May 22, 2012
Sometimes A Great Notion
One chapter of Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion bled into another as we hummed north out of Los Angeles. The Syncro revved up towards the redline in first gear, obscuring the narrator’s voice. Fresh off the plane from a three month stint in New Zealand, Tim was adjusting to the pace of traffic in the San Fernando Valley from the passenger seat. Periodic grunts and his constant gaze at the seemingly endless lines of suburban landscape conveyed his feelings.
“Pretty different from New Zealand huh?”
“I haven’t seen this many people in three months,” Tim explained. “The cars here are totally different too. Pretty much everything that’s 4wd has a snorkel on it. They use 4wd drive down there. Not like that.” Tim motioned to Cadillac Escalade weaving through traffic.
“They are different animal,” I agreed nodding towards the vanishing Escalade. ”Want to listen to some tunes or stay with the book?”
“Leave it here. I’m getting into it.”
Kesey’s novel about the brotherly corrals of a logging family in Coastal Oregon continued as we left LA’s smog behind us. A few days earlier, I had dropped off Tucker in Northern California and bee-lined it down to pick up Tim at LAX. For three months, Tim backpacked, sailed and sea kayaked on New Zealand’s South Island. Save for a few two line emails and ten minute Skype call, I hadn’t heard from him since I headed south towards Baja in January.
Two years and two months separate us in age. Growing up, we spent all of our time together. If one of us was into something, the other soon would be too. Our relationship was less of brothers, with a clear hierarchy and boundaries, and more an impervious friendship.
For a few days, we wondered LA catching up. For a short while, our conversations focused on his experiences in New Zealand, but they soon gave way to familiar conversations and idiosyncrasies of two very close people. After a night or two and few hours spent bumper to bumper in LA’s signature traffic, we decided to head north and explore the southern Sierras.
A year ago, sitting in my Manhattan office building, the importance of maintaining and contributing to this relationship with my brother was slowly giving way to a storm of professional aspirations, grown up responsibilities and the desire to build a new life. Following in parallel with Leland Stampard’s (a character in Sometimes a Great Notion) return to the Northwest, I too left New York, and headed back towards my routes in the Northwest last August. Unlike Leland’s desire for revenge on his older brother, a burning wanderlust and desire to spend more time with people important to me drove me home.
For 27 hours, Sometimes A Great Notion provided the backdrop for our travels.
Yours to keep.
Dark and Stormy.
Toppings and Salsa.
For longest time, I called Tim my little brother. He’s 6’8. Now he’s just my brother.
“We never fought like this did we? I mean we argued some when we were little, but nothing this deep-seated,” I said turning down the stereo, after the climax fight between the two brothers in the book.
“Yea, never like this,” Tim said as he grabbed the binoculars and peered out the window towards the distant hills.
“I think the last time we got in a fight was, maybe 7 years ago when you threw that stool at me.”
“Yup.” Tim adjusted the focus. ”I don’t think we ever will.”
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