Home Travel Stories Destinations DESERT OLDS - Part 1 Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA
DESERT OLDS - Part 1 Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA PDF Print E-mail
Written by Magnus King
Sunday, 28 March 2010 15:06

DESERT OLDS - Part 1 Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA


Writing and Photography copyright Double Dragon One Owner Collector Car Ltd. Rocket Circle image copyright Oldsmobile, GM.



Nantucket Blue 1967 Cutlass Town Sedan built Tuesday, Dec 20, 1966 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. 330-2bbl 250 hp, 2 speed auto 2.78:1 axle. Read the history of the Cutlass and its MPG in the GAS LOGS drop down menu in TRAVEL STORIES.

Look at the cover of the Oldsmobile Rocket Circle magazine series below (vol 11 number 5). It sports a Technicolor Star Trek style cover with the Olds Rocket logo. It almost seems a spoof of the 1960s along the lines of the Austin Powers films, but it's the real thing. We are urged to "Discover America..." Magnus King took that advice to heart in his 1967 Cutlass as you will see in the story below!





In the 1990s Vancouver, BC still had a small town feel to it. I was twenty and feeling a bit restless. Martin and I were spinning our wheels trawling through nights of parties. We took a couple of girls to a huge rock on the English Bay beach we appropriately named ‘The Rock'. As we were finishing off Martin’s booze his drunken state made him atypically animated.

Martin said, “We have to go to New Orleans.”

I said, “OK.”

Then I asked, “Where is it?”

Martin’s synopsis employed movie shorthand, “It’s off the Gulf of Mexico. Streetcar Named Desire, Tightrope, Angel Heart, Hard Times. Think Tennessee Williams.”

I saw the blurry images these films evoked… the sensual rolling waves of air, primitive passions, heat and decay of the south… exotic… experienced like a dream or fever hallucination… or a movie.

My half drunk hazy conception stamped itself into my mind conditioning all future responses and expectations of New Orleans and the trip leading there. I narrated the visions I saw,

“We're going to force ourselves on this trip... its destined to become a spontaneous exercise in suspension of disbelief, unrolling like a drunken tightrope walk... we shall be always and completely in the moment riding the wave. The Momentum set in motion today will keep our sails in the wind for months like gamblers rolling lucky numbers over and over.”

The girls looked confused by all this drunken raving, but Martin reeled it back in. He said,

“We need a big car to do this.”

My low paying job had gutted my finances so badly that I didn’t have a car. The rust bucket, non- running, incomplete ‘project cars’ being foisted upon me in the $500.00 range were enraging. Worse than condition, was content. My eyes were affronted by a parade of hideous atrocities. The majority of $500 cars were characterless econoboxes with shrill sewing machine engines. The days of finding cheap classic era cars in want ads had morphed into a slew of cars from the disposable years.

$100 Cutlass

Then our good luck began. A cutie I was going out with named Sybil called me up breathlessly,

“Hi, it’s me!  I just called an ad for a 1967 Cutlass. The seller is a truck driver in New Westminster. He bought the car a few months ago to move his stuff in from Osoyoos. The car’s parking spot is expired and he’s going to sell it to the first person who shows up with five hundred! I’m coming to get you right now!”

We raced over. Sybil made quite an impression when we screeched up in her red Mustang. Sybil was cute, young, scantily clad and vivacious. She enthused about the Cutlass and talked a mile a minute. I got a great deal partly because the trucker was a nice guy, partly because of the aforementioned parking situation and mainly because of Sybil. I paid $100.00 for a rough looking, but mechanically perfect Cutlass with 132,000 miles.


The Cutlass was solid with sand scarred paint and a sun- faded interior. Sitting behind the wheel I told Sybil, 
“Think about it. This car just made it in from years out in the desert and now I’m taking it back to the desert. Imagine all the locations that have flashed through the windshield, all the people, places and emotions embedded in the fibers of this car. “

Sybil cut in, “Let’s celebrate! I’m buying! Follow my car to the oyster place.”

