Last light, Stone Steps © Robert Sommers 2023

Friday, June 26, 2020


I have had a few people write in mentioning the Glen Campbell song I posted. Glen was such an amazing talent, the session guitar player was one of those select performers who could sing as well as they played, at the highest level. There are so few of them; Clapton, B.B. King, T Bone Walker, Hendrix, Joni, McCartney, who else? He did both with facility and emotion and displayed a rare vulnerability in his music.

I got this message from my friend D:
In 1969 I was in my first year at University of Illinois in Chicago. My high school girlfriend had gone to school at U of I in Champaign/Urbana. As often happens, she met someone else. Her calls were fewer, I suspected something was amiss. I drove down to see her. I arrived, she told me plainly, without challenge,  we were kaput. I drove back to Chicago that night. Tail between my legs. Humiliated. Dumped. A two hour drive in the dark of night, on a lightless highway pitiably punching in buttons on the car radio looking for a station. In the middle of nowhere I got reception. But every button I pushed was Glen Campbell singing about the lonely Wichita Lineman.  There was no escaping the song.  It was like a bad joke.
He pointed out that a whole book has been devoted to the message of Wichita Lineman, Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun for the World's Greatest Unfinished Song. His message brought one of my own sad personal memories up. It was the mid seventies and I was going overseas to work for a year, ending up working in Israel as an electrician. I flew to Miami and then took a Greyhound bus to Tampa to say goodbye to my then girlfriend and first love, who was attending the university there. It is a very long bus ride. Unfortunately for me, the road back would be even longer.

When I got there we met on a bridge over the river, I guess it is the Tampa River. She greeted me and broke the news that we were now officially quits, like D she had another guy and I was now geographically undesirable and we had a couple other mutual issues that made our relationship no longer tenable for her. The shock hit me like a brick on the side of my head.

I had never loved anybody so much before and I was completely devastated. Wasn't going to jump in and drown but I wasn't dancing any jig either. Honestly, I was miserable. Have hated Florida ever since, to tell you the truth.

I somehow found my way back to the bus station and embarked on the melancholy five and a half hour ride across Alligator Alley back to Miami. The dirty, belching bus and my equally miserable compatriots on the journey only added to my angst ridden gloom and pallor. Greyhound is the perfect ticket for those without any other options.

It was pouring rain and very cold, which Northern Florida can sometimes get. In the next row was a black woman and her child and they were plainly freezing. In a fleeting moment of compassion and chivalry I gave them my only coat to stay warm and I shivered all the way back, my physical discomfort essentially meaningless at that point compared to my busted and broken heart. Couldn't have felt worse if I tried. Was down a love and a jacket.

I'm happy to say that things worked out well for both of us and after all these years we remain friends and happily married to our respective spouses. But you never forget the pain you felt when your childhood heart breaks, the Wichita lineman, still on the line.

Have you ever been dumped? Or had to cut the cord yourself? Care to write about it? I will publish your story, anonymously if you wish. I actually started a book once about another similar experience, will probably never finish it. It had its own sad song.


Ralph Chaney said...

When my dad shipped out from San Francisco during WWII, he left behind his girlfriend. Their goodbye was mixed, as they weren't doing real well at the time, but still a deeply emotional point in time.
Day after day on the ocean, assessing the big view of his life, my dad came to realize that the two of them were "not meant to be". And he wrote her a heartfelt letter. He was more at ease for the rest of the trip. He felt brighter about his future (except for the "war thing").
At the far port, he disembarked, duffle over his shoulder, the addressed letter in hand. Right there on the dock, "Mail Call!". First they call out sailors' names and give them their incoming mail. Richard Chaney was called and he was passed a letter from his girlfriend. He guiltily opened it up and read words about her wanting to call off their romance. He was devastated.

Roy Jhciacb Cohen said...

Very good story.

Every time I try to write about mine, I get so enraged and depressed it takes me out for days. Maybe someday...

Anonymous said...

I married every woman who ever told me that they loved me. I bought several houses which I didn’t get to keep. You’ve met the current wife of 26 years. If there was an option, I would post a photo of my self with Glen Campbell. I was on a tour package he was on in the late 90s doing state fairs. We also did a Lee Iacocca golf party in 2003 in Indian Wells. I was able to hang with him after a show in Las Vegas on his last tour in 2012. When I was leaving the hotel after the Vegas show, I told Glen that I would hopefully see him soon. His reply was “I won’t know you”.

Blue Heron said...

Great comment. I am not absolutely sure who this is but thank you!

Ken Seals said...

I have never understood how one can be "just friends" with an old love. Man/Woman relationships for the man are for the purpose of physical intimacy.

Blue Heron said...

I disagree with you Ken. A lot of my best friends are women. Maybe we are all wired differently.