Those were good times, though, and there were always plenty of good dumb jokes to go around—of which I, being that perpetually shirtless, curly-haired boy with some weird book in his pocket, was often the butt—and one time they pissed me off. I told Tim what he could go do to himself and took off walking down the road, immediately expecting my ass to be stomped. But Tim laughed instead and dragged me back. He slapped the back of my head, handed me a Budweiser and told me to “Come on, you’re with us.”
One night Tim and I were drunk, riding in his truck with the radio blaring. “Freebird” had just come on. I’d heard the song a thousand times. There was something about that chorus, though—what seems like a simple love song means something strangely personal when you’re riding drunk down a dark Georgia back road and the song says: “…and this bird you’ll never change.” Tim looked over at me smiling when that famous guitar solo started up. He waved at the dark Georgia landscape and said, “This song was for us.”
Every time I hear “Freebird,” I hear Tim in my head telling me that I’m with him and this song was for us. But my old buddy probably won’t be at Riverbend to hear Freebird this year. I haven’t talked to him in a long time. The last time I saw him he didn’t recognize me—he was on the white man’s crack. He’s surely dead or in jail or somewhere between the two now.
The hipsters will be out, though. They always are. I doubt they will be going see Lynyrd Skynyrd—they will be on restaurant patios and downtown bar porches, nursing beers and playing Riverbend bingo. They’ll look up to laugh or disdainfully smirk at the passersby—those with leather boots and hair on their faces and chains attached to their billfolds. I’ll be there, too—though not with the hipsters.I gave up on hipsters when I realized Kerouac was a phoney. I’ll probably be staggering down some downtown street towards the Coca-Cola stage with booze in my back pocket and hollering “Freebird!” so those on the patios can put another beer cap on their Riverbend bingo boards.