Map for Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD

This map from Jack Kerouac’s diary detailed his hitchhiking across the USA in 1947.

His itinerary included more stops than the classic hit ROUTE 66 sung originally by Nat King Cole.

New York City, Chicago, Davenport Des Moines, North Platte, Cheyenne, Denver, Laramie, Salt Lake, Reno, San Francisco, Madera, Fresno, Selma, Los Angeles, Prescott, Albuquerque, Dalhart, Kansas City, St Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Washington DC and finally New York City.

This transcontinental voyage served as the inspiration for his novel ON THE ROAD, which remains an icon for readers seeking to relive the author’s hell-bent adventures through a vast-different America than today.

There were no highways and the population was 144,126,071 under the rule of Harry S Truman. Men wore hats and women were strapped into girdles. Hitchhikers were considered undesirables as were Kerouac and his friends in the post-war era.

Dopehead beatniks and homo nigger-lovers.

And America was right. They were dopeheads and nigger-lovers. Worst their kids wanted to be like them. I hitchhiked across the USA in 1970. Boston-San Francisco-Seattle-Boston. My friend Petrus and I were long-haired anti-war pot-smoking hippies. We were given rides by fellow hippies, speed freaks, truck drivers, salesmen, moms and dads, military men, farmers, ranchers, and RVs. We met America and America met us.

Hitchhikers don’t exist in America today. Fat people are too scared to pick up strangers and the steroid-juiced cops harass anyone fitting the parameters of ‘usual suspect’, but I’d like to challenge the gestapo by standing on the side of the road with PARADISE written on sign.

No highways on this trip. No cities either. No sleeping under bridges. I’m too old for that. All I need is a couple of hundred dollars. New York-San Francisco to re-create Kerouac’s odyssey.

The last hitchhiker.

October 13, 1492



As soon as it dawned, many of these people came to the beach?all young, as I have said, and all of good stature?very handsome people, with their hair not curly but straight and coarse, like horsehair; and all of them very wide in-the forehead and head, more so than any other race that I have seen so far. And their eyes are very handsome and not small; and none of them are black, but of the color of the Canary Islanders. Nor should anything else be expected since this island is on an east-west line with the island of Hierro in the Canaries. All alike have very straight legs and no belly but are very well formed.

They came to the ship with dugouts [canoes] that are made from the trunk of one tree, like a long boat, and all of one piece, and worked marvelously in the fashion of the land, and so big that in some of them 40 and 45 men came. And others smaller, down to some in which one man came alone. They row with a paddle like that of a baker and go marvelously. And if it capsizes on them then they throw themselves in the water, and they right and empty it with calabashes [hollowed out gourds] that they carry.

They brought balls of spun cotton and parrots and javelins and other little things that it would be tiresome to write down, and they gave everything for anything that was given to them. I was attentive and labored to find out if there was any gold; and I saw that some of them wore a little piece hung in a hole that they have in their noses. And by signs I was able to understand that, going to the south or rounding the island to the south, there was there a king who had large vessels of it and had very much gold. I strove to get them to go there and later saw that they had no intention of going. I decided to wait until the afternoon of the morrow and then depart for the southwest, for, as many of them showed me, they said there was land to the south and to the southwest and to the northwest and that these people from the northwest came to fight them many times.

And so I will go to the southwest to seek gold and precious stones. This island is quite big and very flat and with very green trees and much water and a very large lake in the middle and without any mountains; and all of it so green that it is a pleasure to look at. And these people are very gentle, and because of their desire to have some of our things, and believing that nothing will be given to them without their giving something, and not having anything, they take what they can and then throw themselves into the water to swim.

But everything they have they give for anything given to them, for they traded even pieces for pieces of bowls and broken glass cups, and I even saw 16 balls of cotton given for three Portuguese ceotis [copper coins], which is a Castilian blanca [a copper coin worth half of a maravedi]. And in them there was probably more than an arroba [around 24 pounds] of spun cotton.

This I had forbidden and I did not let anyone take any of it, except that I had ordered it all taken for Your Highnesses if it were in quantity. It grows here on this island, but because of the short rime I could not declare this for sure. And also the gold that they wear hung in their noses originates here; but in order not to lose time I want to go see if I can find the island of Cipango.

Now, since night had come, all the Indians went ashore in their dugouts.

