I’m not sure why I was staring. Big, dumb, racist motherfuckers aren’t exactly rare in Texas. Especially in the nowhere parts. And they all look the same, like a sheet of construction paper that’s been folded and unfolded, India ink running all over, pooling into homemade skulls, vague biblical notions, and delightfully misspelled racial epithets. I’d seen these goofs up-close often enough. Our circles overlapped on occasion back in Houston. Rock shows, mostly. A menacing row of shaved heads, flak jackets, and ox-blood Doc Martens at the Social Distortion show. Even on their very best behavior (never) they made the one black guy I knew uncomfortable. Actually the one black guy I knew was a skinhead, too. S.H.A.R.P. - Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. Yes, that was a real thing. Maybe still is? I’m not Googling it in case my computer is ever seized in a federal investigation.
Anyway. In one of the innumerable gas stations that light up I-35 between Austin and Dallas, I’m staring at this walking crevasse as he waits to pay for his Bud tallboy (Miller Lite is for Mexicans). And he’s staring, too. Not back at me, thankfully. But something had his attention and I didn’t need to ask because he let me know. He let the whole dozen or so of his fellow travelers know, “Whoa! That van is on fire!” It’s not often you get to use the word pandemonium in everyday conversation, so I need to take advantage. Pande-fucking-monium! At the absolute nearest gas pump is a white passenger van (propers to church youth groups everywhere), gas pump still in it, and flames are pouring out. No, flames are shooting out, like, even they don’t want to be around for the explosion that’s about to happen. And everyone in that gas station fast-forwards a hundred million years on the evolutionary timeline and teleports the fuck out of there. BAMF! Gone. Except one dumbass. You guessed it – Me. Skinhead is gone. My ride split so fast he left his wallet spinning, cartoon-style, on the counter. And there I stood, fogging up the window twelve feet away from a white, ten-passenger bomb. And the only thought running through my head was “Whoa that van is on fire!” A smart dumbass would have stuffed cans of Dr. Pepper down his pants on his way out the back door.
Profound moments of enlightenment are difficult to find and even more difficult to face. Kernels of truth can be tough to swallow, especially when my particular truth is - I am too fucking stupid to save my own life. Or worse, I’m just not that interested. It really shreds one’s hard-fought self-esteem to realize that in a disaster situation you’ll just…go with the flow.
“Yeah, it’s beautiful isn’t it?”
A photo from a show in Toronto. Any guesses as to what’s happening here?