Danny

Oh, Danny Boy,
do you remember when
we knew some things were not right? And
we wondered if they would
be our demons?

He had an Ace bandage on his left elbow, one of those long ones that takes many, many wraps and that you have to keep fooling with because it is always too tight or too loose. It was to give him some relief from the sprain he incurred in a skirmish the night before. But he was ready to go as always, so we headed out across the San Luis Pass bridge in the 57 Mercury station wagon I had won the night before in a poker game, through Surfside and Freeport, and wormed our way over to highway 35. Three hours from there and we were Where They Bite Everyday, and perhaps spent 10 seconds reminiscing before heading on across the King Ranch toward Mexico. So it was late that night, maybe 1-2 a.m. when we entered the city limits of Riviera (I remember leaning out to look at the full moon in a cloudless sky, it was truly magnificent) and the flashing lights behind us were a bit of nuisance. However, the local policeman informed us that we had broken the law by entering Riviera in an automobile that had out-of-state license plates on it. It did, indeed, have New York plates and who knows where the title or registration was, but they weren't concerned and didn't ask. They told us to follow them and we did, to the home of a Justice of the Peace whom they awoke and the three of them sat down to explain the situation. We owed them $16.50 for our crime and we should find a way to pay or go to the Karnes County jail. Danny began unwrapping his Ace and I could see bad things on the horizon. "No, Danny". He made it clear to them that he was of the mind to end it all right there, and they were nervous I could tell. But, I held him back. They went through our billfolds and found in mine my father's gasoline credit card. They carried us to a small filling station and woke up the live-in owner who agreed to write up a ticket for $16.50 and ring it up on the card. Danny cursed them all the rest of the way to Mexico and back, but otherwise the trip was uneventful best I recall.

When we were young, Danny's neighbor was owner of Lone Star beer distributorship and kept lots of beer in his garage. One night we sneaked in and confiscated a case of long necks and subsequently imbibed two or three apiece on a lark. I guess we were 14 or 15. Danny's old man hit him with closed fists over and over, in the face and stomach. Danny never meant to be disrespectful or to hurt his father, but in an effort at self preservation he rushed him into the dresser. The broken ribs were an accident, I was witness, but as far as I know his father never acknowledged him again.

So I said, Hey Danny, I have to go to DC. "Good, then I will ride with you. I need to go to New York City and find my brother, Dick". The ensuing five day trip would fill a book, many funny and scary experiences along the way. We picked up a total of four hitch-hikers before New Orleans (made one get out around La Place, Louisiana, because he wouldn't shut up), stole some new tires from an Esso station in Jackson, Miss. and payed $2.00 to put them on in Birmingham, stayed up all night in Tennessee taking out the timing chain and replacing it (at the direction of a station owner who loaned us his tools and then sold the chain to us at his cost $13.00 and set it for us), and finally the old Merc gave up the ghost on New York Avenue in DC.

The incidents with his father never hurt him, he seemed oblivious to pain in all the time I was with him. But he was embarrassed.

Danny and I were extremely hungry when we made our way downtown. We found a little cafe across the street from the Capitol Building and sat at the bar ordering both a cheeseburger and glass of milk. When we ran out of there, we met around the block and developed a plan. I called collect the wife of a friend in Massilon, Ohio, and she agreed to wire $20.00. We waited at the Western Union until it arrived, took $10 apiece and hitch-hiked to Baltimore bus station. I bought a ticket for 65 cents to Fredric, Maryland, then hid behind the back seat and rode it all the way to Pittsburgh. Danny bought a ticket to New York City and I never saw him again.

When I got back to DC, I found the lot where they had towed the old Merc. I went through it to make sure we hadn't left anything (as if we had anything to leave) and found Danny's back pack. It contained nothing but books, mostly obscure ones, but I kept one old ragged-leafed paper back by Lawrence Ferlingetti--"A Coney Island of the Mind".

In subsequent years I read Coney Island now and then, thinking of Danny and hoping he found his bro and that everything was cool. It was going to be a rush when I gave him back that book.

Then they found him, and took him home. I'm going to miss you, my friend.

POEM

I demand that the human race
cease mulitplying its kind
       and bow out
       I advise it  

And as punishment and reward
for making this plea I know
       I'll be reborn
       the last human
Everybody else dead and I'm
an old woman roaming the earth
       groaning in caves
       sleeping on mats
	   
And sometimes I'll cackle, sometimes
pray, sometimes cry, eat & cook
       at my little stove
       in the corner	                                                  
"Always knew it anyway,"
       I'll say
And one morning won't get up from my mat

(Jack Kerouac, 1962)