VELVETILLUSION LITERARY MAGAZINE
Toggle Menu

Oasis by Eston S. Dickinson


A fresh noon sun hung over the stretch of open desert, beating down onto the figure of a young man, posed by the side of the highway. He stood, leaning on his right leg like the statue of David, his shaggy brown hair covered his forehead and into his dark eyes, shading them from the desert glare. He wore a faded brown leather jacket, his hands stuffed in the pockets. His black jeans and beaten leather boots completed his noir, mystique image. He had no luggage, not even a backpack.
The highway was as empty as the desert and stretched far into the north and south horizons: a road to nowhere through nowhere it seemed. The area seemed to have no sense of time, other than the rising and setting sun.
The sky was crystal blue, though the glare of the sun made the air dance and bend in the beating heat. He stood motionless, unbotherd by the heat and desolation, as if waiting for the city subway. Not far behind him, a green highway sign read: Tijuana 63 miles.
The tranquility of the scene slowly dissolved as a trail of dust arose in the distance to the north, and the sounds of an automobile became louder. For the first time, the hitchhiker broke his stance and turned his head toward the sound. His hair blew out of his face for a moment, revealing his portrait: A chiseled face, dark sunken eyes, high cheek bones, almost native American. His stone face remained expressionless as he stared towards the sound. In a few minutes the vehicle came into sight through the desert glare. It was a faded light blue pickup truck, rusted around the sides. It sputtered and hummed as it approached closer and closer to him as he slowly raised his arm and lifted his best hitchhiker's thumb. As the truck pulled closer it let out a scream of grinding brakes, slowing down as it approached him. The driver now visible, was an older man with no passenger. The truck eased to a halt in front of him and he slowly approached. Before he even got to the truck the older man had already started talking.
"Goddamn son! How in the hell did ya get all the way out here?!?" he blurted out with a heavy rural accent. Ignoring the question, the hitchhiker calmly spoke.


