Hot Tin Roof: From the Hitchhiking Journals

Hot Tin Roof
Hot Tin Roof is a program to showcase current literary work produced in Iowa City. The series is organized and juried by representatives of three Iowa City-based cultural advocacy organizations: The Englert Theatre, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and Little Village magazine.
By David Duer
Friday, 30 July 1976, Kearney, Nebraska

Boulder bound, I left Iowa City on my birthday / good as any day / tying up loose ends, I realize how many strings I hold,  that hold me / smoke a farewell joint at the Johnson Street house with Zap, Kevin, Bob, Pat / head out, cash a paycheck for bucks, buy this notebook, stick out my thumb on Dubuque Street / overcast and humid  (it was supposed to be sunny—I’ll find that later) / good friendly ride to the Interstate / although I’m high, my energy feels a bit low / body sore, fighting stomach flu that’s been going around / I try to massage and loosen myself up / 30-mile ride in a sweet silver Corvette / then a ride to Des Moines with Illinois public health official Mike, ten years older than me / nice fellow to rap with / fields are golden forever / looking down rows uniformly at attention / a pasture with a smear of purple through it—clover? / Des Moines is the usual drag / I’m dropped at a bad spot and eventually sit down on a guardrail, lean against a bridge abutment / sun comes out, enough to nod me into a nap, but a honking new Citroen wakes me up and takes me on down the road / exuberant Tom is a 3M executive traveling through Iowa trying to sell some devices (of torture?) to the local police departments / never found out what they were, but he is a pretty lively character / used to sitting behind a management desk, he’s digging this rare chance to get on the road, asking lots of questions about agriculture, which I can just barely fill him in on as we pass through western Iowa, Council Bluffs, across the Missouri / dropped off in Omaha at rush hour / a short breezy ride in a jeep and then a lift from some cat who lost his shirt at the racetrack puts me on the western outskirts of that stockyard town / HOO BOY!—you can smell the fear  / then a ride to Lincoln from Leo / “just about the fastest wheels this part of Nebraska” / he pulls out a couple of beers but is such a cautious fool that we let them get warm in our laps for fear someone would see us / really?—on the Interstate? / at the Lincoln exit I meet this old balding pot-bellied goateed degenerate / nothing to his name but the clothes on his back and two fingernail clippers / he walks out to where I stand to bum a cigarette, rolls my last, takes one puff, throws it away, says its awful / I ask him where he’s headed—Wyoming / where he’s coming from—East Coast / how long he’s been on the road—a  couple of weeks / what’s happening in Wyoming—nothing, not a thing / I give him a quarter to buy a Coke and get out of my hair / later I get a ride from Iz, who is moving out of Lincoln back to small-town Nebraska / he’s a mellow Chicano character / we hit it off well / two instantaneous laughs as we cruise into the still Nebraska night / through an infinity of corn and soybeans / he smokes Swisher Sweets, reminding me of high school football games and post-game parties / Fort Kearny State Historical Park, monument to our ethnocentric exploitation and slaughter of the Indians / this land doesn’t even remember them now / corn fields irrigation pipes electrical high wire concrete Interstate highways Stuckey’s McDonald’s—RAHHWWRRR! / Pioneer Village—“See how America grew”—YAMBLAH! / sunset blue black with a streak of orange / slim paring of the moon appears in the west / Iz lets me off in Kearney / eggs hash browns toast and orange juice at a Country Kitchen / by the road by a Ramada Inn by a pond too bright artificial moonlight / tempted to hitch one last ride to nowhere so I can see the stars better, but I’m too tired / lay down my rucksack and sleeping bag on the prairie / it’s a restless sleep / I wake many times many dreams / at last I open my eyes to sky turning blue and roosters crowing

Since the mid-seventies, David Duer has lived in the Iowa City area. Vagabonding, New Pioneer Coop, Pink Gravy, a family–he now teaches English language arts at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids.

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