On The Road (The Bits Kerouac Doesn’t Mention)


I’ve been on the road, traveling round America for a month tomorrow. I can’t believe the time has gone so quickly and yet when I think back over all the people I’ve met, the places I’ve read and the cheeseburgers I’ve eaten I can definitely account for every one of those thirty days. I thought there’d be lows. There have actually been no lows. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second of this adventure and can’t wait for the next seventeen days but I’ve definitely learnt a few harsh realities which will make me a little kinder to the next touring rock band I cross paths with. The road can be a harsh place. Here’s what I’ve learnt about the transient life so far.

  1. You will develop a love hate relationship with the limited wardrobe you’re carrying around with you. You will tire of every single thing in your suitcase. You will find yourself pairing together increasingly eclectic items out of sheer boredom. You will wake up each morning and sniff your clothes trying to tell the difference between something already worn and something which has taken on the distinctive aroma of airplane cargo hold. You will, for the first time in your life, faced with one month old suitcase crinkles, lament your lack of a travel iron. You will dream, in glorious, detailed technicolour of the clothes waiting for you in your wardrobe at home and curse that one stupid jacket you’ve carried half way round the world only to realise it only goes with that one other item in your wardrobe. You will wish you brought a belt.
  2. Your first thought upon entering each new building, no matter how unlikely, will be, where can I find working wifi?
  3. You will, with some embarrassment, begin to experience a brief 30 second time-lapse between looking at your host or hostess’s face and recalling their name. During this half minute or so, your mind will skip frantically through various Facebook profile pictures, like some demented version of Who’s Who? as you try to connect a name to the face of one of the twenty something individual persons who have lately offered you a bed and a selection of guest towels.
  4. You will wake in the night and, confused, step out the wrong side of the bed and crown yourself against a wall/bedside table/giant flat screen television.
  5. You will tire of Starbucks’ pastry selection and finally admit that this is no fit substitute for a proper breakfast.
  6. You will fear stairs in public transport facilities like you fear Hell itself and all its fiery repercussions. You will wake in the night sweating over a premonition of yourself lugging, two suitcases, twenty nine paperback novels, a backpack and various holiday souvenirs from one side of the New York subway system to the other.
  7. You will say to yourself each morning, “today I will eat only salad and apples,” and by lunchtime have succumbed to yet another tempting cheeseburger and subsequently console yourself with the mistaken belief that a burger pickle should count as one of your five a day and strawberry milkshake is the same as actual strawberries.
  8. You will grow accustomed to the peculiar stench of the Greyhound bus. You will even be able to consume food in its caustic presence.
  9. You will stop viewing old ladies who wear kaftans and sit next to you in coffee shops, talking for up to forty five minutes, uninterrupted about their wasted youth in Greenwich Village as quaint and intriguing. You will refrain from asking them about the Chelsea Hotel and Washington Square and Mr Dylan. You will begin to see them as ten a penny distractions from the novel you are trying, unsuccessfully to write, in public spaces.
  10. You will think about all those episodes of Casualty and Holby and various ITV3 crime dramas which have screened in your absence. You will feel actual physical loss, like a death in the family and curse those chosen few who’ve seen things you will never see, (even on Iplayer).

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