On the soul train to the City by the Bay
Erik Brock, 20, stopped to hike and rest at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. He was on his way from Indiana to San Francisco, where a friend offered him a free place to live for four months. He plans to be a street musician.
One evening, Brock gave a sneak preview to an impromptu gathering: Tom and I, Tim, a commuting jeweler, and a trio of Aussies on break from their ski-resort jobs in Canada and touring the American West in a rented van with a metal pop-up top for one sleeper.
“This is great,” Brock said, his long brown curls bobbing as he tuned his guitar. “I haven’t had a chance to play for anyone since I’ve been on the road.
Brock sang America’s Tin Man and Elton John’s Rocket Man.
“Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have,” his clear voice echoed out toward the canyon walls. “I just love that lyric.”
Brock recently returned from a “gap year” in Thailand and Vietnam, where he and an Australian friend bought motorcycles and rode the byways. Now, he is camping his way west in his maroon Buick Regal.
When the camp Aussies requested country music, Brock wrinkled his nose, and said he wasn’t into anything like that, except for Elvis or Johnny Cash.
“How about Stand By Me (by Ben King),” Brock said.
As the dusk fell, and the camp lanterns came out, he noodled a little of the song.
“When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we’ll see. No, I won’t be afraid, oh, I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand, stand by me.”
He paused, his hand resting on his guitar strings.
“I’ve been working on that,” he said. “But I’m not sure I have enough soul for it.”
The next morning, his Buick Regal was headed west again, on the road to find more soul.