Izzy gets a ride to New Hope in a 1948 Ford.
But this day wasn’t going to get any better. It took some time before I caught a ride in a battered 1948 Ford. It was the last of the post-war Fords, a remnant of classic automobile architecture made at a time when the industry was already shifting to more modern soft-shell designs. In a year, Ford would blast right through the frontier to rocket designs with the 1949 model. The driver wore farmer overalls. There were piles of stuff in the back seat, and the seats were frayed. He had pop-riveted sheet metal onto the floorboard beneath the front passenger seat, and I could almost feel the road rushing like rapids under my feet. It had triangular jib windows in the front doors that could be pointed against the current to blow more air into the cabin, and there were outdoor vents from the hood into the leg space. It was summer, and getting on in the afternoon, but the overall sensation was not unpleasant.
We rode in silence for a while and then he offered me a cigarette, which I declined, and he finally asked where I was going. I told him the river, and he said he wasn’t going that far, but then he ended up driving me into New Hope anyway. As I got out of the car, he seemed to be finishing with his cigarette. I asked him if I could throw it away for him.
He looked at me with a queer expression, old farmer blue eyes burning bright from a deeply sun-burnt face, his hands gnarled by a lifetime behind a tractor wheel. He took another draw on the cigarette and handed it to me, who was still standing in the open door. “Help yourself,” he said.
Later, he tries to find Quentin, the peddler of coconut-head icons.
Less lost, I navigated to Quentin’s rooming house, having little faith that he would be there since the streets were flush with potential icon buyers. And his landlord looked at me as though I had washed up on shore in a hurricane.
“Landlord,” I whispered, “is the harpooner here?”
“Oh, no,” said he, amusedly, “he’s away.”
So I went exploring the streets of New Hope, and after wandering a while I spied above the masses Quentin’s crosstree some ways down the street where I tread. He saw me coming.
“Like an ignorant pilgrim crossing the snowy Alps in winter,” he said, lowering his rack of coconut skulls below its optimal merchandising level in the great open-air marketplace of America.
I clapped his shoulders with both hands.
“What brings thee here?” he asked.
“I was hoping to talk to the canal people again, but they weren’t at the café.”
“No, they aren’t there anymore,” he said, twirling his crosstree of coconut skulls for the tourists.
“Can I find them? I need to get their names.”
“Well, I don’t know. Sometimes they are there; sometimes they aren’t.”
“And if they aren’t there?”
Quentin shrugged, his coconut skulls dancing aloft. “Then they are someplaces else.”