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Visions of Me, Reading Visions of Cody

“Ah the mad hearts of all of us.” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

I have ran through many places, many times, worn many faces, I have started, stopped, and restarted time on several occasions, all in the daunting task of completing a read-through of Visions of Cody. At times, the days were cold and sent shudders to the very marrow of my bones, other times, the sun scorched my neck, reminding me of nature’s raw beautiful power and its indifference to my speck of functioning in the world. Jack Kerouac is my ultimate muse author, and having read nearly two dozen of his books, I still was not ready for the wild, free-flowing, at times seemingly disjointed and nonsensical writings that make up Visions of Cody, or at least I was not at first, second, or even third try. Visions of Cody, in all its 400 plus pages of spontaneous (I mean really meandering and spontaneous) prose, is a moment in my life, an accomplished feeling of having experienced an admired writer’s most experimental and complex piece. And in the end, I am better for it.

So what is this piece I am writing now? Well, it is not so much a book review, as it is a momentary snapshot glimpse view back into my experiences with Visions of Cody…my visions of me, reading Visions of Cody.

The first two sections, and approximately one-hundred pages, visually resemble the original scroll version of On the Road, long blocks of small type-font, with little room for paragraph breaks, a true stream of consciousness, and spontaneous prose tale. I was hooked right away. I went into the book knowing of its legendary (in a hip underground beat sort of way) reputation, but was still left in amazement by the hyper-stream of consciousness, and the beautifully, and often tragic, acute attention to detail, so much detail for even the most mundane of situations, that painted vivid imagery in my mind, transporting me back to this bygone era of America. Consider this, there is probably an easy one and a half, to two pages wholly dedicated to describing a countertop and chairs in a skid-row diner. This is part of what Visions of Cody did, it brought you so close to what would in any other situation be considered the dull and mundane, and transformed it into a passionate and somber look back at Americana, as it once existed from coast to coast.

“I can’t think of anybody…who knows the sum and substance of what I know and feel and cry about in my secret self all the time when I don’t feel strong, the sorrows of time and personality, and can therefore on all levels make it all the way with me” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

The next two sections, and nearly two-hundred pages,  of Visions of Cody goes even further down the experimental and avant-garde rabbit hole of writing,  transcribing, word for word, a series of tape recordings between Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, and other various Beats. It needs to be noted that these recordings are painstakingly random, at times incoherent, confusing, and are the result of much intoxication by all involved. It is in this stage of the book, that I am conflicted, torn between my love for self-expression, spontaneity, the “out there”, avant-garde, and the generally askew from the norm, torn between all this, and my ultimate takeaway, that while the intent of transcribing tape recordings of people in true naked conversations is bold and exciting (in theory), the end result is disjointed (and not in a good way) and lacking in true Kerouac storytelling depth. It lacked heart.

Countless cups of coffee, seasons of the year, and a kaleidoscope of people, places, and things came and went in my life as I read this book- my ever-present companion, Visions of Cody. There was some sort of bayou hoodoo spell conjured up within the pages of Visions, for each time I read a segment, my mind raced with intrigue, icons, lost visions, teleportation, and a heart-warming fondness for the less than glamorous side of America, the hard-working, the down-trodden, the people who will not show up on any billboards, wont star in a Hollywood movie, and would not even make a footnote in their local paper. This is the true America, the one Jack Kerouac saw disappearing, that he thought worth saving, the Americana of the blues, of railroad yards, late nights in bars, road trips across the country, a seemingly simpler time that was fading fast. This is just as poignant today as it was then, that is the beauty of Jack’s writing.

The remaining pages of Visions of Cody continues in the stream in which the book started, forgoing the tape recordings, and holds some of the most powerful and beautiful sections of prose I have ever read. I am not one for hero-worship, but I will say that there are some brilliant flashes of storytelling tangled within the stream of consciousness behemoth that is Visions of Cody.

In the end, Visions of Cody made me feel accomplished, rewarded for having made it through. It also left me inspired, inspired to continue writing, seeking adventure, living life on my own terms, and focusing on the little things in life, for they are what make up our memories (stories) we take with us forever. Perhaps, even more than any of those takeaways, Visions of Cody showed me a new level of pride in America (Americana), in the simple hard-working truth of the nation, and the unmolested beauty that still remains down every back-road, if we are just willing to let go, travel, and see what we have flown by blinded for too long, and for that, I am grateful that Visions of Cody is here.

“…the great black bird broods outside my window in the high dark night waiting to enfold me when I leave the house tomorrow only I’m going to dodge it successfully by sheer animalism and ability and even exhilaration, so goodnight” ― Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Letter to my Son on His Third Birthday

Ryland,

You are three years old now. Just three years, so young, and yet you are already so wise. Every day you amaze me with your enlightened perspective on the world. Being able to experience the wonder of parenthood with you has made true for me all the clichés that are spewed about parenting and children; I guess the clichés are clichés for a reason. Suffice it to say, that having you in my life has impacted and changed me in ways that I could never replicated any other way, with the DNA of my very being having been forever altered by your very existence. Thank you for that.

You are an amazing, beautiful, soulful force of light in this world, never let that go. The world is always in need of special people, people who can see the positive, find the joys in the everyday and the mundane, the people who relish waking up to each new day, and conquering it with reckless abandon and love. You do this, while maintaining who you are, and choosing compassion and love over all else.

Of course, you are only three years old and do not realize that you do all, or probably any, of this right now. That is perfectly fine, I see it, mom sees it, and the world sees it. It will become incumbent upon you as you continue to grow, and become more self-realized, to maintain these traits (and expand them further). This will be the real test, the piece that impacts everyone as they journey into adulthood, the mission to maintain the wanderlust and carefree love and joy of a child, and carry it through as it merges into your adult traits and spot in the world.

I was unable to carryover, nearly all adults are in the same situation, it is the sad truth about our society, that we strip away much, if not all, of the amazing traits that children hold, and in exchange swap them out for expectations, misguided notions of success and happiness, conformity, self-doubt, and self-consciousness. We will have plenty of time to discuss and for me to teach you about holding on to this, so no need to belabor the point any further here now.

I want you to know how much you are loved and cherished by mom and me, and by the rest of your family. We love you more deeply than any letter or words could ever even attempt to capture (although I will try anyway). We would do anything for you. Every choice and decision we make in life is tied to you and enriching your life. You are surrounded by love and support, a rarity (unfortunately) in the world today.

What do I want for you, three year old Ryland? I simply want you to continue being you, unencumbered and free. There will be plenty of time, situations, and people who will try to do otherwise. Stay true, remain full of love, continue to be bold, always be silly, and realize you have something magical inside you, a presence and energy that radiates out into the world, making you capable of great things. Be you.

There is so much more to say, so much more to teach. I will save those words and those lessons to be whispered into your ear each and every day that we are together, as I guide you, and you guide me, through life.

Love,

Daddy

Something New Every Day

The many faces of a person- my persona shifted from face to face. Today I am this. Tomorrow I am that. Perceptions of myself ever evolving as I sit and stare, stare and stand, in the continuous flow of life. I recently acknowledged, both too myself and in written form, that I am learning something new about myself every day. With no real knowledge of what has sparked this, nor any real need to know, the days have been filled with self-reflection, micro ah ha moments, and a mind which is always on- peculiar being unable to calm the mind in nearly any situation- this is my attempted release.

A deep dark robust taste hearkens to memories of dark chocolate, sweet coffee, and velvety cake, swirling around in the glass, as well as my mind. The precise yet free flowing sounds of Miles’ horn next to me, a slightly uncomfortable feeling in the air, an uncleanliness on my skin that only a humid summer’s night can capture. The sun is still out, but it is fading- I am fading, fading deeper within these thoughts, and within myself. A sultry groove fills the air- thanks Miles.

