I bought a kindle version of this book in July 2011, and it took me nearly a decade to read it. I’m not big on fiction books, and On The Road was one of those that just kept staying there on the second or third page of my kindle library. But every now and then, I’d give it another shot, picking up where I left off, and it always helped me fall asleep better. Reading always does, but there was something in here—the promise of the road, the excitement of America, the endless opportunities, and the optimism of life.
New York City and San Francisco
At times, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty would be in one of the places I visited myself. New York City and San Francisco each occupy a special place in my heart. There’s something attractive about these cities, each so different and the continent apart, but their magnetism feels the same.
The promise of California
Reading On The Road reminds me of how I feel each time I’m cruising down the US 101, especially when going southbound, for that means that I’m arriving, and the promise of California hasn’t yet been disappointed by the harsh realities of the Wild West.
Reading On The Road is like walking the ups and downs of San Francisco, and the long stroll I once took from the Fisherman’s Wharf, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge Park. I’ve seen and felt and smelled San Francisco, and I still love it more than I hate it.
The speed of the NYC
New York City is the same. At least the one I know, and that’s Manhattan and small parts of Brooklyn. It’s that special feeling of opportunity, of being able to achieve anything possible and impossible—the feeling of human progress and greatness block by block. I love Manhattan’s power walking, trying to do everything fast and aggressively, ignoring the naysayers, leaving the weak behind.
There’s no mercy in NYC. There’s love and power and greatness undistracted by compassion. You’re either on your way up or down; there’s no Enough in NYC. My European soul gets tired after the awe subsides, which usually happens after three days. That’s how long I need a dose of NYC in one sitting.
I need to run the Central Park, read and write in one of the Starbucks's around 40th Street, rest in Bryant Park, inhale the movement of the Grand Central Terminal, and feel the race of Wall Street. A walk or a Citi bike across the windy Brooklyn Bridge feels like running away into the shelter of the Brooklyn Bridge Park.
And there, staring into the Manhattan skyline, I remember all the times I’ve seen this on TV. And now I’m here. And now I’m here.
On The Road is a taste of the great American roadtrip. And I consumed it in the same way I prefer SF and NY—in shorter sittings.
Some of the highlights from the book:
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets god-awful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. LA is a jungle.
My aunt once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness.
we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
Nothing happened that night; we went to sleep. Everything happened the next day.
we gotta go and never stop going till we get there.” “Where we going, man?” “I don’t know but we gotta go.”
Suddenly he bent to his life and walked quickly out of sight. I gaped into the bleakness of my own days. I had an awful long way to go too.
We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic.
“Now, Sal, we’re leaving everything behind us and entering a new and unknown phase of things.
he’s so high he knows what he’s doing!”