He’d Totally Cheat at Car Bingo

If you could spend the afternoon with anyone who is no longer alive, who would it be and what would you do?

It would be fourteen years ago in Vermont (because if I could have him back? I could also bend time to my will), and I’d call Glenn. Wake him up. He loved his sleep. Are you ready to go? He’d answer me no all groggy and foolish. We’re leaving in half an hour. Get your ass downstairs.

It would be fall, right about this time of year. The Green Mountains wearing a skirt of painted foothill foliage, perhaps a sugar dusting of snow on Mount Mansfield. The air would be cool, the sun warm, the sky blue. Pulling up in front of his dorm, leaving the Subaru running, I’d run up and knock on his door. He wouldn’t be ready.

In the end, he’d sling a book bag and a sack of laundry into the wayback. Usually, we’d have another friend with us for the drive, but not this time. This time would just be us. We’d drive through town, around the funny corner by Steve’s diner and Neil & Otto’s Pizza, and we’d sigh over the home fries at the diner – so good! – and the crust at the pizza place – so bad!

Just south of town, out on Route 7, we’d stop for gas. I’d man the pump. He’d go in to pay, and come out with a convenience store cornucopia of treats masquerading as lunch.

And then, I’d slip the car through the gears, feeling the road south unfolding as I approached fifth. I’d tell him to pick a tape. Yeah, a cassette, from the compartment under the radio. He’d spend ten minutes mocking my music mercilessly before producing some obscure thing from his book bag and putting that in. Today? It would be the singer/songwriter/humorist whose name I can never remember*, or maybe his Chuck Berry tape.

Whenever we passed farms, and in rural Vermont we’d pass farms every few miles, he’d make me join him in a chorus of animal sounds, and threaten to make me play car bingo to pass the four hour drive. Of course, as I am driving, he’d be playing my bingo card, and he’d cheat.

We would talk, about stupid things. Life things. Big things. Mean things. Strange things. Small things. We would laugh. Oh, how we would laugh! And about the time we hit southern New Hampshire, he’d tell me he had to pee, but mostly so I’d stop at the McDonald’s in Keene. He’d eat a bag full of cheeseburgers and fries, and talk me into some, too.

I’d pick on him about the pit stop, since the Massachusetts state line is only a few minutes from Keene, and his parents house only a few minutes from the state line. He’d make some crack about there being no food at home, which would be a lie, because there always was. And then, we’d be there, on the side street in the Chair City where he grew up. I’d come in, maybe say hi to his parents, and then, quickly, hug him goodbye, and promise to call him about picking him up on the way back north in three days.

And then, I’d kick a few dry leaves under my shoes, slip back into my worn out Subaru, and back out of the skinny driveway, past the house, to continue on another forty five minutes to my parents home, with my own music playing, knowing I’d see him soon.

*His name is John Forster. I looked him up. His song, “Entering Marion” is forever linked to Glenn in my mind.



50 responses to “He’d Totally Cheat at Car Bingo

  1. love this. love you.

  2. A great friendship. Ah the tolerance of youth…remember how we just accepted all those eccentricities about one another? Wonderful piece and I hooted over Entering Marion! What a sad note that the world had to lose this person.

    • One of the hardest losses of my still relatively young life.

      He was as good as family.

      And good lord, he made me laugh!

    • Do they have those “Entering” signs where you’re from? Here they’re at every town line, and all the towns in this song?

      Real places in Massachusetts.

      I’ve entered every one of them, as a piece of quirky trivia.

      • Some smaller locations may still have those signs. But in Western Canada, my recollection is that we just have the name of the town.

        One of my favourite little town names in BC is Spuzzum!!

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  4. Another courageous and lovely piece of prose from my favorite writer on the interwebs… thank you.

  5. love this. thank you for introducing me to him!
    and how in the world is it that i am unfamiliar with a song with the quite luscious title

  6. Thanks so much for this post. I miss him too.

    • I always feel closest to him in the fall. I think it must be the urge to go back to Middlebury that I get, even so many years later.

      Lots of love to you!

  7. How do you put words together like this? On a regular basis no less! You need to teach me.

  8. Hmmm… I subscribe to your email feed and follow your tweets and yet somehow this evening I decided: “well maybe she did post something else today and I missed it” so I came here to check. I realize this is irrational, being that you were at work all day. Nonetheless, I am a greedy greedy girl when it comes to CDG writing.

  9. Hello, you.

    Love that you are at a place where you can reach through the sadness for french fries, some music, and some laughter.



    • Hello, you!

      Most of the time, my memories of Glenn dwell in this place. This lighter place.

      Only occasionally, now, am I swamped by sadness.

      After the dark night on Tuesday, I was able to let in all the light.

      Clichéd, perhaps, but true.

  10. I am all late to the party this week, all the way around.

    But I love this.

    You are a rock star.

  11. This was beautiful. It’s amazing how music… a song floating in our ears… can force up a vivid memory from our past. I have several songs that have a history attached to them. Some of them I have to be in the mood to hear knowing the feelings they will conjure up…

    • So much of who I am is tied up in the music playing when the moments formed me. It’s telling that the songs which remind me of him are the goofiest in my collection.

  12. I’m really glad I started reading you through the Red Dress Club. This is lovely. Very, very lovely. I love finding happy in sad. It’s liberating.

  13. Your writing is beautiful!

    And I’d totally cheat at Car Bingo too.

  14. What a great memory of someone obviously very special to you. I guess I need to search through your archives to find out more.

    • As with many things, hindsight is clearer.

      We were friends in college, long before I ever bogged. I didn’t begin writing about him until the week he died. But he turns up here and there.

  15. so beautifully written, I felt I was in the car with y’all. I love the way your wrote this … more of stringing memories together, but it really felt like reading a story. thank you for sharing with us.

  16. I wanted to be with you guys! I love that you had him looking through cassette tapes – that alone brings back memories of hanging out with good friends and having not a care in the world.

  17. He sounds like a dynamic person. I would have loved to have known him, and thanks to you, I feel as if I did.

  18. This is beautiful. You evoke memories of being a college student and spending time with close friends, that carefree time, shared love for music, always hungry, friendship that runs deep. That you cared deeply for this person shines through every line you write, making me want to cry even though I know nothing more about him or what happened than you have written here. Wonderful.

  19. Beautifully written. I was smiling throughout, even though I felt sadness as well. What a gift you have to be able to evoke happiness and sadness at once so seemingly effortlessly.

  20. You wrote a piece that begged me to ride along. The picture you drew with your words got me all kinds of excited for Fall and REALLY makes me miss the NorthEast!
    To add to that the friendship. I too had a Glenn and your words reminds me of a relationship, while far too short, that I will forever treasure.

    Now I could REALLY use a Mickey Dee’s cheeseburger.

    • The NorthEast in the fall, much like the drives home with Glenn were?


      Thank you.

      Go get yourself a cheeseburger. You deserve it!

  21. You painted this portrait so well. I know nothing about Glenn as I am new to your blog but you gave an excellent sense of your friendship and what a fun, quirky guy he was.

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