What happens when you meet someone who perfectly carries persona of a life-size character from literature? I experienced the sensation this past weekend out in NYC - I met Dean Moriarty in the flesh, Kerouac's mythic "hero" and traveling companion through his classic novel "On the Road." Dean-in-the-flesh is a friend of a friend met while studying abroad in Milan, a Texan with antics as big as his home state, a well-traveled, well-worn, shaggy-haired beanpole of a man whose escapades are legendary across three continents. Charming, witty, and uninhibited, Dean-in-the-flesh could drink the winds down, dance up a storm, play a mean Axel in Guns-N-Roses air guitar splendor, and exhibit himself in the cleverest forms (smashed rats and telling time with various parts of the body) - all for life, all for love of the moment and the experiences that are real and never return from the moments passing.
I'm not certain that Dean-in-the-flesh understood the significance of his association, but it is part of the persona - living temporally as if the last breath was certainly the next and stretching existence to its undiscovered limits. This was the point of Dean's character for Kerouac, and it is certain of Dean's impressions on Jack when seeing someone embody this "beauty in fulling living" philosophy; I was mesmerized and enthralled that life could be lived to such great heights. Dean-in-the-flesh was extraordinary and necessary to appreciate, a reminder of what it is be in this world.