Jacob and I went upstream this afternoon looking for our last tubers, a couple from Nashville with a cooler float. We were also on the lookout for the homeless midget who was rumored to be living under the bridge. I've seen him several times lately and I always wave to him but he never responds. A bare shirted man of short stature is not someone you encounter normally and I would love to hear his story.

Before Steph and I headed to Idaho fifteen years ago, I managed the Water Taxi bus service around Alki Beach in Seattle for King County Metro under contract to Hopelink. It was the coolest damned bus system in the world where the Water Taxi would shuttle people over to Alki on these sweet little ferries, then we picked them up at the pier and drove them to Alki beach and around, and then back to the pier for a return to Seattle.

Some days when a driver called off I had the pleasure of driving one of the routes. As I shuttle tubers around now on a little creek in southern Tennessee, memories of those days come rushing back.

Original photo: Here

This is how the Water Taxi looks now, same service, bigger boat:

These cliffs tower over our pickup spot on Shoal Creek and I don't think the photo does justice to how tall they really are. Come float with us and I'll show you.

My helper Jacob and I walked down under the bridge today looking for a group of tubers and came upon one of the many cool places along Shoal Creek.

I spotted something bright and orange down by the creek today from my office window. Just a flower...

Some Steely Dan, an afternoon cocktail, the bongos and some moves.

I guess it's time to scrub down my table...

Never did make it to Ricks ship. We immediately hit the highway and hitched our way home. I asked him what happened and all he was really willing to say about it was that the guy dropped him off on a beach somewhere in Southern CA. and that he had been walking and sleeping in phone booths those last few days. The only conclusion I was able to come up with was that he was probably raped.

I have a very strong belief in God, he spoke to me once and gave me some power that transformed my life at the time, and I pray to him every morning before I get up. This belief does not fit in with any organized religion, it's personal. But that day in the park changed Louie's life forever. He became a devout Christian which ultimately gave him the faith to recover from a devastating fall from a roof which put him in a body cast and paralyzed him. Shortly after they removed the cast in an Oroville hospital Louie got up and we hitched over to Chico and attended a party were he danced his ass off.

I ultimately moved away and we lost touch but if you're still out there old friend, God bless you and I'll see you on the other side.

I should first say a few things about Louie. He was affable, not very bright, socially inept and everybody loved him. I was the troubled anti-social track star outcast. Somehow we had a chemistry together and were best friends. I was devastated and worried about him as I stood on that hot Mexican sidewalk. He really didn't have the street savvy to be down here on his own, much less in the hands of a guy who had just kidnapped him.

I wandered around town all afternoon looking for them and finally realized they were long gone. I spent the next two days hitching out of Mexico and landed in downtown Long Beach, CA, my birthplace and the spot were my other good friend Rick was stationed on a Navy ship. He told me once that he could have guests on board and we could eat a meal there. I hadn't eaten or slept for three days so I was trying to make it to Ricks ship.

I came across a park, laid down on the grass and slept for a while. When I woke up the logical thing to do was continue on down the street to the Navy base, but I didn't and this is where the magic of fate, or whatever you want to call it, happened. I got up and walked into the middle of the park, and there sitting on a bench was Louie with his head in his hands, both of our suitcases, and an old man with a long beard was standing in front of him with his head bowed.

Louie looked up at me and we ran together and embraced. As we separated the old man was gone and I asked Louie who that was and he said the guy had just come up and asked if he was alright and Louie said, no, that he was lost, and the old man said "Lets pray together". That's what they were doing when I walked up, I swear to God.

In 1965 I was nineteen and living in a rundown little dive in Chico, CA with my best friend, Crazy Louie. We dumpster dived at night to furnish it and it's where I learned the pleasures of tomato sandwiches. One day we decided to hitch-hike to Mexico so we packed up a couple suitcases and headed south out of town with about $40 bucks between us.

In Tijuana we hit the bars and started drinking. When we ran out of money we sold our American made clothes from our suitcases to Mexicans on the street for pesos. In one bar we met an American who offered to drive us to Ensenada, so as the sun was rising, we took off. Along the way we picked up some Mexican hitch-hikers and we're all getting drunker on a bottle of something the stranger had in his car.

When we got to Ensenada, Louie was passed out and the stranger suggested he and I walk in opposite directions around the town square looking for the best bar, and meet on the other side. We took off and he never showed. I continued around the block and the stranger, the car, Louie and our suitcases, were gone. I was alone, broke, drunk and stranded in Ensenada, Mexico.

To be continued...