Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Ballad of Dave and Eddie

Sometime in the mid-Nineties, NPR played a spoken word recording of a poem (?) called The Ballad of Dave and Eddie, about two friends who took California infrastructure into their own hands. I've never been able to find a copy of that recording, and the only reference I've ever seen to the work at all is in a 1995 back issue of West Coast lit magazine Zyzzyva. I don't even know who the author is. I've reached out to singer/songwriter/poet Dan Bern to see if it's him. If not, I have no clue. I guess the NPR ombudsman is the next stop.

However, I seem to have a copy or transcript in my archives; where I got it, who knows. For posterity, here it is. If I ever find an audio recording, I'll post that, too. It was fantastic.

The ballad of dave and eddie
by Dan Bern
Dave and Eddie
were at Venice Beach
playing their guitars.
They played for 2 hours
and made 6 dollars
and 37 cents
in change.
Then they got in Dave's car
and headed back to Hollywood.
They sat in traffic.
It was slow.
They took the 405
and then the 10
and then la Brea.
It took over an hour
to get home.
"Jeez," said Eddie.
"They need another freeway
In this town."
"Yeah," said Dave.
"From, like Venice Beach
To around Hollywood and Vine."
"Yeah," said Eddie,
"And with an exit at
La Brea and Willoughby."
"Yeah," said Dave,
"And it would hit the
10 and the 405 near the beach
and then rip right through to Hollywood."
"Yeah," said Eddie, "And it
would have an exit by
the Beverly center, and
Another one on Melrose."
"Where on Melrose?" said Dave.
"Oh, maybe around Fairfax," said Eddie.
"Yeah," said Dave, "near farmers market."
"Yeah," said Eddie.
It began informally
on weekends and in their
spare time.
Dave visited the
hardware store for poles
and wire and steel rods, and
Eddie bought several bags of cement powder
at the ready-mix plant.
Dave had a friend with a truck
and they started work a
few days later,
pouring their first path of cement
near Venice boulevard, a
few blocks from the beach.
People stopped to watch. "What’re
you guys doing?" one guy asked.
"Building a freeway to Hollywood,"
said Dave, as Eddie
pounded a steel girder into place.
"Cool," the guy said,
"That’s totally excellent."

As work on the freeway progressed,
Dave and Eddie's
enthusiasm increased.
Dave cut back
his hours at the cassette-
copying place,
and Eddie arranged to
have Thursday and Friday
afternoons off at the
Guitar Center.
"Do you think we should
tell the city about this?"
asked Dave one day while
the assembled an overpass above Sepulveda.
"Let's wait," said Eddie.
"If it's all done,
they can't really say no."

months passed. strain began
to show on Dave and Eddie.
They had a big argument
about where to put an
off-ramp near
Century City. Dave wanted it on
Avenue of the Stars
a few blocks from Santa Monica boulevard. Eddie preferred
a bit south
in Rancho Park, adjacent
to 20th Century Fox.
They didn't speak for
two days, and work was
suspended. Finally, they
compromised and put it on Pico,
Further west. "Right by
McCabe’s guitar shop," said Eddie.
"That'll be great."
Then there was the matter of the freeway's name.
Dave wanted it to be called
the Dave, and Eddie wanted
it to be called the Eddie.
At last they settled
on the Dave and Eddie
Memorial Freeway. They thought
"memorial" had an official, freeway-ish
ring to it.

One Thursday in late January,
they laid the last section of
concrete. It was the off-ramp onto
Franklin and Gower, just a few steps from
the corner of Hollywood and Vine.
"That about wraps it up," said Eddie
as the sludge oozed
onto the ground. "Voila."
It was 13 months since
they had begun the project.
"Dude," said Dave.
"That was something."
they got a 12-pack
of Pabst Blue Ribbon
at Ralph’s and
went over to Dave's
to celebrate the completion
of the Dave and Eddie
Memorial Freeway.
They drank all the
beer, then went out
and rode the freeway
clear to Venice and back,
several times.
Without traffic it took exactly
12 minutes round-trip.
"Totally excellent," said Dave. "And those green
signs we made
are gnarly."

