Around ten in the morning I caught a bus out of Baltimore, heading towards Albany.
There were only about a dozen or so other people on the bus and six were a family of Chinese immigrants traveling with several shopping bags and picnic baskets. I watched them for a while eat tiny steamed dumplings out of a thermos with chopsticks and bite into flakey yellow tarts wrapped in wax paper, their soft, foreign chatter lulling me to sleep and following me into my dreams for the rest of the long, six hour journey.

I woke up at around three, just past Poughkeepsie, feeling like I had slept for forty hours instead of four, my heart filled with excitment and hope and not one single trace of sorrow or regret or fear. This was the one shining moment of my life when I knew exactly who I was. Reports of my death had now been alive more than a day and here I was on a bus, speeding up a familiar New York highway, away from an old life and on to a new.

I had made many trips like this before. Tho never in this direction. And never without some person at the other end waiting for me, like Neal or Joyce or Helen. This felt different. Both the feeling of going off on an adventure and the feeling of coming home. Or like that old expression folks in the south used to described how the holy, ghostly dead go off to a better world. This wasn't just about me going on the road again after all these years, about my life-long nomadism. This was about me home-going.

The old grandma of the Chinese family looked over her shoulder and straight into my eyes. "Good morning," she said, even though it was already late in the afternoon, and started rustling through all the mysterious bags and baskets at her feet. "Good morning," I said back, as she handed me some hot smokey tea in a cracked China cup. "Thank you," I said accepting it, inhaling its steam, then drinking its fragrant liquid, its taste both bitter and sweet. vs. The Real: See Jack Kerouac's "On The Road," (1957), Chapter 2, Paragraph 6, as well as: Neal Cassady's "The First Third" (2001); Joyce Johnson's "Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir" (1999); Jack Kerouac & Joyce Johnson's "Door Wide Open, A Beat Love Affair In Letters" (2001), edited by Joyce Johnson; and Helen Weaver's "The Awakener, A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties" (2009).
May 10th 2011
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