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ITCHY BOB AND THE SLEEPY HOLLOW GANG
Day 107 Gerald to Villa Ridge
today: 26 miles cumulative: 2,193

"Hey buddy." Not so friendly tone. The cop with the itchy trigger finger again. "Its time for you to go. We're getting calls from moms dropping their kids off at the day care place. So you'd better be moving along." I wan't to tell him to stick it, but I don't think I'm in a position to say anything but, "Yes sir, thank you very much sir." Sionara Gerald, I will not miss you, and I will not return. It is 7 am. Eat at a restaurant on my way out of town. Jan, the owner, sends me out of town happy and full with a meal on her. Saves the day.

Walking fast. Cosmo is happy. Still no shoulder. The weather has cleared, blue sky but cool. I worry about the heat in the coming weeks. Walking without the cart is so much easier, but without the cart no one talks to us, just another vagrant. I am worried about the police and their power trip and did you know its illegal to be in city limits at night if you don't have a hotel room or a car? And these bored cops could hassle you in any way they wanted and get away with it and fabricate a story if they want as an excuse to take you in, all because they don't like the way you look. Power corrupts. And a lot of these small town cops are as uneducated as any hillbilly I have seen, and we give them guns and a badge and the power to harass. So I am meditating on this power trip because it scares me, and I am walking the familiar non-shoulder and watching Cosmo to make sure she does not get too far ahead.

And I stop from time to time to get a turtle off the road or to look at the feathers of some beautiful bird that was hit by a car, today: a blue bird, a cardinal, a hawk. Cosmo sniffs them. She does not like dead animals of any kind. I am still in the hills, but now a bit higher, out of the deep forests, and I can see many meadows. I look forward to the plains again. I want the big sky. Big sky is like the ocean. Tomorrow St. Louis and I don't know what to expect, and that is good. Cosmo steps on a beer bottle, cuts a pad. It is not too bad, don't cringe. She is not limping. I bandage it. She lays quietly. She is still smiling. Keep going, no one to talk to, just enjoying not having the cart, the 20 miles to Union goes quickly and I am here, and wondering where I will end up tonight, ten more miles, still without a tent. Still legally a vagrant.

The beautiful blonde from Talequah, Oklahoma, who was afraid to run away is running away. She is moving to Colorado or New Mexico or somewhere unsure, but she is moving. Counting days. Getting over her fear. A risk. A beautiful risk. I am proud of you Rachael. See you in Santa Fe.

On the walk out of town I find a children’s electric guitar. I pick it up. I like the way it looks. I want to play it. I want to be a rock star. I will carry it with me. It is called the Hot Lixx, Solid Gold Rock Star, by Playco. It has 2 metal strings and buttons running up the neck and a volume knob and 4 beat choices and a jack to plug it into an amp and I imagine myself playing it as I walk down the highway and it makes me smile so I attach the Solid Gold Rock Star children’s guitar to my backpack and continue. I look questionable with this guitar on my back, and I am sure it will stop some people from talking to me, but Cest’La Vie, I want to be a rock star. The Rivers are running high. There will be flooding this week.

At the Villa Ridge’s "Sleepy Hollow" trailer park, 5 people stand around the back of a pickup truck drinking Bud Light from bottles. The sun has set. Everything is a shade of blue. Guns and Roses plays loud. Real loud. It is coming from a long cinderblock building split up into 4 apartments. An American flag hangs from the roof over door number 3. Walking by I ask how far it is to the next place to eat. "3 or 4 more miles to the Tri-county Truck Stop. Hey dude, what’s that guitar!?" Pointing to the Solid Gold Rock Star by Playco. "Found it on the side of the road, but I don’t have any batteries for it. They are amused, they want to play it, they want to know where I am going. They did not expect to hear the story that I just told them. "New York! Man, you need a beer. Someone get this man a beer!" Guns and Roses plays on some super stereo in door number 2. Someone is head banging. Their hand is raised in triumph, celebrating not being at work. A pocket full of prescription drugs. A case of beer. "Highway dude, you’re drinkin’ too slow!"

"Welcome to the Jungle
We got fun and games
We got everything you want
Honey we know the names
We are the people that can find
Whatever you may need
If you got the money honey
We got your disease."

A man in a Foreigner T-shirt made in 1989 brings Cosmo 2 steaks. "You need to meet Itchy Bob." Ok. "Hey man, you eaten yet?" No. "Well they’re feedin’ your dog I think they should feed you." Someone comes back from behind the cinderblock building. With Itchy Bob. "Highway dude, meet Itchy Bob." "You hungry highway dude?" Itchy Bob asks. "Giddyup," I say, "giddyup." "Well I just made me a 5 meat sandwich with 5 cheeses on it, six feet long, Ill cut you off a piece. Come on in." A drunk man named "Chill" nods with approval, "Itchy Bob has a nice place Highway Dude, he’ll set you up."

