Driving the Dalai Lama to Seattle• March 26, 2009
Or here’s a story. A cheerful young man tells it over coffee.
A year ago I drove the Dalai Lama from Portland to Seattle,
He says. He finished a speech here and had to rush up north
For the next one, but planes and trains weren’t running so I
Volunteered to drive him and he said sure, that’d be terrific,
So off we go whipping up the interstate. I asked him to rest
In the back seat, maybe stretch out and read, or catch a nap,
But he said no, he liked trees and hills and rivers and birds,
So he sat up front and fiddled with the radio the whole trip.
Well, you wouldn’t believe that man’s knowledge of music.
It began with Paul Revere and the Raiders, which he loved,
And then riffed off into the Shins and Fountains of Wayne,
And the Surfaris and Ventures, he’s totally into surf music,
And Link Wray and Robert Gordon, he loooves rockabilly,
And even esoteric stuff like Arvo Part and Kronos Quartet.
It was hilarious. By the time we passed the Lewis River he
Was five bucks up on me in bets on who could name the song
First. You wouldn’t believe this guy. Give him three notes
And he’s got the song, nine out of ten times. No way can I
Explain how funny this was. I was totally losing it laughing.
And his face, man, when he shouted something like Bruce!
It was one of those trips you did not want it to ever be over.
We finally pull into Seattle, and of course it’s raining hard,
And I get out the nine bucks I owe him from the bets I lost,
And he won’t take the money, he says give it to some kids,
And then he says, still smiling, that of course the reason he
Knows seven million songs is that he is always on the road,
A line I never forgot, and a line that makes you sort of sad,
When you think about it. The poor guy, his country stolen,
His family and friends in exile or dead, everybody nodding
At what he says about compassion but no one really does it,
How he can be so real and funny I haven’t the faintest idea.
But I tell you, don’t bet against the guy knowing Dick Dale
Or They Might Be Giants or Midnight Oil or Willie Nelson.
Trust me when I tell you he’s the one guy not to bet against.