(I wrote this in May of 2012. I like it.)
The second, and so far last time I ran into Elvis Costello was in Richmond, Virginia. Well, not exactly in Richmond, but just outside of Richmond in Goochland County.
He had a shotgun. And was wearing a coonskin hat and singing quite loudly about shooting the bear.
“Hey Elvis!” I yelled, as if I was on a first-name basis with the man. “There aren’t any bears here!”
He looked at me with his hat just a little bit crooked, pushed his glasses up and shrugged.
“Listen, Mr. Jones,” he said matter-of-factly, stunning me that he remembered my name from that bar in New York oh, so long ago. “I know damn well there is a bear here, and I’m going to shoot him.”
I didn’t know if arguing with a man with a shotgun, even a man like Elvis Costello, who remembered my name for Christ’s sake, is ever a good idea. But, if there were bears in these woods, I would give him a blow job.
Of course, I wasn’t about to say such a thing, because there actually was a pretty good chance there was a bear in these woods, and he found one, I’d have to fucking give Elvis Costello a blowjob. Or at least he would always have the ability to say “Randy Jones, you owe me one blow job!” at any bar or tavern or concert hall that we were together at.
So instead, I asked :”May I join you on this quest for a bear?”
“Why of course, Mr. Jones!” Mr. Costello said with glee. I wondered at that moment if he was drunk. I didn’t quite know what to make of a mad British songwriter with a coonskin hat wandering around the woods in Virginia looking to kill a bear.
“I guess you are wondering exactly why I am hunting a bear in these woods, Mr. Jones?” he asked as if reading my mind.
“Yes, yes I am Mr. Costello.”
“Call me Elvis.”
“Well, Elvis, I am a little baffled why you would be hunting bear. It seems out of character.”
“You know of my character from our one chance meeting years ago, Mr. Jones? I’d think not. I am a hunting man. I love the thrill of it. The smells of it. The kill! Yes, I love the kill! The sweet, sweet death of the prey!”
I once again pondered if it was a good idea to be in the woods with a man, his shotgun and a coonskin cap.
“So, I guess I never figured you for a hunter.”
“Well, I’m not much of a hunter, really. I did get a squirrel once. With my car. And I had to run it over twice to finish it off.”
I looked at this man, a man who’s music had been a part of the soundtrack of my life since the first time I heard him in the soundtrack to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” back in the early 1980s. A little late to the Elvis Costello game, for sure, but I was just a wee lad of 12 or 13 at the time, so cut me some slack. I started to wonder if maybe he’d been hanging out with Ted Nugent.
“Just kidding, lad,” he said with a bit of a cackle.
“I’ve never killed anything. But I really want to!”
“Kidding again?” I asked hesitantly.
“Do you ask a man in the woods with a shotgun and a coonskin cap if he is kidding about killing a bear!” he pronounced. It wasn’t really a question, although it was phrased as such. Tone and inflection are very important things, I noted to myself. It’s one of the reasons I have always hated text messages and e-mails. Tone is impossible to project without explaining it. And let’s not even start with emoticons.
“I guess not,” finally said.
“By chance do you have any liquor?” Elvis asked.
“I’ve got my flask,” I said. “Just filled with Jameson.”
He winced a bit. “Well, I guess when you have no choice, you go with the Irish!”
Once again, I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not. I didn’t get British humor. Or is it humour?
I pulled out the flask and took a swig. Was it impolite to take a drink first, I wondered. But fuck it, it was my flask and my whiskey, which, I believe, he just insulted.
He took the flask and drank a long drink.
“Ahhhhh!” he exclaimed upon finishing. “If it were cold out, that would have been quite a nice refreshing thing. As it is, now I’m ready to go home.”
“Where are you staying?” I asked.
“With you, my friend Mr. Jones. With you!”
“Well, I’m driving back to North Carolina in a few hours,” I replied.
“Why are earth are you in the woods here?” Elvis asked. A very observant question from the man.
“Well, I was here to bury a body,” I said.
Elvis’ eyes widened. He seemed either very curious or very scared.
“And after I was done, you happened along,” I said, pointing at a freshly dug patch of ground a few feet away.
Now Elvis was scared. And I looked deep into his eyes.
“Just kidding,” I said.
“I just don’t get you American’s sense of humor,” he said with a long exhale.
“Let’s get going,” I said.
“On to North Carolina!” Elvis said.
I put my arm around his shoulders and we shared a few more swigs from the flask. I was beginning to enjoy my encounters with Mr. Costello.