Note: First published on Blogger on October 15, 2006
Unfolding the Map
Sal has made it to San Francisco, and is now on his way to meet his friend Remi Boncoeur in Mill City. We will continue to follow him on his trip. Click on the image to follow along on the map, if you dare!
"I had just come through the little fishing village of Sausalito, and the first thing I said was, 'There must be a lot of Italians in Sausalito.'"
On the Road, Chapter 11
The quote above is presented a little out of order from what happens in On the Road. In the book, Sal gets to Remi Boncoeur's cabin in Mill City, and then recounts going through Sausalito. But, in the interest of keeping the events right chronologically, I have presented his journey through Sausalito first, just as Sal and Jack experienced it.
Sausalito is known for the houseboats upon which rich Marin County dwellers live. These houseboats, however, are the legacy of something that I think Jack would have enjoyed and have been willing to take part in. In the 1950s, perhaps even before, people interested in living alternative lifestyles created these houseboat communities. They squatted on old boats tied together and created entire communities on the bay that existed on the fringes of society. These communities attracted bohemians and artists, and later hippies, as well as the requisite drugs, alcohol and free-wheeling lifestyles.
But in 1949, when Sal travels through, I think that Sausalito was probably just as he described it...a village full of Italian fishermen and their families. Though you have to wonder, for in the next sentence Remi Boncoeur laughs a knowing laugh...and you can almost hear him winking as he repeats Sal's line back to him, "There must be a lot of Italians in Sausalito! Aaaaaaah!".
Of course, Sal would never recognize Sausalito now. The Italian fishing village is gone. Their successors, the bohemians and hippies who moved onto barely-floating junkers, are gone, replaced by dot.com millionaires who pay top dollar for these houseboats. The wild days of grass and booze and protest songs sung by circles of squatters are now replaced by the clinking of cocktail glasses and soft jazz. The sights and smells of an Italian fishing village are replaced by upscale shops that attract tourists with lots of money to burn.
Perhaps it is the circle of life. Everywhere you look, the fringe becomes hip. It doesn't matter what or where. Raw music of the sixties and seventies sells cars and computers today. Food and clothing styles, so common in one era, become the next generation's paragon of unhipness, only to be discovered anew two to three generations down the road and brought back into the limelight again.
Maybe once again, after a really bad economic downturn or social upheaval, the houseboats of Sausalito will once again be the haven of squatters and outcasts. Or maybe not. Perhaps Jack's comment about Sausalito revealed not only his surprise, but his ignorance of what was to come, and perhaps Remi's reply reveals more prescience than we expect.
If you want to know more about Sausalito
Next stop: Mill City, California (Mill Valley?)