A Read 27 Years in the Making

At City Lights bookstore in SF.
At City Lights bookstore in SF.

I first became aware of On the Road by Jack Kerouac, oh, maybe when I was 17 or 18 years old. My brother from another mother Jean-Paul and I had discussed the Beatniks. I’m fairly certain he read Kerouac in college. Or, I could be misremembering again.

When Jean-Paul came to visit almost a year ago to the day, we visited City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. We posed for selfies and snapshots with Kerouac’s name emblazoned on a street sign. I bought a copy of On the Road, I got the original scroll version. It promised to be racier than the original. Since I never read the original, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Of course it took about a year to actually, you know, read the damned thing.

Why the hell did I wait 27 years to read this book?

I was regaled with tales of wanderlust, and road trips and cavorting with and dropping in on friends across the North American continent. I too have known this wanderlust. I too have known the joys of the road trip. I too have dropped in on friends and family, sometimes unannounced. I too have cavorted.

Reading On the Road on the road.
Reading On the Road on the road.

I have always identified with the myth and legend that is/was Jack Kerouac. I didn’t know why until I read this book. The vernacular is similar to my conversational verbiage. That propensity to just pick up and go. I have felt that draw. Or was it a push? Or was it a pull? I’m not sure which.

I knew at a fairly young age that my hometown of Rochester, New York, would not be able to keep me. And I escaped it, twice. I never knew what it was that told me my future lie elsewhere, I just knew that it did.

I have been on a jaunt the last five days. It’s not lost on me that as I flew over the state of Texas and into Dallas a few days ago that the principal characters in the book were in Texas at that point of the story. I purposely listened to three songs on the flight back to San Francisco with Kerouac references as I finished the book – Beatnik Beach by the Go Go’s, Hey Jack Kerouac by 10,000 Maniacs and 3-minute Rule by the Beastie Boys.

Call it providence, serendipity, coincidence, whatever. A lot of factors led me to read this book at this time of my life. It probably wouldn’t mean as much or have resonated the way it is right now. I read for entertainment. I read to expand my mind. I read because I can’t not read. I usually read things that scare the piss out of me. But this was almost a “bucket list” item. I wanted to read this book, I needed to read this book.

I was surprised to read that so many of Kerouac’s adventures took place in Denver. I get to Denver once a year and I really don’t care for the place. Oh sure, if you like majestic mountains, big sky, scenery, skiing, clean air, clean water, and Coors beer, I guess it’s okay. I think I’ll be looking at Denver through new eyes the next time I’m there. I’ll have to see if there is some sort of Kerouac/Beatnik tour or somesuch.

Late 1940s, Beatniks, Denver, happening – who knew?

My wanderlust subsided long ago, but I do still travel quite a bit. Being on the road will forever have new meaning. Kerouac died at age 47. I just turned 46 and I have no intention of blinking out just yet. I am not the drinker Kerouac was so I’m not worried about my liver blowing up. I do like to sample the local fare as much as possible when I do travel. I was just in Tampa, and Cappy’s Pizza has become a tradition. Northeast style pizzeria with New York and Chicago style on the menu, Fat Tire on tap – my kind of joint. I suppose my Beatnik wanderlust has evolved into discovering more of what I consider “my kind of joint” and digging scenes than some of the more reckless things I did in my youth.

I only recently tried to figure out what a Beatnik was and what the Beat Generation was all about. I’ve been too successful the past 15 years to feel “beat down.” I suppose I feel some weight bearing down on me as an American taxpayer. I have yet to write my novel. Kerouac’s original scroll is missing the end. The end, as it might have been, was pieced together from other writings and letters.

I don’t write on wax paper, but this is a blog roll – pages upon pages stitched together. I recently found out who owns the original scroll – Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts. He even has a case where he can roll the whole thing out and display it. Pretty freaking cool if you ask me.

So, I consider myself a nouveau beatnik of some variety. I don’t know why I have to put a label on it. I think my writing style is similar to Kerouac’s – spontaneous prose. This blog is pretty much stream of consciousness when I am so inclined to write. I am under no grand delusion that anything I have written or will write will ever come close.

I shall endeavor to read more of Kerouac’s work. Allen Ginsberg is another character of the Beat Generation who fascinates me. Maybe I’ll discover him next. I didn’t go to college so I didn’t get a lot of reading of this type done in my younger years. Better late than never I suppose.

