Thursday, January 10, 2008

Like a Rolling Stone

When I was in high school there was a small record store in the little strip shopping center near my home off Walnut Hill and Marsh Lane. In those days record stores had little listening booths for people to check out records. Somehow, maybe through the woman who owned the store guiding me, I found the first Bob Dylan album. It was a whole new dimension from the “baby, I love you” that was the only popular music option at the time and it had a profound, but indefinable effect on me.

A year or so later I left home, hitchhiking first to Grand Saline, then to Baton Rouge, where I ended up in jail for “investigation” – described in another unposted document and then working for months as a cook in a Toddle House at the bottom of the bridge that people would take going from Baton Rouge across the Mississippi River to the honky-tonks on the other side and coming back drunk, "Yeah, let's stop at the Toddle House." From Baton Rouge I went to Colorado where I moved around among Estes Park, Boulder, Fort Collins, Georgetown, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Utah for about a year and a half over two years. I was rock-climbing and hanging around with other climbers and various drifters. I recall being in a bar on the main street in Estes and hearing Like a Rolling Stone on the jukebox. Once again it was a completely new thing that spoke directly to me – in terms of my general and specific situation and circumstances at the time …
hanging out
… scrounging your next meal

How does it feel
To be on your own
A complete unknown
Like a rolling stone
Whew! All those things were happening with me – hanging out, scrounging meals, on my own, anonymous, Like a Rolling Stone. And it was fine.

Some of my friends and I had long hair before very many people had long hair - other than the slackers hanging out at The Sink in Boulder. One of my climbing partners, Bob B. and I were called, “Buffalo Bill (Bob) and his Indian Friend (me)” because of our long hair and general appearance. There was a documentary on Bob Dylan (No Direction Home) that came out a year or so ago. Looking at him singing Like a Rolling Stone I was amazed at just how hip we really were.

For a few months one winter Bob and I lived in a tiny cabin on the edge of Georgetown. The cabin had no electricity or running water and was heated with a coal-burning stove that the one time we used it, produced terrible noxious smoke, so that we never lit it again. There was a permanent “glacier” we called it on the floor between the bunks where we slept in our sleeping bags. The ice was about an inch thick in the middle.

Bob’s girlfriend was Toby T., who had gone to my high school in Dallas. She was a year or two older than I and I think had been popular in high school. In Colorado she was hip, kind of a drifter herself and probably drank too much. She was really sweet and kind. Sometimes she would stay with us in the cabin or sleeping in the place where we worked.

We worked in a restaurant called the Holy Cat. Bob was the bartender and I was the waiter. The owner was a fairly nice guy and I’m sure we were a burden to him – but we were who was available to work in his restaurant. I think we got maybe a dollar an hour, if that, tips, lift tickets for Loveland Basin, and room and board. Sometimes we would just sleep on the floor of the bar in front of the huge fireplace. Climbers and others passing through would stay there with us. Judy C., later a famous singer stayed with us one night and we sang the night away. It was a good winter, but we lost our jobs when Layton K. came up from Boulder and said, “Come on, we’re going to climb in the desert” – and away we went to Arches National Monument and Fisher Towers. That was the first time I'd slept in the desert - in the winter, cold, stars in billions. Photo: Me, Kor, Bradley on the summit (first ascent) of the Argon Tower in Arches National Monument - we're perched in the tiniest space imaginable with 400-500 vertcle feet falling away on all sides.

Only a few years after I left Colorado I learned that Toby had died – so young.

No comments: