(Santa Monica, CA) Sept. 29. George Bush’s efforts to undo the New Deal are just about complete. America will soon return to the traditional way of having only two classes: the Rich and the Poor. Republicans can only lament the fact that Social Security wasn’t privatized and connected to the stock market before this Fall. Osama bin Laden wanted to destroy the American economy and (it seems) George W. Bush has done his bidding. Perhaps it is time to go out on the road and look at how the United States is coping with the New Great Depression.
The last time this columnist did any hitchhiking, kids were still singing the “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did ya kill today” chant, people in the bars of L. A. played a game called Liars Poker, Volkswagen bugs were ubiquitous, and nightclubs featured black-lights, day-glo posters, and the go-go girls performed with the strobe lights giving the dancers a surreal psychedelic aspect.
Writing columns that were critical of George W. Bush was an exhilarating challenge when his approval ratings were up at 80%, but these days, with his numbers dropping like stock prices during the 1929 crash, it’s difficult to find people to annoy by ridiculing the fellow some call the boy emperor.
Would there be any interest in a written account about what it’s like to go back out on the road and restarting the search for Utopia? Yeah, the Digihitch web site would be a place to cross post some columns about the venture, but where would the cash come from to subsidize such a journey?
A request for a grant from the Lazy Journalism Foundation, which just happened to be located in the same place as the apartment where the WLJ Industries home office is; has been accepted and the funds from that grant will be used to subsidize the mission to restart the quest to emulate Kerouac’s search for something to write about, but in Australia, this time. Originally, for the grant winner, the effort started before Joe Namath humbled the Baltimore Colts. The road led through Tonkawa Oklahoma, Lake Tahoe, Banff, Hawaii, Paris, and Amsterdam, but there wasn’t enough material for a novel. By a strange coincidence, the resurrected effort will begin on the day that James Dean’s drive up to Paso Robles ended his life.
Working on a ship bound for (I kid you not) Casablanca, many moons ago, the distinctive odor of a porthole was one of those details that a recent college grad noted down for possible later use in a literary epic. Finding a passage about that very thing in “Death in the Afternoon,” only confirmed the suspicion that he was on the right road (in a nautical speaking sort of way).
Has it all been seen and all been reported? Suppose an old hippie writes about some bit of knowledge that used to be a common cultural touchstone, but has fallen into obscurity, would that be worth jotting down? A flying instructor who was a neighbor used to say if you pick up an old newspaper and read about something you didn’t know; then it still qualifies as “news” no matter when it was printed. So if young folks read something that they didn’t know in something you write, is it bogus if someone they will never read covered the same thing years earlier?
You can do research in a library and get a great many interesting facts, but if you go out on the road you will have interesting experiences, which also make good material for a novel or column. Such as? The passing of Paul Newman this past weekend reminded us of the time he asked this columnist for an autograph. It really did happen and the explanation made a good story.
Maybe a good starting point for a renewed effort to gather material in the field would be to go to the Beatnik museum in San Francisco?
Join Hostels Int. Check!
This is a great place to insert a plug for Rolf Potts latest book about Vagabonding, titled: Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer and hope that maybe he’ll reciprocate with a plug on one of his websites.
Say “thanks” to the folks who run wordpress where our blog is.
Take time to remind Jersey Bill that not everyone who voted for Dubya is bad and that the Huffington Post Big News page for Cars is a good place to check regularly for updates on the latest info from the world of automobiles. Did they form some kind of Associated Press type deal with Jalopnik to get to the definitive level?
This may be one of our last chances to run a plug for the Playboy blog. (See you for lunch when I get back to L. A.)
Speaking of my friend at that web site, that reminds us that perhaps it would be appropriate to say “I’m sorry” to Rob Kall because he is learning, just as did the editors at the IJ, Alan at Just Above Sunset, Jeff at Delusions of Adequacy, and Jeff at SC (and we don’t mean UCLA’s cross town rival) did; that getting editors a wee bit upset is a talent that just comes natural to some folks of Irish heritage.
Now, since the trip will start on Sept. 30, the disk jockey will play the Eagles song “James Dean,” and we’ll hit the road, after we find our battered copy of “Europe on $5 a Day.” Have a week that reminds you of the Irish blessing:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall softly on your fields
And until we meet again,
May Gold hold you in the palm of his hand.
(To be continued . . .)