Sunday, April 1, 2012

Campfire Songs

“We can share the women we can share the wine. We can share what we’ve got of yours ‘cause we’ve done shared all of mine.” Grateful Dead

The hourglass bottle of Night Train wine hung on the four remaining fingers of Wino Sam’s bereaved hand, a stub of his ring finger poking into the scratched surgeon general’s warning against the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. “My mother drank every day while I was cooking in her hot box and I turned out fine,” was Wino Sam’s shaky dismissal of the warning.

Sam’s brood of drinkers and recovering Tweakers stared into the campfire they had built to dry out their socks after the river crossing. Tattered toenails and foot flesh dried like beef jerky as the wood crackled. Smoke from the burning branches slithered between their toes and into the redwood canopy above, hypnotizing the 4 hobos with a demonstration of adaptivity. What is this life except an series of adaptive efforts to assimilate the surroundings while maintaining personality?

As if reading their minds, Sam announced, “Better to cross the river under the bridge than get caught on the bridge with your pants down when the sheriff gets a hard on for highway walkers.”
“You got that right.”
His chorus of followers muttered through the smoky air without enthusiasm. They didn’t need to confirm that an interview with the sheriff was not on their list of life goals. Warrants, drugs, lack of identification, bad attitudes toward authority, old resentments, short tempers and long rap sheets made them steer clear of the well-patrolled highways and city streets of the besieged city of Santa Cruz. The war for philosophical liberty would be fought without their cooperation. Thanks to Wino Sam’s equanimity they did not entertain delusions of strict neutrality. No, they were allied with themselves first and one another second in the spirit of the immortal hobo. Their sworn enemy was the uniform with the training to beat them down and the firepower to render their carved willow stick clubs useless and the savage army of uniformed soldiers with unfeeling demands who out-manned their own guerrilla outfit.
“If you can’t beat them then retreat,” Wino Sam has explained during one of his late night strategy sessions. “We’re not activists and we’re not stupid. The City Hall uses the Police to distract attention from what the Mayor is doing. We fight the Police and the city council pushes through their agenda. The Police aren’t the problem; they’re pawns and we can’t beat them. And even if we could beat them they aren’t the ones we need to beat.”
Wino Sam explained that the laws prohibiting innocuous actions such as public drunkenness, pissing behind a dumpster, sleeping in a park, occupying an abandoned building, camping in your van, smoking pot, growing vegetables in the highway median…etc were not the product of the Police but instead the strategy of the City Council to regulate the average man.
Without exploring the topic too deeply and overwhelming his troops with philosophical trifles, Wino Sam concluded that things were, “Fucked up and fucked down.” so claiming and defending their own territory would better serve them all for the uncertain future.
“We won’t go down without a fight,” added one of the sockless men who wiggled his toes near a steaming pair of shoes.
“Careful, Tommy,” cautioned Wino Sam, “Our fight is here and patience is our best friend. Let the hippies and college students go to jail.” Then Wino Sam tactfully referred to their unresolved legal issues. “See, they’re not in our situation.”
Head nods fell like sleepy horses among the men surrounding the fire. A college student with resources and a clean record was at liberty to protest the status quo without the same ramifications as your typical wood-dwelling hobo.
One of the dark men in his patched jeans turned his damp socks with arthritic toes as the group suddenly heard the coming of a bicycle. They all held their breaths and wrinkled their leathery brows as the sound came closer. Then the strain broke as they heard Oggy’s moaning voice singing, “Oh will you wear white, oh my dear oh my dear, oh will you wear white Jenny Jeeeeeenkins?”
“It’s only Oggy,” said Wino Sam in his calming voice. Oggy was on his way to the mountaintop to visit his guru and that was a mission the men neither hindered nor helped. They listened to the rusty bike chain grind and squeak in alternating misery through the forest path along the railroad tracks. They heard Oggy’s voice singing until he reached the narrow washout that demanded total concentration to navigate. Silence prevailed upon the forest as Oggy coasted across the deteriorating landing below the railroad where a mud slide had left only a thin band of dirt hardly a foot wide that the bicycle tire cut into. The men knew the difficult passage well and were not surprised to hear an alarmed cry as Oggy’s front tire slipped over the edge of the dirt path and caused his bicycle to tumble forward throwing him headfirst into the train ties. They heard the sound of Oggy’s guitar striking the creosote railroad ties and the echo of painful moans soared like the course of a butterfly through the woods. It was dark and the hobos around the fire could only imagine the chaos that followed as Oggy had to slide feet first down the muddy ravine to retrieve his bicycle. Then he has to drag it up the hill or else traverse the slope at a 45 degree angle, tugging the bicycle behind him and grabbing onto tree branches and roots in his desperate struggle for the summit. He gets there and then finds his damaged guitar and juggling pins and puts them back in his basket. The basket immediately breaks and falls onto his warped front wheel. So the next ten minutes are spent feeling blindly (it is pitch black in the forest) for the piece of wire coat hanger that Oggy is using to secure the basket to the handlebars. Then he is on his way, aiming for a dot of light shining from the moon onto the forest floor. Abraham awaits with his wisdom to soothe Oggy’s tortured psyche.
“Men,” says Wino Sam, “We are out of wine.”

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.