THE SOUND OF RAIN DROPS & HITCHHIKING WITH THE MIDWEST CONFEDERACY (2013)
Before the sun. Before the story. Forming memories. Before the editing, before the day, before the train and alone with the sound of the rain. The windows are open. Quarter to five in the morning. Well rested. The summer. One of the best times to write and in a strange way my favorite part of the adventure is the ‘in-between’, the waiting, the walking, the dead ends, the parts where you’re lost and almost dying. These are the points when your memory is working to get you ‘there’, always coming up with new ideas and remembering even the tiniest parts of reality and markers that might get you back to the path where you think you should be going. The in-between points (a) and (b) are sometimes the parts of life that people rush through. These are times I enjoy writing about. This is when friendships and stories are made. These are the fragments that make up the whole of what some might call, the time of your life, and now it’s eleven in the morning. This is what happened before America wanted to get great again, and I told everybody it was coming and…
Andrew wake up
What time is it?
Eleven. Let’s go
My car was on fire
This is how the day started…
Josh showed up. Last night he called and said that he had an adventure for us to go on. He said that there was this music festival and that there was going to be thousands of girls in bikinis there. I didn’t really have the money to go but he said it was free. Sold me I said. I didn’t think there would be thousands of girls in bikinis but I needed something to write about. It was Saturday. Last night it was Friday night. I was at the local bar when he called. I wasn’t sure if he was going to pick me up but he did. Josh drove into town. I was in my room sleeping. I was already dressed…
Time to go He said.
Alright I said.
Back in the driveway I walked into the house. Josh sat outside in the front. The new neighbors were doing yard work. I made coffee and some ham sandwiches, only mayo and meet no cheese or mustard. Upstairs I looked at my room. It was still a mess from the last adventure, from getting back from Chicago. I wasn’t ready to go out there again and this time we weren’t going to the city but rather we were off to the country. There would be different kinds of people in the woods, the twang, the mellow, the right and the white, the drinkers and campers, the beer drinkers, the late night talkers and everyone looking for a night of love. I didn’t really want to go. I had to go. I needed to see something. I packed my backpack again. No gin. Vodka. I burnt my finger and accidentally poured vodka on it when the flask was empty. It stung. The pain was amazing.
Throwing in my coat and hat and chargers and camera, my knife just in case and my compass in my pack I walked down the steps and filled up my thermace with coffee. I knew this would come in handy. In the car I only had twenty bucks and he said it was cool. I knew he wanted money. He knew I didn’t have any. He’s a good pal. He wanted me to go on the adventure with him.
The rest of the day and night was a dream. I was sleeping the whole time. The moments pass and we had an adventure. The next day was Sunday. I was sleeping by noon. I went back to bed. I woke up. I’m still dressed. It’s over. I’m home. He’s gone. I’m still wearing the same jeans and something was wrong with his car. This is how the day started. We drove to the garage and the wheel was still smoking…
I’m lucky the tire didn’t explode he said.
Yeah you’re lucky that didn’t happen I said.
As josh went into the garage I walked across the street to get a big cup of coffee and when I got back to the garage his car was hoisted up. His caliper was broken and he had to pay two hundred dollars and fourteen cents to get it fixed. The waiting room in the garage was cold and smelled like oil, it smelled good. I was reading a time magazine about some Chinese ice festival and Josh wasn’t even pissed about his car breaking down. He didn’t have that much money but he wanted to go do something and this wasn’t going to stop him. He’s a good friend. Josh never gets that angry…and later towards the end of this adventure he would be angry at me because I almost stranded us in the country. I gave his car keys away. I don’t know why I did that. We didn’t know what we were going to do. We had enough money for gas to get home and that’s it. I didn’t have any money. He didn’t have any money. I thought he knew the people. He didn’t know the people. I can’t remember why I did that. I don’t know why I just gave some strangers that I met in the woods his keys. They said they needed a place to sleep. I felt bad for them…I think…I don’t know. I can’t really tell you why I gave away the only way we were going to get home. I’m insane or something but I don’t even know why I thought it was a good idea. It just happened and that’s all I know. The night became the morning and then we were back on the road. I don’t really know if I was in control. I never had seen so many confederate flags in Michigan in my entire life. I’m getting ahead of myself. The story was still forming and the sun was awful. I was getting sick and tired of sitting next to the stupid Uncle Sam puppet so I walked back inside and sat down on the plastic couch. The year is TWO THOUSAND THIRTEEN. People are insane. The radio was on. It was a right winged political station. I was laughing. He was looking-up maps on his phone. The coffee was good and this is how the adventure started…
I didn’t feel good and my headache got worse when the radio said…
FREE GUN GIVE AWAY IN HOUSTON
I might have been dreaming but both of us looked at each other. I laughed out loud like a kid that just heard a real good joke from his sick and twisted crazy uncle.
What the hell he said.
