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tough guy poetry and manly stories of loneliness
all contents copyright Jon Rolston 2004, 2005, 2006

February 12, 2007

A Very Nice Story

Facts Are Different on Different Coasts

There’s a beautiful little New England town by the water and not so far from Boston that ideas can’t drift up and inspire young kids who want to get outta there and see the world. And the kids there can surf the internet and rent movies and download music from all over the world. So they aren’t isolated – they know things. All the same… it’s a small town. You can live with your parents, or your Mom if they’ve split. That’s how I’ve seen it happen.

Last I was back, that little town was still sleepy. There was a new hotel in an old parking lot and condos put up right down town, but made of brick so it looked old. Historical Society said to. Things don’t really change there. More of the same is all.

Upton is still living there. He’s a guy five years younger than me, I met him at Castaways, a thrift store in town. He was one of those guys and I was one of those guys. No money, but into things. Not motors or sports. Knick knacks. Old corduroy coats. Portable organs. Cassette tapes. Especially mix tapes. The old ladies always wanted to throw those out. A whole batch would show up in a cardboard box with used batteries and bandannas. A rubber bracelet. Like someone decided they’d grown up and didn’t need that stuff anymore. Perfect time capsules for Upton and me.

Used to be stores sold plastic racks to hold your tapes. Five to a side, all four sides, and the base swiveled. Something you’d buy at Kmart. You wouldn’t usually get a mix tape in those. But if the little tan pleather suitcases came in, made for guys on the go with tape decks in their cars, you’d be sure to find a good thirty percent mix. Upton and me, we’d split them up and the next day tell each other what gems we’d found.

“Bim Skala Bim, the Bosstones, and some weird stuff I’ve never heard,” he’d say with a knowing look. Good stuff.

“I just got some crappy Whitney Houston stuff and whoever it was practicing their piano.”

I’d come and gone, come back again. I mean I’d traveled, smoked dope with hitchhikers, drank beer with old guys on the street, had men say strange things to me. Upton’d moved down from Maine, so this little town on the water was still fascinating to him. It was a kick for me to see myself, young as I was, somewhat wiser than someone. I wasn’t sure if I’d blinked those four months I’d been away from home. Everything I’d seen out there in America was new to me. But I’d made it back home and Upton showed me how I’d changed better than Id’ve been able to explain it to anyone. So I liked him a lot.

Now this last time I was home, I ran into Upton. He’d moved out of his mom’s place and was living with some other bohemians in an old wooden house with rabbit pelts on one wall and tie-dyed sheets over the windows. He had a mustache. He told me he was going west in the summer. He was serious.

I wanted to tell him no. He couldn’t go. It’d been six years since I’d lived in that little town with him, and I hadn’t been back more than that many times. Just living by myself out on the California coast.

“That’s exciting!” I told him. Because it was, but what I didn’t tell him was something I couldn’t explain. “Don’t stay away from your mom too long,” I wanted to tell him. Honestly. Because a young man going west without family turns into a different kind of man. He will give up religion, if he had it. He’ll have too many nights drinking. And no one will ask him about what kind of women he’s seeing.

Sounds funny, right? Like I’m in the old West, the old days? Well, whatever century it is, I’m talking about seeing a man decide to try everything in life, only to find out it hurts. And no one cares.


  1. i happen to know pretty sure that upton has never traveled beyond the northeast except once to florida. what about the minds of those small town charmers turning to wood???ng to wo

    Comment by mrs peterson — February 15, 2007 @ 10:44 am

  2. I’m not sure…will they? Turn to wood, sprout leaves maybe? What happens when people leave home and become like everyone else? Cell phone obsessed picture taking media critics? (everyone else in the big city)

    I’d like to know more from you…

    Comment by jon — February 15, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

  3. we’re the same as you, only we lack some perspective. all cluselss big fish crowding out tiny sea, lacking in some kind of humility, i believe. not that you’re ths hining example of that, beautiful friend.

    Comment by mimsy lou — February 16, 2007 @ 5:39 am

  4. I love that sentence, “seeing a man decide to try everything in life, only to find out it hurts.” Lisa Carver once told me, “You are having an interesting life. Those are not easy.” Your life is painful, but at least it makes for extremely beautiful writing. I think you should write a book. And I think one of these days you should come back to New Hampshire. It sounds like you want to. It only sucks here because people like you leave.

    Comment by Rachel — February 16, 2007 @ 7:10 am

  5. Thanks Rachel

    My friend Dave told me, “the future is an alien to the past.” Whether illegal or extraterrestrial, an alien will never be accepted into a culture the same way someone born into it. I was born into it, but can’t go back now (alienated myself!). Of course, saying california is the future of NH is arguable, but not for me personally.

    Writing a book is in the past, as well. Encourage me to become a copy writer for a large mail order catalogue company…

    when we were all making ‘zines back at the radio station, you always had the best things to say, and when we used to trade letters, your’s were always unique and well crafted. Now it is time for you to go to wordpress.org and create a blog. I can walk you through the set up and any other questions you have. It’s free. there’s no more time for excuses. Buy a scanner for 63 dollars brand new and a digital camera for $75 at office max and show the world what you can do.

    Comment by jon — February 17, 2007 @ 1:48 am

  6. Mimsy,

    At your party your son said something that sounded like, “deadly hipsters”. That cracked me up, he’s about 9, right? That lack of humility is pretty bad. Deadly jaded hipsters.

    Comment by jon — February 17, 2007 @ 1:52 am

  7. friend,
    i have no son.
    you and i left each other before the old west town marriage scene could transpire . ill fated.

    Comment by mimsy lou — February 21, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  8. Oh. I get confused with pseudonyms. Sorry. We should have gotten married in virginia city. It is where the mother lode was discovered. people back there (NH) don’t understand. The west was a junk pile of wealth we picked through back then, and it got us where we are today. We need to slow down of course but virginia city aint a joke. The west kept us alive. I don’t think the middle east will do the same.

    Dead indians, silver, a new state of the union.

    Comment by jon — February 22, 2007 @ 2:28 am

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