Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 4


Four Hours In Washington

Keeping one eye on the road as my car sped north, I glanced at the printed Internet driving directions on the passenger seat.  Approximately 1144.3 miles (give or take) to my ultimate destination:  171 Lake Washington Boulevard in Seattle.  I could have found “exact” mileage had I bothered to enter my own home address, but my big brother paranoia always left me wary about giving out my real details on the Internet, even to a mapping engine.  Where do you think junk mail comes from?  If my conscience told me that they were watching, who was I to doubt it?  Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you.  Besides, on a trip this long I only needed to know the highways.  I can get to the freeway from my house without any help from Mr. Mapquest, thank you very much.

    I eyed the speedometer and the clock to do some quick math as to my pace.  (Driving math and bowling math are closely related.)  Good, but not great.  Even though I was a man on a mission, I reluctantly accepted it was best to split the sixteen-hour drive into two parts.  Today’s goal was to break the halfway point.  I should have hit the road as soon as inspiration struck, but I foolishly decided to get some rest first.  So instead of setting forth in an adrenaline fueled blaze of glory I let insomnia kill my buzz, dozed off somewhere in the wee hours and finally sputtered out the door with a coffee and radio aided kick-start just after sunrise.

    I could see no reason to rush the drive since my intent and ability made a traditional schedule unnecessary.  It was more my eagerness calling for the urgency than anything else.  Mulling my options after the accidental time trips, I decided that whatever had happened to me both at the bowling alley and at home was definitely more than just a chemically induced fantasy.  And if it was real, I wanted to explore it to its fullest potential before it went away forever.  I’d also been itching for a road trip ever since I found myself without a job, which is why I set forth on an observational journey to unravel a great mystery of history:  the death of Kurt Cobain.

    I call it a death rather than the generally accepted suicide ruling since I subscribe to the conspiracy theory that something just didn’t fit.  There’s a private investigator who thinks Courtney Love had her husband offed when he threatened to divorce her.  Evidence includes the level of heroin in Kurt’s blood being far too concentrated for him to handle (let alone fire) a shotgun, the allegation that the suicide note was actually a retirement note, two different handwriting samples on said note, sloppy police work based on assumptions rather than facts, and various other anecdotal inconsistencies.  I had written an article for my college newspaper about the case that got picked up and syndicated nationally among other college papers.  That article turned out to be the big break that got me into music reporting.

    I realize I haven’t mentioned my old career yet.  Once upon a time I was a freelance music critic.  Most of my writings critiqued newer artists by comparing and contrasting them with the classic sensibilities of other songwriters—both domestic and foreign, contemporary and historic.  Growing up on my parents’ collection of  “The” bands (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, The Clash, and The Ramones) along with a sprinkling of Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, and Harry Chapin kept me musically grounded yet still diversified enough to appreciate the importance of the singer songwriters among the rock and roll forefathers.

    I briefly migrated towards grunge and metal as I came of musical age, but my roots ensured that my tastes were more eclectic than my peers.  As a young writer, my heyday was covering the new British invasion of the mid to late nineties when Alternative paved the way for Britpop to enter America.  I started a little late, but wrote many primer articles that allowed me to catch both myself and my readers up on the scene.   None of the bands to come out of this era were ever as big as The Beatles, but quite a few shared some similarities.  Blur, Carter USM, Cast, Supergrass, Black Grape, Oasis, James, Kula Shaker, and The Wonder Stuff were all on my radar.  Great hooks, poppy melodies, and a holier than thou, bigger than Jesus English swagger combined with topical, punny lyrics that really meant something.

    I also wrote an odd review here and there on an American band, but mostly stuck to the Brits.  The exception was Nirvana, for whom I always had a soft spot without really knowing why.  Maybe it was because the cacophony of controlled chaos embodied in the music spoke to me more so than anything ever had before.  Or that they were the first band I could really call my own.  Or the Beatlesque mania that surrounded the release of Nevermind.  Or maybe it was because the article on the murder conspiracy theory got me noticed.  Or maybe it was just because they were so damn good.

    Back to that conspiracy theory, I’d never been certain either way, but I always felt that the evidence didn’t rule out murder.  Not that my opinion mattered, for if all went well I’d be days away from joining the select few who knew the real truth.  I didn’t know what I’d do with the information once I had it, but that wasn’t very important to me at this point.  Maybe deep deep down I thought it could revive my sagging writing career, a worthy cause that was something to believe in.  Of course, all of this presumed I actually had traveled in time, and if so I was suddenly a master of time travel after two short accidental lessons.  For this I had a plan.

    Caught up in my thoughts and the stereo, I made it thirteen hours on the first leg before stopping at a motel in Eugene at around 7pm. I asked the woman at the front desk if I could get a discounted room rate due to the short duration of my stay and my lack of employment.  Although I was trying my best to dole out the charm, she wasn’t having any of it and declined my advances while citing company policy. 

    At times like these I wished I could be more like my father.  He had this uncanny ability to interact with secretaries, waitresses, telemarketers and other female service professionals to get whatever he needed with a wink and a smile, regardless of the quote unquote rules.  Unfortunately that’s not a characteristic I inherited from him.  How his sexism became my ageism is beyond me.

    Settling into my full priced room, I perused the free newspaper left on the dresser for some entertainment.  The movie listings weren’t all that exciting, and the television had fifty-seven channels but nothing on.  Eugene didn’t have a major league baseball team, and the minor league team was out of town.  Flipping past the entertainment section, I saw an advertisement for an upcoming Bob Dylan concert on October 5 at McArthur Court on the University of Oregon campus.  That date was almost a month away, but would that really stop me?

    I drove to the University and wandered around a bit until I located McArthur Court.  Surprisingly enough it actually was a “court,” as in the basketball court the college team plays on.  Although I was annoyed at myself for not figuring that one out, I had more important things to think about.

    With basketball season not starting until November, the venue was closed on this September evening.  The gates were locked, but that would be even less of an obstacle than the time barrier.  Opening the newspaper again, I stared into the face of old Mr. Zimmerman, massaged my neck, and focused hard on that soon to be day in October.  Future, here I come!

    Apparently this was easier said than done. 

    Time travel lore and theory are pretty split as far as access to the future is concerned.  The Grandfather Paradox is often cited as the logical reason why travel to the past is impossible, but travel to the future could scientifically work without having this problem to deal with.  They say it would require travel at the speed of light and possibly a zero gravity black hole, but the rest of the science involved is over my head. 

    Both myself and the old man had allegedly visited the past, so that disproved half of the theory.  And I was pretty sure my travel occurred while standing still, nixing the speed of light aspect.  I used to be of the mindset that travel to the future would be impossible since it hasn’t happened yet, and thus there isn’t any future to go to.  But if the old man had come here from the future, he obviously had to return there.  Just because I’m not aware of the future relative to me doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.

    But how could I get there?  Remembering the two previous trips, blinking backwards seemed to follow a pattern.  I needed to focus on an event I had specific knowledge of, be it via an actual memory (meeting Huey on the street in 1986) or a good secondhand account (Bowlingus and his 270 game).

    Thinking of a birthday could have been too vague, and staring at a black and white advertisement for a Dylan concert that hadn’t yet occurred was neither a memory nor a secondhand account.  Hmmm.  Why not try to retrace the other trips?



    “Is this the ‘50s, or 1999?”

    Golf  ball!

    Bowling ball!

    Either I was missing something, or one of my baseless theories was completely wrong.  But those last images may have been a subconscious reminder.  I was holding a bowling ball before my first trip and a golf ball for my second.  The answer was obvious.  You need to have balls to travel in time.