Farewell to Arms

I was looking for you while I went for coffee this morning
Searching every face
Again the wrong place
I imagine you would be happy to know
I am back in the flow
The right place at the right time
After all these years writing senseless rhymes
Getting back home and starting to cry
I realize you were the reason I wanted to die
I just wanted to thank you

Wet Dreams

It really was love at first sight, for both of us. It was her constant smile that hooked me. He face glowed. She wore fatigues and a mohawk. I was intrigued. She sat in the passenger’s seat. I leaned in through the driver’s side window of Missy’s fire engine red ’77 Camaro. It was all she had left of her father. He died young. He was crazy like me.

I opened with my own crooked smile and non-stop interrogations. After a few minutes I invited them up to my room for a beer. Joie said she didn’t drink so I asked if she wouldn’t mind coming in and watching me drink.

They both followed me upstairs where I continued to put on a show. I hooked her with my manic style. I could be quite charming in that phase. My conversation was off the wall. I was testing her, trying to find out what it took to scare her. She just kept smiling. I was in an exceptionally good mood. The time flew by and I excused myself to leave for work but I invited Joie to wake me in the morning.

I worked the night shift at Texaco for chump change. I felt like a chump, but it kept money in my pocket and I was able to coast through the evenings. I was glib with the few customers I attended, messing with their three in the morning minds.

Two young, high school lovers asking for condoms that hung on the wall behind me. “Sure! What flavor?” I said too loudly. I think I had seen them somewhere before. He turned red but she just smiled and pointed. The rest of the night was mine. I used my time wisely. Reading books, drawing pictures, rifling shelves and smoking dope in the backroom.

On my nights off I partied with family, friends and strangers. I kept up a frenetic pace until everyone passed out. They couldn’t keep up with my deviant schedule. I would continue drinking and watch them sleep, wondering about their lives. What was it that let them function in apparently normal ways? (A friend once commented on my appetite for drugs, saying I needed twice as much just to feel straight. He was almost right)

Joie arrived at my house the next morning. She let herself in and sat on the couch where I was sleeping and punched my leg hard! I woke in an instant good mood. I was all over her verbally. I teased her about her hair and her clothes and her affect. She took it well. I wasn’t usually my style, but I was on the offensive; I liked it. She had to work at ten in the morning; it didn’t give us much time together.

I spent my days walking, I had endless reserves of energy. I walked loops around our small town, trails through the forest, always exploring. I spent most of the week in in the same routine; brief morning interludes, endless treks and eight hours purchased from my life each day by a heartless corporation. Already deep in love. I always looked forward to our meetings. She had a small room in a boarding house and we spent all of our free time together there.

When I met Joie I had a plan to escape my desperate life. I wanted to use the little money I had saved from my plebeian job to finance a trip across the United States. I was going to hitchhike; a method of travel that appealed to my fantasy-adventure lunatic mind. That was it. My master plan. It didn’t seem like much, but I knew there had to be more for me than slowly dying in this small town, knowing my role and getting used to it. Life looked so much better on the pages of my Rand-McNally road atlas. I was afraid of getting trapped in the American dream. Tied to a job working hard to pay for a house and car and family; making just enough money to stay in the same position for the rest of my life. It felt more like the American nightmare. It scared the hell out of me. I was desperately searching for an alternative.

I worried how and when to unveil my plans to Joie. It seemed our love could prove inconvenient or at least inopportune. It wasn’t easy and I turned it over in my mind for a few days. I even considerd scrapping the whole wanderlust idea. But I had a timetable and a stubborn mind. I decided to take a chance once on ruining the best thing in my life so far, by telling her sooner rather than later. “No better time like the present, and no better present than time.

I dropped it on her while she visited me at work. We wer finding more ways to spend time together.

“Where are you gonna go?”

I don’t know. More of a direction than a destination, but I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon.”

“You don’t have any money?”

“Five hundred bucks. I figure that will get me through the summer and I gotta come back in the fall to harvest my plants.”

“And you’re definitely going?”

“Yeah. I was hoping you’d come with me, but either way, I’ll only be gone for three months; for if the weather is lucky.”

She cried. She didn’t want to leave her mom with whom she had recently reconciled since moving to New Hampshire. She left that night without giveing mean answer. The next day she came to my house and said yes. I was neve so excited as I was that day. I bolted out of slumber and babbled about what a great time we would have and how we would find a different, better life.

I really believed it. It had to be true.


Joie asked me if I wanted to go see a punk show up in Portland, Maine at a place called the Cybernaculum. She knew the singer in “Big Meat Hammer” and said we could stay at his house for the night. I liked punk music in a joking kind of way but I never felt like piercing my nose and hanging out downtown but it sounded like fun. We didn’t have a car so we we planned on hitchhiking. We were loaded for bear. I had a bag of weed in my pocket and 2 pints of Southern Comfort in my backpack. We also had a couple pint bottles of Veryfine cranberry juice for chasers. We were looking forward to a very good night. Did I mention she was only 19? Underage drinker. We were a cop’s wet dream.

