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Jeremy Hogan

"Someday I'll be reborn in that great city in another world system, in the past or future, where the single 3-mile-high mountain stands against the blue sky – with all my compassion with me, and all I'll need is the wisdom of the land." - Jack Kerouac -

Part I

I was 18 or 19 and standing in the living room there in my alienation a small Central California town. In my hands I had a book I'd just picked up at the library book sale for 50-cents. In it was a story by a guy named Jack Kerouac … a fragment of a story really …

I didn't think my surroundings were too cool and I wasn't too cool on myself to be honest. They call these creative coffins where I am standing - tract homes - and they all look the same and people are judged by who is able to consume the most. If someone doesn't have those good clothes and that nice car they are definitely going to be judged and not well.

It was a revelation that a writer who wrote about getting stuck in the central valley, where I was currently standing would make the place sound cool. In this book, he met a Mexican woman and tried to pick cotton. They went up and down the valley looking for work but there wasn't any. He tried to go down to LA but found it wasn't so easy.

Now this was news to me, that some hipster, I actually I didn't know he was hip or that his likeness would be used by rich kids to make themselves cool. All I understood was that I was beat down and broke, I'd just come back from LA. Each morning my soul drank the night and filled my stomach with the sad emptiness of suburban life a year after my parents divorce and trying to find myself.

Here I was standing in this alienation, among tract homes, and streets deserted in the sad American, post-Vietnam, night. I didn't think anything around me was too cool and I was aching to hit the road … anywhere in America seemed cooler than where I was but some dude had bothered to write about Okies and the downtrodden forgotten America like it was some place really …

My dad had picked cotton when he was seven and I'd tried to live in LA when I was 19. I'd even had a Mexican girlfriend. When I was a kid, I'd watched my dad drive up and down the central valley looking for work on foggy November days and sometimes I'd even gone with him. I lived in California and my father lived in Vietnam.

A few years later he gave me his Camaro and one night a friend of mine and I had it up to 129 miles per hour before we let off the gas because the car seemed like it might just catch flight. In my 20s I drove that Camaro across the United States … living in Indianapolis, Kansas City, West Palm Beach, Florida and Ann Arbor … looking for America the whole time but only finding strip malls, fast food joints and a disconnected population of people who would not, could not be united.

Oh and Dean Moriarty … I'd been looking for my own grandpa. Someone said maybe he lives out in Florida. That's a long way from here and there is no road through those mountains that doesn't lead through LA.

Part II

Sometime after the WWII my grandpa hit the road with the entire family and they had been sharecroppers in Arkansas. I assume, since my grandpa was part Cherokee that didn't work very well in his favor and he'd had enough of those fuckers is what he told me when I went to visit him in Florida back in 1996. Somehow, I don't really know how, he got the money for a car and they all hit the road. My aunt says sometimes they lived in the car and sometimes there were temporary homes for migrant farm workers and often they lived in tents. In the summer they would can food and buy staples like beans because in the winter when there wasn't any work that's what they were going to live on.

Sometime around when my father was seven my grandpa split. With such enormous stress he and my grandmother had been fighting. He jumped a train and was gone nobody saw him for 25 years.

This was during the 1950s. Exact proof that the so-called post-war economic boom wasn't for everyone and just glossed over the issues of civil rights and poverty in the United States. This is the America Kerouac was living in when he came out to the central valley probably in the late 1940s. While, "On the Road," was being consumed by middle class American's my own father was about to be sent off to a foster home since his mother could no longer keep the family together.

Sometime around 1969, at age 18 or 19, my father joined the Army and went off to Vietnam. Around the same time Jack Kerouac drank himself to death. They put my dad on a helicopter; he later named the Magic Bus, in the 1st and 9th Cavalry and gave him an M60 machine gun. Every day, often from dawn until dusk he would fly on that helicopter as they put 11 Bravo and other troops into the jungle and took them out. And he was often under fire.

I spoke with him about this recently, he said the battles would start so fast that everything would be in slow motion, sometimes he would actually see black dots coming at him. Bullets with his name on them or the names of his buddies. His heart would slow to a half beat and he would realize he was firing back. By the time all this happened the helicopter would be full of infantry, the air full of smoke and fire - the sounds of the wounded and dying and by the time they were lifting off the Air Force would be dropping bombs – if they could get air support.

Meanwhile, at home people referred to people like my father as a baby killer. The country written about in, "On the Road," was coming apart at its political seams. In 1970, my father was in Cambodia and he was hit with shrapnel and he still has a huge scar to prove it. The Ohio National Guard killed four at Kent State.

My father has never really been home. The returning Vietnam Vets weren't welcomed in the country they had been told they were fighting to defend. And it's spooky to realize now that when we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I must have been 5 or 6 and my father and another Vietnam Vet were hanging out behind near some train tracks getting stoned the war wasn't even over. It's one of my first memories of this life.

Later in 1979 we moved to a tract home in Manteca, California but it wasn't long after we moved. My father had quit his job and decided to move us to a mountaintop where he was going to dredge for gold in the nearby creek and get away from the society that didn't want him anyway. What a surreal year that was and it ended with my dad beating the shit out of a yuppie at a pizza place. However, I'd already spent the year being a Dharma Bum and didn't even know it and this would make all the difference.

The constant walks in the mountains the air ¬- a constant meditation. I went to Yosemite several times that year and every morning I would ride a bus 21 miles up though the cathedral of the canyons on the way to school. The light of the early morning sun rained down like diamonds.

But, I was invisible to America. And we moved again … this time to a town called Porterville, California not very far from where Jack Kerouac had been picking that cotton. Fifty miles north of Bakersfield. Years earlier, in Texas, my father had done the same as Jack … 100 pounds for a dollar, until his hands bled. He was on seven in 1956 one year before, "On the Road," was published.

Part III

Jack Kerouac died while the Vietnam War was going on, he drank himself to death. I understand why he hit the road. He must have been awfully disillusioned like I was after I an outsider who drove the around the country during my 20s, finished college, got a job, climbed the economic ladder and realized from the inside how vacant and phony middle class life can be.

Jack, we all have you with us, those that have read your words, you're still on the road with us whether it's in the United States or in any other country where people appreciate your literature. One day, together, we'll find that great city.

Jeremy Hogan

August 26, 2007



To Learn More About Jeremy Hogan visit his website.



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"Reflections upon The 50th Anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On The Road" is Now Available from Published In Heaven Books! - Click Here For More Details!

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