I first heard about Jack Kerouac in high school. It was the thirtieth anniversary of On the Road, not that my high school celebrated it. I don’t really want to talk about that, suffice it to say that fundamentalists ran my school. Still, they couldn’t escape it. The syncopated clickety clack jazz beat of drifters and poets smoking cigarettes and marijuana and having sex with girls they met on the road and (gasp!) men ran counter to the idyllic fifties my school portrayed as the last hurrah of family values before the terrifying plunge into promiscuity and drugs that was the sixties. This was the twentieth anniversary of the Summer of Love too, and our leaders attempted to indoctrinate us against the era from which they all sprung. They were Jesus People after all. Perhaps the road to freedom didn’t tempt my fellow sheltered classmates, but the pull of intellectual freedom, of Nietzsche’s quest to become who you are was irresistible to me. I picked up On the Road at the library, but my mother found it under my bed and took it away and it was years before I finally read the book. By then I’d become tired of the imitators, of the lazy attempts to replicate cool. All those anniversaries of freedom howls merely highlighted my own generation’s lack of creativity. All the cool jeans and tee shirts or the hippie skirts we wore to stake our claim to individuality made me wistful for a time when we would break free and be original. I made myself avoid the Beats as an attempt to keep myself pure, but eventually I broke down and read the damn book. By then I’d already taken to the road, and like Kerouac I’d come back home. I am still wistful for a time that doesn’t exist, when I will have a creative voice all my own and won’t sit here with at a computer with its muted clickety clack and have something original to say.
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