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    by Jack Kerouac
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« On the Road: Oakland, California | Main | On the Road: Sausalito, California »

On the Road: Mill Valley, California

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Note: First published on Blogger on April 16, 2007

Unfolding the Map

Sorry I haven't posted, but the dissertation took front and center for awhile. However, I will get in a post once in awhile...besides, a slow journey is often better than a fast one! Click the map to see where we are now! Sal makes it here, to "Mill City" where he meets up with Remi Boncoeur at Remi's cabin where Remi lives with his girlfriend. Chapter 11 continues with a description of his time here, which included working as a "special policeman" at barracks for construction workers heading overseas, probably like a security guard. He spent many of his duty hours getting drunk with the workers. Sal also makes numerous trips into San Francisco, and hangs out with Remi on an abandoned freighter in the Bay.

According to a history of the Homestead Valley in Marin County, Kerouac actually lived with Gary Snyder for some months in a cabin on the property at 370 Montford in Mill Valley, where this marker is situated.

Book Quote

"Mill City, where Remi lived, with a collection of shacks in a valley, housing-project shacks built for Navy Yard workers during the war; it was in a canyon, and a deep one, treed profusely on all slopes. There were special stores and barber shops and tailor shops for the people of the project. It was, so they say, the only community in America where whites and Negroes lived together voluntarily; and that was so, and so wild and joyous a place I've never seen since."

On the Road, Chapter 11

Mill Valley

Mill Valley is one of those little Marin communities that to me was only a sign on the road as we zipped by, multiple times, on the way to San Francisco. I never paid much attention to it. I remember that as you got around the area where the Mill Valley sign was, there was a large building that I always liked to look at. It was very large, space-agey in its design, and pink, with a blue roof I think.  I later learned that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  I used to like to look at this building, partly because it meant that we were almost to the Golden Gate Bridge, and traveling over that was always a thrill for me.

We never really had any reason to stop anywhere in Marin County, unless we needed gasoline. We didn't know anybody there, and frankly, my parents were always uncomfortable stopping in places they didn't know very well. It was hilly, which meant that you couldn't always see the signs right away as you curved around the hills and went in and out of the depressions in the landscape.

My brother-in-law and his wife now life in San Anselmo, in Marin County, and now I have more familiarity with the place. Marin County is most likely not like how Kerouac and Sal experienced it in the late 40s. It tends to house a wealthier class of people, and a more environmentally conscious group of people. The people of Marin County that Sal describes -- rustic Italians and raucous construction workers, now most likely live in other, more blue-collar areas of the Bay Area. A recently proposed Habitat for Humanity project caused much consternation in Marin County, because even as the locals agree that housing should be available for low-income families, they worry about those low-income families depressing their own housing and property values.

Sal, however, given the household troubles between Remi and his girlfriend, as well as his job, finds Mill City a place from which he likes to escape. He spends a lot of time in San Francisco. Finally, Sal steals out in the middle of the night, leaving Remi and his girlfriend to their fate. "Remi and I were lost to each other...," he writes. He heads first for Oakland, and then south.

If you want to know more about Mill Valley

City of Mill Valley
Marin County Independent-Journal Mill Valley page
Mill Valley Film Festival
The Mill Valley Historical Society
Wikipedia: Mill Valley

Next Stop: Oakland

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