Eastbound And Down

East Bound & Down …  I got the hammer down.

The quiet time of the morning, late into the night, and everyone is asleep in their beds.  Tucked away, safe, insulated from the cold night.  A time for reflection, deep inner thoughts, of the things that could have been.

Here I sit.  Thinking about my bus and getting away to the great American Highway.  People who think that buses as a form of transportation probably figure that sex is just about reproduction.  I live in a town divided by Interstates.  I-40, I-240, 244-I-35, the lifeblood of the nation, and I have never been confused about the open road or busing.

I first put my hands on the wheel at the young and tender age of twenty-one, hauling dead cluckers out of Arkansas to the coast and garbage for the nations’ supermarkets back.  Just barely a man, and I have since then, always been looking back.  Now at 63 years of age, I find myself, every now and then, thinking back on those days, now long past. Living my life in quiet desperation in the wee hours of the night.  Silently yearning for the smell of fresh diesel in the morning, vividly recalling screaming down some two-lane with the window down, the whine of the rubber meeting the asphalt in the corridors of my mind.

Before gainful employment corrupted my life, I used to delight in long solo drives back to the Midwest to check up on the Rust Belt of America.  I would leave Tucson at three in the morning, fresh shave, clean shirt, and 43,000 lbs. of Oranges, locked down in the donkey behind me.

For miles, the scent of the greasewood desert would pour through my open window.  The sounds of savage Rock N Roll from a station in Juarez would mingle in the cab, with the steady drone of the Cummings and the whine of the ten-hundred-twenty-two’s my steady companion.   “East bound and Down, I would have the hammer down.”  King of the Super-Slab, speeding along life’s highway, between the ditches.  Now and then the chatter of other truckers breaking the bacon-frying static of the CB and the night would wear on.

Tucumcari, New Mexico, and the crowded truckstop, black coffee and no place to park.  Up the big hill, and on to Amarillo, Texas, always offering the best steak & eggs in the nation.  Then the long stretch, to the hill country of Oklahoma, and the Turner Turnpike.  100 miles of nothing but miles, and the Grapes Of Wrath, would echo in my mind.  Then to sleep, tucked away in the quiet dreams of better days.

The following night would find me racing through the Oak Hills of Missouri, listening to tortured Ozark music and letting truck stops stuff me with “radiated chicken fried steaks and potatoes ”  Tired now, I would pull over more often to mainline more black coffee.

The road stretches out before me like a ribbon of chance, the miles silently break and fall away as I listen to the chatter of truckers.  The Flying Dutchman of our culture.  Finally, St. Louis and the first White Castle Hamburger Stand.  The Big River, the Arch, and the green roar of corn, as I turn due north and cut up Southern Illinois.

Chicago glows on the horizon like an outpost of the lost, I swing off the freeway off ramp just north of the loop, three blocks from the farmers market.  It’s crowded, barely room to breathe.  So many trucks that your mirrors would chink just trying to navigate to the warehouse in the maze of stacks and chrome.

Often I would carefully park, lock up, and stride into the local beanery for something lite to eat before going to sleep.  Plenty of time to run the gauntlet of garbage haulers in the morning.

End of the road, bump the dock and unload.

Just enough time for a good hot cup of coffee and a smoke.  Whack ‘em down and then hit the road.  Westbound and Down, 16 on the floor, and the other foot out the door, what a way to make a livin’.

The insane cycle repeats itself.

Here lately I hear a lot of cheap talk about our buses being objects of man’s affection.  Chrome & Stainless plated Stallions of the Nations Highways.  Status items in today’s society, fantasy devices for the men who drive them.  Having driven over 20,000 miles plus miles for decades, I can testify, that owning and driving a bus is something that gets into one’s blood.

It is as some will quickly testify, a lot of hard work and not much fun.  A lifestyle of choice, and not necessity.

And even tho’ now, I am a crazed environmentalist, a boring advocate of Mass Transit, an ex-wage slave of never ending five day weeks, a silent advocate for the movers of America’s products, I remain a Trucker at heart deep down.

I guess you might say I am a fiend for the open road  …  Born in the USA.

Tonight as many nights, I find myself sitting here, wondering out loud, thinking of my old hoopie parked out in the shop, shiny wagons and the men who drive them.  Thinking about trucking and getting back to the Great American Highway.

Four-forty-five am  … “Friday Night in the Big City — Weekend jump-off day for a five day a week wage slave living in Oklahoma.”  The quiet time of the morning, late into the proverbial night, and the family tucked away into the safety, and warmth of their respective beds.  Insulated from the cold, dark night.

A time for reflection, deep inner thoughts, of the things that could have been.  $45.00 and 11.6 gallons … Man-Man, What a way to make a livin’.  It is getting harder and harder to drink from the fountain of life, most of the time, all I can do now is just gargle.

Watch those right-handers ….