Monday, July 6, 2009

We Gotta Get Out of Here

Sometimes You Just Have to Leave Town.

During college, I had a friend named Penny. She played the drums and was one of the coolest women I'd ever known. She worked at the college radio station, wrote freelance record reviews for Rolling Stone and was on a first-name basis with every touring rock drummer who rolled through town (but she never broke her strict "don't sleep with touring musicians" rule).

She was also a little impulsive and once invited me to drive from New England to South Carolina because she wanted to visit a particular beach-side barbecue shack. We were late-night BBQ buddies and she kept telling me I needed to go below the Mason-Dixon line to get real BBQ. Besides, she told me, sometimes you just gotta make a break for it and get the hell out of town. (I had a final the next day and passed on the chance; channeling Ellen Foley, she asked teasingly if I was gonna stay home and watch the reruns of the Muhammad Ali/Marlene Dietrich fight. She made the drive in record time but was arrested on the way back on charges of transporting live chickens without proper permits. She used her one phone call to contact me and I wired her $100 for bail. But that proved unnecessary; Penny charmed the arresting officer by telling stories about Ginger Baker until he dropped the charges, got her phone number, and let her go with a warning. They got married four years later but split up after a few years when he started touring as the bass player in an indie rock band. "I should've married you," she told me when her divorce came through, "at least you can't play an instrument.")

In my senior year, I decided one night that I had to get out of town, so I called Penny and told her I was driving to Montreal. She laughed at me and said there was no decent barbecue in Montreal -- and besides, I needed to get finish a paper for a philosophy class we were both taking.) I drove all night -- in a red VW bug whose floorboards were slowly rusting out and whose driver's seat had been stolen a few months earlier. I didn't quite make it to Montreal because I ticked off a border guard who then refused to let me into the Canada because I didn't have enough cash (Penny never did pay me back for the "bail money" I sent).

Penny dropped out after that semester; I drove back to New England, finished my philosophy paper in one uninterrupted two-hour stint at the keyboard, and graduated. Years later, Penny would finish her degree... but I still get terrified whenever I enter Canada.(Link for Gmail subscribers.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Damn... Ellen Foley was cool as shit for 2 or 3 years back then!