"Hey, remember Steve McQueen? Bullitt?!" I look over at the man on the next bench. I can see that he's tall and missing several teeth. He's holding a 40 ounce can of malt liquor in his right hand and pointing at me with his left. "1968! What kind of car did he have?!" "Car?" I mutter, turning back to glance at the Willamette River, wondering if anything good can come out of a conversation that begins as this one has. "I don't know," I say, frowning. "A Mustang, man!! A damn Mustang!!" He takes a long drink from the can, crushes it in his hand, then reaches into a bag for a fresh one. "Hey!" he exclaims, gesturing toward the woman next to him, "This girl's nothin' but trouble. She's gonna be the death of me. She gets us kicked outta every place we go." The woman, who could be 35 years old or could be 55 years old, laughs, a thin hissing, like air leaking from a tire. She has fewer teeth than her boyfriend, who says, "Shit, the river's the only place we got left. If things don't get better I might haveta throw myself in the drink." I start to say something, but the man smiles broadly and begins to roar with laughter.
Then he suddenly becomes serious: "When my old man died my brother and I got the cabin. Wisconsin. I went up there to drink. Wasn't hurtin' no one. Not hurtin' NO ONE! Then they changed the damn locks. I broke the window and got back in. Shit, it was MY PLACE. They can't keep me outta MY PLACE. Called the damn cops. My own brother. I had guns, but what am I gonna do?! Shoot cops?!" He cackles loudly and begins to imitate a shoot-out: "Bam, bam, bam, rat-a-tat-tat, kaboom!" Then louder, meaner: "Bastard! I'll kill him! If I could find him, I'd kill 'im!" A jogger runs by, glances toward us for an instant, then looks ahead, expressionless. The girlfriend begins hissing again as the man takes another pull on the can. He points at me: "I swear, if things don't start lookin' up, don't get better soon, I'm gonna throw myself in the drink. Jump right in." "That seem's a bit drastic," I offer. He roars again, "Shit, yeah! That's fucking HARSH!" We both look out at the Willamette River. "But I might," he says, quietly. "I just might." A long minute passes. "Steve McQueen!!" I turn away from the river, startled. "Steve McQueen!!" he repeats. "Man, Bullitt!!" I smile and say, "1968." "Yeah! You remember that car?" "That Mustang?" I ask. "Shit, YEAH," he says excitedly. "That's right!! That sweet Mustang. That's DAMN RIGHT!!"