Transcendental Blues

Back roads never carry you where you want ’em to.

Got outside in the sunshine for the first time in a long time, to go somewhere that wasn’t school. The sky was a pure pale transcendental blue from end to end. I got this silly smirk on my face that just wouldn’t go away. My first stop was Lorentzen’s bookstore. It’s one of those musty sort of shops, filled with treasure.

There were a couple of young alterna-looking girls, and one asked the other if she’d read A Clockwork Orange. It was one of those weird coincidences, because I’d just finished a paper for my language theory class about dialects, and the dialect of that book (a post-apocalyptic blend of Russian and English) figured prominently in my high school years. We always used it when we were talking about dope. Of course I had to chime in to recommend it. Later, the subject turned to Hesse, as the well-read one of the two brought up Steppenwolf. I asked her if she had read The Glass Bead Game and she said she had; I started thinking about it, and realized that there must be certain books and authors that are rites of passage, and I was amazed at how little they have seemed to change over the years. She managed to find one book by Hesse, whose name I don’t recall, that I hadn’t read. I thought I’d read them all. I hung out for a while, but didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without. I think I just shop sometimes fishing for conversation. There were three guys at the counter, but after eavesdropping for a while, there just wasn’t anything they were talking about that interested me. I don’t know why, but I very seldom talk to men at all, other than my professors. There aren’t many interests in common between me and most guys, I guess. Women (or girls) always seem to hold my attention. I’d make a crappy homosexual.

Driving through the heights, I realized that even after living here for five or six years I still don’t have a handle on the terrain. It’s quite steep and wooded, almost San Francisco-like, but more wooded. The air was cool and nice, and I turned past the Boy Scout store to head to the river to read Paradise Lost for a while. The Arkansas River looked like a mile-wide puddle of mercury. Appropriate, given the level of pollutants in it I suppose, but it was positively incandescent today. It got too crowded to stick around too long (two cars pulled up) and I ran out of my favorite pernicious beverage (tea) so I thought I’d drive down Kavenaugh to the coffee shop. A little red MG sat on my tail the whole way down the steep and narrow road as I passed the ballet school and Mount. St. Mary’s school for girls. But the road was closed to the coffee shop.

I took the detour, and at the base of the hill I turned toward the Arkansas School for the Blind to head into downtown. President Clinton Avenue was filled with cars with Illinois plates, and a red mustang blew past me as I was gawking at the tourists. I went to the Andina Coffee shop, and got the much needed cappuccino. Driving back to the freeway past the Beauty College, it dawned on me that there are an awful lot of schools around here. Three full-fledged four-year colleges, not to mention the motley assortment I’d driven past. No wonder the ordinary Arkansas hick seems so difficult to stereotype. That is, for anyone who’s been here for long.

On the freeway, another red Triumph sportscar ripped past. So to sum it up for today, Arkansas is filled with schools and little red sportscars. I don’t know why I found all this so amusing; I really do need to get out more often to fight the loneliness. Watching the world go by usually puts a smile on my face.

It bothered me to realize that I’ve been getting drunk each day for over a week. The alcoholic gene is flaring up, saying “feed me.” From frozen margaritas, to on the rocks, to just plain shots of tequila. It just tastes too damn good. The time since I broke my ankle seems like a long dark night. Walking still feels like dancing on slippery stones, but I walked a lot today. Maybe it’s a good sign.

In the darkest hour of the longest night
If it was in my power I’d step into the light
Candles on the altar, penny in your shoe
Walk upon the water — transcendental blues

Happy ever after ’till the day you die
Careful what you ask for, don’t know till you try
Hands are in your pockets, starin’ at your shoe
Wishin’ you could stop it — transcendental blues

If I had it my way, everything would change
Out here on this highway the rules are still the same
Back roads never carry you where you want ’em to
They leave you standin’ there with them old transcendental blues

Steve Earle, Transcendental Blues