1. Introduction - 2 Freedoms: Kerouac’s and Lowndes’
My friend and I used to joke about the magic can of beans cooked on a fire under the stars on the side of the road. Somehow, like in On The Road by Jack Kerouac, such moments emanate with wonder, expansive possibillity. Sitting there, maybe on a log or piece of concrete, looking out at the night - each time I drove cross-country I would look out (at a rest-stop in North Carolina, the park in Grand Junction, Colorado). But the joke is, after all, it’s just a can of beans - ha ha.
“America, that is the name of my unhappiness,” Kerouac wrote in Visions of Cody. It is this precise mix of promise and disappointment that marks the Heartland.
I’ve been to the Heartland in Western Massachusetts, Upstate New York, and two hours drive north of Los Angeles. But the Heartland is not just the non-urban, non-suburban, because the meanest ghetto of St. Louis Missouri (where the libraries closed and they even stopped collecting garbage for a while due to a lack of funds) - that too is the heartland. As is the Wal-Mart parking lot in Wyoming.