Note: First published on Blogger on July 26, 2006
Unfolding the Map
Sal is almost to Denver and to his friends, but not without a rest and helping cause a controversy over 50 years later. And you, all you need to do is click on the map to see how far we've come!
"It was beautiful in Longmont. Under a tremendous old tree was a bed of green lawn-grass belonging to a gas station. I asked the attendant if I could sleep there, and he said sure; so I stretched out a wool shirt, laid my face flat on it, with an elbow out, and with one eye cocked at the snowy Rockies in the hot sun for just a moment. I fell asleep for two delicious hours, the only discomfort being an occasional Colorado ant. And here I am in Colorado! I kept thinking gleefully. Damn! damn! damn! I'm making it!"
On the Road, Chapter 5
I really enjoy this passage, as Sal gets a rest on the lawn of the gas station underneath with the Rockies within sight. I've had those moments myself, usually during times when I have nothing to do and all the time in the world. There is nothing like falling asleep outside on grass in the shade of a tree.
The last time I did it was actually a relatively sad time. Our dog was due to be put down on a Tuesday this last March, giving my wife and I an opportunity to spend time with him before the vet came over. We took him over to a nearby local park, and sat with him in the dappled sunlight underneath the trees. It was a warm, lazy day. He just lay there watching the other dogs play -- he couldn't get up by himself any more and had to content himself with observation. We sat, ate some food we brought, talked about our life with him, and read some literature about dogs. After awhile, our dog went to sleep, and we stretched out beside him, falling asleep ourselves for about an hour. The time seemed so peaceful, as if it could drag on forever. When we woke, I felt more fresh than I often have after a full night of sleep. Even Hannibal, on his literal death-bed, seemed more alert and responsive after his rest.
I imagine that the timelessness of the moment (Isn't that a strange phrase -- mixing timelessness with a measure of time? But it somehow seems apt) was also experienced by Sal/Jack as he laid down underneath that tree. In that interval, perhaps he was thinking about how he was making it, how he was finally within reach of his first goal, and just the surety of that meant that all was okay. Finally, a couple of hours, but really an eternity, of rest knowing that he was going to make it to Denver.
A side note about Sal/Jack's time in Longmont. The gas station where Jack stopped is still standing, but not in the place it was in 1947. Located at Johnson's Corner at the northwest corner of the intersection of Colorado 119 and US 287, the gas station was slated for demolition around 2002 to make room for a road extension. A number of people fought to preserve it for its legacy. Not only was it the spot where Jack Kerouac supposedly stopped for his brief nap and bought an ice cream, but it was also one of the few art-deco gas stations left (click for example). Eventually, a compromise was reached, and the gas station was moved about a mile south. I have posted links to the stories and pictures below.
If you want to learn more about Longmont or about Johnson's Corner (the actual gas station where Jack/Sal slept on the lawn)
Next up: Denver, Colorado