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The man in black

I got neato mail the other day. Not a bill, not a coupon for a lawn service, not another credit card application, not a disk for a gazillion hours of free AOL. Actual real mail.

The first thing that was cool was a letter from my friend Laurie, she of the Shit In Her Face. She had lots to tell me about working with disadvantaged kids in Portland, showing them how to have writer’s workshops and also be politically active and yet have time to sparkle too. We were a strange friendship, Laurie and I. She was tiny. She could have passed for a ten-year-old, and she was punkadelic and vegan and too cool for Green Bay, whereas I drove a Pontiac 6000 and had a decent apartment and was an administrator for a local homeless shelter and wore blazers to all of my classes. Wool blazers. With leather shoes. But we somehow became excellent friends and made each other laugh and ate lunch together every day and scowled over the poseurs and laughed at the one who signed all of his poems first initial last name. So we’d just call him R because it was so ridiculous. Only we’d say it like a pirate, because even then, pirates were cool.

And we both felt fully vindicated when the teacher in a workshop was talking about things we do to mentally prepare ourselves to write and he said in all sincerity that he puts on his copper helmet to prevent the radio frequencies from messing up his creative process.

And in the middle of this letter, she said ‘Hey, do you remember that time that we were leaving class and we saw Johnny Cash!? Wasn’t that cool?’ And it was. The funny thing is that I was just telling Skeeter about that when I was in San Francisco.

Laurie and I were leaving a late night class, walking out to the parking lot behind the performing arts center. I suspect that I was giving her a ride home, because otherwise she took the bus. There was a fog blowing up off the Bay and the backstage light was a puddle of yellow between the humming shadow of a luxury tour bus. And our friend Bob was walking with us and one of us had just said ‘Who is playing at the Weidner tonight?’ And then we saw this tall proud figure walk from the back door through the improvised spotlight and ladies and gentlemen, it was Mister Johnny Cash. And I wanted to run up to him and say ‘Hi Mister Cash. I just wanted to tell you how cool I think you are.’ But Bob said ‘No, he’s probably tired. We should leave him alone.’ So instead we just watched him walk to his tour bus that sighed as he climbed aboard. Then we marveled at how surreal that had just been. And even now it feels a bit like something I dreamed, because it was just so random. So utter glee that she mentioned it, because it is one of my favorite memories from school.