Yesterday I had an encounter that many people dream of. I know I have. Yet, when push came to shove, I blanked.
I had just finished a meal with my dad and sister at the local restaurant we like to frequent. For some reason, I was not feeling too great. It was a combination of the jitters and a slight nausea. I felt wrong in my skin. My theory is that it's from the coffee I drink. I never started until I arrived in Paris (ah, Paris. Te amo y Ich liebe dich). Once I got there, I didn't pick up smoking at all; just drinking espressos at every meal and whenever I wasn't doing anything else. Oddly, I developed this twitch in my right eye that I associated with stress at the time. It was probably the caffeine. Anyway, while at home, I continue to drink espressos or "bold" coffee. I've gotta stop that. Where was I going with this story? Oh yes!
After the meal, I went for a drive. I like to go through the Old Field area, with its winding roads and high school memories. Sifting through the fog of my daydreaming, I realized I was near the library. Wonderful! I had been there a few days ago and realized that I forgot to get the one book I had originally intended to obtain: Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" (I'm reading it now, and I'm not too impressed... sadly). As I was skimming through the poetry section, looking for something else (I forget what), I started eavesdropping on a young couple who were at the computer near me. They were about 18 years old or so, and looked kind of like your typical Long Island urbanized-but-living-in-the-suburbs kids. She had white eyeliner and stick straight, processed hair. He had a shaved head dotted with scars that refused to regrow their sandy blond hairs. She was trying to get him to find and read a book. A noble pursuit, and I liked her. While searching at the computer, he turned around to face me and exclaimed "Dude, what should I read?" It was a rhetorical question. He really wasn't looking for an answer. He only looked at me long enough to say the remark, not hear the response. But it struck me. Uh, I don't know! I consider myself a reasonably well read dude, but I couldn't come up with an answer. Yeah, I could be pretentious and throw around Hugo and Melville, but who wants that? This dude is not shouting "Romantic Literature". I gave it a minute... and decided to lie.
"Hey man, I've been thinking about it and I think I got it. Try Jack Kerouac, "On the Road."
I've never read Jack Kerouac.
"I think you'd like it. Its not pretentious or wordy. It's funny and mainly about his drug filled adventures across the US."
I think I heard that somewhere. It's not really funny and there are much less drugs than I imagined. I think I confused him with Hunter S. Thompson.
"You'd really like it."
He'd hate it.
He thanked me without looking me in the eyes and I drifted away. Perhaps I inspired him. Some day, after living a life in the lap of luxury as a famous travel writer and literature critic, he will look back on that day he had a chance encounter with a stranger in the local public library. Thank you, dear stranger, thank you! You've inspired me and given me direction! Kerouac was the beginning. You showed me Valhalla!
Walking down the steps, I wandered (feeling quite high and mighty) down to the fiction section of the library. Browsing the rack, I saw it. It was staring at me. The seas parted and it was there. And it was good.
One copy left.
Jack Kerouac. "On the Road".
I took it, checked it out, and left with it under my arm and I'm not sure why.
Still thinking about that one,