The following text is taken from Adam Gnade's wonderful Hymn California book. Read.Enjoy. Photobucket STORIES On the bus we tell our life stories. The tiny New York firefighter with a handlebar mustache and his shabby fire retardant jacket stowed above the seat. His story: His fiancée paid for his trip across and had his new truck—a late ’80s Silverado bought by his future father-in-law—shipped out west and surprised him with a bus ticket the day of. He figured he’d have to buy the ticket himself and was planning on doing just that at the station, but she came through. Doesn’t matter that she’s older than him or that his father-in-law makes him feel low class, all is right and he’s headed west. He and his fiancée have a kid together and he’s glad to be out of old cold New York with its freezing winters and crazy rent and “everybody going everywhere all the night, all hours of the night … and cops, whores, druggies, fags … my god.” He sits across from me and boasts of buying cars before they come up on police auction. This, he says, is because he’d been a repo man once and still has connections. As we pass through some eastern Kansas town on the I-70, he says, “Nice sniper tower there,” and wags a long-nailed finger—a thin crooked stick finger—at a crow’s nest in the middle of a field of bramble. He tells his story, his long and busted up life story, as I stare out the window into perfect Easter egg blue sky. “Here comes the Ferrari!” he cheers, interrupting his own story, as a low, red blur of a car pulls up alongside our bus, then speeds forward and disappears in front of us. We’ve come across it a few times over the last couple hours. It stops for gas and we pull past it. We stop for food and it keeps moving. Half the bus is obsessed with it. “So where was I?” he asks his seat-mate. “Oh, Tampa. Tampa was damn hot that summer … ” Life stories. The stories of ache and of sweating and confusion and love and money and so many dead ends that come down and block out the light for months. Life stories, of the recently discharged Navy engineer on his way back to Eugene, Oregon, who’s coming home for the first time in 10 years and is ready to be a father to the son he had when he was 17. He talks about his Navy father—who’s a hemophiliac, but has spent the last 20 years drinking in ports and is “dying of stomach ulcers that will never heal.” He followed in his father’s footsteps and loved the Navy, “though only in peace time else you’re off in the Gulf with rag-heads trying to shoot your balls off. Pardon the expression.” His life story is told to the silver-haired woman in front of me and is filled with death of family members, temptation, bad career choices, long journeys, and flirtation with crime and violence. He has the look of a newborn bird with sparse feathery facial hair molded into a goatee. Under his Navy baseball cap is a crew cut that sticks out in cowlicks. Maybe Mexican but with a vaguely Texan whitebread accent. He’s intelligent but guarded in his wisdom, more apt to talk about fistfights in bars or pickup trucks or career perseverance than the intangible, bigger things on his mind. And they are there. You can see them moving like ghosts behind his gray eyes. Once you realize the only thing people want to do is talk about themselves, it ruins you for going on about yourself, makes you feel vain and uninteresting. It causes you to second-guess the truth as you know it and doubt the worth of what you’re saying. Makes you think that anybody listening is just waiting for their chance to butt in and tell their own story. How self-consciousness and fear of vanity messes with your head! You pick everything apart ’til nothing’s fun or worthwhile anymore … that getting dressed up nice is sinful vanity, that confidence is just a reaction to feeling small. Think too much about this, and dissect your motives too often and you’ll end up squeezing the life right out of yourself. So we drink to wash away our raw nerves and smash down our defenses against “letting go.” We work harder than anything to destroy our self-consciousness and critical edge in great silvery waves of liquor, which toss and churn like mercury in our veins, because too much reflection and too much time locked up inside your head can kill any chance you’ll ever have at enjoying anything. The frustrating truth. I’ve promised myself a good time soon as I get to Portland—though I’m resigned to the fact that I‘ll have to mooch off people and shake them down for drinks and meals and wear out my welcome sleeping on floors. My friends are kind and I’ll be kind back to them. It’s a give and take. Ben Frank slept in my spare room once for three months. We’ve all been the one with the money and the one that tramps along and borrows. Understanding that, and setting aside ego, we can keep each other drunk and happy and ask for nothing more. Link: http://www.adamgnade.com/