Lucie Kerouac

29 Jun

 Below, my attempt at Kerouac-style stream of consciousness.  [Otherwise known as frantic scatterbrained late-night typing sans editing.]Jack Kerouac Making a  Face

McAfeeI was at a bookstore in Perth, Australia at the end of last year when my eye caught the Warhol-esque cover of Jack Kerouac’s On the RoadOn the Road, of course is Kerouac’s memoir of his travels across America that has come to define a generation – namely, the postwar 1950s “Beat Generation.”

And the thought first bubbled in my head: Is my adventure kinda like Kerouac’s?  I mean, it too is rebellion of sorts against societal norms that insist upon conformity.  It’s a search for meaning in my life, a longing for something to believe in, a hunt for a compass heading in the life ahead.  And I’m doing it in my own, uniquely American way – you know, equal parts individualism, conquest, and self-discovery.

Right?  It’s the same unabashed pursuit of happiness – a year of capturing memories like fireflies in a jar on a mid-summer night.  But realizing that, even when that’s your only aim in life, you still have to deal with a whole lot of gnats dive-bombing into your eyeballs and skeeters chomping on your exposed (and unexposed) flesh.  Oh, and — as the case may be — disease-riddled ticks.

I picked it up, but I didn’t buy Kerouac’s book – because as much as our journeys are the same, they are different.  Kerouac is not me, his trip is not mine, and his generation is not mine.  Kerouac’s trip was a rejection of the postwar American Dream – a gray flannel suit job, a wife, 3.4 (?) kids, a house, and a picket fence.  He divorced his wife and went on a mad hedonistic rush through sex, drugs, jazz, and alcohol.  “Wild and unrestrained!” boasts the cover.

My trip is not that – a full-scale rejection of society – but a quiet, contemplative pondering of how I fit.  Kerouac’s trip was mindless; his writing only maybe held together by some so-called “stream of consciousness.”  But my wanderlust, while perhaps rooted in the same thirst for a flood of emotion, is an ache – not a mad addiction.

And that’s cause I grew up in the Age of Possibility – an era of tremendous prosperity with the expectation ever drilled into my head that the world is my oyster — opportunity is limitless! — I can do whatever I want!  Now, granted, some of my cohorts have been slammed back to reality by the recession and other reckonings that have sown seeds of doubt the world over, but I’m still flying high.  I’ve got a world-class education, a job that puts me a the very top of the sh*t pile, and the freedom to shape my life – to live here or not, to marry or not, to have kids or not, to have a career or not.

And yet, one quickly learns, maximum personal freedom is not a cure-all, Hogwarts happiness potion that leaves one perpetually floating atop Cloud Nine.  Instead, as it turns out, it can be unmooring and leave you feeling adrift – like a piece of floating flotsam in a vast and endlessly churning sea.

Whereas Kerouac’s generation waited in line – patiently and properly – to be handed a neatly carved piece of the Dream that was laid out before them, my generation is left to chip off our own ragged piece from the big granite block of life.

And people are chipping away, and there is shit flying everywhere.

On this journey, I haven’t always identified with the other travelers on this road.  Especially at the beginning, when I was Nepal, when I was semi-horrified by the hippies trying (successfully, it appeared) to relive the 1970s – with their rainbow-streaked, dandruff-flaking dreadlocks and uneven tattoos and pants with the crotches hanging at their ankles, smoking hash and sucking each other’s tongue rings.  Fresh out of a pantyhose-wearing job at a federal courthouse, I felt worlds away from those living such seemingly rambling, aimless, vague lives.

But, as it has turned out, I’ve often found more in common with the people I’ve shared a roadside curb with than those I shared that ancient marble courthouse.  Because, when your feet are dangling off the back of a Thai ferry as dusk settles over you (and engine exhaust settles in your lungs), the salty wind whips away the bubble of pretension encasing your life.

On that ferry, an impossibly long-legged girl told me about growing up with two disabled siblings.

