And no better way to kick off Kerouac month than with 'sweet gone Jack' reading from "October in Railroad Earth" from Lonesome Traveler, 1960. Steve Allen provides the wonderful piano accompaniment. I have the Grove Press Black Cat 1970 paperback edition. Bought it on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, 12 April 1973. I was travelling East by thumb to check out East Coast graduate schools where I had been accepted, but mostly I 'rode the dog' (Greyhound bus), a mode of transport I wouldn't put up with today: two guys behind me chain-smoked and talked all the way from Los Angeles to Phoenix. New Orleans proved to be memorable, including the flophouse on Carondelet I stayed in for $2. It was there that Lonesome Traveler joined On the Road in my rucksack. I never before had seen Tabasco bottles so big as on the tables of the Bourbon Street bars and eateries. Exulting in the beat quiddity of the scene, I couldn't help but share my enthusiasm for Nawlins with a lady of the evening, not sampling her wares, but just talking to her on the street, she thinking me naive, and I was.
Here is a long excerpt (7:10), which contains the whole of the first two sections of the piece, pp. 37-40, of the Black Cat edition.
Dunmovin is a California ghost town, now little more than a wide spot in the road on U. S. 395, one of my favorite highways. I have driven past it many a time, but never stopped to explore, not that there is much there to explore. An Internet search turned up an interesting post, dated 15 September 2008, The Ghost Town of Dunmovin, California. It was written by the late Harry Helms and is copied below in toto from his defunct weblog.
After reading the post, I brought up the topmost page of the Harry Helms Blog and was both surprised and saddened to find that the relatively young Mr. Helms lost his battle with cancer. Here is his farewell post. May we all accept our deaths with as much peace and equanimity.
Highway 395 in California runs from Interstate 15 (just beyond Cajon Pass) up to the Nevada state line. For much of its route, it parallels the eastern face of the Sierra Nevada range and offers jaw-dropping mountain scenery. It is a road I have driven dozens and dozens of times, and is one of my all-time favorite highways. And along it you can see the ghost town of Dunmovin, California. If you like Dunmovin, you can buy it! Take a look at this photo:
Dunmovin is located about three miles north of the Coso Junction rest stop along Highway 395, but getting there is complicated because the rest stop is located on the northbound side of Highway 395 but Dunmovin is on the southbound side; you'll have to drive a little north and then loop back south. When you arrive, you'll find the town site is enclosed behind a fence (or at least it was last time I visited back in 2003). It's a very isolated area, and the chances of anyone knowing (or caring) that you trespassed on the property are remote. However, I preferred to respect the property rights of the owner(s) and instead looked at it from afar. Below is what seems to have been a store, judging from that faded and now illegible sign atop the front:
I've had zero luck in finding out anything about Dunmovin. According to post office records, there was never a post office there nor does the state of California have any record of an incorporated town at this location. It appears on some road maps (especially those from the AAA) but not others. My guess is this location served travelers back when Highway 395 was the main route between Los Angeles and Reno. The neon sign below was probably a welcome sight in the night for weary travelers way back when:
I'm guessing the structures below are some of the guest cabins, although I wouldn't be surprised if some of them also housed workers-----Dunmovin is a long way from any place to live (CalTrans workers at the nearby Coso Junction rest stop live in mobile homes belonging to the state). You can see a mobile home in the photo below, but looking at it through binoculars I saw that it was abandoned (door and windows open, etc.), The whole site seemed 100% deserted, with not even a caretaker on the premises:
I get the feeling this structure may have been a restaurant; it has "the look" of one, especially with those windows and curtains:
What is most puzzling about Dunmovin is its enigmatic web site, which offers no history or background about Dunmovin but does offer several photos of the construction of a mountain home (click the "Now Showing" link at the site) along with hosting server data (click the other links at the site). If anyone knows more about Dunmovin, I'd certainly like to hear from you!
For me, travel is disruptive
and desolating. A little desolation, however, is good for the soul, whose
tendency is to sink into complacency. Daheim, empfindet man nicht so sehr die
Unheimlichkeit des Seins. Travel knocks me out of my natural orbit, out of the familiar with its gauzy filters, into the strangeness of things. Even an
overnighter can have this effect. And then time is wasted getting back on track.