I am lost without creativity, specifically without writing- this is one of the many things I have learned about myself recently. Not just a hobby, nor a casual pursuit, writing and being a writer is something that I identify as a core trait of my very being, something that at times I have regrettably not made room nor effort for. The feeling of not being true to yourself- my own worst critic.

I take much more pride and harness much more joy out of my career (which I always considered as separate, vast majority of the time very separate from me being a writer) than I have ever realized. My current work and reflection has taught me that.

I pause for a moment, for another sip, to enjoy the air, to find what comes next? Perhaps all of these- perhaps none- but I take the sip anyways. Life of a writer.

I am bothered by myself when I am anything but truthful, true, and honest in my efforts, and in my integrity on life’s values. I have not always been that way.

I find joys in simple things, and in things that my prior versions of myself and others may find mundane and dull. A quiet weekend night at home with my family, a few minutes to read a book, a chance to de-clutter my home, or even a simple conversation with a friend or loved-one. This is not to say that all wild times, and all adventures are behind me, they are not- this is simply to say that I can now appreciate both, and often times prefer the “mundane and dull”. The power of sitting on the floor playing with your son and his toys is simply undeniable, and the greatest concert, party, or wild adventure could not compare…and believe me, I love a wild party.

Another sip, strong, warm, altering…perfect.

I am no longer the one who provokes, who welcomes altercation, who yearns for a moment, any moment to make a statement, a physical impact, and perpetuate conflict in the world. This is part of the reason I no longer play the game. I strive to be strong, to be calm, to find peace, and to bring good into the world and to those I come in contact with. I have no regrets on my self-appointed role and work for the Nation, it is simply is just not who I am anymore. We all grow- we all evolve.

Another sip, and it is gone. Such is life. Drink it up.

My desire to curtail and control my impulsive and addictive personality is another point of my recent thought meanders. It is a rollercoaster of want, desire, need, followed by satisfaction, which is always followed by near-immediate regret and self-loathing.

I am blessed- truly blessed. I want for nothing, yet find myself getting down on occasion. This is another realization (that I already knew, but have rededicated my focus to), a true appreciation for my circumstances, and the will to carry on confidently with them.

Time. Time, is on my side. Yes it is…I don’t know why I said that.

Every day is a chance to better myself, to learn from my experiences, to realize that about myself that I previously have been scared to, or felt it too difficult.

I gather much of my inspiration from my son- he is my little Buddha.

I am learning to not be so hard on myself, to let myself be, and to let go and embrace it. As Laura and I discussed the other day over an evening walk, it is time to “own it”.

I truly have been learning something about myself every day lately, and I hope that I continue to do so. Norek out…

Ten Week Reflection on My Path

Upcoming…

  • Self-reflection on the first steps in my new life path
  • How it has impacted me and the people around me
  • A tidbit or two on what we can all do to find truth

 

It has been exactly ten weeks today since I stepped out of the office of my corporate compliance position I had held for the last ten years for the last time. As of that day, I no longer was required (are we ever really required- we make choices even if we do not think they are choices) to come into the office, complete my corporate duties, and contribute to a for-profit publicly traded company, that today seems a distant memory and eons away from who I am right now, in this moment. Sure, the departure from corporate life was not on my own accord, my hand forced via riff, but it was welcomed, it was needed.

It has always been in me, writer, artist, and I have always known that a corporate life, while rich with many material benefits and comforts, was not me, not deep down to my truth. It is possible (and probable) that there is a corporate career out there that would align directly with my true-self, my core beliefs and passions. I will not deny that. What I will say is that I am and have always been a writer, artist, and a seeker of adventure and truth. The world is a wonderful mysterious place and it calls to me, beckoning me to explore it, experience it, and to understand (try to) its infinite mysteries and truths.

This is where I need to be, this is what my path needs to be, a primary focus on life, experiences, and a continued searching of truth and beauty. I was not doing that from my desk in a corporate office, focusing on regulatory compliance.

