Friday, September 11, 2009


bill stevens
I met Bill Stevens on a sidewalk
on a sidewalk in Mexico
he was arguing with a senor
about the price of his tacos
claiming he’d been charged more
because he was an American
claiming he’d been ripped off
and most likely he had been
for he was like us
another gringo trying to make
our way through the dusty streets of ol’ Mexico
without getting the shit kicked out of us
or harassed by the military police
when Bill Stevens gave up his argument
and walked off swearing to his van
I said to him, “hey man, any
chance we could get a ride with you?”
Bill Stevens laughed a might laugh
and said, “of couse. where are you going?”
I told him we were heading south
and he said, “you can have a ride
as far south as I’m going
or until I die, whichever comes first, ha ha.”
we realized then that he was not like us
Bill Stevens was from upstate New York
he was in his mid fifties
and he had terminal cancer
so instead of rotting away in a hospital
he spent his last dollars on a van
and a sleeping bag
had driven southwest from New York
and on down into Mexico
“to enjoy myself until the bandidos
rob me and kill me and throw me off
a cliff to rot in the jungle.”
Bill Stevens had a very direct
way with words
and he had this certain way about him
this doomed man living out his life
as an excited child until he found death
or death found him
so we got in his van
and he drilled along down the highways
looking out at the horizon
and pointing to anything there was
fields of grass
plots of vegetables
mountain ranges or city lights
and he’d say, “JEEESSUSSS, would you
look at that? We don’t have mountains
like those up in America! look at those fields!
that must be cabbage! we don’t have
cabbage fields like that up there
in America! JEEESSUSSS!”
he drove into the night
ripping along mountain ridges
and long winding uphill drags
he kept his foot
stomped on the accelerator
and he’d make wild passes
cars, vans, tractor trailer trucks
he didn’t car what it was
as long as it was in his way
he’d just go straight around it
death-kissing passes
that made us close our eyes
and wait to see if we made it through
while he tore along
hellbent on getting to
wherever he was going
as fast as he could he would laugh
and shout to my friend Gerard
who was sitting in the front seat
“I bet you shit your pants, Gerard! I bet you just
SHIT YOUR PANTS! Ahhh ha ha ha!”
he'd roar with laughter and then say
“me? I’ve lived my life. but you, Gerard? I bet
you just SHIT YOUR PANTS!"
in the night we arrived in Puerto Vallarta
and he pulled over to the side of the main drag
I woke up and opened my eyes
to throngs of tourists and travelers
pretty girls in tiny skirts
and vendors selling just about everything
Bill Stevens looked around
for a moment and said, “all right, boys.
I think this is what you were probably
looking for. some good looking girls
and some bars to drink at. it was good
to meet you and have a good time
on your trip. this here, this isn’t for me.
this isn’t my style. too many people
and too many tourists, but you young bucks,
I’m sure you’ll do just fine here.”
we popped out onto the street
said our goodbyes to Bill Stevens
and watched his van rattle off
down the main drag
maybe to a quiet campground
or a whorehouse
or on and on through the night
or over a rocky cliff into eternity

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