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  • On the Road
    On the Road
    by Jack Kerouac
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    by William Least Heat-Moon

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On the Road: New York and Yonkers

Click the Thumbnail to go to MapNote:  Originally posted on Blogger on May 31, 2006

Unfolding the Map

Hello, Littourati! Two new points have been added to the virtual tour of Kerouac's On the Road. As usual, you can click on the map at left to go to the full Google Map.

Book Quote

"Filled with dreams of what I'd do in Chicago, in Denver, and then finally in San Fran, I took the Seventh Avenue subway to the end of the line at 242nd Street, and there took a trolley into Yonkers."

On the Road: Chapter 2

End of 7th Avenue Subway, New York City

I remember the first time I went to New York for business on a regular basis. It was around 1995, and I had just taken a job as director of an organization that promoted corporated responsibility. I stayed at a guest house in Chelsea, which was the section of Manhattan that was just north of The Village, in the streets numbered in the 20s, and every day I had to get on the subway to go to the Columbia University stop, and walk from there to the building where I had my meetings. I made this trip each day for three or four days, three times a year until I left the position in 2000. I remember the first time, though, catching the 1/9 train, learning the difference between the local and express, passing by stops that had names that resonated from all that I read and knew. Penn Station, Times Square -- and the first time I rode that train, I was excited, a little nervous, and really open to the experience of the people around me, the sound and sway of the cars, the unintelligible electronic gibberish of the driver over the intercom as he implored people to not block the doors so the train could move.

Later, I became more inured. As I became an "experienced" rider, I read the paper on the train, ignoring the sales pitch of the guys panhandling on the train. I learned how to wait for the express, and transfer at the last possible station to the local so I could hit my stop. Ultimately, I became less open to the subway experience. And that's too bad. I don't know what Sal thought about on his subway ride, but I can only guess by the shortness of Kerouac's description that when Sal caught the train, most likely at Penn Station, and took it to the end of the line, he was already an "experienced" subway rider as well.

For more information on the New York City subway:

Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)
New York Subway on Wikipedia
Abandoned parts of the New York City Subway
New York City Subway Historical Timeline

Book Quote

"In downtown Yonkers I transferred to an outgoing trolley and went to the city limits on the east bank of the Hudson River."

On the Road: Chapter 2


Yonkers is another place where Sal briefly stops in his hurry to get out of town, mainly to transfer to another form of transportation, a trolley. I have only been to Yonkers once. In the early 1990s, I was working for a Catholic order of priests and nuns called the Pallotines, and the order had a number of Italian priests based in a parish at Yonkers. In an effort to do some in-house promotion of the the program I was running, I visited and stayed with them an evening. The head priest of the parish took me out to dinner that night, and it was about as close to The Godfather as I will ever get. Don't get me wrong, the priest was not into organized crime as far as I could tell. However, as a priest in what was essentially an Italian town, he carried a lot of weight. As he took me to dinner, almost everyone on the street knew who he was and said "Hello Father," in English or Italian, depending on their first language. When we went into the restaurant, we got the royal treatment, and our meal was, of course, on the house. It was a truly impressive display of the power and respect a priest still carried in a religious society, and slightly depressing as well because it was not the Catholic Church that I knew or grew up in but had only read about.

Of course, this account does not truly relate to Sal's experience there, which was only fleeting. But Sal meets interesting characters all along his trip, and in my travels, when I'm open to the experience, so do I.

More information on Yonkers

Official site of the City of Yonkers
Yonkers Chamber of Commerce
Wikipedia Entry on Yonkers
Downtown Tour of Yonkers: Yonkers Trolley Car Barn

Until next time, Littourati, happy travels! As always, your comments, stories, reflections on any of the above are appreciated and encouraged.


On the Road: Paterson, New Jersey

Click the Thumbnail to go to Map

Note:  Originally posted on Blogger on May 22, 2006

Unfolding the Map

At right is a screenshot of the the first point on the Google Map of Sal Paradise's first journey to California in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. You may click on the image to be taken to the actual Map. The map will not look the same as the screenshot because it changes as points are added.

I chose On the Road as the first book to "journey" partly because it was what I was reading when the idea for this blog came to me. On the Road is a novel about a man's journey, not only across space but also within himself. Sal Paradise, the protagonist, represents Kerouac at a time when his life is still uncertain before him and he wants to fill it with excitement, adventure, and understanding about himself and the wider America he lives in. The book careens from place to place, with Sal following his friend Dean Moriarty and barely stopping but always looking ahead to the end point, like San Francisco, or back to New York. However, he travels through interesting places along the way, runs across interesting characters, and offers a snapshot of America in the late 1940s. This was a time of developing possibilities, changing styles and the flowering of the next great period of jazz. Some places Sal stops, either by necessity or curiousity. Others he simply mentions as he blazes on by in a bus, or while hitchhiking in a truck or car. Each of these places will be mapped and reflected on in turn as he makes his virtual journey across the blog. For more information on Kerouac or On the Road, visit the following links:

