It turns out that Steinbeck’s purportedly nonfiction account of his tour of America circa 1962 in a camper, Travels With Charlie in America, may be largely fiction after all. Maybe. But the book has a few lines in the introduction I always liked. Such as:
“I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.”
Written like a true man. Or as my Mom used to say about Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice, one of the last real men. And seeing this next line some number of years after I first read it is sobering:
“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 that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked.”
Right. Fifty-eight. He, or more properly his wife, is worried about traveling alone around the country at fifty-eight years old. And he’s contemplating the onset of senility. Fifty-eight is only six years older than I am now. I wonder if it was different being almost sixty back in the early sixties. Man, I hope so.
Ancillary thought: Do scholars “scholar?” As in “If scholars aren’t concerned about this, what are they scholaring about?”