I called Martin from the restaurant in Stanley Park. We agreed to give notice on our apartments. Our itinerant part time jobs were so slack that leaving for an indeterminate amount of time wasn't going to cause a ripple.

Martin said, “You’ve got the car and I’ve got some money, but not enough. We need to start recruiting gas paying traveling companions.”

Sybil couldn’t go. A new girlfriend, Jocelyn was running a business and couldn't get away. Another girlfriend of mine, Augusta who had enthusiastically planned to go on the trip with us vaporized; number out of service. All that was left of her was a voodoo talisman she had bought on a business trip, coincidentally in New Orleans. Martin wound the charm around the dials of the Cutlass radio for luck.

Several other people who wanted to go ‘for sure’ didn’t. Meanwhile, Martin’s roommate skipped out on a massive debt. Martin and I dealt with the onslaught of failed plans and financial ruin crashing down around us by riding the wave like true Masters of Floating Destiny. Martin decided to delay departure long enough to get a full paycheck, and to watch Easy Rider which was my favorite film as a kid. Incredibly, Martin the movie buff had never seen it.

Granville $2 Matinees

Martin and I took a couple of girls with us to a $2 matinee at one of the old theaters on Granville Street. Remember back in the 1990s when Vancouver was still a cheap place to live? Those theaters have long since been replaced with big box generic stores.

I saw Easy Rider with new eyes. My excitement about the trip had caused me to learn some geography. I was pleased to note that the Easy Riders took the same route to New Orleans that Martin and I were planning on.

I also discovered that a lot of the cultural references in the film were too far away in time to mean anything to our young dates. Even way back when I was a kid watching it on the late, late, late show it had seemed like a relic from a lost era. The USA onscreen that was already faded to a bare flicker of embers when I first saw the film was now stone cold, long gone. The ancient film print running in that old theater had a bluish faded tinge to it enhancing that time portal feel to the experience.

Martin packed a few clothes. I stored my books in a friends’ attic. After insuring the car, changing the fluids, belts and hoses I was broke. Martin's last paycheck of $666.39 was all the money we had between us. We didn’t know anything about Route 66 or Highway 666 at this point, so the coincidence of those magic numbers was lost on us. Later in this trip we would find ourselves on both these old highways which are central destinations for road trip history buffs.

Leggy's Complications

Martin hadn’t saved any money because of the roommate rip-off. The rest of his salary had been drained supporting his friend Leguire who had spent the last year camped out in Martin's living room. Leguire was usually known as “Leggy” in acknowledgement of his main purpose as Martin’s 'go-for'. Leggy stood in long lineups that formed at 6 am to pick up free tickets to movies for Martin. Leggy and all of his stuff had to go back to his folks’ house in Sacramento. Martin asked Leggy if he had made any plans to get home.

Leggy never actually answers direct questions, so we will never know if he had attempted to make any arrangements or not. Leggy mumbled his standard opener,

“Well, there were some complications…” Then he faded out.

By default, Leggy was now our temporary third trip member. Leggy is a quiet, genial guy who used the trip as an opportunity to get some sleep. Leggy didn’t exactly fit into Martin’s concept of recruiting gas paying travelling companions. Leggy's expenses came out of Martin's wallet.

We had no money but I was certain of our ability to do anything just like everyone does when they are twenty years old. Our lack of preparation for this trip helped us discover things by chance, making us totally fluid in where we went and what we did. We didn’t lower ourselves to actually planning anything or following even the vaguest of itineraries. Our sole prep work involved watching road movies and looking at maps.

One night we descended upon Karen’s place. She was one of my girlfriends who had a VCR and TV. We rewatched the original Vanishing Point film.  I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid watching the late, late, late, late, late show. As the end credits rolled I raved,

“The first thing we have to do when we hit California is drive the Cutlass randomly through the desert sand at top speed like Kowalski. Just point the car and go!”

Martin countered,

“You’ll wreck the car and strand us without any convenient hippies or prospectors to save us.”

Karen snorted, “You guys won’t even make it over the border!”

