Driving Miss Bridwell


Driving Miss Bridwell


The VW van was unusual; it had doors on both sides.  It was called a Transporter, and had a hell of a lot of miles on it.  I  recall it was maybe an old 1964 but it was my  new bedroom for a few years. What it lacked at first was an 8-track and knowing that music is at the root of it all, somehow I saved up enough S&H Green Stamps to score such a unit, and so greedily installed the booty before another climbing season could try to start without rhythm and textures.


Since Camp Four had very very few sound systems resident, the bus was popular especially with Werner, Klemens, Bridwell, and our other friends who came to drink at the trough, so to speak.  Clapton, The Stones, CSNY, The Youngbloods, Mayall were some of the favorites, but I was a jazz fan also, so I had some Coltrane too.  Klemens and I shared this taste but the harder work of Coltrane was too much like screaming, for Royal and most other sensible friends.  It was very hard for me to tolerate this lack of tolerance on their part.  For every climber, there was a chosen musician, who clearly had the secret key for his climbing;  for Klemens and I, Coltrane was indisputably why we were the offwidth dragons.


Jim and I were driving around the Valley one time, the weather was crappy, but when you have a master plan, it just doesn’t matter. We made do, as we had the 8-track and we had new routes to scope out with our temporary though copious spare time.  There was some gas in the tank and the motor hadn’t blown up yet.  As far as JB was concerned, it was a mellow, wet afternoon in the mid and lower Valley and we were centered.  Just like he was happy to belay off of a battery of rurps 6 years later 2000 ft off the talus on Pacific Ocean.  But for me, the DJ of the moment, Coltrane was honking at me from way back, loudly too. And I was grinding away inside about how in my life, I was standing on crumbly nothings and that it all hurt and I couldn’t find the answer. Kind of like a Higgins edging route. What I mean was that I was a mess and now looking back, I was not any fun at the moment either.


So JB goes,  you’re freaking out again Haan, and this Coltrane stuff is horrible or something to that effect.  I think he even used the side of his mouth to tell me this.  And it didn’t help that we only had about a dozen 8-tracks total to work with for months.  I suppose he could have said, “Coltrane’s approach, though tossing up huge melodic questions and though not atonal, requires more engagement then I currently want to offer it”, but he didn’t. While he was sitting next to me on the VW bench, in my 21 year old mind’s eye from Berkeley--- which of course, though in brutish turmoil,nonetheless knew everything---was hatefully picturing him as suburban for about an hour (there was nothing worse to be, if you were from Berkeley, even though it is a suburb).  He couldn’t tell---it was my mean little secret.  After all, a year later, he and I are doing Henley Quits with him ripped on acid while in ladies’ pink stretch Capri pants from Merced Goodwill. So  maybe I was on to something about this suburban thing.


His slashing comment only made matters worse as I was kind of needing for  Coltrane to actually have the answer here and I wanted JB to go with me on this.  But he not only didn’t, he didn’t need to, because the answer was clear: climbing, nothing else---oh and his harem.  After all, he was so much older than I---he was 27, practically middle-aged like Royal, older than dirt! I had been bothering the Lion but he could work with it. So obviously the truth was right there and I of course missed it that afternoon and had called it suburban.