Noble Zimmy Hits The Coast
by Steve Heilig, October 27, 2016
I shouldn't be writing this. Hell, I shouldn't be writing anything right now. Seems whatever I say or sing or write or do, somebody's gotta serve themselves by having some big opinion about it being right or wrong or left or political or not political enough or not as good as the last one or better than anything in years or too ragged or too polished or too wimpy or too harsh or too much like something I or even somebody else already did or gawd knows what. Then they give me an award. I don't recall applying for that, either.
So I'm hiding out until the hullaballoo blows over. Again. Not bad out here on the coast, a bit chilly for my liking but when that fog blows in and settles over everything, it's something. Had to use disguises even to drive up and out here, even getting gassed up out on 101 and then 1 was tricky, but if there's one good thing about self-service, it's no need to talk to nobody. I made it. Plus most people nowadays are too young to recognize me or care much if they did, so there's that.
Got just my van and my dog and my guitar. Oh and my harmonicas, which everybody always said I couldn't play. Well what was that sound coming outta them then? Never mind. They sure heard it when I whipped it out and blew last coupla weeks at that big Geezerfest or whatever it was called. Paul and Mick and Keith and Roger Who and Roger Pink and Pete and Neil and whoever were all louder than me but they always have been. They play their good songs same as always, which is just fine, but not me. I like to keep 'em guessing. Forever young, and all that, and my hearing is kinda shot anyway.
Speaking of, it's quiet out here. No signs to get here that I could see. missed one left turn but there was another and then left at the cemetary, just as I recalled it from about 40 years back. And the town looked about the same too. Time's are a-changin' but maybe not everywhere, or at least not so fast. Almost dark so could not see much on a short stroll, but there was some poetry or something on a sign coming into town, and then again on a building downtown, something about skunks and foxes and berries and even airplanes. I dug it. Might even use some of it, but shouldn't be telling about that either.
Cooked up some soup and read some lit and slept in the van, which suits me fine, as it's a doozy - nice bed, sink, toilet, fridge, music, lights, no lights, what else ya need? But when the new morning came and I got up in the dawn there was a note on the windshield. Not OK to park and sleep here, it read. Cowardly anonymous. And not how I recalled it here? OK, will move later. Maybe. Took a leak and leashed up ol' Duluth and headed out for a walk, checks things out. Quiet, like I say. Murmur of ocean, blowin' in the wind. Walked towards that. A small ramp and then out onto the sand. More fog; a bit of beach, more across and small outlet. Mountains behind. Sea birds. All right.
Up another ramp and along the water and into the town. Kinda like a movie set. The saloon was open but so was a little place just across that sold me some fair decent coffee. And tamales for breakfast! OK. Working men getting fueled for work. A few other dogs sniffing each other out. They run free here. They don't need no weatherman.
Once the market opened I could buy all sorts of papers. I got 'em all, and went into the little neat park next door with my 2nd coffee and sat down to read. Yeah there were lotsa stories about me. And that award. Where was I? First songwriter to win it. Anybody ever turn it down? I wondered, and then it said, yep, Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre! Damn. So would not be the first, but at least in good company. Doris Lessing just said "Oh No" when they told her. But she took it, and Yeats, Eliot, Faulkner, Neruda, Marquez all took it too. Yet hmmm, the first ever to get it was Sully Prudhomme, in 1901. Sully! Great name. Whomever and whatever. So much for literary immortality.
When they gave me that doctor's degree at Princeton way back when I afterwards decided I shoulda probably turned that down. I felt tricked. So I dunno. Then I read about a bunch of professors and writers and even songwriters disagreeing or agreeing about if I shoulda been given it. Pretty funny stuff. Who knows? I did write two books, and promised, sorta, another one or two volumes, right? Like Lord of the Rings or something. And they put my lyrics into books too, like poetry, more or less. I could put it up there next to the Grammy and the Oscar and the Pulitzer and the rest. But this one comes from dynamite money, right? And Kissinger got one. A master of war, one might say. I just dunno. Forget it for now. Plus, anyway, what am I gonna do with $900,000? No hurry. Think about it all too much and what will I get? Writer's block, probably.
Got up and wandered westward. Dentist, library, gas station. Stop sign. Crow on top. Hardware store straight on, left turn back towards van. Old church. Old but grand hotel. Liquor store, post office, bookshop. Nobody at bookshop so I checked it out. Free? No, honor system, pay what you think. Right on. To liv outside the law one must be honest and all that. Some good stuff in there too. Poets, novels, nature. Whitman, Thoreau, the greats. Then I saw MY book. Volume One, it said. 2004. Oops. Been awhile I guess. Times passes fast, but gotta serve somebody and I've been serving the road. I opened it up, and whoa, right to the page about that Princeton degree and ceremony. Fleeing, thinking, I was losing my credibility by the minute. Sure was glad to get outta there alive.
I found a pencil and signed the book and put it back. First one I ever signed and nobody would believe it anyway. Like just the other day, they put the award thing up on my website, so I had to call 'em from a phone booth - try and find one of them these days - and tell 'em to remove that, after I read about it in the papers. Hell, I've never even seen my website.
Walking out onto the road again, saw some surfers suiting up in them funny black suits. Surfers! Still watch them sometimes in Malibu. What a thing, riding waves, in and out, over and over. Maybe if I'd been a surfer I never woulda felt like I had to write all those songs and get in all this mess. And that award. What if they call me "spokesman of a generation" again or some such crap? What if they start digging through my garbage and crashing through my roof again? Almost enough to make somebody wanna get a gun. But of course that tends to backfire, literally. Maybe I can hide out here forever, even. Should be pretty easy to find a place to live, right? Sit up on a cliff and look out over the ocean and see which way the wind blows. Don't need no weatherman for that.
Hey, just occurred to me, Ramblin' Jack lives round here somewheres, just up the coast I think, maybe I can find him and ask him what he thinks. He's been to the White House too for one of these things. Hell, maybe I can just give him the award. After all he was one of the guys got me into this in the first place. But don't think twice, Jack. Not your fault.
I think I'm gonna walk around and around and around this beach and town freewheelin' like a rolling whatchamacallit until I figure it out - award or no award? How to live outside the law and still be honest? Change my name again, too, most likely. What should I do? don't wanna leave no blood on no tracks.
Award or no award, it's all a simple twist of somethin.' What to do? As some other nut just said, maybe I will hold you in suspense.