Friday, February 29, 2008

The Million Dollar Question

Last night when we were laying in bed, my husband and I were discussing some of the highlights of our relationship. The point he was making was that we had a "good foundation" based on these experiences we had early on in our relationship, when we lived in Colorado. Although I agree that those months were the best of what we had, I doubt it is enough to base a relationship on. When I think "good foundation", I think of a good friendship compounded by similar moral and philosophical values, not a few months of great passion and mutual enjoyment.

Then he said something like "Every so often, like every five, eight, ten years I'll see something in us that reminds me of that time, of who we used to be, and I hold on to that image as the possibility of what we could be again" and it made me think of an emotion I experienced earlier in the day.

I was walking past a window, and as I turned, I had gotten a glimpse of my reflection turning away, and all of a sudden I was hit with an emotional memory, like a punch in the gut. My single thought was Billy, where are you now? The turning away of my reflection, my walking away, reminded me oddly of my first love, a time in my life I don't think about much anymore. I could almost picture the face of my first lover before me, and longed to stroke his cheek. As I walked away, I was thinking about that long ago relationship, and how it had seemed so vital and powerful. When I remember it now, when I try to picture it, all I can think about is tears in the rain and a powerful sense of betrayal, not just personally but also a betrayal against love.

Why? I asked myself, why is his memory summed up as "betrayal"? There is the obvious answer, that betrayal was the reason the relationship ended, but not specifically on his part. I was betrayed by my best friend at the time, who told him a lie in order to break us up, and he believed it over my defense, and he turned his back on me, which perhaps is the reason I am left with that word to sum us up. Years later, though, on two accounts, he came back into my life all apologies and brimming with the memories of who we were and the possibility of what we could be again. Both times I turned him away. I was unwilling to let go of the committed relationships I was in in order to pursue a future with him, a future that had certain lifestyle implications that I wasn't convinced were in my best interests. So who really betrayed love?

A couple of nights ago, I was briefly obsessed with this show "The Millionaire Matchmaker". I was glued to the TV for about four episodes in a row, and could not tear myself away. It is a good thing the late episode was a repeat of one I had just watched, otherwise I don't think I would have been able to pull myself off the couch and get ready for bed. At one point my husband walked by and said "what are you watching over there with that little girl look in your eyes and goofy grin on your face?" I laughed, for heavens sake why I am watching this in rapture like this, what is it about this show that is making me feel like that?

The answer? It was all about possibilities. It was the first dates where these people were getting to know someone else and wondering, "could I fall in love with this person? This fun we are having now, is this enough to base a relationship on?" It was about the prospect of true love, of the discovery of someone else in the context of your life, or the magic of the first few dates, the first few months of a new relationship with someone you really thought you could build a future with. It was belief in the the power of love to overcome life's obstacles, and it was filling me with hope and promise, and the idea of romance in perpetuating emotional ties. It was reminding me of dates I had, although they were never quite like those, and it was filling me with a desire to go on dates again, to add an element of romance to my relationship to give it some spark.

All this made me think about love, about what seperates the could-have-beens from the now-we-ares, about what aspects of a relationship make it one that goes the distance. My favorite part of the Millionaire Matchmaker show was at the end when they told you the end result: for instance, that the couple shown above, Brendan and Caroline, have gone out on several dates since, but that he returned to his home in New Jersey and she stayed in L.A., and they are trying to figure out how to make that work. I think about the best dates I ever went on, and none of them were with my husband, but I don't wish that I had pursued a future with those men instead. What qualities seperate a relationship from one you glance at in reflection now and then, and the one you stay in and hold on to the best of times to make it through the worst? This is what I have been contemplating this week.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Geocaching Series #2

Travel Bug Feature Stories

I have decided that I am going to run a series on my favorite aspect of geocaching, the most exciting part of it for me (some days): Trackable Items. I am going to feature a different trackable item each time and maybe if you haven't caught the fever yet, you will understand why they are so addictive.
Trackable items are items that can be tracked by the geocaching website. They have individual ID numbers that can be entered in the website by the user to log an entry on the item's page. On the item's webpage, you can view a map of where they have traveled, and see the total miles traveled. You can also read the logs by other users, some that might be a simple movement log or some that share a story or experience related to the traveling item. It is kinda like the "Traveling Gnome", for people who are familiar with that but not geocaching trackables. People can also take pictures of the item and upload the photo to the website, and each item can be assigned a "mission", an objective to accomplish during their travels. The primary unstated mission of a trackable item is simply to keep traveling, from person to person and cache to cache. Each time a log is written on the item, an email is sent to the item's owner, who purchased the trackable item and activated it under their account with a special code.
Trackable items come in different varieties. The two most common varieties at this point in the game are "travel bugs", which are special dog tags made by Groundspeak (the company behind geocaching) that have the special individual ID engraved on them, and geocoins, made by various companies that have to pay extra for the trackable function with Groundspeak. The travel bug has an identifiable icon on the website that shows up next to a cache when it is logged in it properly, and also shows up on a user's profile when they have made a log entry for it. The geocoins have individual icons for each different type, so some people (like me) like to collect these virtual icons on their profile by "discovering" and moving as many as these coins as possible.

On each player's profile under the "trackables" section, on the left it will show the icons of all the ones the player has logged and on the right it will show all the ones that the player owns. I own 50 of these items myself. As you can see, I am a bit of an addict. Today I want to feature my very first one I "released into the wild".

One of my first introductions to travel bugs was at GeoWoodstock IV. I was a newbie player and I seated myself right next to the "Travel Bug Festival" so I could figure out what the heck was going on. I ended up buying myself a travel bug tag of my very own (average cost: about $5) from the Groundspeak shop set up for the weekend before I went home, and spent the weekend trying to decide what I was going to do with it.

What I decided to do was to take a picture of my family, alter it slightly, then laminate it and send it out with the mission to race our real family to Bend, Oregon, where we want to move one day. At this time in our lives, my husband was in this "Bend or Bust" mentality, where he felt either we move to Bend or he was just going to die or be miserable, he wanted it so bad. I decided to name this bug "Our Family".I printed out the mission information and laminated it on the backside of the picture, and then attached the dog tag to it. I released this bug in our first geocache hide, being the closest one to our house and eventually our "travel bug home base".

It was dropped in this first cache on 6/13/06, and on 6/24/06 a traveling geocacher came in from Colorado and took it home with him. I thought this was so fitting, since my husband and I met in Colorado. He dropped it in a cache in a remote area of the San Juan mountains, though, so I was worried it would sit there forever waiting for a ride. Luckily, within a week the cache owner came by on a maintenance run and took the TB, dropping it in New Mexico. Off we went!

