I walk on guilded splinters.
I stood in the park as the sun went down. Where is everyone? Didn’t anyone else come? Out of all those people? And then walking across the park I saw one of the blues brothers, the two guys who played guitar and harp. They had split up but one of them came. Like me, because it was a calling. To make the journey and meet again. And as we stood there talking, celebrating our reunion… how is it possible you come walking by at this moment? Wow it’s like its all written before us, sometimes…
And then another ‘head’ saw us, a fox, a dude with blond hair and a beret, and just like that, he invited us to crash at his house. And thats how it was in those days. The roads littered with hitchhikers just out on the road. People just offered people a place to stay. Sometimes straight people picked you up and bought you a meal. And they weren’t even Jesus freaks. Everything was tumbling into everything all the time. There was a spontaneous combustion to all of the world, and I was part of it, and I was a surfer girl, and the wave was lifting me over the bad men and into the arms of kind people all over the world. Well there were a few dangerous moments, but those are not to be remembered in this story.
We made our way to the house of the blonde guy in the beret. He told us about Holland, he had just come back from there. He said you can smoke pot, and they ride bikes everywhere. I’m going back, he said. Oh I wish I could go with you. Well you can. You need some money but… I know how you can make some money. I’m going to the states tomorrow…
We sat in the living room, sitting on the floor, smoking pot, listening to Dr. John… the Night Tripper. That music was probably… bent… anyway… but on pot my extra sensory inception indicated to me that some other dimension was about to crash into ours and it wasn’t a good one. Dr. John seemed to be calling up demons. I was scared. I think I started laughing. And said ‘what is that” and the Canadian started talking about Dr. John, and things were lightening up when…
com.. killy killy com com
the room mate, silent, crazed, a bearded fellow who had been staring at me the entire come killy killy com com time… as if he was thinking that whatever he was thinking I was thinking too, I guess, he stood up and unbuckled his belt and dropped his pants. No one really said anything. I looked at my partner and the blond looked at me and I tried not to look at the naked man standing in front of me like Jesus. I walk on guilder splinters… asking for a second chance. He said… I.. ………….. I …………..I want to ….. I want you…
The blond said Dude, man what are you doing? Put your pants on.
And the invitation to love, explicit as it may have been, dressed itself and drug its wounded hairy hopelessness into its bedroom.
Had I led him on, silently,
why dont you throw away my coffee ?
“Im sorry about my room mate. He’s on medication. He’s a nice guy but man I don’t know what that was.”
Well we kind of laughed about it when he left the room which made it seem sordid somehow. There was something so terribly honest about what he did. Instead of tricking the girl, or raping her, or whatever he just said here I am. Well it was crazy for sure.
But it made me feel very confused. The exotic laughter of liars.
What I loved best about hitchhiking was other peoples kitchens. Discovering bathrooms, sure, earrings, deodorant, but in kitchens there were jars of honey, and strange teas, and always disarray, as if life were happening so often so deeply there was no time to clean it off. I have, all my life, wished I could have that home, where so many were coming and going, and so much discovery was around me, my kitchen suffered disarray not from the neglect of loneliness, but the tides of humanity coming and going… I didn’t quite achieve that kitchen but I guess I have it in my heart, sunday mornings, imagining…
So the plan, to make some money, to go to Holland, was to cross into the USA and buy some pot and bring it back. As a person traveling to make everything look straight, I”d make enough to buy a ticket. I had someone elses birth certificate so I could get a passport. I was so close.
We left the partner and the room mate and took a bus to the border. When we got there we were supposed to walk across and then on the other side get back on the bus. But right away the police didn’t like me, my ID, or my company. What are you bringing so much money into the US for? The hippy had $325. Imagine bringing three hundred dollars into the US and also having long hair. So they pulled him aside and then went for me. I was wearing a short dress. I had no bra. I had a white beret. I looked very cute. And the border patrol called an Asian out to look at me and he shook his head. They pulled me out of line and into his office. I could see them sending my friend back to Canada even as we started our interview… I could see out the window.
