08 September 2007


On On the Road

Walter Kirn on Kerouac in this article at Slate:
With his attention to physical landscapes, his attraction to humble outcasts, his immersion in lowly occupations, and his enthusiasm for any experience which fostered communion and self-forgetting (listening to jazz in crowded clubs, riding along with friends in cars, drinking or getting high with strangers), Kerouac was trying to fashion, in his way (and not just for himself), a spacious new continental identity transcending political and commercial borders. This thing we call a nation, he suggested, was in fact a land, and the enterprises called "good citizenship" or "doing right" or "making a career" were really just fragile, compulsive overlays on the sturdy old business known as "living." We'd forgotten some things, the novel suggests, that our happiness—and perhaps our very survival in an age of big weapons, big business, and big ideas—depended on us remembering and recommitting to.

This land is your land. We the people. Hard work is honest work. Love thy neighbor. That stuff.
Just like the song that kept going through my head while I was recently in California:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

words and music by Woody Guthrie
©1956 (renewed 1984), 1958 (renewed 1986) and 1970 TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (
America still is singing, if only quietly, if only in my imagination. To share that again with others would be dear.

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