Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When the road was sometimes longer than the love (Part Two)

I can't remember the name of the truck stop at the intersection of I-80 and I-35, but they laid on the bacon and eggs and homefries and coffee in a manner that was intended to keep you coming back. We needed a good breakfast, after a night of switching off driving in pairs and sleeping in the back of the station wagon in pairs.

Ina had not been interested in entertaining any snoopy truck drivers who might pass us by on the highway, but we still hadn't gotten a whole lot of sleep back there. It turned out she wasn't that interested in entertaining me, either, but don't let's get ahead of ourselves here. She was still a very good snuggler and we needed the coffee. 

Des Moines is southwest of Waterloo and Independence is about 25 miles northeast of Waterloo and another 40 miles south of Wadena. And, since it was also where Dean's parents lived, Independence was a good place to stop after our all-night drive from Boulder.

His little sister was extremely jealous as we freshened up and made ready to head out to the rock festival. The concert had been all over local media and she was old enough to want to go but not old enough to do it without her parents' permission, which certainly wasn't going to happen.

My memory of driving through the tangle of local roads to Wadena is that the Three Dog Night song "Mama Told Me Not To Come" was in extremely heavy rotation on the local radio stations.What I can't remember is why we didn't throw in a tape; my car was outfitted with a cassette player, which was cutting edge technology in an age when 8-Traks were just getting up to speed. I suppose we were making sure there weren't any warnings about road closures on the local stations.

Traffic wasn't bad at all, and, in fact, we parked quite near the farm where the concert was going on. Ina and I set up a blanket on the hill overlooking the stage, while Dean and Linda pitched a lean-to farther back at the edge of the woods. I don't think we had brought anything other than bedding, and little of that -- we assumed food and drink would be available on site. We assumed wrong, as it turned out, but we had the first 12 hours or so covered in that respect, since we didn't expect to be particularly hungry or sleepy for awhile, but did expect the music to sound extra nice.

And the music was rather good -- mostly B-list, but very high on the B-list. No Doors or Stones or Airplane, but the line-up did include Johnny Winter, Leon Russell, Savoy Brown, Rotary Connection, Little Richard, Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Everly Brothers, the Sons of Champlin, Joan Baez, REO Speedwagon, Lee Michaels, Ian and Silvia and the Great Speckled Bird, Albert King, Mason Profit, Illinois Speed Press, the Chambers Brothers, the Doobie Brothers and the Siegal-Schwall Band. There are some real memories in those names, though I have to admit we were building memories in random snatches at the moment.

Let me explain something about rivers, rock festivals and nudity. I suspect that Scorsese and the gang did some pretty selective editing at Bethel the summer before, or else East Coast girls are a lot more uninhibited than Midwestern girls. Which I know is not the case. The Volga river -- the one in Iowa, that is -- is shallow and warm and very inviting, but the only naked people in it were 19-year-old boys, which, when you think about it, is hardly surprising. There was one very tripped-out couple walking naked in the river, but they were so odd that they hardly counted. At least when we were down there, the girls were in cutoffs and bikini tops and I would have seen a lot more nudity if I'd stayed home in Boulder.

Being a 20-year-old boy, I was content to sit back and be with the statuesque girl with the auburn braids, headband, bikini top and tan body that everyone else was looking at. Dr. Hook aside, there is something odd about being out with a genuinely beautiful woman, because, on the one hand, you're too cool to consider it a reflection on yourself, and, on the other hand, you're too human not to. Everybody wanted to talk to Ina, but she was with me, man.

Even when some people from Wadena came in to check out the scene, they managed to pick their way through the 30,000 people on the hill and hunker down at our blanket to ask Ina what it was all about, and she was happy to tell them and we had a nice conversation with some farmers who were very amused by the whole thing and were playing up their rube roots to comical effect: "Hey, ain't that one of them Mexican ceeg-arettes?" one of them gasped in mock horror, and there was plenty to be horrified about, if that's what you wanted, but they didn't, particularly. They talked to Ina for awhile, listened to a little music and then scored some weed and went back home to report on the strange goings on.

Meanwhile, as we stretched into the second day, we were finding that the beverages available appeared to be the muddy water of the Volga or else quarts of Boone's Farm Apple Wine, neither of which were what you really wanted for rehydration in the middle of a sunny hayfield. There was some chicken being cooked, or partially cooked, but the lines were long, and I can't really remember what we did once we got to the point where we began to be hungry.

