My own “On the Road” encounter with Jack Kerouac was in the summer of 1966. I have distinct memories of our meeting and also of the conversation that left me with more questions than answers.
A high school buddy had worked on an ocean going tug boat for the year after graduating. He had a pile of money and bought a 10 year old Jaguar, an XK-140, 120 mph on wire wheels. I applied for a Shell credit card and a week later off we went.
Hyannis, Cape Cod was the turn around for us California surfer dudes, we were eating ice cream in a market parking lot when the cops came along and told us we had until sundown to get out of town (the girls we had been talking to were not happy about that). Kerouac and his wife and a small group were walking by. We were invited to come along to a coffee?/bar hangout that had a special table for him that overlooked the room but was in the corner shadows.
We didn’t know who this rough handsome but worn looking man was until afterward but a charismatic intelligent popular guy was quite a contrast to the Massachusetts police.
I wish I was able to write like him (or you Mark) about my impressions. The conversation began with interest in us and our trip. We had worked along the way: loading box cars in New Orleans, waited tables in Washington DC, drove trucks with secret cargos. So I guess they thought we fit in that group.
What I took away was confusing. A subtle aged warning to “do as I have written, not as I live.” Those were the days to not trust anyone over 30. Kerouac was mid-40’s. Seemed very old and finished.
Going 120 mph east of Flagstaff with the early morning sun burning through the windshield a rabbit ran across the highway – hold steady and don’t look back. 19 and nothing to lose. Thanks Jack for your trip.
And thanks for the memory.
Autumn is the best.