Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Hitchhiker

The hitchhiker looked like he might be the Vice-President of a bank. Conservative navy suit and tie with a white shirt. Late-fifties. Sixty pounds to the heavy side. Close-cropped gray hair. Nice shoes. Thumb out.

"Where you headed"


"I'm going to Pike and Boren"

"I'm going a block from there."

"Great. You can navigate me."
There was a boy with x--ray eyes
and people would say he could see through anything he likes.
He could see through stone he could see though skies.
He could see through himself so he couldn't tell a lie, so he couldn't tell a lie ...
You know somethin's comin' for you and it's comin' fast.
He settled in and buckled up as I pulled off of 205th onto I-5. The Whore Moans' Boy With X-ray Eyes played on the car stereo through my iPod. The window was down.

"Mind if I finish my cigarette?"

"Not at all. It's your car. My wife moved out and took both of ours. You'd think she could have left me one."

"I can relate. My wife and I separated last November."

"Hmmm. Sorry. This is round four for me."


Shoreline and Edmonds has these huge 200-400 unit apartment complexes where every other person is recently divorced. You don't have to ask. You can smell it on them. They're like divorcee refugee camps. I'd just left mine and, apparently, passed his.

The extended opening feedback whine from Anthrax came through the speakers.

"Well, this is perfect then. What we're listening to? It's my divorce CD. It's called Thanksgiving. I made it for friends awhile ago and for some reason decided to put it on for the ride in. It's been months since I've played it. It's all songs I listened to over and over during the first few months. That was my selection criteria. It had to be music I'd put on repeat play. My therapist loved it. He'd never seen anyone make a CD as a coping strategy."

He laughed. "Who's this?"

"Gang of Four. They were a post-punk band from the early eighties. Very influential."

He grinned sheepishly. "I stopped paying attention in around '73 with Uriah Heep and Led Zeppelin."

"Well, you've got a lot of catching up to do, and we've got a good ride. We'll just turn it up and enjoy."
Woke up this morning desperation a.m.
What I've been saying won't say them again
My head's not empty, it's full with my brain
The thoughts I'm thinking
Like piss down a drain
And I feel like a beetle on its back
And there's no way for me to get up
Love'll get you like a case of anthrax
And that's something I don't want to catch
Ought to control what I do to my mind
Nothing in there but sunshades for the blind
Only yesterday I said to myself
The things I'm doing are not good
For my health.
He listened intently. "My son plays drums in a punk band. He's thirty and has tattoos all over."

"Sounds like he's got a fun life."

My new friend looked happy and far away. "Yeah. He does."

A moment passed. "I have twin five year olds."

"Boys? Girls?"


"Where are they?"

"We share."

"That's good."

He went silent as Elvis Costello sang Poor Napoleon. I can't lie on this bed anymore. It burns my skin. You can take the truthful things you said to me and put them on the head of a pin. I sang along softly like I have a hundred times. The evenly rising notes and Elvis' throaty voice make it irresistible.

"The lawyers are killing me."

"Tell me about it. My wife's on her second and goin' for broke. I'm broke, anyway. And you want to hear the punchline?"

He looked at me expectantly.

"She's a Quaker!"

My new friend stomped his feet, slapped the dash, and laughed himself pink. Pretty fuckin' funny, I guess.

The traffic slowed. I rolled my window back down and lit another cigarette, steering for a moment with my elbows.

Lucinda Williams sang.
I know what I think I saw
And what I thought I’d seen
And what was coming and what was going
And everything in between

And what I thought I heard you say
And what you really said
And what I thought you thought I thought
Was actually in your head

And what you meant to tell me
And what I meant to say
And what I said you said I said
And what went the other way

I know what you did to me
And I know what we did
And who did what to who and who
The hell were you trying to kid.
"I'm not really working today. Just going in for like half an hour. Stopping by to see the goats at Boren and Pike. I'm the Director of Real Change."

His eyes widened slightly and he put his hand out to shake. "It's a good thing you do. I just bought my first one last week."

"Well, you should read it. It's a great fuckin' paper."

"I will."

"My picture's on page two."

We took the Stewart Street exit and the left on Boren. I drove up the hill.

"I can get off up at the next light."

He got out at Pine. The opening riffs of Maggotbrain played. "Play it like your momma just died," Bootsy Collins said. He did. Electrified liquid anguish. Blues like blues had never been played.

I stopped. We shook hands again. "Get in touch sometime if you like. The main email in the paper is mine" He smiled warmly. "I will."

The light went green and I took the right onto Pike and parked in a no parking area. The engine ran while I watched the goats graze. I turned up the volume. David Thomas Broughton's otherworldly voice enveloped me in warm sound.
Put your finger, to your other finger.
While you're not a hundred-percent, you'll be feeling yourself again.
Divorce CD Playlist:
1. Glory Be, R.L. Burnside
2. X-ray Eyes, The Whore Moans
3. Anthrax [remastered], Gang of Four
4. Methamphetamine Blues, Mark Lanagan
5. Poor Napoleon, Elvis Costello/Bill Frisell
6. Explosions Were Heard, Kinetic Stereokids
7. Wrap My Head Around That, Lucinda Williams
8. Over and Out, The Narrows
9. Maggotbrain [remastered], Funkadelic
10. So Much Sin to Forgive, David Thomas Broughton
11. Lucy’s Ride, Wooden Shjips
12.) Acid Blues, Tim Harris

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