The other day I was listening to one of my favorite college radio stations, WNUR.org, and the DJ was hyping some event that the station was sponsoring. In the announcement, he jokingly gave directions to the shindig by telling listeners to “follow the trail of knuckle flesh.” I made a mental note to use this phrase as soon as possible, and given my elitist tendencies, I did not imagine it would take long to find cause.
Thursdays find me in Salem at and for a designated time. I arrive when a high school lets out adjacent to my destination. By the time I get back in my rig, the adolescents have dispersed. Today there was a straggler.
The first thing that came to my mind was that this student had been in detention. Why that and not Chess Club, is worthy of exploration but my mind instead drifted to the one time I was in detention.
I was a sophomore at a rather large school in the western suburbs of Chicago. I was waiting for the school bus to take me home. Why the bus was not waiting for me, I do not recall. As I stood there among familiars, a younger lad, also from my general area but on a different bus route, approached. He and his comrades had a question that urgently required my answer: Why had I drawn on my jeans just above the right knee?
What had I drawn? In dark blue blue ink on a lighter denim, I can only imagine that there was, at the very least, a peace sign. I can also imagine characters from “Mad” magazine, paisleys and such, for those were heady days, pun intended. I was a young Flower Child, as hard as that might be to imagine, and as such, decorated myself accordingly so that others of the same ilk might recognize another. There were a few of us, not many, and we were largely the consumer variety of sheep. Chess King, a division of Kmart provided the accoutrements.
I had bought these pants with my own hard-earned dollars. I was a soda jerk for 20 hours a week, and at $1.10 an hour, I had the pants for less than a week’s wages. I figured that since I bought them, I was free to do what I wanted with them, and in that I knew from the questioner’s posture that he had something else than a discussion about art on his mind, I told him that an answer would not be forthcoming. Yet, he persisted, so eventually the inquiry became to resemble a challenge based upon, I can only presume, a difference in ideals, for his attire and hair style suggested something contrary to mine. He was, in short. a Greaser.
I do not remember how exactly we came to find ourselves entangled on the ground, yet I do know that I had the best of it (I was then, and may be still, someone whom one may assume is passive and therefore an unskilled tussler) until a shop teacher happened by to pull us apart. He cared nothing of a tale for my innocence. Hence, the detention.
Free-associating like the above memory can be enlightening but driving in heavy traffic is neither the time or place for such focus. Eyes and mind on the road, bastin.
Of course, there is an exception to my rule of defensive driving, and that is when I have my camera and see something that screams to be photographed. Sadly, today I forgot the thing, so I am left with words to portray what I would have otherwise captured in two dimensions.
As I neared my town, I caught a glimpse of a bumper sticker on a sizable pickup as it sped past. It read: “Keep Oregon Green/Shoot an ELF. I was confused. I wondered if elves were not green creatures themselves, and if not, say they were Caucasian in skin tone, then what woodland creature might be green and in preference for that truck owner.
In that our town is the last sizable community before entering the Canyon, it was not unlikely that I would again find myself near that truck, close enough to read the sticker more carefully; “Keep Oregon Green/Shoot an E.L.F.
The acronym gave clarity. The Earth Liberation Front, a fringe environmental group given to extreme acts of vandalism designed to protest a variety of concerns, from paving over and building housing tracts on the landscape to, most recently, radio frequencies. As an old hippie, I probably don’t need to point out that I empathize to a degree; however, I must point out that I am not a fan of their methodologies.
Nor am I a proponent of murder in the name of a contrary ideology.
(Now that I have written the above, I will be curious to see if “flowering plum trees” is replaced as my number one google hit, and if so, where that trail might lead.)