The gurglin' cracklin' cauldron of yesterday

Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico from the Alabama coast near Fort Morgan.

The gurglin' cracklin' cauldron of yesterday

 

I still might run in silence

Tears of joy might stain my face

And the summer sun might burn me till I'm blind

But not to where I cannot see

You walkin' on the back roads

By the rivers flowin' gentle on my mind

“Gentle on My Mind” written by John Hartford

 

I said that I would present the world’s first Municipal Death Match this week, a winner-take-all battle between the cities of Forsyth and Madison to decide which city is the best place to live.

And I meant to do it.

I looked up all the statistics: population, median income, number of cats per household, etc.

I jotted down a few corny jokes, a few non-sequiturs and had nearly 600 words in the can when I decided I had no stomach for the idea.

The jokes I told didn’t seem funny, and the analysis sounded hollow and ridiculous.

Even as a bit of tomfoolery, I didn’t want to write it.

Maybe there are too many ghosts about just yet.

Sorry.

The truth is the idea started to make me feel a bit sad. I started thinking about my own transient nature and how envious I am when I think about people who have hometown like Madison or Forsyth to love. I began thinking about all the little towns I have lived in and all the friends I have bid farewell.

Like the time I lived in the back of my pickup truck in Jax Beach, Florida. I had a camper shell, and I used to pull the little Japanese Ford down in a hole beside a weathered wood catwalk so the local deputies couldn’t see it. I had a green electric guitar that sounded pretty thin without an amp and nothing much to lose. I would sleep on the beach at night and go play with my English friend Punch in the mornings. He played the bass and always wanted to play that old Grand Funk deal: “I’m Your Captain/ Closer to My Home.”

About all I did was strum a “D” and watch him have a good time with his bass.

Sometimes I’d earn myself a waffle or a hot dog for playing along.

I always liked hanging out with Punch who looked like Joe Frazier and talked like Richard Burton.

Later on I was lucky enough to find myself stranded in Morrisville, North Carolina, living on a dirt road and playing an old SG Junior every night with a bunch of guys who didn’t know a thing about rules.

I wonder where old Jimmy Tipton is now.

Back then Jimmy played the drums at night and worked on dump trucks during the day. Somehow that seemed perfect syncopation to me. You’ve heard of brake drums, right? I bet he repaired a horn or two as well. 

I met a pretty North Carolina State student there and left her after only one kiss. Just another decision that could have changed everything, right?

My oldest friend Rick remembers all that nonsense. It was essentially his band.

He’s still playing that Strat up in Carolina and teaching his son the same art.

But what about that time I lived down on a little slip of land between Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

I lived in Alabama and worked in Florida, passed by the Flori-Bama Lounge everyday on the way to my job at a condo on Perdido Key.

My boss was a retired police chief from Connecticut.

Used to go up on the roof and look out at the gulf and feel the wind in my hair. The rain falls sideways close to the sea like that.

Used to have to push the dumpsters out to the road twice a week. The wheels seemed awfully small.

College man pushing a dumpster, I would muse so tragically. But the truth was that I felt like Jack Nicholson working on oil rigs in “Five Easy Pieces.”

My roommate down on the gulf was the prettiest girl ever, but she was never comfortable where she was, always wanting to go somewhere else.

I followed that girl up to New York City and up to Memphis, Tennessee. I would have followed her to Yellow Knife.

But I lost her like Kris Kristofferson lost Bobbi McGee.

 

 

Selah.

 

And here's your traveling playlist:

 

 

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