Orman Day

Hitchin’ and Hoppin’ Blues
 
If you believe in prophecies of astrological stars,
you’ll know why Neal Cassady and me roamed near 
and far, refusin’ to be conformin’, bored, fenced in.
Our February births twenty years apart blessed us, cursed us 
with Aquarius in our Sun, Mercury, Venus, makin’ us
freedom-lovin’, proselytizin’, playful, inventin’, rebellious  
against stupid rules, cool, stubborn, amoral, crazy actin’, 
knowledge hungerin’, not a mushy type bringin’ marigolds, 
disgusted with injustice, bureaucrat mistrustin’, wanderlustin’.
Were born bouncin’ like joeys in the pouch of kangaroos, 
awakened by the lullaby of the hitchin’ and hoppin’ blues.
 
Teenaged years in California, read Kerouac’s “On the Road,”
the beatnik bible idolizin’ Dean the Holy Goof mad to live, 
mad to talk, mad to be saved, read about Cody in “Big Sur,” 
 “Desolation Angels.” Didn’t know Neal was Dean and Cody, 
who made me dream of boxcars, Vee Dub buses wildly painted, 
oasis-like truckstops, highways windin’ toward the horizon. 
When I was scrawlin’ verses to the hitchin’ and hoppin’ blues,
Neal quenched his beery thirst, added, “The time has come, 
everybody lie down so you won't get hurt when the sun bursts.”
 
February 3, ’68, two days ’fore Burroughs turned fifty-four,  
five days ’fore Neal’s forty-second birthday, nine days
’fore I was twenty-two. After a party that night, in cold rain, 
groggy from downers, Neal shuffled toward his Mexican abode  
until he slumbered on wet earth in jeans, T-shirt, no blanket.
That same night in an L.A. depot, my two younger sisters 
and I boarded a Dog...a sighin’ Greyhound bus...keepin’ 
our plan to hitch to Maine a secret from Mom and Dad.
 
February 4, Burroughs’ common law wife Joan Vollmer,  
would’ve celebrated her birth if she wasn’t shot dead in ’51, 
felled by a bullet fired by Burroughs imitatin’ William Tell. 
That morn Neal died from exposure, kidney failure, overdose.
In Arizona, I smooched with a pen pal named Pixie, days 
’fore my sisters and I ditched the Dog, stuck out our thumbs.
That odyssey widened my wanderlust, prepared me to hitch  
in lofty Tibet, the vast Outback, the South African veldt.
When I’d idle on a roadside, I’d smile, amuse myself 
by humming the hitchin’ and hoppin’ blues.
 
The next winter, seekin’ notes to write unpublished novels,
dropped into skid row, two bucks and extra jockeys
stuffed in my jacket. Bunked in a mission, earned change
pickin’ carrots, met some buddies, hiked to a hobo jungle,  
chewed peppery Mulligan stew ladled from a charred can, 
hopped onto the first of the racketin’ freight trains rollin’ me
to the boozy, jazzy, bead-tossin’ madness of Bourbon Street. 
Not wantin’ to be trapped, didn’t slide the door shut
against the cold, so crammed newspapers in my clothes,
walked in circles on the undulatin’ floor, wigglin’ my toes 
in sole-worn shoes, stompin’ to the hitchin’ and hoppin’ blues.
 
Thumbin’ and rail ridin’ are part of my distant past,
but I’ve got a backpack full of funny stories to recall, regale,
so I’d like to meet Neal in a diner, buy cups of espresso,
stir our memories sharin’ golden reefer from Acapulco,
banter and guffaw about the histrionics of our histories.
My Sundays as a stringy Methodist acolyte lightin’ candles,
his as an altar boy carryin’ a cross, ringin’ a consecration bell.
Mission grub (split bean soup, stale bread, weak java),
ear-bangings from hell-spittin’ preachers, smelly dorms  
rattled by tubercular coughin’, moanin’, mother-seekin’ sobs 
in the dreary skid rows of his Denver, my downtown L.A.
The flower-powered hippie scene in good-vibin’ Frisco:
psychedelic light shows, bedazzlin’ twirlin’ dancers, 
acid rock bands entrancin’ at the Fillmore and Avalon, 
crashin’ at the Diggers’ crowded pad in the crazed Haight.
Drivers who gave us lifts, bought us fries at greasy spoons, 
railroad bulls chasin’ us through clamorous freight yards.
Lonely chicks who beckoned us to be their vagabond lovers;
we snuck away without wakin’ them ’neath their bedcovers.
My Mardi Gras night in the noxious New Orleans jail
for revilin’ a cop on Canal, my FBI arrest and probation
for resistin’ the draft, his years encaged for car theft, cannabis.
Our Southern Pacific jobs in California: his as a brakeman, 
conductor, mine as a clumsy signalman, half-baked carpenter.

After we confessed all our felonies and philanderings,
we’d drift into silence, feelin’ our feet itchin’ to amble 
toward different dusty roads and other destinies. 
Then we’d move our heads, tap our scuffed shoes, groovin’, 
diggin’, trippin’, snappin’ our fingers to the free-floatin’,  
hopped-up, sax-riffin’, horn-tootlin’, piano-plinkin’,
bongo-beatin’ bebop of the hitchin’ and hoppin’ blues.

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