Let’s go there I said.
I don’t know about that.
Yeah I know it sounds like a bad idea, but think about…
We stopped talking about going to Houston. The mechanic came out.
She’s done he said.
Who’s she I said.
Go wait outside josh said.
I drank my coffee and looked at the sky. It was a beautiful day and I still didn’t feel very good. I had a flask of vodka. I pulled back hammer tap and took a swell. This is how the day started. Later on there would be walking in the woods for miles and being picked up and riding in the back of a black pickup truck. The shades of the summer light would run like a time delayed set of lungs. The air would be blowing through my face and my eyes would be squinted tightly like a case of lockjaw. Sooner and later on there would be more of the waiting, those aspects of life I live for…Not yet. Right now there was only me outside still in my hometown looking at these peace protesters in front of the bank building, an old woman in a walker, a guy in a tuxedo waving a flag and another man with a tucked in shirt and a fat belly with slicked black hair holding a sign that said, down with drones.
Under the slow moving puffed up clouds a couple cars honked at them, traffic was busy for a Saturday, I was sitting on the bench waiting for the car to be done. I was thinking what a strange world we live in when often a person is considered to be the crazy person when they’re standing on the side of the road with signs that say we’ll work for peace. Strange that Peace is crazy and I think these people might have been a bit off, but everybody is off in a way, hey, I know I am. I wasn’t feeling very good at all. I could have slept the day away and that would have been just fine with me. But…
Josh said I’ll be right out and we’ll be ready.
I need to go and pack some things.
Alright he said be fast, we need to get on the road.
He closed the door as I lit a smoke. I looked at the people who were ending there Saturday afternoon protest. Right then a truck drove down the road and a huge meat stainless steel grill fell out and wow, Holy shit I said. The peace people didn’t even help to pick up any of the debris. Coals and metal and junk all over the road. The blue truck drove away. Traffic closed down and went the other way. What the heck I said and then I walked over and moved the broken grill out of the road. Come on man, what are you doing. I started to explain but then I didn’t say anything more. All the metal was out of the road and neatly piled under a tree by the bank. I walked back across the street and got in the car.
The camera was dead. I would get two pictures the whole time. The day after hitchhiking in the woods it was now the morning. Everybody was sleeping still. I was probably the only one awake. I gave away his keys to a couple that said they knew him. I don’t know why I believed them.
Why did you do that he asked me.
I don’t know. I was really messed up I said. I don’t know man, I don’t…I thought they knew you.
Why would you think that?
I don’t know I trusted them.
You’re going to have to figure this out he said
Like I said maybe I was dreaming. Nothing made any sense, and so we made it home eventually. But before we even made it here we were on our way, and so on the highway I said….
“Look”, and in my backpack I pulled out the Uncle Sam puppet.
“America, I’m hereeeeeeeeeeeeee” Uncle Sam said.
“You took that from the auto shop? What the hell man?”
“What else was I supposed to do?”
“Holy shit” he said.
“Nothing bad will happen. It’s just a puppet…CHILL………”
“YEAH MAN, I’m not even real. AM I?
“See JOSH….CHILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL” Uncle Sam said.
“Yep…that’s a lot of traffic” I said.
So get this: Sometimes I do the opposite of what I say I’m going to do. Almost a week later details are fuzzy. This PARTICULAR story fades more-so than usual. I don’t know if it’s just age talking or that the insane amount of drive I used have is crashing back down towards reality but I’m not angry about what happened. People are people and most of them are young people who have been born into a mighty strange generation. I don’t know how to say this nicely but …
The damn confederate flag is ugly. Of course I don’t know everything about it but I do know some of its backstory, and on that single drive into the country the colors of red and blue never looked so distorted. It was what it was. We were following the savagery, and for some reason seeing the lines of trucks backed-up for tens of miles gave me visions of demons, idiot demons, and I know that it’s just history, but it’s a bloody damn history of everything that seems to be wrong with not just society as a world, but the United States in general. But like I said, these colors don’t run. They’re bolded and branded and unmovable, just like the traffic into the music festival was.
“What’s this for?” I said.
“Some radio’s birthday or something” Josh said.
“I don’t even like country music, well that kind of…”
“TWANGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG…” Uncle Sam said.
“It’s going to be a good time.”
“Dang…I’ve never seen cops doing this before. Hey, what you think about that Uncle Sam?”
“Policeman this and policeman that and S…U…V stands for… amereicaaaaaaaaaaaa…”
“Drew, will you please put that damn puppet away?”
“Yeah… sorry….OH! The exit’s blocked off.”
“What are the options here?” Josh said.
“I don’t know why you keep asking me that but I would say about the only option there is, is to keep driving.”
“I hate you….” Josh said and the joke was over.
