In the stagnant womb air of the van, it's a simple enough task to let one's mind wander. I look through the pewter gray curtain at the people passing us by. People having arguments about things they won't remember. People singing to songs I can't hear. Dogs in back seats. Tarp-covered mystery cargo in truck beds.

And these incidentals make me think of buying the van in which we're sitting. The van we'll get out of in three hours, in nine hours, in whichever city it is we're supposed to plug into next...

We had looked for a while, being met with (a somewhat expected amount
of) resistance from sellers. While we were not a band -in the
congregational, more than the musical sense - of rough edges, four
males in their late twenties and early thirties wearing various
states of disintegrating denim and corduroy do not inspire the
greatest confidence in extension of financing terms. Not that used
car dealerships are reputed for being the most trusting or
trustworthy lot.

Mat had done a fair amount of research and located what was to be our
van - later dubbed "The Shepherd" for the white-inked name pressed on
the back door's wheel housing - on one web site or another. The van
was perfect: low miles, ample space, and extended cab. And it looked,
inarguably, bad ass. The Shepherd was all black with faintly tinted
windows. This was a band van.

But this was not supposed to be a band van. The man selling it had
recently undergone surgery for a tumor in his brain. The van, he
explained to us through newly labored words, was to be used for
family vacations and camping trips. He walked with his wife as a
guide, down from the enclosed porch, out the mildly chipped sidewalk,
through the perfect fence to the van across the street. We followed
him in slow procession. He assured us the van would be a good one. He
had overhauled it himself for the trips that now would likely not
happen. He did not comment on this reality, but his body was
sufficient clarification: his wife's porcelain skin pressed on the
cloth of his shirt. He could barely stand.

We bought the van. $1950. We had only twenties, so we presented them
with $1960. Mat started to ask if they had a ten, for change, and I
interrupted with a joke about it being a "nice people fee," at which
they chuckled and Mat let it go. And they were. Nice people. But it
was, I knew, a guilt tax. I wanted to just give them all the money
and leave without the van. We were going to use the van to play what
felt, in that moment, to be the most needless music possible, to
standing crowds. The sitting man working through small talk,
apologizing for his stammering, would use the money for hospital

His two boys looked at us from the living room, through the kitchen
that attached to the enclosed porch where we all stood. I held eye
contact with the eldest son - probably around ten or twelve years of
age - for an uncertain moment. I tried smiling, but that was a lie.
He was kind or removed enough to not notice. We said our goodbyes and
went to the van. Our band van.

Mat drove the van. Lanny and I messed around with the seats and with
the television. We settled on a station with decent reception playing
a competition show. In this show, contestants would perform and be
judged on their singing and showmanship, the prize being the title of
lead singer of INXS.

We met Bo at Burger King. We ordered inside and took our food back to
the van. Mat wanted to eat in the van, and I certainly didn't argue.
I love eating in parked cars. We ate in the van, watching the show,
appraising the performers more than the performances.

Sometimes, as I did driving away from the house, I would think about
the man and his family. We were okay, right? Didn't we do a better
thing to give our money to this family than to give it to a used car
dealer? Still, I felt cheap and opportunistic. But only in those
moments where I thought of the man and his family. For the moment, I
was feeling the warm gush of processed meat and cheese product on the
roof of my mouth and watching some unknown twenty-something try to
become a rock star.


Anonymous candyapple75 said...

O.K. I just heard of your band and thought I would check out your page. I am reading through these older posts and this entry by Paul was absolutely moving. I mean, it literally brought tears to my eyes. The descriptions he gave, the emotions that it invoked, were very powerful. If all your songs have this much meaning as this ONE post did, I will undoubtedly be a fan for life.

September 05, 2007 10:42 AM  

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