got bored with the interstate today and I went west 5 miles off the interstate
to Fairmount , Indiana . The little town where James Dean grew up . Its
really middle America with corn fields all around and old houses ,...
a few grand ones and then many more that are just old and a little eccentric
and haphazard ,... There were many flags out,... it really looked like
the America of years a go .
Somehow the Americanness of it all made more poignant by the tragic events
of September 11, 2001 .
James Dean was born Feb. 8 , 1931 ,.. I was 14 when I saw " Rebel
Without A Cause " ,.. I was in Junior High School in Gadsden , Alabama
,... it was the original days of James Dean and Elvis .
The people of Fairmount , Indiana were pretty friendly and down to earth
and you could tell there was still more of a hint of innocence about them
than most other Americans.
There are no Mc Donald's or Walmarts in Fairmount .
I went to the old highschool where Dean graduated . Its all run down with
boarded up windows and with many of the upper windows broken out ,..
by rock throwing kids no doubt .
A lumbering , decaying ghost of yesterday , that , I imagine , nobody
knows what to do with ,.....
I went to the local museum in an old house where they have mostly James
I talked to a woman there who graduated that old high school with Dean
. She said he was an athletic type though they didn't have a football
team, .. he played basketball and ran track and other things. She said
he hung out with the jocks but that he was very artistic and at the same
time very down to earth .
Talking to her I had the feeling of entering a portal back in time a ways
to a very different time in fact .
I went to James Dean's grave which is very modest,.. and to a church he
went to called " The Back Creek Friends Church ".
And finally to a farm house where he grew up ,. just down the road from
where he's buried ,..
His only living relative , a cousin, lives there and is a farmer,... he
doesn't care if people drive up to the barns and look around and take
a picture but he doesn't want them coming up to the house and bothering
him or asking questions,..
I saw him in the distance,..
with the cornfields and some horses behind him ,
just a farmer with gray hair,
taking care of his business ,...
I begin to feel that James Byron Dean must have had some kind of strength
and calmness that came from this land and that time ,.. a sort of quite
security ,.. from these cornfields on this good earth .
Earlier in the day I had remembered the mysterious " corn maiden
" I bought from the Indians ,.. one my most prized "possessions
" ,.. its carved from wood and painted into the form of a veiled
spirit figure of Indian culture which the Indians hold sacred. Its sooooo
I thought of Dean appearing to me from the other side,.. somehow walking
out of one of those corn fields ,.. I seemed to have the knowledge that
he carried that strength ,calmness, security from this land , these cornfields
, to the insecurity of the stages of New York City and to the wild fields
of Hollywood moviedom where his fame soared like a shooting star .
And then,.. he snuffed it all out in a speeding car back down on earth
He liked speed .
He was 24 years old.
It was 1955.
I was 13 .
He was gone by the time " Rebel Without A Cause " came out .
It only added to the mystery .
We saw the photograph of his grave in the magazines.
We were drawn deeper into the mystery of it .
The hard fact of his death was the final straw ,.. we were more fasinated
" Rebel Without A Cause " introduced me to the Griffith Observatory
that overlooks Los Angeles. In the movie the teenagers encounter the vastness
of the universe there.
I've been to Griffith Observatory many times since I saw those images
so long ago .
A pretty amazing afternoon .
And so it was,... out on the road ,
I got lost in time for some moments,...
just off the interstate a few miles , deep in the cornfields around Fairmount,
Indiana where I again found a few little things that make life worth living