In the spring of 1972 I embarked upon my first cross-country road trip. Well, not so much cross-country as much as it was cross-Texas. That was far enough. I was young and naive and was tired and lonesome as I spied two vagabonds on the side of the road just outside Odessa, TX. Yes, hitchhikers. In 1972 it seemed a viable way to get around. And for drivers, the reality of serial killers hadn’t quite seeped fully into the collective mind quite yet. I wonder now if we matured as a society or if the foolishness has been weeded out of the genetic pool much the way dogs with a penchant for chasing cars seem a rarity now. Anyway, I picked these guys up. They had no set destination but I ended up dropping them off in Carlsbad New Mexico where, somehow, one of them had some distant acquaintance with someone there where we all snagged a place to sleep in a gazebo. Yes. A gazebo.
The trip was uneventful except for the talkative one. He talked almost non-stop. The blurb I remembered most was his bucket-list item to go to Memphis TN so he could spit on Elvis Presley’s fence. It seems he had once seen a picture of Elvis’ house and he thought the fence with musical notes attached to it was the tackiest and most obtuse thing this guy could imagine so his undying wish was to spit on it. Remember, this was 1972 so Elvis was still alive. The best I can remember, this happened right around the Texas/New Mexico border.
That part of my trip was over and I got up the next morning and bid the vagabonds a hasty farewell and I headed back to Texas to continue my trip.
Advance about 18 months. Back then I used to visit some friends in Austin quite regularly. On one of these trips I had met a young woman I took quite a fancy to. Although our meeting was brief and mostly involved me giving her an innocuous ride home, she had invited me over “the next time you’re in town.”
About three weeks later I had planned another trip and I decided to take her up on that offer. She answered the door, quite surprised and flustered to see me. If it wasn’t a party, it should have been since there was quite a crowd over at her house. Although she invited me in it was not quite what I expected and from the look on her face I don’t think she was too thrilled with the way things had progressed either.
Anyway, my elusive dreams of a possible romantic interlude had evaporated and I decided to sit down for a few minutes to avoid giving the impression that I was being too hasty in my departure, even though THAT was what I wanted to do. There were numerous conversations going on, with one person across the room dominating. Then he said it, obviously intoning what was probably for him a standard spiel.
“Some day I want to go to Memphis and spit on Elvis’ fence…”
Frankly, if I had picked up two murderers hitchhiking and had later been asked to identify either one of them in a police lineup I wouldn’t have been able to. But THAT COMMENT, it was like deja vu all over again. The realization hit me like a lightning bolt and even though I would have been quite content to have never seen (or heard) this guy again, here he was, in the most random of random places. I did mention the coincidence, and he was just as amazed as I was. Somehow fate had thrust us together twice, 600 miles and 18 months apart.
That was just before I looked at my watch and said, “oh, my … look at the time.”
Sometimes fate indicates providence and sometimes it is a warning. I got the heck out of there!