You really had it bad. (Torch I.)
It’ll be if it’s meant to be. A capital philosophy, if you ask me. Much easier than actually doing something. Before the Perimeter was in place, I would wander for months. No structure.
I remember getting lost in the disconnection. I would have done anything you asked me too. I would have moved to Kalamazoo. Timbuktu. But now, I don’t know what you’re going through. Maybe your days are filled with candy and smiles. Library books and quiet little patrons, scared of being shushed by a stern finger and a lingering stare. Back then, I just stared at the windows, waiting for the months to go by, hoping for something to be.
Maybe it’s something I should think about. It keeps me up at night. After I knew you were gone, I drove north from Austin, headed to Montana. I slept in the back of my car in Pueblo. The motels by the highway were all booked. I was too tired to keep looking high and low. So I curled up in the back of my brown Subaru, hoping no deer would eat me.
The next day I just drove. Somehow made it to Seattle before dark. Met Tara at her friend’s party. They went up on the roof to watch the military jets demonstrate its new catch and release maneuvers. Everyone was being monitored in the early days after the fall. I remember the sausage and the tomato sauce. Tara kept making fun of me. She said there must have been a shorter way. I took the interstate. That way I only had to make one turn. I just kept driving, trying to drive thoughts of you out of my mind.
It didn’t work.
I left Seattle after a few weeks and headed south. In Portland, I was supposed go to the Columbia River Gap, wander the waterfalls with my friend Jonathan. We rode bikes around and I rang my bell and waved at strangers. He was embarrassed when my bike was sticking out too far at an intersection and I was blocking a Subaru trying to make a right on red. Back then, I didn’t know what a Fred Meyers was.
I needed to be alone. I had to figure out how to get rid of these thoughts. I told Jonathan the next morning that I didn’t want to go to the Columbia River Gap. Maybe it’s the water gap. Boy, he was steamed. He went to a lot of trouble. He called a friend of his and asked where a good place to go would be. And we were planning to make sandwiches. Delicious sandwiches. Salmon salad. Chicken salad.
So I drove south, camping along the coast. I had a new inflatable pad I bought at the Mountain Equipment Coop in Vancouver, Canada. I remember everyone telling me to save my receipts and stop at the border to get a refund of the GST tax, or something like that. I got a few dollars back. I bought a few porters. Porters always help lighten the load. That’s their job, I guess.
I hiked up the Fern Valley, or canyon, somewhere in California. I was camping right next to the Pacifec. Walking back, two guys in a jeep gave me a ride back to the camp sites. We shared some porter and talked to ray the porpoise, who finally came out of his slumbers. It was nice to see him. It was always so nice to see him.
Love Songs on the Radio. I heard about Mojave 3 on NPR when I was in Stinking Creek. There was nowhere to buy music there, no network on which to listen to sounds. Slowcore. It would be perfect for my mood. I bought it in Seattle and recorded it on a tape. I listened to that one song all the way down the coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. It was a pretty song. I didn’t notice until recently that the guitar is just a little bit out of tune. Flat or sharp. I didn’t notice it then.
I met Neal Halstead in 2002 after he played a show at the Cactus Café. I had a harmonica and blew a note in applause after he finished a song where he played guitar, harmonica and sang. He said, “That’s never happened before.”
After the show he sat down outside by the exit at one of those wire metal outdoor chair and table sets. I blew my organ again. “So you’re the culprit.” We laughed. He invited me to come along to the Kerbey Lane Café on the Drag to eat and chill. A bunch of girls tagged along. “Does he have to come?” They said pointing at me. They just wanted to do Neil. Neil gave them a stern look, as if shushing a bunch of kids at a school library. I guess that was part of the groupie culture. Do the friends.
As we were waiting to go, his crew told me about 4AD. How they despised the Oasis guys. One of them played bass for a bit with the brothers. But wasn’t paid well. Neil wrote his email in my little red notebook. I’ll never forget it. Inhaledtails. All the letters from Neil Halstead. Genius. I still need to write him. He probably won’t remember me. He lives in Cornwall. He was a bit embarrassed. A bit of a touristy, cheesy dorky town. But by the sea.
Over at the café, I told him about driving down the coast listening to Love Songs on the Radio over and over. I’ll never forget his reaction, his understanding, our meeting of the minds. I don’t remember the words. Maybe just wow. But more than that. “You really had it bad.” I nodded and smiled.