Note: Originally posted on Blogger on June 23, 2006
Unfolding the Map
I've been a little tardy, Littourati! A couple of crises with some friends and a lot of work this week have kept me from getting out these newest posts. I apologize. Click on the image to see the updated Google map.
"A guy with a kind of toolshack on wheels, a truck full of tools that he drove standing up like a modern milkman, gave me a ride up the long hill, where I immediately got a ride from a farmer and his son heading out for Adel in Iowa. In this town, under a big elm tree near a gas station, I made the acquaintance of another hitchiker, a typical New Yorker, an Irishman who'd been driving a truck for the post office most of his work years and was now headed for a girl in Denver and a new life."
On the Road: Chapter 3
I love the all too tiny description of the guy Sal gets a ride with. I suppose that one complaint I have about the book, which isn't that much of a complaint, is that Sal really doesn't say much about these small-town characters that he meets. I wonder if it is because, despite his stated interest in America, that he really isn't interested in them?
I would be questioning why this guy had such a truck. What are the tools for? Is he a plumber, an electrical worker, an auto mechanic, a farm machinery mechanic? Where is he going and what is he doing? It kind of frustrates me that Sal doesn't ask these types of questions. Of course, that could be just where he's at. Sal is very interested, as we'll see later, in the hard drinkers, the hobos, the people who are interesting and "beat." Perhaps the ordinary does not entice him. However, these little snippets are fascinating to speculate about.
Who of us doesn't know the guy with the toolshack on wheels? I think that it is possible that every town, like Adel, had one of them. Picture the guy as slightly eccentric, maybe with a strange feature, like a missing finger or strange tick at the side of his mouth or one eye just a little crossed or pop-eyed that has a fascinating or disturbing story behind it. I grew up in a small town, and it was not uncommon to see every male who had a pickup truck carrying a number of tools (including a chainsaw). But the guy who built a shack on the bed of his pickup when I was growing up was the guy who lived just outside of society, somewhere in the woods, was probably a hippie growing some weed, and only came into town once a month to stock up on supplies.
Even where I live now, in the city of Albuquerque, there's a guy that I usually see riding his bike past my house. He has wild curly hair and a graying beard, and he usually waves hi at me though he never speaks. But when I see him driving, he is driving one of those "toolshacks on wheels," a painstaking little A-frame built carefully on the bed of his 1970s era pickup. What's his story? Why is he living in the city and not off the grid somewhere?
These are some stories that I think Sal missed in his hurry to get to the coast and in his desire to meet "interesting" characters in his definition. Because ultimately, his friends don't seem to be as interesting to me because they all do the same thing, philosophize and drink and philosophize some more. These little glimpses into the oddities of American life that Sal passes over, as seen in Adel, might have turned out to be as interesting or even more so than he imagined.
For more information about Adel, Iowa
I SO wanted to find a picture of a toolshack on wheels, but I couldn't. Sorry!
Next up: Stuart, Iowa