The great thing about this TB is not only was it our first, but it was also the first one to reach its goal. It made it to Bend, OR in about a year and a half. It actually made it to Oregon in six months, but then somebody thought it was a good idea to move it contrary to its goal and took it to Montana, and then it moved through Wyoming, back into Montana, and then, get this, a first time geocacher picks it up and takes it directly to Bend. The cache they dropped it in when they got to Bend is their very first logged find! Isn't that crazy?

So here we are, our picture, looking out around us in Bend. The real us is still stuck here in Houston dreaming of Oregon mountains. The TB us has been sitting in the cache for three months, but it seems that most Oregon cachers like to wait for the snow to melt to get serious about caching. That was my impression when visiting the area over Christmas. The TB was discovered last week, so I feel comfortable it is still there. No one has added photos to the page, but here is one of the local wildlife around the cache site. Apparently these deer are fairly docile and don't scare easily (which actually concerns me, having helped repair torn chests on dogs caused by the antlers of bucks just like this who are not scared off easily).

So, this bug traveled 6620 miles in about seventeen months, made its goal, and I could not be happier about it! After reaching Bend, my idea was for people to take "us" caching in the area with them and show us their favorite caches, but I have also put a tag on all my bugs' pages requesting "Take me to GeoWoodstock IV". I want to see how many of my 50 bugs end up there, and take home the ones that do for retirement, repairs, or a new mission. So, perhaps I will see this bug again at GW6, or perhaps I will see it again in Bend one day, but I do hope we will be reunited once more.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Reflections on On The Road
by Jack Kerouac

- third time around

The first time I read On the Road, I was seventeen, and it made quite an impression. It was one of those defining books of those years, I remember, although I can't remember specifically what I liked about it. I remember thinking that Kerouac's writing style was fresh, and admiring the complete freedom of the characters in the story. The second time I read it, I was in college and found it tedious, but I suspect this was because I was reading a lot of Tom Robbins and so Kerouac's writing style lost the freshness factor to me. I had become enraptured with pop philosophy and quirky characters, which seems semi-ironic now for me to say that because these elements are present in On the Road, but it is just not as in-your-face obvious as it is in a Robbins novel.
This third time around it was neither fresh nor tedious, and perhaps more enjoyable on several levels because I understand more of the history behind the novel and in the novel. In between this reading and the last one, I have read several more Kerouac books and books on Kerouac or Neal Cassady, most notably in terms of pertinence to the story Carolyn Cassady's book Off the Road. Carolyn was romantically involved and/or married to Neal during the time period that On the Road covers, between 1947 and 1950, and between her perceptions of the events and the understanding of the history of the two men that has evolved as I have educated myself more thoroughly on their lives, I developed a totally different impression of the novel through this more recent reading.
One of the primary impressions I obtained this time around was the sense of place as vital to the story. When I was a teenager reading the book, I was most impressed with what the two main characters - "Sal Paradise" as Kerouac himself and "Dean Moriarty" as Cassady - were doing in these incredible cross country road trips, but this time around I recognized that place was the unnamed third main character, filling in the emotional and physical context of the action. On the Road is essentially a period piece that gives one a snapshot of what postwar America was like, both generally and specifically. As the travelers enter each city, drive through each state, they experience the place so deeply that it becomes them, defines them, shapes them. The concise descriptions of place and detail of person are the strengths of this novel, and the strength in Kerouac's writing, the reason for his lasting significance as a cultural American icon defining a generation.
A second realization I got this time around that somehow I didn't catch through all my studying of the character of Neal Cassady before was a strong sense of mental imbalance. My impression before, even in reading Carolyn's impressions on their life together, was that he was a fascinating man with some interesting qualities who was also self-absorbed, selfish in his dealings with others. He would have been hell on a heart, all heat and madness and pledges of undying love while chasing other women on the side and taking off at a moment's notice, disappearing for months, the frantic unreliability of his nature. This reading, though, I saw little details that caused me to think that in this day and age, Cassady would have been labeled with some mental illness or another if he had ever walked into a psych office: the manic phases (driving hundreds of miles without sleeping, the frantic speech), his physical habits such as twitching and sweating, his compulsive womanizing, the way he acted on sudden urges to move and just left, took off, without consideration for others he was involved with. I also saw that Kerouac himself recognized this fact, and was at times both frightened and intrigued by it, but drawn to it as well.
Here is an excerpt to prove my theory from Part Four, when Kerouac is preparing to leave Denver for Mexico and finds out Cassady has bought a car and is on his way down to join him, unexpectedly:

Suddenly I had a vision of Dean, a burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain, bearing down on me. I saw his huge face over the plains with the mad, bony purpose and the gleaming eyes; I saw his wings; I saw his old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparking flames shooting out from under it; I saw the path it burned over the road; it even made its own road and went over the corn, through cities, destroying bridges, drying rivers. It came like a wrath to the West. I knew Dean had gone mad again. There was no chance to send money to either wife if he took all his savings out of the bank and bought a car. Everything was up, the jig and all. Behind him charred ruins smoked. He rushed westward over the groaning and awful continent again, and soon he would arrive.