On a motorbike weaving through a polluted tourist ghetto in Koh Samui, a sunburnt, unmistakably-fresh-off-the-plane-new-to-the-islands guy told me about divorcing his wife and selling their house.  And promptly flying to Koh Samui.

Late at night in a remote guesthouse nestled a day’s walk into the south China rice paddies, a chain-smoking curly-haired girl told me about her first sexual experiences.  Over a pack of cigarettes, smoked out a thatched window.

And, like that, I have been the chance receptacle of people’s stories – of heartbreak and heartache – death and illness – boredom and indiscretion – youthful angst and old person regret.  It’s not all doom and gloom, of course, but you soon realize a searing truth: the poignancy of life is in the pain.

The narrative arc of these stories is, curiously you realize, the same:

Beginning.  We are all broken.  Me, you, Kerouac, the impossibly long-legged girl.  And there is something powerful in finding this common thread of humanity – this vulnerability, this brokenness –  that runs through us all.

Middle.  Flowing from that brokenness, there is a search for something more.  Call it what you want, be as fanciful as you wish – searching for a truth larger than yourself, fearing that the world is whizzing by too fast, trying to figure out how to chisel your own damn chunk of granite from the enormous piece you’re staring at called Life.

End.  And then finally this quiet acknowledgment that – what the hell, this is making my head hurt – let’s just find the silver lining in the now.  Let’s crumble this moment in our hand and throw it up into the air and let it float down like fairy dust upon our spinning heads.

One magical thing about life on the road – or the Trail – is the way you instantly connect with others. They are strangers in every sense and yet they offer a precious gift: authenticity.

Unmoored from the great and ever-illusive Chase of society — in the refuge of the dreamers and the drifters — you are at once so lost and yet so found.  One becomes okay with the unsolved maze of her life.

Jack Kerouac, I don’t know what you said to your peeps at the end of On the Road (like I said, didn’t read it), but to my generation, from someone who is perhaps “On the Road Again,” I say:

Don’t be afraid to lose yourself.  You will find a better person.  Live richly… by spending your time wisely.  Don’t miss out on the great conversations of life.  Become a young fool again, and share a small slice of humanity with one another — suck in some ocean air and get taken out by the current and fall in love with the waves of life once more.

We may be seeking the meaning of life, but perhaps the silver lining is just the experience of being alive.

6 Responses to “Lucie Kerouac”

  1. Dave Landreth June 29, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Beautiful! Lady, Kerouac had nothing on you…
    Katadhin and beyond!

  2. mjurasius June 29, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Oxy, you have an incredible knack for writing and a profound inner wisdom that you share so well. I think you’d make an excellent author if you decide that being an attorney isn’t for you when you return from your journey.

    • Karen June 30, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      I second that.

    • Lucie July 9, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

      Aww, thanks, Mike. I didn’t realize I liked writing until this blog happened. We’ll see!

      – Lucie

  3. Jimmy June 30, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    I don’t think everyone is “broken”, more “a work in progress”. Everyone has the potential to better themselves.

    I think deep down, if we’re totally honest with ourselves, we know what to do to make our lives happier, and feel fulfilled. Anyone who has spent half an hour or so contemplating what’s bothering them, and what’s wrong with their life should be able to work it out. The problem is, most people don’t have the guts or the will to do whatever it takes, spend all their time and money to make it happen.

    Ok, not everything always goes to plan, and people fail all the time, but each failure helps you and directs you to the way you want to go. No baby can walk from birth, they have to fall down a lot and keep trying different things. They keep trying every day, and after a while they don’t care about falling, it’s no longer embarrassing because they’re babies and everything is new and scary and amazing to them. Eventually they can walk a few steps, then they fall again, and after a year or two they forgot they ever fell, and now they’re walking and running everywhere like it’s normal.

    Some things are outside our control, so with those things, I think we need to either accept things the way they are, or use what control we do have to make our mark on the world and make that piece of the world/community/neighbourhood/family better.

    • Lucie July 9, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

      Well said, Jimmy! I agree that it’s about having the guts to leap into the unknown in pursuit of what you really, truly, deep down want. At the end of the day, that in and of itself is something.

      – Lucie

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