CHEAP EATS Earl Butter said it was the dumbest thing he'd ever heard, and that was when I knew I was back. I wish I could remember what I'd said, to mark the spot, something about ... something, I feel certain.
We were sitting around a couple of square tables in the back room at Mollie's truck stop, former home of the 12-egg omelet and current home of the only chicken-fried steak omelet that I know of. It was me, Butter, Phenomenon, the House, and the Horn Section.
Late morning, Klamath Falls, Ore.
We were fueling up for an afternoon show at a nursing home where, weeks earlier, the director was shot and killed by an angry crazy person who probably had religious beliefs and almost certainly political ones. But we didn't know this yet, over eggs.
Someone tried to tell me once that I was wise and witchy, and I made the mistake of actually believing them. For a while. This is one of the most idiotic mistakes you can make in life, right up there with holding your hand in the fire.
So I went around for maybe a month or two thinking I knew some things, and then the skin between my fingers started to blister and smoke, and I accidentally showed my true colors. I screamed.
My true color is red. My favorite colors are green and blue, and I wear a lot of brown, but my true color, apparently, is red. It expresses itself in millions of little tiny flags sticking out of my skin on millions of little tiny flagpoles, waving in the wind.
And I wonder why people don't want to date me!
I'm like head cheese. You know that someone, somewhere, considers cute little fiery white chicken farmers of ambiguous gender and unambiguous stupidity a wonderful delicacy or a rare treat. Meanwhile, everyone else in the world, myself included, would rather be eating chicken-fried steak. Hash browns. Biscuits.
Or Thai food.
I decided to sit out our afternoon show in order to check my e-mail. And I borrowed my brother's laptop and found a Thai restaurant with free wireless Internet. So while my comrades clippity-clopped a crew of traumatized Oregonian elders into working it out on the dance floor, I was eating plah goong with highly suspicious shrimp and wilted iceberg lettuce, checking my e-mail.
Nothing. I put the laptop away and wished with all my idiotic might that small-town Oregon would turn into San Francisco, at least long enough for me to finish lunch. Say at Little Thai on Polk and Broadway, where the prawn salad with mango is to die for, not to die of. And the yellow curry chicken, leftover, forgotten on the floor of your pickup truck and then eaten cold the next day ($7.95) will taste 10 times better than anything this kitchen can come up with.
My new favorite restaurant! Little Thai, I mean. Not this one. And so long as I'm sitting here dreaming and old people somewhere in the world are dancing, let me have a carpenter my age named Joe to talk to. Or let me be standing on Broadway in the dark in the cold, watching his lit, balding, bowed head in Little Thai's warm, steamy window, reading a newspaper. I don't care who that guy is, I think, waiting for the light to change. I'm going to cross this street and give him these eggs.
At a country dance that night one town down, at the community center, Earl Butter discovered brandy. I wasn't drinking, but I couldn't lay off of the chicken wings. By the middle of our third set, Earl was too brilliant to play the drums by himself, and I was too fried to play the pan.
So I sat splayed on the floor next to his neglected kick drum, and I took off one of my boots, held it by the toes, and tried to give the dancers a downbeat to land on in between his ups.
"Stop it!" he said. "Stop it! Stop it!" he kept saying, but I liked being on the floor and felt useful.
After, I went outside across the parking lot in front of our van and peed in the weeds.