Note: First published on Blogger on September 23, 2007
Unfolding the Map
Sal is back in Hollywood, but this time he's looking to get out of town. Join the journey by clicking on the map.
"Terry bought my breakfast. I had my canvas bag all packed and ready to go to New York, as soon as I picked up my money in Sabinal. I knew it was waiting there for me by now. I told Terry I was leaving. She had been thinking about it all night and was resigned to it. Emotionlessly she kissed me in the vineyard and walked off down the row. We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel, and looked at each other for the last time.
"I got out on the highway and hitched a ride at once. It was the fastest, whoopingest ride of my life....We made Sabinal to LA in the amazing time of four hours flat about 250 miles. He dropped me off right in front of Columbia Pictures in Hollywood."
On the Road, Chapter 13
Columbia Studios, Hollywood, California
I was listening to a story on Studio 360, a radio program distributed over the public radio networks, a few days ago. You can access the program here. The show was devoted to the concept of being On the Road, and there was a segment about a discussion/disagreement between people who were just married. I started listening in the middle of the story, so I didn't hear how it started, but it appeared that the husband counted On the Road as one of his favorite books, a book that spoke to him. The segment seemed to have been put together by his wife, who read the book for the first time, and she did not understand what appealed so much to her partner about the book. For her, the book was simply about Sal Paradise careening from place to place, looking for a questionable character (Dean), doing drugs, and displaying questionable attitudes and actions toward women throughout the journey. Not only that, she could not get into the writing -- she was only able to find one instance where the writing sort of moved her. She was on a journey to understand the book so that she could understand why her partner felt so strongly about it.
I must say that on my first reading of the book, I had much similar attitudes toward it. I was underwhelmed by the writing, and I was underwhelmed by the things that were important to Sal. I still wonder about places and people that Sal met that he did not describe to their fullest in his haste to catch up with Dean in Denver, or get to San Francisco. I wanted to know more about those things and people in between (hence me using this book as my first project on Littourati).
However, to me Sal's relationship with Terry was one of the only times in the book where he truly had more than a fleeting relationship with a woman. It feels like he truly fell in love, and that for a moment in time he planned to spend time with her. Jack uses his best writing about women and love and Sal's feelings in the book to describe this relationship. Ultimately, Sal's restlessness, the lure of the road, the less than romantic nature of the life he would have to live, and the need to get back to familiar places on the East Coast overcome what Terry has to offer. She is Mexican, after all. She has lots of family and support, hardscrabble though it may be, where she is. Sal realizes that he is not cut out for, nor is he very interested in, a life of picking cotton or trucking manure around. So he leaves. Terry does not whine or throw things at him (constant themes among the women involved in relationships with his friends). She is emotionless as she walks away. Perhaps she wasn't in love. Perhaps she knows how Sal really is -- within a day or so he'll be making moves on some other woman on a bus. I don't know. But I do know that of all Sal's relationships, this one rings most true for the multi-sided facets of Sal's (and Jack's) nature.
By the way, the woman in the radio story gains a deeper understanding of the book after a professor who teaches the book tells her what he thinks Sal's motivations are. The book may be like my experience of the Three Stooges. Men get them, like them, and laugh. Women just don't find them humorous. Perhaps On the Road is similar.
If you want to know more about Columbia Studios, or more about the relationship that Sal's relationship with Terry was based on
Jack Kerouac and Bea Franco: an excerpt from Jack Kerouac: A Biography by Michael Dittman
Jan Kerouac (Jack's daughter) reading her poem about Jack Kerouac (on Studio 360)
On how Jack's relationship with Bea Franco was emblematic of Beat fascination with Mexican culture
Old Columbia Studios: Sunset and Gower
Wikipedia: Columbia Studios
Next up: Indio, California