Diesel Grease - Story
The old bus was humming like a sewing machine. New belts were buzzing through the pulleys, and all those new bolts glistened like gold teeth. It was like that rattly old DT 466 engine could feel the love. She had that guttural roar when you throttled her, but on the highway now she was just humming along like a sewing machine.
We were coming into Devil’s Canyon heading west on I-8. The landscape from there turns to rubble and the climb gets steep. In the span of a few dozen miles, you move from -39 feet at the desert floor straight up to over 4,000 feet at the highest pass, switching back and forth through steep ravines. It’s beautiful in the way that the badlands in South Dakota are beautiful. You wouldn’t want to get stranded out there, though.
The road along that stretch is lined with call boxes and signs that read “turn off your AC.” It was hot, maybe over 100 degrees, and the bus was climbing slow, but the temperature gauge was holding steady in the middle. Alisa perched out on the edge of the passenger seat looking for the first signs of the marine climate. We were getting pretty dried out in the desert, and were itching to feel that first, cool ocean breeze. It seems like there’s always one last ridge you go over and then the fever breaks and the temperature drops 30 degrees in an instant. You can taste the humidity on your tongue.
We came into Pine Valley which is the beginning of the downward slope. I had been strumming a bit, and I made a move to put my guitar back in its case when it happened. At 60 miles per hour, the 4-speed Allison transmission shifted violently from 4th gear clear down to 1st. The tachometer redlined and the contents of the bus and the people in it flew forward in a lurch, crashing through furniture in a flurry of plates and silverware. I cradled my guitar as I slammed into the back of Mark’s seat and managed to save it from the splinter box. The transmission had exploded.
I’ve been known to be handy with a wrench, but a rebuild on a 4-speed Allison is more like open heart surgery than a field dressing. I think it requires a fork lift, actually. So we called AAA and had the bus towed to the mechanic. Mark’s uncle Brian graciously picked us up, and we made our show that night. The next morning we rented a van and continued up the coast. When the bus was ready a week later we doubled back to pick it up.
So we’re back in her now, rumbling up the road and again, she’s running like a sewing machine. But somehow something has changed in me. I can’t quite relate to her like I used to. I thought about an old girlfriend I had years back. I loved her, but there was something broken between us that we just couldn’t fix. It just kept falling apart faster than we could keep it together it. Was I in a dysfunctional relationship with my bus?
We had a day off and the band needed a break. Alisa, Mark and Jon decided they were going to see a movie and they invited me to come. I told them I’d rather stay in for the night. The lighting inside the bus soft like candlelight. I poured a glass of Bulleit brushed off my guitar. I wrote this song as a farewell.
I loved her with all my heart, but she got to be too much for me.
Diesel Grease - Lyrics
Diesel grease paint it black
I been tryin’ to shake this world off my back
Walkin’ long a barbed wire fence
Wonderin’ how it ended up like this
But these melodies are memories
I wouldn’t trade a single one for anything
Sunset burns a desert sky
This whiskey tastes like holy fire
Shadows fall down like paper leaves
There’s jasmine perfume in the breeze
So take me down your moonlit highway
Cause I don’t care if she knocks me sideways
Desert sands roll into salty seas
I’m wishin’ I was a wave crashin’ on your beach
But all my words feel like tender lies
Honey I’m doin’ my best
To treat you right
It’s quiet on the streets tonight
The air is still and the moon is high
So I’m walkin’ down to that lonely beach
Skippin’ stones across the sea
It smells like summer but it feels like rain
I close my eyes and I’m home again
But that little girl
She broke my heart
So can you stitch it up or is all hope lost
Cause I don’t mean to keep you waitin’
But honey if this ain’t love
There’s no sense fakin’
Diesel grease paint it black
Well if I leave today I ain’t comin’ back
Blowin’ down this dusty highway
I’ll hitch a ride with you if you’re goin’ my way
Just don’t ask me for a word of truth
Except you’ll know that it’s love
When it comes time to choose
released February 27, 2015
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