i found myself a bit ashamed to be blowing the dust off the top of the jacket. i opened the pages and fumbled through them, flashing memories from highlighted passages and notes, and handed the book over. the recipient was a young buck who was searching for answers on the PCT. i saw his thumb out on my way back down from a run at green lakes and he hopped in my truck, grateful and full of questions. after a night in the guest room, breakfast and laundry, i handed over kerouac's book before i drove him back up elk lake. i handed it over knowing i might not ever see that copy again, even after having it for over 25 years and i was okay with that. i was partially ashamed at the dust, realizing that stories like that aren't trophies meant to be harbored and owned, but rather shared. after all, like so many things in this world...we can't really take it with us when we go.
i was driving over to waldo and thinking about my time with that book. i read it in high school, a liberated copy of required reading from english classes past that was no longer required but optional. the copy still had the sleeve in the back page where you could "check it out" with the names of the other students and dates who had thumbed the pages before me. i had re-read that book every decade since my teens and every single time the impression that it left was a very different one and turning 40 a few months after giving it away i let it pass with out a second thought. social media, the web, cable tv and other written words were capturing my attention plenty, but rarely keeping it. plus, it never crossed my mind. previous readings had always been spontaneous, not contrived and i always respected the synergy of the timing of it all.
then, in december, a small package arrived from laredo from the ghost of sal paradise. the young buck, manny, returned it as he said he would. simple gesture. true to his word. a word he mentioned he probably would not have kept if he hadn't read the book and experienced his hike. he shared it with friends new and old before passing it back to me and there was a new index card in the back with the names of the few who had had it since me, in true spirit of the thing. i was ashamed by my lack of faith in it's return, and it made me think about what was behind that.
i am amazed at how many kids and young people know the author but not the story. i opened the book, again, and read it as a forty year old and the impression, while now shaped by life's experiences, was as profound as it was as a twenty year old. it didn't elicit any great crisis or action, but rather aligned itself with some paths taken, mistakes made and along with good memories and laughter. most of all, sal was right when he said "the best teacher is experience and not through someones distorted point of view".
so here's to the mad ones, wherever you roam. burn, burn, burn.