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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Petrol Emotions


I pull into a massive service station where US23 and M59 meet, but I'm not here to strike a deal with the devil to enhance my lousy guitar chops. I'm here to see a night clerk about a cup of coffee. Autumn is beginning to show itself, but it only comes out at night. It's leather jacket time again. Temperatures fluctuate in a sawtooth pattern as I wind past the several lakes in the area. This is a badly needed cup of coffee.


'Zat it?
Yeah.'re good.
Are you sure?
No charge.

[Tom Petty's "American Girl" plays on a crappy and thus theft-proof portable radio in the background]

Now that's where I wish I was right now, man. He's playing right this minute at DTE Theater. That's a show. Kids today...shit, they have no appreciation for good music, you know? You and me, us old guys, we know the good stuff...Allman Brothers, Zeppelin, Petty, am I right? These kids roll in here all night long with their windows rattling, playing their shit music.

Guitars and drums...

You know it, man, that's all it takes. Decent bass player. You get it, you're an
old guy like me.

Yeah, I guess.


This was rapidly becoming an expensive cup of free coffee. I'd been called "old" twice in the span of a minute, and had no intention of hanging around to discuss the finer points of "Frampton Comes Alive." I seize on some small diversion, maybe a paying customer, and exit stage left to sit on the curb and watch the wheels go round and round.

The sky is planetarium perfect. US23 whines away in the distance like a manic freight train. An employee comes out to empty several large trash cans. Who knows what's in this massive bounty. Break-up notes torn to confetti. Dollar store toys that lasted ten minutes and left junior bawling in the back seat. Forensic evidence. Non-working pens. Pennies coated in Cola slime.

There is a Taco Bell waitress on break, surveying the proceedings with a cigarette angled at 45 degrees off horizontal. It is the pose not of the cool, but of the all-knowing. She winces at each puff. In five years, she'll sound like Suzanne Pleshette gargling razorblades. Shame on me for not consulting this oracle. I have so many unanswered questions.

I wonder if this place can be seen from space, the light is so brilliant. I wonder if anyone will reminisce about its architecture in 2056. I think about gasoline promotion and pop culture. Does e-bay have a name for it, as they do for Disneyana and Breweriana? Is it Gasoliniana? Are Indiana collectibles Indianaiana? I recall the Hess tanker truck being the coolest toy ever. Years later, Shell gave away NFL books with collectible player stamps. We pestered the attendants to no end, our bicycles never quite requiring the mandatory fill-up. Franco Harris was just as elusive in stamp form.

I remember living two doors down from a Getty station (something that would probably violate a dozen zoning and EPA laws). Walking in at any time of the day, past cars on lifts and clanging wrenches, to the greasy Coke machine at the back of the shop (a move that would probably violate a dozen safety laws). I remember the sharp-edged metal cap and thick, green-tinted bottle that I'd have to yank from the machine with all my might. It was worth the effort. It was worth the Spirograph indentations on my hand. There is nothing like Coca Cola in a glass bottle a few degrees above freezing.

I'd think about J. Paul Getty Jr., and how this was somehow an outpost in his family empire. Tried to fathom Why a pack of Italian terrorists had lopped off his ear. Did the mechanics care? I guess it was then that terrorism and oil became inextricably linked in my mind. Later that year, Ariel Sharon and company stomped the living shit out of attacking Syrian and Egyptian armies and probably would have marched all the way to Tehran if a UN ceasefire hadn't gone into effect. Gas prices quadrupled, to (gasp) $12. Same shit, different year.


I fire up the bike and head back home. The sign says "Pontiac 26." The odometer reads 2626. I think I need a numerologist.


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