I lectured her,

“The focus of my eyes transforms my pupils into black hole gravity tunnels drawing everything to me I need, compressing and reshaping reality to suit my will. We are on a roll, in the groove and can do no wrong. Adventure and serendipity will arrive on a daily basis because I will it.”

Karen replied in mock zombie tones, “Ok. Your-will- shall- be- done.”

The next night was our send off party. Martin was upstairs making out with a girl. I slipped out for fresh air and got in the Cutlass. It was very late and dark. The smell of spring in the air was sweet. The Cutlass is spacious. I reclined on the cold, creaky vinyl and looked at the trees through the long and rectangular windshield. The dash gleamed in the streetlight, stretched across four feet in one long rectangle of chrome. The dimensions of the car itself are long and low, squared off.

The Cutlass is a visual symbol of the wide open future rooted in the Universal Mind of 1960s optimists. We can go anywhere; do anything in this car, just like people in the sixties believed. The future is an endless horizon. The future is going to be bigger, wider and better. Everything is possible, change the world, yourself; anything. All of the sixties expansive energy transmitted itself to me via the designs, size and the bold primary colors used to execute the car design. The 1960s motifs in cars and architecture are long and lean; form before function. The wasted space and superfluous use of metal and styling reflects the perception of abundance rooted in the 1960s culture.

The Cutlass is replete with interior space, and images of outer space itself. Even the engine is a ‘Rocket Engine’ conjuring up impressions of the JFK dream of man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Cars named Galaxie, Meteor, Comet, Starfire, and Jetstar flew around in the sixties. The sixties cars have devices with pseudo science age names like the Duo Phonic Stereo encapsulating the boldness of the time, striking out on new frontiers.

The letdown following the 1960s has kept the present shrinking and backward looking. Nostalgia saturated the seventies and hasn't let up since. The Cutlass is a jolt of lightning, reminding us of a daring statement from an optimistic time. Motion in this car is an antidote to the present stagnation where things just get worse and worse. People nowadays peer into a hazy tunnel that seems to be inevitably, grimly receding to a pinpoint. The promise of a widening future designed into the Cutlass negates the revised version of the future we have to live in these days.

A good road-trip needs a car like this. New cars are quieter, faster and more economical with computer controls, standard A/C and overdrive- perfect for seamless travel in a hurry. But for laid back running, nothing beats the big old car, which connects you to the past, and reminds you that you are having an experience every moment of the trip, not just marking time en route to a destination. The fact that it only cost 100 bucks didn't hurt either.

First stop was Seattle, WA, where Martin had a friend Theo we could crash with. We had no idea that we were about to meet an incredible bunch of eccentrics there.





Martin rode shotgun. He stowed the old Gousha road atlas under his seat for easy access. Leggy promptly fell asleep in the back seat, a procedure he faithfully maintained for the duration of his stint with us. The Cutlass started instantly with an idle like glass. The AM radio was tuned to the oldies station. The rest of the dial was infested with call in shows.

I remember when you could turn on a radio and not have to listen to some bore sitting in a bathrobe in his living room trading banalities with a DJ. Commercial free subscription radio shows, MP3 and CD players in most cars killed regular AM advertising revenues. Lack of ads creates a vast nightmare wasteland of drab droning cheap talk shows.

Red Robinson

Luckily for us Red Robinson, a Vancouver legend was on the air down near the bottom of the AM dial at 650. Red seems to have an anecdote about every performer he ever met. Eric Burdon’s bass voice echoed through the car,

“There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun…”

Thanks for the perfect choice, Red! And thanks for the send off, Eric!

The Cutlass looks rough but it sucked up the empty highway, effortlessly gliding up over 90, then 100 MPH despite hauling over 1,500 extra pounds. The ride was solid and smooth without a hint of a rattle. I lectured Martin and Leggy about the car despite Leggy’s snores and Martins total disinterest in cars,

“This is the an advantage of four door post cars. They seal out noise, dirt and vibration. Look at the way the windows are held snug in a steel frame- that reduces wind noise. The body resists creaks and squeaks because of the post here. Collectors disdain these cars because they aren’t as sporty and clean looking as a two door hardtop. But all Cutlass two doors and four doors built in 1967 use the same 115 inch wheelbase; thus sharing the same body lines except for the roof. We have a bit more headroom in back.  It’s not quite so awkward looking as most four doors tend to be.”




