[Haven’t been posting as much because I’m writing things like this behind the scenes. Wanted to share something with you all, something I’ve been working on for a few weeks – it’s a middle piece from a puzzle not yet defined. Not quite where it needs to be, but I would love some help/feedback before shopping it. ]
Unzipped the tent feeling more content and relaxed than I had in months. The hypnopaedic gurgling tones of the tributary – hissing now, as the morning sun melted the snow-capped Rockies – had put me out-cold the night before, like one of those Atmospheric Sound Machines used to calm irascible babies, or helpless insomniacs.
Fresh pine invaded my nostrils; a rush of ‘Eau de Colorado’ I wanted to bottle for later to slap on, soothe the wounds of a gloomy day back East.
Shook out the vinyl duffel bag, wrung out my gray long-sleeved shirt, both left on the picnic table overnight, soaked in wind-swept river spray – and headed up towards the car ascending the saturated earth-embedded stairs.
A pack of hippies, still up from the night before, danced around the wet grass of the main camping area, bordered by a caravan of Subura Outbacks and sundry colored tents.
I walked over the gravelled bridge above the tributary watching – unnoticed – a fresh-faced, dread-locked girl standing in place, twirling striped hoops on each arm. Fading Glo-necklaces hung loosely around her neck, the residue of chemiluminescence gripping to life.
She was beautiful, yet, so scrunch-faced and serious in her concentration it was hard to believe she was having any fun.
Conversely, a cute, pixie-like blonde girl merrily skipped around the planted hula-girl. I recognized her from the promenade in downtown Boulder the previous evening when co-pilot and longtime friend, Brandon, and I were looking for a place to eat.
She had run up in between us and yelled, “I love you guys!”
Brandon didn’t hear, deaf in the ear she was facing, and had missed what she said, walking away.
He also didn’t hear me calling after him after I stopped to talk to the girl, who thought Brandon was just ignoring her. Tears streamed down her cheeks as I tried to explain he was deaf in that ear, like Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.
She looked at me, stymied, not comprehending the reference, her eyes freakishly dilated like a Precious Moment –those creepy-ass ceramic dolls they sell at Hallmark– and all she could process was Brandon’s inadvertent rudeness.
She looked happier, flitting about with a long-handled ribbon snaking around her, whipping precariously close to her friend.
A portly gentleman sat on the wet grass a few feet away from the girls, eyes closed, finger drumming sporadically on a single lap-sized bongo nodding and mouthing and affirmative “yes” to some unforeseen questioner.
He was my age; late-twenties, dark hair, bearded, actually looked like an inflated version of me, and seemed content coming down from a night of chemical induced miracles.
Behind my chubby doppelgänger stood an older woman with a mane of gray-streaked bushy brown hair tied-up messily with an orange bandana. She stood, matronly, watching over the group, tapping her right hand against the side of her thigh, periodically bringing her left hand up to drag deeply from a loosely hanging joint. She walked over to the lowered lip of a silver Outback’s hatch to grab some food, placed it in a pan on the fire ring, and stepped back to watch.
Others began to emerge from their tents, eager for food, shaking off a night of sleeping on the ground.
“Hey, dude.” Brandon groaned behind me, attempting to touch his toes, stretching out his lower back.
“Hey, bro. You sleep alright?” I asked
“Oh yeah. Gotta love sleeping on the ground. Does wonders for the lumbar…are they still up?” Brandon nodded towards the hippies.
“Yep. Some of them are still kicking it.” I replied, pointing to the skipping blonde girl, “That’s the girl I was telling you about. The one you ignored on Pearl Street.”
“Oh yeah?” Brandon said, watching her for a moment, “huh…”
“We should join them.” I said, and meant it, strangely attracted to the communal family.
“You can, I like showers way too much.” Brandon responded over his shoulder, grabbing a towel from the trunk of the dirt and sand-caked Chevy Malibu, slamming it shut to a cloud of grime.
The previous morning, Brandon suggested we take the scenic route north from Mosca to Boulder to hit up Red Rocks Amphitheater in Golden. With no real agenda, it seemed a logical stopover as we fishtail-ed down beach-like farm access roads away from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and raced up the lower vertebrae of the Rocky spine to Salida, Colorado, heading east through mesmerizing green San Isabel National Forest, then back north to Golden.
Red Rocks’ stage is the only naturally formed amphitheater in the world, wrapped snuggly by two immense hunks of ruddy, striated sandstone creating an acoustically perfect venue.
