Two Southern California high-school pals hit the road in a vintage Dodge Lancer.
Daz is a skinny, Scot-Irish-Hispanic kid with a motor mouth and a vocabulary list of neologisms that torque off his tongue the way other kids say like. His best friend Alex is Hawaiian, a self-styled Bruce Lee acolyte with equal parts finesse and strength. They meet when Alex, new to the school, observes a couple of jocks giving Daz the “griff.” After fair warning, Alex makes each of them, literally, eat dirt. Upon graduation, Alex and Daz decide to drive cross-country and learn something about the world. The key for Daz is driving the right “transpo,” so he does a lot of fast-talking with his neighbor Old Man Ching about the Dodge Lancer Ching has held in storage for as long as Daz can remember. The man finally agrees to sell, and they’re off. The highlights of this tame picaresque include camping in the Colorado Rockies, where they meet a retired Marine colonel who helps them understand that war is not cool; New York City, where the two crash with Alex’s beautiful cousin and her fiancé, both grad students at Columbia; Chicago, where Alex loses his cool and pulverizes two pimps before they know what hit them; and San Francisco, where Daz falls in love with a girl who is determined not to feel any emotion. This first novel charts no new terrain, either as a coming-of-age narrative or a road-trip novel. Aside from drinking a few “Brewkowskis” and smoking a King Tut spliff or two, Daz and Alex are pretty much by-the-book boys. Nothing is at stake on their 6,000-mile meander. And despite the occasional fight and Alex pulling a “Stonewall Jackson” when his pride is singed, there’s no tension or suspense. This mostly reads like the author’s fond remembrances of days gone by.
Stick with Kerouac.