Although I have my reasons for continuing to idolize the nature of Kerouac and Cassady, this reading gave me great feelings of discomfort in terms of the relationships these men had with women. It was reminiscent of the way I felt watching "Walk the Line", the uncomfortability I felt with Johnny's relationship with June Carter. I didn't stop liking the music of Cash, but I empathized more with his first wife, understanding her anger at his betrayal in his obsessive attraction for June. In the same respect, this time I was not comfortable with Cassady's three significant relationships, the way he fooled around with his second wife while with the first and also vice versa, the way he immediately hooked up with wife #3 in New York and immediately called home for a divorce from Carolyn, aka "Camille", while she was pregnant with their second child, only to leave the third wife right after marrying her (who also carried his child) to return to Carolyn in San Francisco, all the while trying to make girls on the side during the cross country trips (and let's not forget the bordello scene in Mexico City). When I was a teenager, I saw this as a physical manifestation of their "freedom", freedom from moral constraints being a part of it, but at this point in my life, I find I am uncomfortable walking this line. I just feel sick for the women in his life. Although Kerouac was not quite as concerned with his penis, there is still some knowledge I have about his life that makes me upset to read, at the end, what he writes about his last affair in the novel.
....So I went up and there she was, the girl with the pure and innocent dear eyes that I had always searched for and for so long. We agreed to love each other madly....
because I suspect, based on the timing, that this is Joan Haverty, his second wife, who gave birth to a daughter Jan, who only met her father twice in her life - once at a court hearing for child custody when the girl was ten, and once when she was fifteen and showed up at his doorstep in a desperate longing to connect with the father she had never known. He died two years after that meeting, while married to wife number three.
The point of all this talk is that these men, both of them, were heels on the hearts of women, who promised undying and forever love when it was only fleeting, transient, and when it suited their purposes. Both men seem to be seeking that connection, whether it is with a soulmate or the spark of the divine on earth, and their visceral experience is one of the seeker, the searcher, who is destined to be alone, but through devices of their own doing. In Kerouac's case, I think that was part of what made him such an incredible writer, this sort of melancholy searching through desperate kicks and long road trips for that which he would never find, but at the same time it speaks of the futility of love, generally, and the attitude of these men towards women specifically.
In the end, though, it is Kerouac's writing style that really makes my heart flip and my head swim. In this book, it is particularly beautiful on parts three and four, in the last half of the book. Perhaps the first part of the story Kerouac was just trying to spit out there, get the specifics down, since it had been a few years since those journeys by the time he wrote the book, but the last part, being more recent, had fresher emotional context. It was the way he phrased his words, the way he described every detail, the way he told a story that gets me, and I think gets other people as well. He was a writer, and a darn good one at that. I wanted to pull the best part out and show it to you, to prove it to everyone, to display what it is that makes him remarkable, but nothing I could do is better than this video of him reading the very last page of this book in the notably "beat" fashion. So dig it.....

Jack Kerouac Reads from

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Adventures in Caching, Burroughs Park Style

In Texas, the best time for caching is in the in-between stages of the seasons. I like to joke that most places have four seasons and Texas has two - the hot and rainy and the cold and rainy. Since we are closer to the equator than most of the other states, particularly down here, our weather is more reminscent of the tropics than the four seasons of the more northern states.
Right now it is one of the best times to cache, one of those in-between stages, right after the cold weather and before the hot weather begins. People don't cache as much down here between June and September as they do in other parts of the year, because it is just too darn hot and humid. During this time, though, they are caching like crazy, and in order to keep my standing on the Grand Poobah list, I have to as well. Which is fine, because there is nothing I would rather be doing on a beautiful day like today than hiking in the woods looking for camoed items.
We had not established a plan for our day, but my husband wanted to take the older son fishing, and I wanted to take the younger one caching. We agreed to make it a mutual plan and go to a park I suggested that had a large lake for fishing and miles of great trails and caches, including roughly seven I haven't found yet.
We also agreed we should take two cars. He took the oldest child and oldest dog in the pickup, and carried the red wagon and fishing gear in the bed of the truck. I took the youngest dog and youngest child in my Honda, carrying the diaper bag, caching gear, and picnic lunch. My husband had slaved away in the morning deboning the leftover fried chicken from dinner the other night and making us sandwiches, and I had packed the drinks and chips.
I beat him to the park by a good twenty minutes, because he had stopped for more fishing supplies. The young child played on the playground, going down slides and getting pushed on swings. I keep reminding myself to make a commitment to taking him to places like this, because he digs this type of activity so much. His whole face lights up when I push him forward on the swing.
Once my husband showed up, we all ate our sandwiches at a shady picnic bench, and then he began scouting out a good fishing spot. By this time, I had everything loaded in the red wagon, and began my journey for caches.
I had finally solved yet another of the five or so puzzle caches in this park, and when my GPSr got reception, it turns out I was only 0.12 mile from the location for this one. I headed off down a shady path, towing the wagon behind me.
I had come up with this idea for lessening my irritation with Scout, who wants to run each way on the trail, sniffing each tree and bush to decide if he needs to mark it or not. It drives me crazy to feel the stress on my wrist with each direction and speed change, so I secured the leash around my waist and had hands-free dog walking action. I really like this, and it might be a way I can exercise with him more often from now on. He and I both need more exercise, but taking him with me when I run usually exercises only my patience.
So we arrived at a spot on the trail where the GPSr says we need to go 65 ft off trail, only I know from previous logs that the cache is within 20 ft of the trail. I pull the wagon a short way in and begin my search. The baby wanted to come, too, which was fine because I found it easily enough. It wasn't well-hidden, but in such a spot that no one was likely to find it. These are my favorite kind of finds, because I hate having to search all over the woods that no one even goes in because someone wants to be sneaky in their hiding spot, especially when I have the kids with me. The inside of the cache was wet, so I chose not to leave one of the geocoins I had with me inside it, and also was the reason I let the little one take the whiffle ball even though we had no trade items. Even trade items will just go bad in this cache with all the wetness.
We got back on the trail and kept walking. When I arrived at a crossroads, I had a choice to turn right towards one I have been meaning to find, or go left towards a new one that has been driving people crazy so far. I chose left, because I was feeling fresh and hoping I could find the high difficulty cache. There was a chance I could even be FTF on a cache near the one I was going for. They had both been published the same day, but no one had been able to find one of them yet, despite some serious effort.
It was a nice walk to the area where both of them were. It was such a nice day, with a sun shining but a hint of chilly wind, the kind of day where you would be happy in either shorts and a tee shirt or jeans and a sweatshirt. I knew we were approaching the right area when I came upon a surrealistic scene, with mist coming up from a swamp, fallen trees, and palm fronds all around. It looked like a scene from the show Lost, which could be why the cacher chose this location, seeing as how it states on the cache page that "This cache is a tribute to my favorite television show". It was a cool area, but the GPSr was going nuts, the dog was running wild (I had released him from the leash), and the kid was sick of the wagon and wanted to be held. I was carrying him up and down these little pine needle covered inclines, ducking under branches and dodging spider webs, and it was just making me cranky and frustrated. Since the level of difficulty was so high and the reception questionable, I decided to let this one go and keep on keeping on. I would like to come back on a day without children where I can leisurely search.
When I chose the "Find Nearest" option on the GPSr, I realized I had passed the other new one no one had found yet, but decided to keep heading northeast, which would eventually lead me back to the area where my husband and other child were fishing. The next one out that direction was 0.28 mile away, so I kept on trucking.
I had been wanting to find this next one for a while, since it was a nice big one that always had traveling items in it. Last time I was at this park, hiking with Lara, we had almost went for this one, but the GPSr had shown that we needed to go 260 ft into the woods, and we weren't in the mood for bushwacking, since we had been hiking and caching for like an hour and were kinda hot and icky. We had considered heading up the greenway to where the fenceline was, but I didn't think there was another trail leading to the left up that way, so we hadn't tried.

