Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

One-thirteen

Posted by ilbebe on May 20, 2012

As I awoke on the morning of 4/20 in  Laughlin, my Dad walked into our room with not a cup of coffee but a souvenir lighter. He knew I was anticipating a call from the unemployment bureau, but no coffee. I flicked the lighter three times, and the third time it didn’t light. I flicked it several more times. No dice. When I went to the gift shop to exchange it, I barely got a word out before the girl working there absently motioned to just grab another one from the bin on the counter. I should have taken five. I took the call explaining that my unemployment eligibility had been called into question and was presumed invalid, got my coffee at a McDonald’s, and went back to the room to get my stuff and head outta Nevada.

A man named Mark Wimpee is running for City Council in Kingman, AZ, a discovery that came after  becoming aware that Robert Livingood is running for Supe in San Bernardino County while passing through Needles, CA, the day before. These funny names on campaign signs bring unnatural pleasure to the traveler, even if the traveler in question has only been out on the road for two days. From Kingman, we took old 66 through the exciting burgs of Hackberry and Peach Springs, the latter being home to a very nice  restaurant which offered a very different dining experience from the El Centro Denny’s of the previous day.  Nice work, Hualapai Nation. While lunching in Peach Springs, we saw Andrew Zimmerman arraigned on television, and damn, it was nice sitting in an air-conditioned dining room in Arizona watching that bastard sweat in Florida. Thereafter, my Dad started referring to anyone he didn’t like as a Zimmerman.

We picked up I-40 outside of Seligman, and rolled into Flagstaff around two. We parked the truck downtown on San Francisco Street and began a nice afternoon-long town stroll/inadvertent pub crawl. I was excited to be in a college town for the 4-20 holiday, and seeing a Bob Marley tribute band billed on the marquis of the Flagstaff Orpheum made my heart take a leap. The headline in the local paper concerned a girl who was on the verge of having her pet pig taken away, since her swinous co-habitor was residing in violation of a city ordinance specifically prohibiting keeping a pig as a pet. The most interesting bar we visited was The Mad Italian, an expansive place with a rooftop patio and a huge door in the floor  of the main room which we found open and begging for a lawsuit when coming back down from the rooftop.  No joke, the door is the size of a normal door, and right at the bottom of the stairs.

We got a room at the Rodeway Inn on the main drag, a curiously cobbled-together property than had more unexpected head-bumping hazards than anyone should expect from a 20-room motel. A few bumped heads and a brief tiff ensued, and my Dad set off back into town solo while I took a crap and read the rest of the pig story from the paper. The girl in question was originally from Buckeye, AZ, where keeping pigs as pets poses no problemo. I happen to have passed through Buckeye once, to pose for a picture with the 40-foot hobo statue that sits at the edge of a gravel lot in the middle of town. Coincidence?

My Dad called an hour later to report that he had settled in at the Monte Vista Lounge, a sorta-rathskeller of a place in a big hotel with a sign hanging behind the bar reading “If you can’t be polite, at least be vague”. I got a great feeling from the place, and after a few drinks we headed down to the Grand Canyon Cafe, a cool old diner I had eaten at during my only visit to Flagstaff ten years earlier. The decor and rock-bottom prices had not changed, and I finished half of my Dad’s chicken fried steak. The extra half-dinner was probably essential to not dying after returning unaccompanied to the Monte Vista and finding that their drink specials for the evening were six-dollar Long Islands and one-dollar shots of Chilean Tequila. I think there was a band? Sloppy evening, and I got Greek food with a dude named Dan who was celebrating his 27th birthday and his foxy roommate. After eating, an extremely awkward ploy to invite myself back to their place for some weed failed badly, and we parted ways. What, did it seem like I was into the girl? I WANTED WEED.

The next morning my Dad and I  headed out towards the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We were greeted at the visitor’s center by a ranger of German extraction who told us in a confusingly steely tone “It is National Park Week! It is free!” We slowly backed away from his unblinking gaze and continued up the road. A nice walk around the crater was followed up by inspection of some Native ruins further into the park, and also  some really cool box canyons. Wiiide open spaces, I couldn’t stop thinking about being a pioneer crossing unfamiliar territory in search of water. There was an interpretive sign at one of the ruins explaining that when the local wash dried out for the year (which was nine months out of the year), there was a ten-mile trek both ways to the nearest water at the Little Colorado River. Though far from a water source, the home was located where it was on a high point because it was a lookout; lookout for what I don’t know. Anyhow, it made me rethink how upset I get at two AM at my apartment over the nearest 7-11 being a mile away…

We stopped for some grub at a gas station in Grey Mountain, AZ, a place of business that existed not solely, but I can only assume primarily, because of it’s situation just outside the boundary of the Navajo Reservation. This opinion was informed by a boisterous dude who was buying seven Old E High Gravity 800 forties and lamenting that there weren’t more available for purchase. I bought a bologna sandwich, sunflower seeds, and a Four Loko to clear my mind of the incident. My mind was sufficiently prepared for Awe by the time we entered Grand Canyon National Park. We again encountered an overly enthusiastic ranger at the gate, but luckily this one was a portly older woman who lent no Teutonic chill to admitting us past an arbitrary line into a barren land with a smile.

The Grand Canyon is fucking amazing. Writing any more than that would be a waste, let me just say: GO. If you get the chance, GO.

My second evening at the Monte Vista iss more within my grasp of description. No six-dollar long islands, so happily I remember the band, The Fallen Stars. On tour from Huntington Beach, CA, they brought great tunes, great stage presence and between-song banter, and a damn good time all around. Before setting foot inside the bar, I was greeted by a dude with a massive smile who was en route from Georgia to Phoenix for work. He introduced to the rest of his crew once inside, and what they did for work I never did get, but man, what a gang. A huge dude named Shay repeatedly declared his love of me, Flagtstaff, the bar, the band, girls, and good times in a pitch-perfect rolling monologue of ecstasy. But back to the band- the second song they played after I walked in was introduced as a Steve Earle song, and when the singer asked “Anyone heard of Steve Earle?”, I responded with a hearty “Wooooo!” The singer looked in my direction and said “Oh yeah, you look like a Paul Westerberg fan too.” This elicited an even more heartfelt “Wooooo!”

Then birthday boy Dan showed up! And man, it was immediately clear to me that he had been drinking in the sun, all day. He seemed happy to see me, but his hazy, sunburned gaze suggested that he didn’t actually remember me. A larger group of his friends showed up, and things were rocking along nicely for an hour before turning ugly after Dan flipped out in the middle of talking over the next weekend’s camping plans.  His abrupt disappearance a few minutes later led to an exodus of his friends, who left discussing the most efficient method of combing the downtown streets looking for him. I stuck around until closing time bullshitting with the band and making the drummer’s girlfriend uncomfortable with my farting. Late in the evening,  a fellow wearing a Dorchester Local union jacket held court on the sidewalk regarding the ultimate filth women represented while trying to pick up on every two-legged example of said filth that passed and trying to score some coke for the cross-country train ride back to Boston he was about to embark on. Another great night in Flagstaff.

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