Every Tuesday I pedal away from the office and treat myself to some BBQ at the joint about a mile down the road. It’s a nice escape from brown bagging it at my desk. Why Tuesdays? The BBQ joint originally lured me in with cheap cider specials and mediocre beans, but I have always had an affinity for celebrating Tuesdays. They are the forgotten days. Not a buzz-killing bummer like a Monday and not as optimistic as a “hump day”. It’s like the forgotten middle child of the week.
The ride over there is short but it can be a little spicy. Two busy streets intersecting with no bike lane or shoulder. One of those situations where you have to be traffic just to stay safe. In less than a mile I was yelled at by some redneck about splitting lanes and some basic soccer mom tried to scold me for not wearing a helmet. Not being the biggest fan of unsolicited advice, I arrived at my lunch spot a little worked up. I sit down at the bar and order a whiskey-ginger with some beans and greens. Whiskey because I was mad. Well whiskey because my standards are low.
Normally I use this lunch time to listen to an audio book or read the news. Pretend I’m a productive member of society and all that. But lately I have been listening to a lot of Gram Parsons in my alone time. I already have a whiskey in front of me, might as well put my headphones on and crank up the tunes. You ever wonder who that guy is at the end of the bar sipping whiskey, listening to tunes and grinning like a creep? Now you know.
It’s bitter cold outside, even at noon, and it snowed a little last night. Just enough to dust the tops of the brown grass and make a little ice in the gutter. I look outside from my seat at the bar and the snow is blowing around like sawdust on the street. It’s the kind of dry snow you see in the high desert. The snow and the tunes take me away to memories of bitter cold days spent wandering around Joshua Tree. Sleeping in the dirt, dodging rangers, climbing rocks until there was no skin left on my hands and then riding bikes to all the remote corners of the desert while the skin grew back. A special place that shaped me as a man. A place where Gram’s buddies tried to cremate his body to honor is final wish. They fucked it up and got caught. But damn, those are some good friends. They don’t make them like that very often.
I’m not ready to go out in the cold yet. Emmylou is singing about baptisms. Better order another drink.
My bike is outside leaning against the window and the wind blows just hard enough to make it move. The bartender hears the brake lever screech on the glass and she gives me a death stare. Saying with her eyes “How man times do I have to tell ya not to lean that thing against the window!”. I take advantage of the eye contact and order another. She smiles.
I pay my tab and throw the rest of my drink in my water bottle. Sufficiently warmed from the drink, I unzip my jacket and let the cold hit my tshirt as I stomp on the pedals. Gram is still singing in my ears. I sing along like a madman cutting through parking lots and hopping curbs to avoid the car bound people. Nobody yelled at me this time. If they did, I didn’t hear them. The desert winter might be two thousand miles away but it is also right here with me on this ride. I’m on a time machine. An hour ago I was in Appalachia and now I’m temporarily in the Mojave. I smile and squint into the sun. Damn, I rode too fast. I’m almost there and “Return of the Grievous Angel” isn’t over yet. I swerve to take a longer bum trail across the train tracks. Standing between the rails, I slam what’s left in my water bottle. The song hits that final verse:
Oh but I remember something you once told me
And I’ll be damned if it did not come true
Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down…
It’s time to play grownup for four more hours. Then I will do it all again on the ride home.
Burn my body in the desert on a Tuesday.
Keep it dirty…
One thought on “Lunch Break”
Damn, Chris, you know how to throw the words down. Took me right there, wishing I was next to you at the bar. Time to reflect is often time to enjoy too. I’m just back from the Sonoran desert and I can tell you it was hot. But I know what you were writing about. That kind of snow flies around here in the Great Basin too. Cheers