Uncle Sam was in the backseat and neither Josh or I said another word, we just rolled. This is what I live for, and the country may have been made out of hooliganism, but at least it felt like it was getting back to normal. Going about thirty miles an hour the slow days of summer are induced by a mind’s hallucination that’s triggered by these pockets of life made from weeping shadows and broken wood doors, and the locals… well damn, they like it quiet. I feel bad saying this but sometimes you forget that people actually live around here. Waving and smiling and driving some of the folks look like relics from a more gracious time. STOP! Right then and down the road traffic slows to a crawl as men with suspenders are standing up on tractors while some of their kids are sitting on old cars waving to ‘the rolling’ because who knows when the children saw so many out of towners. The fact is sadly true, and that’s hardly nobody ever asks some of the people who matter the most anything about what they want. They look at the festival goers like freaks, and what can be said for sure is that some of them are always here waiting and hoping that we don’t come back. Did you have a good time? Where does the money go? What does the flag stand for? And as the rooster gets two hours of sleep people go to bed and get up earlier than the SUN. And I don’t know why it’s like this but for good measure it’s even darker at night. Even if you didn’t think it was possible some places have survived the mushroom cloud boom of the super city’s pollution that to my eyes looks like sparkling green lights. The country looks like a blanket. Other people don’t like to be alone out here. I think that’s because the human imagination is left to do what it pleases to do. Maybe sometimes the loneliness of actual nature is scary looking when you’ve been exposed. I’m not sure but I tend to believe that what some are really afraid of is silence. Look a star in the eye without the sound of concrete, and it gets darker than you’re used to when you were born to die within the limits of the city. Slow days become slow nights, and then it’s up to you. The countryside is full of fields and rocks and gravel and the dying seedlings born during what I’ll call, the chemical age. It’s all good though, and as often comes with the stumble of life, history is gross, but then again, some things never change. The dirt roads are beautiful. The only sounds are your feet. When josh was doing his thing at the campground I walked alone and watched the woods. I left the grounds and walked the road in the woods, and once in a while it even looks magical, and I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because of winter, and like I keep saying over and over, I don’t know, but still, driving along I was happy. In the void like raspberries I picked out the lost poetry that graybeard wanderers often say they’re looking for, and often as it turns out it wasn’t hidden at all. The problem isn’t the subject. It was the photographer’s equipment. The only thing I had to do was forget about blinking. He was old but young, and sitting on an old wood bucket of well water Walt Whitman sings in the rusted tall grasses. He told me that he’s always there, that he never left, and it took ten minutes. I still don’t know how. The necessary syntax is a jumble of confusion. It’s difficult to explain what I’m talking about. I only know that it’s there. The thing is it’s not what you might think it is. So goes a fundamental problem, one that I’m sure somebody has already solved. And with that strange stuff out of the way, let’s get back to the beginning of the debauchery.
The days felt all one in the same and really they were because I had yet to close my eyes for any duration of time. Josh got some sleep but he was hardly sober or well rested. I didn’t see the point and still didn’t know what to do. The keys were gone. The adventure was at the ending. We were stuck in the mess and the confederate flags were still silent. A night of debauchery in the forest was over. For some reason the Confederate flags make me angry. I think it has something to do with history, and after I got back on the highway I saw the culture, the trucks, the big wheels and young people who I call savages. I don’t know why I call them this, and maybe I do, maybe it’s because I often fail to see that they’re just people like me, it’s just I don’t like that flag and the way that we forget that the flag is terrible looking to so many people who went through the hell of segregation. Even today I think it’s an insult to my country. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. Most of the people were nice. They were good people. They were young and just having fun. They were loud. They were drunk and the girls were soft spoken. Everyone was only looking for love. Everyone was only doing the same thing.
On the highway and right before you get to the country roads we were trying to figure out what the next plan was. The day was hot and we couldn’t get into the campground because it was over crowded. We didn’t have much of an idea for what to do. We drove all this way and fixed a car and now we were about to be forced home. What are the options he said? I don’t know why you’re asking me that I told josh. I don’t have many good ideas. I mean were here and I followed you here and now I don’t know. How about a pizza sub I said. He agreed. We went into this shop called Lennie’s. The food was good and we had to split a sub because neither of us had much money left. The guy came over and said You here for the festival. I said nothing. I only wanted more food. It looked so red and cheesy. It smelled so filling. Yeah well I don’t know any more josh said. They won’t let anybody in. Yeah it’s crazy there. I’ve never seen anything like it. You know a way we can sneak in josh asked the pizza shop owner. Well you could park at the car pool lot and go through the woods and then you’ll come out at a dirt road, there’s a red barn by that. You have to walk about. Wait I said, are you serious. Yeah the guy said, and I don’t know if this was Lenny himself, the owner of the pizza shop, but I wasn’t too sure of his information because…
He was wearing a t-shirt that had a picture of a lady in the bed of the monster with big boobs painted as the American flag read:
Happy Birthday Big Trucks