I feel more alive today and more satisfied in each day than I have in a very long time. Many would look at my situation and see an unfortunate individual laid off from a (seemingly and was for ten years) stable, very well paying corporate position, which provided an excess of financial and material comfort, evidence of career progression, success and promise for the future. These people would see all that and conclude that it was a tragedy, a worrisome situation, one difficult to recover from, and wonder, “what will he do next?” “How will he match that success in the job market today?” and I get it…I do. I understand that mindset.

It is a mindset I have had to battle and explain away to so many of my closest friends and family members. As a husband and father to a one year old son, the traditional standard of success, comfort and safety are hard societal tags to shake.

But there is a different type of success, a different standard for life, a more fulfilling and true ideal to strive for. That is what I am going for now. The path to live it my everyday as my true-self, to pursue my passions, my dreams, the components that I most closely identify with at the core of my being. My wife Laura and I have always fancied ourselves a little bit different, slightly left of the mainstream, neo-hippie types caught up in a corporate suburbanite world. In between morning commutes to the office and painstaking repetitive maintenance of our suburban sprawl, I dreamt of escape, of running away, leaving it all behind, going simple, primitive, free and living away, secluded, perhaps a remote rustic cabin tucked deeply into a woody pine, the fresh mountain air in the morning, the simple and true reality sounds of birds, insects, a babbling brook…and us, just the family and peace.

So now and for the last ten weeks, I found myself able to escape, able to explore this path. With the support of my wife and a desire to take this leap, I have experienced a lot.

It is no easy task to go from amateur (still am), casual writer in my free time, writing pieces only for myself, or at least only seen by myself, the hidden work of an artist at heart and mind for the entirety of my life (as far as I can recall), to choosing to leap into the public eye and make my works, my emotions, my truths, and my very being available for public consumption. Our emotions, identifiers, and stories are very personal to all of us…imagine taking your journal, spilling your desires, fears, insecurities, struggles and accomplishments out into the world. This is what I am doing, this is what I have chosen to do…and I love every second of it.

I miss no part of my former corporate career. I miss several people, but nothing else. That is not to imply I am not grateful for the opportunity, the company, the experience, or the path it took me on for the last ten years. That part of my life brought me many great memories and provided in a particular way for me and my family. It also led me to where I am today, sitting here, literally recounting my past years in a creative writing form that has always been primary to my true-self. I am not ungrateful, but I also do not miss any part of it and do not desire to return down that path. That path is done; it is no longer part of my current or future story (as far as my limited perspective can see).

What I have today is brilliant, special, engaging, and beautiful. I have a purpose and a path that makes me feel alive and deeply satisfied in a life fulfilling way. I am a writer.

In ten weeks on this new path, I have learned many things:

  1. It is difficult and can seem impossible at times, but being true to yourself as deeply and honestly as possible is liberating. There is nothing like it.
  2. You must first discover what being true to yourself really means. We may think we know, have convinced ourselves we know what we desire, what we need, but it may be a wall, a facade, a compromise we have made in life to deal with and accept our circumstances. Take time, find solitude for however long you need, listen to yourself and discover the silent voice within that whispers to your soul. Hear what it has to say.
  3. Following a path that veers any degree from what you have done in the past, what is expected of you, and or is unconventional for whatever slice of society you are a part of will be misunderstood and met with a great degree of confusion. Be true, honest, open and frank with those that you feel need to, or you care to explain yourself to. Even if your decision is not for them and they do not understand, if you are being true to your core, they will understand and feel that. People will respond to your vibrations you set out, as long as they are pure and true.
  4. We can all do it; we all need to do it. We can find ourselves and make it work in our life. It will not happen overnight, it takes time. Finding truth starts with desire and unbreakable determination. Never lose sight, even when times may be their darkest.

It has already been, but also has only been ten weeks since I have pushed down this new path. I still have so much to learn, so much to experience.

I welcome comments (comment link at bottom of each blog post- may show as “no comments”). Let me know a way you have followed your path that others can learn from.

There will be more recaps to come, for now, adventure on my fellow life travelers. Find your peace.