ON HE RODE — Chapter Fifteen

Good of The Buckaroo to cut us a break this month — no rules. He cuts

me a break every month by allowing — nay, encouraging — me to indulge

this mythmaking exercise. Thanks again, Buck. Can’t tell you how much

I appreciate it. Can tell you that as I write I keep you firmly in

mind as my only constant audience. You do read this, don’t you Buck?


Of course you read the latest thousand-word installment each month. I

wouldn’t, and I don’t think there are that many others more willing to

be bored to death every thirty days than I am. Only you, Buck. It’s,

like, your job. I scrupulously keep each episode a

thousand-words-even, as per the original stipulation, and favor

keeping it exactly there. It’s kind of like writing a sonnet. You know

what the rules are and exercise your imagination within the bounds of

those constraints — or are they opportunities?

Let’s see, what else was I gonna get off my chest? I notice I’m just

about the only contributor ever to use my real name. Chalk it up to

naivete. I just thought that’s what people do when they write — sign

their name. But maybe not when they’re posting on-line? Too late for

me to change this now, I suppose. Besides, I wouldn’t want to put my

gigantic international audience through the trauma of indeterminate

authorship. Is “Saki” really “H.H. Munro”? Or the other way around?

Clemens or Twain? I do have a couple of possibilities set aside.

(You’re reading, aren’t you, Buck?)

By the way, Buck, I’ve noticed that whenever I log on to the BR

website I am met by “Tricksters and Tricycles,” a piece I contributed

some time ago and of which, though unfinished, I am quite proud. My

question: Am I the only reader who receives this apparently laudatory

service, or is that where everybody lands? Are you saying I should

write more like that and less like the On the Road narrator. Yup,

maybe. But it’s all an experiment based on the shifting sands of

memory and shades of focus. It’ll all come together eventually, Buck.

I promise. Or it won’t.

One more thing I want to say before I prod our hero farther down the

coast in search of Sausalito is that here and there I have said — or

have had my narrator say — some uncomplimentary things about his/my

parents. Please let it be noted that in the larger context of the

entire novel those comments will be seen to be ironic, unjustified,

and embarrassing. He/I had wonderful, intelligent, loving, caring

parents, and we both came to learn it the hard way, ultimately, in my

experience, the only way.

This will be my second time in Sausalito. The first time was in the

late fifties, on of those high school/junior college weekends when you

score enough beer to get the whole carload of horny young bucks drunk

enough for serious adventure. Young hicks, more like.

“Hey, let’s go to California.”

“I never been to California.”

“Hell, you never been to Oregon.”

“So what? I-5 here we come.”

Somewhere near the Kamilche Cutoff we headed south in Dick Peters’

Deluxe 1952 PowerGlide Chevy. Deemed to be the most sober and

responsible because I held down a 30-hour-per-week job as well as

going to Olympic College, I was at the wheel. And, after all, I was

Dog. Or The Dog, if you prefer. This was a test run, since Dick had

just had work done on either the water pump or the oil pump. I kept

forgetting which it was. Sometimes I watched the oil pressure gauge,

and sometimes the temperature gauge. They both seemed OK, somewhere in

the middle of the safe zone. Good enough for The Dog. Hop on the I-5

and San Francisco, here we come.

Drunk at the wheel young man though I was, this pretty obviously would

be no time to set speed records. The best way to avoid detection all

the way to our destination was to blend in with traffic and keep the

back seat drunks from hanging their heads out the window and flipping

off the Freightliner crowding us from behind.

Why San Francisco? No good reason. Sounded grown-up to be heading for

a big California city. L.A.’s too far. San Francisco’s just right. The

Golden Gate. Alcatraz. Jack London. Somebody said don’t call it

Frisco. Why not? Nobody knows. Guys there don’t like it. Same as

Chicago guys not liking it called Shy Town. Yeah. Well.

As for how I got to be Dog and why I never objected, it was part of

our tradition of adolescent acceptance to have your pals bestow a

nickname upon you. One of the guys I hung out with was long-faced and

lupine, an obvious Wolf, and so he was called. If he was Wolf, he

reasoned, and since we spent so much time together, I must be Dog. And

Dog or The Dog I became. Not until later did that evolve into Dag, to

fit my Norwegian last name.

Do you see where I might be going with this, Buck? All the way to

Sausalito? And beyond? This must be about a thousand words for July,

give or take. Words by The Dag.

Short one hundred and one words, so I’ll compare Dick Peters’s 1952

PowerGlide Chevy in 1960 to my 1951 fastback in 1958. Even though mine

was the low-end economy model, its lack of chrome made it more sleekly

elegant. Dick’s had a chrome horn ring on the steering wheel, in

addition to the lighted PowerGlide shifting quadrant. The engines were

the same. Mine was taken from a 1952 PowerGlide sedan. His had fresh

oil. Mine does not.

Our drunken carload reached Frisco, peeled off I-5, and wandered into

Sausalito by chance. The NO NAME appeared and appealed. Too early. Not

open. We’d be back. Someday.

Talk story

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