"You open up their hearts, and here's what you'll find ... some humans ain't human, some people ain't kind."
- John Prine
DRIVING TO DES MOINES - It's sixty-three songs from Sheldon, Iowa to Rochester, Minnesota.
Got the Dixie Chicks, John Prine, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, John Denver, The Clash, Bill Hicks, Cat Stevens, The Soggy Bottom Boys, Alison Krause, The Eagles, Green Day, Greg Brown, Woody Guthrie, Steve Forbert, Harry McClintock, all squeezed into the brown Honda.
Austin, Minnesota is thirty-four songs from Rochester.
In the early 1990s, Ruth, Sam, Emily and I lived in Byron, eight miles west of Rochester. We owned the tiny Byron Review, ran it out of the north side of our home on Byron Avenue. We scrimped and saved and hustled and fought with the city council, school board, lumber yard, elevator, fire department, and won the newspaper of the year award from the MNA in 1994. We went out of business later in the year.
Sitting in traffic in Rochester was the first time I felt kind of vulnerable with my bumper stickers: 9-11 Was An Inside Job, Jail Bush, Impeach Bush. Rochester is a conservative island in Minnesota. But it wasn't really that. I think I was just tired, depressed a little from having to leave home and think of three months ahead of me on the road, and so maybe I was poking along a little and getting some looks from my fellow Americans.
But I've got a license to drive slow - Iowa plates.
And now I remember how fast people in southeast Minnesota drive. They are busy people, getting things done, going places. I try not to get in the way.
Sitting in heavy traffic on Broadway Avenue in Rochester I kept an eye on the fat blonde woman behind me with no neck driving the forest green Dodge Caravan. Had my hand on the auto-lock in case she opened her door.
Once when I was a seminarian at the College of St. Thomas in Saint Paul in 1979 I flipped a trucker the bird as I drove past him in my 1959 brown and white Chevy. Just because I thought I could, and get away with it.
As I sang along with an Eagles song I could see a familiar truck getting bigger in the rearview mirror.
I had to stop and the trucker pulled up next to me, got out of his truck, came around to my door and pounded on the door and the window, saying somebody should teach me a lesson.
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