The drive to the coast takes five hours from Seattle with three cities in between: Tacoma, Olympia, and Aberdeen. From Aberdeen it’s another two hours to the ocean, featureless and hard to keep awake. I’ve gotten better about what music I take for the drive and stop for a Red Bull now whenever I make that stretch. I can’t drive through Aberdeen without remembering our old neighbors who were from there. It’s a sad place, a town that should be cute but you realize fast it’s not and never will be. This is the place where Kurt Cobain grew up, and the sign says Welcome to Aberdeen: Come As You Are.
Our old neighbors were from that era, musicians too: Curry, nick-named after an MTV VJ with a pretty-boy face and poofy hair. But there is nothing pretty boy about Curry, who bats down any good looks with a mouthful of chew and bad teeth. A rooster tattoo on his arm from an Alice in Chains song and a girlfriend named Bev who’s shaved her eyebrows off and replaced them with a tattoo version that makes her look like a cartoon scarecrow.
After Bev, Curry’s roommates include Joey, a drifter who lives on Vashon but spends most of his time at Curry’s or evading the law…and Jaughn, a guitarist who’s just moved up from LA. It’s Jaughn I’m thinking about on the drive back from the coast, realizing the CD I’m playing he made for me, it’s got his handwriting on it, and he met a sad end.
And I also think back to the record collection I gave to Curry when we moved out, and sometimes regret that. It was all my records from the 80s: my Smiths, New Order, REM…those hard to find, now out of print De La Soul EPs. I left the records for Curry because he did so much for us and I knew it would mean a lot to him but sometimes I wish I hadn’t, they were a real part of me.
Jaughn was skinny and tall and reminded me of Roger McGuinn from The Byrds with those octagonal-shaped frames that made him look like an old hippy. He was really into the Stones and offered to make CD copies from his vinyl for me, leaving a stack of four or five one day on our doorstep, each with the track listing and covers printed out, folded neatly in the jewel cases. He used a Sharpie to write out the title and dated them, 7-2005.
I don’t know what Jaughn did for money other than the odd jobs he helped Curry with, including the time we hired them to redo our roof. It cost a lot less than it would to hire a proper roofing company but it took them literally months to finish the work.
And of course we didn’t know Jaughn was suicidal but the people who bought our old house told me about it when I went back once. They said a friend of Jaughn’s found him, but instead of reporting it to the police the guy stole all of his belongings, cleaned him out. I looked at the back of the house from our old place now and it radiated a strange energy. Jaughn’s abandoned blue Porsche that never ran. The overhang where they once had a deer carcass hanging out to dry, drawing flies. Curry, appearing like a phantom through the trees to our late-night fire pit, pulling up for a beer…
I had the CDs from Jaughn and though we were never close, I wouldn’t give them up for anything. It’s that thing about life, objects that hold the most value or meaning to us will likely go unknown by anyone else. And what parts of me would my kids keep, and why? Something both intimate and lonesome in that.
I met my friend Loren on the coast and we made stony-looking driftwood sculptures and then watched as they crumbled in the tide. The beach looked different than before with the big logs washed ashore but out of sync with how I remembered it, the tide higher, choking out the beach, the look of it crashing against the rocks wild and cruel. The advance of time perhaps. The light on the ocean turning pink-gold as the sun drops like a pill into a flat, orange disc. How the pink fans across everything before it goes dark, then waiting for the first star…
We watched for meteors, the sky’s milky light. I made a wish for my family and left in the morning, popped out the Creedence, replaced it with the Stones. Every angle of sun assumed new meaning for me on that drive home. The lawn’s the same color as the sand now, dead leaves across the pavement like claws. The wind’s kicked up and we wait for the first stars. They downgraded Laura to a Tropical Depression which sounds bad but could be worse. Nothing sticks around for long, good or bad. Dust in the wind. Every cop’s a criminal, all the sinners saints.