September, 2012: Travels With Charley In Search of America by John Steinbeck

(Book #29) Sharon hosted the gathering in her new condo in Evanston [2nd of 5 residences] and there were six of us who sat on the terrace drinking (as Steinbeck would have wanted, though we were drinking wine and not hard liquor) and we watched the sun go down. Sharon served some 60’s food — meatloaf, pasta and cheese, peas, salad and we had our choice of apple or mixed berry pie for dessert.  For our coffees, there was apple liqueur!

The book: though it was more travel journal than novel, it was Steinbeck’s travel journal and was a great read in many ways. We enjoyed Charley communicating with the letter /f/, the stated differences in state road signs, the adjective replacing the adverb, the horrible ‘cheerleaders’ in New Orleans protesting integration and the three conversations that followed. Some of our books had an extra chapter about Steinbeck being invited to Kennedy’s inauguration and some didn’t. 

Favorite Quotes:

I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.

I am happy to report that in the war between reality and romance, reality is not the stronger.

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself….A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.

“You don’t even know where I’m going.”
“I don’t care. I’d like to go anywhere.”