My room looks very spartan, now that I’ve pretty much packed up all of my books and CDs: all that remains is my mattress, a desk, and a chair. Right now, I’m sitting here, finishing my bottle of Knob Creek (neat), and waiting for Ghost World to finish downloading on the iTunes store, wondering how in the world I got here.
Sure, there is a very easy answer to that question: a series of causally connected events such that I was born on September 23rd, 1985, around 6 in the afternoon, to now, midnight of May 22nd, 2008. With a good enough memory and some logical diagramming, I can probably draw out my life as a series of connected events.
But of course, what I am really wondering is not the literal events, but something much more elusive and imprecise. I could not have seen this while I was in China, as a little kid living with his grandparents in Jinan, Shandong Province. I couldn’t even have seen this only four years ago, when I was in Monterey Park, attending Mark Keppel for my senior year in high school. But now, all of a sudden, I’m moving myself and my life all the way ‘cross the continent to the other side of the country. There is something unfathomable about that, even though I know how I literally got from A to B.
There is something disconcerting about this, because for four years, my identity was “a college student,” because that’s how I carried myself, how I came to see everything. But now, all of a sudden, I’m supposed to discard all of that and become something else?
But then again, the “romantic” part of me sees something almost Kerouac-esque (is that how you would use Kerouac as an adjective?) in what I’m doing: just picking up all the pieces and going across the continent, to a place where I know no one and have to start all over. In my mind, there is even something like going to the frontiers, even though deep down I know that with technology the way it is, the notion of a frontier has disappeared.
On the other hand, I don’t want to appear too sentimental about the so-called good ol’ times, so I’ll have to undercut what I wrote in the previous paragraph by saying that underneath the joys of On the Road, the book is essentially tragic, tragic in the sense that all the wandering that Sal Paradise did in fact did not lead him closer to any kind of truth or revelation. The searching for some deeper meaning through a literal journey ends in vain.