Kevin O'Hara: The girl with the faraway eyes
PITTSFIELD — At a recent holiday picnic, the folks sharing our table began to talk about coincidences that they'd experienced over the years. Stories about running into friends at distant airports, or telephoning old acquaintances after many years who, at that very moment, were trying to call them. Their tales brought to mind my own uncanny occurrence that took place back in the summer of 1978.
It was a steamy July afternoon, and I was driving home to Pittsfield on the Mass Pike. Shortly after passing Exit 4, I spotted a young female hitchhiker on the highway. She was dressed raggedly in a long tie-dyed skirt, with a rucksack strapped across her slumped shoulders. I pulled over and she dragged herself in, grateful for the lift and to be off the hot roadway.
Despite her good looks (I found her the mirror image of Michelle Phillips from The Mamas and the Papas), she surely had a bad case of road rash: parched, sunburned, dog-tired, and wearing cracked rose-colored granny sunglasses. If that wasn't enough, once she buckled up, I noticed fresh bruises the size of thumbprints on her upper arms, as if she'd been in a recent tussle.
I had stopped earlier for a tuna grinder, and asked if she'd like the remaining half. She nodded yes, and ravenously devoured it, along with the rest of my Coke, showing neither shame nor hesitation in doing so.
Amply fortified, she told me that she was hitching cross-country to attend a rock concert in Toronto after following The Rolling Stones down the West Coast, from Oakland to Anaheim. "I've been a Stones groupie for years," she said proudly. "In fact, Mick Jagger wrote a song about me."
"Oh, really?" I obliged her.
"Yes. It's called 'Faraway Eyes,' and it's on their new album, 'Some Girls.'" She slipped off her worn sandals and propped her blistered feet up on the dashboard. "Have you heard it?"
"Nope, not yet."
"Well, when you do, I'm the girl Mick is singing about; the girl with the faraway eyes. But it's not very flattering, because he makes me sound like the type of girl who'd run off with any truck driver." She let out a sigh, "But I still adore him."
"Sounds like you've met him?"
"Met him?" she brightened, her dusty toes doing a happy dance in front of me. "I guess you could call it that."
Frankly, I gave her story little credence, thinking it was simply the grandiose rambling of a sun-baked flower child; a windblown refugee from Yasgur's Farm. Looking back, however, I wish I hadn't dismissed her story so quickly. After all, she certainly looked the part of a star-struck groupie. And if her story was indeed true, why the song's title? Was she concealing a "lazy eye" beneath her damaged sunglasses that gave her an errant, faraway look? Or was she a wake-and-bake pothead that left her with a perpetual glassy gaze?
When I approached my turn-off at Exit 2, she opted to stay on the Pike, rather than being dropped off at the toll booth entrance, explaining that she had better luck thumbing on the open road. "Sometimes, even state police pick me up," she winked.
Before she departed, I gave her a little meal money and wished her safe travels. In return, she thanked me, saying, "Don't forget, when you hear that song, I'm the girl Mick is singing about." With that, she hopped from the car to continue her long journey.
Now the memory of that brief encounter might have passed me by like a summer shower, if not for what occurred moments later. Once through the Lee Interchange, I turned on the car radio. Yep, you guessed it. It was Mick Jagger crooning a faux-country tune:
"I had an arrangement to meet a girl, and I was kind of late
Much to my surprise, there she was sittin' in the corner
A little bleary, worse for wear and tear
Was a girl with faraway eyes."
Since that long-ago July afternoon, I've never heard that song aired on the radio again.
Kevin O'Hara is a longtime Eagle contributor. Visit his website at www.thedonkeyman.com.
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