The song of Ferni Diswalter’s life was like a vinyl 78 rpm record with a scratch across it. It went round and round on the turntable and kept playing the same small snatch of song over and over again. As you might expect, the snatch of lyric for Ferni’s life was from the hippie song “San Francisco”. “If you go t. . .If you go t. . .If you go t. . .” There was no San Francisco in it, there were no flowers, there was no hair. Ferni swiped his hand over the skin of his noggin.
He was currently parked on inbound southbound I-270 with about thirty-thousand other DC sloggers. Traffic inched. Traffic inched some more. Curses hung over the pavement like heat waves. Somebody somewhere was leaning on a horn. A woman with tie-dye hair in a white convertible Impala with flames painted on the door panel kept changing lanes and was flipping everybody off. She was being answered with opened-window flip offs. She flipped twice at Ferni. Ferni smiled and nodded. What else in the groove could he do? It had all happened before, and before that, and before that. He gritted and hunkered and clutched the steering wheel and turned the volume up on Morning Edition.
Tonight at home there would be PBS news, then Masterpiece Theater, then a quick run with Kushnita, the female Tauren hunter, then bed, then the alarm, then forty minutes of inbound I-270, then eight hours of meetings, inboxes, outboxes, secretary blither, then another forty minutes on outbound I-270—[skip groove.] Repeat. It was the way things were, the way things had been, and the way it seemed things would continue to be for as long as there were years.
And so it might have been. We will never know about that. We will never know because just before traffic inched up to the Rockville exit # 6, Steve Inskeep began NPR’s memorial of Scott McKenzie by playing the opening phrases of “If You go to San Francisco”. “If you go t. . . .” And Inskeep began speaking as the tune faded into the background.
Suddenly, Ferni Diswalter knew, just knew that he was going to finish the goddamned song. It was as if some eternal thumb had nudged the needle out of it’s groove. He bulled his Rav4 into the right hand lane then nudged into the off ramp lane. He barely paused at the Yield sign, hearing some loser’s horn dopplering behind him as merged onto northbound 28. During the morning rush, north was a low volume direction , and he wished that he had a convertible Impala with flames painted on the door panel.
He righted onto Research Blvd, and then left into a parking lot. There was a modest plastic sign with “Westat” on it. There was still a few parking spaces since not all the Westat sloggers had arrived. He took the first one and began to rummage through his CD collection. It took nearly five minutes to find the The Sound of the 60s. But there it was. His hands shook with the enormity of it. Here it was, song number 7, the whole song. He popped “The Sound of the 60s” from the plastic shell and with both trembling hands fed it into the CD slot. Inskeep was cut off mid sign-off-credits, and the Byrds were singing ‘Turn Turn Turn”.
“And so it has turns,” Ferni thought. He punched ‘scan’ until the familiar guitar and tambourine came up. “Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. . . . Summer time will be a love in there . . .”
He pulled back onto Research Blvd, thinking as he passed the “Westat” sign “West sounds good, West sounds like a new groove. West sounds very good” He pulled onto 28 headed North and West. He did not slow, and he had no intention of stopping except to appear to comply with the law until the record stopped playing. He rolled down the window, stuck his hand into the slipstream and flipped it all off.