There are several rules to making hitchhiking easier. The first is to always face traffic so people can see your face. The second is to smile. Third is never stand still; show you are willing to do your part by walking. Lastly, bring a woman along. That always works. We got a ride almost immediately after setting foot on Route 101. He brought us just over the NH/ME border. Passing a sign saying, “Welcome to Maine, The way life should be.” Our second ride was a couple in an orange, rust covered, Challenger. A beast from an earlier age. The driver and his girl seemed pretty cool so we offered to get them stoned as we rumbled up Route 95 North. We made it to Portland in a little over an hour. Almost as fast as driving your own car.

We were early getting dropped off so we wandered around the side streets of town until we spotted a wooden plank running from a mound of dirt to the roof of a building. We had to investigate. On the roof were two lawn chairs set up for a perfect view of the harbor. We decided to crack open the hooch and smoke another bone. Well; There we were in Maine, sitting on the rooftop of an abandoned factory, sipping Southern Comfort and stoned out of our heads. “The way life should be.”

The moon was a copper colored saucer floating over the horizon. I’d never seen a moon so huge. It was a Harvest Moon and it sent a trail of watery orange light across the surface of the bay. Joie and I were almost finished with one of the pints and feeling quite rakish. It was time to go in search of the Cybernaculum. Joie assured me she knew exactl where it was located. We wove our way through a few blocks of industrial buildings in various states of repair and sure enough, we found it. It didn’t have a sign or anything to distinguish it from he surrounding buildings; early twentieth century red brick.

We tapped on the door like it was a speakeasy. A waif-like creature answered and told us we had to make a five dollar donation to enter. We paid and made our way downstairs. The money was to pay the bands and the rent. Makeshift curtains divided the basement into studio space for local art school students. At the end of the rectangle was a small stage.

The artists worked in several mediums from welded junk to textured paintings. One painting had dried tree frogs marching from a rendered mouth to a disembodied ear. Another piece looked like a ten speed bicycle transformed into a Stegosaurus. There was something to gawk at everywhere, mostly the other people. The place was filling up with all manner of hairdo’s and faces. I was dressed as usual in torn jeans, tee shirt and jacket with an emblem on back. A picture of the earth with the phrase, “Last Revolution of a Dying Race”. I painted it myself. I was a different kind of freak.

I kept the second bottle of SoCo in the inner pocket of my jacket, sipping off it with some regularity. I watched the people around me. Joie had wandered off to talk with friends. There was a band playing. Four broads passing for punk rockers. Drugs and booze were taking their toll and the night resembled a psychotic nightmare, but my mood was elevated and I thought I was having a great time. The next band came on. Thirteen Thirteen Mockingbird Lane. They were fantastic. A mix of psychedelic sixties and seventies hippie songs mocked in punk style. Joie and I hooked up again and started slam dancing. We were hurling ourselves across the “dance floor” at one another. I really didn’t have a care in the world.

Somehow later… The skinheads were eying me. They could tell I didn’t fit in with the crowd. Joie told me they thought of themselves as the self-appointed security force. I didn’t like them cause they dressed like cops. Crew cuts, flight jackets and Doc Martens. I called them “The Junior G-men” or “Killer Cub Scouts.” They circled the crowd like lions. Looking for the weak and unprotected. I flashed a broken toothed, wild eyed smile.

Big Meat Hammer came on last. They were straight out thrash; fast and furious. The lead singer was Jordan. He stood five feet tall with a completely shaved head. He wore the standard black leather jacket and oozed cool. He had noticeable stage presence; standing stiff and straight, gripping the microphone. Jordan was the oldest person in the room. He was hooked on fifties horror movies and nineties heroin.

During the set, the drummer of Thirteen Thirteen approached me. He had a thick mane of red hair, the same color as mine. He asked for a slug off my bottle. I was happy to share. We became fast friends. Most of the crowd had calmed and were settling on the couches scattered across the space. The drummer and I were still active and having a great time. We didn’t even notice the music had stopped. Somebody yelled, “Cops!”

Everything was a blur after running out the back door. People were still yelling about the cops. Stumbling down the street towards Jordan’s house I stuffed my weed down my pants. We walked fast and kept an eye on the skinheads closing in behind us. The blues flashed once and they scattered.

Thirteen Thirteen was trying to move their instruments from the house to their van. The drummer and I impeded their progress, wrestling on the kitchen floor, upending the dining table and splitting it in two.

Suddenly everyone was gone. I imagine that was the locked door to Jordan’s room. The other door led to a large empty room. I pulled Joie inside and tore her clothes off. Biting and pulling. And then the sleep of the dead. I woke up naked, my face pressed against the hardwood floor. I was halfway out of the sleeping bag. I got up, panicked because I couldn’t find my weed. Getting dressed the bag fell out of my underwear. Saved!

Nobody else was in the house. We picked up the two chairs and sat in the kitchen alone. I felt depraved. We smoked a joint for breakfast and chased it with a couple of Camel’s. Straights. No filter. We packed up our change of clothes and sleeping bag and set off up the hill towards town in search of coffee and lunch. Hoping it wouldn’t cost more than the fifteen bucks we had left. We found a diner that fit the bill and having eaten we had nowhere to go but home. Our first trip together was a success.