"I need a ride to the border. do you think you could help me out?" he said in a low, subtle voice. "Well hell son, I ain't gonna leave you out here to roast like a duck in the oven! I am heading cross the border myself, I run a small business outside San Diego, and." he rambled as the hitchhiker ignored him and got into the truck. The vehicle rumbled off down the road, and the hitchhiker leaned against the door, blankly staring out the window trying to make obvious he was not interested in conversation. The driver however did not seem to notice and continued rambling on. It seemed like he made this drive all too often and enjoyed any sort of company.
"So what's your business south of the border, that is, if you don't mind me asking now, young man like yourself, shouldn't ya be up in that City of Angels, I mean now, hell you don't even got no bags son, you runnin' away from yer lady?" he blabbed. His speech was as erratic as was annoying, and the hitchhiker leaned further against the window, staring across the desert.
"I have some friends to see down there," he said shortly, hoping the driver would stop talking. He didn't. "Huh, you ain't from Mexico, I mean ya sure don't look it, you been there before then huh, not too clean down there, the water and all, but my business works so that." The hitchhiker pressed his head further into the door panel. His leather jacket fell open revealing a strapped handgun. The driver kept on, every word echoing in aggravation, like a headache. "Well I only do this route three times a week, two other guys drive the other days. The border folks are nice, they know the truck and don't ever hassle me or the other drivers. They probably won't even mind I got a passenger today. Ya know we've been running this route for 15 years now."
The hitchhiker turned his head quickly towards the driver for the first time. "I lied to you, I have no friends in Mexico. I am going to drink tequila, write a novel, and find myself a good whore," he said clear and direct, then turning to look back out the window. The driver glanced over at him somewhat stunned, not knowing quite what to say. "Ahhhh, well I suppose I had some wild dreams like that when I was a young man." There was a long silence, as the driver looked straight ahead and the hitchhiker leaned back against the window.
"Well hell I didn't even tell you my name, Dennis, Dennis Sadler,"
he broke in abruptly. "What do they call ya son?" The hitchhiker didn't move or respond but kept on staring into the desert. "You all right son?" asked the driver glancing over at him. "Yeah." he eventually muttered out.
The driver readjusted his hands on the wheel, and shook his head.
The hitchiker kept his watch out across the desert, scanning the endless ocean of sand. The driver began sneaking glances over at him, trying to read the young man, but the hitchhiker held no expression in his blank stare. "Ya know, you might be a bit more comfortable with out that jacket on, it sure is a hot one," he said. The hitchhiker closed his eyes for a few seconds before reopening them and turning to the driver. "Actually I feel a bit sick, can you pull over a moment?" The truck creaked to a halt and he got out, walking around the truck and crouching. He rubbed his face in his hands, and waited a moment before the driver got out and walked over to him.
He turned and read the side of the truck through his fingers: Sadler & Austin Transporting. "You all right son?" the driver asked, taking off his hat and rubbing his sweaty brow. The hitchhiker eyed the gun hanging next to his chest, waited a moment before sitting up and looking at the old man.
"Yeah, heat's getting to me," he said smiling for the first time. The driver extended his hand and he rose. As they walked back to the truck, the hitchhiker zipped his jacket up halfway. The old truck peeled out, and continued south. "Ya know, I told ya, you wouldn't be so dang hot if ya took off ya coat!" he blurted over. "Will make ya sick son." The hitchiker grinned again looking direct at the old man. "I know, but it's an image thing, ya know" he laughed. The driver smiled nervously, "Uh, ya, image."
In a half-hour the border gates on the horizon, and in a few minutes the truck began inching through the traffic lines. As they drew closer to the gates, the hitchhiker slowly zipped his jack up, as a border guard emerged from a building and stood in the road. Pulling closer, the driver leaned an arm out and waved to the guard. Waving back, the guard stood aside as the truck pulled up. "Howdy," the driver said with a smile. "How y'all today?" "Fine thanks, the guard replied smiling, as he recognized the truck and driver. He ripped a few tickets and bent out the window handing the stubs to the driver. "Have a good one now, drive safe," the guard replied.
"Will do," the driver remarked, as the truck accelerated through the opening gates. The hitchhiker gave a wave out the window, and they sped down the road into Mexico.
"Say Dennis." began the hitchhiker, clearly now more open and outgoing, "When we hit Tijuana, let's stop and grab a few cold ones, on me of course, for the ride and the company." He smiled straight at him with an uncertain grin. The driver did not notice the joker grin of the hitchiker and stared at the road ahead. "Well, now son, I can't be drinking on the job, Hell, I'm driving!" "Well then I'll throw in lunch," the hitchhiker remarked with a wink. "Well, alright son, I suppose we might could do that.
Now where exactly did ya say you were goin' down here?" he asked. "I'll tell you my story over the drinks.and lunch," he said, waving his hand out of the
truck in the wind.
There was silence for a few moments, before the hitchhiker sat up and began coolly chatting with the driver. "So, have you ever broken down Dennis? You know, on the road all the time, the truck seems a little beat.
Did you ever break down, like, say, how I was? No phones out there, I know."
The driver, now more comfortable with the strange young man, jumped at the conversation. "Well, see, I drive 'bout 450 miles a day on the route, three times a week, for 15 years now, and son don't underestimate this 'ole girl,"
he babbled, patting the dashboard. "Once, just one time the engine coolant was out and I was stuck out there like you. I say, after a two hours I could taste the fires of Hell!" "Really?" the hitchhiker asked, lowering his voice to back to his serious tone. The driver shot a glance over. "Well, uh, well hell son, you know! Hey, how the hell long were you out there, anyway, ya lucky ya didn't go and get dehydrated?!?" The hitchhiker rubbed his head slowly, "Oh, I dunno, that place seemed to have no time, ya know?" "So. do you think that's the closest you've ever come to death, Dennis?" he said.
The driver shot another look over to the young man, astonished that the peculiar character finally addressed him by name. "Ya..uh, Yes I do believe so." he said beginning to feel nervous.
Within a few minutes the truck entered the poverty stricken city of Tijuana. "Wow, isn't it wonderful?" the hitchhiker remarked grinning widely, waving to the children grifting on the streets. The driver looked over at the young man with a look of doubt. "Pull over anywhere here man, anywhere, let's get some drinks!" The driver slowed down and nervously looked at his watch. "You know son, I'm runnin' a bit late on the route, I best be on my way." The hitchhiker turned and looked at him disappointed. He could feel the gun underneath his jacket, burning beside his chest. He dropped back to his low vocal tone. "But I want to repay you for your kindness, I mean.
Gosh Dennis, One could say you saved my life today." The driver smiled, "No son, you go on, I ain't nothing like that, I mean, I'm just glad to help ya.
You go off and have yer fun." The hitchhiker lowered his head as if disappointed, rubbing the gun through his jacket lining. "Well Dennis, then I'll just have to catch you some time later back in the desert," he said abruptly, opening the truck door and exiting. Before the driver could respond, he shut the door and began to walk away backward, still facing the driver. He raised his hand out and mimicked shooting a gun, before he winked and walked off laughing. The driver pulled away and resumed his course south, out of the city. As he drove, he could still hear the wild laughs of the young man through the crowded chaos of the city streets.