Today I was determined to get there. I didn't notice before that the sandy trail along the greenway has a slight incline to it, but I did notice that today, as I hauled the wagon behind me loaded with thirty pounds of kid, diaper bag, caching bag and jug of water. The cool air and exertion was making my lungs ache briefly on exhale, and for a moment I pondered if this was an effective use of my energy, until I concluded there was nothing I would rather be doing this day than exactly this: being outside, involved in a physical task, surrounded by nature, on a quest, with my beautiful and incredible child and dog.
I reached the fenceline and saw that there was, in fact, a trail leading to the left and back up, right where the coords had wanted to take me. As I started down the trail, K started to fuss because he wanted to get out, so I let him, knowing full well it would slow me down incredibly. I was 500 ft from the cache and of course I wanted to race to the find, but I reminded myself that my true purpose here was to appreciate nature with my child, so I let go of the GPSr and the number countdown for a while and ooo-ed and ahh-ed over pine cones and lichen, laughed as he tried to write on the bark of a tree with the pine cones, and took pictures of him chasing leaves.
In the end, we eventually reached the cache, and I was happy that I managed to spy it from the edge of the forest and didn't have some frustrating woods search carring the baby. I pointed K in the general direction and said "where's the geocache, baby?" and he ran straight for it, laughing, because he knows by now that we get to open it and check out all the cool stuff inside. I dropped off the BJS 500 Cache Challenge geocoin and picked up the Arizona bug, which doesn't have a picture on its page but is a cute koala toy.
After this we found a trail that led us right to the spot where hubby and son were fishing, but they weren't there anymore. For a second I didn't know which side of the lake to head to, but I caught a glimpse of my son and dog cavorting to the left and headed that way. I couldn't figure out at first why they were heading into the woods and not standing by the lake, but when I got there, I saw what was going on. They had found another body of water, this one smaller and more serene, tucked into the woods. There were three mallard ducks swimming by and a turtle was sunning himself on a log, none very concerned about the attempts at fishing by my guys, or even the dogs eyeing them from the shore.
At this point, I had been pulling that wagon around the woods for an hour or so, and I was hot. My husband remarked that my face was flushed, and my body was telling me I needed a break, but my mind was fixating on the rest of the caches in the park. The little one absolutely fell apart, though, a few minutes later, and it was clear he was overdue for a nap. I took off for the car and for home, all the while tracking the location of the closest cache, which was another puzzle I had solved some time back. As I pointed the Honda out of the park, I was still watching the number drop, and when I saw a parking spot within 500 ft of this last cache, I had to go. I got the dog and the kid back out and carried this sleepy child across a muddy field, letting the dog run free. The field ended at a path which wrapped around into the woods, and I found the cache quickly, thank goodness.
My shoes that I bought last week in San Marcos were officially broken in today as I walked back through the muddy field carrying the child, sloppy ground splashing mud up along the front of my clean Adidas. We weren't five minutes into the drive when the little one fell asleep, and he still sleeps now, an hour later.
It was a great day, and even though it was only three finds, they were a perfect three finds in great weather. It feels great to have those two puzzle caches off my "nearest unfound" list, since I don't typically solve puzzle caches. I don't know if that is because I am being intellectually lazy or that I am going for the easiest ones first, but it does give me a sense of accomplishment to know that I worked at them and got the right answer, and I also feel good about the physical activity we had today, and the seized opportunity to get the kids and dogs outside somewhere cool.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Journey of the Heart

This weekend I had a dog show scheduled in San Marcos. Our family was looking forward to having this adventure together, a post-Valentines celebration weekend in a great little town. My husband's job suddenly required that he go out of town for the same weekend, and my oldest son had been invited to a birthday party he didn't want to miss. My mother agreed to take the oldest for the weekend, and I was on my own with the youngest, who is in his "terrible twos" phase (he has recently acquired a spitting habit).
Only I could not show the dog and monitor the youngest. I didn't want to drop out of the show (and lose the entry fees) because there was someone who wanted to look at my dog as a prospective mate for her female. The people who bred my dog Scout are like family to me. They offered to show him for me, but I would still need to do the grooming beforehand. I asked my friend Lara to come with me and be my baby wrangler.

Friday evening I was frantically preparing to leave: bathing and blowing out the dog, bathing the baby, bathing myself, packing three days worth of clothes and dog food, diapers and sippy cups. I hauled the dog kennel, grooming stand, misc equipment, clothing, diaper bag, bag of toys, cooler for youngests antibiotic and liquid refreshments, and geocaching bag out to the car, dropped off the oldest dog at Grandma's and checked with oldest kid, who had gone home sick from school with Grandma and was still not eating and feeling puny. He was watching movies and laying on the couch. Scout was embarrasingly wild and the toddler was trying to get into cabinets. We loaded back up, Scout, the baby, and I, and headed off to pick up Lara.

Once on the way, we started discussing dinner plans and there was a stop along the way for some fast food. It was dark and a light rain was falling. The young child, K, was fussy at first, but eventually fell to sleep in the drizzle of the rain on the roof and the steady lulls and pitches of a good conversation. We talked of everything under the moon. She told stories of her film industry, I told her stories of my past, including my time in the San Marcos area. I was taking her on a journey to a place I used to live, a piece of my history, only it was so ancient history by now that the details are faint.

I lived in that area of the world when I was a dozen years younger and working as a horse wrangler at a camp about seventeen miles from San Marcos. We came into "town" occasionally, mostly to eat at this great mexican joint by campus. That restaurant is no more, for which I was disappointed, but we did go to Los Cucos on Saturday so it was all good. We also briefly checked out the Outlet mall, mostly so I could run in and get some new shoes for K and I. It was raining lightly all day and was miserable weather to do some hard core geocaching, but we did managed to get a lot accomplished in that area nonetheless.
The best cache we did all day was a virtual, "grandfathered" in ( does not allow virtual caches as new listings anymore, and also does not allow commercial caches, in which you have to pay a fee to get to the cache, and this was both), in which you had to ride out on a glass-bottomed boat in AquaArena Center and answer a question when you got to the coordinates: which spring were you over when you reached this location? The boats took you over several natural springs formed by the Balcones Fault, and we got a great geography lesson while there.
In the later afternoon, we began the drive up to the Devils Backbone, the area that the camp was located at. We were doing some caching along the way. The highlights of our journey were as follows:
GCY8EF Blown Glass

This was a microcache outside of the Wimberley Glass Works building. Inside they hosted free glass blowing demonstrations all day, and we went inside to check it out. They were making a vase when we were there, and it was awe inspiring to watch them work.

