COAL: A VW Bus That Was, One That Wasn’t, and an Isuzu I-Mark

I met Mike shortly after I arrived at UOregon, somewhere between a couple of classes we took together and KWVA, the campus radio station. I did news; I thought I was ever so clever to start the weather reports with “Lookin’ out that exclusive K-W-V-A weather window!. The joke was—fasten yer seatbelt, here it comes—there was no KWVA window of any kind, for the studio was a thoroughly interior room near the back of an upstairs level of the student union building. Ba-da-bing, et cetera. Yeez, what a dork.

Mike, on the other hand, was an actual, real, honest-to-glassblowing hippie; the kind I’d only ever read about in books. And I mean it; my suburban Denver high school library had a book with a chapter about hippies. There was a black-and-white picture of a shirtless, beardy longhair smoking a joint in the middle of a cornfield. Here we see the North American hippie in his natural habitat might as well have been the caption. I’d glanced cautiously at the book, a few pages at a time, way back in the stacks, lest anyone see me looking at a picture of someone doing something illegal.

Mike did the late-late radio shows on Saturday night, called Infinity Time and The Stone Zone. We hung out in the studio during the shows. Oh, that’s why “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is so long: plenty of time to get down to the loading dock, spend a few –hours– minutes grazing in the grass in his comfy VW Bus, and get back up to the studio in time to put on the next track, all without hurry or worry (assuming one of us remembered to block open the back door to the building).

We weren’t the only ones grazing in the grass in Eugene on Saturday night, believe it or don’t; the swing shift employees at the big commercial bakery in town (Oroweat? Franz?) used to call in and explain, very earnestly and at great and repetitive length, why it was essential that Mike put on the song they wanted to hear. Sometimes they could even almost remember the title. It was all good; Mike appreciated his audience and their state of mind; he did his best to work their tunes into the playlist—sometimes mixed with a tape loop of Kermit the Frog going “Do you know what’s green? Do you know what’s green? Do you know what’s green?“.

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