Jack Kerouac was with me when I moved to Portland, he still is now in Philadelphia.
Procrastination is a symptom of burnout. I know because I am presently recovering from burnout. Writing on this blog, putting up content on this site has been my procrastination for the entire year. Why? Because I burned out on a digital publication called THRU Media, in 2017. I wrote hundreds of posts of all lengths over a period of two years.
I actually miss writing. I miss playing drums. I miss a lot of things, as I’ve had to compromise everything in order to make room for the transition. I have begun a new life in Philadelphia. What a city! It is the densest jawn I have ever lived in, the most diverse, and historic too. It is a continent away from my birthplace on the Pacific Coast.
What am I doing here? What I’ve distilled my answer to after so many interrogations from interested parties: “Family and real estate.” Should the details concern you, the story will reveal itself in time.
This kind of major transition can be the sort of trauma that takes a full year to recover from. Giving a year to restore all the pieces of your life is quite necessary. Not always, I just happened to choose a place where I have no contacts, no momentum, and no direct sense of the local culture.
Now that I’m here, sharing a house in South Philly, I’ve finally picked up a book to read for pleasure. This one has been on the docket since it was given to me as a birthday gift, almost four years ago. It is the five hundred page first novel of Jack Kerouac, The Town and The City. I’m about 150 pages in now.
It is funny how a book can time itself into your perspective. Had I not been at this particular moment in my life, this book may not have spoken to me as it does right now. In fact, I had begun to read it before, but it wasn’t holding my attention. I can’t easily express it, certainly without giving away some deeply personal information, but this book, right now, is pertinent. Objectively though, it is greatly enjoyable.
It is about the Martin family, in the years leading up to World War Two, in a small town outside of Boston, with enough bustling economy to support a classic American town infrastructure where everything passes through Main Street. I just drove across the country, and there is no Main Street infrastructure left standing — not like Kerouac knew it.
The book cover describes this novel as an instant critical success, comparing Kerouac to great writers of the early twentieth century. And it is solidly composed. This book is more classically written, much more in line with popular fiction of the time. It is more illustrious than your average fiction of the era, so the book made him a critically acclaimed young author to watch. This was 1950.
On the Road came out in 1957, although it was completed in 1950. I would imagine, having not researched this at all, that he had a rough time of it, getting that book published in 1951. The Town and The City fit perfectly into the American post-war project, whereas this beatnik stuff was counter-cultural and dangerous. At the least, it was ahead of its time, by six years.
Now 60 years have passed and it remains influential to Millennials, like myself. I had that ravenous appetite for life, and sensation, experience, intellectual and philosophical grasping at the sands of time that Kerouac had identified with during those brilliant years when he penned, not just On The Road, but five novels, and a load of poems and short stories, before the defining beatnik classic would make him an international superstar.
Everything he did that was innocent and perfect happened before he was recognized for it. And the first book that he published, that bolstered him to a seat at the table, is largely left out of the beatnik canon. Maybe this is a lesson to be learned for myself. Poor Kerouac was 35 and accustomed to a creative life of poverty before publishing something that would launch him into a kind of life that he surely didn’t believe was for him.
I’m now 35 years old. I moved to Portland because of Kerouac, to find his equivalent, to a city with the kind of creativity that maybe San Francisco had back then. Fifteen years have passed, and I moved to Philadelphia to get closer to my ancestors, and in so doing, myself. I don’t have a stack of ingenius books waiting to be published, or the musical equivalent. I don’t have a deep network of brilliant future icons rooting for me. But I don’t need to compare myself to anyone, it just has me thinking, that’s all.
I think what I do have that I assume Kerouac had was a certain calm in the fact of my obscurity. I have no pressure to do anything. And when he became famous, his writing suddenly became forced. It was under pressure. There is a lesson there, should I continue to pursue the creative life. I want to sustain a second wave and let myself be what I am, regardless of any recognition for it.
I guess I have a clean slate. I can do what I want with it.
This blog has all that inner tension wrapped into it, but really, that tension is loosening. I get to choose how to approach things. I’m going to find musicians to play with. I’m going to write. I’m going to find myself a new network comprised of people that suit who I am now. I just have to do it. So here it is. This is what just pushing through looks like. This blog post, for starters.
My self-identity was all wrapped up into a delusional state brought upon by the pursuit of a beatnik life in Portland, in the year 2003, before the internet broke everything. I don’t have the same craving to become something anymore, but it doesn’t mean I want to stand by idly, silent. I just want to express myself clearly, buy a house, and do what I do there.
Philadelphia has enough room in it for at least that.