These sandstone monoliths – remnants of an ancient seabed – pushed up and out when tectonic plates were smushed together by the meeting of the Rockies and the Great Plains (rumor has it, as Ma Nature was completing the venue, she invited the Rolling Stones to play the first concert there, 60 million years ago) resulting in a massive blushing-orange lunar mountain-scape with smaller satellite sandstone boulders scattered about the area, reaching chaotically in all directions.
“Absolutely stunning!” I exclaimed.
“Man, oh man. This is something else.” Brandon stated, in his best twenty-going-on-sixty vernacular.
“What a great place for a venue.” I said.
We hoofed it up the ridiculously steep walkway to the stage – quite a hike at 6,500 feet.
During the ascent, I realized only fit Coloradans could actually see concerts here, as anyone with a heart condition would have full-on ventricle blow out climbing to their seats. No access elevators, and if wheel chair bound, there’s only two ways you’re going in: 1. A piggyback ride from Hercules 2. Catapult.
No security guards were present as we climbed directly up on to the stage. Both of us laboring for air, we sat down for a second to acclimate to the altitude, taking in the scene.
The stage and support beams were completely stripped of any gear or lighting, just empty seats and monoliths welcomed us.
I could feel my heartbeat in my stomach like a small alien keeping time with a drum pedal, and could see the same alien keeping beat in Brandon’s jugular next to the guitar strap around his neck.
“So…high…up.” All I could get out.
“So…high. Stupid, stupid place…for an venue.” Brandon gasped.
No one seemed to care we were sitting on stage, so, after a few touch-and-go moments, we took deep breaths, and played Jerry Reed’s ‘East bound and Down’ – our theme song for the trip.
I sloppily accompanied Brandon’s stellar guitar work with an egg shaker, and he had to keep nodding at me to keep the beat. Towards the end of the song, I started to lose my breath, and could only sing “East Bound deep breath Down”
A tour group stopped at the very top row of the seating sections, listening to us play. Our singing was oddly muted off the empty latitudes of wooden seating. Nothing echoed back, the sound herded up and over the top of the seating by the sandstone and I remember thinking it would be a nice place for a Shakespeare play, forgetting to keep the beat with the egg shaker again.
When we finished, an adoring crowd of a dozen gave us a smattering of applause. One guy even yelled ‘Encore’ through cupped hands– another guy agreed ‘Yeah. Encore’.
“Was the…‘Encore’ guy being facetious?” I asked Brandon
“I couldn’t tell. They’re wa-aay up there. Let’s…let’s just do one more before security arrests us.”
We played ‘Over and Done With’ by the Proclaimers, a song I made Brandon practice innumerable times before the trip, and yet, still couldn’t get the words right. I almost passed out singing the first verse; only the potential headline of “Man dies on stage playing Egg Shaker to empty seats” kept me going.
We made a hasty exit out of the Red Rocks – not due to some authority or security officer, but because we had to half trot due to the steep incline.
“Do you think John Tesh had a bigger audience when he played here?” Brandon asked sarcastically.
“What? Certainly not!” I feigned insult “Borderline U2 crowd up there.”
“Definitely” Brandon nodded,” U2 did NOT have twelve people up there.”
Onwards to Boulder.
It had been a couple of days since the last shower, and I spent a good five minutes rubbing red dust, and sandy grit from my scalp and various crevices. The swirling drain area – resembling a lighter version of the ‘Psycho’ shower scene – sent a mental reminder to wash my pillowcase.
I toweled off, put on dry clothes, headed towards the sinks, and started the daily ritual of putting permeable contacts in my horribly blind eyeballs.
I got one in when the chubby hippie walked from the showers and squeezed in front of the sink next to me, rubbing a pink deodorant crystal into the soaking wet hair-shrubs of his armpit.
He was lost in a meditative state staring at his reflection in the mirror, slowly raising the crystal, slowly bringing it back down through his pit hair, Waaaax…on, waaaaax…off – his consciousness buzzing through the stratosphere at top speed, giggling like a toddler at the newfound ability to astral-project, this, the only explanation as to why he was still butt-ass naked.
“Oh sorry, Bra…. I was zoned out….” He said, dripping all over my sink
I was stuck.
A fat, nude, fully-follically furbished man was the last thing I wanted to see before breakfast; before coffee; before anything, ever.