I am not cut out to be a vagabond. I Kant hack it. I do it more from duty than
from inclination. But I'm less homebound than the Sage of Koenigsberg.
More on travel in the Travel category in which you will find Emersonian and Pascalian reasons against it.
These days I have money to travel, time, and opportunities. In close communion with my 'inner Kantian,' however, I resist the blandishments and with them the vexations of spatial translation. By my present count, there are three chief reasons to keep to my Southwestern Koenigsberg, the Emersonian, the Pascalian, and the Vallicellan. The first is that travel does not deliver what it promises; the second is that it delivers us into temptation and vexation; the third is that it knocks us out of our natural orbit, to return to which wastes time.
The first reason is from Ralph Waldo Emerson's wonderful essay, "Self-Reliance," wherein he writes, "Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places." (Selected Essays, ed. Ziff, p. 198) This notion of the indifference of places is one I believe Emerson borrowed from the Roman Stoic Seneca (4 B.C. - 65 A.D.), though I can't remember where Seneca says this. The idea is simple and sound.
Wherever we are, we see the world through the same pair of eyeballs, and filter its deliverances through the same set of conceptions, preconceptions, anxieties, aversions, and what-not. If I travel to Naples, thinking to get away from myself, what I find when I wake up there is "...the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from." (Ibid.) Shift your spatial horizon as you will, you may not effect any change in your mental horizon. If you can't find enlightenment in Buffalo, where the water is potable and mosquitoes are rare, what makes you think you will find it in Benares where mosquitoes are ubiquitous and the water will give you dysentery?
Forty years ago I had a conversation with a young Austrian at the train station in Salzburg, Austria. He told me he was headed for Istanbul "to make holiness." But could he not have made holiness in Salzburg? Could he not have found a Pauline 'closet' somewhere in that beautiful city of Mozart wherein to shut himself away from the world and pray to his Father in secret?
But to the young and romantic the lure of foreign destinations is well-nigh irresistible.
The second reason is from Blaise Pascal who sees "the sole cause of man's unhappiness" in the fact that "he does not know how to stay quietly in his room." (Pensees, trans. Krailsheimer, p. 67.) Sallying forth from his monastery, the monk exposes himself to every manner of distraction and vexation. The alluring world may even lure him to his destruction. Had Thomas Merton remained in his hermitage at Gethsemane, instead of flying off to a useless conference in Bangkok, he would not have met his early death by accidental electrocution.
The third reason is that vacations tend to require a recovery period for getting reestablished in our natural orbits. In the summer of 2000, two weeks in Poland and Germany cost me another two weeks of recovery time before I could get back into the philosophy writing groove. Is the time spent travelling wisely used? It is not clear to me. But then I may have been unduly influenced by Kant, who never strayed from Koenigsberg. Your mileage may vary.
Becoming increasingly in touch with his 'inner Kantian,' he travelled less and less as the years rolled on.He decided he had seen enough phenomena, and that seeing more would not bring him closer to any noumena.
It's October 11th today, Columbus Day. This is a month to be savored day by day, hour by hour. To aid in the savoring, here is today's Kerouac quotation, from "The Vanishing American Hobo" in Lonesome Traveler, p. 173 of the 1970 Black Cat edition. (Purchased my copy in a shop on Bourbon Street in New Orleans on 12 April 1973, while on the road, enroute to Boston from Los Angeles. From that point of the trip on I had two Kerouac books in my rucksack, the just mentioned and, you guessed it, On the Road.)
There is nothing nobler than to put up with a few incoveniences like snakes and dust for the sake of absolute freedom.
Dunmovin is a California ghost town, now little more than a wide spot in the road on U. S. 395, one of my favorite highways. I have driven past it many a time, but never stopped to explore, not that there is much there to explore. But I thought of it today, did a search and found an interesting post, dated 15 September 2008, The Ghost Town of Dunmovin, California.
After reading the post, I brought up the current page of the Harry Helms Blog and was both surprised and saddened to find that the relatively young Mr. Helms is losing his battle with cancer. Here is his farewell post. May we all accept our deaths with as much peace and equanimity.