Backbone Break

This small cache was located just to the side of the lookout point where we used to do firewatch for the camp. The lookout gives a great view of the Devils Backbone (zipcode 78666) ridge formations out here in the hill country, and has sentimental memories attached to it for me.
GCEF CenTex Prime
Wow! A "grandfather" cache! This one was hidden in 12/00 - check out the low GC #. This might be one of the 50 oldest active caches, not sure, but it is the oldest one I have found. It was a classic cache hidden in the classic style, and was in a great area, but still a 1/1 (diffculty/terrain). It was a park and grab, but no one would ever guess it was there.

Right after finding CenTex Prime, we got back on the road and I realized we were at the gate of the old camp, not 500 feet from the cache. We stopped in the driveway to turn around and I was tempted to go in and find the man who lived there, who had been my boss that summer working with the horses. I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do. So much time had passed. So we went on, turning around for a few miles and heading towards this one:
GC12BHB Out of Sight, Out of Mind
This cache was in an old Confederate soldier cemetary, and we spent quite a bit of time here checking out the history. It was so peaceful and the weather was just right. Scout and K enjoyed running around in the fenced yard, and we were digging the moment, Lara and I.

After this cache, we still had time and daylight, and we were in the mood for more, so I drive back west again, passing the gates of the camp for the second time. This time a truck was pulling into the drive, and I felt like they slowed ever slightly and I wondered if it was the ranger, and if he recognized me.

As we drove, we passed by the western edge of the camp and all of a sudden I could see myself there. It was at that moment that I realized that this was not a trip out to a place where I used to live, this was a trip to a place where I fell in love...with my horse. That summer was a magic summer of forming a bond with a living animal that I could not leave behind. Most of my friends are aware of the story of how I earned my horse while I was there, how he was a horse that could not be tamed, had been living there for two years unable to be ridden by anyone, but how I developed a bond with him and he became "my horse". As we drove past the pinion and sage of the back part of the trails, I thought of the picture I took from in the saddle, the view from the ride, with his neck and ears out in front and the hill country all around, and how I felt I wanted to live there forever. At the end of the summer, I offered the ranger about half of what I had made working there, delibrately mentioning it in front of the councilmen who made these kind of decisions and knowing it was more than the horse had been bought for. Later he told me privately that he wanted to sell him to his brother, who wanted to make him into a roping horse. So I seduced his brother at the end of the summer, had a wild affair with him out there, even met up with him once after the summer ended there at the lookout point, until he willingly agreed to drop his desire for the horse, and after several months of waiting for a swamp fever quarantine to be lifted, the ranger had driven that horse to me in College Station, in return for the money I had offered for him originally.

That time in my life was a time of "gain", a time of acheiving a dream I had always had, the dream of owning my own horse. Bullseye was a part of my life for five years, and we grew together and moved together, from College Station to Colorado, to Northern California to Oregon. I sold him when I was in Oregon, during a time when our relationship had become strained, and I have grieved for him all seven years since then, and our story, which had been this beautiful story of the love between a young woman and the horse of her dreams, had become a story of loss.

I wasn't prepared to face the memories of when we fell in love, and suddenly here it was, the place, the emotions, the memories swirling through my heart as I pointed the car past and on to Fisher, for yet another cemetary cache. I tried not to think about it anymore, but I realized that this loss was perhaps one of the reasons I didn't want to stop in to talk to the ranger. For years, I thought I could never forget that magical summer, because I had this living, breathing reminder of it for always, but now, so many years later, it would just be a sad story of how we have to let go of our dreams, let go of the things we love sometimes in order to move ahead.

On our way back from that area, the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out to say hello before falling for the evening, and we saw the most incredible rainbow. It stretched the entire length of sky and as we came towards it, the road seemed to be taking us directly to its end. We had been silent in our thoughts, listening to Pink Floyd, but we had a momentary lapse of silence when I mentioned that we just might be headed straight towards that pot of gold. Lara agreed that this road would in fact end directly at the gold under that rainbow.

At one point, I was headed straight for the rainbow and looked out my window with slight trepidation at the way the road went straight down in front of me, but I saw ahead that the road would come back up. That is the way I will forever remember that drive now - the mountains and valleys of the hill country road, the ups and downs, and how I thought that was just how life was - when you see the yourself coming down a hill, that just means there is a road taking you back up on the other side, that coming down only means you are coming back up. I talked this over with Lara and she completely saw what I was talking about, but maybe it is because we are both bipolar and our lives are ruled by the mountains and valleys anyway that she was able to understand why that road seemed metaphorical.

On our drive, we had passed by Riley's on the Backbone hamburger joint several times, another place we used to hang out at a lot when I lved there. It was close, cheap, and the burgers were great, and sometimes if you were lucky you could get a cold beer, too. I had longed to take stop at Riley's for old times sake, but it had changed. The back patio was covered in glass, and it looked like it was under construction or not open. After we passed Riley's for the third time and still stuck by our decision not to go in, we saw another place, a big Tex-Mex place, two stories high and decorated with lights. It looked like a great, fun place to have a meal, but the baby was quietly sleeping and we didn't want to wake him to go inside.

By the time we made it back to our hotel that night, we were exhausted and dirty from the dog show and caching and could not wait to veg out and get cleaned off. However, when we got to the hotel, we realized we were missing Lara's purse! Last I had seen it, she had set it down at the Confederate soldier graveyard! We had to make the drive back up there and get out, in the dark, and go hunt her purse in the spooky graveyard.

The next day we didn't find any caches, although the weather was great. A professional handler had offered to show my dog for free, and since he was showing under a judge who has mentioned in the past she likes him, I really thought it was his day. Unfortunately, he got another red ribbon in his class, the fourth one in the past four shows he has been to, effectively knocking him out of advancing to the next round and eliminating any chance at points.
By the time we left San Marcos, we were done with the town and everything in it. We did some light caching on the way home, bringing the weekend total up to sixteen, which is what I needed to be able to move ahead in the standings. We had a great time on the road home, talking of everything under the sun, and I was so glad I had her along to share this time with me.

It was bitterweet to walk away from that place without closing the door on the memories, without experiencing a big win to make it worth the money and time we invested with the dog, without stopping in at Riley's on the Backbone hamburger joint while we were there, but I also had a great time checking out the town with Lara and K, and I have new memories now for the town to take away some of the pain from the old ones, the ones that were so good that it hurts to have to let them go. It made me think of Riley's, and how now the camp staff probably hangs out at the swanky Mexican place instead. Sometimes things change inside us, like they do in the areas we remember, and although those places were good, sometimes they get replaced with something even better. Sometimes the heart has to have walls taken out to allow for more light to come in. We can be sad for the way it used to be, but the changes allow for something even better to take root.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Thrill of the Hunt

Go fish and hunt far and wide day by day -- farther and wider -- and rest thee by many brooks and hearth-sides without misgiving. Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee everywhere at home. There are no larger fields than these, no worthier games than may here be played.