Martin was focused on the road, alarmed at our speed. I reassured him,

“This suspension could handle high speeds back in the day even though it was designed for skinny little bias ply tires set at 24 PSI. We're running larger modern Michelin radials pumped up to 35 PSI so they don’t overheat at high speeds. We’ve also got new heavy duty shocks. Look at this. It’s holding the road like it was riding on rails! I have one finger on the wheel and it tracks straight. This car has never been hit, the frame is perfect. The steering box is tight. The brakes have new linings.. there is virtually no pedal travel – everything is tight in this car.”

Martin grunted in agreement. A minute later he felt compelled to say something when I loosened the reigns a bit more and let the Cutlass run at an indicated 110 MPH.

“I thought we were going to stay at a 70 MPH cruise.”

I got the car back down to 70. We had to stretch our gas money and preserve the tires. The Cutlass felt like it was parked as we cruised to Seattle at a steady 70.

Seattle Rooming House

Arriving in Seattle at night, we quietly unpacked our stuff into an old house in the University district around 45th NE. It had been converted into a rooming house. Martin’s friend Theo anxiously rushed back upstairs evidently trying to avoid the crowd of guys in the living room. Despite the late hour, the living room was filled with disparate characters watching TV. Martin got a nice spot upstairs while Leggy got the couch. I took a space underneath a table on the living room floor. I fell asleep instantly dreaming of motion, the way you feel when you are traveling on a bus rocking its way through the night. The TV noise faded out and dreams cut in.

I awoke in a travel mindset, “What city am I in? What did we do yesterday?” The day was fresh with endless possibility. We’d been gone ten hours and our old lives were already forgotten.

I ate breakfast and met The Guys.

A tall thin Expert Guy, Bernard, stood over the dining room table pronouncing definitive verdicts on any topic, upon which he was the undisputed expert. He orated in his proper English accent about a video game:

“The graphics of the Mickey Mouse segment are of far superior quality to the Daffy Duck sequence. IN FACT, the Daffy Duck work is of such an inferior grade as to render the entire program substandard…”

Leggy humored him by nodding and stroking his beard reflectively as if he was hearing profound statements.

“The programmer for this segment has created THE FINEST example of color contrast extant in any modern video work you could care to mention…”

A small chain smoking Broke Guy referred to as The Weasel edged downstairs and cadged a cigarette. He made funny facial expressions behind Bernard’s back mimicking his overly pompous stance before scurrying back upstairs again to continue working on a novel that no one had seen and probably didn't exist except in his conversations.

Theo came downstairs. He was a Deadpan Guy with old 1960s black frame glasses, tattoos and a beatnik goatee. He’d come here from California after a romance went wrong. He was just marking time in this madhouse. The Guys however, were all lifers. The living room was full of The Video Guys and their sidekicks. It looked like a comic book convention. They were playing video games and staring at the TV. The problem with The Guys was that they were in their late 20s, but lived like teenagers with nothing to do. They were destined to seamlessly metamorphose into SRO embittered old men who argue with the other old men about changing the channel.

Then we met one of the Angry Guys- Curtis, a black, booming voiced New Yorker stormed into the living room,

“What the Hell! Lame-ass shit! Someone stole my chicken! It was right here in the fridge last night… here I be coming home from a long night and ready to eat something and some behind the back sneaking chicken thieving bastard eats up my breakfast!”

Curt’s best friend, Billy was the other Angry Guy. Billy was a skinny white guy with frizzy dreadlocks. He screamed over Curt’s rant,

“You idiot! You ate it all last night. You were wolfing that greasy shit down on the bus last night.”

“Bullshit! I bought KFC last night! This was store bought chicken!”

