Thursday, April 10, 2008

Five Minutes Without Westerberg

For Jimmy, who was Steve

Jimmy in profile, silhouetted against a dusty car window that only partially lowers and is anyway raised against the stark sunshine of a brittle Minnesota winter afternoon.

The kind of jobs I worked back then, you were always free at odd hours. Jimmy, too. Free at odd hours. Not in the evening, when other people were getting off work and reentering the world. Not on the weekends, when other people flooded the streets in desperation and forced enthusiasm. But Wednesdays at two in the afternoon. Mondays at two in the morning. Sundays at midnight. Driving around town, Camel Lights in the ashtray, between the lips, tucked into breast pockets and coffee too, probably, because we all survived on the free coffee we earned as bartenders, baristas, and waiters. Jimmy might be deep-throating some toxic sludge-colored soda or other, because in those days he wasn't drinking alcohol anymore but he was always drinking something else equally deadly.

I didn't have a car. Then or now. If there are two places you don't want to be without personal vehicular shelter, it's Minneapolis in winter and Los Angeles year-round.

Jimmy blazed through a brief infatuation with Adele before we really started to hang out, and I suspected that at first, I was only being chaffeured around on sufferance.
But it didn't matter, really. Jimmy wasn't talking to me, or Adele, or anyone else in the car.

He was talking to Paul.

We drove by Westerberg's house I don't know how many times. I didn't even know who he was then.

Paul. Paul. Paul.

That's Paul's house, Jimmy breathed... and in the dark of a bitter Sunday dawn I could see it on the air.

Bill Wyman's Song's About Rock: "Left of the Dial."

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