-Henry David Thoreau

One of my acquaintances was making a reference to my holiday caching, and he said something about "I guess it was just about whatever trinkets you found." I didn't correct him on that one, but you geocachers out there know what it is that makes this game so darn addictive, and it has nothing to do with the trinkets.
I have decided that the reason so many people like geocaching (1000 new members a day, currently at about 1.5 million players) is because most people like to hunt things. I think this goes back to our early years, before the domestication of animals and the development of crops, back in the hunter-gatherer times. We still have an urge to hunt, but that urge has no outlet.
I know from working with animals for so long that the best way to entertain an animal over the course of the day is to provide it with food items for it to "hunt", or "forage", or to sniff out. Before we started domesticated animals and changing their environment to suit our purposes, they, like us, had to hunt for their food, whether it be smaller prey animals or fruits and berries, certain plants, areas of grasslands. Animals developed special abilities over time that aided them in finding their food or avoiding being food themselves: the acute sense of smell in a dog, the wide-spaced eyes in herbivores (in order to scan the horizon for threats), the prehensile tongues and tails on some of our "exotics" (e.i. the long tongue on a giraffe that enables them to reach further for food). Engaging an animal in the hunt for food is the best prevention for behavior abnormalities.
Like our animal friends, we are wired for the hunt ourselves. Geocaching provides an outlet for those of us who would like the thrill of the hunt without the kill of the find. Hunting game is still a popular outlet for many people, and although there are people out there who still hunt for food (my in-laws), we have the convience of grocery stores now that kill and dress our meat for us and have our berries and fruits washed and cleaned and put in nice little packages for us. It will never stop "hunting" from being a pasttime of some people, and certainly there are other reasons for legitimate hunting of animals (such as conservation), but the point is that that not every person enjoys the killing aspect of hunting. Even so, we are still wired to hunt.
The finding of a geocache satisfies this urge, and for most players, this is what it is all about. Sure, there is usually "swag" in the containers (low cost trading items), but for most people, these trinkets are not what the game is about. This is why the most common abbreviation in most logs, besides TFTC, is TNLNSL - short for "Took nothing, left nothing, signed log."
Recently I checked on one of my caches that was hidden in October of 2006. It had been out for fifteen months and 23 people had found it since I had hidden it, and almost all the swag that I had originally stocked it with was still intact. The common thought on swag in the Groundspeak forums is that it is there for the children, who enjoy opening up a container full of "booty" - without the swag, children quickly lose interest. My children enjoy trading items from the containers, and for them that is what keeps them motivated to cache with me. Most adults, however, leave the swag alone and simply sign the log and move on.
For me, and I suspect for most of us, it is about the thrill of the hunt. It is that certain excitement I get as I see the distance on my GPSr counting down, as I get within 40 ft and begin my search, the feeling of accomplishment I get from finding something hidden from the uninformed, the spotting of a camoflaged container. Of course, we all still love shiny things, which is why trackable items are so popular, and I will discuss those in another post. If it was only about geocoins and travel bugs, though, we would not waste our time hunting caches that don't have the cool icon next to them.
It is the feeling of excitement of walking through the wilderness searching for something that is difficult to find that keeps most of us going out, over and over again, to search for ammo cans in the woods and film canisters in the urban environment. It is a search that takes us back to our roots, that makes use of our over 400,000 years of human involvement in hunting and the special skills we have developed as a result. It is the thrill of the hunt, and the fun in the find, that keeps us going.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Ghost of the Susquehanna
So I am re-reading On the Road for the third time, like I mentioned, and this time I caught something that I missed before. I have the benefit this time around of knowing more about the history of this most famous of the Kerouac novels that I was not aware of before, and also having read other Kerouac books in the meantime.

One of the reasons On the Road brought Kerouac so much fame, at least in the literary circles, was due to this legend that the book was written in three weeks time. Kerouac had taped together several sheets of paper so that the paper could run continuously into his typewriter (keep in mind this was the 1950s, before the advent of personal computers), and in a benzedrine fueled craze, simply typed and typed the story of the three cross country trips he made with Neal Cassady "as if he was telling a story to a friend", which became his trademark "voice". That original manuscript, with true names and adventures intact, was rolled into a scroll and is still around today, and will be visiting Austin soon as part of the "On the Road with the Beats" traveling exhibit, which I plan to visit in the upcoming months.

After two years of revision by his publishers (including changing the names and certain situational details), the book was finally published in 1957. His adventures on the road with Cassady, however, had began in 1947, when he was in the middle of completing The Town and The City, his first published novel. In the span of those ten years, Kerouac had tried to write the story of his adventures with Cassady several different ways. He experimented with voice and character, struggling to figure out how to convey to his future audiences his experiences.

One of those attempts was published as a novella under the name of Pic after Kerouac's death, released by his estate. It tells the story of a young black child on the road with his uncle, originating on North Carolina backwoods through to New York City and then on to California. It is told with the vernacular that would be possessed by this type of person during this time period, and is written as if the child is telling the story of the journey to his grandfather. I read Pic sometime in the last year and found it unremarkable except for the pertinence to the development of Kerouac as a writer.

Last night when I was reading On the Road, though, I came to a part in the novel that sounded familiar, and knew exactly where I had heard it before. It is the story of "The Ghost of the Susquehanna", which sounds ominuous and thrilling but is simply a story of an unusual man that Kerouac encountered on his journey.

From On the Road:
It was the night of the Ghost of the Susquehanna. The Ghost was a shriveled little old man with a paper satchel who claimed he was headed for "Canady". He walked very fast, commanding me to follow, and said there was a bridge up ahead we could cross. He was about sixty years old; he talked incessantly of the meals he had had, how much butter they gave him for pancakes, how many extra slices of bread, how the old men had called to him from a porch of a charity home in Maryland and invited him to stay for the wekeend, how he took a nice warm bath before he left; how he found a brand-new hat by the side of the road in Virginia and that was it on his head, how he hit every Red Cross in town and showed them his World War I credentials; how the Harrisburg Red Cross was not worthy of the name; how he managed in this hard world. But as far as I could see he was just a semi-respectable walking hobo of some kind who covered the entire Eastern Wilderness on foot, hitting Red Cross offices and sometimes bumming on Main Street corners for a dime. We were bums together. We walked seven miles along the mournful Susquehanna.

