Truck Drivin’ Astronaut

I taught myself how to play guitar so I could write songs about whatever I fancied.  Truck Drivin’ Astronaut is one of the first ones I wrote, probably around 1973, though I can’t specifically pin down the date. The moon landing was an obvious inspiration.

My astronaut is an everyman who remains grounded even while in space. He’s the cowboy next door who takes out his own trash and sips beer on the front porch. Commercial endorsement rewards will soon be coming his way as they do to many successful Americans. In the last verse, now that he’s been in space, he’s uncertain that he prefers his earthly existence.

It’s also possible that the protagonist is not even an astronaut but instead is just a dreamer. Or a songwriter.

Many of the photos are from a Sunflower Cablevision video shoot for Randy Mason’s program “Bringin’ It All Back Home.” They were shot in and around Lawrence, Kansas. Probably around 1979 but not certain. Pretty sure the photog was Jim Jewell. The outfit is compliments of my dear friend, Jim Vaughn, who was working for a fire retardant company at the time. I photographed his visit to my wife Linda’s classroom at Wakarusa Valley Elementary. The shot of wife, Linda, and I (me in the cowboy hat) was taken by our friend Steve Burkhart near Lake Powell, Utah in 1973. The astronaut with wine was shot last week by Linda. Space shots compliments of NASA. The suit is still in our attic and one day will be donated to either to the Smithsonian or Good Will.

I Am Sick

I Am Sick

I’m not good at being sick and right now I’ve been sick for seven days. Started with a slight headache in the afternoon. Thought maybe I had too much sun while on the lake, but then I realized I had upper respiratory pain when I took a deep breath and at bedtime I asked my wife to feel my forehead and it was warm. My temperature was 100. I never have a temperature and I never get sick. I am bad at being sick because I have little practice. On day two, the Fourth of July, the fever climbed to near 103, a level I may have felt 45 years ago when I had mono. Must be the flu? The next day, my wife’s birthday, it reached 104.5. Then it went down to normal. The next day I had a twenty-minute spell of uncontrollable shaking, the rigors, and the fever climbed to 103.7. Saw the doctor on consecutive days. He probed and listened and had me give blood for possible West Nile or tick fever. Ordered a chest X-ray that confirmed that I had pneumonia. Rather, I still have pneumonia. Strong antibiotics that upset my stomach and interfere with my sleep and bed rest and plenty of liquids. We’ve been taking my temp every couple of hours for seven days and writing them down. They remind me of radio station frequency numbers. Oldies 104.3.

When you are sick you have plenty of time on your hands. But it isn’t your time. It’s sick time. Slow moving. You just lie there and feel tired. And useless. And you begin to think of everything you could have ever done but never did. And you begin to feel that maybe you’re not getting any better. You’re feeling sorry for yourself, the most despicable feeling you can have. You’re a worthless lug and that’s how you became sick. When you’re sick, you aren’t in your right mind, so stupid thoughts can form and fester. A fevered imagination is that of someone who comes up with wild thoughts and notions that have little grounding in reality but when you’re sick, reality shifts and these fevered thoughts make as much sense as anything else.
Lying in bed much of the day, often with a splitting headache and no appetite for daytime TV, I read from my five-pound book, a President Grant biography mischievously titled: Grant. Somewhere past page 600, we are in post-war reconstruction and there is graphic description of the wonton slaughter of blacks by my southern skin peers. I have to put down the book for a while because it is difficult to slog through such cruelty. Of course, the hundreds of pages leading up to Reconstruction, describing the Civil War battles of Grant were also gruesome, but this lynching and mutilation of defenseless, terrified people is revolting. The collective PTSD inflicted upon these ex-slaves will endure for untold time. It yet endures. Over the years I have often heard my skin peers say they—African Americans—need to “just get over it.” Are there time limits to what one is able to get over? Every high school kid should be required to spend a month, with all of the grisly details, on the insanity of the Civil War, the conditions that lead to it and the lawless terrorization that followed and continues today. It must not be candy-coated and presented as some distant, now-forgotten mistake. Today at plantation tours and Civil War reenactments it is historical entertainment. We must eliminate all traces of glory from this travesty. in Germany, do they have Auschwitz reenactments on select weekends? Do accountants quit eating for a year in order to accurately portray those emaciated beings on their way to the gas chamber?

I am sick, and I am really lousy at being sick. I am sick of getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of liquids. With the heavy Grant book now closed and resting beside me on my bed, while in some grotesque, fetal-like position, I sneak a peek at Twitter. What is the gangster baby clown up to? What new cruelty has this mal-formed soul who runs America perpetrated upon civilized society? The count of immigrant children ripped from their mothers’ arms is now up to 3,000. Just following the law. These kids will carry the same terror that Holocaust survivors and ex-slaves carried for the rest of their lives. And the effects ripple outward from America. Give us your tired your humble and we’ll piss on ‘em said Lou Reed.

I am sick of American exceptionalism. I am sick of the phrase “deeply held religious beliefs.” I am sick of conservative principals, that are merely code words for “fuck the poor and the dispossessed and just give me more.” I am sick of billionaires. I am sick of CEOs. I am sick of the Koch Brothers. I am sick of America because America is a sick country that elected a foul beast. I am sick of a system where politicians spend more time with donors and lobbyists than constituents who are seeking justice or equality.

My fever has been gone for over twenty-four hours, yet I am still sick. The Supreme Court will soon elect a Justice who will ensure that civil rights take a step backward. If we could just work our way back to the Civil War.

Be sure to vote. Get well soon.

Roger Bain
July 9/10, 2018