I guess I’m going to try put down on these pages those twenty years in my life that meant the most to me.
Those wonder times began at the end of something, namely a war. The one that saw me fighting in another man’s country, for a common cause, the fight for freedom. I swore to myself that if I ever got out of that hell alive, I would try to make it as a writer. Try and see the country of my birth and it was like the song said, ‘How ya gonna keep them down on the farm, now they’ve seen Paree?’
It took me those twenty years to go the whole length of the Lincoln Highway, from New York City to San Fran. I used the 1916 map, the one my granddaddy left me – the road he said, he was going to run along one day. He never did make it, so I thought I’d do it for him, and for my buds I left in fields in over there – I did it for them as well.
I saw the best of my world; New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and the glorious California.
I started out on a spring day in 1948 from NYC and in the next twenty years I met the best of the best. I strummed with Lennon, I talked with Salinger, I had coffee with Harper Lee and Capote. I had a beer with Robert Zimmerman, and I showed my writing to Gore Vidal and John Steinbeck and I drank some good bourbon with them too.
I saw the United States when the moon landings were only a dream away, when folks were coming together to heal each other’s pains from all those years of fighting. I saw my country when it was the best of times, when anyone could do anything, when the greatest writers came out of their rooms and slayed the world with their words. Yeah – there were bad things happening too, and perhaps I turned a blind eye to all of that. Maybe my road never truly took me through the real gritty America – maybe that was all on purpose – all I can say is, that what I saw was real and what I experienced was possibly the most remarkable years of my life, of any life.
I started out when my country was hurting, hurting real bad and finished on the day that Neil Armstrong landed on the
moon. Sure, I dipped in and out of the route, sometimes I ended up in places that perhaps some other guiding force had determined. Like the day I stood on Elm Street waiting for the president to pass.
I heard King make his speech in D.C., I watched The Beatles on a little television in a motel and I remember it all because whatever folks think of this country, it is still one of the greatest in the world.
So maybe you’ll want to come along for the ride, or maybe you’ll want to travel only part of the way – that’s cool as well. But the United States in those days of the late forties was as pumped up and electrified as I was. I kid you not, and you won’t regret a second of it.
So why don’t come along with me as we start out on that warm day in New York City. You and me standing in Times Square waiting to take on the world, and getting ready for what it would throw in our direction. The storm had passed and only the road under the skies and the stars, lay ahead.
bobby stevenson 2017
painting – Lincoln Highway 1940s – Scott Hoarty – fineartsamerica