The Guys in the living room didn’t pay the slightest attention, automatically adjusting the volume on the TV to compensate for the Billy/ Curt argument. Somehow Bernard continued his lecture without missing a beat, although he registered a flicker of annoyance when Leggy’s attention wavered to the screaming.

After screaming at each other for five minutes, Billy and Curtis came over to talk with Martin and me. They enthused about Seattle's natural vegan hippy peace and love ambiance, which they contrasted with the mean streets of New York they had escaped from 6 months earlier. That was the only thing they agreed on for the rest of the day. Billy then presented us with his problem.

“My piece of shit VW bus crapped out and I have to move today.”

Martin and I loaded up the Cutlass with Billy’s stuff and drove across the city. Curtis and Billy squabbled about any subject that you could imagine from women to fried chicken, to the correct sequence of past events, racism, to who was “sitting bitch” in the car. Their battles reminded me of the Spock-McCoy feud from the classic Star Trek TV series. Leggy amiably took the middle seat to defuse the ‘sitting bitch’ argument.

Curtis got enthused about the Cutlass, so I launched into my now too familiar to Martin patter about the great deal I got on the car. My set routine: first, pump up my audience by extolling the virtues of the car; second, let everyone guess how much I had paid. The estimates varied from $800.00 to a $1,500.00. The third step was to announce the $100.00 price.

The fourth stage where everyone professed genuine incredulity didn’t happen this time. The performance went bad when steam started to pour out of the hood.


Luckily for us, Billy worked at a gas station and was friends with a mechanic there, Rob.

We rumbled up to the Texaco station. Rob saw that sinister looking car roll up jammed to the roof with The Guys and thought, “Drive by shooting!” He was very relieved to see Billy step out. Rob fixed the car for free in 15 minutes flat. The coolant leak came from a tiny bypass hose on the water pump that Rob believed to be the original factory hose. The hose was old and brittle with ancient clamps that fell to pieces when removed. The tiny hose had been overlooked when a Vancouver garage changed ‘all’ the hoses.


With the car fixed Martin and I took The Guys with us to the downtown Seattle core where old buildings and cobblestone streets awaited. The land at the water’s edge is reclaimed land, created by filling in the water with debris. Seattle is built up several feet above the original streets, leaving a network of tunnels beneath the sidewalks.

Seattle Underground

The highly rated TV show Night Stalker was set in these tunnels. Martin and I naturally had to take the underground tour exploring a very dusty and musty network of tunnels. The underground came into being following an 1889 fire in the Pioneer Square area. New standards for buildings, plus a desire to prevent flooding motivated the city planners to raise the street level. New buildings were built with the expectation that the 2nd floor would soon become the ground floor when the street and sidewalks were completed. Businesses continued to use existing ground floors. The original sidewalks were still accessible for public to visit businesses that were now underground. Thick glass squares integrated into the new sidewalk above allowed light to illuminate the underground sidewalk.

When the underground was closed in 1907 to combat possible spread of Bubonic Plague, some basement buildings were taken over by squatters, gamblers, opium dens, and speakeasies. Small segments of the underground maze have been restored and are accessible to the public now. Bill Spiedel began an underground tour in 1965. That same tour was the one Martin and I took.

Space Needle

The Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair theoretically provides a good view of the city from 520 feet up with a 500 foot saucer providing 360 degree views of the city. Martin complained to me,

“If it wasn’t raining we might be able to see something.”

The Needle was partly inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany. Stuttgart would later take on special significance for me on this trip but that’s jumping ahead of things. The Space Needle opened on April 21, 1962 and was designed with a "flying saucer" top level to symbolize the aesthetics of the "space theme" of the 1962 World's Fair. The pointed tip of the needle is 605 feet above ground. The observation deck area was also shared with restaurants.

After the fair was over various radio stations operated out of the top of the Space Needle. Tourism continued to flow through the building and it has been regularly revamped and renovated throughout the years.

Fremont Triangle Bar & Frontier Room

By night time this area of Seattle comes alive with bars and cafes on every corner. We started in The Fremont Triangle Bar, ending up at The Frontier Room. A girl told me the Frontier Room used to be a longshoreman and sailor bar. The young "rebel" crowd had been drawn to it turning it into a self reflexive retro hip nostalgia trip. The drinks were cheap. Dozens of girls were walking around in Cat Woman outfits. The best looking of the Cat Girls told me her name was Amazing Grace. My progress with her was crushed when she took one look at The Guys who consistently acted like buffoons. The Guys kept cutting off my flow with their bumbling attempts to ingratiate themselves to her and her friends.

I said,

“Let’s go.”

I burnt off my frustration and simultaneously impressed The Guys with outrageous driving maneuvers as we made our way back to the University district. We dumped the car at the house and went on foot to local University bars.

Monkey Bar failure

Theo had a crush on a waitress at The Monkey Bar. He stood outside hoping for a glimpse of her through the main window. Curtis tried to give him advice that actually made sense,

"Yo Theo, what is with this weird ass stalking shit you be doin? How you gonna get down with this chickie doing lame ass shit like this? You're never going to pump this chick crying outside her work. You gotta log your hours on her meter. You got to put in yo time with her. Soon she's saying, "Oooh Theo you're such a good friend" and then BAM you are in, man..."

We dragged Theo inside to talk to the waitress. After he struck out with her we finished off his Jagermeister outside.

Blue Moon Tavern

Theo went home despondent over the waitress, while the rest of us went to the Blue Moon Tavern, which has been around since 1934. Popular with the beats back in the day, it had a worn in feel to the wood booths. Pool tables afforded Martin the opportunity to lose to me. He is a far better pool player but he kept sinking the 8 ball, which is a specialty with him. We left at closing, drunk but still facing the full bottle of Whiskey that Martin had in his jacket. Curtis, Billy, Martin, Leggy and I got down to business. We were drinking the bottle wrapped in the regulation paper bag on a corner, watching girls go past.

Curtis drunkenly told us, “Hey, we four dudes are the Beatles…” He somehow didn’t count Leggy. I started to suggest we were the Rolling Stones which would give Leggy Ian Stuart Standing In The Shadows status. Curtis flashed his bus pass at a passing girl and announced,

“Officer Ringo of the transportation department! This here is my badge. “

His romantic overtures started on a high note and plunged south as he started rapping about New York,

“You walk around and it’s just miles of wildass mutherfucking barbwire and badass mofos looking to take you down. Bitches there be motherfucking cock-strong ass bitches! Then we come here and the bitches are all la de da hippy this and vegan that, and the houses don’t have bars on the windows.. . Shit. I can’t believe this place. Like a paradise!”

The girl was edging away when Billy cut in,

“Let’s go.”

Curtis immediately launched into an argument with Billy about when to go or not, and the girl saw her chance to escape.

“Now look what you did! I was doing good with that chickie and you come along and fuck it all up! You act like a jealous bitch! Why couldn’t you be nice to that little hippy chick?”

“Jealous? I never said anything to her! What the hell is your problem? You’re totally paranoid! All I said TO YOU was that it was time to head home!”

Martin and I slipped away with Leggy in tow leaving them to squabble alone.

I started chatting with two cute girls walking back to the campus. I made a date with one of them, a very sexy blonde law student named Jane, who The Guys thereafter referred to as “The Lawyer Girl”.

After a few days in Seattle, it was time to move on, but I wanted to keep hanging out with Jane. Martin and Leggy acquiesced and settled into the inertia of “life” with The Guys while I gallivanted about town. Martin fidgeted restlessly as TV was watched and long lectures were delivered about trivialities by Professor Bernard. The Billy/ Curtis feud ran nonstop in the background,

“That’s bullshit! You never did that!”

