Monday, July 23, 2012

Song of the Open Road

This is my son Sam, who is 22 this summer.

And this is my stepson David, who is also 22 this summer.

When last heard from, Sam was in New Orleans, debating which direction to head next.When last heard from, David was entering Yellowstone National Park for the evening. Eventually, both young men will crisscross the country, with each ending back up where he started from. In Sam's case, that would be Portland, Oregon. In David's, Akron, Ohio.

What is it about young men and summer that makes them want to hit the road? Long before Jack Kerouac ever took to the highways, a young man named E.B. White drove with his friend Howard Cushman from Ithaca, New York, to Seattle, Washington. This trip was undertaken in a Model T long before there were paved highways in many parts of the country. White captured his trip in his letters home (which are collected in The Letters of E.B. White) and in his essay, "The Years of Wonder." He and Cushman were 23 at the time.

When E.B. White became a father, he wrote a poem, "Apostrophe to a Pram Rider," on the subject of travel:

Someday when I'm out of sight,
Travel far but travel light!
Raise the sail your old man furled,
Hang your hat upon the world! ...
Joe, my tangible creation,
Happy in perambulation,
Work no harder than you have to. Do you get me?

So to my far flung sons, measuring their days in miles and destinations, travel far and travel light!


Anonymous said...

I had been unaware of the E.B. white essay and I am going to track it down. My favorite reading has to do with historical travelogues.

see you there! said...

Hope your guys are having a great time. Enjoyed the poem.