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photo: Allen Ginsberg

We’re just tired of hearing that tired word, “roadmap,” being used over and over again by politicians and the Genius behind the Bar at the Apple store. “What we need, see, is a roadmap to recovery…” Yeah. Right.

Well, maybe we actually do need a roadmap to recovery. Maybe we need to take those jackbags literally when they foam at the mouth on their Facebook pages and sad, sad made-for-Fox-News demonstrations over “taking our country back.” While we seriously question whether or not those who use either of those phrases actually know what they’re talking about (much less willing to back it up), we actually found a real roadmap that, if followed, are pretty sure we’d get our country back with.

In 1947, Jack Kerouac hitchhiked across the country – from New York to San Francisco and back again – and finished writing his epic, “On The Road,” four years later. Now, if you haven’t picked up a copy of this book yet, DO IT. Must have, really. The story is about the roadtrip to end all roadtrips with a friend. In this case, it was Jack and a guy named Neal Cassady. Both considered “Beats” by the cultural mainstream in post-WWII America: people who decided not to conform when the rest of the country was bent on assimilation-or-character assassination. Dangerous times for folks who swerved. And when you read what started out as a 120-foot, single-spaced, non-paragraphed paper scroll of continuous copy, you’ll understand why Kerouac’s journey is the most popular roadtrip story ever told.

But back to that roadmap. The story that was finally published ten years after Kerouac and Cassady made the trip drawn out on the map above was based on finding answers to questions that politicians and clergy and schoolteachers of their day couldn’t answer. And what was between the two centers of counterculture (which was mostly made up of souls who decided to live beyond the constraints of those who couldn’t answer their questions) in the late Forties – New York City and San Francisco – just had to be traversed at a time when Route 66 and The Lincoln Highway were still two of the major American roads.

While Kerouac never offers up any cosmic answers to the questions that were at the center of the Beat Movement when he wrote his roadtrip story, maybe a real understanding of the political and social turmoil we find ourselves in these days could be had by simply using his roadmap to really discover the America we live in now. Y’know, stay off the interstates and take the old roads. Do it in a ’49 Hudson like the one in the book that’ll force you to slow down and pay attention to the road, the surroundings, the sounds and the mechanical world that’s long been forgotten. And you have to understand a problem before you can fix it.

The Hudson in “On The Road” has never been found and is questioned to have ever existed, at all. Some of the roads taken in Kerouac’s original trip probably don’t exist today. The characters’ names had all been changed. But none of that really matters, right? No, what really matters is that enough of us get out on the roads of this fine country with our own hand-drawn maps and see it. Really see it and get back in touch with the great and glorious things we created when we all worked together. Great works of engineering and art and production and design and culture. Things we did that now need to be rediscovered, repaired or saved or, at the very least, remembered. That’s a real roadmap to recovery, son.

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