In the novella Pic, the main character and his uncle walk these seven miles with this man, and the child describes how hungry his conversation made him, and some of the silly things the man was doing, such as looking through his paper satchel for a tie that might not have existed at all. In both stories, the walk ended with the realization that the man was headed the wrong way, and that those seven miles were a complete waste of time and energy.

This is where we leave this character in On the Road:

It began to rain hard. A man gave me a ride back to Harrisburg and told me I was on the wrong road. I suddenly saw the little hobo standing under a sad streetlamp with his thumb stuck out- poor forlorn man, poor little lost sometimeboy, now broken ghost for the penniless wilds. I told my driver the story and he stopped to tell the old man.
"Look here fella, you're on your way west, not east."
"Heh?" said the little ghost. "Can't tell me I don't know my way around here. been walking this country for years. I'm headed to Canady."
"But this ain't the road to Canada, this is the road to Pittsburgh and Chicago." The little man got disgusted with us and walked off. The last I saw of him was his bobbing little white bag dissolving in the darkness of the mournful Alleghenies.

In Pic, there is a whole chapter devoted to the story of this little man. What I thought was possibly an inside joke for Kerouac was this first line here, from Pic, and here is also where the characters in this story leave the man:

"Heh heh. I just misjudged you boys like I misjudged that young man thee years ago, that's all I done. I'm ready to go on if you ain't."
"Well, we can't walk all night," Slim said.

"Go ahead, give up. I'm all set to walk up to Canady and straight on through New York City if that's how the chips fall."
"New York City?" Slim yelled. "Did I hear you say? Ain't this the road west to Pittsburgh?"
Slim stopped, but the man hurried right along. "Say, did you hear me?"Slim yelled. That old man heard him all right but didn't care. "Keep walking," I say. "Maybe I'll be in Canady, maybe I won't. Can't wait around all night." And he kept talkin, and walkin, till all we could see was his shadow fadin in the dark and gone like a ghost.
What I find interesting about this is two fold: how it relates to what I enjoy about Kerouac and how it relates to our common experience.
To me, reading the "Dulouz Legend" (Kerouac's pet name for his library of published works) is a bit like being a detective. There are clues to what he is talking about if you read carefully, like for instance which of his famous friends is a character in the story (since they went by many pseudonyms in his books) and which experience of his is he drawing inspiration from. I liked comparing these two books side by side, the same experience written two completely different ways with different results on the reader. It was enjoyable for me to read this part and recognize it from another book.
It also makes you think of where you might have been in the same situation before, or felt the same way, and what is he saying about humanity through his individual experience.
For instance, have you ever followed someone "down a road" and found out later they had no idea what they were talking about, and felt silly for wasting the energy to go down that "road" with a person? Also, is a misperception something that makes us kinda crazy, or something we all have to deal with from time to time? You could make a case that the little ghost man was mentally ill, but perhaps he was simply misguided, simply stuck on an idea that makes no sense to anyone but him. Don't we all do this from time to time, become convinced that we are on the right path when it is clear to others around us, or is pointed out, that it might not be the way to go? And when the truth is pointed out, do we hold tight to our convictions, like the little hobo, and go off anyway to do what we are planning to do, or do we turn around, like our main characters, and find the right road?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Klamath Falls, Oregon
Moment of Fame in A Kerouac Article

Klamath Falls, Oregon's "City of Sunshine", is the hometown of my husband and his family. We spent our first three married years in and around Klamath Falls, and it is the town where one of our sons was born and another was concieved. Imagine my surprise when I was doing some research on Kerouac for my upcoming journeys this year to visit historical Beat Generation locations and exhibits and I found this little describing a journey up through Klamath! Amazing thing is, it is exactly the Klamath I remember, even though this was written fifty years ago. I know exactly where he is describing. It is hard to read, so I am going to type that part here:

Everything more joyous til at Klamath Falls in the flats of the Klamath River I realized I was in an old-fashioned snowy, joyous American town and took a walk in the winy air. Little kids leaned on the bridge rail. Mills, red-brick alleys, businessmen on affairs in the sunny morning, bell ringing, crisp homelike town that made me homesick for my New York State. Up by great Klamath Lake rolling on the bridge of timber hills leading to east Oregon craters, wastes, rangelands, and that mysteriously unkown junction of Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada.

The part preceding this describes the familiar territory of Northern California towns like Weed and Dorris (the neighboring town to the one my husband went to high school in), and the following passages describe the pass up to the Ashland area and up through the Willamette Valley, some of the most beautiful areas in all of Oregon.
There will be more beat history in this blog, be prepared. I am rereading the "Dulouz Legend" in its entirety to submerge myself in the history before heading to Austin to see, among other things, the original scroll of On the Road and then to San Francisco to visit places integral to the Beat Generation, haunts of Kerouac, including the newly named Kerouac Alley between City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvius Cafe. There will be lots of pictures posted along the way.
Currently I am re-reading On the Road for the third time, getting a third perspective on it, which I will post when I am done.
And the Beat goes infamy, that is.......


Pass It On

I recently joined this Sunday School class that my friend's mother leads. She impressed upon me that I really to attend regularly because I lower the average age of the class by at least three decades. I find the perspective of these people, who are much older than me, interesting and intriguing.

This week we were discussing a Faithlinks article on "Courtesy". The main idea is that common courtesy is not as common as it used to be. Examples were given that focused on traffic issues (road rage, etc) and cell phone usage, as well as manners and customs. We explored the issue through Biblical references to examples of courtesy in the time of Jesus, what he had to say about it, and how our faith should dictate our actions in terms of common courtesy. As an example of the conclusions we reached, we agreed that when someone makes a bad decision on the road, instead of trying to flip them the bird or give them a dirty look, we should just let it go and realize that God is the one who will do the judging.

As with any group of people in a discussion, we heard a range of ideas, amusing anecdotes, intriguing opinions, and startling statements. I was still thinking about it that afternoon when we were on our way to a Superbowl party, and I wanted to discuss it.

"Today at Sunday School," I started, but my husband interrupted me to ask me if I had the map with me. I told him I didn't need it, I knew where I was going, and that I had begun a story I wanted to tell him. "I know, I know, " he says, "but I just wanted to ask that real quick before we got too far."

"So I've been going to this Sunday School class, you know," I began again. "Today we were talking about courtesy."

"Hold on," he says, "just as a caveat to what I was saying," and begins talking about goals he has just written down on how to improve himself this year. "That's great," I said, "But I was trying to tell you something I learned today. Can we talk about this after I am finished?"

