Thursday, October 26, 2006

Off on a tangent Just finished reading an old book that I'd been meaning to read for a long, long time: Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon:
First published in 1982, William Least Heat-Moon's account of his journey along the back roads of the United States (marked with the color blue on old highway maps) has become something of a classic. When he loses his job and his wife on the same cold February day, he is struck by inspiration: "A man who couldn't make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity."

I first learned of this book about the time it came out (1982) because the author was on some morning talk show thing. Since then, it's become something of a cult classic and most people can at least come up with the phrase 'blue highways' to refer to non-interstates, though whether the phrase really predates the book or not, I don't know.

Still, it's a neat look at life ca. late '70s, early '80s. He's an Indian and much of his commentary along the way relates to that; he often describes some of the routes he's driving on as following old Indian trails. He calls his wife 'the Cherokee' and we never (I don't think) ever learn her real name. It's not a raging polemic on the plight of the Native American either, though he sometimes shows his dislike for any sort of chain store, especially restaurants. In fact, one of his main themes is finding diners with numerous calendars up on the walls; the more the better the food. (I don't actually understand this)

It's one of those things probably everyone wishes they could do at some point, just hop in the car and go, with no plans, nowhere to be, and nothing in particular to do. It's kind of similar to One Man's Wilderness but in reverse (check this one out, too, and the video which has been airing on PBS a lot lately).

He ought to make the journey again, 30 years later. And this time blog it!