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Grapevine : March 2011
Apache, my wife is Yaqui." As he led us into a smoke-filled room to the right, there stood another ancient man, a 6'2" rail of a cowboy wearing weathered boots, a big square belt buckle and a sweat-stained hat. These three had probably been shooting at each other as the 1890s had ended. Sitting on a couch was a young cou- ple in their late 20s. He was in full- dress Navy uniform, hundreds of miles from the nearest port. She had a beehive hairdo and a '50s carhop appearance that would have fit the movie "Grease," which was still years in the future. As the Apache man mo- tioned us to sit, his wife brought a tray of coffee and six more cigarettes were lit. The cowboy started reading from a book and I became aware of the fact that I was in an AA meeting. "Bobby" was beaming. Our host spoke first, then the cowboy, each telling stories that to my young hippie mind seemed like tales of 20th-century Wild West des- ert history, with constant drinking along the line. They had each stood to speak. The sailor was next, stay- ing seated on the couch and, as we were much closer in age, spoke to me directly of his drinking and how he had met his wife (Beehive) at a Long Beach, Calif., amusement park while drunk. He looked me in the eye and, grinning, said, "You must know what that would be like." I did. She sat also as she laughingly told her side of the same story. Then Bob- by stood and told the same sad story he had told to me. But this time, as I watched and listened, his audience was transfixed, smiling and nodding approval and reflecting complete understanding. Where I had earlier been mostly disinterested, they were all completely focused. And in the middle of an Arizo- na desert night, in this small adobe room layered in cigarette smoke and lit by a kerosene lantern, something that I did not understand, yet some- how understood completely, un- folded before me and within me. As Bobby sat down, first our host, then the cowboy, then the sailor and the lady, and finally my highway com- panion all turned and looked at me expectantly. The Apache man smiled and nodded to me to speak. My only worry in the world was the Vietnam draft. I was simply wandering through life, embracing the '60s rock 'n' roll cultural revo- lution that I was devoted to. I only knew other hippies and shunned the straight world. I had no idea what alcohol could do to lives or any con- cept of a Fellowship of incredibly He turned right onto a dirt road and zoomed off into a twilight desert. 36 March 2011