Halfway through my book tour and I still don’t know what to say about my book. I’m happy with it, but it’s hard for me to look directly at it. Feels like looking at the sun. Each time I read from the book in public, I tremble and clutch the podium like I’m about to be swept away, but I’m determined to do my best because I’m so humbled and excited that people are showing up to see a guy they don’t know read from a strange book.
After I finish reading, people ask very good questions: “What’s your favorite place in America?” and “What’s the scariest place?” and “Why do you keep driving into the desert?” And because I ask the question several times in my book, somebody always asks: “So what does it mean to be a man in America?” I give a different answer every time.
After I run out of things to say and we shift into mingling mode, sometimes people introduce themselves and share their stories with me. Some people tell me stories of unexpected happiness and shocking violence on the road. A loved one they met along the way. A trip in the sixties that turned dark. Other people offer theories about what it means to be an American or they tell me about their own quests to find some kind of peace. Walking across several states. Belly dancing in the desert. Starting a library. Hearing these stories is the best part of this trip.
In North Carolina, a man asked if I agree that America is blessed. We discussed this. Three cities later, a photography professor said the traditional idea of manhood disintegrated in tandem with the neglect of our Main Streets. I met a woman in Brooklyn who documents the New Hampshire and Vermont border. In Michigan, a man spoke of an alternate nation of people living off the grid. In Minneapolis, an older woman quietly told me that she, too, was an only child. “I know how it feels,” she said. “Feels like you’re responsible for the whole world.” I never thought of it that way, but she said it in such an unguarded tone that it hit me hard and now her sentence will stay with me.
Sometimes people ask me to sign their book. At first I wasn’t sure what to write or where to put my signature or what type of pen to use. Somebody told me that I should include a catchphrase like “Keep on trucking” or “Drive on.” The first time I signed a book, I wrote “Hello Tom,” which I now realize was strange. While I was dithering over this, somebody hijacked my notepad and wrote the message in the photograph above. I appreciate the enthusiasm. Now I’ve got three Sharpies and I’m heading to Seattle tonight.
As Friday night began to roll, he recalled Heraclitus’s warning about ‘night walkers, magicians, priests of Bacchus, and mystery-mongers.’
New Orleans is home to jazz and government neglect and other American traditions.
“A tantalizing 21st Century cross between Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and On the Road, this remarkable and utterly original memoir heralds the arrival of a new and important American voice. The Road to Somewhere will take you places you will not easily forget.”
A man believed his only chance at justice was to take a hostage and march him downtown. An idealistic dancer packed the theater yet the city cast her out. A search for their ghosts continues beneath the city.
You’ve seen her before. She’s the old woman with her eyes closed on the bus, the one who sits alone on a bench for hours. At night she listens to the exhausted air conditioners that sound like the sea, tuning in to the city’s static like an old radio show.
The Former Desk of the First Office of the Bureau of Manufactured History was unveiled at a ceremony on the third of May and continues to appear in unexpected locations throughout Indianapolis.