Thursday, March 02, 2006


Several years ago I was looking at a map of North America. This was at a moment at work when I should have been working but was not. Like you, I do a lot of this. The standard daydream of driving a car across the United States scrolled through my mind, reflexively as it does anytime anyone looks at a map.

We've been programmed to imagine our own personal Dean Moriarty showing up on our doorstep, fresh from prison or reform school, holding the keys to a Hudson of dubious origin, urging us to just go. And in our minds, we go, for a second. We grab a clean shirt, a pack of smokes and get in the car.

New York's gravity falls away suddenly. What seemed impossible, escaping the pull of our familiar neighborhood, our effete comfy friends is now easy, inevitable. The car rolls down the BQE, over the Williamsburg Bridge, through the rotting gothic archways of steel from whence we watched the Twin Towers burn and peel down to the street like a wilting lily, down to the perpetual low-grade catastrophe of Delancy street and across the cluttered blur of fancy Soho shops until we plunge into the tunnel and emerge squinting in the daylight of New Jersey. At this moment even Newark, rising halfway to the horizon holds greater promise than anything we've seen in years. Out there beyond the stacks of Newark lay Pennsylvania, and we know it will seem huge when we're in it, but in the coming weeks it will be a fleeting blip when compared to the eternity of Nebraska.

Most of us, at this moment in the daydream just click on another link and navigate from Google maps to Gawker or the Hun. We had a Dean Moriarty in our lives once, but we stopped hanging out with him years ago, when he almost got us arrested in Flagstaff. (Guns were involved, as was the threat of sodomy.) Even if we did still know someone like Dean Moriarty, we'd keep him and his borrowed cars and bennies and slutty jazz-loving girlfriends at arms length. Hectic adventures are nice to read about, and maybe even pretty good to watch on TV, but what with the prospect of venerial diseases, twisted highway wrecks in cars that have no seatbelts nevermind airbags, yee. An image flashes through our mind of our body crushing against the windshield when our Dean dozes off, and we keep the daydream in its unrealized state, like the crush we've got on that girl at work.

But I have been sitting at someone else's desk, doing someone elses work for too long. My daydreams are overwhelming me now, spilling out in meetings, right on the conference room table. Someone suggests that we need to "streamline our workflow," and I say, "No, we all need to quit this shit and be dangerous. It's the last chance we've got."

They write it up on the whiteboard. The marker squeaks and in bright blue ink, it looks less real.

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