Sal stayed at the hotel with Teresa for the next fifteen days. They planned to hitchhike to New York together. One night, Sal heard a police car across the street and sobbing coming from a rooming house. He says that “LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities.”
Sal now plans to take Teresa with him as a companion on the road. L.A. shows Sal yet another version of America, one that appears lonely and brutal to him.
Nonetheless, L.A. was full of “the beatest characters,” marijuana, jazz, and “long-haired brokendown hipsters.” Sal “wanted to meet them all,” but he and Teresa were busy looking for work, so they could save money to go to New York. Sal looked at all the different people in L.A., all of whom had “come to LA to make the movies.”
Wherever Sal goes, he likes to meet and hang around with those outside of the mainstream, the “beatest characters” and hipsters.
Sal went with Teresa as she got her things from her sister and a friend who lived on “the colored main drag of LA.” Sal bought some marijuana, but when he and Teresa smoked it, it turned out to be just tobacco. Sal and Teresa decided to leave for New York. They went east to Arcadia, California, “pointed toward the American continent.”
Sal’s travels around America involve seeing both white and “colored” areas. Sal now begins his journey back east across the country he has already traversed once.
As Sal and Teresa walked along the road, cars full of high-school kids sped by, the kids jeering at Sal and Teresa. They went into a soda fountain, but encountered the same kids, and left. That night, they stayed in a motel room, “held each other tight,” and “had long, serious talks.” Sal says that they made a kind of “pact.”
The high school kids represent a kind of “normal” society that irritates Sal. He and Teresa form a strong bond by traveling together along the road and being honest with each other.
The next morning, Sal and Teresa decided to go to Bakersfield and work picking grapes until they had enough money to go to New York by bus. When they got to Bakersfield, though, they couldn’t find jobs. They went into “Mexican town,” and Teresa asked people about jobs. Sal describes the “Mextown” as “one blazing bulb of lights,” with “movie marquees, fruit stands, penny arcades, five-and-tens, and hundreds of rickety trucks and mud-spattered jalopies.”
Sal is happy to work as a kind of migrant laborer, picking grapes, instead of settling down with a better job. Sal now sees yet another side of America, the America experienced by Mexican immigrant laborers.
Sal and Teresa bought a bottle of wine that night and after drinking they decided to hitchhike to Teresa’s hometown and live in her brother’s garage. They got to the town and stayed in a hotel room. The next morning, Teresa went to find her brother. She came back with her brother, her son, and her brother’s friend Ponzo.
Sal continues to live his life outside of normal expectations for someone like him, deciding to live in a garage.
Teresa’s brother, Rickey, sold manure to farmers. He drove Sal and Teresa to “see some farmers about manure.” They drove around and talked to some farmers, but nothing came of it, so they went to a saloon to drink. Sal says that “Americans are always drinking in crossroads saloons on Sunday afternoon.” Rickey assured Sal that they’d make money the next day.
Rickey and Sal end up drinking instead of actually working or selling any manure. At the saloon, Sal generalizes about Americans, finding something quintessentially American about drinking in a saloon on a Sunday afternoon.
Sal got drunk with Rickey and Ponzo, and then they ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant with Teresa. Teresa and Sal didn’t have a plan for where they would sleep, so they ended up staying in a motel room with Teresa’s child. Teresa said that everything would be fine mañana (tomorrow). Sal says that for the next week all he heard was “mañana.”
Sal doesn’t have a plan, and just gets drunk with Rickey and Ponzo, neglecting work and finding a place to stay other than a motel room.
The next day, Sal found a tent in the “cotton fields and grape vineyards,” where he could stay with Teresa and her kid. Rickey and Ponzo arrived with beer and started drinking. Rickey assured Sal that they would make lots of money selling manure the next day. Sal realized that these plans would never really happen, so he went around looking for “cotton-picking work.”
Sal is mostly content to linger around without a plan, drinking and having fun, but even he eventually gets fed up and looks for steady work picking cotton.
Sal found a job picking cotton. It was difficult work, but “it was beautiful kneeling and hiding in that earth.” He describes a black couple who “picked cotton with the same God-blessed patience their grandfathers had practiced in ante-bellum Alabama.” Sal earned about $1.50 per day picking cotton. He “forgot all about the East and all about Dean and Carlo and the bloody road.”
Sal idealizes the hard work of picking cotton, even romanticizing the forced labor of slavery. If he had to do this his entire life, perhaps he wouldn’t think it was so beautiful. For now, Sal thinks that he is happy settling down away from the road and his friends.
When winter came around, Teresa and Sal decided they had to leave their tent. Teresa and Sal went back with Ponzo to Teresa’s hometown, so she could see her family, but Ponzo’s truck broke down. They all went to a bar and drank. Sal felt “the pull of my own life calling me back,” and wrote to his aunt for fifty more dollars.
Sal is again beginning to get sick of staying in one place. While he has enjoyed spending time with the poor community of migrant workers, he has the luxury of being able to return to his more comfortable life when he wants.
Sal went with Teresa back to her family, but he waited a quarter-mile away, so her parents wouldn’t see him. He heard her family arguing and yelling at Teresa for leaving her husband, but they eventually welcomed her back home. Sal had a Billie Holiday song stuck in his head as he waited outside in the cold.
Just as Sal stays a certain distance away from Teresa’s home, his privileged life will always be distant from that of Teresa and her family.
Not wanting Sal to leave, Teresa told him that he could stay in a nearby farmer’s barn, and she would pick grapes to earn enough money for both of them. Sal moved into the barn. He accompanied Teresa to her family’s house again, and again waited outside, unseen. He heard Teresa and her father argue and fight.
Sal must choose between Teresa, who wants him to stay with her, and going back on the road, to his own life on the east coast.
Teresa didn’t want Sal to leave, but he told her that he had to. He had sex with Teresa in the barn his last night in the area, and the next morning Teresa brought him breakfast. They agreed to meet in New York whenever Teresa could get there, though Sal says they both knew this wouldn’t happen. Sal left and hitchhiked back to L.A., arriving in the early morning. There, he bought a bus ticket to Pittsburgh and spent most of his remaining money on food for the trip.
Just as with Rita Bettencourt earlier, Sal makes plans to meet up with Teresa again, but doesn’t intend to keep them. After settling down for a while with Teresa and her family, he now returns to the road.