I never knew why I identified with the legend of Jack Kerouac. Now I know that I identify with the man and the writer. I have gone too far and done too much and I am not disaffected enough to be a true Beatnik, but the shoe kinda fits and that’s good enough for me.

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Now What?!?

I recently returned to exercise after a layoff for back surgery. I’ve put on five pounds in a week – from what I can tell it’s just water weight. There’s no way I have a 17,500 calorie deficit.

I’ve been walking three miles a day and I’ve been lifting weights. I’ve upped my protein intake. I’m drinking at least a liter of water a day.

I thought I had this whole thing figured out. I’ve worked too hard to get down to 180 pounds and now my body is rebelling against me.

I don’t know what to do.

Help.

I’m Going to Tell You About the Time I Almost…Quit

Borrowing lines from Denzel Washington films is a new low, or high depending on your perspective. The actual line is, “I am going to tell you about the time I almost died.” In the movie Fallen, the demon Azazel cheats death by finding salvation in the form of a cat as he plays Washington’s character in a high stakes game of chicken. Sorry for the spoiler on this one. If you haven’t seen it, it is a highly underrated horror film. I recommend it.

But I digress…

I have been walking quite a bit as July gets underway. I can't wait to start running again.
I have been walking quite a bit as July gets underway. I can’t wait to start running again.

I turned 46 six days ago. I’ve had my moments since starting this fitness and weight loss journey two and a half years ago when I thought I would give up. Each time it seems like the urge to quit grows stronger. I am two months removed from back surgery and I grow increasingly frustrated with my recovery by the day.

After undertaking physical therapy for lumbar spasms in February, and consulting my surgeon, I decided to take what I learned from the physical therapists five months ago and just do rehabilitation on my own. After a couple of weeks of body weight only exercise I started lifting weights again within the past week. I am trying to listen to my body and I took a day off after a couple days straight. I am trying to walk at least three miles every day.

So, between stretching, core strengthening, weight lifting and walking, plus recreational swimming, I have been very active and I am getting plenty of exercise. I even got one of those monitor stands at the office so I can work standing up. I have upped my protein intake. I am not quite back to my pre-injury protein levels but I should manage to get back on track this week. My birthday weekend and the 4th of July holiday weekend threw me off track a bit with my eating. I still have 24 days until I can run again. I am sure I will have to start of with Couch to 5K to get back into it.

That should catch you up.

This is how I am going to end up taking my pills.
This is how I am going to end up taking my pills.

I sure don’t sound like a defeatist, do I? Well, don’t let my chipper demeanor fool you. I can’t get through the night without a prescription painkiller. I take Naproxen or Ibuprofen during the day more often than not. And frankly, I am sick on taking pills. I have been on everything from Hydrocodone to Prednisone and I am sick and tired of popping pills like so many Tic Tacs.

My hip aches. My lumbar muscles are sore. My surgery area burns and stretches when I bend over. I am sick and tired of all of it.

Am I better off after surgery? Did surgery fix what’s wrong with me? Why do I feel like I wasn’t told everything about recovery time and rehab time? How much time is this supposed to take? Am I doing the right things? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Why won’t my body just heal?

I feel like I still have more questions than answers. I have wasted six months dealing with back injuries. I have goals. I have things I want to do. I want to run a 5K in September, I want to develop my physique, and I want to run a 10K at some point.

You may ask what is stopping me from doing all of these things. Nothing really, nothing except excuses. I just turned 46. For some reason I have this internal clock that is telling me that I am running out of time. The busiest stretch of my work year is coming up. Six- to seven-day workweeks, travel, 14-hour days…August to January running and working out will be sacrificed when conflicts with my profession arise. That’s not a complaint, that’s just my reality. I love what I do for a living.

So, what’s my point? I have been feeling sorry for myself lately. I get many compliments from people who admire my dedication and stick-to-itiveness. Quitting is not an option. I hope pain-free is an option in my near future.

I am just angry and frustrated. I don’t know what to do except what I always do…power through.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know I like movie and TV references. I looked to Fallen only for a title for this entry, but the more I think about it, there are many things I can take away from that film that apply to me. Perseverance, albeit from a demon, John Hobbes tries to defeat the demon with poisoned cigarettes (I smoked a pack a day for 18 years), and perhaps the most important takeaway – the Rolling Stones songs that underscore the film – Time is On My Side and Sympathy for the Devil. Time really is on my side and I will get no sympathy.