However, the third day took care of itself, because that morning Ina announced that she needed to go home, because her boyfriend was arriving back in Boulder from wherever the hell he had been. Since I didn't know he existed, it is understandable that I also didn't know where the hell he had been. What I did know was that there was considerable music yet to be played and also that I suddenly was hanging out with somebody else's girlfriend, and had been for the past two and a half days, which made a lot more sense than her maidenly protestations about truck drivers and others around us on the hillside and suchlike modest impediments to true love or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Dean and Linda weren't that pleased to be leaving early, except that the lack of food and drink was starting to have an effect and two days of music is, after all, quite a bit of music. So we gathered up our gear and went back to the car and drove to Dean's parents' house. The car wasn't air-conditioned, but it was plenty cool enough in the front seat where Ina and I were sitting.

I was miffed about the whole undisclosed-boyfriend thing, and she was upset over the whole criticizing-the-beautiful-girl thing. And we were 875 miles from being able to simply walk away from each other.

We got back to Dean's and showered, and Ina came out in a black halter-top cocktail dress and full warpaint. The rest of us, even Linda, were in jeans and T-shirts, and there she was doing a credible impression of what you might get if you crossed Ginger Grant from "Gilligan's Island" with Lisa Douglas from "Green Acres." She looked terrific, but, at that point, all I could do was wonder what kind of dumbass would bring a stupid cocktail dress and all that make-up to a rock festival in the middle of a cornfield?

Dean had decided to let us go on ahead so that he could spend some time with his family, which was a good idea in that it got him out of what was now a very crowded car, but a bad idea in that his father read him the riot act over rock-and-roll and long hair, which led to him leaving the house, putting out his thumb and actually beating us back to Boulder by several hours.

This is probably because his rides didn't run into an abandoned spare tire under a swooping underpass in a driving rain in Omaha on a Sunday night when the garages were all closed and spin out into a ditch whereupon he was told by the pretty girl in the cocktail dress what an idiot he was. I've got to say, it's pretty amazing that Linda didn't get out and start hitching. If it hadn't been my car, I sure wouldn't have stayed for the rest of the ride.

But it was my car, and I got it out of the ditch and we did alright, even though Ina picked up the smelly hitchhiker in the buckskin clothes with the monkey and then, while I was napping, proceeded to take I-80 North towards Cheyenne instead of I-80 South towards Denver. As I recall, the resulting exchange was something to the effect of "Boulder is north of Denver," followed by, "Yes, but it's not in fucking Wyoming."

By the time we got back to the correct state, Ina -- who had joyfully sung along with me on the eastbound trip -- now sharply asked if I had any goddam tapes of songs to which I did not know the goddam lyrics, in response to which I put on Bizet and proceeded to do the "L'Arlesienne Suite" in "bom-bom-BOM-ba-bum-ba-bum-bum-bum" fashion.

I would have played the side of the tape with highlights from "Carmen," but there was a knife in the car and I didn't want either of us to get any ideas.

We got back to Boulder, I dropped her off at her apartment, dropped Linda off at her apartment and then went back to the house where all the people who had previously said, "So, you're taking Ina?" and then smiled, now asked, "So how was your date with Ina?" and began laughing even before they heard the details.

Three months later I took a much nicer girl a much shorter distance and finally got to hear Poco, who had played at Wadena, but only after we had left. When we got home from the concert, we discovered that someone had gone into my apartment and stolen my ... but never mind. It's a long story full of police and airports and construction workers and car chases and it's late.


Brian Fies said...

You are the coolest person I've ever known.

Mike said...

Oh, I was only cool for about two years, and mostly 1970. And it wasn't like one of Kerouac's skyrockets, it was more like lighting the gas stove when you've let it back up a little too much ... PHOOOMF! and everyone jumps for a minute, but once your eyebrows grow back, it's like none of it really happened ...

Sherwood Harrington said...

... which reply only makes you cooler.

Mary D. Pierce said...

But you do have a little of the Bob Dylan thing going on . . . you look a little like he did then. And your recall is amazing.

ronnie said...

Another excellent installment. You make me jealous. Born too late.

the other ronnie said...

And more chapters keep coming...and more players...