Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cabin Fever

When I was in high school my greatest fear was growing complacent and settling down without having ever pursued my dreams of taking an adventure on the open American highway. I longed to see everything Jack Kerouac described in On the Road half a century ago: the fresh apple pie at the highway diner at every town in the Heartland, the secluded farm life of the Dakotan and Nebraskan corn fields and plains, the reds and oranges of the Southwestern desert, and foggy California nights looking out at the vast Pacific.

An inevitable part of growing up in American society, though, involves giving up "fantasies" -- as most would certainly describe them -- and embracing the 9 to 5 reality wholeheartedly. Indeed, these dreams or fantasies, whichever they may be, have dwindled in my mind as I've grown older and experienced the real world more and more. Lately, however, the lure of the open road and the prospect of a good old camping trip or road trip has re-emerged with vigor.

Perhaps the allure of adventure has grown in part due to this past year, which has largely been a realization that a career is more something you try not to truly hate than something you try to enjoy. Graduate school stands in stark contrast to college; it functions as much as anything else as a blunt reminder that the easy-going nature of college was but a four-year illusion and that the complacency of the working class world looms a lot closer than you think.

Perhaps its the lingering bitterness I feel towards the decision I made to move to Chicago a year ago, a decision that is becoming apparent to me that can only be described as a mistake as much as I don't want to call it a mistake. And maybe because I feel guilty for making that decision, I feel the need to wash myself of it by hitting the open road or secluding myself in nature for a couple days. A good old fashioned adventure would be a sort of cleansing, if you will. It worked for my Hemingway after all; after serving in World War I Hemingway ventured up north and secluded himself in the Northern Michigan woods to heal both his physical and pyschological scars, (though you can imagine those pyschological wounds never heal) as the short story "Big Two-Hearted River" goes.

Or perhaps the city landscape is just wearing on my country-oritented psyche. Last summer I had a forest at my back doorstep, a labyrinth of trails within a few short steps, and a country road leading to a lake a mere mile or two away. In other words, my own personal heaven. Over the past few months the closest I've been to nature is the artificially planted trees on the city streets and the pages that adorn my Hemingway bookshelf, with the latter being far more comforting.

No matter the reason, though, the dreams of boyhood are alive and well. This time, though, the materialization of an adventure seems more likely, as this time I'm mature enough to know that the Arizona desert and the California vineyards are realistically out of grasp. A camping trip or a week-long winter road trip doing a combination Ontario Hockey League venue tour and tour of the finest dive bars Ontario has to offer, which I've been contemplating as of late, will do just fine.

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