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Story of my life….

July 30, 2015

July 29, 2015

“You want my story?”
I hoisted myself up on the slippery wood of the barstool, making a couple experimental shrugs with my hips to test the swivel mechanism. The bartender, who looked like she might be 12, Asian, wasn’t paying any attention, so I began. I resolved to tell the whole thing in less than five.
“You were trying to wake me, remember? This was 1968 or 1969. Somehow you found me at Peter’s. Only I was faking. I had taken some sort of pill. I think they told me it was psilocybin, or maybe mescaline. Maybe strychnine? I can’t remember. Anyway, you wouldn’t leave me alone, so I got pissed. I told you that I wasn’t asleep, I was crazy and I wanted to stay that way. You told me that was the first time I had spoken to you without filling you full of bullshit for a long, long time. I got no pleasure from the compliment, I mean to tell you.
“Anyhow, I knew we were through. Oh, I still had very strong feelings for you, but we were through. I had been untrue. I had cheated on you with at least one or two other women by that time. It was over and I wanted to try and get some sleep. You left. I jumped up after a few and went out into the yard. I could see you in the distance walking across the bridge. I thought you looked independent and free.
My love affairs were doomed. I played guitar with my friends over in my brother’s basement and my friends Mike Fiedler and Tim Rogers and Peter Koch told me that I was kind of a stupid little shit. At least, that’s the way I interpreted what they said. I talked Tim into hitchhiking west with me so that we could get jobs and make our fortunes in the silver mines of Idaho. We left that same day.”
I ordered a beer from the young-looking Asian bartender.
“Before Tim and I left I found a jug of wine someone had left and I took a swig. ‘Gotta fortify up,’ I said. We made it to Wallace that day and got the police to let us sleep in jail. The next morning the jailer gave us each a sack lunch and let us out.
“We didn’t find work. Had to have safety equipment and join the union. Had to have special safety glasses. Had to fill out papers and hang around town until we could get hired. We hitched south to Boise that second day. Spent the night in a park across from the Rescue Mission because it was too late to go there.
“We tried to get to a town in Idaho called, —uh, I can’t remember. Springfield, maybe. Beautiful sounding place situated in the most god-awful lava beds. Tim and I got dropped off where we could see the town in the distance, so we started walking. Trouble is, the town was really really far. Like 15 miles away. I panicked and flagged down a car that was going the wrong way. Tim explained to the driver that we were okay, we didn’t really need emergency help.”
I sipped my beer. I could see this was going to take a lot longer than 5.
“Tim and I decided getting to the town, which, by the way, was supposed to have our musician friends holed up in an abandoned hotel, to be impossible. I remember shaking hands with him at an intersection of two highways. I went to Eugene Oregon. I don’t know where Tim went.
“I was draft-elligible. I didn’t want to go to Vietnam. I wanted to do drugs and make music and live in some sort of mysterious way as a hobo. I checked the I Ching, but I don’t remember what it said. My friends in Missoula said I was just a boy and I should go out and do something. I decided to go to Canada and live the life of a forester. (And smoke dope and do drugs and make music, too.)
“I’ll wrap up my story. I didn’t like the people in Eugene who were getting ready to renounce their citizenship and move to Canada, so I grabbed a freight and rode to Seattle. From there I hitch-hiked through Canada to Alaska. I threw a hexagram that turned up ‘number 7, the army.’
“After refusing the advances of a gay man who tried to hit on me in Anchorage I went to Fairbanks and worked on a carnival as a grease-monkey. That was the only time I have ever driven a semi tractor.”
I finished my beer. The bartender continued to ignore me, so I just started talking again.
“I can’t keep the events straight. I ended up earning enough dough to fly back to Seattle and staying with my friend Larry Felton. I made several trips back and forth from Seattle to Missoula on the freight trains. I fell in love with P. and got a job with the railroad out of Missoula as a member of a steel gang. I worked with my brother and his friends until Thanksgiving. I was starting to lose my marbles. I broke up with P. and joined the Marines.
“I was a crappy soldier, and I ended up socking my commanding officer. Well, he askedDSC_2542 me to do it! They didn’t throw me out because I promised them I would fly straight, and I did. I made friends wherever I went, although I had a scary time in my head for several months when I thought I was truly going mad with fear and grief. All of that resolved, though. I had a nickname, ‘Stork.’”
I ordered a second beer.
“Long story short, I married P. a year later and she moved from Lewistown to Santa Ana, California. We were very poor and very happy. Except for a year in Japan I spent the next 6 years in California until I got out and moved back to Missoula to return to school.
“I finished journalism, but couldn’t write, so I enrolled in pharmacy. Got a job in Billings at a hospital, then worked at Planned Parenthood, then joined the U.S. Public Health Service where I stayed until I retired in 2005. I’ve worked at several pharmacy jobs since then, taught a semester at Rocky Mountain College. Pharmacy turned into a good career.
“Drugs? I left all that back in Missoula when I joined the Marines. Couldn’t afford even beer for a long time. I drink wine these days, act in plays, volunteer to help the homeless and am on the board of a child care. I sing a lot in choirs and the symphony chorale and in theatrical productions.”

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