The one Guy thing I did was watching reruns of the classic TV show The Fugitive. I can identify with the formless life of a fugitive drifting around, his life subject to whims of fate. Every turn of the steering wheel was akin to a spin of the roulette wheel. Interestingly, only Martin, Leggy and I were hooked on The Fuge. The Video Guys all avoided any show that wasn’t science fiction or animation. The Video Guys probably couldn’t relate to The Fugie because their entire lives promised to unfold in this very room or one indistinguishable from it with beeping video games as the permanent soundtrack.

Cinema Books

Jane and I spent time in her stomping grounds, covering most of the university district. She brought me to nice old buildings and we watched a film in a vintage movie palace called The Neptune Theater. The main strip has some good used bookstores and cheap food. A bookstore specializing in movie books named Cinema Books held me captive at 4753 Roosevelt Way NE. I was chatting to the owner Stephanie Ogle. She showed me some signed glossy photos of stars. Those were not for sale but she did have an extensive book collection and movie posters all for sale. Jane got antsy eventually and we did a tour of the University.

The actual university campus, on top of a hill, is huge and full of greenery. A ‘hippy’ atmosphere prevails even though the movement is long gone. Jane told me that the campus was the site of the 1909 World's Fair back in the day. The university bookstore comprises several floors packed with more non-academia then actual course material. I burnt through money I couldn’t afford to spend eating out with Jane. Normally Martin and I ate a monotonous cycle of cereal, sandwiches and spaghetti at the Rooming house.

After Jane went to class, I ventured west along NE 45th down to the bridge spanning I-5 and stumbled into a Chicano area. The main drag has a still operational drive in burger joint, old record stores, and tattoo parlors.

Coincidentally the next day Curtis needed a ride to see some friends who lived and breathed political theory. They lived in the heart of this Chicano area I’d just discovered the previous day. One of the radicals heaped disdain on Curtis when he admitted that he lived in the University district.

“Are you one of those Polo Shirt Yassur Uncle Toms or you just like the white pussy?”


Curtis shot back, “Hey man, after all the wild ass fucked up shit in New York I survived, your revolution central here is a motherfucking white bread nursery school!”

Billy didn’t even bother involving himself in the conversation. One of the other political guys took a liking to Curtis and they sat off to the side discussing societal programming and philosophy. They posed for a 'brotherhood' pic in front yellow police tape.

Billy ridiculed Curtis all the way home when he tried talking radicalism.

“You’re not political! You’re just repeating some bullshit you don’t even understand!”

“Hell, I’m the one who’s black here! I UNDERSTAND THAT!”

“The only reason you talk this shit is because you think it might get you laid with the hippy chicks!”


“So, if you don’t believe in any of this shit how is anyone supposed to believe you when you try to talk it?”

“Hell, I’ve been the victim of racism before!”

Billy let out a huge groan,

“Oh, no- Don’t start with the fucking Jeep again!”

“That crackerjack redneck was trying to kill me! I got lifetime disability from that! NO ONE gets that for nothing! Even the Army believed me.”

“You idiot! You were stoned! That’s why you crashed the jeep. NO ONE tried to run you off the road. It’s all in your mind!”

“You weren’t there! I’m telling you some racist freak tried to run me down!”

“Yeah, right. And the reason you lost your disability was because you were discriminated against.”

“Yeah! Damn straight! They had it in for me.”

“You lost a lifetime army disability because couldn’t NOT smoke pot for the 10 minutes a week you had to report at the vet’s building. You could have smoked pot 6 days, 23 hours and 50 minutes a week but that’s not enough for you! NO! You had to light up in an ELEVATOR IN THE VET’S BUILDING! That’s not discrimination, that’s just stupidity!”

“You’re just mad cuz you can’t borrow money off me no more! I think you were madder about me losing the disability than I was! Hell, you probably spent more of it than I did! And besides it WAS racism! That General hated my guts from way back!”

“No, he walked into an elevator in the vet’s hospital and sees his worst nightmare- some whacked out stoner toking away in an army elevator! That’s his turf, man! He couldn’t care less if you were white, black or green!”

“He sure hated my guts!”

“Not because you were black, because you were smoking dope in a Federal building!”

