On a day like this,
how can you not write about the wind? Howling loudly through the cracks, careening wildly down brick alleyways, carrying along with it anything not bolted to the pavement.
I watch it tug at the green leaves. The green leaves not yet ready for the Fall. Ready or not, here it comes. Riding in over the Bay, like some derelict banshee out on parole, accruing violations and making enemies as it wreaks havoc on this quiet college town. I'm in some ancient diner now.
Well, ancient for this part of the world. The old Horseshoe Café has been doing what it does best since the late 1800’s. Food: meh; atmosphere: ok; waitress: friendly in that subdued Bellingham kind of way. A baited friendliness, one that comes across as being laboriously unsure of itself. A few college-aged students occupy booths. A Vietnam vet or two stare up with vacant and pleading eyes from cups of steaming coffee. How many years has it been since we bombed those villages? Obviously not long enough for these men.
But they had competition now, a fresh batch of disaffected and abandoned Vets were roaming these streets with their own tales of sorrow to be told. Like those that came before, they too were destined to become the abandoned nephews and nieces of their conniving Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam, that decrepit old bastard, still telling his same worn out lies to another generation of eager ears, pure hearts soon to be broken down by waylaid promises made that he never intended to keep.This is where all the dreams
of the great Western myth come to die. Some live longer then others but rest assured, they’re all on their deathbed. The fever grows as the heart slows its rhythm. Beads of sweat form on the brow as the eyes gloss over with that far away look. Looking toward a heaven they never found on earth, a paradise lost long before they were born.
But I suppose this is as good a place as any to watch a culture calcify, topple over and live vicariously only through the stories of a bygone era. Last night I rode around this small town,
letting my body absorb the cracks in the sidewalk, the gaps in the road beneath my tires. I found myself gazing in on darkened storefront windows, searching for god only knows what. I stopped in front of a café after hearing the bend of guitar strings float through the open doorway. Guitar strings being bent in such a way that you just had to call it the Blues.
Now, as Leadbelly so eloquently put it before his recording of “Good Morning Blues”, “never was a white man had the blues, ‘cause nothin’ to worry about.” I concur with his sentiments in the assumption that some well-heeled white man simply has no cultural context from which to truly sing the Blues. The Blues came out of slavery, oppression and the like. Something most white folks in the U.S. have never truly experienced. So, to hear a middle class white man
play the Blues is almost a bit too much for me. The whole scenario too rife with irony. But that is life in the good old U.S. of A. Ironic at best, something wholly unspeakable at worst.
Needless to say I stopped long enough to watch these two white boys play black tunes with all the heart and soul they could muster. I sat on my bike, propped up against a red brick wall. Black night without, warm incandescent glow within. A woman passed on my left, glancing over her shoulder long enough to meet my gaze before she dipped inside the café. I couldn’t read the gaze, I never can.The night wore on and I coasted around town
for another half hour before retiring to the house I share with three women. After a meal of red soup, white bread, and green salad it was upstairs to my small room with the well-trod wood floor.
Tacked up the curtain, turned on the fan, read a book written so well it broke my heart just to think it would soon be coming to an end, then shut off the light. It was time to dream of my own paradise that would never come to be.