The next day they
opened up the freeway
and the first cars
started rolling on around
Dave and Eddie stood on the shoulder and watched.
everyone gave them
the thumbs-up sign.
"Looks great!" people shouted.
"Excellent job!" "You guys are
all right!"

The next day was Friday.
Dave got a phone call.
It was a Mrs. Goldfarb
from the mayor's office.
"We need to talk to you,"
she said. Dave said he would
go downtown.

In the mayor's office
Mrs. Goldfarb peered at him sternly.
"Are you the fellow who
built the new freeway?" she demanded.
"Yeah," said Dave. "Me and
my friend Eddie."
"You should have asked first,"
said Mrs. Goldfarb.
"Yes, ma'am," said Dave.
"Well, it's water under the dam,"
said Mrs. Goldfarb, shuffling
some papers. "The city,
under the auspices of the state,
is prepared to make you an offer
on your freeway."
"You mean," said Dave,
"You want to buy it?"
"Of course," said Mrs. Goldfarb,
"You weren’t thinking of
keeping it?"
"Kind of," said Dave. "Nonsense," said Mrs. Goldfarb,
"I’ll need a signature, and
we will pay you three million dollars."
"wow," said Dave. "That's totally a lot.
Can it still be called the
Dave and Eddie memorial freeway?"
"Certainly not," said Mrs. Goldfarb.
"The state assigns a number
to every freeway. Yours has
been designated freeway number 313."
"What if it got called the Dave and Eddie,"
said Dave, "And we got
two million?"
"I’m sorry," said Mrs. Goldfarb, snapping
shut a notebook and placing
a piece of paper in front
of him to sign.
"It's quite impossible. It will
be the 313."
"In that case,"
said Dave, "I won't sign it."
"If you don't," said Mrs. Goldfarb,
"We will seize the freeway
under territorial zoning act
number 67H
paragraph 5."
"Well," said Dave.
He signed the paper
and Mrs. Goldfarb gave
him a check for
three million dollars.

He drove up the 101,
switched over to the 313,
and got off at
Fairfax and Melrose.
"Hey Eddie," said Dave,
walking into the guitar center.
"I had to sell the freeway."
"What?" Eddie croaked.
"How could you sell the freeway?"
"I don't know," said Dave.
"I went downtown and everything was real confusing,
and the next thing I knew, it was gone."
"That's so uncool," said Eddie, "I can't believe it."
"It was weird," said Dave,
"It just sort of happened. We
got three million for it."
"Whoa," said Eddie. "That's a lot, huh?"
"Yeah," said Dave. "I’ll go cash it
and bring you
a million and a half."
"Wait a second," said Eddie.
"I spent 600 bucks
to build it. You
only spent, like, 300."
"Yeah," said Dave. "So?"
"So, like, I invested two times
what you did. I should
get two million."
"Bullshit," said Dave.
"We split it in half."
"All right," said Eddie,
"But you still owe me 300."
"Fine," said Dave. "And I want
my amplifier back."
"You can have that
piece of shit," said Eddie.

The 313 became
very popular as people
sought to decrease their
travel time from Hollywood
to Venice. To Dave and
Eddie's delight, the name "313"
never caught on and people
said, "come north on
the 405 and then take
the Dave and Eddie
until you hit
Beverly center."

Dave and Eddie
still went to
Venice beach every Sunday
and played their guitars.
One day they got
over thirteen dollars
in just over an hour
and a half.
"Wow," said Dave.
"We're getting good."
"Yeah," said Eddie. "Maybe
we should make a record."

They took their guitars
and got into Dave's car
and headed toward Hollywood.
There was so much traffic
on the Dave and Eddie
that Dave and Eddie
took the 405 and the
10 and La Brea instead.