GK: I went into a bookstore in Jackson, Wyoming, and there in the fiction section was everything Jack Kerouac ever wrote. Surprising, in a way, and in another way, not. Jack Kerouac was one of the East Coast Beat writers, who were in love with the idea of going west, the West was paradise to them, the road was pure romance, the act of going on the road was joyful. This year is the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Kerouac's book "On The Road," a book that all of us English majors enjoyed because the mention of it made our professors turn purple, and when you're nineteen, you enjoy having that effect on people.

It was not a well-written book but we weren't into wellness then, we were into feverishness, and "On The Road" was a pretty sweaty book.

We read it for ideas about what clothes to wear and what cool things to say and exactly how much personal neatness is necessary in life.

And here is our homage to Jack Kerouac on the anniversary of the publication of his book.


GK: I am leaving this apartment this dark rattan Orlon Saran wrap wingtip apartment and I am going out on the road, going west, because my wife and I keep getting into arguments

TR: We get into arguments about this whole decorator wickerbasket demitasse wingback Westport risotto kitty litter life, this country club/mini-van Thorazine Swiss army knife no-fault mindless warp of endless VCR numerals flashing twelve o'clock twelve o'clock twelve o'clock twelve o'clock twelve o'clock twelve o'clock....

GK: This is over, it's over and now I need to be at the wheel of a big old fishtail car screaming west out of the desolate New York catatonic cocktail freak show scene with Ralph Lauren men with broccoli for brains and Modigliani women with American Express eyes and collagen hearts and pituitaries like shotgun shells....

TR: I need to drive west, west to the angelic plains of Nebraska night, the windows open and our elbows out, cars shooting past, the hay scented wind singing in the vents, the purity of it like crazy freight cars on a long straight run the white stripes bopbopping toward you like Philly Joe Jones playing at the Village Gate that night...

GK: That night the pizza came with extra mushrooms and we ate it and it was the Pizza of the knowledge of the Eightfold Path of true spirit Dharma/godhood/enlightenment.....Boddhisatva pizza, it was Rimbaud pizza, it was the pizza of the road, it was Pizza To Go---- To go----

TR: To go across Pennsylavnia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Yellowstone, and no moody woman arms folded in the passenger seat glaring at me saying "Do you know where you're going?

GK: Wasn't that the turn to Yellowstone back there? Why don't you stop and ask for directions? There's a gas station up ahead," as if her own husband the author of On The Road could not drive an automobile.

TR: But that is woman for you, she knows no Way without a Map and no Pleasure without a Plan, O Cynthia, onetime raving hipster moon maiden six years ago 3 a.m. in saintly Jersey on the beach listening to surf, saying incredibly profound things.....

GK: And we talked all that night and took mescaline and how could I know that the effect of mescaline on Cynthia was that she went straight to Wharton and got her MBA in six months and joined Goldman Sachs.

TR: She joined Goldman Sachs and that whole Goldman Sachs plaid jacket charcoal briquet Cozumel Teflon Dacron mannikin homemade mayonnaise Westchester newspaper Pekinese paprika scene that now I am getting out of, man, I tell you, I am getting out....

GK: I am writing a note to my wife, "My darling Angel of Desolation, you have told me one thousand times 'I wish you would get your hair cut' and 'I wish you would get yourself a new suit' but did you ever say to me, 'I wish you would live in reveries of pure ecstatic writing angel hair prose" No, you did not.

TR: And so I am looking for my car keys and they are not here anywhere, I look in the kitchen, in the junk drawer, and in the dish with the coins in it, and beside the telephone, and the bedroom dresser and bedside tables and closet shelves and in all of my pants,

GK: The chinos, clam diggers, corduroys, dungarees, hip-huggers, bell bottoms, jeans, pedalpushers, pegtops, poplins, ski pants, Bermuda shorts, slacks, sweat pants, and in my jackets,

TR: The blazer, bomber jacket, car coat, duffel coat, jumpsuit, mackinaw, pea coat, parka, poncho, sportcoats, trench coat, windbreaker, and there are no car keys, only credit card receipts loose coins candy wrappers combs, so I look in the couch in the sad dark place behind the cushions

GK: And in the chest of drawers and desk drawers and credenza, the bathroom counter and the bench in the hall, the buffet, the bureau and book shelves, the lowboy and highboy, I look in the candy dish in the dining room, in the china cabinet, the tool chest, and then in the refrigerator

TR: With its milk carton and ketchup orange juice from concentrate unsalted butter sad brown Judy Garland lettuce and half a tomato and bag of turnips Worcestershire sauce Evian water watermelon pickles six-pack of beer, and finally I stop and sit down and I pray, God give me my car keys, and God says, "Jack, I'm not speaking to you right now," and then Cynthia comes in the door

GK: And I say, "Cynthia, I can't find my car keys, I can't find the car keys, Cynthia, where are they" and she says, "They're in your hand, Jack. The car keys are in your hand. Look in your hand."

TR: And I look in my hand and she is right, yes, the car keys are in my hand, they are right here in my hand, yes, the keys to the car,

GK: they have been in my hand all along, if I had looked in my hand I would have seen them, yes, I have always had the car keys in my hand, yes, here they are,

TR: here in my hand they are, yes, in my hand, the car keys.

GK: The car keys

TR: They were here

GK: Here in my hand

TR: The car keys.

GK: They were in my hand

TR: The keys to the car were in my hand

GK: My car keys

TR: Yes, my car keys

GK: They were in my hand.

© 1997 by Garrison Keillor