Editors Note: As final tribute to our fallen Gentlevan, we offer this remembrance of a past adventure.
We gentlemen should perhaps be chastised for stringing our readers along so inelegantly. That we’ve serialized and spread over two years a tale that in its spoken recounting takes mere minutes to convey is positively shameful. We hope that you, dear friend, will ingest this final installment with a spirit of forgiveness.
When you left us, The Councilman and I were still separated by depth of night and miles of desert. He standing sentinel over – or napping within – the crippled Gentlevan. I, having been deposited at the doorstep of a purported “24 hour” tow-truck depot by my unfailingly kind, coal-hauling rescuer, Jeff. The depot, despite the evident pains its proprietors took to pepper its signage with “Always Open!” boasts, was unmanned. A scribbled telephone number was taped to the door. I telephoned it a few times, with no success. I considered giving up, huddling in a ball upon the depot parking lot, and dreaming of better times.
But we Gentlemen, having forged for ourselves a modest career playing a peculiar and distinctly unpopular brand of two-man music, are nothing if not persistent. I telephoned again and again leaving repeated and, I’m certain, irritating messages. Eventually, after several dozen such attempts a groggy and gravelly-voiced man, who I imagined to be quite grizzled in appearance, answered the phone and angrily pledged to appear at the depot to rescue me within minutes.
The man made good on his pledge, arriving shortly thereafter. I had, as mentioned, expected a rather grizzled fellow. But I cannot overstate just how this man surpassed even my most fantastical visions of a 24-hour desert tow-truck-driver . He was not an old man, perhaps in his late forties. Yet his face was ravined with crevices and canyons unseen on the faces of the dandy eastern men familiar to us gents. Crawling out of said crevices were wild, bristling, metallic gray hairs like no hairs I’d ever encountered. Like cacti or steel wool, but stiffer, sharper, and connected to a man’s face. In a fit of late-night loopiness, I put one hand to my own downy side-whiskers and began reaching forward with the other to pat his beard for comparison. Luckily, at the very last moment, I resisted the compulsion.
It was wise that I did. Even without the provocation of an unwelcome face rub, he was not a friendly man. And he was not pleased to see me. I smiled at him in greeting. He stared at me angrily. I offered him some basic information on our situation. He grunted in acknowledgment. I asked him his favorite two-man band. He didn’t have one. What about Hall & Oates, I asked? Who are they? he said. Things were not going well.
He agreed to take me to our hobbled van, where he would either fix our flat for us or tow us back to town. Both options, he insisted, would cost “a lot of money.” I assured him I was good for it. He seemed doubtful. We squeezed into his tow-truck for the journey back to the Gentlevan.
Now friends, I fancy myself a pleasant conversationalist, able to squeeze a bit of friendly chit chat from the shyest cashier or the moodiest teen. But, sitting beside this man, hearing each of my polite inquiries swatted aside by single syllabled grunts, I feared that I had met my match. This man seemed accustomed to silence. And though I, too, am a lover of a long, quiet drive (The Councilman can confirm this) this was my first and possible only encounter with a Utah desert tow truck driver. I thus felt entitled to an informative thirty minutes together picking this gentleman’s brain; especially since as I was about to fill this man’s pockets with hard earned music money. A man must seize his opportunities. So I persisted, badgering him on all manner of topics on which he might have expertise – bristle grooming, tow-truck maintenance, desert flora, desert fauna, etc.
He predictably showed no interest in any of these, remaining stubbornly silent. Silent, that is, until I inquired about past stranded motorists he’d rescued. A-ha! His face came alive. His permanent grimace loosened. His entire countenance transformed. While moments before, every aspect of his expression screamed “I have no wish to speak with you, fruity young music man,” he now seemed positively ready to burst with cheerful tales of his own desert truck driving heroism.
Perhaps, cheerful is not the right word. What I’d interpreted as a man becoming effusive and ready to chit-chat was in fact the sight of a man becoming enraged. He began “The problem with you people is…” and proceeded to describe, in laborious detail, the mental failings of every poor citizen he’d ever assisted on the roads. Car ran out of gas? You were a “f*cking moron.” Engine over-heated in 125 deg Utah heat? A “god-damned big city idiot.” Flat tire and stripped lug-nut? (This was, you may recall, my current predicament) You’ve “got no business driving.” Latino? Female? Or some combination thereof? Also “no business driving.” And so on for twenty-some-odd miles.
It was then, as his utter contempt for his clientele (and presumably me) became apparent, that I ruled out adding the customary 10% desert-tow-truck-driver tip for services to my impending bill. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy our time together. I did immensely.
And then… “The Councilman!” I cried. “Huh?” the driver asked. “My car.” I answered, gesturing to the opposite side of the interstate. The tow-truck man abruptly threw us into a u-turn, at some sixty miles per hour, across the unpaved median, sending my head cracking again the passenger side window, and reinforcing my decision not to tip.
“Councilman!” I cried again as we pulled aside him.
“Andy Bean!” He bellowed in return.
We exchanged pleasantries and The Councilman summarized his hours of loneliness for me, focusing most of his attention on the number of tiny desert rabbits he’d seen liquified at close range by speeding big-rigs. “It was horrible, Andy Bean. I still hear their screams.”
As I consoled him, our friendly tow-truck man got to work noisily. For all his faults as a driving companion, the man did speedy work on our stripped lug-nut. Our lawnmower-like and woefully under-inflated spare tire was installed within moments.
As revenge for his surly behavior, I endeavored to make the payment process as awkward as possible. I made several weak, but sufficiently irritating quips: “I was just kidding before. I don’t really have any money.” or “This credit card is stolen, but it usually works.” or “Can we just give you some CDs instead?” The Councilman guffawed at each, perfectly on cue. We strung the man along thusly for a few minutes. But, as if was nearing 4am, we put an end to this nonsense, paid our bill, remounted the Gentlevan, and proceeded westward in search of fame, riches, and all the trappings of a life in the two-man music industry.
Yours very truly,