Gone On The Road…

On Wednesday, TJ, the artistic director of Heads Up, and I will be heading out of town for 6 weeks.  We, along with some backpacks and a car, will be trekking across America.  Looking at our Rand McNally road atlas, this will be the first time I’ve been past the center crease that splits east from west on the map.  This will also be the longest period I’ve spent away from Ohio.

In many ways, I’ve dreamt about a road trip of this magnitude since the summer of 1996, when Eric Matthews took his brother Cory on a cross-country trip that closed the third season of Boy Meets World.  Lately, however, the need for such a trip has developed beyond tongue-in-cheek pop culture references.

Growing up not knowing whom my father was and with a mostly absent mother, I often felt like a tree that had been transplanted into foreign soil without its roots.  To better understand my place in the world– as a person and as an artist– I’ve been trying to find those roots.

Since I haven’t been able to look to my father, I’ve had to look to “those that have come before” in a different way.  As I’ve written about in a previous essay entitled Finding Our American Roots, one way I am looking to my past is by exploring my American identity. 

One book, and consequently the circle of people who surround the book, has recently formed for the crux of my search.  On The Road and the whole of the Beat generation symbolize a unique movement in American culture.  Their work sparked the counterculture movements of the 1960s and beyond, including hippies, black/gay rights movements and punk rock.  But “being Beat,” Jack Kerouac, author of On The Road, told an audience in 1958, “goes back to my ancestors, to the rebellious, the hungry, the weird and the mad.”

When Kerouac penned On The Road, he was looking to his forefathers, searching for an America that no longer existed.  He wanted to find the America of Walt Whitman.  As author John Leland writes in his book Why Kerouac Matters, “The challenge for his novel, then, was to repair a breach in post-Whitman America and find the goodness within it.  Like Whitman, Kerouac sang for the land and its flawed people­– multitudinous like himself, filled with potential and contradiction.”

Our expedition across America is to continue on the ambling path set forth by these predecessors.  Every major trip I’ve taken has always had a destination– the kind that requires you to be at a certain place at a certain time.  Very seldom have I had the occasion to journey around America’s back roads, exploring for myself this “mighty land.”  This trip will take us to Boulder, The Black Rock Desert, San Antonio, Yellowstone, Seattle, San Francisco, The Redwood Forest, Death Valley, The Grand Canyon and wherever else we decide “The Road” leads.

Following in the footsteps of mythic figures may sound like something reserved for Hollywood Star Tours, but we have no plans to copy their exploits– only their spirit of leaning “forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”  Their discoveries shall provide the foundation for us to create our art, our America and ourselves.

On The Road is a call to adventure.  One that echoes the crash of the waves riding on the winds blowing in from the west.   In only two days, TJ and I will heed that call, “performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”

-Benjamin Rexroad
Managing Artistic Director

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Comments

  1. Good luck on your journey! This sounds like a magnificent adventure!

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