On the Road to Satori – Melancholia

1958 vw microbus by harrietsfriend


we heard
of a woodstockesque music-fest
playing in Austin

when we got there
the tickets had sold out
so we stood outside in the rain
the gray clay mud sticking to our boots

we took refuge
in Rodrigo’s Volkswagen bus
singing and playing on a borrowed guitar
I improvised in John Lee Hooker time
Jones on the harp in the key of blue
and Rodgrigo slapping the beat
on his jeans

… melancholia’s killing me”

Jones and I
wound up hitchhiking back
to San Antonio waiting for a ride
near a Church’s Fried Chicken

the counter guy yelled
through the take-out window
“hey you guy’s hungry?” and handed
us two cartons of chicken
“Happy Thanksgiving”

we had totally forgotten!
we just knew we were cold
wet and hungry—so thank you
Mr. Church’s Fried Chicken man
somewhere outside Austin may
you be repaid in triplicate
for your act of kindness
to two cold and lonely

On the Road to Satori – Rodrigo

this is where I met Rodrigo
the born-again angel
of the Texas road

just inside San Antonio
the long auburn-haired
short-stance little gnome
of the largest man I ever met
who stopped and picked me up

he took me to meet his wife and kids
at his home where hitchhikers were welcome
to rest from their weary travels

he expected nothing in return
all due to his kind heart
and love of Jesus

after I explained how I
broke my guitar hopping off a train
at the El Paso freight yard: I’d have fallen to my
death if not for that Gibson

he told me of handmade guitars in Mexico
emblazoned with fine fretwork
rosettes of chipped abalone
all for a few dollars
then gave me the money
to go to Nuevo Laredo and get one

On the Road to Satori – El Paso

El Paso
broad daylight
the Highway Patrol
blasting me with their
loudspeaker horn tell me
“get off the highway
no hitchhiking

I walk down into the city
and smell the filth of the Swift-Premium
slaughter-house blood guts and excrement
of processed pig meat in this the new American
Frontier—Mexican Bodega signs in red and yellow
short Spanish women pushing baby carriages
staring at me like a sinister felon just
off the boat from Alcatraz—
what women with babies
fear about strangers

On the Road to Satori – State Trooper Blues

we see the troopers lights
and hear the blip of the siren
turn to each other with a “we’ve been
narced by the guy at the Bodega!” look on our faces

the trooper snoops around
looking mean in his Smokey Bear hat
black Gestapo boots and a forty-five pistol

his ’69 Plymouth Road Runner
hemi-head dual exhaust
going varoom! varoom! shaking
like a dragster disguised in cop lights
and a New Mexico State Trooper emblem
so that we’re quite impressed!
despite the circumstances

he let us go
must have figured we were just
a bunch of wide-eyed college kids
on their way to see America
why toss ‘em in the clink
and ruin their lives forever?
let ‘em find out for themselves
when they end up
on the street

“your brake light’s out,
thought I’d give ya a warning”
we slide back on to the road

welcome to New Mexico

On the Road to Satori – la Blues


Abandoned Underpass by ModalMechanica

la Blues

what a screwed up mess I made for myself
I’m thinking as I stand on the ramp looking out
over the industrial flat-top yellow chalk
blues of this city of modern-cheap

the rain barreling from the north
like winter’s solstice gone berserk
and this is California
it never rains etc.
—well, it’s raining
and freezing cold!

“here go buddy
you need this more than me” 
chicano compadre at the Circle-K
in drunken angelic slobber
round-faced mustached
yellow kind-toothed smile
handed me his grey stretch ski cap

I thanked him and put it over my dripping head
and went out into the forlorn ravages of
the extended trip home from Seattle
—by way of Coos Bay
San Francisco
and the Golden Gate

I stood on the clover leaf of the 10
just outside LA wondering
when is any of all this
ever going to stop?

I got a ride to Barstow with a truck driver who told me, “They just don’t
treat a man like a human being out here,” he shook his head
and confided in me his deep secret fears and insecurities
“No sir,” I agreed

Cale brought me to a truck stop
where he fed me coffee and a hamburger
and continued philosophizing the inhumanity
and indecency of life in these United States
“That’s how I figure it” he went on

“No matter how you look at it
this country, taken by right or might
has been laid claim to by the white man and
no one has been able to wrestle it back from him, you see?”
I nodded pleasantly as Cale ran a long dark hand across his glistening
forehead with a sigh “It’s like that ALL over” he shook his head and paid the bill
and walked with me out the door of the cafe

“The rest of us I guess
we’re all just guests! Whether welcome or not
but they sure don’t treat us like guests
more like invaders,” he continued
giving me a ready lecture
on the meaning of life
according to Cale

“But, I think you’re gone be doin’ all right by yourself
just keep on truckin’,” he grinned and raised his fist in the air from the cab
as he tooled his truck out of the rainy parking lot heading North
I was heading East, homeward bound, I hoped
for the road was a tired place for me by now

back then Barstow looked like a movie set
with wooden sidewalks along an area that
sat on a hill overlooking the high desert
and a big sky full of wispy thunderheads

things change so much
today I don’t even recognize the place
with its wide boulevards and row upon row
of tract homes unusual

there was a time
when all of this would have made
a lot more sense

On the Road to Satori – The Baby Blue Peugeot


peugeot 404 drawn by zarkwebic

The Baby Blue Peugeot

winter was heading my way
the eternal summer
of the Southwest calling
I hooked up with two guys
and an old ’63 Peugeot
headed for Arizona

we kept the baby blue sedan running
twenty-five hundred miles
across Pennsylvania
along old Route 66
through Ozark hills
to the Oklahoma Panhandle

we cooked refried beans
over an alcohol stove
and popped cans of Coors
—you can only buy them
West of Tulsa—

they said

on rolling plains dotted
with clusters of trees
near a winding brook
on a night blistered with stars
we drank Rocky Mountain water
from a flip-top can

On the Road to Satori – Coos Bay


arago sunset near coos bay oregon by michaelatman

Coos Bay

I was getting tired of hanging around Coos Bay
hitchhiking up and down the Oregon coast getting
rides from rich kids in their vintage sedans
construction crewmen in pick-up trucks
who’d share their last six-pack as long
as you promise to save the empties
for their Oregon five-cent deposit

I was getting tired
of partying at The Sea Drift Tavern
the ex-bikers and their Motorcycle Irenes

it was time to split the fishing burg
the taste of middle-America
the decent people I’d met
worked with

the girl from Sonora
who said “I never met a
Porto Rican before!” then took
me in like a long-lost husband home
to her corn tortillas and green chili salsa

Coos Bay
was starting
to wear on me
it was time to go

I would head South
to the Frisco Bay
the Golden Gate
stop in on the Redwoods along the way
check out the giant trees for the night
start a campfire

I’d stay in Berkley
with the help of one of those Room Exchanges
maybe sleep in the bushes on the campus grounds
walk the Botanical Gardens
meet the local crazies

I might even feed runaway kids
like I was feeding pigeons
their little hands reaching
for my slices of white bread
like babies reaching for the bottle
eyes full of hope and sadness all
mixed in at the same time
homeless and lost

that’s what I’d do…
I’d head down the coast
leave those rain-soaked nights behind
leave the fishing boats and the sea behind me
I needed to go where the air was dry
at least some of the time
I had to get away
from days spent
in eternal twilight

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