 

Music Censorship through the past 40 Years


An Essay by Eston Dickinson



Through the past forty years Music Censorship has grown along side the ever-expanding Music Industry. Radio stations, MTV, companies like Wal-Mart, and organizations such as the American Family Association are responsible for censoring and labeling albums as "obscene". Music censorship is the act of publicly censoring music. Let it be on the radio, or on MTV, Music Censorship is present nearly everywhere and for the most part is entirely legal. Music Censorship is becoming a growing problem in the United States, as it not only infringes the musician’s creative rights, but the consumer’s right to buy what they please.

Placing ratings on art interferes with the artist’s right to free speech. For many teenagers, one of the most important statements of who they are and what they believe is their favorite band or the music they most enjoy. Whether the music contains the political statements of a band like Rage against the Machine, or the message of individuality of Marilyn Manson, the sexuality of Lil’ Kim, or the affirmation of community by Public Enemy, teens express themselves through musical preferences. Of course, not all music is appropriate for children whether due to their age, maturity level, or interests. However, the discussion of messages in music and how it affects a child belongs in the home, between child and parent, not in a Senate Chamber.

The Beatles were among the first rock groups in the 1960’s to experience censorship. The album Yesterday and Today, released in June 1966, originally featured a cover image of the Fab Four dressed in white smocks, covered with raw, bloody meat, and surrounded by decapitated baby dolls. However, this unusual cover can not be found in the Beatles’ section at the local record shop. Capital Records pulled the album cover after only a few weeks in circulation. The graphic photo caused so much controversy that, over the band’s objections, Capital recalled every copy of the album that featured the infamous"butcher" photo. It was replaced with a more benign photo of the group smiling in suits.

Three decades later another group, Jane’s Addiction, fell victim to censorship in 1991 with the release of their album, Ritual De Lo Habitual. Though the album carried a parental advisory sticker, it was again, the cover, not the music that raised controversy. The original album cover featured a sculpture of a man and two women conversed in a ‘ménage trois.’ The cover outraged conservative groups such as the Parents Music Resource Center and retail chains such as Wal-Mart. numerous other chain retailers refuse to carry the album due to what is deemed as an "explicit" cover. Warner Brothers broke under the pressure and forced the reluctant Jane’s Addiction to change the cover. In a move of compromise, the band offered up an alternative cover, known as the "Amendment" version. The album cover is simple white with the First Amendment printed on the cover.

Wal-Mart is the nation’s leading seller of pop music, accounting for nearly 9% of the total domestic music CD sales. In a move to "sanitize" Music and Film, the mega-retailer refuses to stock music with lyrics and artwork considered objectionable. Titles like Nirvana’s "Incesticide" won’t be found on any Wal-Mart shelves, while another Nirvana title, "Rape Me" was downgraded to "Waif Me". Dozens of rap and hard rock artists have cleaned up their lyrics & vocal tracks to meet Wal-Mart’s family-oriented standards.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said that producers know up front that Parental Advisory music will not be carried, and must learn to factor that in if they wish to sell their music at Wal-Mart.

In August 1999 the Fraternal Order of Police called for a boycott of music groups Rage against the Machine and the Beastie Boys, to protest their support of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Both groups headlined a benefit show for Abu-Jamal in New Jersey, earlier in January 1999.

Abu-Jamal, a journalist, was convicted of the Dec.9, 1981, murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal insists he is innocent, and supporters claim he was set up because of his work as a political commentator and involvement with the Black Panther Party. He has been on Pennsylvania’s death row for over two decades. R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, ex-Talking Heads leader David Byrne and Sting, former leader of the eighties group the Police, were among dozens of celebrities who signed their names to an advertisement in the New York Times in 1995, calling for a new trial for Abu-Jamal.

Whenever ratings are placed on art there must be a concern about the right to free speech. The fact that a politician, religious leader, or community activist refuses to acknowledge the artistic achievement of popular music does not change the definition of censorship. Freedom of speech and expression are the foundation of our country, and must be preserved for everyone regardless of whether or not we agree with the message.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eston Dickinson
edickinson1733@charter.net