Part One: And In The Beginning, Lava Lamps
When I was seventeen, the world was a psychedelic oyster...everything flung color; bright, boisterous shades of flourescent orange and scream green, purple haze (Ha Ha) and sunshine yellow. Nothing was dull, and nothing was still. It all twirled and swirled and sprung in twisting masses from our every object; even our T-shirts seemed to move. I like to think that the person who invented all that ass-kicker acid was just looking for some way to quiet it all down and it back-fired...we used to drop window-pane at Andy's house because he had blacklights in his garage; we would pour Tide washing powder on the floor and trip over its phosphorous contents twinkling through our little piles of detergent...it would be a couple of years before I would learn a few other uses for phosphorous. Yeah, those were simple times; I should have paid more attention to them, I should have ate all that color so I could've spit it up later when it would have really meant something.
Lava lamps were the shit; you were nobody unless you had one in your room...and the cool moms had them in their dens. Joplin and Hendrix ruled the world, the Dead guarded the gates. The Stones had just hit the states and everyone hitched to all the best concerts...all the girls wanted to blow all the bands, all the guys wanted to be roadies. Nobody ever did, of course...that was for the kids from California who were lucky enough to get backstage passes; the closest our little southern contingent ever got was sixth-row center at a very memorable Joe Cocker gig...we knew all the words to 'Bathroom Window' and never missed a beat. We thought we were so cool. Just as good as those west coast kids. Plus, our pot was better, we were certain of that; we grew it ourselves...no infra-copters back in the day. Fifteen bucks bought a five-finger bag of prime red-bud; ten more got you a sole of hash to wrap it with. I miss that stuff. Nothing beats a good hash milkshake...and later on, nothing would beat a good dose of smack; pot would become just foreplay, just something to keep the jungle bugs at bay while we sat and waited for the movie to start...and that was the thing; if the horse was hot enough, you could get away with pretending it was all a Fellini flick...for a few moments, anyway. And sometimes that was enough to get you to the next day.
It's a good thing we didn't know what was coming, I think most of us wouldn't have believed it if we had. The summer of sixty-six was winding down, the acid was turning into to mescaline, and Janis still had four years to live...longer than a lot of my friends. Nam was just a blurb on the TV news, the body counts during dinner were still a year or more away, and body bags were for the bad endings on Dr. Kildair. Some of us had brothers or cousins or uncles and dads pulling their time already, but nobody we knew up close and personal had gotten killed or even shot...not then. No one was protesting in earnest, not in our little corner of the planet, and all our teachers were talking about how it wasn't even a war, for christ' sake. Nobody seemed too fuckin' concerned...not then. Only our mothers looked worried; but they always did, so we never really noticed. And when we did, it was too late...High School was over, no money for college; all of us country boys had gotten our invitations by the time the spring of sixty-eight rolled around. Only Andy made it out; his dad had an aunt in Winnipeg and the next time I saw Andy he had three kids and a suit...he acted uncomfortable when he shook my hand; but it was OK, it was his folks that made him go. I guess. It WAS your folks, right, Andy?
Part Two: Can You Hear Him Now?
Been thinking about Andy again, he's starting to come and go like a cliched ghost; and I seem to be sittin' up with the dead. I haven't seen him since his dad died twelve years back, and we all went home to Catawba county to say goodbye...all of us that were left, anyway. We made a pitiful bunch, actually; hand-me-down suits and thrift store ties. All of us but Andy, who had done well in Winnipeg and wore a three-piece like an honest-to-God businessman. He had spit in his hand and passed it through his hair while we stood around the casket talking about how good his dad looked. Some things never change.
That's funny, isn't it...how everyone always seems to think folks look so damned good when they're dead. I'll bet the dead ones don't think so...I'm willing to put a few bucks on the fact that they would probably rather look like shit and be able to tell you about it. I know for sure that I want to look terrible when I get to lay on my satin; and I hope all the people that come to stare at my corpse have the good grace to say so. I don't want to die handsome; it seems like such a waste. And I don't want to be laid out all dressed up...I've left word that I'll haunt anyone that tries to pin those fuckin' medals on me. I really don't believe a whole lot in God or Heaven or everafters; but whatever is waiting for me is just gonna have to take me like I want to come...wearing Levi's and Hane's cotten. And no socks, please; it's a thing with me.
Had a lot of jumpers here lately; maybe that's why I've been thinking so much about Andy. You know, him jumping the draft and all. Word association and such...I've heard it can work like that. Anyway, four jumpers just this month; two off the Tar River bridge down at the rocks and two more off the I-95 overpass. The last two were a real fuckin' mess...shit everywhere. It took us the better part of a morning to get all the bits into our little red bio-bags...every scrap or the state boys get pissed. Can't leave anything for the public to see, when wer'e done, the Fire-house pumpers come in and hose away the spots. And these two had took their dive together, holding hands like goddamned love birds, said the bewildered witness who had called 911 to report the incredible event on his cell phone. Can you hear him now? Hardy fuckin' har har. By the time we got to the scene, he (The witness) was talking to the cops with his attitude showing...he had done his duty and now they were going to make him late for his tee time; he didn't PUSH them, for christ sake. It would have been more interesting if he had...nothing new about suicides. All I ask is that they get it right the first time so I don't have to work so hard...it's way harder to try and fix them than it is to just scrape them up.
One thing is certain...no one will be standing around these two caskets speculating on how good the deceased look; these two are gonna fit in a shoebox. And I say bury them in the same one, size seven ought to cover it. After all, it seems they wanted it that way...just ask the pissed-off golfer who saw it all. I can hear him now.
I love my job.