A few weeks ago I was walking up San Pablo Ave. from Oakland to Berkeley. It was nighttime and I felt rough as hell. As I waited to cross the street, I saw two huge tractor tires stacked outside of a gym. I thought, hell, I’m gonna take those things. You always hear people talking about tractor tires and sledgehammers. I mean, that’s how all those movie stars get ripped for superhero movies—ripped, as McCune would say, as teddy bears in a Rottweiler factory!
Listen: If you got a tire, what you do is you go down to the hardware store and you get yourself an eight-pound sledgehammer and you come home and you slam that tire all the livelong day. The up- and downward motions are pretty much identical to the motions you would make while chopping wood. If you’ve ever chopped wood: whoa, baby—what a feeling!! I’m from the great state of Virginia, where there are many trees and axes and homes to be heated in the wintertime, and on and on, and god knows I got me an inborn compulsion to swing a blunt instrument over my head whenever I can get it.
The thing about chopping wood is that eventually you run out of wood, and when there’s no wood left to chop, you can’t accidentally exercise anymore.
That’s why having a big tire tractor rules: because it is a bouncy, unchoppable log that will never let you down. It is a möbius strip of dumb fun. You get your sledgehammer and you go out there in the damn yard and you have yourself some dumb fun. Raise the thing up, bring it down, let your hand slide down the handle, and smash the hell out of that tire until you throw up.
Well, so: I definitely took those tires. I rolled them on down the street and put them in my yard. They’re Donkey Kong as heck, man. Every day I go out there and I slam the bigger tire 20 or 30 times, and then I switch hands and do the other side of my body. It feels real good. It is beautiful in its mindlessness. Were I strong enough to sledge a tire forever, I sure as heck would. I can think of no finer way to piss away my life here on planet earth. It is maybe the only antidepressant I have that works anymore. It beats pills and liquor, man. It’s way cheaper too~
Last night, man I tell you, I was really losing it. I was on a runaway ghost train straight to fuckin hell, man. In an effort to save my flesh from the flames, I cycled through a mental rolodex of every life-sustaining distraction I knew of—and there, right there at the end of thing, I saw the tractor tire shining plain. The sun was down and I had the windows open and outside the wind was nice and not too cold. So, lord help me, I took my shirt off and went there and picked up my sledgehammer. And with my rotten arms I raised that sledgehammer high into the godless night sky and brought it back down again so many times that I really did throw up a little inside my mouth. It ruled hard. I was a crazed and broken thing out there in the moonlight, man. I was swinging that big hammer every which way—swinging it from here till the end of time itself, dude.
See: when the sledgehammer hits the rubber, it makes this nice little bump noise. It’s a cute noise. I love hearing that noise. I tried to make the tire make that noise as many times as possible. The hideous machinery inside my head demanded it!
Years ago, in Texas, I bought a Fender Jag-Stang guitar, which is this dumb little cartoon guitar that I love. I would go to work and I would think about those strings. All I wanted to do was go home and play that thing. I sit here today, years later, and I think, you know, that I wish I could be smashing that tire right about now. Just as I once visualized my fingers manipulating strings, I now see my hands wrapped around the rubber handle of a god darn sledgehammer. It gets in me hard, man. It is a mysterious urge. It is not rage. It is a strange blissfulness. I ain’t gonna say it’s primal and I ain’t gonna say it’s unplaceable . . . but maybe it is both of those things at least a little bit.
At any rate, I have two huge tires in my backyard, and nobody can take them away from me. They live back there, and I live back there with them.
Four hours from now I will walk a mile west to get to my babies, my tires—and, with my baby sledgehammer in hand, I’ll see what I can do about obliterating the darkness inside my heart before it obliterates me. In these trying times, what else can a fine American like myself do??