Understand I never wore a bra. But this was simply not done, an arrestable offense evidently, but certainly one that caught the attention of grown ups. The difference I guess between children and grown ups is… children do not know… they are unrefined… its the way we differentiate between nutty people and sane ones, they pocess a naivety that is unnerving and suggests a lack of… the ability to protect themselves. If they don’t know they are inappropriate, then someone has to tell them. Right? And so the FBI decided they would be my teachers.
Why don’t you have a bra on? I don’t wear one. Are you wearing underwear? Of course. Why are you stopping me? “Why are you coming to America?” It’s the fourth of July. We are coming to watch the fireworks and have fun. It’s America. Land of the free home of the brave. Are you really going to arrest us for looking different?
I am arresting you for being in danger of leading a lude and ludicrous life. Your friend is going back to Canada. But you are going to jail.
Understand I was not innocent, I guess. He smelled a rat and he was right, in a way. I was no criminal, just a runaway girl. We had committed no crime even if we were hoping to. I had false Id but he had no way of knowing that. And so the main reason I was taken to jail was because I had no bra on, and my hair was long and I was wearing moccasins. It was, and it remains, all about conforming.
It took all day to process me, and by the time I got to the downtown Detroit womans jail dinner was over. You call over those matrons they get angry. But I said I have not eaten all day. Well baby there’s nothing I can do dinner is over.
She was eating donuts, and I was quietly crying looking out this tiny window you had to climb up on the bed and angle yourself to look out of. And I looked out there and said’ if i ever come back to Detroit, Im gonna blow it up. Im blowing up something.’ There was a woman in the holding tank climbing up the bars. She was actually perched on the bars screaming. I wish I was in there, I said. I am lonely.
Your better off here honey. You definitely don’t wanna be in with those women.’ and she laughed.
An hour or two went by and one of the ladies came to my door and said’ would you like a doughnut. They are old, but its better than nothing.’ And I said yes, and she brought me a powdered donut.’ I never liked them before, but I gage now when I look at them.
I thought about the blowing up of Detroit. It’s gotta be a bank, I thought. The bank is the reason I am in here. Ownership, people in suits telling people without bras who they can be and putting them in jail. If there was no money that boy wouldn’t have gotten arrested for having too much money. And I would not be hungry today.
So… I spent the night in a solitaire cell, listening to the fireworks, imagining sometime in the future when I was not in a cell. That is not easy to do at 15, you do not have a sense of tomorrow yet, there is only now, only today. That is why life is lived so loudly when we are young, that is the gift. Later, when we have collected some yesterdays and start leaning on them, and our boat lists, and we have a sadness about us, or the slowness of underwater that grief brings, later, life is not as loud no matter what we do. Until we can set aside all thoses yesterday we have constructed our identity out of, the days weill slide by us like kids at a watermark. We wont remember and finally wont care what day it is. Sometimes, sometimes the orbits of spirals within the larger spirals will slow down, and a minute will take forever. But for the most part all the swirling orbs will whirl and buzz as we think about what might have could have and should have been, and fear what may, what might, and never, no never sit here, right now, full of the glory of the sun and the sounds of life all around us.
It takes a devotion and while ‘sitting’ may help some, I find that being and thinking nothing at all is the closest I come to thinking everything and being as alive as I was as i soared across the surface of the water of 1969.
Weep now, the exotic tear of a womans age. Weep and do not fear. Death Will find you, and nothing you can do will ever change that. So be at peace. go out and live life. Do not be afraid of death, not yours nor those you love. For they have their own God, and their own glory, and you cannot stop it though you would take the tide of a thousand waves to save them. Believe in their lives and you believe in God, and God, if you imagine it well enough, is capable of chance meetings, sudden revolution, of… Dr. John the night tripper… and berets that, by chance, will become a friend one day. And walk on guilded splinters, one day driving around in a station wagon with the man himself.
©Rickie Lee Jones