honest songs, honestly sung
singer and songwriter ben bruce

blog > The Hazy Sheen of Years

Sep 10th, 2008

A young Jack was joy-​riding across the country in late September.

It’s hard to remember that time, seen through the hazy sheen of years. In those intervening seasons I’ve been hurt. I’ve been existentially troubled by the seeming illogic of people I love. And it’s been so long since we Americans haven’t felt divided, irreconciliably, across the wide gulfs that separate our world views. But once upon a time …

A young Jack was joy-​riding across the country in late September, 2001. He had no home – everything he owned was “on his back,” packed in a U-​Haul trailer headed for “The City,” which as anyone can tell you is New York.

On the road between his old life and his new one, that voyage crossed a liminal space between borders – what in myth would be called Faerie. But this was no myth, and there are no fairies in this story. Only a fat, grizzled biker with a flag flapping in the wind and a wounded nation in shock showing its best colors.

You can’t see out the back of a U-​Haul. You’ll only notice something coming if you look in the side mirror – but sometimes, on that long open road, you start to lean back in your seat and just cruise. And so it was that I didn’t notice the big, grizzled biker with the Beetle Bailey helmet until he’d already pulled up next to me (slightly ahead, where I could see him around the door).

He looked over at me as I looked over at him, and through his goggles and my grogginess we made eye contact. I swear there was an affirmation between us. We both knew we were different. There might be no agreement between us. But we were both thinking, “you are an American, and I am an American, and we are brothers.”

We nodded, and then he pulled ahead slowly until the gigantic American flag whipping from a pole attached to the back of his bike filled the view to my left, the ripples making me shiver with the symbolism of it all.

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