Goodbye Columbus Day

Before the arrival of Christo Columbo in 1492, the New World was filled with empires, confederations, republics, city-states, and tribal lands. These diverse peoples represented a broad scattering of cultures. The population of the two connected continents has been estimated by modern historians to be approximately twenty-five million people from the Bering Straits to the tip of South America.

Fifty years after the Spanish ‘discovered’ America 75% of the natives had been killed by disease, war, or slavery.

The Spanish, English, French, and Dutch sought to extermination the original inhabitants of America and almost succeeded in the 19th Century, however the ‘Indians’ survived the slaughter, which is why many Indians seek to celebrate Oct. 12 as Native American Day rather than Columbus Day. Both Seattle and Minneapolis altered the holiday to honor the survivors of the Great Extermination.

Italian-Americans were insulted by the slight, as they were when the City of Boston planted Leif Erickson’s statue at the end of Commonwealth Avenue’s promenade rather than the Admiral of the Oceans.

Personally I honor the greatest of his voyage, while recognizing the havoc wrought by the colonists.

I am a Son of the Colonial Wars.

My people conquered New England.

It was a bloody time and sometimes as I drive through the hills south of the White Mountains I can feel the bones of warriors lying in the woods.

Lost forever to the war to win America.

And that is a sin we all live with.

To read more about Boston’s decision on Leif Erickson, please go to this URL

Vikings on the Charles

Happy Columbus Day

Five hundred and twenty-seven years ago Rodrigo de Triana spotted land at 2am from the Pinta’s lookout.

“Tierra, tierra.”

This shout woke his shipmates and the captain of this small caravel fired a cannon to announced the epic discovery of land. Later that day the three ships of Christopher Columbus or Cristoforo Colombo arrived at an island in what is now known as the Bahamas.

Rodrigo expected the offered reward for first seeing land, however the Italian explorer refused to honor the claim, stating that ‘he saw “light” at 10 p.m. the previous day, “but it was so indistinct that he did not dare to affirm it was land.”

The New World was not empty of people and the Admiral of the Sea wrote his benefactors the King and Queen of Spain about the native Arawaks, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defended themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion.”

Thus began the long tragedy of extermination of the natives in the New World by explorers from the Old World, however this evil future does not detract from the greatness of Columbus’ journey into the unknown and I salute his seamanship, but not his stealing the prize money of first man to sight land from Rodrigo de Triana.

The more things change, the more they change to become the same, because history is always written by those who know to write what people want to believe – James Steele

Chili Chili Bang Bang

Several years ago the City of London was thrown into a panic by a eye-searing cloud. Police swept the streets for the source of the potential killer only to discover a Thai chef preparing his monthly supply of chilly sauce ‘nam prik pao’.

Firefighters in bio-hazard suits removed the?cooking pot despite the protests of the chef.

“I was making a spicy dip with extra-hot chillies that are deliberately burnt. To us, it smells like burnt chili and it is slightly unusual. I can understand why people who weren’t Thai would not know what it was. But it doesn’t smell like chemicals. I’m a bit confused.”

Anyone driving a motorcycle by a Thai foodstand on Soi Buakhao has been subjected to chili peppers’ choking fumes, however Thais regard the acrid aroma with the same delight Westerners hold for burning BBQ flesh.

I’m partial to chilis having been initiated into their benefits through Mexican food in 1970. The ‘Phoenix Bar’ on Commonwealth Avenue was the only Mexican restaurant in Boston. The beers were 25 cents and shots a dollar. BU co-eds loved playing pinball and the juke box had two songs by the MC5. The Mexican chef had one arm and prided herself in her blinding chili sauce and rightfully so because Mexico is the source of the chili pepper.

Thais refuse to believe their signature spice is farang.

Peppers have been discovered in 13th century graves in Europe, however Christopher Columbus introduced the Mexican chili to the ‘civilized’ world and ‘Capsicum frutescens’ soon spread along the trading routes into Asia, as people recognized its nutritional values as well as its propensity to accelerated the heart rate and facilitate the release of the body’s natural painkilling chemical, endorphin.

Londoners in Soho were not so receptive and neither are most farangs in Thailand, who regard chilis as a poison, especially when they exit from the other end of the digestive system.

Me I eat them regularly and can handle most everything in Thailand, except those chicken feet in the Chinese soup.


Run for your lives.

Ying Gai La-wang.