From Issue 202, October 2005
I was in a contemplative mood. It was a Thursday night and it had been three weeks since I had been dumped by my girlfriend of three years. I had The Cure’s “Pornography” in my head, even though I was listening to talk radio stories about the New Orleans disaster. There was a dying-summer scent in the air and I felt fucking old.
I got a call to Sapp Bros. Truck Stop over on California & I-215. As I pulled into the green and orange neon parking lot (Sinclair and Burger King––together!), I noticed a tall, older gentleman squatting/sitting near the front doors. It’s always nice when people wait out front in plain sight.
With the first words out of his mouth, he said, “Dude, I’m gonna be completely honest wit’ you, k? I need to cruise by the mission (I instantly deduced that he meant the shelter) and get a couple of things. I need you to wait (dramatic pause) and then I need a ride back. Is that gonna be cool? I can go ahead and leave ya a twenty while you be waitin’.” He then held up one hand with two twenties in it. His other hand held a nice, healthy chunk of twenties.
I began pulling out of the parking lot as I mulled it over. I was wary, but the sight of his money and his honest demeanor had loosened me up. Plus,
when I'm super sad my woman's intuition kicks in and I can feel people out better. could just sort of recognize that he was an ok guy.
“Yeah, dude,” I said, “I could do that. I even know a nice place to park and wait about a block away.” It was true—mostly cause my friend, Harley, lives in the Bridge Projects across the street. Harley sometimes bitches bitterly about his vagrant neighbors.
So off we went, traipsing through the back streets of the West side. I learned that Carl was a trucker. Had been for twelve years. He had done five years at The Point of the Mountain for robbery before that. It had taken twenty years, he bragged, for him to get arrested, though. I was impressed. That’s a lot of unhindered stealing.
I backed into a parking stall right below Harley’s third story balcony. His lights weren’t on. Carl left me a twenty, so I turned off #22 and turned the radio to Joe’s Garage (Thursdays from 10:30 PM to 1:00 AM on KRCL). They happened to be playing “Fluffy” by Ween. I let out a momentary tee hee, but as I waited for the next fifteen minutes, I mostly wallowed in my palpable misery. The demise of my three-year relationship had me feeling heavy and ridiculous.
When Carl finally broke up my pity party, he said, “Alright, one down, but the other just ain’t around. Can we take it up North Temple real slow and if we don’t see nothin’, you can just drop me back where you found me?”
We cruised North Temple from 600 West until the fairgrounds at about 25 MPH, but Carl didn’t find what he was looking for. He shrugged if off and seemed thankful to at least have gotten his medicine. I drove us back to Sapp Bros.
“Hey, man,” he asked, “you seem like a cool young dude. Why the fuck you look so down?”
I thought about making something up, but instead I told him, “My old lady dumped me.”
“How long together?”
Carl leaned forward a bit and said, “That’s tough man. Look, I was with a girl for twelve years once. This is what you gotta do––you gotta drink (pause), you gotta get laid (I should mention that neither of these things had made me feel better so far) and then when you done wit’ that, you gotta retreat into yourself, man. You gotta get yourself a whole shitload of alone time and you gotta prepare yourself for the next woman that you’re gonna love. And then you wait. (Leaning back) You’re gonna be cool, man. You’re young. Now, an old guy like me, I gotta get taxis and drive slow lookin’ for ho’s. Chin up.”
I thanked him for the ten dollar tip as I dropped him off. We shook hands. I then drove towards downtown and its bars with “Pornography” back in my head and the radio off. The only real sound was the wind through the windows. I thought about the lonely winter I had coming to me and I started to laugh. What the fuck else could I do? And Robert Smith’s voice in my head wailed, “One after the other, one after the other, seems like a hundred years, a hundred years.”