There are two principle classes of interstate routes that I take to Oberlin. There is the Southern Route and there is the Northern Route.
The Northern Route involves going around the mountains on I-81, then busting through them via the Cumberlands in Maryland on I-68, then following I-79 and a series of smaller roads to US-250. This route is shorter, involves less up and down displacement, but it is on highways with 55mph speed limits that are more extensively patrolled by cops.
Because the westerly winds blew strongly, I decided to take the Northern Route. I hoped the head wind would die down by the time I turned into them and began heading west in Hagerstown, Maryland.
At the West Virginia welcome station, I picked up a complementary visitor's guide which included a map of the state. I also added about a cup of coolant to the radiator. I'm still so unfamiliar with the extreme-situations characteristics of my Dart that I do not know what the proper oil and coolant levels are. I do know what the proper steering fluid levels are, and I know that the steering fluid and cooling fluid both gradually leak out, the latter at an extremely slow rate.
That one cup made all the difference in the world. The engine suddenly ran will below the dangerous level even with the cabin heat turned off. I felt ridiculous for having resorted to heat when there was such an obvious and better way. But you have to understand, I'm used to driving an air-cooled Volkswagen with a terrible oil leak problem.
I had that frazzled neural feeling that frequently indicates either a lack of sleep or a pineal glandular resistance to a change in sleep pattern. A hot mocha from a machine in the Harrisonburg gas station helped reverse that feeling, but then I started feeling bored with driving. The music was monotonous (practice tapes of Josh Furr and me playing instruments together--I'm serious) but I had trouble driving and finding music at the same time, and the few times I stopped I forget to look for other music.
. In Hancock, the town at Maryland's narrowest neck, I got some greasy chicken and greasy batter fried potatoes along with my gas and 33 oz cup of coffee.
The only people I saw people getting pulled over by cops were on the way to Morgantown. That's where I re-entered the "head" of West Virginia from the east. The police seemed to be taking unfair advantage of steep downhill sections, where cars easily reach 80 mph without the driver even noticing.
Construction at the intersection of I-79 and I-70 in Washington, PA caused me to take PA 519 north. But when I entered the suburbs of Washington, I lost track of 519 and wandered aimlessly on small curvy backroads. After much frustration, I found route 18, and then US 30. After penetrating the northernmost tip of the north panhandle of West Virginia (past what claims to be the world's largest teapot), I crossed the Ohio into East Liverpool. This was the first time I had been in Ohio since before Big Fun. There was still some evening light in the sky.
As I approached Canton, Ohio (the hometown of Marilyn Manson and largest city I approached on the whole trip), I was in sort of a hurry, passing through many "orange" lights and going just a bit fast. A cop looked as though he had taken some interest in me, so I pulled into a gas station for gasoline and coffee. He lingered on the street behind me, lights off. This gave me the jitters and made me seem awkward and suspicious to any and all who watched me. I thought for sure I was going to be hassled. But no, when I pulled out of the station, the cop stayed back where he was. Somehow I escaped onto the 65 mph four lane version of US-30 to the east of the city.
Near Oberlin on Ohio route 58, I could feel nervous energy building up. Who would I see, what would they say, that sort of thing.
The place was full of a rather youthful (and perhaps somewat more hip) crowd than I remembered. Everyone had eyebrow rings. I never saw an eyebrow ring until 1996, thus last time I was in Oberlin, eyebrow rings had not yet emerged on the scene. But if any place is going to be fertile ground for eyebrow rings, it's going to be Oberlin. None of my paintings were hanging there. The place was decorated with framed posters, especially of Escher prints.
In the back, making tray after tray of pizza dough, was Dirty Ray. He's this enormous blond hippie guy with a penchant for kind buds, beautiful hippie chicks, and drum circles. He thinks the world of me, and was amazed and delighted by my unexpected arrival after one and a half years of absence. Since he was busy working, I didn't hang out with him long, just enough to find out where he lives and promise that I'd come by later tonight.
A search for Rippy at 199 College Street (Weasel House) turned up nothing. Oh the memories at Weasle House. Leslie Montalto used to live there, and that's where I used to stay.
I returned "downtown" and went into the Féve. They had inadvertantly rolled out a red carpet for me; from the stereo blared one of my recent favourite albums, Guided by Voices' Bee Thousand. I marched to the counter like a regular and ordered a Sam Adams. As expected, the youthful bartender asked for an ID. I say on the comfy stage by the window and looked out over the sea of fresh young unfamiliar faces. To a person, Oberlin students are so hip and trendy. Some of the boys are even into that unwashed military cutoff pants look that is obviously borrowed from the gutter punk world. The girls are all into bleached stripes in their hair along with either
I went downstairs for awhile, hoping someone I knew would happen by or something cool would happen. Instead, I watched an Emoesque girl playing pool with a group of somewhat older townie men.
Suddenly a guy with long blond hair and distinct rude features walked in. It was Curtis McCartney, who I have known since early 1988. He's an intelligent, whimsical, unassuming townie who has always hung out mostly with Oberlin College students. He goes to all the parties and hangs out at the disco. He likes girls but he's so shy that he has a fairly uneventful love life. Curtis is given to writing poetry and listening to music. His tastes are electic, as is his personality. He's not someone to fall prey to easy categorization. I'd never seen him with long hair before.