“Hey man,” he said, turning towards me, his dick holding my contact case hostage. “I saw you downtown yesterday.”
I shrugged, not responding, waiting for him to turn back his way, and refocus forward.
“Yeah. YEAH! I remember you and your buddy, ‘cause, I was like, those dudes look like a fucking GAP COMMERCIAL! He yelled, jumping a little, jiggling his nether-bits shaking whatever venereal creatures living in his man bush loose.
Brandon walked out from the showers, buttoning his flannel; he paused, looked at my situation with wide-eyes and raised eyebrows, quickly exiting, stifling a laugh, unnoticed by my new friend.
“Maybe.” I replied, “We were downtown.”
“Are you guys like, in a band? Where’re ya headed?”
“Cleveland, I’m… moving there.” I said, as he faced forward again.
I grabbed the other contact lens, scrubbing it ferociously in hot water. I tried to block him out to get some sink space to brush my teeth, but he turned towards me, his cock – peripherally visible under my left elbow – again, almost kissing the open contact lens case.
If you touch it, it’s yours…
“Could you…” I started
“You dudes ever been to Mon-TANA?”
“No. Not yet. Hey, can you please…” I started again.
Still soaking wet, he ignored me, spun around, bending at the waist to grab his crumpled jeans from the floor.
He shook out his jeans, and even after a shower, the whiff off the jeans shake was an earthy blend of wet sheep dog, patchouli, and hobbit balls.
“There’s a gi-ANT oil reserve under Montana that the government is hiding from us, Dude. Untapped. Domestic crude, Brah! We rely on oil from over seas the Middle East, so the MAN can fucking tax us…” He moved to the middle of the bathroom, trying to stuff his wet legs in the jeans, not bunching the ankle hole to the waist hole.
Who taught you how to put clothes on?
This was not the irreverent jocundity of ‘Dude’ Lebowski; no, poor man’s Abbie Hoffman was invading my precious bathroom time.
I imagined his voice as a calming murmuring creek carrying a lily petal out to sea, an Atmospheric Sound Machine; it didn’t work. He began a lovely, proselytizing generalization of US society filled with ‘Dudes’, and ‘Bras’.
I clenched my jaw, closed my ears, and listened to the sounds of my beloved toothbrush grinding minty bristles inside my mouth
I need coffee, Brah.
I wondered if Brandon was still laughing, and why I hadn’t put my contacts on in the car, or use the river to brush my teeth, anything but…
“…and it’s people like you, man, that are killing this country. The fucking…EDDIE…ergh…BAUERS of this country…driving SUVS…ger…corporate jobs…ungh”
I turned to see hippie-me squatting over the large drain in the middle of the tiled floor. At first I thought he was taking a shit, but he was just stuck in an awkward squat position, wet skin wedged halfway in his filthy jeans, asshole prone to the drain, leg muscles shivering a bit.
Pissed by his accusatory tone, I wanted to chuck the deodorant crystal at his dilated eyeball, but realized in his permanently altered state, any intellectual rebuke would whiz over his head like an overthrown Frisbee.
People like me? People like me are killing this country?
People like me who drive cross-country in a piece of garbage car for adventure, for experience; to seal a lasting bond with a childhood friend; to absorb every corner of this fair land; to shake some hands along the way; to make new friends, acquaintances; to learn new surroundings, history, and the curating culture; to absorb and experience and grow; to learn who I am through what I’m not and what I don’t know – people like that?
Maybe I didn’t get it. Maybe I WAS the problem, Brah.
I watched in the mirror as the full-on hippie-I-could-have-been fell backwards on his huge bare-ass with a rippled, echoed slap. He writhed around trying to tug his jeans over soaked legs, his rubbing back fat making terse fart sounds on the tile.
A tall, skinny old man who looked like the love child of my paternal grandfather and Clint Eastwood from ‘High Plains Drifter’ strode in, pausing over the floundering carcass on the tile, chuckling to himself. He gave me a sly smirk and a nod as he walked to the showers.
No, people like me aren’t the problem.
I headed outside away from the stuffy pant-crotch smell of the showers to the invigorating bouquet of Colorado.
The blonde pixie girl from the hippie pack was sitting on a wooden bench on the left.
“Have you seen my friend?” She asked sweetly, her non-recognizing eyes only semi-dilated today.
“Big guy? Looks like a fatter version of me?” I asked
“Yes!” She giggled
“He’s in there, stuck in his pants.”
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