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  • Writer's pictureHesh Meister

Lyric of the Week: EAST WEST

Take a fistful of sand and turn away from the Atlantic

Set out from Interlaken and bid Asbury goodbye

Cross the Delaware into the rest of America

What lies ahead, no one can predict or prophesy

Cow and coal country twisting through Pennsylvania

First night in Pittsburgh after slogging all day through rain

In and out of West Virginia and into Ohio for a spell

Weird vibes and pig stench pervade the endless plain

Kentucky, horses, bluegrass, and bourbon

Stop in Shepherdsville, first place I can park my beast

On through Nashville and pick up the Music Highway

Down the length of Tennessee, now I’m way out of the northeast

I seek the mystical capital of the Delta blues

But fate and the Great Creator didn’t intend this

I cross the mighty Mississippi, now I’m halfway across the land

But Who Knows when again I’ll be in Memphis

And there’s Train on the radio calling all angels

Something like an anthem for the duration of the ride

I don’t know what to expect when I finally get there

I don’t know what’s waiting for me on the other side

Arkansas, truck stop, crime scene rest stop

Ozarks, hillbillies, more pork stink, and crappy roads

Oklahoma starts off better but then it’s more of the same

Rattle on till OKC, where I take a day to loosen my load

Slice the Texas Panhandle straight across through Amarillo

Cadillac Ranch repainted with the wrong music playing

This was to be a pilgrimage to a hallowed roadside icon

But it’s a sad sight and so there’s no sense in me staying

And the same five songs have been oozing out of the radio

Something like a soundtrack for the duration of the ride

All the music that once grounded me is now adrift and weightless

And I don’t know what’ll be playing on the other side

Pass into New Mexico’s cinematic rockwave desert

Up over the Great Divide against the stiff south wind

Across the line into Arizona, hit by garish exploitation

The locals eye me like a hostile, just how exactly have I sinned?

Outside of Flagstaff the dust devil whirlwinds

Tower to the sky and cross the highway single file

Last night on the road, a stretch of Historic 66

Then the last day poised to make the last couple hundred miles

And there’s something out there that summons all spirits

At various points along the length of the ride

Are they just passing through or do they have a message for me

I guess I won’t know till I’ve reached the other side

Into the valley of awe, the Colorado like the Jordan

Seeking some Jerusalem in the Mojave sands

High desert, inland empire, two-mile backup

First taste of traffic in the promised land

The 15, The 60, The 10, the Robertson turnoff

It’s been eight days from the Park to the ‘hood

Drop my fistful of sand off the pier into the Pacific

With guarded hopes that all will turn out good

And Train’s still on the radio calling all angels

To the city of angels, along the long ride

I still don’t know what to expect now that I’ve finally made it here

I still don’t know what’s waiting now that I’m on the other side.

©2022 The Hesh Inc.

I-40 west, Mojave Desert, California
I don’t know what to expect when I finally get there / I don’t know what’s waiting for me on the other side.

This is a greatly shortened version of the lyrical travelogue of my westward migration across the USA in June 2003. While my then-wife and daughter flew directly from Newark to Los Angeles, I made a point of driving, carrying all our earthly possessions in a U-Haul box truck towing our van behind us. I already had one bad experience in my life being shlepped halfway around the world, dropped into a new situation, and told to sink or swim; I was not going to repeat that scenario. For such a dramatic change in circumstance—for that's what a move from the East Coast to the West Coast really is—a pilgrimage was called for. I had lived most of my life up to that point with an East Coast bias, with extreme prejudice against the West, especially California, believing it to be the vast wasteland of fruits, nuts, and flakes. But after a series of developments in our lives, my wife and I decided to try our luck out west, and as I left New Jersey, I left with a feeling of cautious optimism in my heart ... not knowing what to expect, but willing to give it a chance. The entire drive, passing through the heart of the country and taking the southern route all the way through the southwestern desert, was a cleansing for me, purging all my prejudices, and by the time I got to the Colorado River valley in Arizona—a vista very similar to the Jordan Valley in Israel, times ten—I left all hesitation and reluctance on the valley floor. As I ascended from the valley into the Mojave Desert, there was a distinct feeling of arriving in a promised land ... if not the Promised Land, then a land that held promise for the future. What would happen later was not yet apparent; at this moment, I was still holding my breath and hoping, wishing, and praying for the best.

This was to be the second track to JRZguyinLA, my projected album about my time in California. Musically, the song is fast-tempoed, evoking the feeling of speeding across wide-open landscapes. The album may yet come to fruition after some more of its songs are completed.

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