Then is now and we all live forever
Kerouac is not dead.Nor is anyone who ever captured in some way a form of the human experience. A composer will die yet his (or her!) notes will be played over and over, ringing through generations; his heart still beats with ours.In the wee hours of Thursday morning, after a night of drinking and singing up and down the shadowed streets of Glenwood, I was reminded of another place in time when I was touched in such a way. …It was the week of graduation at CU-Boulder, and a group of us seniors sat on the dilapidated deck of my buddy’s mountain shack.The chirp of crickets was as thick as the stars above. Silver light outlined the towering darkness of rock walls at the mouth of Eldorado Canyon, and we swilled cheap beer and mused at the mysterious future ahead.My buddy, Guy, shared some creative writing classes with me over the years and has always been good company when it comes to geeking out and digging life in the unique way only had by people who think too much. Sometimes we go off and off until girlfriends are begging us to shut up so they can go to sleep. But man, why not wonder about all the wandering wonder, spreading out in all sorts of ways? Sometimes a person can get out on a limb of sorts and find a perspective that changes his life, like looking back in on a world buzzing by that’s too busy to notice itself.A bridge of silence spread over our conversation on the deck. We stared into the early-morning sky. Insects droned in a grand pulse through the still, May air.”I always thought it was funny,” Guy said, “how there always seems to be a cricket chirping out of time. I lie awake in my room some nights, and the one cricket keeps me awake. It’s like he can’t quite catch the rhythm.”We all listened – and then laughed. Guy was right.I’ve thought a lot about that cricket since then, and heard it just about everywhere I hear crickets sing. I don’t think he’s out of rhythm. Maybe his part is supposed to be a strange solo, filling the air otherwise left empty by all the rest. A variance breaking from the chorus to make a better piece of music. Those insects seem much the same yet there is enough difference to create something beyond what is seen on the surface; a great collective voice only made by each cricket playing its note.How long have they played their song, I wonder? How long have human ears sat in the starry night listening, the mind thinking, imagining, talking, laughing – man playing its own little part in a song too big and long to notice the intricacies all at once?And all things die and the Song goes on. I first read “On the Road” entering my freshman year of college. Much of the book, apparently, was lost on me then. After rereading it several months ago, Kerouac’s words revealed themselves to me in a new light.I saw my own life and friends in the moments he describes; the same smiles, laughter and ridiculous “kicks” – all the parts of a song played then that we are playing now. On Thursday morning we sat on my friends’ front porch. Cigarette smoke curled around a yellow light bulb that created a sense of warmth and welcome, a little triangle of illumination sheltering us from the quiet night like a tent.A man walked by in the darkness and we recognized him from the karaoke bar and called out to him.”Hey, you sang ‘Pussy Control,’ that was awesome!”He turned around and walked back to us, standing at the edge of the wood porch. The gangly guy wore big glasses and snazzy leather shoes that looked polished and complimented his locks of dark, curly hair, which was short and styled. He was older than us and talked slow. He rambled about stints in the army and living around the world in a manner that reminded me of Garrison Keiller on “Prairie Home Companion.”It was easy to listen to that cat, and we talked and talked about nothing until it was something and it was time to find a bed.John stepped back into the night and continued on his way, no longer a stranger, and I headed in the opposite direction. I was sure I’d never see him again, but also that I’d remember the random meeting. I thought of the cricket on my way home, and how much the “then” is like the “now” – which are really two ways to describe the same thing. “Then” and “now” are one, I think, and “one” is the beginning and the end all at once … like the Song, which begins and ends with each baby and obituary, so ceaselessly that it chains into a composition that lives on forever.I think we are all “the mad ones,” as Kerouac writes, who “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everyone goes, ‘Awww!'”That’s what I feel when I get to look in on our world from my branch, staring into the ceaseless series of blue center lights. Wow.Derek Franz is hitting the road to branch out and find some perspective. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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That sideline parent is me, parading to the field with a foldable chair, carrying an iced-coffee, armed with a bag of band-aids and a salty vocabulary ready to slay the referee or opponent that meddles…