Saturday, June 18, 2005

What is America really like?

Have you ever wondered that? So did my friend Sean…. and this summer he is going to find out – and so will you, if you follow his blogs: (official) (unofficial)

Inspired by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, Mike Vitez, who was sent on the road with several thousand dollars, a photographer and an SUV, Sean decided to do a similar thing for his paper, but taking a less expensive route. Can you imagine traveling in America for a month with only a hundred bucks, a camera and a bus ticket? Sean left this week to do just that and you can read all about it on his blogs.

I recommend reading his posts from “bottom up”, oldest to most recent, for better understanding. Here is a portion of his project proposal:

From: Sean McCann
Re: Summer project proposal

A couple of summers ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer sent "People" columnist (and Haddonfield resident) Mike Vitez out into America with several thousand dollars, a photographer and an SUV. When I heard about it, my first thought was, "Lucky Mike." My second thought: Wouldn’t it be more fun to send somebody out with a hundred bucks, a camera and a bus ticket instead?

Of course, I imagined myself in that role, and the type of stories that might emerge on the way across this vast country. But though I was intensely fascinated with the idea, I never proposed it because I couldn’t think of an angle that would directly speak to South Jersey readers.

Then came the 2004 presidential election.

This past Nov. 2, Camden County went for John Kerry 62 percent to 37 for George W. Bush. Only two municipalities in the county came in Republican, one of them being Tony Tavistock, which backed Bush an overwhelming eight voters to one. Waterford was the only town to mimic the national percentages, going Republican 51-to-48.

The numbers in Camden County weren’t much different than the rest of South Jersey, and the rest of the East Coast, for that matter, and yet the nationwide numbers reflected a very different America. After the election, I came back to a conclusion that I’d first made when I was a college student, a coastal kid plopped down at the University of Missouri: most people don’t realize what this country is really like.

The red state-blue state disconnect is both well documented and oft analyzed, but I think there’s an opportunity here to go someplace deeper. My idea is to wander across the country via Greyhound bus for the period of a month. I’d talk to fellow travelers and stop in towns small and large to find stories and photos that would resonate with any reader. I'd send them back every day or two, to be run under a brand name like "Meet your Nation" or "From the West."

I wish you luck Sean, and wait for you to come back safe. I’m gonna leave with two Kerouac quotes that I think you’ll relate to.

1. So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.
—Jack Kerouac (On the Road)

2. I'm not a beatnik, I'm a Catholic.
—Jack Kerouac


At 1:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking for blogs about tai chi and came across yours. I have whats referred to as a hard style Karate School and this is something we've been contemplating adding to it. Great blog you have and I've enjoyed reading the posts on it.


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