Travels with Charley: In Search of America

John Steinbeck, 1962

At the age of 58, in 1960, John Steinbeck leaves Sag harbor, NY, and his loving wife to travel across America with his French poodle, Charley.

“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” Pg 4.

He got a 3/4 ton pick-up with a “little house” on top. He named it Rocinante, Don Quixote’s horse.

Pg 26: “The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use…I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness…”

Regarding hunting, pg. 57, “They shoot at anything that moves or looks as though it might…”

Pg. 61, the word charm to not be afraid of evil spirits: “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.” (In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit)

Charley says “Ftt” when he needs to go pee.

Wisconsin, pg. 125: “Why then was I unprepared for the beauty of this region…” Pg 126: “…I saw it for the first and only time in early October…butter-colored sunlight…I’ve seen that kind of light elsewhere only in Greece…The land dripped with richness.”

The Badlands, pgs. 156-157: “And the night, far from being frightful, was lovely beyond thought, for the stars were close…This is one of the few places I have ever seen where the night was friendlier than the day…In the night the Badlands had become Good lands.”

Montana, pgs. 158-159: “The next passage in my journey is a love affair. I am in love with Montana…I did not rush through the towns to get them over with. I even found things I had to buy to make myself linger…Of all the states it is my favorite and my love.”

Redwoods, Southern Oregon, pgs. 188-189: “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark…from them comes silence and awe…they are ambassadors from another time…a spell of wonder and respect…One feels the need to bow to unquestioned sovereigns.”

“San Francisco put on a show for me…The afternoon sun painted her white and gold…This gold and white acropolis rising wave on wave against the blue of the Pacific sky…I’ve never seen her more lovely…She leaves a mark.”

Texas = hospitality.

The South = Racism – ugly, ugly.

Then home.

Oh yes – mobile homes – a new thing @pg. 102.

Pg. 140 – “I found I was talking aloud to Charley. He likes the idea but the practice makes him sleepy.”