another huge impact on me. While I had certainly been enthralled by On The Road and its wild stories of, as Thoreau called it, sucking the marrow from the bones of life, The Dharma Bums had more spiritual content than anything I’d read previously, and it was the first time that Buddhism really got through to me. There was something about Kerouac’s wrestling with Zen, particularly his own impressions of his having been a failure as a practitioner, that, ironically, finally helped me understand some key Buddhist concepts.
I could write a lengthy essay on this topic, but this is blog for crying out loud!
How did On the Road and Kerouac’s other writings affect your world view?
Yeah, I guess you could say he affected me.