Inside the trailer a woman is making a beaded case for a pair of glasses, she smiles and listens quietly as I tell my story. Then she looks up and says, like she knows everything that has happened and why it has happened, and how it is all connected, "And help is always there when you need it, and whenever the day is real hard somebody shows up and saves you." And I nod. "What do they call you, what’s your road name? We don’t go by real names around here. I’m ‘Midnight Song.’" "Well, my wrestling name is Turbo." She nods in approval. Some still want to call me Highway Dude, and that’s fine, I like that name too. And Highway Dog. Highway Dog is trying to fend off a Chihuahua called Rocky that is trying to mount her leg. Her man friend is called "Amazing.’" Another woman is called "Starlight," and one guy is just called Larry, "Wait. No. Call me "Flunky." A flunky is a guy that can fix anything. I can build a house from the ground up, fix your TV, fix your car, I can do it all." Flunky it is.

A parrot in a cage by the door has been taught to tell people to F-off. It is cursing right now. It can also laugh. Its name is Barney. A drunk woman stumbles in. Outside, the loud stereo still plays, I hear a beer bottle break.

"She's got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I'd hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by

Oh, Oh, Oh Sweet Child of mine…"

The drunk woman almost falls. She just drove here. "Jesus Christ woman, you can’t drive. Gimmie your keys," Starlight says. The woman is called Marty. "I can drive myself, don’t worry about me, I just took a bunch of Perkasets, they always help me drive when I’m drunk." And I think that I just heard the quote of the day.

Chill is trying to hustle up a woman for me to sleep with tonight. "What do you like? The hard tail or the soft tail model?" He shows me sizes with his hands. I assure him that I don’t need to get laid tonight, and he doesn’t understand. So he keeps talking about prostitutes an deasy women and hunting and how some dude ran up a $200 bill on his telephone calling a phone sex line. And then he tells me that he doesn’t like foreign people. And I ask which ones, and he swings his arm out in a big gesture, "All of em’." Except for the good looking ones, I like some of them, like this girl I been sleeping with." Chill is really drunk. He belongs to the loud stereo in the cinderblock building. Before he stumbles out he asks the other drunk in the room, Marty, "you ain’t up for a quick little trip are ya?" Makes a pumping action with is hips. Mary scowls drunken scowl. "NO! Go away Chill."

These people have never left the country, and Larry (Flunky) has never left the state in 43 years, he’s been traveling all over Missouri, never stays in a place longer than a year. They want to hear about my travels in Muslim Asia, what the people are like. Chill is bored, he’s going to go get laid he says. So I eat my 5 meat and cheese sandwich big enough to choke a horse, and tell tales of Syrian secret police, Taliban soldiers, Iranian protests, and Tribal warlords. A young couple that was at the tailgate party comes in to hear the story. But everyone is tired and those who are not are leaving in search of more beer or drunk women to take advantage of, so then it is just Itchy Bob and Flunky and Highway Dog and Rocky the Chihuahua still clinging to her leg, and me, Highway Dude. Flunky is Itchy Bob’s cousin, he lives on the couch.

So the cousins are going to play guitar. And I want you to see this, because it is one of those moments on the trip, where I am able to step back and say yes, yes, this is it. Two cousins playing guitar in a trailer house in Villa Ridge. Itchy Bob has a White Peary and wears a Husquavarna Racing hat. He wears steel-toed work boots and a blue and green tie-dyed t-shirt with a picture of an Indian princess, a flying eagle, and an Indian camp at the foot of some mountains. Larry is barefoot, and his cut off shirt reveals his tattoos, I do not know what kind of guitar he plays but it is black and white. "Well, lets just make it up as we go." And they start to play, and I haven’t heard electric guitars for a long time, they sound like 1989, and I think that’s the way they like it. Life in this trailer park IS 1989. 1989 forever. Like someone wrote "don’t ever change!" in the back of their yearbook and it actually happened. They have stopped time here in the Sleepy Hollow Trailer Park. Black and white electric guitars forever. It sounds perfect right now, but I will not get stuck in the time warp.

Behind Richard (Itchy Bob’s real name) is a black and white photo of a naked woman. He catches me staring at it. That was my girl back in 1989, I shoulda married that one. Keeps playing, they sound good together, even though they say they aren’t "feeling it" tonight.

A painted plaster statue of a soaring eagle. And a parrot in a cage that is still cursing. Rocky is still on Cosmo’s leg, Cosmo is asleep. "You get the small couch Highway Dude, Im too big for it." Flunky goes back to playing Nintendo gambling. Roulette. Red 25! Winner!