“Did you ever think that maybe he was racist AND he hated me besides? Why do you always act like it has to be this way or that way- all one way or the other?”

That profound question posed by Curtis even left Billy silent for a moment. Curtis knew he had made a major point but he relinquished it for the greater good of continued bickering.

The need for them to argue about something at all times simply shifted to a new topic where they didn’t have to get bogged down into grey areas. They screamed at each other the rest of the way home about The Hippy Chick at The Radical’s house and which of them she had responded to.

Mercer Island

That night Jane called me.

“Come meet me for dinner and that movie you wanted to see.  Afterwards, I’ll show you where I grew up.”

After an early meal and a Ray Liotta film Unlawful Entry we drove to her parent’s house on Mercer Island, which is a small wealthy community east of Seattle on the lake. I hit the gas and the Cutlass flew over top of Lake Washington on a floating bridge. The bridge is very tight and low to the water giving you the sensation of being on the water.

There are two floating bridges spanning Lake Washington, and one is the longest such bridge in the world. The other one, I-90 is the second longest. The 1-90 segments were built in 1940 and lasted until 1990. It sank in a storm and had to be rebuilt.

As Jane and I entered the Mercer Island roadway I looked in the mirror: flashing police lights. The cop started to question me until he recognized Jane and his tone became friendly. The second cop came over and joined the conversation about her schooling. After some chitchat they left us,

“Have a good evening.”

Jane explained,

“Mercer is an insular, upscale place.  They know all the cars in the area, so this old car stood out a mile away.”

The road circles the island in a long loop. Homes are built into the steep slopes overlooking the water. Jane was reliving memories of her rebellious teens,

“Growing up, peer tensions were pretty intense because I was from Mercer. The other kids called it ‘Mercedes Island’. They really hated rich kids. They think you’re spoiled. But I didn’t fit in with the Mercer crowd either. Our house wasn’t as ostentatious as the others. The Mercer kids subtly slighted me. They weren’t openly cruel like the other kids, but they looked down at me. I didn't fit in with either group. To this day, if I sense that someone is judging me it infuriates me. I trace it back to those high school years. Back then I started smoking pot and getting into trouble. It didn’t prove anything, and I finally figured that out. Now I realize that it only matters what I think, but I also know you can't escape the consequences of other people's thoughts. It shapes the world we live in. I was very idealistic, and I guess I still am, even now. So that’s how I went from being the bad kid to a square law student! I’m still a rebel, I guess. It’s just that Law has a lot of potential for someone who wants to influence the status quo.”

I found a ten dollar bill on the ground as I was saying goodbye to Jane. That seemed like a good omen.

We’d overstayed our welcome. Roommate rumblings had prompted Theo to give us the boot. We crept out quietly in the middle of the night. There was a mountain of junk jammed into every inch of the Cutlass trunk. It only fitted if a particular sequence was adhered to like a Tetras exercise. In addition to the regular spare mounted on a rim, there were two other spare tires. There was a gas can, oil containers, transmission fluid, snap on tool set, oil filter wrench, wood tire chock, screwdriver set, spare headlights still in the packages, spare fan belts, gallon jugs of water, coolant, cans of food, pots and pans, plates and bowls and so on.

The really crazy stuff that made no sense was Leggy’s artist table, boxes of computer paper, an unwieldy printer, extension cords, a bulky monitor, winter coats, sweaters, boots, hiking gear, cutting boards. If it was of no use on this trip, it was there.

I had a really cool old wooden suitcase that looked identical to the one Dr. Richard Kimble used in the early episodes of The Fugitive TV series. It was silk lined and tough enough to keep my books preserved. I loaded it into the trunk atop the two spare tires that were rammed up under the rear window package tray area. I slung my small bag of clothes on top of the crap piled up in the back seat.

Leggy woke up for exactly the few seconds it took him to stagger from his slumber on the couch to burrow into the junk in the back seat like a hibernating animal packing in for winter. The engine came to life and we were back on the road.

> Chapter 2

Last Updated ( Monday, 09 August 2021 09:50 )