Japhy and I were kind of outlandish-looking on the campus in our old clothes in fact Japhy was considered an eccentric around the campus, which is the usual thing for campuses and college people to think whenever a real man appears on the scene – colleges being nothing but grooming schools for the middle-class non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets in each living room with everybody looking at the same thing and thinking the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying in the wilderness, to find the ecstasy of the stars, to find the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilization.

This is a passage out of Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. This passage spoke to me because I feel like I straddle these two worlds, one moment I’m the middle-class non-identity, at other times I feel like one of the japhies of the world. I burn to go prowling the wilderness.

Open up your eyes and what do you see? I see a confused world, not the natural world as in the Earth; she knows what she is about. It is man that is dazed and confused. We don’t know what we want and we stumble along looking, searching for something to relieve the confusion, the pain, the fear, the fear of everything what other people might think of us, the fear of death, the fear of time passing and us left standing still wondering when our life should or will begin. And we sit and we wonder and time passes and then it is over and we never knew what we wanted to know and can only hope that there is an afterworld where perhaps we can get it right the next time around, but what if the end is the end and there is no more road, no more paths to walk and we will have burned briefly across the dark sky to fade into eternal darkness, to be forgotten.

I had the most incredible day yesterday as I climbed Snowdon leading another group of folks up the gentle peak. I felt so much back in my element…smiling, happy, full of energy and joy. I ran, I climbed, I sang, I talked of things. “You’re on fire today,” said jenny. “Next time we’ll have to make sure not to give you any coffee before we start,” said Pete. “I know what it is, you been in town to long,” said Pete. “It’s ok that you’re fit, but do you have to be so damn happy,” said Phil. Everyone was feeling my excitement, my love for being out there doing what I was doing.

I looked around me at the bottom of the Miner’s track, and thought, you know what this is my office. I’m actually at work right now amongst these hills and valleys – my great big office. It’s a hell of a walk to get a coffee though (referring to the café on the top of Snowdon).

What elements made this so great for me? It’s not just that I was back in the mountains. It also was the fact of being around people – leading them, inspiring them to walk on. I started the walk way out in front, and while that was nice, I wasn’t interacting with anyone. Once we got on the ridge though, I decided to stay with the group, just front and pausing to give them encouragement, sing up ahead so they could hear my voice and be guided by it as they fought the pull of gravity

For the first time in a long time I didn’t have anything to ask the mountain, or to contemplate in heavy silence, this time it was just about pure joy – the pure joy of being.

Road Trip Diaries: Searching for Jack Kerouac

Destination: Hay-on-Wye
Mileage: 200 miles round trip

Playlist for the drive:

Snoop Dogg
Bruce Springsteen
Billy Joel
Butthole Surfers
4 Non Blondes
Arrested Development
Avril Lavigne

I need some new friends, ones whose lives are not so preplanned. I’m in dire need of a posse who can pick up and go at the last minute regardless of what plans they may or may not have had. Like when we were young and full of adventure. I sent an email around to some of my friends a few days ago with the following challenge:

A Summons
In the olden days, warriors prided themselves on their ability to face the unknown. They were quick to accept any challenge that tested their courage and their metl. It is in this spirit that I summon you to a challenge. Before you give in to the treadmill functionality of your life, cast your mind back to a time when you were as wild and free as the wind. Embrace the wind again and taste the bitter-sweet taste of adventure.

The plan is simple. We leave this weekend. All you need is:

• A Passport
• £75 or less
• and a toothbrush

I need your answer before the sun sets tomorrow.

Come on, live again!!!

As it turned out, not a soul accepted the challenge. Everyone loved the idea. Then they threw in the big but… I’m sure all legitimate reasons. Now here is my but, but what has happened to spontaneity? Back in the day, before we got all mature, there would have been a half dozen of us or more piled up in the car ready to hit the open road. I remember once squeezing eight people into a little 2-door banger of a car and heading down to Mexico for some fun and mayhem. Now spontaneity has to be planned 2 months in advance.

There was nothing left to do but go solo. I had originally intended for the crew to hop a cheap flight out of Coventry to anywhere going in Europe. The general plan was to have been just general mayhem. But as Bobby Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Plan B. Go in search of the literary works of Jack Kerouac in the town of used books, Hay-on-Wye, which incidentally boasts to have the largest, used book market in the world.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”—–kerouac

I came across this quote of Kerouac’s on a weblog. While I had heard of Jack Kerouac, I had to date not read any of his material. I liked the quote, so looked him up on the Internet. I read this short biography of him:

Published in 1957, the autobiographical novel by Jack Kerouac, “On the Road” captured the spirit that was brewing underneath the conformity of the 1950s. The book was a overnight sensation; detailing a semi-fictional exploration of the freedom and longing that is a core part of human nature. It helped coin the phrase “Beat Generation” to denote the new-found rebelliousness and restlessness found in contemporaries of that era. Now, after 37 years of careful contemplation and precise planning, world-renowned producer/director Francis Ford Coppola is ready to bring “On the Road” to the theatres and treat a new generation of progressive citizens to a work of visual and intellectual splendor, extracted from the mind of the great Jack Kerouac.

I was intrigued. I order On the Road. Once I started reading it I was hooked. I hadn’t been this excited about a piece of literature since when I first discovered T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

The search was on. I scoured the bookshops of Hay-on-Wye looking for anything Jack. I managed to find five titles:

• Vanity of Duluoz
• Desolation Angels
• DR Sax
• Atop an Underwood
• King of the Beats, a portrait of Jack Kerouac.

I met up with the Duck last night, seeing how it is that i can’t get him back out on the basketball court, I thought, perhaps a little poetry in motion might be his style.

And an excellent night indeed…old friends, much laughter, new places, reminiscing…a superb mixture of each, making for a wonderful evening. I’ve never really been to a stand-up poetry performance. The best i’d done previously was watch Mike Myers in So I Married and Axe Murderer, perform his Woman poem to a jazz ensemble. Do you remember that one? Woman, woman, woooooooman! Anyway, the poet in question that we went to see is a cat named John Hegley , he looks like a cross between Elvis Costello and Woody Allen.