Jack Kerouac Wikipedia entry
Jack Kerouac Beat Museum Entry
Dharma Beat
National Public Radio story on On the Road
On the Road Wikipedia entry
Youtube: Jack Kerouac reads from On the Road

Book Quote

"In the month of July 1947,having saved about fifty dollars from old veteran benefits, I was ready to go to the West Coast...My aunt was all in accord with my trip to the West; she said it would do me good, I'd been working so hard all winter and staying in too much; she even didn't complain when I told her I'd have to hitchhike some. All she wanted was for me to come back in one piece. So, leaving my big half-manuscript sitting on top of my desk, and folding back my comfortable home sheets for the last time one morning, I left with my canvas bag in which a few fundamental things were packed and took off for the Pacific Ocean with the fifty dollars in my pocket."

On the Road, Chapter 2

On the Road: Chapter 2, Paterson, New Jersey

At the beginning of On the Road, Sal is a struggling writer living with his aunt in Paterson and making regular trips to the nightlife in New York City with Dean Moriarty when he makes the decision, prompted by a letter from a friend in San Francisco, to travel west. He is also encouraged by the fact that a number of his friends, including Dean, are also traveling and he hopes to meet up with them on the road.

My personal experience of Paterson is limited. I have only been to Paterson once, and that was to meet a friend and colleague there for lunch as I was passing through. Other than that, I have little knowledge of the city. My remembrance was meeting for lunch at a little place there off the freeway. I was driving back to my home in Milwaukee after a trip back to the East Coast. What little I saw did not make much of an impression upon me.

However, like Sal, I too have faced the wide open landscape of my life and, as Mark Twain wrote, "lit out for the territories." After my college graduation, the enormity of the challenge of finding a job with an English major led me to make what then seemed like a rash choice. I joined a volunteer organization, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and moved from California to Milwaukee to start what proved to be two years of living and working in one of the most challenging inner-city environments in the nation. However, part of the allure was to go somewhere new, and see something that I'd never seen before. I too wanted to discover something of America beyond my California experience, just as Sal was interested in new experiences. I didn't exactly leave with $50 in my pocket, but I went into a life of voluntary poverty, in a way, and dependence on a community of new friends in the volunteer program.

I remember well my leaving. I went to the San Francisco airport and boarded a United flight to Chicago. It was my first time on an airplane, and I was 22 years old! I was nervous about flying and what I would meet "out there." It was, up to that point, the most exciting time of my life.

If you are interested in learning more about Paterson

Do you have any comments, reflections, stories, or photos about Paterson, On the Road or Kerouac? Feel free to leave comments or suggestions. Until the next post, happy touring!



Welcome to Littourati

Welcome to the first posting of Littourati.  Each installment of this blog will focus on a point on a journey that is laid out in a book.  The installment will continue until the journey is completed, and feature a place, a quote, some personal reflections, and some additional information.

A Google Map, and in many cases, a Google Earth tour, will be provided for the reader to journey along with the author.

It is a hope that such a site will pique readers' interests not only in the literature, but in the places described and perhaps their own reflections.  Perhaps some enterprising readers will choose to visit or retrace the routes laid out!  If so, maybe this blog will be helpful and inspiring.

Now, a disclaimer.  All of this grew out of an experiment in learning how to customize Google Maps which I (Michael Hess) started three years ago.  I had to set it aside as I worked through a PhD and various life happenings, but have always wanted to start this process again. As my learning continues, there are a few caveats in order.  I am not an expert in HTML, CSS, Google Maps, Javascript or Google Earth.  Therefore, my maps may seem somewhat crude with what is out there now and available.  The code is Google Maps API Version 2, and I have shamelessly and not very elegantly cribbed pieces of code from various places.  The maps work best in Firefox 1.5 or above, and Internet Explorer 6.0 and above.   I am not sure if the map works across all browsers, and the last time I checked it does not seem to work as expected in Safari.  Also, only one or two points will be offered at a time per post.  That means it will take a while to work through a book.  I will have a good start on Kerouac, since I had mapped about two-thirds of his first trip already.

However, keep in mind that journeys are best traveled slowly, with the traveler taking some time to learn about the places and process his or her feelings about them.  The journey will eventually end, so don't be too hasty to get to the conclusion!

Please enjoy, and happy traveling!  Post comments, reflections, anything you like on the authors, books, or places.   And if you have any suggestions for reading material that might be reviewed by Littourati, please don't hesitate to recommend a book!  It may well end up being toured!


Littourati coming to Squarespace!

I'm looking to migrate the Littourati blog from blogspot over to Squarespace.  This will take me a little bit of time to get the blog up and running, but I am making headway.  The Kerouac map, my first attempt but unfinished, works now but I will need to get the blog posts up and make sure all the links work.  If you would like to see the map itself, click on the "Map Links" on the left and it will take you to a page where all maps will be housed.

Keep checking back here for more details....

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