Ralph Virgo

Before you ask, it's actually my name ... not my sign. (I'm just thankful that my parents didn't think that Leo would be a nice first name). My dad's family came from Sicily, and Virgo is an Ellis Island transformation of our real family name, Verga. The immigration clerk was either illiterate or a horoscope fan (or, very possibly, both).

Anyway. I was born in Oswego, N.Y., in 1947 ... right around the time that Dean and Sal met; the beginning of the part of Sal's life that you could call his life on the road. My parents met in 1945 in Tennessee, where my dad was stationed in the Air Force. They were married and moved to Oswego within three months of meeting, and my mom was all of 16.

So, I was a 50's boomer kid (you know all the images). Small town normal during the first part of the decade, towards the end of decade I heard about beatniks, and thought a lot about being one. My mom was a James Dean and Marlon Brando fan, and bought me a black leather motorcycle jacket for my tenth birthday, so I had some bohemian momentum. Moreover, my cousin, Joanne, had even gone to Greenwich Village (and, yes, pronounced it Green-wich) and had seen beatniks in a coffeehouse. She showed me how they snap their fingers instead of applauding.

I wanted to read this On The Road book I'd heard about, but it was not to be found in our town. But, the library had The Town And The City. I read it over Christmas vacation and was stunned. My town was like Galloway, a nd for some time I had had vague feelings about how it would all change. The Town And The City described it for me. On The Road would come later, and eventually the rest of the books.

Jumpcutting to now, as a livelihood, I develop corporate training programs, working as an independent contractor to client companies. I office in the warehouse district of Minneapolis, and often close my eyes and pretend that it's downtown Manhattan. I'd probably be more bohemian, but that motorcycle jacket doesn't fit so well now, and ... you know, as Jack said in his reading on the Steve Allen show, "...we have to go in to other phases of our lives."