Dangerous at any speed

I’M IN AN EBULLIENT MOOD with my last deadline killed and billed before four days at the Oregon Coast.

Yet I’m driving around recalling old psychic traumas, triggered by music and too-perfect-to-last weather. Summer of 1994. Des Moines. Let me take you there.

A sticky Iowa August was ending and I needed to get back to Seattle. Dave, a high-school friend, had recently graduated from college with little in the way of commitments or ambitions (or money). So we decided to head out West and room together. It made some sense, given our common interests at the time in music, card playing and getting hammered.

After some hand-wringing and hesitation, we piled into a shambling orange Jeep discarded by one of Dave’s friends. It had to be parked on a hill and clutch-popped to start. Half the doors didn’t open. Nearly everything else about it was broken too, except for the CD deck. Dave’s life was jammed into the trunk and backseat, along with our friend, Austin, who elected masochistically to come for the ride (I don’t recall much about his presence on the trip; he may have been catatonic the whole time—if he was lucky).

It was Dave’s car (sort of), but it was carrying our bodies—tenuously, uncomfortably—some 2000 miles. So I figured we should have a say about the route, when we stopped, what we listened to, that we drive sanely and so forth.

Or so I thought.

Dave, compelled by some mix of pride, distain, and an apparent mental disorder, drove the entire way himself. He would not consider switching. In fact, he ignored everything I said. He placed cigarettes behind each ear like pens, lit a third in his mouth, and chain-smoked across the western U.S. like a crank-addled trucker. Along the way, there was much swerving, hydroplaning and speeds that shook the car and made it nearly impossible to hear.

But the noise was almost a blessing, because Dave listened to ONE disc on repeat from Des Moines to Seattle.

DJ Dave’s selection was New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies. Synths. Dancey, mechanistic drums. Unbearably precious lyrics: “Our love is like the flowers…” Hearing it for two days in that rattling death trap destroyed me. Did Dave know this? I’d wake at dawn from a few fitful hours of sleep and see him, three fresh cigarettes in place, bent over the wheel as Track 10 segued back to Track 1.

I could have pushed eject. I could have punched him in the face. But I was too mired in dread. About the car ride and about my whole life. Why was I importing a friend who hated me? Could it get worse? How did I not see it coming?

Dave gave me plenty of opportunities to ponder these questions over the next year. Then he moved to Houston, pulling up at SEATAC airport, unloading his belongings, and abandoning his car there. Classic Dave.

Cruising around today I listened to Power, Corruption and Lies and the album now strikes me as self-evidently brilliant.

Dave, if you’re out there: I was wrong about New Order. About your psychosis, on the other hand, I stand firm.

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6 comments
  1. Justin said:

    Wow. I had totally forgotten that story. What ever happened to Dave? Something to do with the law I think I might have heard at some point?

    I hope never to read such a post about me! While our living together was definitely an odd pairing with some awkward moments, I don’t think any of them were quite so amusingly sadistic (in retrospect).

    • Jake said:

      Yeah, we missed our chance to be amusingly sadistic. 10 years on, I’ve forgotten any awkwardness you and I had. But I also wouldn’t do a hit job like this if I thought Dave read my blog, since I heard he’s now doing a 10 year stretch in Colorado for polygamy and obscenity. Didn’t you tell me that?

  2. Marc said:

    Ah, you had me at pillbox. I first realized he was psychotic when he aluminum-foiled his windows to keep the sunlight out. In Seattle. In winter.

  3. Jake said:

    I’ll never forget the time he told me I smoked too loud.

  4. Shamrock said:

    Reading this made me look up Dave’s address (here in Des Moines, BTW). Yesterday Lola and rode by his place on our bike, thinking I might ring the doorbell on a whim. Nah. Not sure I mentioned but I last received a call from Dave when I was in the hospital when Lola was about 2 hours old. Told him I’d have to get back to him when things “settled down”. When I’ve had occasion to think of Dave, I’ve employed a liberal definition of this term to continue my radio silence. Not that anyone needs an excuse…

  5. Jake said:

    Huh? So you’re neighbors. It’s probably just a matter of time until you run into him at the Lumberyard.

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