Note: First published on Blogger on September 21, 2007
Unfolding the Map
Sal reaches "Sabinal," which from everything I've read is supposed to represent Selma, California. Hang with Sal, picking cotton, and get ready for the long trip back east. Check out how far we've come by clicking the map.
"Terry had a new idea. We would hitchhike to Sabinal, her hometown, and live in her brother's garage....On the road I made Terry sit down on my bag to make her look like a woman in distress, and right off a truck stopped and we ran for it, all glee-giggles. The man was a good man, his truck was poor. He roared and crawled on up the valley. We got to Sabinal in the wee hours before dawn.
"Her brother's name was Rickey. He had a '38 Chevy....The buddy did the explaining -- his name was Ponzo, that's what everybody called him. He stank. I found out why. His business was selling manure to farmers...
"Nothing was going to happen except for starvation for Terry and me, so in the morning I walked the countryside asking for cotton-picking work....I pictured myself picking at least three hundred pounds a day and took the job....But I knew nothing about picking cotton....Every day I earned approximately a dollar and half. It was just enough to buy groceries in the evening on the bicycle."
On the Road, Chapter 13
I'm not sure why Jack substituted "Sabinal" for Selma, but he's an author, and author's can do what they want. Perhaps he didn't want people going to look for traces of him there if his book got big. Perhaps he didn't want people looking up a girl who might be "Terry." But for whatever reason, it seems he changed the name.
Have you ever done jobs that seemed like they would be a good thing, only to find that they are much harder and make you a lot less money than you'd hoped? I think even when we get old enough to know better, a need for money makes us do things we might have been better off not doing. I recently had such an experience myself.
I am a student, and am making little money. So I decided to take a job catering. Now, my only other experience around the food industry was when I was 16. I did all right as a dishwasher, but I learned then that restaurant owners and chefs were troublesome people to deal with. The chef is quite well known in the city where I live, and at the time he was running a catering business out of the kitchen where he was a head chef. I thought it would be an easy, part-time gig with few problems. However, I learned otherwise. I couldn't please the chef. He constantly belittled me. I made some mistakes, it is true. But something about his demeanor and the way he related to me pushed all the wrong buttons. I finally quit after I found out just what kind of person he was. I knew that one patron had given me and a colleague a tip on the check, because she told me. After I gave him the check (and he was boasting about how he had gotten a big tip that night even though he was 30 minutes late for the delivery because he got lost) I said "maybe we got a tip too, because we helped the person light her fondue pot when she couldn't do it." He made a show of looking at the check, and then said "Nope, written for the exact amount of the bill." I didn't complain, but I didn't show up for any more catering gigs. The money wasn't all that great, the work was difficult, and I had come to hate the chef for that incident, and for others I had heard.
Sal isn't in such a difficult situation, but he has taken work in a low-income profession. These were the professions available to Terry and her family at the time. Low-wage, dirty, and hard. In a sense, you have to admire Sal for trying. He doesn't seem to be afraid of trying new and difficult jobs - perhaps the adventuresome spirit of a writer. But, he isn't going very far on that kind of money, and he's dreaming of he and Terry in New York. Something has to give - and it will very soon.
If you want to know more about Selma
City of Selma
Selma Chamber of Commerce
Selma Enterprise (newspaper)
Wikipedia: Victor Davis Hanson (historian and columnist who grew up in Selma)
Next up: Columbia Pictures Studios, Los Angeles, California