Hotel CaliforniaAn old, pink van with chipped and peeling pink flowers painted on it rumbled down Highway 64, its engine giving off dark black smoke and the smell of burning oil. It carried five seventeen year old boys, a beaten up drum set, two electric guitars with two amplifiers, and electric key board, an old microphone, and a lot of hopes and dreams, too. A teenager with greasy brown hair, dark eyes, and baggy jeans and tee-shirt looked out the grimy, cracked window. Joe turned to his buddies, grinning as he high-fived them all. After passing out Cokes from a cooler near the drum set, his toast was, “We’re on the road, dudes!”
“To Hollywood!!” they all said in unison. There was a metallic clinking as they banged their cans together, and then gulped down the contents.
Jason, who hadn’t opened his Coke yet, yelled, “Watch this, dudes!” over the groan of the engine. He jumped up on his seat and shook the Coke with vigor, while the others looked on enviously, wishing they hadn’t drunk their sodas so fast. Finally satisfied, Jason opened the Coke. He may have flunked first grade, but he knew what one highly-shaken Coke equaled: total chaos. Soaked to the skin, five teenage boys chased each other around the sordid van, making it tip and sway. In the confusion, someone yelled, “Who’s got the wheel?” Five teenage boys looked up to see an empty driver’s seat, a steering wheel turning of its own accord. The van swerved and the boys hit the smelly floor like bowling pins. The engine shuddered, smoked, gave one final rattle, and finally stopped.
“Aw, crap!” Joe yelled. Tyler sank to his knees and punched the floor. Four teenage boys flung open the van door (Tyler was inspecting the dent he made in the van floor) and raced to the front of the van.
“She’s broke!” groaned Jason.
“No Hollywood for us, dudes,” said Joe forlornly, glancing sadly at the long desert highway ahead of them. “And man, it’s hot!” Joe continued, swiping the sweat from his greasy forehead.
Tyler exited the van, “Can we fix ‘er?”, he asked hopefully. No one answered but Brandon, who sadly shook his head.
Five boys dejectedly in the middle of the desert, sweating buckets in the heat of the day, their backs to the old pink van, shielding their eyes from the unforgiving desert sun. “So…what do we do now?” Jason finally asked. The other boys just shrugged. Their dreams were dissipating like the acrid smoke, still billowing from the van’s engine. The desert was empty of all life, except for the crows calling in the distance. The boys felt the emptiness too. It was an emptiness that needed filling up. Slowly, five teenagers’ faces hardened with new resolve.
“But…” said Brandon slowly.
Five teenage boys carefully eased themselves up from the gravel of Highway 64, then walked single file into the van once more. They reemerged one by one; Joe with one electric guitar, Bandon with the other; Tyler with the drum set, Jason with the microphone, and finally Sawyer with an electric keyboard. Tyler, Jason and Sawyer all looked at Joe and Brandon, their eyes all asking the same thing. “What song?” Surprised but glad to find themselves thought of as leaders, Joe put his capo on his guitar and Brandon strummed the first chord. The teens all smiled. “Of course,” murmured Sawyer. Then Joe began; then Brandon, Sawyer, and Tyler. Finally, Jason stepped out the microphone and started to sing;
“On a dark desert highway,
Cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of Colitas
Rising up in the air
Up ahead in the distance
I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
The still desert air was empty no longer. It resounded with song, which, strangely enough, didn’t sound unnatural in its surroundings at all; rather, the beat of the drum was the rhythm of the desert; the metallic clang of the guitar the breath of life. The music carried across the desert and beyond, giving its gift to all who felt it. It was wonderful, amazing, profound. And yet it was just five teenage boys in ragged, sagging clothes, playing old, second-hand instrument by a broken-down van by the side of Highway 64.
And still it was not.
It was five dreams, bound together by friendship, that had blossomed in an unexpected and unintended way.
That is the wonder of the world.