I put off watching the trailer for On The Road until very recently, and during those two-and-a-half minutes there was only one thing on my mind. It wasn’t disdain over a classic novel being bastardized by Hollywood (I fall firmly in the stereotype of 20-something women who feel very little—aside from alienation—for the Beats. As Paris Geller said when she unexpectedly stopped by Rory’s house in that episode of Gilmore Girls, “The Beats’ writing was completely self-indulgent. I have one word for Jack Kerouac: Edit.”), and it wasn’t shock and terror at the thought of that tearaway Kristen Stewart kissing someone other than Cedric Diggory (CEDRIC 4EVER, EDWARD NEVER!).
It was sadness for the actors who had to spend weeks—possibly months—crammed together on the leather bench seats in old-timey cars as they drove all over the United States pretending to be psyched about it. Extended, endless road trips are romanticised by people like Kerouac and Anthony Kiedis, but you know what they actually are? Fucking exhausting, that’s what. Any touring musician will tell you the same thing. When you are sitting in a vehicle for days on end, standing on your tippy-toes to avoid puddles of anonymous urine the few times you have the chance to use a bathroom that’s more than a poorly-concealed shrub, and surviving on sodium and MSG disguised as food, you will hate yourself almost as much as you hate your life.
There’s a reason coming home from a long trip is so satisfying, and that’s because sitting down for 14+ hours a day while pretending to be amused that whoever’s riding shotgun is insisting on playing Summer of ’69 for the 18th time that day BLOWS. People need to alternate between being vertical and horizontal. We need to be able to wash our hair and clean the gunk out from under our fingernails and change our crusty underwear without judgement or being made to feel like we’re ruining the oh-so-very Kerouacian experience everyone else is jerking themselves over.
If Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty lived today, they’d be scouring Expedia for the cheapest and fastest flights from New York to LA. They’d pay for excess baggage (typewriters are heavy) and flirt with the air hostess for free booze. One thing they wouldn’t be doing is piling into a car made of tin as if it was the defining moment of their lives; so please, don’t expect me to do the same.