Finding Myself "On the Road"

Posted by PJBraley on December 14, 2016


A few years ago, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give into my passion, my love and my rampant insecurities to acknowledge that writing was what I was born to do. Despite lacking the encouragement of any audience or the approval of my family, I threw myself into it entirely.

To shut out any new influences, part of that decision was to stop reading and watching any new movies that might color whatever remained of my original voice.

Although I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t reading, I tried to shut myself off (textbooks needed to be read, the occasional magazine while waiting, and that book about C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley and JFK that I couldn’t resist), by reading as little fiction as possible.

I didn’t realize how hungry for someone else’s voice I had become until I accidentally stumbled across On the Road (2012), a film based on Jack Kerouac’s book that I had never read.  Like a train wreck in progress, I couldn’t stop watching the fast-paced film about writers and writing, their nonstop raw and explicit experiences with love, sex, cigarettes and liquor as they traveled across the U.S. again…and again. I was captivated; mesmerized and repelled at the same time.

Walking into the library, I found possibly the only coming-of-age book I'd missed growing up was this tremendous never-ending biographical paragraph. Wanting to see how much of the film actually existed in the book, I thumbed through a copy of On The Road and checked. Yes…the names were changed a bit (to protect the innocent?), but the writing, OMG the writing, descriptions of people, places, work and play still echoed in my ear as from the smoke and alcohol stained throat of a young Tom Waits – and the ending, those last few heartbreaking words – were true to the film.

My mother, God love her, refuses to read a book if she has seen the film and vice versa. It is an opinion that I understand, but gratefully do not share. I cannot put this book down.

Feeding my hunger with Jack Kerouac may not be the road I would have chosen for myself, exactly…but it is, exactly, what I needed.

Thank you for that, Jack,