"I thought we were having a conversation!" he says, irritated, then stops real quick to give a woman at a stop sign a dirty look. "Are ya gonna go or not, woman!" he says angrily.

"Yeah," I tried again, "so in Sunday School we were actually talking about road rage, and how to deal with people who are making you mad when you are driving,"
"Uh-huh," he says, as he looks over my shoulder to the person driving next to him in an attempt to pass him.
"Yeah, and we were trying to find a way to approach road rage issues through our faith, like how as a Christian should we deal with people who make us angry when we are on the road."
"Oh, Christians sure like to say things like that," he says, "How about as a person, as a human being on this earth? What makes the Christians think they are special anyway?" he says, as he looks over his left hand shoulder and begins accelerating to try to beat the person next to him to the left hand turn lane.

"Well, it was really interesting to hear these people talk about it, because they are older than me and their perspective is different," I said. "I was sitting between a woman in her nineties and a woman in her sixties," I said, about to make a point about the things they were saying.

"Ah, my ADD is kicking in," my husband says, as he tries to get in front of the person next to us approaching the entrance ramp for the freeway. This is his cue that he doesn't want to listen to me anymore.
So now I am pouting, and he is irritated, and we go back and forth on the long drive to our party, talking, not talking, try to resolve it, forgot it about it, give up, back and forth.
We get to the party and it happens again. I start talking and he cuts me off to ask me random questions.

"So today I was thinking about this book..."

"Hold on. What day does school end this year?"

"I was talking! You've cut me off five times tonight already!"

"By my count, it is seven."

"Can you stop? I really want to have a conversation."

"This is a conversation! You say something, I say something, we're talking!"

"Can you pull your chair over to me and sit down with me? I really want to talk."

"No, because I gotta use the restroom, get another beer. Hold on."

He never comes back. This is an outdoor party with all kinds of entertainment for the children, and I am chasing my toddler all over, making sure he doesn't get hurt or put things in his mouth. After a few hours of this and eating random football snacks, I suddenly don't feel good. I feel dizzy and disoriented. I find myself checking out the ground, thinking, "that looks like a good place to lie down", and I realize if I don't lie down, I am going to fall down.

I find my husband and tell him, "I don't feel good. I have to lay down." The air seems to be moving in and out and people's shapes are contorted, voices too loud.

"You mean to tell me that I am going to miss my game because I have to watch the kids?" he says angrily.

"I can't do it anymore, I have to lay down," ugh, I am about to faint, "remember last week when I canceled my plans with my friend because you didn't feel good?" why are we even having this conversation man what the heck is wrong with me gotta lay down cold clammy forehead pulsating with glistening sweat

"Fine! Go lay down!" he says angrily. I crawl off to lay down in the car, wedging my Bible over the consol so it would stop jutting into my ribs, laying my head on my jacket.A couple minutes later, my husband opens the door."Gotcha a shirt," he says, tossing a t-shirt at me and closing the door again. I stick the t-shirt under my head.

A couple minutes later, the door opens again. It is the host of the party. He says "come on now, come on inside, you don't need to be laying in your car, I have a nice big bed for you to lay in, come get some rest. Are you okay?"The concern in his voice just knocks me away. It feels so merciful, like someone truly cares about me, and tears come to my eyes because it has been so long since I have felt cared for, been shown compassion.

He takes my hand and leads me to the house, where some little girls come up to tell us the baby is crying. My baby is in the bedroom, in the playpen in this strange house, and I think it is most likely because my husband didn't want to watch him. I run to him and pick him up, and for a moment I forget my own concerns as I hold my baby and stroke him, whispering "it's okay, momma's here" in his ear.
Then I tried to lay down in the bed with the baby, who was wiggling and fussing. The wide screen TV on the wall was on, broadcasting Scooby Doo. While we were trying to rest, the commercial posted above came on, brought to you by the Foundation for a Better Life.
Who ever heard of a commercial for courtesy?
Today, of all days.
Is that ironic, or just coincidental?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Book Review

Orpheus Emerged

by Jack Kerouac

I read in the introduction that Orpheus Emerged was published posthumously by the estate of Jack Kerouac following his death in 1969, but while looking at the copyright information, I see that it was actually published in 2000 by the "Estate of Stella Kerouac", his widow (the last unlucky wife). My feeling is that Kerouac never pushed this book to publication himself, and perhaps not even Stella, because it represents a stage in his writing career that was somewhat sophomoric. It is clear throughout the book that Kerouac has not yet found his "voice", the style of writing that would make him famous, and in some ways had not found his vision of what he was trying to relay to the world. However, even in saying that, even though this is not the Kerouac that defined the Beat Generation, this is still Kerouac, and it is still beautiful.

This work has not the physical descriptions of place, the poetic prose, the long rambling sentences that made Jack famous, but it retains quality of its own. It acts more as a flash photo, as a description of a group of people at one moment in time, that makes a statement about men, women, and relationships during the late 1940s. It captures the essence of Jack as a young man in a process of self-discovery without being utterly personal, as well as the other writers and drifters that would become an important part of his life as the core of the Beats.

One of the reasons I liked this book was precisely part of that core, because part of my interest in the Beat Generation lies in the friendships and literary ties between this group. I find it compelling that this core drew inspiration and effectively immortalized each other in their various writings. This particular book, or rather "novella", was written during the time that Kerouac first fell in with some of these people at Columbia University, and so it is our first look through Jack's eyes at some of these friends. We have "Leo" as a young Allen Ginsberg, questioning the world and humanity, we have Lucien Carr possibly as the character "Micheal", William Burroughs and his wife as "Anthony" and "Marie" -- the gang's all here.

Each of the characters are reflections of the perceptions Kerouac had of his friends during these early formative years, the years of the "New Vision" literary line, and his perceptions are with the soft glow of early infatuation and the excitement of new ideas, of sharp college minds before becoming jaded and edged with the disappointment of life, the "tired and down and out" version of beat. This early stage of the Beat Generation captured in this book is more true to Kerouac's original meaning of the term "beat", as in "beatific", as in a quest for a deeper spiritual understanding, as illustrated by the discussion of poetry written by Michael, which Leo and Paul criticize but secretly long to understand, poetry speaking of the transcendent path towards a greater connection with the Divine.

My overall impression when finishing the novel was "oh, this one might be my favorite yet," but I say that after putting down each one of his books, and I know that ultimately it would not replace The Town and The City as representative of what I love about Kerouac's writing. The Town and the City ties Jack the intellectual with Jack the hipster, the wide eyed youth looking at postwar America in all its gritty and sublime detail, all the while tying it to the universal and conversely individual experience of visceral life, in words of poetic prose.