I took aa trip. It had been such a long time since I flew away to see a friend. This pandemic shut the world down and took away my choices.
It was a wall of everyone has to do what everyone else is doing. In fact, it was the law. Or very close to the law. And it was considered the moral thing to do. Behind a mask is someone who cares, so if you don’t have a mask you don’t care.
Maybe it is, maybe it was the right thing to do.
But discussion about whether it was or not was—is—silenced. Repressed, censored, shut down, deplatformed and shamed.
I took a flight and followed the federal law to wear a mask on the plan in in the airport. I wore it the whole way.
And when I landed, I was so happy to see the friends and family that I had come to see.
We walked around this new-to-me town.
It was beautiful. I enjoyed the shops and bought some things. We found a used bookstore that looked more like a headshop.
And in the back, I met a lovely gray-haired woman whose last name was Cassady.
Famous beat author Neal Cassady’s daughter was selling books and showing memorabilia. She was delighted that I knew who her father was.
Oh yes. The beats are very important to me. These people who took the road less traveled. Who went against the conformity that engulfed the nation in the 1950’s and sucked the marrow from the bones of life.
They got together and had conversations about forbidden subjects and tried unthinkable things.
And they wrote. They wrote and found ways for others to read their words
They opened up the minds of America and the world.
What would they have thought of my trip? How is my current situation similar to theirs?
There was a whole world war that America had just come through when these guys were making the scene.
The man in the gray flannel suit was the ideal for them.
Except it wasn’t. In a 1958 Esquire article Kerouac writes
“a sinister new kind of efficiency appeared in America; maybe it was the result of the universalization of television and nothing else (the Polite Total Police Control of Dragnet’s “peace” officers), but the beat characters after 1950 vanished into jails and madhouses, or were shamed into silent conformity”
What options did them have? What options do we have now? I know there are a set of people with extended unemployment checks and their loved ones—or not—sitting at home thinking of what to do next.
The beats would be looking for life and a new style of American culture.
How would they tweak this? I’d like to think of what Neal, Jack, Allen and Lawrence would look at what possibilities are here.
And of course I found what I’d forgotten I knew while on the road.
I think I want to get on the road more often. And I want to read all the beat books again.