12/29/02 Day VIII of the

12/29/02

Day VIII of the Gale-Swept Blizzard Flurry Mountain Pass Road Trip of Possible Cannibalism

North Platte, NE to Aspen, CO

The little town of North Platte is nothing like I remember it used to be a small place with cozy street corners and we’d be able to splash at the Holiday Inn pool and walk to the Country Kitchen. That part of town is no more; razed to the ground, our old Holiday Inn now abuts an 8-lane throughway with no cars, and the old diners are nothing but divots in the moat alongside Interstate 80. After six weeks, even the locals forget it happened. This is one of the few times that Buddhism aligns itself with rampant corporate commercialism: all things must pass, all memories are suspect, live for the now.

The first time you see the mountains ahead of you, it’s a very subtle majesty. Coming from Iowa, it was always an incredible thrill to see actual mountains, and the drive on I-76 towards Denver offers a vista that fills us with joy, and filled early Western settlers with dread. They must have seen that wall of mountains ahead of them, then looked to their children, wondering which of them they’d have to bury.

We made a detour into Boulder because I wanted to see Scott Brown, one of my favorite people from the University of North Carolina. Together with his comedy group Selected Hilarity, Scott provided some of the funniest moments I ever had in school. After a hard couple of years with the act, he eventually retreated to Boulder, in search of a place to be employed, spiritually full, and happy. I think he’s come close to that there, a town that is much like Chapel Hill (albeit much more visually dramatic). I always said that if I couldn’t live in New York, I’d pick an aggressively liberal college town where at least you have a snowball’s chance at seeing a symphony and perhaps a few gay men holding hands downtown.

Scott and me at a Boulder bookstore

Scott told us about the homeless shelter where he works, and the various behind-the-scenes political games he has to play to keep people fed and medicated. He’s had to develop emotional calluses thicker than steel in order to deal with the constant ambiguity of his job, saying, “I can’t have my heart broken every five minutes,” but I largely suspect it is anyway. I’m not sure how much longer he will do that dance, but he would have a large support group of fellow writers in NYC if he ever chose that direction again.

After a harrowing mountain pass near Vail, we slid Ol’ Bessie the Land Rover into Aspen, a place that begets Tessa with delight. It is an incredible town; a snowy mixture of Napa, Nantucket and Nag’s Head. Tessa grew up here in the late 70s, and fortunately, enough things were still similar enough to give her a sense of place. We talked our way into a cheap motel room in the middle of town (rates here are exorbitant usually $300 for a motel room, $2000 a month for a studio rental) and now I sit in a silence so overwhelming that I can hear the blood running through my ears. Outside, the snow has quieted all static. A hushed moment along a mountain late at night, with a waxing moon barely illuminating the white faces of a silent slope.

Never mind. Some fratboy outside just yelled “WHERE THE FUCK IS CLAY?”

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