He looked right through me. There was no reason I should be in town, after all. But I poked him in the chest and said "Hi Curtis!" Amazing, the Gus was finally back!
Like me, Curtis was on the prowl for something to do. We to a new upstairs section of the Féve. Where once had been rooms for students to rent was now a big faux-seedy bar, much like Charlottesville's C&O's, but with a decidedly younger clientel. A band was playing some highly annoying live music. The place induced claustrophobia, and there was no one present who we knew.
Harkness is the co-operatively-operated dorm where I lived for three years as a student from 1986-1989. I also stayed there occasionally in the years that followed. I always had enemies there, ranging from Dan Reitman to actual student employees of Campus Security. Whenever I ran out of enemies, I managed to get drunk and make a fresh new crop. To make a long story short, I'm on my guard whenever I enter Harkness in the 90s. I never know who might have called Campus Security on me.
We went upstairs and found a group of hippies on 2nd floor. They had just been smoking pot and drinking the good beer. Guess what they had plans to do now? Smoke more pot. One of the the people living on the third floor, a muscular guy with long dark hair, said he knew me. His name was Matthew. I looked at him and strained my brain trying to remember. But I couldn't think who he might be.
As for Matthew, well, he was a typically over-energetic nine year old. He had a fondness for always being in the way when me and my friends wanted to do something. One day he discovered that the key to his apartment worked on the door to the room that Joy and I shared. We were in an -er- "compromising position" when we heard his key turning in the lock. This story would have a much more interesting conclusion had I not sprung to my feet and siezed the door as it began to open!
Now, of course, Matthew Schildgen is an 18 year old hippie living in Harkness. He loaded the bong and passed it around to celebrate my return. Someone put on some music. No surprise there; Oberlin hippies still like to listen to funk.
I haven't smoked Oberlin pot in a long time. It's extremely powerful stuff, since it is usually purchased by rich hippies. I didn't smoke much before I began to fear I was losing my mind. Then I started reading a hippie zine that was lying on the floor. I couldn't get beyond a plea on the front cover which went something like,
HEY LADIES! Are you pregnant and don't know what to do? Don't have an abortion! Have the baby and bring it to [name of hippie commune] and we will take car of it for you! If you ever want it back, you can have it!
This quote had me laughing hysterically. I found it priceless mostly for how unrealistic it was. How could anyone love and raise a child and then give it away when the fickle mother comes back to claim it years later? Real human love is too pervaded by jealousy for such an idealistic scheme to work.
We went to another room and hung out yet more. There were by now two girls present. One of these struck me as being shockingly stupid. Meanwhile, I amused myself by watching the boys function within the context of their hierarchy. One boy was on the bottom, obviously, based on the fact that when his ideas were ridiculed by the other two, he changed his ideas such that they'd be accepted. One of the guys was obviously at the top, since everything he said was instantly accepted without challenge, whereas he was skeptical of the opinions of others.
Curtis departed, and I found myself hanging out in a room filled only with people I had just met. I was comfortable doing so, but I felt the need to go hang out with Dirty Ray. To my surprise, the guy middle in the middle of the hierarchy, as well as another guy whose hierarchy I did not gauge, came along. We rode in the Dodge Dart.
Back in late May of 1995, Dirty James, Dirty Ray and I lived with some others (including the psychopath "Crazy Al") in a tent village behind Harkness called "Dirtyville." We slept in wet sleeping bags and were covered with mud and mildew, but we weren't complaining. You see, at the time, Dirty James had a girlfriend working for Oberlin College's commencement catering, and she used to smuggle us cases of champagne and boxes of vino. Most of the others were involved in the LSD and marijuana trade, so drugs flowed freely among us. Furthermore, we all managed to have sex with 16 year old "Dirty Coon" when she moved in.
The first place I went in Ray's House (which I'll call "Dirtyhouse") was the basement. That's where Dirty James lives. The place is austere and dominated by a huge octopus-like cast iron furnace. Tapestries hang along the walls and somehow manage to impart a Turkish feel to the place. The Beatles was on the stereo. His interest in music hasn't changed at all. Ray had already told James that I was in town, but James hadn't believed him. But of course, here I was. We mostly talked about the old days of Dirtyville, Dirty Coon, the drinking of vanilla, and how horrible I was to Leslie Montalto after she broke up with me.
Then we went upstairs to the top floor, where Ray sat on his futon, cross legged like an especially large blond buddah. He was big years ago, but now he's become an enormous gorilla-like mass.
James is a lot like Sara Poiron; they both suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Furthermore, when James has a thought in his head, he has great difficulty refraining from expressing it. Tonight he was being most cruel to poor Ray, teasing him incessantly about being fat.
Not surprisingly, Ray broke out some pot. He smokes only the best. He doesn't call what he smokes "dank nugs" and he doesn't call it "kind buds." He calls it "the fibbagack." It has a sweet, vaguely chemical taste. It sits exceptionally well in the lungs and is most powerful. I crashed on a couch in the living room downstairs not long after smoking "the fibbagack."
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